From The Beginning
In 1855, Kilmore, Victoria, the first son of John Kelly, an Irish convict, and Ellen Kelly was born. But how were they to know that over the years young Ned would become the most wanted person in Australia and probably the most famous and romanticized Australian outlaw of all time? Over time Ned formed a gang, which was feared by some and admired by others.
The formation of this courageous gang took place in 1878 and even though their gang was in business for only two years, the damage that was caused by Ned and his gang was amazing. If capturing two towns, Jerilderie and Glenrowan, wasn't enough of an accomplishment, they also killed three troopers and robbed two banks. The gang consisted of Joe Byrne, Steve Hart, and Dan Kelly and of course Ned Kelly.
Meet the Family
Ned's parents Ellen, John and most of his other family weren't innocent either. For example when Ned was 8 years old several of his uncles, also known as 'the wild colonel boys', were jailed for horse and cattle stealing. When young Ned was 10 his father John was jailed because he wasn't able to pay a $50 fine. Tragedy followed soon after the day John Kelly was released from Avenal jail. He died a year later, and Ned was only 11 years old by this time.
Later that year his mother was fined for using threatening and abusive language to neighbors whilst blaming them for her husbands arrest and death. When Ned was 13 his uncle was sentenced to death for setting fire to a house whilst intoxicated with alcohol. After a few weeks the sentence was changed to a 15 years of imprisonment.
There's a First time for Everything
A year later Ned faced his very first police charge for ‘assaulting a Chinese man with a stick’. He was in jail for 11 days before the charge was dismissed after his sister insisted that the reason for Ned's behaviour was in defending her. The sister said that the Chinese man had insulted her.
Ned's first serious run in with the law was when he had to spend his 15th birthday in jail, charged three times with unarmed robbery, a charge which carried the death penalty. Police accused that he had helped bushranger Harry Power to rob travelers, though they admitted to only having strong suspicions. 11 weeks later Ned was released without bail. During his time spent in jail, it seemed a lot had happened on the home front.
He found his mother has been convicted of “Having kept a sly- grog shanty”. Ned who was loyally devoted to his mother and sisters felt that his family had been insulted beyond reconciliation. The truth is, the police in Victoria had been ordered to “take the flash ness out of the Kelly’s” and other families like them. They were told to do so by eliminating their prestige and charging them with the slightest of offenses. Ned Kelly was jailed for 6 months for assault and indecent behaviour. All of which were indecent punishment for light crimes. Ned felt they were being treated within their rights.
Three years later Ned was also convicted of horse stealing. As this was based of very doubtful evidence he declared war on the police and the wealthy landowners, because of his belief that the police represented the landowners. To give the community and the rich landowners something to talk about he started wholesale and retail horse and cattle dealing. In-between stealing hundreds of horses he quarrelled with police. He seemed to believe he was invincible against any man in Victoria and was obsessed with the belief that his family were being prosecuted.
Explosion waiting to Happen?
Some people spoke of Ned Kelly as “an explosion waiting to happen”. This suspected explosion came when his mother was jailed for three years and two of the Kellys' neighbours for six years, for helping Ned and his brother Dan wound a police constable who had called at their farm. In October 1878, At Stringy bark Creek near Mansfield, Ned Kelly shot and killed three policemen who had been sent to capture him. Ned Kelly was quoted saying about the policeman he had shot “certainly their wives and children are to be pitied but they must remember those men came into the bush with the intention of scattering pieces of me and my brother all over the bush” and “this cannot be called wilful murder for I was compelled to shoot them, or lie down and let them shoot me”.
In December 1878, Ned and his gang bailed up a station and robbed a bank at Euroa, which is in northern Victoria. The year after, in January, obviously not satisfied with their achievements, they captured the police and most of the people in Jerilderie, NSW and robbed the bank. For seventeen months the gang easily provoked the greatest bushranger hunt in Australian history. They had thousands of admirers and Ned Kelly wanted to “startle the world”. But one day, as it was expected, Ned was tired of being hunted and wanted to see it all end.
On Saturday 26th of June 1880, the gang experienced their last ambush at Glenrowan. They held up the railway station and forced a gang of narvies to tear up a section of the track, for Ned knew a special train would be coming from Melbourne bringing extra police after the murder of Sherritt. They then assembled all the locals in a hotel and held them there whilst waiting for the crash to happen.
A schoolteacher named Curow pleaded to be released and when his wish was fulfilled, he walked down to the tracks and haltered the train.
Eventually the police surrounded the inn and started to fire. Joe Byrne, Steve Hart and Dan Kelly were all killed. Meanwhile Ned chose to stand and fight until the end. After battling hard for his survival Ned got shot in the back of the knee after his armour, made of ploughshares, had stopped many bullets, which other wise would have killed him. Ned was seriously wounded in many places with around 30 bullets plunged into his flesh, but he mysteriously survived. He was then taken to Melbourne Goal where he was tried. The same judge who had sentenced Ellen Kelly to 3 years imprisonment sentenced Ned to death.
Ned Kelly was hung at the Melbourne Goal on 11th of November in 1880.
Such Is Life
When Ned Kelly, Australia's most famous bushranger, was captured at Glenrowan in 1880, he was asked why he chose to attack the police rather than to escape. Bleeding and in pain from 30 bullet and shotgun pellet wounds, Kelly shrugged his shoulders and said ‘A man would be a nice sort of a dingo to walk out on his mates.’ Ned Kelly has become a part of the Australian language. He is one Australian who has a chance of being remembered for a thousand years. His death sparkled in numerous songs, poems and movies. After his death there was great sympathy for the Kelly family among the small settlers and the working classes of the time, especially the bush workers. It's up to you to decide whether Ned Kelly was a hero or a criminal but in any case, as were Ned Kelly's last words,
"Such Is Life".