Kennedy Tree spot disputed

By Simon Ruppert

While the location of historically significant Kelly Gang locations in Glenrowan are rarely disputed - sites at Stringybark Creek are a little more contentious.

In a recent edition The Ensign printed an article based on the findings of Melbourne-based historian Bill Benheld, specifically in regards to the location of the "Kennedy Tree".

The tree in question is the site where the gang murdered Sgt Kennedy, part of a police team sent to arrest them, in 1878.

A group of four local historians who call themselves the Kennedy Report Team, however, disagree with Mr Denheld's finding.

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They are made up of four passionate historians, which includes a descendant of the Kelly Gang.

Two of them spoke with The Ensign this week to explain their findings and why they feel Mr Denheld's assertion that the tree no longer exists is incorrect.

Adrian Younger has been studying locations in Stringybark Creek for decades.

“I am from the local area and have been going to Stringybark Creek since I was a teenager. I can take you back to 1982 when I first went there,” Mr Younger said.

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“From what I already knew, then adding further, more recent research, I felt the sites identified over the years as where Sgt Kennedy was killed were incorrect.

“About three years ago another member of the Kennedy Report Team, Tony King, and myself went up and started having a good look around.

“That’s when we discovered what we believe to be the Kennedy Tree.

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“However, we needed to do a lot more research to prove it.

“So we formed a team with Noeleen Lloyd and Jim Fogarty to do that research.

“We all bring different fields of expertise to the table and were thorough in our investigation.”

The team had a tree that they felt looked correct based on photographs taken at the time.

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However, they wanted proof before going public with their findings.

“We couldn’t then just say to the world that we had the correct tree so we got Noeleen, who has done a lot of historical work over the years, to assist with further research and compile the initial findings

“We presented that report and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and whilst they agreed that the tree ‘looked’ the same, they requested we do further research on the type and age of the tree itself.

“Jim Fogarty is an expert in that area and he calculated and dated the tree to prove it fitted into the time-frame we needed. Which it did.”

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Noeleen Lloyd is not only a keen local historian, but also a descendant of Ned Kelly's cousin Tom Lloyd.

She is also the great-grand-niece of Steve Hart, who after the events of that tragic day, would become part of the Kelly Gang.

“When Adrian and Tony found the tree, aesthetically, it looked like the tree in the photos from the time,” she said.

“However, we knew that having something that just ‘looked the part’ was never going to be enough.

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“It took a lot of research and investigation, but once we had completed that and calculated the data, we knew we had the right site.

“And that goes for the site of the police camp, too.”

Mr Younger said finding the site of Sgt Kennedy's murder and the place where the police camped prior to his death was not easy.

“Various reports from the time have conflicting information,” Mr Younger said.

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“Some said they were 400 yards apart, some said 600, some said 800.”

Ms Lloyd said this meant they virtually had to start from scratch, and could not use one site to locate the other.

“I think that was important for our group's investigation,” she said.

“We had to go back to the very basics so we could pull everything apart and reconstruct it all.

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“Which is what we needed to do anyway. That is the basis of good research.

“You need to look at all the data and research and build from there.”

Ms Lloyd said while the group respected the work of the many researchers who had examined the Ned Kelly story throughout the years, they were confident they have confirmed the exact locations at Stringybark Creek.

“If we weren't confident we certainly wouldn't have completed the report and presented it to DEWLP and Leo Kennedy, a direct descendant of Sgt Kennedy,” she said.

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“It’s a polarising story, and I have a strong connection to the story.

“It is vitally important to me, and the other team members that we get this correct for all of the family members.

“Most especially for the family of the police officers.

“Working with their descendants, together, to achieve good, positive outcomes is the only way.

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“So I am keen to get this right.

“What some people do is that they take the view that ‘near enough is good enough’ - that is way too simplistic and in our view, it is absolutely not good enough.

“We needed to look at it in a more constructive way.

“Look at primary sources and examine them - like a cold case.

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“There is a lot of information out there that is absolutely incorrect.

“Unfortunately, when that information then gets used as the basis for more research and people carry it on, the inaccuracy then becomes myth and legend. Truth gets lost.

“Our goal has also been to get history correct using primary sources and that was what was needed to be done to find the truth.”

The Kennedy Report Team's research is available online for people to make up their own minds.

To take a look click this link.

The team have produced two PDF reports which can be downloaded from the home page, by clicking Kennedy Tree or Police Camp listed under reports.