A new book revealing never-before-published insights into the life of Australia’s most infamous bushranger, Ned Kelly will launch at the Atherton Library by Tablelands Regional Council Mayor Joe Paronella on May 17.
North Queensland journalist and author Eugenie Navarre has spent 10 years documenting stories that breathe new life into the belief that Kelly gang members, Steve Hart and Dan Kelly lived out their lives in southern Queensland after escaping Glenrowan, the site of Ned Kelly’s Last Stand.
Her book, Ned – Knight in Aussie Armour is an intriguing collection of generational revelations from the insider sympathiser families, now spread across Australia, who played a significant role in the Kelly saga.
In the book, Ned Kelly emerges in a surprising new light as a reformer, and member of the secret Irish agrarian organisation, the White boys. Ms Navarre’s evidence indicates the Glenrowan siege was an act of guerrilla warfare to declare the Republic of North East Victoria.
“A veil of silence fell over the Kelly story when the republic plot failed,” she said.
“Initially this pact was to protect fellow activists who would have been hanged for treason. It was likely a ploy to hide the real identity of the two charred bodies pulled from the Glenrowan inferno. As more sympathiser family descendants break tradition and speak out, evidence emerges that gang members, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart may have escaped and lived to old age, probably in Queensland.”
Ms Navarre outlines the theory that Steve Hart lived out his days as a recluse known as Harry Thompson at the 2,800ha cattle property, Devil’s Pulpit at Wallumbilla.
“Harry had the physical features and characteristics similar to the real Steve Hart and about the same age,” she writes. “Steve was born in October 1959 to Irish immigrant parents. Harry was a small man probably about five feet, six inches with piercing blue eyes, hooked nose and a strong accent, likely Irish.”
As part of her research, Ms Navarre interviewed the late Mervyn Maunder, a Wallumbilla local who befriended Mr Thompson as a lad.
During the interview Mr Maunder recalled Mr Thompson’s vast stock of guns and said he believed he was Steve Hart.
“Old Harry had something up his sleeve, I think he had something to do with Ned Kelly. He had two (cattle) brands – N2K and K2N. Why two brands if he didn’t have a partner,” Mr Maunder said.
The book is available at Queensland booksellers.