As many are aware of late, a new movie is possibly on the cards titled, The Legend of Ned Kelly. We are told it will be a true and historically accurate account of Ned Kelly’s life. The story could be brought to life on the big screen by a young and very talented producer and director Matthew Holmes. Now if Matthew can raise the 2.5 million dollars through pledges by the end of June 2017 from the public and business sector to make this movie, he’s going to have one hell of a job on his hands. How do you sift through the many interpretations of this complicated and intriguing saga to deliver the true story of Ned Kelly?
I’ll tell you what folks; I wouldn’t care to be in Matthew’s boots for quids. I hope he hasn’t taken on more than he can chew.
The writers and historical researchers for this mega story are Steve Jager and Aiden Phelan, who are both well versed researchers of the Kelly story, but how will the lads interpret some of the questionable facts that have been written over the years without seeming biased? I’ve read over forty books and countless articles on this story, and I’m still not sure of all the true facts. I have written my thoughts on what I believe was behind Constable Fitzpatrick’s visit to the Kelly household on the 15th April 1878, (The Fitzpatrick Conspiracy) but only going by the questionable character of the officer Fitzpatrick, and the very questionable reasons he was sent to take over the Greta police station in the fist place. Many believe what they have read is simply black and white. They believe what was written by police and believe Fitzpatrick’s statement. If that’s the case, so be it, but who’s right and who’s wrong?
The other most important account in this story is the killing of three police officers in the Stringybark forest. This action by Ned Kelly had labelled him a cold blooded monster by people of the era and even today. What actually happened during that encounter? We have testimony from Ned Kelly giving his side of what happened, and then we have Constable McIntyre’s. I’ve read Ned’s Jerilderie Letter and I’ve scrutinised McIntyre’s memoires, and looking carefully many times through both, I have made my own mind up of what I believe actually took place (A Letter to Thomas). But because I believe this is what happened, does it make it true? It does to me, but not to others, and again so be it. Australia is supposedly a Democratic country, and we are all entitled to our own beliefs.
The bank robberies in both Euroa and Jerilderie are another important part of the story. We have been told that these robberies were to pay and support the Kelly sympathisers and bush telegraph, and even to buy arms for a future encounter that will shock not only Australia, but the world. These words were supposedly uttered by Joe Byrne’s mother, Margaret. What was going through Ned Kelly’s mind at the time? To tell you the truth, I just do not know. Had he already a plan in mind to strike a blow for a Republic of North East Victoria? Again I do not know for sure.
On Saturday the 26th June 1880, Aaron Sherritt was shot dead by Joe Byrne, his boyhood mate. We have eyewitness statements of what actually happened, but do we know for sure the reasoning behind Aaron’s killing? What was going through Joe’s mind at the time? What was Joe really thinking as he rode towards The Devil’s Elbow in the Woolshed with murder in mind of his once best mate? Was Aaron a traitor to the gang? Was he playing both sides with police and the Kelly Gang? Was he set up by Detective Ward? Was it something Aaron had supposedly said that he would do to Joe? I suppose only Aaron and Joe would know, but I could only guess. Did Ned give the order for this execution, and what did Joe say to him to convince him of it? These situations are going to be very difficult to put to screen. Was Joe remorseful after the shooting, or did it not affect him?
The siege at Glenrowan is another important part of the story and one which hurled Ned Kelly into Australian folklore for his bravery at his last stand against police. We know what happened at Glenrowan and the Ann Jones Inn by testimony of people who were there, but what was really the purpose of this whole scenario? We have read that it was to establish a Republic for the North East of Victoria, to capture senior police officers and use as hostages to trade for the release of Ned’s mother, to secure the locomotive to rob the banks in Benalla and to rid themselves of a large number of police in the north east by derailing the train. The reasoning behind the Glenrowan affair is noted to be for a Republic and that Ned had the document on him at Glenrowan. We are not to know as yet. Ian Jones along with Barry Jones travelled to England because a friend had sited this document in a showing held there. When arriving, no sign of the document could be found. Did it really exist? Until it’s found we cannot be 100% sure. For all the Nedites out there I hope it does. We are told that 100 plus armed sympathisers were secreted in the surrounding hills, but during and after the siege only a couple of armed men were spotted by police. How can we be sure this army of sympathisers ever existed?
Now don’t get me wrong, a lot of Ned’s story I have my own thoughts and beliefs, but to tell the true story of Ned Kelly, Matthew, Steve and Aiden have one hell of a job ahead of them. The story is not a straight forward one. It has many twists and turns and the truth of Ned’s story can be perceived as black and white or very grey. Ian Jones’ came close with his epic mini-series, The Last Outlaw, but to get this true story of Ned and compress it to 120 minutes of viewing is a big ask.
All I can say is good luck to the boys, and I do hope this movie … The Legend of Ned Kelly is not only an absolute cracker, but as truthful as it can be.