Ned and Dan Kelly?
Yes, I’m still alive and kickin’, and I thought I’d try to get something of me chest that’s been driving me crazy for bloody ages (no smart comments please). It all started when I laid eyes on that photo that appeared a few years ago, and was displayed at the Ned Kelly Vault in Beechworth. Now as you all know, I’m a bloke with an open mind and likes to take a little time to study things a little more closely.
The photo was, from what I’ve read, in the possession of Ned Kelly’s mother Ellen, for a number of years. It’s presumably a photo of Ned and Dan cutting timber up in the bush. Now I must admit I was a little sceptical until I started taking a closer look at the photo, and what was written on the back of it. It reads… Dear Ned and Dan for mother Greta. Now with me brain tickin’ over like a regular Sherlock Holmes, and with the photo being in the possession of Ellen Kelly (I believed mother to mean Ellen Kelly) and like Sherlock, would have come to the elementary conclusion it was written by one of her children.
Now some will argue that if the photo was given to Ellen Kelly by one of her children, why is the writing on the back of the photograph supposed to be written in ballpoint pen? Ellen passed away in 1923 and the use of the ballpoint pen was not being used until the 1930s – long after her death. What I would like to know is, what expert came up with the conclusion it was written in ballpoint, and where is the evidence to support it? I’ve had a very close look and it looks nothing like the use of a ballpoint pen but more like a bloody crayon. I also read the photo is a copy, and the type of photography wasn’t used at the time the photo was taken, and that the clothes the two blokes are wearing don’t fit the period when Ned and Dan were alive.
It looks like the figure on the right is wearing a singlet of sorts. (In the 1890s, renowned Australian shearer Jackie Howe tore out the restrictive sleeves of his undershirt, creating a new garment – the singlet – that became known as the ‘Jacky Howe’ in Australia and New Zealand). Now because Jackie Howe was a well known shearer, was he in fact the first shearer to take up this practice of removing the sleeves of their under shirt, or was this practice used by other shearers well before the likes of Jacki Howe? It all becomes a little confusing to me, but we must look closer and with an open mind.
So let us go to the photograph itself. Many have said the two figures look nothing like Ned and Dan, and that the figure on the right looks more like Walter Knight, Ned’s brother in law, and that the figure on the left looks too old to be Dan Kelly. I believe many make the mistake of comparing the figure on the left to the portrait taken of Dan Kelly years before. Ian Jones believed that the portrait of Dan was taken just prior to the outbreak, but I believe the portrait to be that of a much younger Dan Kelly taken around the age of thirteen or fourteen. Remember the police always believed Ned to look older than his years, then why not Dan?
The figure on the left seems to be wearing a beard, but what if this is merely a shadow? When the shadow is removed it looks very much like an older Dan Kelly. The portrait taken of Dan shows a rather scrawny build under oversize clothing, but the figure on the left shows a figure with a rather well developed frame. If this photo was taken some three years later, and with blacksmithing, shearing, and bush work under Dan’s belt, I can see why he has developed a solid physique over that period.
I was interested to find out the heights of these two figures, and asked my son to run a computer programme he had, to give me an idea. After running the programme it told him the figure on the left is approximately 5 foot 6 inches, and the figure on the right is approximately 6 foot tall. Is this just a coincidence?
Let’s take a closer look at the figure on the right. I believe he looks more like Ned Kelly than the photo I’ve seen of Walter Knight as some have speculated. Again I believe many compare the image taken by Nettleton of Ned the day before his death to the image in this photo. The last image of Ned has his hair much longer and oiled and wearing a full bushman’s beard and possibly taken three years later than the photograph we are examining. How many times have you compared your own image in a photograph over a three year period and found them to be so dissimilar.
Another question to be asked is, if this is in fact Ned and Dan Kelly, why would a photo be taken of these blokes chopping wood in the bush? At first glance it looks like they are cutting sleepers for the railway, but on closer inspection, the ends of those supposed sleepers have had their ends cut to an angle and similar to those used in the construction of slab walls for a building. I contacted my old chum, Mick Fitzsimons and we both thought it could possibly be a commemorative photo taken for their mother when cutting timbers for the new house they were building for her. Now you can understand why this photograph is driving me crazy. There are so many ifs attached to this photograph like so many other unanswered questions relating to the Kelly story. Who knows, in time we may have the answers.
P.S. If the script on the reverse side of the photograph was indeed written by one of Ellen’s children as indicated, would they not know what their brothers looked like?