2020, what a year it was. Like good Irish whiskey mixed with coke, there has been a bubbly mixture of good and bad, and as I reflect on it all, I realise that despite all that was poured in my glass this year, I was offered more Connemara than coke. Obviously there have been hardships. … Continue reading 2020 – A Reflection
As you may be aware, I have decided to publish my writing in a hard copy format and offer it for purchase, with Joe and Maggie to be the first available. A great deal of time, research and love goes into my writing, and I wish to see my work (and Joe’s life) on people’s … Continue reading Some Background on the Booklets
Q1 Anita Condon – I love reading your writing, research and posts. What made you start on this journey? A – Thank you Anita, I appreciate your support and I’m glad that the question you posed allows me explain how An Outlaw’s Journal came about. For a number of years, I had toyed with the … Continue reading Questions and Answers (June 2020)
Making sure the coast is clear and there are no police about, the Gang spur their horses across the Murray River, halfway between Mulwala and Tocumwal. Joe is riding a chestnut he has secured for the ride up to Jerilderie, allowing Music to have a well earned rest at Sebastopol. While the mare swims across, the murky river water laps at his calves, offering cool relief from the hot summer sun above. Once into New South Wales, the four outlaws ride north along the boundaries of Barooga and Berrigan stations, making camp in a scrubby forest where they will spend their time finalising plans for the robbery ahead.
For a long time now, I have been wanting to find out more about Maggie, this woman who had first captured Joe’s heart at an unknown time, on an unknown day. We know Joe was charmed by barmaids, or rather, women in general, but there was something special about Maggie from the Vine. In An Outlaw’s Journal, her name is Julia and she is Cornish, having travelled from Cornwall as a stowaway in a desperate bid to escape the drunken abuse of her husband, Jim Clarke. But who was she? We know from one of the Vandenberg daughters that ‘Maggie’ wasn’t her real name, which got me wondering as to what it could have been? And why the need to use a name that wasn’t her own? In my writing, the reason for the alias is so she can escape her past, but why did I decide on the name Julia? It occurred to me one day while reading the Jerilderie letter, that the line ‘Tailing turkey’s in the Tallarook Ranges for a smile from Julia’, could have been Joe’s nod to the woman who had captured his heart. Of course, this is all supposition, and I won’t go into too much detail regarding the time I was thinking about Maggie and reached into the drawer for a tea towel, only to see that the cloth I had chosen was embroidered with the word ‘Cornwall'...
'We have received from an anonymous correspondent who is evidently a sympathiser with, and a near associate of the Kellys and their companions, a long but rambling statement of the case as it is put by the outlaws. The document, which contains sixteen pages, came by post simply addressed to "The editor of the Herald newspaper, Melbourne." It is evidently written by an illiterate person, the orthography being defective, the calligraphy in some portions almost undecipherable, and the composition rambling and sometimes unintelligible. Sufficient can be gathered, however, to show that there is a very bitter feeling of animosity among the sympathisers of the outlaws against the police, and reasons are stated why they should exist. An inquiry is anxiously demanded, and as the statements made are of a serious character, and the demand for an inquiry apparently a justifiable one, we give some particulars from the citation of our anonymous correspondent, who, for aught we know, may be one of the gang.
“...I never quite liked Joe...He had a lousy temper. He was very violent. He injured his sister quite badly one time. He was yarding some horses and she let some of the horses go, so he belted her across the face with a bridle. He didn’t treat his mum well either. His mum was a real battler with seven kids and fourteen cows, trying to live with some dignity and yet Joe was swanning about town, dressing up to the nines, looking like a young squatter. This was very different from Ned. But Ned brought the absolute best out in him. Ned said “he’s my best man” who was “straight and true as steel”. That was true for when Joe was with Ned, but I would trust Aaron before I’d trust Joe. I like Aaron much more than I like Joe.”
From the time of his murder on the night of June 26 1880, and indeed the months before, the man Aaron Sherritt truly was has very much been blurred, and to an extent, lost. As with the ignorance that often consumes people’s knowledge and understanding of Joe, this same cloud of half-truths, coupled with the inability of many to analyse and question long held beliefs, has meant that the truth of Aaron's life has become largely forgotten. For the most part, Aaron's memory has been separated into two ideals, ranging from those who see him as little more than a traitorous 'rat', to others who see him almost in the guise of a saint, with both parties blind to the twenty four year old standing before them. Although very regretful of it now, there was a time when I was firmly of the opinion that Aaron was a traitor and I did not care to acknowledge, or see him, as anything else. However, since beginning my journey of seeking both justice and the truth for Joe, I have been compelled to write and research in greater detail the life led by Aaron. This, as a result, has allowed me to appreciate and understand the complexities of his life, and is something that I hope may be triggered in other people’s understanding of him after reading this piece. While I appreciate I cannot forcibly change an individual’s overall view of Aaron, I wish to offer the laughing eyed larrikin from Sheepstation Creek a voice and a chance to be heard.
The Bray portrait or ‘gentleman Joe’, as it is often referred, is an image which has divided public opinion for many years, from those who believe the young, well-dressed fellow, is twenty one year-old Joe Byrne, to others who claim, quite positively, that it is not. With some individuals even asserting that the young man pictured is actually Joe’s cousin, also named Joseph Byrne. However, if the man photographed is indeed Joe’s cousin, why was the carte de visite in the hands of Antonio Wick? This underlying question is something that has never been properly looked at, and instead, for the most part, is often brushed over. For me, as someone who is constantly seeking both understanding and justice for Joe, I cannot allow broad statements such as this to go unchallenged, and it is also the reason I have decided to put forward my research and views.
“Joseph Byrne deposed that on the night in question he was passing the Chinese camp at Sebastopol, and saw the prisoners and others searching a jumper and other clothing; this was after sundown. Ah Suey was tied up to a post, to a hook on it. His hands were tied with a cord in front. There was a chain like that produced round him, his whole feet were on the ground, took no notice of the people who were present. If he had trousers on they were very short. Ah Seong untied deceased, who then went away to another house. Deceased was crying out “pretty” loud, did not hear him say anything. Was there about five minutes, saw deceased between six and seven on Wednesday night. He was then tied up again with the rope and with the chain; the two prisoners were present, but did nothing. Ah Seong untied him. Asked prisoners why they tied him up, and someone, whom he did not know, said that Ah Suey meant to kill himself.”