A collection of narrative paintings and now a biography published by Allen and Unwin.
This video was presented by Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, September 2020 on their website, Facebook and Instagram pages as part of the #BRAGStudioSet campaign in response to Covid19.
Kate Kelly: the true story of ned kelly’s little sister
Another workshop has been booked at Gang Gang Gallery in Lithgow. If you would like to join in Rebecca’s Writing History workshop Saturday 10 April 2021, 10:30am to 1:30pm. $55 Limited places. Covid Safe. You can book here – https://www.stickytickets.com.au/nuctz/writing_history_workshop_with_rebecca_wilson.aspx
Rebecca will be in conversation with Rob Willis at The Book Dispensary in Forbes Thursday, 15 April 2021 From 5:30pm – 7:00pm. You can book here – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kate-kelly-book-launch-tickets-142032313473
The Singleton Library is hosting an author talk with Rebecca 5:30pm, Thursday 22 April – Book here – https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/kate-kelly-the-true-story-of-ned-kellys-little-sister-tickets-145146919343
The following day, Friday 23 April, you can join in for Rebecca’s Writing History Workshop at Singleton Library. 10:00am – 1:30pm https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/writing-history-with-rebecca-wilson-tickets-146261499081
Rebecca is thrilled with the announcement that her book Kate Kelly will feature as the Great Festival Read at this year’s Bathurst Writers and Readers Festival, 30 April – 2 May 2021.
PAST EVENTS AND MEDIA
Don’t miss Rebecca in-conversation with Sarah Gurich, Director at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery this Saturday 6 March 2021. Rebecca’s current exhibition ‘Myth-making, Heroes and Villains’ is showing at BRAG until 5 April 2021. Also on display are three Kate Kelly works from BRC collection. Book your place for the talk here. RSVP essential due to Covid. https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/rebecca-wilson-in-conversation-tickets-139349033711?aff=ebdsoporgprofile.
You can also book your place at Rebecca’s writing workshop at Gang Gang Gallery Saturday 13 March 2021. Brought to you by Varuna Writer’s House and Gang Gang Gallery. RSVP essential due to Covid. Here’s the link – https://www.varuna.com.au/programs/lithgow-workshop
Kate Kelly media links –
Trevor Chappell, ABC Overnights. Listen from 2:16 mark. https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/overnights/overnights/13181356
Here’s what people are saying about Kate Kelly by Rebecca Wilson. Published by Allen and Unwin, 16 Feb 2021
Rebecca was invited to exhibit her Kate Kelly works in London at the Parallax Art Fair, July 2018 while London’s Central Library in Kensington hosted Rebecca’s talk on her extensive research, paintings and first catalogue style book, Kate Kelly: Sister of an Outlaw.
Kate Kelly: the true story of ned kelly’s little sister
Research Amendments for the next reprint of Kate Kelly.
Some fascinating additional information to be included in the next reprint shows details about Constable Fitzpatrick’s record of service and conduct during his time in the Victorian Police Force – 1877-1880. And I reference details about Alice King having been referred to as a premature baby in other Kelly material.
KATE AND FITZPATRICK
In the book Ellen Kelly (a novel based on oral history from Kelly descendants and neighbours), Alice is referred to as a one-month premature baby, now medically referred to as ‘Late Preterm’ (34-36 weeks). It is generally accepted that teenage girls have a higher risk of delivering premature babies. In a BBC health report from 2010 it was estimated that the risk was as much as 21% higher, based on the work of an Irish research team. In 2018 a medical report ‘Incidence and Mortality of the Preterm Infant’ it was estimated that females under 16 have 2-4% higher rate of prematurity. The same report suggests that ‘Late Preterm’ babies currently have a 99.15% chance of survival. Acknowledging that this would have been less in the late 1800’s, Alice’s survival as a ‘Late Preterm’ baby is still considered by women’s health experts as feasible.
It has also been confirmed by a women’s health expert that Fitzpatrick could well have fathered Alice with Kate, if Alice was born one month premature, based on the recorded dates of his transfer to the region. However, given Fitzpatrick’s wide ranging police postings and the lack of reliable detail in his records, as outlined in the following paragraphs; Fitzpatrick’s Record of Conduct and Service, it is possible that Fitzpatrick was in the North–East district earlier than the dates reflected in his records.
FITZPATRICK’s RECORDS OF CONDUCT AND SERVICE
Alexander Fitzpatrick’s childhood family moved around Victoria: Little River, Geelong, Mt Egerton and Ballarat. On Fitzpatrick’s Records of Conduct and Service, deemed ‘Official and Sensitive’ and supplied to me by the Victoria Police Museum, Melbourne, it confirms that Fitzpatrick joined the Victoria Police 20 April 1877, as a constable (#2867) and that his previous job was that of ‘boundary rider’, a profession that would have seen him travel widely across regional Victoria, including the town of Meredith where he abandoned a woman and the child they had together to join the force and skip town.
Fitzpatrick’s Records of Conduct and Service only show the following movements for Fitzpatrick during his three years of service:
- (Richmond)‘Depot’ to the Ovens District (Benalla) 30 or 31 July 1877
- Benalla to Beechworth with no date listed
- Beechworth to (Richmond) the ‘Depot’ 13 September 1878
- (Richmond) ‘Depot’ to Lancefield 17 September 1879.
At the Royal Commission into the Victoria Police in 1881, it was identified by Fitzpatrick and in the testimony of others, that while he was in the Ovens District he performed his duties in many locations such as Winton, Chiltern, Cashel and Greta but none of these specific movements are documented on his Records of Conduct and Service. For example, it is agreed in testimony that he was sent across to take charge of the police station at Greta in April 1878 (RC5944) but these details don’t appear on his Records of Conduct and Service.
Fitzpatrick testified that he was transferred back to Richmond, aka the ‘Depot’ from the North-Eastern district (not the Ovens District) in October 1878 (apparently for his own safety – (RC12808)) but records state that he was transferred in September 1878 and it is hard to say which account is correct. In the Royal Commission records it was explained that in July 1878, changes were made in the arrangement of the country districts, combining Beechworth, Mansfield and a portion of Kilmore to form the North-Eastern district with Benalla as the head quarters (which it used to be for the Ovens District).
Testimony by him and others also shows that Fitzpatrick subsequently returned to the North-Eastern district to be involved in search parties (including locations such as Wangaratta, Warby Ranges (RC12956), Benalla, Lake Rowan (RC12959) and Dedongadale (RC12968)) on varying dates across a number of months in late 1878 but his Records of Conduct and Service state only that he was at the Richmond Depot, showing that Fitzpatrick’s actual whereabouts when on duty is not truly reflected in his records and he was, in reality, a long way from Richmond.
Further to that, testimony reveals that Fitzpatrick had been on duty at Schnapper Point (RC183) for an unknown period before he was transferred to the Ovens District in 1877, but this was not documented in Fitzpatrick’s Records of Conduct and Service either.
What all this reveals, is that the Records of Conduct and Service cannot be relied on as accurately reflecting Fitzpatrick’s whereabouts while on duty. This also means that Fitzpatrick could well have been in the Ovens district before the recorded dates of his transfer to Benalla in July 1877, which would have provided opportunity for Kate and Fitzpatrick to have met earlier.
It is also worth noting that in the Royal Commission transcript the following interaction about particular ‘incidents’ while Fitzpatrick was on duty at Schnapper Point (also known as Mornington – which in the 1800’s was an agricultural outpost known for its fishing and logging and was nearly a day’s horse travel from Melbourne):
By Mr Nicolson to Captain FC Standish
(RC182) Were you aware before this man Fitzpatrick was sent there (Benalla, 1877) that he was a man of bad character? – I was not; he was strongly recommended to me by Mr C A Smyth. (RC183) Had you not occasion to remove him from Schnapper Point up to the North-Eastern District? – No; the incidents that came to my knowledge afterwards occurred at Schnapper Point, but I never had information of them till (sic) after he was sent to Benalla.
The ‘incidents’ at Schnapper Point must have occurred soon after Fitzpatrick joined the police force and most likely Nicolson and Standish were referring to Fitzpatrick’s grooming of/sexual involvement with 14 year-old Anna Savage. In the book ‘Predators, Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders’ by Anna C Salter PH.D, she highlights that teenage girls are the group most at risk of sexual assault. Fitzpatrick married Anna Savage in Mornington the next year after coercion from her father and letters to the police force. Fitzpatrick wasted no time in preying on the young Anna Savage and it is possible that he wasted no time in preying on Kate Kelly once he was in the North-East.
Further to that, speculation about Fitzpatrick’s sexual involvement with Kate Kelly was intimated in the testimony supplied by F A Winch: (RC14296) …It is in connection with the Kelly business. It was an affidavit, which I took from a man of the name William Williams, in respect to the shooting of Constable Fitzpatrick (at the Kelly homestead April 1878) (The affidavit was read but is not in the transcript). There was a great deal of talk that this business was owing to the misconduct of Fitzpatrick…
Under the heading ‘Particulars of Discharge, Dismissal or Death’ on Fitzpatrick’s records, it states that Fitzpatrick was discharged 27 April 1880 ‘for general misbehavior as a constable’. Superintendent Frances Hare wrote; ‘I have a very bad opinion of this man (sic) he is most untrustworthy and I feel confident that he never would make an ordinary constable.’ The Chief Commissioner of Police wrote further comment in June that year (after Fitzpatrick had been dismissed) describing Fitzpatrick’s behavior as ‘general misconduct’ under the heading ‘Particulars of Certificate of Character’.
At the Royal Commission when Fitzpatrick was asked why he was discharged from the police force he said Senior Constable Mayes of Lancefield had stated that:
(RC12892) I was not fit to be in the police force, as I had associated with the lowest persons in Lancefield and could not be trusted out of sight and never did my duty.
NB: The code RC and a number, indicates testimony recorded at the Royal Commission, with the identifying line number as listed in the transcript.
Kate Kelly’s story – Kate Kelly (1863-1898) was the younger sister of Ned Kelly, the notorious bushranger. She was an independent woman who, with support from campaigners for the abolition of capital punishment, approached the Governor of Victoria to plead with him to spare Ned’s life. As a folkloric icon, Kate Kelly has appeared as a character in films, novels and even as the subject of a song by the pop group the Whitlams.“Now you do horse tricks in a wild west show. Sharp-shooting Kate, the last of the Kellys. Now the queen of a rodeo.” (The Whitlams, Kate Kelly, 2002)
Harvest Moon, Eternal Life 2012, 120 x 120 cm At the inquest into Kate’s death Bricky stated that he had chastised her for her recent bout of heavy drinking. When Kate disappeared she had a five week old baby and three young children. Her body was found eight days later in Forbes Lake.
Kate’s life was filled with tragedy, overtaken by exceptional events. She married William “Bricky” Foster in Forbes when she was pregnant with their first child. An excellent horsewoman, she rode as a decoy for the Kelly gang and was known for delivering supplies and ammunition when the gang was hiding-out. She even once took a bullet, according to “Bricky’s” relatives. She became a celebrity after her infamous brother Ned Kelly was hanged in Melbourne Gaol in 1880.After the Kelly gang’s demise, Kate travelled widely with her older brother Jim, performing on horseback and exhibiting weapons and other Kelly memorabilia, until she moved to Cadow Station near Forbes to escape the limelight. Kate’s life ended abruptly at the age of 35. She was found dead, possibly through suicide, in Forbes Lake about a week after she had been reported missing. Kate’s surviving brother Jim collected her three remaining children (three others had died) and “Ma Kelly” (Ellen) then raised her grandchildren at Eleven Mile Creek.
“I see Kate as a strong female figure of skill, adventure, love and spirit,” says Rebecca Wilson. “At the same time, like all of us, she was flawed, complicated and probably misunderstood.”
With My Heart, Goes My Sister 2011, 120 x 120 cm Maggie, Kate’s sister, dies in Victoria, far away from Kate. At this stage in Kate’s tumultuous life, she had already lost members of her family and children of her own. Kate had been very close to Maggie and reportedly spoke of suicide after Maggie’s death.
Artist Rebecca Wilson grew up in Forbes, where Kate Kelly spent the final years of her life and it was Rebecca’s relatives who gave Kate Kelly, then known under the alias Ada Hennessey, her first job as a domestic servant at Cadow Station. Wilson has deep family roots in the Central West. She is a descendant of the pioneering couple Pierce and Mary Collits, who founded the famous, heritage-listed Collits Inn at Hartley Vale at the western edge of the Blue Mountains. It is well known that Pierce Collits, who had been transported to Port Jackson from London in 1801 for receiving stolen goods, had many connections with bushrangers in his days running the Inn. It is likely that the Collits’ and their descendants had closer dealings with the Kelly gang than is fully recorded.
Fatal Bloodline – Glenrowan 2013, 120 x 120 cm A portrait of Ned Kelly based on Thomas Carrington’s engraving printed in July 1880 in the Australasian Sketcher, a journal
of illustrations, engravings and articles about public and social life and events.
As part of a long-term project, Wilson has researched the life and times of Kate Kelly for many years. She has fond memories of her late uncle telling her stories of how lovely Kate was, in tales that had been passed down to him by relatives. The local lore holds that Kate was an extraordinary woman who found herself in extraordinary circumstances. In her ongoing series of paintings, Rebecca Wilson has felt compelled to provide a personal vision of Kate’s life and how it intertwines with her own family history.
Wilson’s portraits are partly based on illustrations and vintage black-and-white photographs of key players in Kate’s life – her mother Ellen, her husband “Bricky”, her sisters Grace, Maggie and the eldest Anne (who died giving birth to a policeman’s baby while her husband was in gaol), her brothers Dan and Jim, fellow gang members Steve Hart and Joe Byrne, and Constable Fitzpatrick, who the artist strongly believes may have been the father of one of Kate’s children. Through ongoing research, Wilson asserts that Kate’s sister Alice, was possibly her daughter instead.
“During my research it became apparent that some local people viewed Kate as a drunk and a no-hoper while others, including my uncle, told me that she was known as a lovely and generous woman. In fact, people were sometimes offended by my desire to tell Kate’s story. They see it in black and white, but her life was simply not like that. My research revealed an innocent person born into a family who suffered greatly and who were often the victims of circumstance.”
“I have my own biases now about the people and the dramatic events in Kate’s life. I have also developed a strong compassion for Kate and the Kelly family, plus a deeper understanding of the amazing strength and resourcefulness she demonstrated throughout her life. She bore the most horrible depths of sadness and trauma. The troubles that unfolded in Kate’s life were mostly through the decisions and actions of men, typical for that era. These men were either in her life directly – her brothers, husband, lovers, various local policemen – or part of the wider political realm.”
Sisters in Arms 2013, 80 x 120 cm Kate, Maggie & Grace Kelly surround their injured brother in Glenrowan, after he had been shot. In a letter donated to Melbourne Library in 2012, an eye- witness describes the Kelly sisters wailing in the street and Kate with her arm around Ned’s neck.
Wilson’s larger landscape paintings depict crucial events in the Kelly saga, as well as intimate daily scenes. The broader settings include goldfields, maps of the town of Glenrowan where Ned Kelly was ambushed, Cadow Station near Forbes superimposed with ancestral faces, and Kate breaking-in colts, or riding a horse through bushland as a decoy for the police. Wilson portrays images with highly charged emotions. We see the dubious joy of Kate’s wedding day to “Bricky”, Kate visiting the Governor to ask for mercy for Ned, the death of her sister Maggie, and the corpse of Kate floating in the lake.
‘Til Death Do Us Part 2011, 160 x 120 cm
The wedding day of Kate Kelly to William “Bricky” Foster
Rome-based art critic Jonathan Turner writes:
“In her ongoing series of figurative works exploring the myths and legends surrounding Kate Kelly, Rebecca Wilson brings to life the pioneering spirit. She focuses on the adventurous feminism of early Australian settlers, when women were often left alone in the bush, battling against hardships and a frequently corrupt constabulary, while the men shirked responsibility. Furthermore, she references outspoken writer Germaine Greer in several paintings. Wilson partially reproduces the cover of Greer’s seminal book The Female Eunuch, making a further comment on the objectification of women and the revolutionary role of the early Suffragettes.”
“Rebecca Wilson captures different moods in her subjects, alternatively energetic and lethargic. Some figures are shown in sharp outline, as though they are stiffly posing in a studio, frozen in a formal 19th Century family photograph. Horses appear as recurring motifs. The artist sees the horse as a metaphor for the untamed Kelly bloodline.”
“In Wilson’s confident paintings, the narratives shift. The perspective is tilted, with shadows and forms overlapping and shimmering in the outback sun. She uses a vivid palette of gold, ruby, sapphire, emerald and other jewel-like colours. Some of her portraits give a respectful nod to Sidney Nolan and his renowned paintings of Australia’s favourite outlaw, as well as to the newspaper illustrations from the late 1880’s by Thomas Carrington, but Rebecca Wilson’s graphic and original compositions remain as bold as Ned Kelly’s bush-ranging.”
Rebecca Wilson’s exhibition retells a visual story of events and folklore inspired by the life and times of Kate Kelly, re-interpreted by the artist to include a collection of portraits based on photos discovered by the artist during her in-depth research over the past five years. According to the artist, “It seemed like every chapter of her life was a painting waiting to happen.”
The nucleus of this travelling show for 2015 consists of about 40 paintings, and will be adapted to each venue, and supplemented by archival material. After Blackheath, the exhibition will travel to Bathurst’s Wholefood Kitchen & Gallery in June, the Leichhardt Library in Sydney in July, the TAFE College March St Campus in Orange from September 1 and finally to the Rosie Johnston Gallery in Forbes from September 21– October 31. The Lachlan-Kalari River Arts Festival is organizing aligned events and exhibitions around Forbes from October 30-31. The show appears in 2016 at Grenfell Art Gallery. See beow for a link to their website.
A graduate of the National Art School in 1997 and the College of Fine Arts in 2002, Rebecca Wilson has twice been a finalist in the Blake Prize at the S.H Ervin Gallery in 2001 and 2007 and the accompanying exhibition tour in 2001-2. Her solo show Australianism, 2007 was held at Mary Place Gallery in Sydney, and she has previously exhibited at various galleries in Australia and overseas. Recently, Wilson completed a residency at the famous Red Gate Gallery in Beijing, China. Her Kate Kelly work has been in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne and she has appeared on TV to dicuss her research, paintings and book. Her works are included in the annual group show and open studio trail at the Jean Bellette Gallery in Hill End. As a guest lecturer she has focused on colour theory & art history at institutions in Thailand and she currently teaches at TAFE Western Institute in the Central West.
To arrange interviews or hi-res images for publication, or for sales enquiries please contact Rebecca Wilson E: email@example.com