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THE REAL NED KELLY
Excerpts from Wikipedia & The Iron Outlaw
Edward "Ned" Kelly is Australia's most famous bushranger, and, to many, a folk hero for his defiance of the colonial authorities.
Ask a group of Australians what they think of Ned Kelly and you will soon discover that there is little grey area. Even nearly 125 years after Ned's death, opinions are usually either black or white. In general terms, the masses see Ned as either a merciless killer who unforgivably chose to take up arms against society, or as a national hero who was the embodiment of the Australian spirit.
Through it all, Ned emerges as an utterly imposing individual. In recent years, pro–Kelly sentiment has been at an all–time high. Even before the publicity around 2003's Ned Kelly film, there were clear signs that more and more Australians felt that Ned had been given a raw deal. In 2000, a special Sixty Minutes episode revealed that 91% of people polled believed that Ned had not received a fair trial when he was sentenced to death for murder. Others go further, suggesting he was the victim of a vicious system; a young man hounded into crime and whose death fell little short of martyrdom. Even in his own brief lifetime, he became a legend.
Today, in the eyes of many, he has become Australia's foremost folk–hero and a symbol of national pride. Certainly, Ned possessed qualities that far surpassed the other bushrangers of his era. He was an expert with a “running-iron” on stolen, unbranded stock and was a deadly–accurate shot with a revolver or a rifle. Despite being a largely self–educated man, he was surprisingly articulate, boasted an almost poetic turn of phrase and a sardonic sense of humour. Ned’s family meant everything to him and he was the man of the family at the age of twelve. He was fiercely loyal his friends and supporters, to the extent that he would risk his own skin to ensure the well-being of an ally.
Like most outlaws Ned Kelly died young, being only 25 when he was executed. He was hanged at Melbourne Gaol (US pronounciation = jail) in 1880. His daring and notoriety made him a iconic figure in Australian history, folk lore, literature, art and film.
The birthdate of Ned Kelly is a subject of some debate among historians. It is generally accepted that Kelly was born at Beveridge, Victoria, in either December 1854, or June 1855.
"Red" Kelly, the father of Ned Kelly, was convicted in Ireland and transported to Van Diemen's Land There is some uncertainty surrounding "Red's" conviction as most of Ireland's court records were destroyed during the Irish Civil War. Some historians claims that 'Red' stole two pigs, while other suggest 'Red' attempted to shoot an Irish landlord. According to one, 'Red' was an informer, but again this claim is contested. Whatever his crime, 'Red' was sentenced to seven years of penal transportation to Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) and arrived in 1842.
After his release in 1848, Red moved to Victoria in 1849 and found work in Beveridge at the farm of James Quinn, a member of the Quinn extended family or "clan". Red Kelly, aged 30, married Quinn's daughter Ellen, then 18. Their first child died early, but Ellen then gave birth to a daughter, Annie, in 1853. In all they had eight children, including their first son, Edward (a.k.a. Ned).
Their first son, Edward a.k.a. Ned, was born in Beveridge, Victoria just north of Melbourne, probably in January 1855 (perhaps December 1854). Young Ned was baptized by Augustinian priest Charles O'Hea, and attended school at Avenel. It was during his school years that Ned risked his life to save a drowning boy, Richard Shelton, who was swept off the banks of the Hughes Creek and into the raging waters.
Shelton’s parents rewarded Ned’s bravery by publicly presenting him with a green silk sash with gold tassles. (In 1880 Ned was to wear it as a cummerbund under his armour during his last stand at Glenrowan.)
Two of Ellen Kelly's sisters married members of the Lloyd family and for many years the Kellys, the Quinns and the Lloyds made a formidable clan.
The Quinns were always suspected of cattle or horse stealing, though they were never convicted. 'Red' Kelly was arrested when he killed and skinned a calf, which the police said belonged to a neighbour. He was found not guilty of theft, but guilty of having removed the brand from the skin and fined 25 pounds or six months with hard labour. Not having money to pay the fine Red went to Kilmore gaol. The saga surrounding Red, and his treatment by the police, remained with Ned.
Red Kelly died at Avenal Vic on 27 December 1866 when Ned was only eleven and a half (as recorded by Ned on death certificate), and according to custom, he was forced to leave school to become head of the family. It was at this time, that the Kelly family moved to the Glenrowan area of Victoria, which to this day is known as Kelly Country. Ned grew up in poverty in some of the harshest conditions in Australia, and folk tales tell of his sleeping on the ground in the bush during the Victorian winter.
In all, 18 charges were brought against members of Ned's immediate family before he was declared an outlaw, while only half that number resulted in guilty verdicts. This is a highly unusual ratio for the time, and is one of the reasons that has caused many to posit that Ned's family was unfairly targeted from the time they moved to North-East Victoria. Perhaps the move was necessary because of Ellen's squabbles with family members and her appearances in court over family disputes. O'Brien, however argued that Victoria's colonial policing in those days had nothing to do with winning a conviction, rather the determinant of one's criminality was the arrest. Further, O'Brien argued, using the 'Statistics of Victoria' crime figures that the region's or family's or national criminality was determined not by individual arrests, but rather by the total number of arrests.
In 1869, 14-year-old Ned was arrested for assaulting a Chinese pig farmer named Ah Fook. Ah Fook claimed that he had been robbed by Ned, whose story was that Ah Fook had a row with his sister Annie. Ned spent ten days in custody before the charges were dismissed. But from now on the police regarded him as a "juvenile bushranger".
The following year, he was arrested and accused of being an accomplice of bushranger Harry Power. No evidence was produced in court and he was released after a month. Historians tend to disagree over this episode: some see it as evidence of police harassment; others believe that Kelly’s relatives intimidated the witnesses, making them reluctant to give evidence. Power was eventually arrested while hiding out on land belonging to Kelly's relatives. Ned's Grandfather Quinn owned a huge piece of land known as Glenmore Station at the head waters of the King River. It was at the top of this land where Power lived - on Quinn's land. Ironically just over the range on the other side is where Stringybark Creek is located.
In October 1870, Ned was arrested again for assaulting a hawker, Jeremiah McCormack, and for his part in sending Kelly McCormack, his childless wife, an indecent note that had calves' testicles enclosed. This was a result of a row earlier that day caused when McCormack accused some friends of the Kellys of using his horse without permission. Ned did not write the note, but passed it to one of his cousins to give to the lady. He was sentenced to three months' hard labour on each charge.
Upon his release Ned returned home. There he met Isaiah "Wild" Wright who had arrived in the area on a beautiful chestnut mare. The mare had gone missing and since Wright needed to go back to Mansfield he asked Ned to find and keep it until his return. Ned found the mare and used it to go to town. He always maintained that he had no idea that the mare actually belonged to the Mansfield postmaster and that Wright had stolen it. While riding through Greta, Ned was approached by Constable Hall who knew the horse was stolen property. When his attempt to arrest Ned turned into a fight, Hall drew his gun and tried to shoot him, but Kelly overpowered the policeman and humiliated him by riding him like a horse. Hall later struck Kelly several times with his revolver after he had been arrested. After just three weeks of freedom, 16-year-old Ned was sentenced to three years imprisonment along with his brother-in-law Alex Gunn. "Wild" Wright got only eighteen months.
While Ned was in prison, his brothers Jim (aged 10) and Dan (aged 12) were arrested by Constable Flood for riding a horse that did not belong to them. The horse had been lent to them by a farmer for whom they had been doing some work, but the boys spend a night in the cells before the matter was cleared.
Two years later, Jim Kelly was arrested as part of a cattle-rustling operation. He and his family claimed that he did not know that some of the cattle did not belong to his employer Tom Lloyd. Nevertheless he was given a five-year sentence.
Ned's mother, Ellen, was now married to a Californian, named George King, with whom she had three children. He, Ned and Dan became involved in a cattle rustling operation.
On the 15 April 1878, Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick arrived at Benalla suffering from 'wounds' to his left wrist. He claimed that he was attacked by Ned, Dan, Ellen, and their friends Bricky Williamson and Bill Skillion, all armed with revolvers. Williamson and Skillion were arrested. Ned and Dan were nowhere to be found, but Ellen was taken into custody along with her baby, Alice. She was still in prison at the time of Ned's execution. Ellen later remarried, and died on the 27 March 1923.
The Kellys claimed that Fitzpatrick had come to their house, to question Dan over a cattle duffing incident. While there, he propositioned Dan's young sister Kate. The men and their mother defended the girl by knocking Fitzpatrick to the ground. They then bandaged his injured wrist, and he had left saying that no real harm had been done. No guns, they claimed, were used during the incident, and Ned was in not involved since he was away, possibly in New South Wales, at the time. That Ned was in New South Wales is still disputed.
The Incident at Stringybark Creek
On 25 October 1878, Sergeant Kennedy set off to search for the Kellys, accompanied by Constables McIntyre, Lonigan, and Scanlon. The wanted men were suspected of being in the Wombat Ranges North of Mansfield Victoria. The police set up a camp near two shepherd huts at Stringybark Creek hut at Stringybark Creek in a heavily timbered area.
On arrival the police split into two groups: two officers went in search of the Kellys while the other two remained to guard their camp. Evidence comes from the Royal Commission report of 1881 into the Kelly Outbreak wherein McIntyre testifies. It is also believed that Kennedy and his party's hunt for the Kellys had more to do with the rewards offered for a successful capture than with justice.
The police at camp fired at some parrots unaware they were only a mile away from the Kelly camp. Alerted by the shooting, the Kellys nearby discovered the well armed police camped near the "Shingle hut" at Stringybark Creek. They were in disguise and dressed as prospectors - yet their pack horses hobbled nearby had leather strap arrangements suitable for carrying out bodies.
Ned Kelly and his brother Dan considered their chances of survival against such a well-armed, determined party, and they decided to overpower the two officers while they could, then wait for the two others to return. The plan was for them to surrender, take their arms and horses and clear out. At least this way they could be some match against another police party that had set out at the same time from Benalla but heading south. (Ned had been tipped off to this other party's existence.) As Ned and Dan had some friends with them this day, they decided to advance into the police camp, ordering them to surrender; Constable Lonigan drew his revolver and aimed, and the first volley of fire hit and killed him instantly. McIntyre was not harmed as he threw his arms up.
When the other two police returned to camp, in fear for his life, Constable McIntyre suggested for them to surrender as they had been held up. Sergeant Kennedy, thinking this was a joke, went for his gun; Ned stepped forward and the shootout started, and Scanlan was killed. With Lonigan and Scanlan now dead, Kennedy ran for it shooting from tree to tree with Ned in pursuit, and he was eventually caught and shot. Ned and his mates went out of their way to help Sergeant Kennedy after the shooting, making him as comfortable as possible, but, realizing his wound was fatal and he would not live, Ned decided to fire again to end Kennedy's misery.
The exact place at Germans Creek where this occurred has only recently been identified, after 129 years. On leaving the scene Ned stole Sergeant Kennedy's hand written note for his wife - and his gold fob watch. Asked later why he took the watch, Ned replied, "What's the use of a watch to a dead man?" Kennedy's gold fob watch was returned to his kin many years later. The recovery, many years later, of the fob watch from descendants of a woman named "Madela" adds weight to one theory that Ned was married.
Constable McIntyre reached Mansfield to raise the alarm and told a story of a cowardly ambush by the Kelly's and a mass slaughter, which shocked Mansfield and, in time, the whole country. Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne were proclaimed outlaws, to be taken dead or alive. Two hundred police were drafted into the area and skilled native troopers were brought in from Queensland.
The police manhunt drew a blank. Even with emergency powers to enter premises, search and arrest without warrant, the police could find no trace of the Kelly Gang. Suspected sympathisers were arrested and held for weeks on remand. Public sympathy for the police vanished and resentment set in, even among law-abiding citizens who deplored the shooting of Kennedy and his men.
Ned Kelly and his gang escaped by a matter of hours. They had friends everywhere, but they had no money. Ned decided that funds must be raised to keep them going and to help sympathisers who needed bail money and pay off farming debts. On December 10, 1878, the Kelly Gang invaded a station property at Faithfull’s Creek near Euroa, 27 miles west of Benalla.
Twenty-two people at the sheep-station were rounded up and locked in a storeroom while the Kelly's' horses rested. Then, leaving Joe Byrne to guard the prisoners, Ned, Dan and Steve drove into Euroa in a commandeered hawker's cart. Euroa then had a population of no more than 300, with an unpretentious National Bank building on the main street. At 4 pm Ned Kelly entered the bank with a drawn gun, and Dan came in from the rear. Ten minutes later they were out on the street again, richer by £2260 in notes and gold.
Collecting Joe Byrne at the station homestead, they had supper, and rode off again on fresh horses after entertaining the prisoners with an impromptu trick riding exhibition. The Gang had just carried off, as their first exploit, the most perfectly planned and executed bank robbery in Australian bushranging history — without violence, which converted the victims into sympathizers.
An artilleryman, who was stationed in the town soon afterwards, reported, “The people in the bank told me that with the exception of the robbers taking the money, they never offered the slightest insult to anyone. I also visited the Younghusbands station where Joe Byrne stood guard over thirty persons while the others were in the bank, and was told everywhere that the outlaws were undoubtedly police-made criminals”.
The entire crime had been carried out without injury and the gang had netted £2000, a large sum in those days.
The Government of Victoria then increased the rewards on the heads of the Kelly Gang to £1000 each, and military guards were posted on all banks in the north-eastern district. Two months later, Ned Kelly and his men crossed the border into NSW and struck again.
This time their target was the Bank of New South Wales at Jerilderie. The raid on Jerilderie is particularly noteworthy for its boldness and cunning. The gang arrived in the town on Saturday, 8 February 1879. They broke into the local police station and imprisoned police officers Richards and Devine in their own cell. The outlaws then changed into the police uniforms and mixed with the locals, claiming to be reinforcements from Sydney. Next day, Ned supervised the rounding-up of more than 60 townspeople in the dining room of the Royal Mail Hotel, next door to the bank. Then he lectured to the captive audience from a document he had to Joe Byrne, which he intended should be read by all the world. It was a remarkable document — autobiography, statement of fact and self-justification — which ran to well over 7500 words — and became known as the Jerilderie Letter.
On Monday morning, Ned went in search of the local newspaper editor to have it printed, but the editor had gone into hiding. Carefully checking to make sure all the telephone wires out of town had been cut, Ned then proceeded to rob the bank.
The Bank of New South Wales lost over £2000 in notes and coin that day. Kelly also burned all the townspeople's mortgage deeds in the bank. Ned gave his manifesto to one of the tellers, who swore he would give it to Donald Cameron, MP, but instead he passed it on to the Crown Law Office in Melbourne.
Increasingly frustrated by public support for the Gang, the police, under direction from Chief Commissioner Frederick Charles Standish, locked up Kelly friends and relatives for months without trial. When this move backfired, the police drew up a blacklist of Kelly associates, or ‘sympathisers’, who would not be allowed to take up land in the north-east. This ill-advised action tipped the Kelly outbreak into rebellion. Ned and the Gang advanced plans for a Republic of North-Eastern Victoria, to be launched by a pre-emptive strike at their police enemies. But one of those enemies was laying his own devious plan to destroy the Gang.
The gang now knew that one of them, Aaron Sherritt, was a police informer. On the 26 June 1880 Joe Byrne went to Sherritt's house and murdered him. The four policemen who were with him at the time hid under the bed and did not report the murder until late the following morning. This delay was to prove crucial since it upset Ned's timing for another ambush.
The Kelly Gang arrived in Glenrowan on 27 June taking about 70 hostages at the Glenrowan Inn, owned by Annie Jones. They knew that a train loaded with police was on its way and ordered the rail tracks pulled up in order to cause a derailment.
While holed up in the Glenrowan Inn, their attempt to derail the police train failed when a released hostage, schoolmaster Thomas Curnow, gave the alert, at great risk to his own life, by standing on the railway line near sunrise, waving a red scarf illuminated by a candle.
Mrs Reardon, imprisoned in the hotel with her children, could hear clanking as Ned Kelly donned his armour in a back room. The armour was made with stolen and donated plough parts. It is not known exactly who made the armour. Some suggest they made it themselves, other suggest it was made by sympathetic blacksmiths. Each man's armour weighed about 96 pounds (44 kg); all four had helmets, and Joe Byrne's was said to be the most well done, with the brow reaching down to the nose piece, almost forming two eye slits.
It was 3am and bright moonlight. Under Superintendent Hare, the police moved among the trees to surround the hotel. As they took up firing positions, the Kelly Gang came out and started shooting. In the very first volley Hare was wounded in the forearm by a bullet. He promptly retired to the safety of the post office, leaving some 50 police without a commanding officer.
In the exchange of fire, Joe Byrne was shot in the leg, then he Dan and Steve retreated into the hotel. Ned Kelly, who was shot in the foot, hand and arm, escapes into the trees to warn the armed sympathisers their plan to derail the train had failed. During the confusion a signal rocket had been fired to alert Ned’s militia. The dream of a “Republic of North East Victoria” died with Curnow and the waving of a red scarf.
The women and children pinned inside were screaming, but the police kept up a murderous rate of gun fire. Inside, Dan Kelly ordered the townspeople to lie flat and not to raise their heads. As night faded, the police still kept firing and still more bullets were aimed from the outlaws' guns.
The townspeople, by then almost hysterical, started to brave the police barrage and come out. Mrs. Reardon, clutching a shawl round her baby, stepped out from the hotel veranda.
She heard a policeman, afterwards identified as Sergeant Steele, call out, “Throw up your hands or I'll shoot you like a bloody dog!” Mrs Reardon ran forward. Steele fired and the bullet passed through the shawl, missing the baby by inches. Two other children were not so lucky. One was wounded and another shot dead, with another youth wounded only a few minutes later.
Sometime before dawn Ned Kelly returned to the hotel, only to see Joe Byrne lying dead. He then appears outside the hotel and heads into the bush where he collapses. Here he is comforted by his cousin Tom Lloyd. Ned has lost much blood, has missed two nights sleep and is still carrying his armour. Escape was possible, but instead Ned goes back to rescue his brother and Steve Hart.
As the sun rose, out of the ground mist came Ned Kelly, an apparition limping in dented armour, one arm extended, his gun in his hand. Bullets rang against his armour as he walked slowly towards the police front line. They fell back and on Kelly came. A railway guard named Jesse Dowsett stood his ground, firing at Ned Kelly’s legs. Then a senior constable, also named Kelly, fired again at Kelly’s legs and at last he fell. Within minutes police had surrounded the grotesque figure of the outlaw.
With the sunrise another train had come to Glenrowan and one of its passengers was Father Matthew Gibney, a Roman Catholic priest. Ned Kelly’s sisters, Kate and Maggie, begged him to see their brother and give him the last rites.
Father Gibney found the outlaw conscious and comforted him. He then went to the hotel. At 3pm, thinking all the townspeople were out, the police constable had crept close and fired the Glenrowan Inn with straw soaked in kerosene, ultimately burning the hotel to the ground. Someone cried out that Martin Cherry, a townsman, was trapped inside with the outlaws. So with great courage, Father Gibney went into the blazing building with hands raised high to show he was unarmed. But no shots came.
Gibney fought his way through to a back room and there found the lifeless bodies of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart. Giving evidence later at the 1881 Royal Commission, the priest gave it as his opinion that the outlaws had committed suicide, probably by taking poison. The bodies lay side by side, heads propped on folded blankets. Martin Cherry was rescued but later died from wounds he received from police gun fire. Joe Byrne’s lifeless body was dragged from the Inn but those of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were charred beyond recognition. Later that day the families claimed both the bodies of Dan and Steve who, after a fiery wake at Eleven Mile Creek, were buried in Greta Cemetery.
Superintendent Francis Hare the senior officer on the scene, received a slight wound to his wrist, then fled the battle. For his cowardice the Royal Commission later suspended Hare from the Victorian Police Force.
Ned Kelly was deemed fit to stand trial, and was sentenced to death by the Irish-born Judge Redmond Barry. This case was extraordinary in that there were exchanges between the prisoner Kelly and the Judge, and the case has been the subject of attention by historians and lawyers. When the judge uttered the customary words "may God have mercy on your soul", Ned is reported to have replied "I will go a little further than that, and say I will see you there when I go".
At 9am on the morning of November 11, as a crowd of 5,000 gathered outside the Melbourne Gaol, Ned was transferred to the condemned cell. Just before 10am, he was led out onto the scaffold. Although two newspapers (The Age and Herald Sun) reported Kelly's last words as "Such is life" and two other newspapers as "Ah well, I suppose it has come to this. Such is life", another source, Ned Kelly's gaol warden, writes in his diary that when Kelly was prompted to say his last words that he (Ned Kelly) opened his mouth and mumbled something that he couldn't hear—and since the warden's office is closer to the scene of the hanging than the witnesses' allotted space, Ned Kelly's last words actually remain uncertain. At four minutes past 10, the executioner pulled the lever and Ned Kelly plunged into immortality. His headless body was buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds of the Old Melbourne Gaol. It was then later removed to Pentridge Prison's Cemetery.
LIFE AFTER NED
For months after his death, Ned Kelly’s rebellion simmered in North East Victoria, fuelled by the distribution of the £8000 reward money — often referred to as “blood money” by the Gang’s many sympathisers — and a Royal Commission which exposed a number of police spies in Kelly Country.
At this juncture, Constable Robert Graham - a young officer contemplating marriage and nicknamed “Honest Bob” - saw an opportunity for conciliation and was allowed to reopen the police station at Greta, which he did - of all venues - in O’Brien’s Hotel. Constable Graham, gained the trust of Mrs. Kelly and her family, to become a respected member of the community.
Mrs. Ellen Kelly, whose last words to her son Ned were: “I'll mind you die like a Kelly, Son” survived until 1923, dying at the age of 92.
Stories abounded of Ned's altruistic and gentlemanly behaviour, casting him as a modern-day Robin Hood. About 32,000 Victorians signed a petition against Kelly's sentencing.
NED KELLY IN POPULAR CULTURE
One of the gaols in which he was incarcerated has become the Ned Kelly Museum in Glenrowan, Australia, and many weapons and artifacts used by him and his gang are in exhibit there. Since his death, Kelly has become part of Australian folklore, the language and the subject of a large number of books, comics*, and several films. The Australian term 'as game as Ned Kelly' entered the language and is a common expression.
The Story of the Kelly Gang is considered the world's first feature length film: released in 1906, it had a then-unprecedented running time of 70 minutes. One of the actual suits worn by the gang (probably Joe Byrne's) was borrowed from the Victorian Museum and worn in the film. Other film representations include one with Mick Jagger in the title role, and a TV mini series of six episodes The Last Outlaw (1979) highlighted the plight of the selector and the social conflicts and battles between selector and squatters.
In 2003, Ned Kelly, a $30 million budget movie about Kelly's life was released. Directed by Gregor Jordan, and written by John M. McDonagh, it starred Heath Ledger (as Kelly), Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, and Naomi Watts. Based on Robert Drewe's book Our Sunshine, the film covers the period from Kelly's arrest for horse theft as a teenager, to the Kelly gang's armour-clad battle at Glenrowan, and attempts to portray the events from the perspectives of Kelly, and also of the authorities responsible for his capture and prosecution.
During the 1960s, Ned Kelly graduated from folk lore into the academic arena. His story and the social issues around land selection, squatters, national identity, policing and his court case are studied at universities, seminars and lectures.
Is the Ned Kelly Story Over? Ned in modern news.
28 June 2005 - 08:03:51
Politician Says: "Exhume Kelly gang outlaws"
historian and politician is calling for the bodies of two of Ned Kelly’s
gang to be exhumed after disputing accepted facts about the group’s final
© Thomas Crosbie Media, 2005.
For more on the Dan Kelly conspiracy theories, various news articles, and quotes from Kelly descendants, CLICK HERE.