Monday, September 15, 2014

The Infamous - Edward 'Ned' Kelly by Susan Horsnell

In the United States there are a number of infamous outlaws, Billy The Kid, Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, just to name a few. In Britain, John Clavell, Gubbins Band and Friar Tuck.

In Australia, our most infamous and well known outlaw – known as a Bushranger - would have to be Edward 'Ned' Kelly.  This month, I will touch on some of his escapades which led to his eventual capture and hanging.

"SUCH IS LIFE" – Ned Kelly's words when, Mr. Castieau, the governor of the gaol, informed the condemned man that the hour of execution had been fixed at ten o'clock. It is one of the most famous sayings to this day used by thousands of Australians.

Ned Kelly's father, John Kelly (known as "Red"), was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, and was transported in 1841, at the age of 22, from Tipperary to Tasmania for pig stealing. After his release in 1848, Red Kelly moved to Victoria and found work at James Quinn's farm at Wallan Wallan as a bush carpenter. He subsequently turned his attention to gold-digging, at which he was successful and which enabled him to purchase a small freehold in Beveridge, just north of Melbourne.
Kelly was born in the town of Beveridge in the British colony of Victoria to an Irish convict father and an Irish-Australian mother. The exact date of his birth is unknown but thought to be anytime from December 1854 – June 1855. His father died after a six-month stint in prison for unlawful possession of a bullock hide, when Kelly was about 12.
Kelly's first documented brush with the law was on 15 October 1869 at the age of 14 when he was charged with the assault and robbery of Ah Fook, a pig and fowl trader from a Chinese camp near Bright. According to Fook, as he was passing Kelly's house, Kelly approached him with a long bamboo stick, announcing that he was a bushranger and would kill him if he did not hand over his money. Kelly then allegedly took him into the bush, beat him with the stick and stole 10 shillings. 

Following an incident at his family's home in 1878, police parties searched for Kelly in the bush. After he, his brother and two colleagues killed three policemen, the colonial government proclaimed Kelly and his gang wanted outlaws.
A final violent confrontation with police took place at Glenrowan on 28 June 1880. Kelly, dressed in homemade plate metal armor and a helmet, was captured and sent to jail. He was convicted of three counts of willful murder and hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol in November 1880. His daring and notoriety made him an iconic figure in Australian history, folklore, literature, art and film.
In August 2011, anthropologists announced that a skeleton found in a mass grave in Pentridge Prison had been confirmed as Kelly's. His skull, however, remains missing.

Bushranging was said to have ended with the shooting of the Kelly Gang in 1880 at Glenrowan, Victoria, made possible by the introduction of the Felons Apprehension Act 1865 (NSW) which allowed outlawed bushrangers to be shot, rather than arrested and sent to trial.

The stories, myths and facts surrounding Ned Kelly are numerous and varied. There is far too much information on the bushranger and his gang to cover it all here but I have touched on some of the more interesting aspects. 
The following is a rough timeline of his life:
1854/1855: Born Edward Kelly in Beveridge, north of Melbourne. 
1869: A 14-year-old Kelly assaults a Chinese pig farmer and spends close to two weeks in police custody. 
October 1870: Arrested again for assault. 1871: Arrested for riding a stolen horse and fighting with police. Sentenced to three years' jail. 
April 1878: Ned Kelly goes into hiding after being accused of assaulting a police officer. 
October 1878: Ned Kelly and his gang kill three police from a group sent to track him down at Stringy Bark Creek in bushland near Mansfield. 
December 1878: Ned Kelly and his gang hold up a bank in Euroa. 
February 1879: Ned Kelly and his gang dress as cops and rob a bank in Jerilderie. 
June 1880: Shootout between police and the Kelly gang at Glenrowan Inn. Ned Kelly is arrested, the three members of his gang die in the shootout. 
October 1880: Ned Kelly faces trial and is sentenced to death. 
11 November 1880: Ned Kelly is hanged. Two Melbourne newspapers report his last words to the Governor of the Goal as, "Such is life". 
1929: The remains of prisoners, including Ned Kelly's remains, transferred from Old Melbourne Gaol to Pentridge Prison. 
November 2009: A skull believed to belong to Ned Kelly is given to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine for identification. The skull was proven not to be that of Ned Kelly but efforts to identify his remains among those exhumed from Pentridge Prison begin. 
1 September 2011: Victorian government announces the remains are those of Edward 'Ned' Kelly  
18 January 2013: Ned Kelly's remains are buried
Susan Horsnell - Western Romance Author 

1 comment:

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Susan,
Great post. Very interesting, I have used the background of the Kelly gang in a couple of my books. My mother's father as a child, lived near the Kelly's when they moved to Greta.