In search of the Kennedy Tree
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.