The Kelly Gang Unmasked

The Kelly Gang Unmasked, by Ian MacFarlane

Oxford University Press (2014), Paperback, 248 pages


While there has been plenty of Kelly revisionism in the past few years, with authors lining up to poke holes in the Kelly mythos, this is far and away the most overtly anti-Kelly book I have ever come across. The author has literally not one good thing to say about Ned Kelly, neither in a historical or a personal sense. Less a re-telling of the Kelly story than a selection of particular aspects freshly re-examined in the light of new evidence discovered in Victoria’s archives, MacFarlane uses his admirably exhaustive research to paint Kelly in the blackest light possible, and conversely to rehabilitate the reputation of the Victorian police, usually depicted as the villains of the piece. After reading a few pages, I became convinced that MacFarlane had to be connected in some way with the Victoria police. Apparently he is not, but as you can imagine, the Victoria Police, Kelly’s unyielding foes in life, and not budging an inch in their condemnation of him in the 130 years since, are delighted with this book, as you can judge from this fawning review in the Victorian Police Association journal ( ) From my own perspective, I found MacFarlane’s rhetoric over the top for an otherwise worthwhile and fascinating book which does expose new facts about the case. I have never disputed that Kelly was in fact a career criminal and a multiple murderer, and that the Kelly legend has been overblown. On the other hand, I also recognise that Kelly was an articulate individual with tremendous charisma and powers of leadership, and that given a different start in life, could have been an outstanding individual in any one of a number of theatres of life, including politics, the worker’s movement, or the military to name a few. MacFarlane, on the other hand, concedes nothing to Kelly whatsoever, and I find that an unconscionable failure in a work of history. For all that, I do recommend this book to anyone interested in Australian history, and the Kelly story in particular, as it does present a  fresh perspective on certain parts, and the discovery of new evidence in such a familiar story is always welcome. You can take or leave MacFarlane’s partisan rhetoric as you wish, difficult as it is to ignore. But a worthwhile read, certainly.



7 thoughts on “The Kelly Gang Unmasked

  1. This book actually has nothing new that has nor already been covered before, for those who have a reasonable knowledge of the story. The author makes many claims and fails to deliver on every one of them.

  2. Mick Fitzsimons is a well known internet serial pest who has been attacking this book for nearly two years. His Facebook hatepage “Unmasking Kelly Gang Unmasked” shows what he really thinks about it. Amazon, however, says this:

    ‘A damning history… mesmerising in its detail.’ – Lesley McDowell, UK Independent, March 2014 ‘Ian MacFarlane’s assiduous research provides a valuable antidote to those who would unthinkingly sentimentalize violent men.’ – Sir Clive Sinclair, Times Literary Supplement, December 2013’… this work provides a fascinating insight into one of the great Australian sagas and sets many aspects of the story to rights.”I found it to be a compelling read and I highly recommend it.’ – Retired Chief Inspector Ralph Stavely, The Police Association Victoria Journal, November .’The author – amoung other qualifications a long-experienced archivist – lays out for us all the known sources for the Kelly story, locates them for us, and offers his cool judgement on their value and veracity. Any Australian seriously interested in Ned Kelly needs MacFarlane at his elbow.’ – Peter Ryan, Quadrant, March 2013 ‘This is not a balanced book, nor is it meant to be; MacFarlane positions himself (several times) in the anti-Kelly camp, as if the title were not clue enough.’ – Clive Sinclair, Times Literary Supplement, December 2013 ‘Close examination of his developmental history and subsequent criminal behaviour reveals that Kelly was a violent and vindictive man who demonstrated prominent psychopathic features including pathological lying, callous lack of empathy for others and a parasitic lifestyle.’ – Russ Scott & Ian MacFarlane, Ned Kelly – ‘Stock Thief, Bank Robber,Murderer – Psychopath’, Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, July 2014.

    Braemar, I need hardly tell you that most authors would glagly give their right arm for a full page, favourable review in the London Times Literary Supplement.

    1. Thank you Ian Mack (MacFarlane), for you disingenuous remarks (only the real Ian MacFarlane would be able to quote all the ‘glowing’ reviews about his book). Your derogatory remarks are nothing new and just more of the defamation that has been leveled at me for the past two years because I revealed the truth about your book.

      My I add that self praise is no recommendation! All the people you quote that have reviewed your book have no idea of early Australian history, the class wars and the discrimination against the Catholic Irish by the corrupt police force and government that were both controlled by the squatocracy (large land holders). The views of these reviewers are based purely on what your book claims in its biased and one sided attack on the poor, the Catholic, the Irish and the small selectors! These reviewers have also accepted you claims of ‘new evidence’, when in fact nothing you have raised is new and has been covered and countered in other books by acknowledged Kelly experts.

      You have cherry-picked out of the archives, only documents that suit your pro-police and pro-British ideology, in an attempt to rewrite Australian history. This is not an important book, nor is it historical because it does not present both sides, or a balanced view.

      Some of the quotes above (reproduced below), express exactly how most people would view your book and the reviewer clearly does not have a deep knowledge of the Kelly Outbreak, though can see your bias!

      “…., this is far and away the most overtly anti-Kelly book I have ever come across. The author has literally not one good thing to say about Ned Kelly, neither in a historical or a personal sense.”

      “…. research to paint Kelly in the blackest light possible, and conversely to rehabilitate the reputation of the Victorian police,”

  3. Fitzy, the Amazon book review above is available to all by simply Googling the book. Why would you say only the author could know all this info, when it is on Amazon? You relentlessly misidentify people who disagree with you as being the author of the book. Among them are several bloggers, a New Zealand Obstetrician sharing the same surname whom you managed to get expelled from ‘The Ned Kelly Forum’ of which you are a member. Other members of that forum were expelled for voicing support for that book.

    As a retired Melbourne truck driver, you are entitled to an opinion about a book. But you are not entitled to a two-year constant hate campaign against it. Particularly so, since none of the ‘mistakes’ you picked out were valid. Many people have pointed out that your research is laughable, poorly researched and often mistaken.

    The latest example was where Fitzsimons queried a citation in the MacFarlane book, based on earlier research by a PhD student in 1987 that horses stolen by the Kellys were later found with their throats cut, brands cut out and burned beside the Murray River. You said these citations were made up. But as subsequent research proved, at least 11 horses were horribly mutilated in this way – it was laid out in contemporary newspaper accounts of the time. Mick Fitzsimons never apologises for his errors. He just launches new ones.

    He trawls the net commenting positively on Ned Kelly. Google Ned Kelly and “dubbo photo news” to see what I mean…

    Readers seeking a thoughtful blog about Ned Kelly should look at . That female blogger was endlessly harrassed by Mick Fitzsimons (posing as ‘fred’ on a forum since removed). Oh! Did I mention Mick is said to be a misogenist, stalker and sender of unwanted emails?

    Braemarbookbites isn’t enthusiastic about the book, but had the guts to say it contains new facts, and is ‘a worthwhile read, certainly’. Time-waster Fitzsimons can’t get anywhere close to that. That’s why people like me in Victoria call him a word that rhymes with ‘Banker’.

  4. So Ian MacFarlane you are showing your true colours. You can only counter with insults, abuse and defamatory comments, much like you have for the last two years under all sorts of pseudonyms. I posted one comment on a the Ned Kelly Forum (a pro-Kelly forum), on not liking your book and since then, I (and others), have been subjected to a two year hate campaign on the internet via various forums. Who else but the author or close family member would mount such a vitriolic attack on a person for criticizing their work? On some forums you were able to reply within minutes with long quotes from your book. Who else would be able to find these quotes so quickly and be able to cut and past them?

    You continue your vile abuse and lies below, showing what a disturbed individual you are. In fact it is extremely disturbing the hatred you show in your book to anyone who is an Irish Catholic. In the past, you have vented your rage and abuse via forums that are unmonitored and anonymous, where you cannot be identified. Yet you claim I was able to send unwanted e-mails to anonymous people with no contact details! Just like your book, everything you say is questionable if not downright false.

    Again I ask again, who else but the author would go to such extreme lengths that promote hate, bullying, abuse, threats of violence, vilification, defamation, false claims of stalking and sending threatening e-mails to people, false claims of what people have said, publicly naming people and publishing where they live.

    My Facebook page was set up as a result of the continual abuse that I and others were being subjected to. I will let those who wish to view it make up their own minds. On your Facebook page, comments that don’t tell you what a great fellow you are get deleted, let alone anything criticizing you book, such is the size of your ego.

    Here is the post I made in the Dubbo newspaper that you alluded to. The post was actually having a go at the writer of the article, but you view everything in a very twisted light.

    #1 Mick Fitzsimons 2014-10-05 12:54
    From your article, it is abundantly clear that you know nothing of the Kelly saga. Perhaps you should read the Royal Commission into the Kelly Outbreak and its scathing criticism of police and government. The three police you were not ‘murdered’ (Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human, and generally this premeditated state of mind), the police were ‘bailed up’ and told to throw down their arms. Murder would have been to have shot them dead whilst hiding, which they did not. Your comparison to Malcolm Naden and Chopper Reid is downright wrong and sensationalist at best and demonstrates how the truth can be corrupted in the wrong hands!

    And here is a response to my post. Note the similarities between Ian Mack (MacFarlane) and Roy! Roy is one of the pseudonyms that was used by this person.

    #2 Roy 2014-10-18 02:03
    Mick is a well-known internet serial pest and member of the pro-Ned Kelly Forum. He attacks anyone who dares to tell the truth about Ned. His Facebook page Unmasking “The Kelly Gang Unmasked” book tells a story of unwarranted and ignorant criticism of a book that earned excelled newspaper reviews including a full page in the London Times Literary Supplement.

    Just ignore Mick. He won’t go away, but he doesn’t know much about Ned.

    You could be excused if you believed MacFarlane also masquerades as a supposed young girl on a Blog by the name of Dee. This Dee started on forums (now deleted), as a shy young girl who knew nothing about the Kelly Gang other than what she had read in this book. Over a short period of time, she has progressed to being a self claimed expert in everything. Dee comes up with and quotes from things that if she was who she originally claimed, would not understand any of it, let alone know how to find it.

    If you are not Ian MacFarlane (and I doubt that very much), he knows who you are and not only condones what you are doing, but also helping you with information only he would know. I have e-mailed you several times and you have never replied, so again this shows you are complicit in these vile acts. So, I invite you to post on my Facebook page if you have a comment. I did try on yours, but you deleted them.

    You are not a very nice person, as everyone can now see.

    P.S. You stated the horses’ throats were cut! You lied and I proved it, so get over it!

    P.P.S. Your book has too many mistakes and lies to correct. To do so would require a book the size of War & Peace and I have better things to do and will just let you keep shooting yourself in the foot.

  5. Readers of this blog of book reviews would be expecting book reviews and not crass guesswork by an amateur. Indeed, readers would wonder (as I do) why on earth you would conduct a mad two-year jihad against a book, its author and his family! It doesn’t make sense.

    You say you emailed the author several times and that he did not reply. This suggests to me he is a lot more prudent than you think.

    That’s all I have to say.

  6. Readers of this Blog, have seen you in a true light Ian MacFarlane, author of the Kelly Gang Unmasked (that was just for Google). You started this by attacking me and others on several Kelly Forums that said they did not like your book, because your ego is so big you could not handle any criticism, especially when people could see right through you. You are the one who has waged a two year hate campaign and I have spent the last two years defending myself and those you attacked. You have already posted here, private things about me along with vicious lies. In the past you have posted where I live, have named and verbally attacked my wife and one of my sons. I have all the proof and everything is documented. Even a legal opinion of the despicable posters on Forum Jar, Dee’s writing on her blog compared to the style in your book states it is almost undeniable that it is all the same person’s writing. The style, the vitriolic bile, the spelling and grammatical mistakes along with sentence construction are all extremely similar. You are lucky you had a proof reader who picked up most of your errors.

    As for reviews, here is paragraph that mentions your book at

    Not long after I finished the Unit I picked up a Kelly hatchet job, The Kelly Gang Unmasked by Ian Macfarlane. I’ve read about five pages of this book and already it bugs the shit out of me. Why? Because it seems clear that Macfarlane made up his mind about Ned long before he wrote the book, so everything in it is therefore filtered through that prejudice. It’s laden with value judgements and therefore does not represent either good historical writing, or an interesting ‘true crime’ account. From the top of page 9: “Of course, Ned was fibbing as usual.” It’s the ‘as usual’ that I have a problem with, and goes to the heart of what I fear will be a tedious problem with this book. I may persevere with it. Of course, the Ned Kelly is open to different interpretations along the “Hero or Villain?” line so I’m okay with Macfarlane telling he wasn’t saint; I wish he’d been a bit more objective about it.

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