Regular readers of this blog will know that I don’t spend a lot of time on Ned Kelly. Blogs and websites dedicated to the Kellys explore the subject in great depth and I could never, nor do I want to, go into the kind of detail found on them. The history of north eastern Victoria is so much bigger than the story of the Kelly Gang and so I have focused on things that interest me and what I can relate to my family history and my own experience.
Ned Kelly, wood engraving published by Alfred May and Alfred Martin Ebsworth, November 1878, courtesy State Library of Victoria
So, now that you’ve read that disclaimer you are probably wondering what I’m up to.
Early this year I had the opportunity to research some letters written in early 1879 in order to authenticate them. The letters were written by a bank teller named George Vernon McCracken when he was working at the Colonial Bank of Australasia in Benalla. The letters mention a whole host of interesting things, not the least of which were the Kelly Gang. The letters had been brought to the attention of Wangaratta solicitor John Suta, known for his work in the repatriation of Ned Kelly’s remains, and a self confessed “Kelly tragic”. John immediately saw the value in the letters and determined to have the letters authenticated. He enlisted Jamie Kronborg, a journalist for North Eastern Media who wrote this article, published in January this year.
Not long after Jamie’s article I was hard at work, analysing every part of the letters and verifying their provenance. Using dozens of research questions I was able to verify the letters as genuine with a solid provenance. The story and information that came out of this research is complex and very interesting. The connections to Wangaratta come in the most unexpected form and every aspect of the letters and of it’s provenance has its own story.
Just one of the comments young McCracken makes on bank letterhead is that there was “great dissatisfaction at the movements of the police in the matter of the Kellys and people are beginning to declare against the force in general”. He makes other comments about the Kelly Gang, his home and family, and about ordinary events in the bank. The letters give an insight into the life of a young man making his way in the world and reporting back to his parents during his first job away from home.
Needless to say the writing up of this research will take quite a while. It may end up as a peer reviewed journal article as it will probably be too long for one blog post. While I’m working on getting all this down there will be questions about different aspects of the letters and the author but please hold off as all will be revealed in the final publication. I will not respond to specific questions, nor debate about the content of the letters or the author until after the publication. Comments asking about specifics or making uninformed assumptions about the letters, my research or qualifications will not be approved for publication.
While you’re waiting for the bigger story a truncated version of Jamie’s latest newspaper article on my findings can be found for free here. If you subscribe to the Wangaratta Chronicle you can see a more detailed review of the research on page 6 of the edition published on Friday 26th June 2015. This article will also be published in the Beechworth based Ovens and Murray Advertiser. After three months I believe these editions will be available for free via Press Reader.
**Postscript 3rd July 2015** Unfortunately some readers have not understood the above information regarding comments so all comments have been disabled on this post.
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What an interesting story! I’m looking forward to further publication on the research.