In the news, November 11 2020

Earlier this week was the commemoration of Ned Kelly’s execution and in relation to that Glenrowan was the feature of an article in the Border Mail by journalist Anthony Bunn.

The story was mirrored on other news sites as well, some of which are behind pay-walls and some of which aren’t. Below is a transcript of the article with a link to the original if you would like to visit them.


NOVEMBER 10 2020 – 2:00PM

Author of Ned Kelly novel speaks about why we need another story about the outlaw and the Glenrowan siege

Anthony Bunn

Chronicler: Melbourne bushranging buff Aidan Phelan has given an account of Ned Kelly’s final stand in a novel which he has self-published after having worked through five drafts. The Bachelor of Arts graduate’s fascination with the bandit was sparked by a childhood visit to Glenrowan.

BEFORE World War I ended for our diggers on November 11, that date had already been cemented into Australian history.

At 10am on the 11th of the 11th, 38 years before, outlaw Ned Kelly was hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol following a deadly fight with police in June of that year 1880.

Now, 140 years on, the bushranger still fascinates and his life has been fodder for films, television shows, books and podcasts.

Curator of website A Guide to Australian Bushranging, Aidan Phelan has added to that array with Glenrowan, an historical novel.

It takes up the Kelly Gang story after the Stringybark Creek massacre of police and takes the reader to the personal lives of the felons and the pursuing constabulary.

“The reason I chose to do it as a novel is because ultimately I wanted to make it a bit more vivid,” Phelan said.

“With history books there is no sense of the people, of the humanity and I just felt doing a novel gives me the opportunity to breathe life and put flesh on the bones and make these people real.

“Probably 90 per cent of it is just a dramatisation of what has been historically recorded through actual records or oral retelling.

“I can’t completely dismiss those oral traditions because they fill in the gaps – Ned Kelly’s love life for example, he was never linked with any particular person but there has been suggestions.”

Doomed: Ned Kelly photographed against the wall of the prison where he would die the following day.

Glenrowan captures the tumult of the siege at Ann Jones’ inn by giving voice to her children as well as the tension as school teacher Thomas Curnow plots to prevent the derailment of the police train from Melbourne.

Phelan studied newspapers, police memoirs and the Jerilderie and Cameron letters to nail the 1800s lingo.

An award-winning novel about the mob, True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey, helped inspire Phelan’s work which went through five drafts from 2017 to publication.

However, Phelan did not want to be loose with the truth like Carey who described his book “as a 90 per cent fantasy work”.

“I want to be able to encourage readers to look at it and think ‘is that true or isn’t it true?’ and find out for themselves,” Phelan said.

“The reason we need another story about Ned Kelly is we haven’t got to the truth yet.

“We’ve got interpretations and Glenrowan is not the truth, but it’s close to the truth.”

The novel originally arose when Phelan was working with Matthew Holmes, the director of the 2016 bushranging film The Legend of Ben Hall in 2017.

Such is life: Aidan Phelan stands in front of a drawing of the ruins of the Glenrowan Inn after the siege in June 1880 ended with the deaths of three of the four members of the Kelly Gang.

He scripted a movie with the working title The Legend of Ned Kelly before attempts to crowd fund the production were unsuccessful.

“We had a rough draft of a script which was very different to what the book has ended up being,” Phelan said.

Nevertheless, the pair are now seeking support from streaming services to turn Glenrowan into a six-part series.

As for Wednesday’s anniversary of the death of Kelly, Phelan looks at that spring day in 1880 as an end to an era.

“We went for 100 years with this bush banditry and with the hanging of Ned Kelly it came to a close in a very dramatic fashion,” he said.

“I’ll probably have a drink and reflect on that.”

Source: Border Mail

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