Shar­ing the pas­sion

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - REGIONAL EXTRA - KYLIE WIL­SON

CHRIS Ger­rett has been en­sconced in the world of Ned Kelly his­tory for decades.

Op­er­at­ing Kate’s Cot­tage in Glen­rowan, lit­er­ally a stone’s throw from the town’s im­pos­ing statue of Ned Kelly, she has seen a range of Kel­lyre­lated works come across her desk, from the rarest of an­tique vol­umes to more re­cent best­selling works.

Now on the verge of re­tir­ing af­ter more than 40 years in the tourism busi­ness, the Wan­garatta res­i­dent looks back on her decades in­ter­act­ing with Kelly en­thu­si­asts with fond­ness.

Chris has al­ways loved the area and its tourism po­ten­tial, par­tic­u­larly with Wan­garatta be­ing a hub for so many nearby towns.

“Glen­rowan draws busi­ness from all over the world,” she en­thused.

A born and bred lo­cal, Chris has had a fas­ci­na­tion with read­ing, and an in­ter­est in the Ned Kelly story and its sur­round­ing his­tory, ever since child­hood.

She re­mem­bers her father telling many “tall tales” about Ned Kelly rid­ing through her fam­ily’s pad­docks and hid­ing “booty” there, which, al­though weren’t true, def­i­nitely drew her in. “I’ve grown up with this story,” Chris said. She said over the years peo­ple from all walks of life have vis­ited her at Kate’s Cot­tage in Glen­rowan to find a range of Ned Kelly re­lated books, all shar­ing their pas­sion for the sub­ject.

“They have strong opin­ions about dif­fer­ent pub­li­ca­tions,” Chris said. “It’s just amaz­ing what you come across.” Over time, she has cat­a­logued and writ­ten in­for­ma­tion about all the Ned Kelly re­lated books that she has seen in her work, from the dates of edi­tions to record­ing in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion in some edi­tions, changes be­tween edi­tions, and much more.

The re­sult is a thick vol­ume cat­a­logu­ing a life’s work.

One such tid­bit she en­joyed was Ned Kelly’s re­la­tion­ship to the clas­sic book Lorna Doone, which she said was among one of the first cheaply pro­duced “pulp fic­tion” ti­tles avail­able to read­ers of poor back­grounds.

She said this book, which de­scribes a type of iron ar­mour within its pages – as well as other in­flu­ences such as a metal Chi­nese war­lord ar­mour at a pa­rade in Beech­worth at the time, and an iron clad war­ship called a Mon­i­tor docked in Port Phillip Bay, were quite pos­si­bly all among the in­spi­ra­tions for the Kelly gang’s iconic ar­mour.

Many a rare or in­ter­est­ing book has come across her desk, but the 1881 Royal Com­mis­sion in­ves­ti­gat­ing the be­hav­iour of the Vic­to­rian po­lice force, held in the wake of the Kelly saga, is by far the most sought af­ter book she has seen.

The com­mis­sion took place af­ter much pub­lic out­cry about the be­hav­iour of po­lice, in­clud­ing cor­rup­tion.

Its aim was to try and un­der­stand the at­ti­tudes and law­less­ness of some in the po­lice force to­wards the se­lec­tors of the time.

“The ul­ti­mate book to have is the Royal Com­mis­sion,” she said.

Chris said it was ul­ti­mately the com­plex­ity and drama of the Ned Kelly story that con­tin­ues to di­vide pub­lic opin­ion and see sto­ries cre­ated about him to this day. “Every­one’s got an opin­ion,” she said. Per­son­ally, she feels an affin­ity for Ned Kelly’s “lar­rikin” side and sym­pa­thised with the op­pres­sion and bad treat­ment peo­ple of Ir­ish de­scent re­ceived at the time, but she said there are too many shades of grey to the story to paint Ned Kelly as en­tirely bad or good.

NED CON­NEC­TION: Chris Ger­rett has worked for many years at Kate’s Cot­tage in Glen­rowan, only me­tres away from the fa­mous and im­pos­ing statue of Ned Kelly. PHOTO: Kylie Wil­son

WEALTH OF IN­FOR­MA­TION: Chris Ger­rett with some of the Ned Kelly books she has come across over the years.

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