In search of the Kennedy Tree

Mansfield Courier - - News - BY SHANE DOUTHIE sd­[email protected] ne­me­dia.com.au

drian Younger and Tony King are both keen re­searchers into the Kelly story and for many years be­lieved that the ex­ist­ing site iden­ti­fied by the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, Land, Wa­ter and Plan­ning (DELWP) was in­cor­rect.

They are also both ex­pe­ri­enced bush­men and fa­mil­iar with the im­me­di­ate coun­try­side af­ter re­peated trips to the area.

“Dur­ing a num­ber of dis­cus­sions in re­la­tion to the cur­rently marked site, along with nu­mer­ous vis­its to the area, we de­cided to search in earnest for what we be­lieved to be the cor­rect lo­ca­tion of the Kennedy Tree,” Adrian said.

The pair did not only want to iden­tify the cor­rect tree but were de­ter­mined to pro­vide ev­i­dence to back up their claim which would be recog­nised by Her­itage Vic­to­ria.

They recog­nised that there has been sig­nif­i­cant time and re­sources in­vested in lo­cat­ing this his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant site pre­vi­ously and con­sid­ered all re­search and re­ports that have been com­pleted, and re­spect­fully ac­knowl­edged this work.

But de­spite the site be­ing pho­tographed four days af­ter the dis­cov­ery of the Sergeant’s body, the ex­act lo­ca­tion has been lost, and much de­bated.

Most im­por­tantly for Adrian and Tony, they wanted to pro­vide the fam­i­lies of Michael Kennedy with de­fin­i­tive ev­i­dence and a lo­ca­tion

FOUR am­a­teur his­to­ri­ans be­lieve they have pin­pointed the ex­act lo­ca­tion of what is called the Kennedy Tree and the po­lice camp at Stringy­bark Creek where the in­fa­mous po­lice mur­ders by the Kelly Gang took place.

The tree marked the spot where the body of Vic­to­ria Po­lice’s Sergeant Michael Kennedy was found in Oc­to­ber 1878 af­ter be­ing shot by Ned Kelly.

Adrian Younger from Greta and Tony King from Lurg, along with Noeleen Lloyd from Greta and Jim Fog­a­rty from Mel­bourne be­lieve their dis­cov­er­ies will pro­vide the fam­ily of Sgt Kennedy with de­fin­i­tive ev­i­dence and a lo­ca­tion where they can re­mem­ber and com­mem­o­rate their an­ces­tor.

They be­lieve it will also al­low these his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant sites to be doc­u­mented cor­rectly and re­spect­fully.

Last Satur­day, the 141st an­niver­sary of the Stringy­bark Creek po­lice mur­ders, the group met with Sgt Kennedy and Con­sta­ble Loni­gan descendant­s at the site to show their find­ings.

A re­mem­brance ser­vice was held at 11am. They also pre­sented Leo Kennedy with the re­ports on the Kennedy Tree and the po­lice camp site.

in which to re­mem­ber and com­mem­o­rate their an­ces­tor.

“We be­lieve this area must be pre­served and pro­tected for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to come,” Tony said.

“Most im­por­tantly, sup­port in the for­mal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of this site will pro­vide a de­fin­i­tive lo­ca­tion and clo­sure to the Kennedy fam­ily to re­mem­ber and hon­our their beloved fam­ily mem­ber.”

The re­sult of months of re­search and on site in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the area is ‘The Kennedy Tree –a re­search project’, a com­pre­hen­sive re­port de­tail­ing their re­search and find­ings which in­cludes the ac­cu­rate lo­ca­tion of the tree.

In their re­port, ‘The Kennedy Tree – a re­search project’, which they com­pleted with hor­ti­cul­tural in­put from Jim Fog­a­rty, the

pair com­pared their tree with a photo taken of the ac­tual tree by Mel­bourne pho­tog­ra­pher Fred­er­ick Charles Bur­man who was in a party of four men who went to the scene just two days af­ter Sgt Kennedy’s fu­neral to pro­vide pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence of the tragedy.

Where the search party orig­i­nally found the body, it was next to a large tree that was blazed with an axe to mark a trail or the bri­dle track. The blaze mea­sured ap­prox­i­mately 600m by 600m.

The new im­age re­veals not only a num­ber of sim­i­lar dis­tin­guish­ing marks on the tree, in­clud­ing the blaze, which are re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to the ones in the orig­i­nal photo, but also its size, type, shape and ori­en­ta­tion.

“The like­li­hood of the tree in the Bur­man photo and this tree hav­ing the same char­ac­ter­is­tics and sim­i­lar­i­ties with­out them be­ing one and the same is there­fore un­likely,” Adrian said.

“When con­sid­er­ing the age of the tree it is not at all un­rea­son­able to sug­gest that the tree is eas­ily over two cen­turies old given its im­mense ver­ti­cal size and girth.

They had to work out a way to es­ti­mate the age of the tree in Mr Bur­man’s photo and col­lect data of the tree that stands to­day.

Through Noeleen Lloyd they in­vited Jim on board to pro­vide hor­ti­cul­tural in­sight, to re­port on the plant life and trees near the Kennedy Tree and to as­sist in es­ti­mat­ing the age of the Kennedy Tree.

Ex­haus­tive data col­lected from the trees within the vicin­ity led by Jim backed up their find­ings.

The re­port in­cludes Jim’s de­tailed anal­y­sis of the tree, its sim­i­lar­ity to the one in the photo and the to­pog­ra­phy then and now.

“Our data that we have col­lated in­di­cated that the tree in the Bur­man photo is now 229 years old and was 88 years old at the time of the mur­der,” Jim said.

Adrian said the es­tab­lish­ment of the Ryan’s Creek catch­ment area in the early 1950s, and sub­se­quent re­moval of farm­ing within the Stringy­bark Creek area had pro­tected this area from any sig­nif­i­cant hu­man in­ter­ven­tion which in turn had saved the tree.

“We be­lieve this tree should be pre­served so that fam­ily and the pub­lic may visit and re­flect on the tragic events of this day in Aus­tralia’s his­tory,” Adrian said.

“A well-re­spected po­lice of­fi­cer in his com­mu­nity, whose life was ex­tin­guished far too soon, deserves to have the place he died cor­rectly iden­ti­fied and re­spect­fully marked.

“Both the tree and its sur­round­ing area should be in­cluded in the re­cently es­tab­lished walk­ing trail so that vis­i­tors to this his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant site can pay their re­spects and re­flect on these events.

“Given that scar­ring has now taken hold on this tree it may now have a limited life ex­pectancy.

“There­fore, time is im­por­tant in this mat­ter.”

The Kennedy Tree – a re­search project’ re­port was sent to DELWP and Her­itage Vic­to­ria on Oc­to­ber 2. At the time of this story go­ing to press there had been no re­sponse.

SPOT THE SIMILIARIT­IES: The Fred­er­ick Bur­man photo (far left) taken days af­ter Sgt Kennedy’s body was found. The ‘body’ un­der the blan­ket is Edward Monk, a saw miller from south east of Tolmie, who was there when the po­lice of­fi­cer’s body was found. This was a staged ‘re-en­act­ment’ by the pho­tog­ra­pher. (left) The so-called Kennedy Tree as it stands to­day.

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