“It gave me a concept of history and that was magic. It gave me my first insight into what makes human beings tick-into cause and effect. If you make an effort to understand one human being you understand more about all human beings.”


The above quote is from Ian Jones when asked what fascinated him about Ned Kelly. It appears in a battered, dog-eared copy of “The Last Outlaw” magazine (1980) which I have held close to my heart for many years. Before Ian’s excellent Kelly publications of 1992 and 1995,this was my only record of the man's thoughts and works. For those who know something about Ian, they will realize his ultimate goal in days gone by was to produce the definitive Ned Kelly on screen. Well, he certainly did that. I think Ian Jones and Bronwyn Binns interpretation and realization of our Ned will remain the yardstick.


The road to this 4 part mini-series was a long one. Mr. Jones started out as a journalist with the “Melbourne Sun”. He became a director @ Channel 7 in the early years of television then joined Crawford productions where he had a major hand in developing such now historical shows as Division 4 and Matlock Police. He was also the man behind a well known little drama series called “The Sullivans.” Throughout, his interest in the Kellys was a constant.


Ian was a script writer on the 1970 film “Ned Kelly” starring Mick Jagger and directed by Tony Richardson. Although the movie is often not looked on favourably by Kelly fans, it is certainly a part of Australian cinema history and “relics” from the film can be seen @ Ned: The Exhibition @ The Old Melbourne Gaol.


Following his departure from Crawfords, Ian formed his own company along with his wife Bronwyn Binns. Through the Seven network, they presented to audiences “Against the Wind.” It was a 13 part series dealing in the convict years and included Jon English in the cast.


“A great slab of Australian history told through a few people.”


In a sense, it seemed only to be a dress rehearsal for “The Last Outlaw”. Ian and Bronwyn decided the centenary year of 1980 was certainly the year to produce the story of Ned on film. But this was no mean feat. The logistics (and cost) were enormous. Obviously, they prevailed despite a tight schedule and some behavioural problems from some cast members. The 4 part series was mostly filmed in Seymour, north of Melbourne, on private property known as “The Magic Valley.” It certainly was magic because from bare paddocks, the story of the Kellys, the Police and their circle came alive again in all its rich, textured detail.


“You don’t see the production trucks lost in the darkness. You are in Benalla on a chill night in March 1879, when the world was slower, harsher, pleasanter. And when the Kellys were abroad…”


The series has recently been repeated on Channel 7 and in my opinion has aged like a fine wine. Rich in character and flavour.


Ians work on Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt and the Beechworth connection has never been bettered and has inspired me to climb all over the Woolshed Valley over the years to get a feel for Joe, Aaron and co. His book, about to be re-issued is called “The Fatal Friendship” and is highly anticipated. The insight into Ned, Joe and Aaron Sherritt is incredible.


Whilst Ian is certainly a name to be reckoned with in Kelly circles, his interests also occupy other realms. He has done a lot of work on the Australian Lighthorse and has produced books on the subject. At much the same time as he got to know Ned (via an old gardner named Tom Maine), he also got to know Jesus which resulted in further publication.


Ian Jones is a notoriously good bloke and I have had the pleasure of speaking once @ length when he phoned me @ home one cold night to answer some questions on the Kellys I put to him via Australia post. In terms of the mans kindness and generosity, this speaks for itself.


I met him in person in 1998 @ the “Men of Iron” exhibition at “The Old Melbourne Gaol at a lecture he gave. As it was a milestone, I had with me my 2 Jones/Kelly books “The Friendship that Destroyed Ned Kelly” (in my opinion, the best Kelly work yet produced)and “Ned Kelly-A Short Life.” Once again, he gave of his time willingly.


And now, Ian Jones is an integral part of the excellent Ned: The Exhibtion at the Gaol sharing his vast knowledge and archive with us all so we can better understand this great piece of our history.


I treasure his autograph.










Whilst the Iron Outlaw site has recently published an excellent in depth interview with Ian Jones, I had the pleasure recently of re-confirming several points for myself when he rang me @ home regarding the above essay. Despite a very busy schedule in this year of Ned, he is, once again, generous with his time to anyone genuinely interested in the Kelly story.


I was curious about is attitude toward Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt. When reading “The Fatal Friendship”, the reader can feel Ians affection for Aaron especially but his animosity toward Joe surprised me. Ian says again that Joe neglected his Mother for other activities and showed unwarranted violence on occasions. Ned was the one to bring out the best qualities in Joe- not Aaron.


We discussed Ians love of Bullock Creek- the site of the Kellys stronghold prior to the Stringybark creek encounter. Ian is no stranger to the locality near Tolmie, having ridden horses and camped in area frequently. Although the vibes are strong @ the (correct) site of the gun battle, Bullock Creek is where Ned dreamed, planned for the future, had aspirations and had good times and therefore, as Ian says, he feels Ned here more than any other place. This is where Ian, with his 2 sons, discovered the remains of Neds cast iron pot from the whisky still. He literally tripped over it after it was unearthed by feral pigs. Although regarded as a damaging pest, these animals did Ian an enormous favour that day. He claims he sees them now with a certain fondness!


We also discussed the replica of the Glenrowan Railway station that has recently come into being. Apparently, it is several metres from the exact location, painted the wrong colour and slightly incorrect in structure. Ian concedes however, it is an excellent, much required piece of work. Any reconstruction of Anne Jones Inn should be limited to chimneys only-as they appeared after building was raized by police. He predicts bright things for Glenrowans future and will be glad to see the “slide” stop. He is amazed and dismayed to this day the overpass is where it is- in the heart of battleground.


Being a fan of the1980 mini-series, “The Last Outlaw”, Ian kindly took me briefly behind the scenes. It appears it was a miracle series was finished @ all considering some cast behaviour. Apparently, actors equity warned there could be trouble if a certain pair of actors shared quarters together. They did and there was. Interestingly, most of the problems seemed to come from actors portraying gang members or sympathisers. Read into that what you will. Apparently, “the magic valley”, pastoral ground near Seymour where most of the series was filmed, is still pristine and untouched. One of Ians favourite portrayals in the series was by Paul Clarkson, an amateur actor only, who brought alive Captain Standish. Tim Elliot also captured Sergeant Steele superbly as did many actors portraying the police.


Our last point of discussion concerned the feeling toward Aaron Sherritt in Beechworth. Ian says time has healed wounds and despite the fact relatives remain on the outskirts of town, there is no real feeling of animosity. Ian seems to feel Aaron is no longer looked on as a betrayer of the gang. He says logic has won out in the end. Only someone who looks into story in a cursory fashion could consider Aaron as a true traitor. Ian is of the opinion that new “Sherritt photo” discovery portrays Jack Sherritt and not Aaron. New edition of Ians book,”The Fatal Friendship”, is due soon. Apparently, he didn’t care for original title (The Friendship that destroyed Ned Kelly.)


Ian Jones is currently working on another “Ned” book, this time looking @ the Siege of Glenrowan through the eyes of Thomas Carrington, newspaper artist of the day. The shelf is sagging but it will be a worthwhile addition.


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