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Title: Currency Lasses and a Police Villain in the 'Lawless Kelly' Bushranger Myth
Contributor(s): Ryan, John S  (author)
Publication Date: 1986
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Abstract: As the title of this note will indicate, its theme is the depiction of aspects of the Ned Kelly story, in so far as they are associated with the bushranger families created fictionally by Rolf Boldrewood (T.A. Browne), himself long a magistrate. Browne born in England in 1826, had to leave school in Sydney in 1841, when his father's fortunes were considerably reduced, and he spent a number of years of the Lower Eumeralla at Squattlesea Mere. The novel, 'Robbery Under Arms' containing the story of the Marston family, - Lincolnshire poacher and ex-convict Ben, and his long-suffering wife Irish Norah, patient daughter Aileen and sons Dick and Jim, - was published initially in instalments in the 'Sydney Mail' from July 1882 to August 1883, appearing first as a book in 1888. In the novel the police troopers are very proper law officers, and the Marston women meek and content to wait in shame for their lawless men - Aileen losing her sweetheart, Starlight, and so probably going into a convent, with Grace Storefield waiting more than twelve years for poor Dick's release from prison (p. 496); Jim's widow, Jeanie, left with her little boy, in Melbourne; and their mother, not living long, as Dick tells us: "bleeding, almost in [the heart] - ... when she heard of Jim's death and my being taken in broke her heart clean; she never held her head up after." (p. 483) Both Aileen and Dick are long suffering and see God's purpose in all these events: "It was God's will, she thought, and only for His mercy things might have gone worse." (pp. 485-6) These Protestant middle class values and behaviour are recurring aspects of the story - like proper policemen, almost lachrymose repentance and passive and meekly suffering women - have been dwelt on because this is not quite the way in which Boldrewood always treated bushranger behaviour and bushrangers' families. As will be seen in a moment, the later and recurring (fictional) Lawless family present a more proletariate and complex image of: harassment by a venal policeman; and consequent feminine neurosis, continuing defiance and horrible suffering long after the deaths of their menfolk. The full text of the serial indicates authorial sympathy even for the brutal Moran and contains an explanation of 'what partly made him the mild beast he was', as Dick reports: "He always swore he'd been lagged innocent for his first offence, and had to do five years for stealing a horse he'd never seen. ... But he never forgets being made to suffer - and hard lines it is - for what he hasn't done. And that injustice'll rankle in a man's heart for years and years ... and make him tenfold a worse criminal than he would have been." (14 April, 1883) This is very similar to the early career of Ned Kelly.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: MARGIN: Monash Australian Research Group Informal Notes (16), p. 15-29
Publisher: Monash University
Place of Publication: Clayton, Australia
ISSN: 0314-6782
Field of Research (FOR): 160805 Social Change
160205 Police Administration, Procedures and Practice
180102 Access to Justice
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO): 950503 Understanding Australias Past
940299 Government and Politics not elsewhere classified
940402 Crime Prevention
HERDC Category Description: C2 Non-Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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