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Ned Kelly

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Title: Ned Kelly  
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Subject: Bushranger, The Story of the Kelly Gang, Culture of Australia, History of Australia, Old Melbourne Gaol
Collection: 1854 Births, 1880 Deaths, 19Th-Century Criminals, 19Th-Century Executions by Australia, Australian Bank Robbers, Australian Folklore, Australian Outlaws, Australian People Convicted of Murdering Police Officers, Australian People Executed by Hanging, Australian People of Irish Descent, Bushrangers, Irish-Australian Culture, People Convicted of Murder by Victoria (Australia), People Executed by Australia by Hanging, People Executed by Victoria (Australia), People Executed for Murder, People Executed for Murdering Police Officers, People from Victoria (Australia)
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Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly
Ned Kelly the day before his execution
Born December 1854
Beveridge, Victoria, Australia
Died 11 November 1880 (aged 25)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Occupation Bushranger
Criminal penalty Death
Criminal status Executed by hanging
Parent(s) John "Red" Kelly
Ellen Kelly (née Quinn)
Conviction(s) Murder

Edward "Ned" Kelly (December 1854[1] – 11 November 1880) was an Australian bushranger of Irish descent. He was born in the British colony of Victoria as the third of eight children to an Irish convict from County Tipperary and an Australian mother with Irish parentage. His father died after a six-month stint in prison, leaving Kelly, then aged 12, as the eldest male of the household. The Kellys were a poor selector family who saw themselves as downtrodden by the Squattocracy and as victims of police persecution. Arrested in 1870 for associating with bushranger Harry Power, Kelly was eventually convicted of stealing horses and imprisoned for three years. He fled to the bush in 1878 after being indicted for the attempted murder of a police officer at the Kelly family's home. After he, his brother Dan, and two associates fatally shot three policemen, the Government of Victoria proclaimed them outlaws.

During the remainder of "The Kelly Outbreak", Kelly and his associates committed two major armed robberies and fatally shot Aaron Sherritt, a known police informant. In a manifesto letter, Kelly—denouncing the police, the Victorian Government and the British Empire—set down his own account of the events leading up to his outlawry. Threatening dire consequences against those who defied him, he ended with the words, "I am a widow's son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed."

When Kelly's attempt to derail and ambush a police train failed, he and his gang, dressed in homemade suits of metal armour, engaged in a final violent confrontation with the Victoria Police at Glenrowan on 28 June 1880. All were killed except Kelly, who was severely wounded by police fire and captured. Despite significant support for his reprieve, Kelly was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by hanging, which was carried out at the Old Melbourne Gaol. His final words are famously reported to have been, "such is life".

Even before his execution, Kelly had become a legendary figure in Australia. Historian [2] Despite the passage of more than a century, he remains a cultural icon, inspiring countless works in the arts, and is the subject of more biographies than any other Australian. Kelly continues to cause division in his homeland: some celebrate him as Australia's equivalent of Robin Hood, while others regard him as a murderous villain undeserving of his folk hero status.[3] Journalist Martin Flanagan writes, "what makes Ned a legend is not that everyone sees him the same—it's that everyone sees him. Like a bushfire on the horizon casting its red glow into the night."[4]


  • Family background and early life 1
  • Rise to notoriety 2
    • Harry Power 2.1
    • Horses used without permission 2.2
    • Shoemaker shop brawl 2.3
    • Associates arrested 2.4
  • Fitzpatrick incident 3
    • Trial 3.1
  • Killings at Stringybark Creek 4
    • Increase in reward money and the Outlawry Act 4.1
  • Bank robberies 5
    • Euroa 5.1
    • Supposed Kelly sympathisers held 5.2
    • Jerilderie 5.3
    • Aftermath 5.4
  • Jerilderie letter 6
  • Discussion of further escape, Outlawry Act expires 7
  • Killing of Sherritt 8
  • Glenrowan shootout 9
    • Capture 9.1
    • Release of hostages 9.2
    • Conflagration 9.3
  • List of people killed or wounded during the Kelly Outbreak 10
  • Trial 11
  • Death 12
  • Reward 13
  • Armour 14
  • Aftermath and lessons 15
  • Remains and graves 16
    • Dissection 16.1
    • Grave robbery 16.2
    • Headstone 16.3
    • Theft of skull 16.4
    • Historical and forensic investigation of remains 16.5
    • Final burial 16.6
  • False artifacts 17
  • Legacy 18
    • Cultural effect 18.1
    • Political icon 18.2
  • See also 19
  • Notes 20
  • Bibliography 21
    • Unpublished Kelly theses 21.1
  • External links 22

Family background and early life

Kelly's boyhood home, built by his father in Beveridge in 1859
At age 11, Kelly saved a young boy from drowning in a creek and was awarded this green sash in recognition of his bravery. Kelly wore the sash under his armour during his last stand at Glenrowan. It is still stained with his blood. (Benalla Museum).

Kelly's father, John Kelly (known as "Red"), was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, and was transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1841, at the age of 22, for pig stealing.[5] 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.[6]

In 1851, at the age of 30, Red Kelly married Ellen Quinn, his employer's 18-year-old daughter, in Ballarat.[7] Kelly was his parents' third child.[8] The exact date of his birth is not known but, among other things, on passing Beveridge for the last time he told an officer, "Look across there to the left. Do you see a little hill there?", "That is where I was born about 28 years ago. Now, I am passing through it, I suppose, to my doom."[9]

Kelly was baptised by an Augustinian priest, Charles O'Hea. As a boy he obtained basic schooling and became familiar with the bush. In Avenel he once risked his life to save another boy, Richard Shelton, from drowning in a creek.[10] As a reward for the latter, he was given a green sash by the boy's family, which he wore under his armour during his final showdown with police in 1880.[11]

The Kelly family moved to Avenel, near Seymour, where Red Kelly became noted as an expert cattle thief.[12] In 1865, he was convicted of unlawful possession of a bullock hide and imprisoned.[8] (This was having meat in his possession for which he could not give a satisfactory enough account to the local police.[13]) Unable to pay the twenty-five pound fine, he was sentenced to six months with hard labour. The sentence had an ultimately fatal effect on his health: he died at Avenel on 27 December 1866 shortly after his release from Kilmore gaol. When he died, he and his wife had a total of eight offspring: Mary Jane (died as an infant aged 6 months), Annie (later Annie Gunn),[14] Margaret (later Margaret Skillion),[15] Ned, Dan, James, Kate and Grace (later Grace Griffiths).[16][17] The saga surrounding his father and his treatment by the police made a strong impression on the young Kelly. A few years later the family selected 88 acres (360,000 m2) of uncultivated and untitled farmland[18] at Eleven Mile Creek near the Greta area of Victoria.

In the war with the established graziers on whose land the Kellys were encroaching, they were suspected many times of cattle or horse stealing,[8] but never convicted. In all, eighteen charges were brought against members of Kelly'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 led to claims that Kelly's family was unfairly targeted from the time they moved to northeast Victoria. Perhaps the move was necessary because of Kelly's mother's squabbles with family members and her appearances in court over family disputes.[19] The author Antony O'Brien has argued that Victoria's colonial police practices treated arrest as equivalent to proof of guilt.[20]

Rise to notoriety

Police mugshot of Kelly, aged 15

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. According to Kelly, his sister Annie and two witnesses, Bill Skilling and Bill Grey, Annie was sitting outside the house sewing when Fook walked up and asked for a drink of water. Given creek water, he abused Annie for not giving him rain water, and Kelly came outside and pushed him. Fook then hit Kelly three times with the bamboo stick, causing him to run away. The visitor then walked away threatening to return and burn the house down and Kelly did not return until sundown. Historians find neither account convincing and believe that Kelly's account is likely true up to being hit by Fook but then Kelly probably took the stick from him and beat him with it.[21]

Kelly was arrested the following day for highway robbery and locked up overnight in Benalla. He appeared in court the following morning, but Sergeant Whelan, despite using an interpreter to translate Fook's account, requested a remand to allow time to find another interpreter. Kelly was held for four days and appearing in court on 20 October, was again remanded after the police failed to produce an interpreter. The charge was finally dismissed on 26 October and he was released.

Sergeant Whelan disliked Kelly. Three months earlier when he had prosecuted Yeaman Gunn for possession of stolen mutton, Kelly testified that he had sold several sheep to Gunn that same day. In a controversial judgement, the magistrate found Gunn guilty and fined him £10. Furious that Kelly was not convicted for the robbery, Whelan kept a careful watch on the Kelly family and, according to fellow officers, became "a perfect encyclopedia of knowledge about them" through his "diligence".[21]

Following his court appearance, the Benalla Ensign reported, "The cunning of himself [Kelly] and his mates got him off", the Beechworth Advertiser on the other hand reported that "the charge of robbery has been trumped up by the Chinaman to be revenged on Kelly, who had obviously assaulted him." [22] Ah Fook had described 14-year-old Kelly as being aged around 20 years. Some 12 months later, a reporter wrote that Kelly "gives his age as 15 but is probably between 18 and 20". Kelly, 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) in height, was still physically imposing. When arrested, a 224-pound (102 kg) trooper was purportedly unable to subdue the then-15-year-old until several labourers ran to assist him and even then Kelly had to be knocked unconscious.[21]

Harry Power

According to The Singleton Argus, on 16 March 1870, bushranger Harry Power and Kelly stuck up and robbed a Mr M'Bean.[23] Later that year on 2 May, Kelly was charged with robbery in company and accused of being Power's accomplice.[24] The victims could not identify Kelly and the charges were dismissed. He was then charged with robbery under arms, but the principal witness could not be located and the charges were dismissed.[25] He was then charged a third time, for a hold-up with Power against a man named Murray. Although the victims for the third charge were reported to have also failed to identify Kelly, they had in fact been refused a chance to identify him by Superintendents Nicolas and Hare. Instead, Superintendent Nicolas told the magistrate that Kelly fitted the description and asked for him to be remanded to the Kyneton court for trial. Instead of being sent to Kyneton, he was sent to Melbourne where he spent the weekend in the Richmond lock-up before transferring to Kyneton. 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. Another factor in the lack of identification may have been that the witnesses had described Power's accomplice as a "half-caste". However, Superintendent Nicholas and Captain Standish believed this to be the result of Kelly going unwashed.[21]

Kelly's maternal grandfather, James Quinn, owned a large piece of land at the headwaters of the King River known as Glenmore Station, where Power was ultimately arrested. Following Power's arrest it was rumoured that Kelly had informed on him, and he was treated with hostility within the community. Kelly wrote a letter to police Sergeant Babington pleading for his help in the matter. The informant was in fact Kelly's uncle, Jack Lloyd, who received £500 for his assistance.

Horses used without permission

Mugshot of Kelly taken at Pentridge after his transfer from the Beechworth Gaol in 1873

In October 1870, a hawker, Jeremiah McCormack, accused a friend of the Kellys, Ben Gould, of using his horse without permission. Gould wrote an indecent note to give to McCormack's childless wife along with a box containing calves' testicles. Kelly passed it to one of his cousins to give to the woman. Kelly was arrested for his part in sending the calves' parts and the note and for assaulting McCormack. He was sentenced to three months' hard labour on each charge.

Upon his release, Kelly returned home. There he met Isaiah "Wild" Wright who had arrived in the area on a chestnut mare. While he was staying with the Kellys, the mare had gone missing and Wright borrowed one of the Kelly horses to return to Mansfield. He asked Kelly to look for the horse and said he could keep it until his return. Kelly found the mare and used it to go to Wangaratta where he stayed for a few days but while riding through Greta on his way home, he was approached by Police Constable Hall who, from the description of the animal, knew the horse was stolen property. When his attempt to arrest Kelly 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 and driving his spurs into the back of his legs.[26] Kelly always maintained that he had no idea that the mare actually belonged to the Mansfield postmaster and that Wright had stolen it.[27] After just three weeks of freedom, 16-year-old Kelly, along with his brother-in-law Alex Gunn, was sentenced to three years imprisonment with hard labour for "feloniously receiving a horse". Hall also struck Kelly several times with his revolver after Kelly was arrested, with the subsequent cuts requiring nine stitches. "Wild" Wright escaped arrest for the theft on 2 May following an "exchange of shots" with police, but was arrested the following day and received only eighteen months for stealing the horse.[28]

Kelly after defeating Isaiah "Wild" Wright in a 20-round bare-knuckle boxing match, August 1874

Kelly was released from Pentridge Prison in February 1874. To settle the score for the stolen horse and the three-year sentence for it, on 8 August 1874 at Beechworth, Kelly, aged 19, fought and won a bare-knuckled boxing match with Wright that lasted 20 rounds. He was declared the unofficial boxing champion of the district.[29] Soon afterwards, John James Chidley, a Melbourne photographer, took a portrait of Kelly in a boxing pose.[30] Wright became one of Kelly's most ardent supporters.

While Kelly was in prison, his brothers Jim (aged 12) and Dan (aged 10) 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 spent a night in the cells before the matter was cleared.[31]

The same month Kelly was released from prison, his mother, Ellen, married a Californian named George King,[32] with whom she had three children. King, Kelly and Dan Kelly became involved in cattle rustling.[33]

Shoemaker shop brawl

On 18 September 1877 in Benalla, a drunk Kelly was arrested for riding over a footpath and locked-up for the night. The next day, while he was escorted by four policemen, he escaped and ran, taking refuge in a shoemaker's shop. The police and the shop owner tried to handcuff him but failed. During the struggle Kelly's trousers were ripped off. Trying to get Kelly to submit and taking advantage of his torn trousers, Constable Lonigan, whom Kelly later shot dead at Stringybark Creek, "black-balled" him (grabbed and squeezed his testicles).[34] During the struggle, a miller walked in, and on seeing the behaviour of the police said "You should be ashamed of yourselves." He then tried to pacify the situation and induced Kelly to put on the handcuffs.[35] He was charged with being drunk and assaulting police, and fined ₤3 1s, which included damage to the uniforms.[36]

Kelly said about the incident, "It was in the course of this attempted arrest Fitzpatrick endeavoured to catch hold of me by the foot, and in the struggle he tore the sole and heel of my boot clean off. With one well-directed blow, I sent him sprawling against the wall, and the staggering blow I then gave him partly accounts to me for his subsequent conduct towards my family and myself."[35]

It is reported that in the aftermath Kelly told Lonigan, "Well, Lonigan, I never shot a man yet. But if ever I do, so help me God, you'll be the first."[37] Kenneally wrote that Kelly yelled this during the scuffle.[34]

Associates arrested

The next month in October 1877, Gustav and William Baumgarten were arrested for supplying stolen horses to Kelly. Gustav was discharged, but William was sentenced for 4 years in 1878, serving time in Pentridge Prison, Melbourne.[38]

Fitzpatrick incident

Remains of the Kelly residence at Greta, where the Fitzpatrick incident took place

On 15 April 1878, Constable Strachan, the officer in charge of the Greta police station, learned that Kelly was at a certain shearing shed and went to apprehend him. As lawlessness was rampant at Greta, it was recognised that the police station could not be left without protection and Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick[39] was ordered there for relief duty. He was instructed to proceed directly to Greta but instead rode to the public house at Winton, five miles from Benalla police headquarters,[40] where he spent considerable time. On resuming his journey, he remembered that a couple of days previously he had seen in The Police Gazette an arrest warrant for Dan Kelly for horse stealing. He went to the Kelly house to arrest him. This violated the police policy that at least two constables participate in visits to the Kelly homestead. Finding Dan not at home, he remained with Kelly's mother and other family members, in conversation, for about an hour. According to Fitzpatrick, upon hearing someone chopping wood, he went to ensure that the chopping was licensed. The man proved to be William "Bricky" Williamson, a neighbour, who said that he needed a license only if he was chopping on Crown land. (According to Williamson, he was at his own selection a half a mile from the Kellys and was arrested there when he refused to give information about the Kellys.[41]) Fitzpatrick then observed two horsemen making towards the house he had just left. The men proved to be the teenager Dan Kelly and his brother-in-law, Bill Skillion. Fitzpatrick returned to the house and made the arrest. Dan asked to be allowed to have dinner before leaving. The constable consented, and took a seat near his prisoner.[42]

In an interview three months before his execution, Kelly said that at the time of the incident, he was 200 miles from home. His mother had asked Fitzpatrick if he had a warrant and Fitzpatrick said that he had only a telegram to which his mother said that Dan need not go. Fitzpatrick then said, pulling out a revolver, "I will blow your brains out if you interfere." His mother replied, "You would not be so handy with that popgun of yours if Ned were here." Dan then said, trying to trick Fitzpatrick, "There is Ned coming along by the side of the house." While he was pretending to look out of the window for Ned, Dan cornered Fitzpatrick, took the revolver and claimed that he had released Fitzpatrick unharmed. When Kelly was asked if Fitzpatrick tried to take liberties with his sister, Kate Kelly, he said "No, that is a foolish story; if he or any other policeman tried to take liberties with my sister, Victoria would not hold him."[35]

Fitzpatrick rode to Benalla where he claimed that he had been attacked by Ned, Dan, Ellen, their associate Bricky Williamson and Ned's brother-in-law, Bill Skillion. Fitzpatrick claimed that all except Ellen had been armed with revolvers and that Ned had shot him in the left wrist and that Ellen had hit him on the helmet with a coal shovel. Williamson and Skillion were arrested for their part in the affair. Ned and Dan were nowhere to be found, but Ellen was taken into custody along with her baby, Alice.[43] She was still in prison at the time of Ned's execution.

Kelly asserted that he was not present, and that Fitzpatrick's wounds were self-inflicted. Kenneally, who interviewed the remaining Kelly brother, Jim Kelly, and Kelly cousin and gang providore Tom Lloyd, in addition to closely examining the 1881 report by the Royal Commission on the Police Force of Victoria, wrote that Fitzpatrick was drunk when he arrived at the Kellys, that while he was waiting for Dan, he made a pass at Kate, and Dan threw him to the floor. In the ensuing struggle, Fitzgerald drew his revolver, Ned appeared, and with his brother seized the constable, disarming him, but not before he struck his wrist against the projecting part of the door lock, an injury he claimed to be a gunshot wound.[44] Upon what Kelly claimed was Fitzpatrick's false evidence, his mother, Skillian and Williamson were convicted. A reward of £100 was offered for Kelly's arrest. Kelly claimed that this injustice exasperated him, and led to his taking to the bush.[45] Just before Kelly was taken away from Benalla after the Glenrowan shootout, Senior-Constable Kelly claimed he interviewed him in his cell and that Kelly admitted to shooting Fitzpatrick.[9]


At the Benalla Police Court, on 17 May 1878, William Williamson, alias "Brickey", William Skillion and Ellen Kelly, while on remand, were charged with aiding and abetting attempted murder.[46] The three appeared on 9 October 1878 before Judge Redmond Barry and charged with attempted murder. Despite Fitzpatrick's doctor reporting a strong smell of alcohol on the constable and his inability to confirm the wrist wound was caused by a bullet,[35] Fitzpatrick's evidence was accepted by the police, the judge, and the jury made up of several ex-police, a shanty keeper who did business with the police,[47] and according to J.J. Kenneally, "others who were prejudiced against the Kellys." The three were convicted on Fitzpatrick's unsupported evidence. Skillion and Williamson both received sentences of six years and Ellen three years of hard labor. Barry stated that if Ned were present he would "give him 15 years", even though the latter was not charged.[9][48] Frank Harty, a successful and well-known farmer in the area, offered to pay Ellen Kelly's bail upon which bail was immediately refused.[41]

Ellen Kelly's sentence was considered unfair even by people who had no cause to be Kelly sympathizers. Alfred Wyatt, a police magistrate headquartered in Benalla told the Commission later "I thought the sentence upon that old woman, Mrs Kelly, a very severe one."[49] Enoch Downes, a truant officer, recounted to the Commission in 1881 that while speaking to Joe Byrne's mother, he said that he did not believe in the sentence and "if policy had been used or consideration for the mother shown that two or three months would have been ample."[50] The legacy of Fitzpatrick himself is coloured by the fact that he was later dismissed from the force for drunkenness and perjury.

Killings at Stringybark Creek

Portraits of Constable Lonigan, Sergeant Kennedy and Constable Scanlon, killed by the Kelly gang in the Wombat forest
Monument erected in Mansfield in honour of Lonigan, Kennedy and Scanlon

After the sentences were handed down in Benalla Police Court and Judge Barry made his outburst against Kelly, both Ned and Dan Kelly doubted that they could convince the police of their story.[48] So they went into hiding, where they were later joined by friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart.

The police had received information that the Kelly gang were in the Wombat Ranges, at the head of the King River. On 25 October 1878, two parties of police were secretly dispatched--[51] one from Greta, consisting of five men, with Sergeant Steele in command,[52] and one from Mansfield with four men, with the intention of executing a pincer movement.

Sergeant Kennedy from the Mansfield party set off to search for the Kellys, accompanied by Constables McIntyre, Lonigan, and Scanlon. All were in civilian dress.[53] The police set up a camp on a disused diggings near two miners huts at Stringybark Creek in a heavily timbered area, a site suggested by Kennedy in a letter to Superintendent Sadleir, before the party had assembled, because of the distance between Mansfield and the King River and because the area was "so impenetrable".[54]

About 6:00 am the next day, Kennedy and Scanlon went down to the creek to explore and stayed away nearly all day. It was McIntyre's duty to cook and he attended closely to camp duty. During the morning a noise was heard and McIntyre went out to have a look but found nothing. He fired two shots out of his fowling piece at a pair of parrots. This gunshot, he subsequently learned, was heard by Kelly,[55] who was on the lookout for the police. At about 5:00 pm, McIntyre was at the fire making tea, with Lonigan by him, when they were suddenly surprised with the cry, "Bail up; throw up your arms." They looked up and saw four armed men on foot. McIntyre testified that all carried guns and that Kelly also took his fowling piece.[56] (Kelly stated that only two of them were armed.) Two of the men they did not know, but the fourth was the younger Kelly.[52] They had approached up the rises and long grass or rushes had provided them with excellent cover until they got close. McIntyre had left his revolver at the tent door, and was unarmed. He therefore held up his hands as directed, and faced them. Lonigan started for shelter behind a tree and, at the same time, put his hand on his revolver. Before he had moved two paces, Kelly shot him in the temple.[52] He fell at once and, as he laid on the ground said, "Oh Christ, I am shot." He died in a few seconds. Kelly had McIntyre searched and, when they found that he was unarmed, they let him drop his hands. They got possession of Lonigan and McIntyre's revolvers. Kelly remarked, "What a pity; what made the fool run?"[52] The men helped themselves to articles from the tent. Kelly talked to McIntyre and expressed his wonder that the police should have been so foolhardy as to look for him in the ranges. He made inquiries about four men and said that he would roast each of them alive if he caught them.[52] Steele and Flood were two of the four. He asked McIntyre what he fired at and said they must have been fools not to suppose he was ready for them. It was evident that he knew the exact state of the camp, the number of men and the description of the horses. He asked where the other two were and said that he would put a hole through McIntyre if he told a lie. McIntyre told him and hoped they would not be shot in cold blood. Kelly replied "I'll shoot no man if he holds up his hands."[57]

One of the gang told McIntyre to take some tea and asked for tobacco. He gave them tobacco and had a smoke himself. Dan Kelly suggested that he should be handcuffed, but Ned pointed to his rifle and said, "I have got something better here. Don't you attempt to go; if you do I'll track you to Mansfield and shoot you at the police station." McIntyre asked whether he was to be shot. Kelly replied, "No, why should I want to shoot you? Could I not have done it half an hour ago if I had wanted?" He added, "At first I thought you were Constable Flood. If you had been, I would have roasted you in the fire."[58] Kelly asked for news of the Sydney man, the murderer of Sergeant Wallings. McIntyre said the police had shot him. "I suppose you came out to shoot me?" "No", replied McIntyre, "we came to apprehend you." "What", asked Kelly, "brings you out here at all? It is a shame to see fine big strapping fellows like you in a lazy loafing billet like policemen." The best thing McIntyre could do was to get his comrades to surrender, for if they escaped he would be shot. "If you attempt to let them know we are here, you will be shot at once."

McIntyre asked what they would do if he induced his comrades to surrender. Kelly said he would detain them all night, as he wanted a sleep, and let them go next morning without their arms or horses. McIntyre told Kelly that he would induce his comrades to surrender if he would keep his word, but he would rather be shot a thousand times than sell them.[57] He added that one of the two was father of a large family. Kelly said, "You can depend on us." Kelly stated that Fitzpatrick, the man who tried to arrest his brother in April, was the cause of all this; that his mother and the rest had been unjustly "lagged" at Beechworth. Ned said that he was to let McIntyre go, but that he must leave the police force. McIntyre agreed, saying that he had thought about it for some time due to bad health. Ned asked McIntyre why their search party was carrying so much ammunition. McIntyre replied that it was to shoot kangaroos.[59]

Kelly then caught sound of the approach of Kennedy and Scanlan, and the four men concealed themselves, some behind logs, and one in the tent. They made McIntyre sit on a log, and Kelly said, "Mind, I have a rifle for you if you give any alarm." Kennedy and Scanlan rode into the camp. McIntyre went forward, and said, "Sergeant, I think you had better dismount and surrender, as you are surrounded." Kelly at the same time called out, "Put up your hands." Kennedy appeared to think it was Lonigan who called out, and that a jest was intended, for he smiled and put his hand on his revolver case. He was instantly fired at,[52] but not hit. Kennedy then realised the hopelessness of his position, jumped off his horse, and said, "It's all right, stop it, stop it." Scanlan, who carried the Spencer rifle, jumped down and tried to make for a tree, but before he could unsling his rifle, he was shot down. A number of shots were fired.

McIntyre found that the men intended to shoot the whole of the party,[52] so he jumped on Kennedy's horse, and dashed down the creek. As he rode off he heard Dan Kelly call out, "Shoot that ******". Several shots were fired but none reached him. Apparently the rifles were empty and only the revolvers available, or he would have been hit. According to Ned in his Jerilderie letter, "M'Intyre jumped on Kennedy's horse and I allowed him to go, as I did not like to shoot him after he had surrendered, or I would have shot him as he was between me and Kennedy".[55] McIntyre galloped through the scrub for two miles, and then his horse became exhausted. It had evidently been wounded. He took off the saddle and bridle, and wounded from a severe fall during his escape and with his clothes in tatters, he concealed himself in a wombat hole until dark. At dark, he started on foot, and walked for an hour with his boots off to make no noise before collapsing from exhaustion at Bridge's Creek. After a rest, and using a bright star, and a small compass, he took a westerly course to strike the Benalla and Mansfield telegraph line and on Sunday afternoon at about 3 pm after a journey of about 20 miles, he reached John McColl's place, about a mile from Mansfield. A neighbouring farmer's buggy took him to the police camp at the township, where be reported all he knew to Sub-Inspector Pewtress.[60]

Two hours or so after McIntyre reported the murder of the troopers, Sub-Inspector Pewtress set out for the camp, accompanied by McIntyre, Constable Allwood, Dr Reynolds, and five townspeople. They had only two rifles. They reached the camp with the assistance of a guide, Mr. Monk, at half-past 2:00 in the morning. There they found the bodies of Scanlan and Lonigan.[61] They searched at daylight for the sergeant, but found no trace of him. The tent had been burnt and everything taken away or destroyed. The post-mortem, by Dr Reynolds, showed that Lonigan had received seven wounds, one through the eyeball. Scanlan's body had four shot-marks with the fatal wound caused by a rifle ball which went clean through the lungs. Kennedy was 36,[62] Scanlan was 33 and Lonigan 37 years of age. Three additional shots had been fired into Lonigan's dead body before the men left the camp. The extra shots were fired so that all of the gang might be equally implicated.[63] Ned refutes this in his letter to the Assemblyman saying "the coroner should be consulted."[64]

During the search for Kennedy, on 29 October, two relatives of the Kellys, "Wild Wright" and his deaf and dumb brother "Dummy Wright", were arrested in Mansfield. Wild Wright had to be threatened with a revolver before he consented to handcuffs. The two were brought to the police court and charged with using threatening language[65] towards members of the search party. The older brother, Wild, was remanded for seven days and "Dummy" released.[66]

No trace had yet been discovered of Kennedy and, the same day as Scanlan and Lonigan's funeral, another search party was started, which also failed. At 4:00 on the following Wednesday another party started, headed by James Tomkins, president of the Mansfield shire, and Sub-Inspector Pewtress, accompanied by several residents. On the following morning the body of the sergeant was found by Henry G. Sparrow.[67][68] The exact place at Germans Creek where this occurred was identified in 2006.[69]

Increase in reward money and the Outlawry Act

In response to these killings, the reward was raised to £500 and, on 31 October 1878, the Victorian parliament hastily passed the Felons' Apprehension Act, coming into effect on 1 November 1878, which outlawed the gang[70] and made it possible for anyone to shoot them: There was no need for the outlaws to be arrested or for there to be a trial upon apprehension. (The act was based on the 1865 act passed in New South Wales which declared Ben Hall and his gang outlaws.[71][72]) The act also penalized anyone who harbored, gave "any aid, shelter or sustenance" to the outlaws or withheld or gave false information about them to the authorities.[73] Punishment was "imprisonment with or without hard labour for such period not exceeding fifteen years."[73] With this new act in place, on 4 November 1878, warrants were issued against the four members of the Kelly gang.

Bank robberies

Following the killings at Stringybark, the gang committed two major robberies, at Euroa, Victoria and Jerilderie, New South Wales. Their strategy involved the taking of hostages and robbing the bank safes.


Scenes from the robbery at Euroa

At midday on 9 December 1878, Kelly walked into the homestead of Gooram Gooram Gong Wool station, at Faithful's Creek, owned by Mr. Younghusband. They assured the people that they had nothing to fear and only asked for food for themselves and their horses. An employee named Fitzgerald, who was eating his dinner at the time, looked at Kelly and at the large revolver that he was nonchalantly toying with, and said, "Well, of course, if the gentlemen want any refreshment they must have it."[74] The other three outlaws, having attended to the horses, joined their chief, and the four imprisoned the men at the station in a spare building used as a store. No interference was offered to the women.[75] Ned assured the male captives time after time that they had nothing whatever to fear. Late in the afternoon the manager of the station, Mr. McCauley, returned and was promptly bailed up. He told Ned Kelly that it was not much use coming to that station, because their own horses were better than any he had. Kelly, however, told him that he did not want horses, only food for themselves and for their cattle.

Towards evening a hawker named Gloster camped, as usual, at the station. When he went to the kitchen with his assistant,[75] a station hand told him that the Kellys were there, to which Gloster replied, "I wish they were, it would be £2,000 in my pocket." Kelly looked up and said, "What is that you say?" Gloster, without waiting to give an explanation, rushed towards the wagon, and Kelly and Joe Byrne followed. McCauley was worried for the safety of Gloster and followed them. Upon reaching his wagon, the hawker searched for his revolver, but was "covered" by the bushrangers, and McCauley cried out, "Look out Gloster, you will be shot", at the same time appealing to Kelly not to shoot him. Gloster turned and said, "Who are you?" Kelly replied, "I am Ned Kelly, son of Red Kelly, as good a blood as any in the land, and for two pins I would put a match to your wagon and burn it."[76] The stationhands, Gloster, and Beecroft were all placed in the storeroom, under guard. The Kellys picked new suits from Gloster's stock as they wanted to look presentable at the bank. They offered the hawker money for them to which he refused. After sunset the prisoners were allowed some fresh air.[77] Time passed quietly until two o'clock in the morning, and at that hour the outlaws gave a peculiar whistle, and Steve Hart and Joe Byrne rushed from the building. McCauley was surrounded by the bushrangers and Kelly said, "You are armed, we have found a lot of ammunition in the house."[76] After this episode the outlaws retired to sleep.

On the afternoon of the second day, 10 December 1878, leaving Byrne in charge of the prisoners, the other three started out to work. First they cut the telegraph wires, chopping the posts down to make sure, and were careful to rip off more wire than an ordinary repairer would carry with him. Three or four railway men endeavoured to interfere, but they too joined the other prisoners in Younghusband's storeroom. Carrying a cheque drawn by McCauley on the National Bank for a few pounds, the three bushrangers, all heavily armed, went to the bank. (Kenneally relates that Hart who approached from the back ran into the bank's housemaid, Maggie Shaw, with whom he had been at school in Wangaratta.[78]) In the meantime Byrne had apprehended a telegraph-line repairer, who had begun to make trouble. The others reached the bank after closing time, travelling in the hawker's cart. Kelly knocked at the door and persuaded the clerk to open and cash the cheque he had. They bailed up the unwise clerk and his manager, a Mr Scott. The robbers took £700 in notes, gold, and silver. Ned Kelly insisted to the manager that there was more money there, and eventually compelled him to open the safe, from which the outlaws got £1,500 in paper, £300 in gold, about £300 worth of gold dust and nearly £100 worth of silver. The reported total amount stolen was 68 £10 notes, 67 £5 notes, 418 £1 notes, £500 in sovereigns, about £90 in silver; and a 30oz ingot of gold.[79] The outlaws were polite and considerate to Scott's wife. Scott himself invited the outlaws to drink whisky with him, which they did. The whole party went to Younghusband's where the rest of the prisoners were. The evening seems to have passed quite pleasantly. McCauley remarked to Kelly that the police might come along, which would mean a fight. Kelly replied, "I wish they would, for there is plenty of cover here."[80] In the evening tea was prepared, and at half-past 8 the outlaws warned the prisoners not to move for three hours, informing them that they were going. Just before they left Kelly noticed that a Mr. McDougall was wearing a watch, and asked for it. McDougall replied that it was a gift from his dead mother. Kelly declared that he wouldn't take it under any consideration, and very soon afterwards the four of the outlaws left. What is unusual is that these stirring events happened without the people in the town knowing of anything.[81] The prisoners left the station in five hours.[82]

Supposed Kelly sympathisers held

The imprisonment of 23 Kelly sympathisers galvanised public support for the gang. (Pictured: three of the sympathisers, left to right: John Quinn, John Stewart, and Joseph Ryan).

In January 1879 police under the command of Captain Standish, Superintendent Hare, and Officer Sadleir arrested all known Kelly friends and purported sympathisers, a total of 23 people, including Tom Lloyd[83] and Wild Wright, and held them without charge in Beechworth Gaol[84] for over three months. According to Hare,

"All the responsible men in charge of different stations who had been a long time in Benalla—the detectives and officers—were all collected at Benalla by Captain Standish's orders. They ... all went into a room, and were asked the names of the persons in the district whom they considered to be sympathisers. I had nothing to do with it, merely listening and taking down names that fell from the mouths of men."[85]

Public opinion was turning against the police on the matter, and on 22 April 1879 the remainder of the sympathizers were released. None were given money or transported back to their hometowns; all had to find their way back "25, 30, and even 50 miles" on their own.[86] The treatment of the 22 caused resentment of the government's abuse of power that led to condemnation in the media and a groundswell of support for the gang that was a factor in their evading capture for so long.


The gang holds up the Jerilderie Police Station

According to a Windsor and Richmond Gazette story from a Coonamble, New South Wales resident who encountered the Kellys at Glenrowan, Ned Kelly had heard that an individual named Sullivan had given evidence, and that he had travelled by train from Melbourne to Rutherglen. The Kelly gang then followed him there, but was told that he went to Uralla across the border in New South Wales. By the time they got to Uralla, Sullivan had left for Wagga Wagga. They followed him to Wagga Wagga but lost sight of him. Kelly thought that he might have travelled to Hay, so they took off in that direction but later gave up their chase. On their return home, they passed through Jerilderie, and the gang then decided to stick up the bank.[87]

According to J.J. Kenneally, however, the gang arrived at Jerilderie having crossed the Murray River in a different part of New South Wales, Burramine. The group had heard of a crossing there, from where they could swim their horses but did not know where the landing place was on the opposite side of the river, so had Tom Lloyd investigate. (The river was guarded by the joint efforts of border police of Victoria and New South Wales.) After unsuccessfully crossing on his own, Lloyd employed the help of an owner of a hotel nearby, who pulled him across in a boat with Lloyd's horse paddling behind. After reporting the trip back to the rest of the gang, the group "borrowed" the boat to get across in two trips. Dan Kelly and Joe Hart reached Davidson's Hotel two miles south of Jerilderie on Saturday 2 February 1879 in time for tea, while the others waited in another area.[88]

At midnight on Saturday 8 February 1879, Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Hart and Byrne surrounded the Jerilderie police barracks. Constables George Denis Devine and Henry Richards were on duty that night.[89] Hart, in a loud voice, shouted, "Devine, there's a drunken man at Davidson's Hotel, who has committed murder. Get up at once, all of you." Richards, who was sleeping at the rear of the premises, came to the front door. Devine opened the door, meeting Kelly who told him there was a great row at Davidson's. Devine approached Kelly, who once he established there were no other policemen, pointed two revolvers at the policemen, introduced the gang, telling the officers to hold up their hands. Immediately the police were pounced upon by the other men and placed in the lock-up cell, and Mrs Devine and children were put into the sitting-room. Afterwards Ned secured all the firearms and ammunition and toured the house with Devine to make certain there were no other policemen. After this, he let her and the children turn into sleep as usual,[90] and with the rest of the gang went into the sitting room, where they kept watch till morning.

There was a chapel in the courthouse, 100 yards from the barracks. Mrs Devine's duty was to prepare the courthouse for mass. The next day, Sunday, she was allowed to do so, but was accompanied by one of the Kellys. At about 10 am Kelly remained in the courthouse and helped Mrs Devine prepare the altar and dust the forms.[90] When this was done Kelly escorted her back to the barracks, where the door was closed and the blinds pulled to give the impression that the Devines were out. Hart and Dan Kelly, dressed in police uniform, walked to and from the stables during the day without attracting notice.

On Monday morning Byrne brought two horses to be shod, but the blacksmith suspected something strange in his manner, so he noted the horse's brands. (According to Kenneally, the blacksmith was struck by the quality of these so-called police horses and thus noted their brands. According also to this version, the shoding of the horses was charged to the government of New South Wales.[91]) About 10 am the Kellys, in company with Constable Richards, went from the barracks, closely followed on horseback by Hart and Byrne. They all went to the Royal Hotel, where Cox, the landlord, told Richards that his companions were the Kellys. Ned Kelly said they wanted rooms at the Royal, and revealed his intentions to rob the bank. Hart and Byrne rode to the back and told the groom to stable their horses, but not to give them any feed. Hart went into the kitchen of the hotel, a few yards from the back entrance to the bank. Byrne then entered the rear of the bank, when he met the accountant, Mr Living, who told him to use the front entrance. Byrne displayed his revolver and induced him to surrender. Kenneally wrote, "The shock caused Living to stutter and it has been alleged that he stuttered for the rest of his life."[92] Byrne then walked him and Mackie, the junior accountant, into the bar, where Dan Kelly was on guard. Ned Kelly secured the bank manager, Mr Tarleton, who was ordered to open the safes. When this was done, he was put in with the others. All were liberated at a quarter to three.

The bushrangers then went to some of the other hotels, treating everyone civilly, and had drinks. Hart took a new saddle from the saddler's. He also took a watch from the Reverend J. B. Gribble, but returned it to Gribble at Ned Kelly's request.[93] [94] Two splendid police horses were taken, and other horses were wanted, but the residents claimed that they belonged to women, and McDougall in order to keep his race mare "protested that he was a comparatively poor man"[94] and Kelly relented. The telegraph operators were also incarcerated. Byrne took possession of the office, and destroyed all the telegrams sent that day and cut all the wires.[95] The group left about 7 pm in an unknown direction. The disarmed and unhorsed police had no other means of following the gang.

Ned Kelly, in company with a Mr Living and Constable Richards went to the printing office. S. Gill, a journalist, when called upon to stand, ran instead and planted himself in the creek. They went to his home,[96] where Richards tried to reassure his wife, and Kelly said, "All I want him for is for your husband to print this letter, the history of my life, and I wanted to see him to explain it to him." Living said, "For God's sake, Kelly, give me the papers, and I will give them to Gill." (Living never carried out his promise and handed the document to the police instead who published it in a distorted form after Kelly's execution.[94]) Later in the day Kelly relaxed with townspeople at McDougall's.

After the manager had been secured, Ned Kelly took Living back to the bank and asked him how much money they had. Living admitted to between £600 and £700. Living then handed him the teller's cash, £691. Kelly asked if they had more money, and Living answered "No." Kelly tried to open the safe's treasure drawer, and one of the keys was given to him; but he needed the second key. Byrne wanted to break it open with a sledgehammer, but Kelly got the key from the teller and found £1650, making for a total of £2141 stolen from the bank. Kelly noticed a deed-box. The group then went to the hotel. Kelly took two of the party to the back of the hotel, where he made a fire and burned three or four bank books which contained mortgage documents, not realizing that copies were held by the titles office in Sydney.[96]

Before leaving, Kelly told the group that when Fitzpatrick, the Benalla constable, was shot, he was not within 400 miles of Greta. However, he admitted to stealing 280 horses from Whitty's station and denied that he had committed any other crime. The horses, he stated, were sold to Baumgarten. Kelly showed the group his revolvers, and pointed out one which he had taken from Constable Lonigan, and further stated that he had shot Lonigan with a worn-out, crooked musket, held together with string and 'could shoot around corners'. He asked those present how they would like detectives pointing revolvers at their mothers and sisters, threatening to shoot them if they did not say where they were. He blamed such treatment for turning him against the law. He said that he had come only to shoot the two policemen, Devine and Richards, calling them worse than any black trackers, especially Richards, whom he intended to shoot immediately. Tarleton remarked that Kelly should not blame Richards for doing his duty. Kelly then replied, "Suppose you had your revolver ready when I came in, would you not have shot me ?" Mr Tarleton replied "Yes." "Well", said Kelly, "that's just what I am going to do with Richards—shoot him before he shoots me." The party then interceded for Richards, but Kelly said, "He must die." Before leaving Ned Kelly remarked that he had made a great blunder which would likely lead to their capture.[97]


£8000 reward notice for the capture of the Kelly Gang, equivalent to several million dollars in modern Australian currency

New South Wales issued rewards totalling £4,000 for the gang, dead or alive. The Victorian Government matched that amount, making the total reward for the Kelly gang £8,000.[98] The Board of Officers, which included Captain Standish, Supts Hare and Sadleir, centralized all decisions about any search for the Kelly gang. The reward money had a demoralizing effect on them: "The capture of the Kellys was desired by these officers, but they were very jealous as to where they themselves would come in when the reward money would be allotted. This led to very serious quarrels among the heads...."[98]

From early March 1879 to June 1880 nothing was heard of the gang's whereabouts. As Thomas Aubrey wrote in his 1953 Mirror article,

In the months after Jerilderie, public opinion turned sharply against Commissioner Standish and the 300 officers and men of the police and artillery corps who crowded into the towns of North-Eastern Victoria. Critics were quick to point out that the brave constables took good care to remain in the TOWNS leaving the outlaws almost complete freedom of the BUSH, their natural home.[99]

Constable Devine felt so humiliated by being locked up in his own jail cell that he disliked mention of the Kelly gang's visit to his town. He moved to Western Australia, and became a racecourse detective, a position he held until his death in 1927. Kenneally wrote of him, "He was a high spirited man and was generally regarded as a man who would rather fight than run. It was because the Kellys recognised his courage that they did not take him out of the cell to patrol the town [as they did with Constable Richards]."[100]

Jerilderie letter

Months prior to arriving in Jerilderie, Joe Byrne helped Ned Kelly dictate a lengthy letter for publication describing his view of his activities and the treatment of his family and, more generally, the treatment of Irish Catholics by the police and the English and Irish Protestant squatters. Known as the Jerilderie Letter, it is a handwritten document of 56 pages and 7,391 words. Ned Kelly handed it to Mr Living during the time when the Kelly gang held up the town of Jerilderie. Excerpts of the letter were published in the press from a copy transcribed by John Hanlon, owner of the Eight Mile Hotel in Deniliquin. The letter was concealed until being rediscovered in 1930. It was then published in full by the Melbourne Herald.

Before the Jerilderie Letter, Kelly had posted a 20-page letter on 16 December 1878 to a member of the Victorian Parliament, Donald Cameron M. L. A, stating his grievances, but only a synopsis was published.[101] The letter highlights the various incidents that led to him becoming an outlaw.

The Jerilderie Letter was donated anonymously to the State Library of Victoria in 2000. Publican John Hanlon's transcript is held at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.[102] According to historian Alex McDermott, "Kelly inserts himself into history, on his own terms, with his own voice. ... We hear the living speaker in a way that no other document in our history achieves". Kelly's language is "hyperbolic, allusive, hallucinatory ... full of striking metaphors and images".[103] At one point he describes the Victorian police as "a parcel of big ugly fat-necked wombat headed, big bellied, magpie legged, narrow hipped, splay-footed sons of Irish bailiffs or English landlords". The letter closes:

Neglect this and abide by the consequences, which shall be worse than the rust in the wheat of Victoria or the druth of a dry season to the grasshoppers in New South Wales I do not wish to give the order full force without giving timely warning, but I am a Widow's Son outlawed, and my orders must be obeyed.

Discussion of further escape, Outlawry Act expires

Amid low public confidence in the ability of the police, wrote Thomas Aubrey, "many believed that the gang had already made their escape to another colony while their pursuers wandered about Victoria receiving, but never earning, double pay and considerable 'danger' money." The gang in the meantime were comfortably camped in the hills near the Kelly farm at Eleven Mile Creek where they discussed police efforts and plans for their future.[99]

In late March 1879 Ned's sisters Kate and Margaret asked the captain of the Victoria Cross how much he would charge to take four or five gentlemen friends to California from Queenscliff. On 31 March, an unidentified man arranged an appointment with the captain at the General Post Office to give a definite answer for the cost. The captain contacted police, who placed a large number of detectives and plain-clothes police throughout the building, but the man failed to appear. There is no evidence that Ned's sisters were enquiring on behalf of the gang, and was reported in the Argus as "without foundation".[104]

According to Tom Lloyd, the gang "frequently discussed their plans for the future", and he suggested they go to Queensland one at a time where they could join up again. He felt that "a few years in the tropical climate" would render them unrecognizable. The gang came to the conclusion however that they would be forever estranged there and would lack the kind of whole-hearted support they had been getting in Victoria, and that their best recourse was to resolve their issues with the Victoria and New South Wales state governments.[105]

In April 1880 a "Notice of Withdrawal of Reward" was posted by the government. It stated that after 20 July 1880 the Government would "absolutely cancel and withdraw the offer for the reward".[106]

Killing of Sherritt

Murder of Sherritt
Ned Kelly would beat me into fits. I can beat all the others; ... but I look upon Ned Kelly as an extraordinary man; there is no man in the world like him, he is superhuman.
— Aaron Sherritt to Superintendent Hare[107]

On 9 February 1880, the Felons' Apprehension Act 1878 lapsed with the dissolution of the Berry Parliament, and the gang's outlaw status and their arrest warrants expired with it. While Ned and Dan still had prior warrants outstanding for the attempted murder of Fitzpatrick, technically Hart and Byrne were free men although the police could still re-issue the murder warrants.[108]

On Friday, 25 June 1880, Dan Kelly and Joe Byrne rode into the valley where Aaron Sherritt kept a small farm. Ned had decided to rob the banks in Benalla, headquarters of most of the police engaged in the Kelly hunt, to take advantage of the element of surprise in a time when banks across the country were now fully aware of the gang's feats. Wrote Thomas Aubrey, "First he planned to kill or capture the Benalla police in a pitched battle at the small town of Glenrowan, when they had been lured there by a diversion further along the railway line." They also hoped to take three police superintendents as hostages to the ranges and offer to trade them for Ellen Kelly, Skillion, and Williamson.[109] Aubrey wrote,

Aaron Sherritt was to provide the necessary diversion. Treacherous, brutal, immoral and vain, Sherritt was the most dangerous of the many police informers. Police money had bought him a thoroughbred horse, flash clothes, and a fatal arrogance. Spurned as a traitor by Joe Byrne's younger sister, he had approached Kate Kelly and had been threatened by an enraged Mrs Skillion. He had married a 15-year old girl and settled on his parents' farm to spy for the police and work for the death of his former friends.[99]

J. J. Kenneally wrote that Sherritt was close to Joe Byrne and had gone to school with him. "Sherritt fed the police with a constant supply of news of the outlaws' plans. Sherritt felt himself in very much the same position as some newspaper men. He felt that he had to supply facts if available, but if facts were not available then fiction."[110]

Four police officers were stationed at the Sherritt house "armed to the teeth" for his protection.[108]

Despite being aware of his protective detail, the Kelly Gang decided to assassinate Sherritt. According to Kenneally, by this point "the Kellys had formed a very low estimate of the courage and fighting qualities of the police." While observing the hut, they noticed Sherritt come to the door to talk to Anton Weekes, a German-Australian farmer who lived nearby. Dan and Joe kidnapped and manacled Weekes, reassuring him that he would not be hurt if he obeyed. They pushed him to the Sherritts' back door; Joe rapped on the door and then stood back, with Dan in the darkness. They could hear movement. Sherritt asked: "Who is there?" Prompted by Joe, Weekes replied: "It is me, I have lost my way", to which Sherritt's young wife opened the door. Aaron stood framed in the doorway and joked with his German neighbor. "You must be drunk, Anton. You know that it's over that way", he laughed. As Sherritt raised his arm to point the way for Weekes, Byrne shot him in the chest at point-blank range, and his former friend staggered back. Byrne followed him in and fired again, and Sherritt died without another word.[99] His mother-in-law, Ellen Barry, testified to the commission that at this point she knelt down by her son-in-law's head, and Byrne called her by her name (they were well acquainted, Ellen Barry had been a particular friend of Byrne's mother) and threatened to shoot her and her daughter if they did not reveal who was in the bedroom. She asked to go outside and when she did, Byrne took off Weekes' handcuffs, telling her "I am satisfied now, I wanted that fellow." Ellen Barry said that she responded "Well, Joe, I never heard Aaron say anything against you." And he replied "He would do me harm if he could; he did his best."[111]

Sherritt's widow told the outlaws it was a working man named Duross that was boarding with them that had gone into the bedroom. Ellen Barry went in to tell the police to come out but beckoned her to go outside while they found their firearms. Byrne called for what he thought were two men to come out, threatening to burn the place down if they did not. Byrne sent in Sherritt's widow and kept her inside. Ellen Barry went in again at which point the police grabbed her, putting her between them and the wall under the bed saying the outlaws would not set fire to the place if women were inside.[112]

The Sherritt home was a typical period two-room slab hut, which Dan could see through the bedroom and kitchen to Joe in the back. When Weeks had first knocked, Constable William Duross had been talking with Sherritt and his wife in the kitchen. He joined the three other policemen, Henry Armstrong, Thomas P. Dowling, and Robert Alexander, in the bedroom. Even though they were big men, well-armed and experienced "protectors", they remained there in the dark in fear while Sherritt was shot.[99][113] Byrne then told Ellen Barry to open the front door of the hut. When she did, Dan Kelly was revealed a few feet away. Joe ordered the frightened women to leave the house, then the outlaws began shooting into the walls of the bedroom. The police threw themselves to the floor.[99]

The gang kept the police trapped for twelve hours, threatening to burn the house down and roast them alive, but left without doing so. The four constables emerged from the house at six o'clock on Sunday evening.[114] Both Ellen Barry and Sherritt's widow later testified that the constables had an easy shot at Byrne when he murdered Sherritt and they had their firearms ready.[112]

Superintendent Hare later wrote,

It was doubtless a most fortunate occurrence that Aaron was shot by the outlaws; it was impossible to have reclaimed him, and the Government of the colony would not have assisted him in any way, and he would have gone back to his old course of life, and probably become a bushranger himself.[113]

Glenrowan shootout

Ned Kelly forces two line-repairers to damage the track at Glenrowan in a plot to derail the Police Special Train.

According to Ned Kelly, after shooting Sherritt at Sebastopol, the gang rode openly through Beechworth to Glenrowan, with the intention of wrecking any special train bringing additional police to join in their pursuit. They compelled line-repairers James Reardon and Denis Sullivan to damage the track.[115] Having roused and tried other men without success, Kelly took Reardon's wife and seven or eight children to Stainstreet's residence, where they, and others were secured by Steve Hart while Kelly, Byrne, Mrs. Jones and the line-repairers went to damage the track.[116] They selected the first turning after reaching Glenrowan, at a culvert and on an incline. One rail was raised on each side, and the sleepers were removed.

The gang descended on Glenrowan about 8 am on Sunday 27 June 1880 and took over the township without meeting resistance from the inhabitants: the unskilled laborers camped near the stationmaster's house, then Mrs Jones' hotel.[117] The other hotel in town, McDonnell's Railway Hotel, on the eastern side of the station, was used to stable the gang's stolen horses.[118]

The Kellys, the Glenrowan George Gordon McCrae shows the gang dancing with hostages.

By Sunday evening, the gang gathered their captives at the hotel, a total of 62 by Reardon's count.[119] The gang insisted that drinks be provided to the townspeople and that music be played.[120] They danced with hostages while the landlady's son sang bushranger ballads, including "The Wild Colonial Boy", as well as a more recent song about the gang's exploits.[121] Dan and Joe Byrne became fairly drunk; Ned, however, abstained from drinking. At about three o'clock in the afternoon, he staged games with the hostages, including hop, step and jump, for which he used a revolver in each hand as balancing weights. The hostages were also encouraged to amuse themselves with card games.[122] One hostage later testified, "[Ned] did not treat us badly—not at all."[121]

The gang members were equipped with armour that repelled bullets (but left the legs unprotected). They made these with the intention of further robbing banks, as the gang were short of money.[123] The police had been informed by their spies about the armour, that the gang had tested it with bullets at ten paces, but dismissed these stories.[99] (The armour had been made in the district by a man well known to the police, although the proof was insufficient for a conviction.)[124] Each man's armour weighed about 44 kilograms (97 lb). All four had helmets. Byrne's was said to be the best, with the brow reaching down to the nose piece, almost forming two eye slits. All wore grey cotton coats reaching past the knees over the armour.

A bird's eye view illustration showing the key sites of Kelly's last stand at Glenrowan

That same night at about 10pm, Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne, along with schoolmaster Thomas Curnow, Dave Mortimer (Curnow's brother-in-law), postmaster E. Reynolds and R. Gibbens, went to capture Constable Bracken, stationed between Glenrowan and Benalla. Curnow was driving his buggy with his wife, sister, and the seven-year-old son of the postmaster, Alec Reynolds.[125] Curnow managed to convince Ned to let them go after they had secured Bracken, promising not to leave his house. Ned said "go quietly to bed and not to dream too loud", and made it known that if he acted otherwise they would get shot, as one of the gang would be visiting during the night. The rest returned to the hotel.

Two special trains had been dispatched from Melbourne carrying police reinforcements and reporters following the killing of Sherritt. The former included native police, whose tracking skills were a matter of particular concern to Ned. Despite the warning from Ned, when Curnow heard the trains approaching at about 3 am, he grabbed his sister's red llama scarf, a candle and matches, and rushed to the railway line, and managed to stop the pilot train. He told the guard of the torn tracks and that the Kelly gang was laying in wait at the hotel. The guard then signalled the second train, carrying the police, to stop. The trains then quietly made their way to the station and at the station house the police met with Mrs. Stanistreet, the wife of the stationmaster, who said that "They have taken my husband away with a lot more into the bush." Shortly after Bracken came rushing up and said "The Kellys are all at Jones's. Be quick, and surround the house, or they will be off."[126]

Just before the police arrived, the Kellys decided to let their prisoners go to better prepare for action, but just then Mrs Jones told them to stay hear Kelly lecture. Joe Byrne interrupted the conversation alerting the group about the train's arrival. The Kellys bolted into the room at the hotel where they kept their armor and hurried to dress. Constable Bracken grabbed the key to the room in which he and others were held, told everyone to lie low if there was any firing, and escaped. He rushed to the railway station into which the train had just arrived and explained the situation to the police. Supt. Hare told his men to leave their horses and he was followed to the hotel by Constables Barry, Gascoigne, Kelly, Phillips, Arthur, Inspector O'Connor and five Aboriginal trackers. At this point the police started the volley.[127]

"A strange apparition": when Kelly appeared out of the mist-shrouded bush, clad in armour, bewildered policemen took him to be a ghost, a bunyip, and "the very devil himself".

According to on-scene reporters from The Argus, the police and the gang fired at each other for about a quarter of an hour. Then there was a lull but nothing could be seen for a minute or two because of the smoke. Superintendent Hare returned to the railway-station with a shattered left wrist from one of the first shots fired. He bled profusely, but Mr. Carrington, artist for The Sketcher, stopped the haemorrhage with his handkerchief. Hare then ordered O'Connor to surround the hotel. Mr. Hare attempted to return to the battle[128] but he gradually lost so much blood that he had to be conveyed to Benalla by a special railway engine.

The police, Aboriginal trackers and others watched the surrounded hotel throughout the night. At about 5 o'clock in the morning the landlady, Mrs Jones, began loudly wailing over the fate of her son, who had been shot in the back. She came out from the hotel crying bitterly and wandered into the bush on several occasions. With the assistance of one of the prisoners she removed her son from the building, and sent him to Wangaratta for treatment. The firing continued intermittently. Bullets lodged in the station buildings and the train.

At daybreak police reinforcements arrived from Benalla, Beechworth, and Wangaratta. Superintendent John Sadleir came from Benalla with nine more men. Sergeant Steele, of Wangaratta, brought six, for a total of about 30 men. Before daylight Senior-Constable Kelly found a revolving rifle and a silk cap lying in the bush, about 100 yards from the hotel. The rifle was covered with blood and a pool of blood lay near it. They believed it to belong to one of the bushrangers, hinting that they had escaped. They proved to be those of Ned Kelly himself. At daybreak the women and children among the hostages were allowed to depart. They were challenged as they approached the police line, to ensure that the outlaws were not attempting to escape in disguise.


Sgt Steele and railway guard Dowsett capture a critically wounded Ned Kelly

In the early morning light, Kelly then attacked the police from the rear, dressed in a long white overcoat and wearing an iron mask. He was armed only with a revolver. He moved coolly from tree to tree, returning fire. Sergeant Steele, Senior-constable Kelly and a railway guard named Dowsett charged him. The latter was only armed with a revolver. They fired at him with no effect. Sergeant Steele realised that Kelly's legs were unprotected and brought him down with two shots, with Kelly crying, "I am done—I am done." Kelly howled and swore at the police. Steele seized him, but Kelly fired again, blowing Steele's helmet off. Kelly gradually became quiet, shot in the left foot, left leg, right hand, left arm and twice in the region of the groin. But no bullet had penetrated his armour. He was carried to the railway station, and placed in a guard's van and then to the stationmaster's office, where his wounds were dressed by Dr. John Nicholson from Benalla.[129][130]

Release of hostages

In the meantime the siege continued. The female hostages confirmed that the three other outlaws were still in the house. Byrne had been shot dead while drinking whisky at the bar about half-past 5 am. The remaining two kept shooting from the rear of the building during the morning, exposing themselves to the bullets of the police. Their armour protected them. At 10 o'clock a white flag or handkerchief was held out at the front door, and immediately afterwards about 30 male hostages emerged, while Kelly and Hart were defending the back door. They were ordered to lie down and were checked, one by one. Two brothers named M'Auliffe were arrested as Kelly sympathisers.[129]


Ruins of Jones's Hotel after the fire
Police and Aboriginal trackers pose in front of the "Kelly Tree"

At 2 pm a 12-pound cannon and a company of militia were sent up by a special train. By afternoon, the shooting from the hotel had ceased. The police leader, Superintendent Sadleir, decided to set fire to the hotel and received permission from the Chief Secretary, Robert Ramsay. At 2:50 pm a final volley was fired into the hotel, and under cover of the fire, Senior-constable Charles Johnson, of Violet Town, placed a bundle of burning straw at the hotel's west side. As the fire took hold, the police began to close in on the building.[129] Mrs Skillion and Kate Kelly appeared on the scene at this juncture. The former endeavoured to make way to her brothers, declaring she would rather see them burned than shot by the police. The police, however, ordered her to stop.[131]

A light westerly wind carried the flames from the straw underneath the wall and into the hotel, and the building's calico lined floor allowed the fire to spread rapidly. Father Gibney, vicar-general of Western Australia, entered the burning structure.[132] He discovered the bodies of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart. He stated that based on their position, they must have killed one another. The exact cause of their death, whether in battle, smoke inhalation or by suicide was never determined.

Hostage Martin Cherry was found dying from a groin wound in the outhouse or kitchen immediately behind the main building. He was promptly taken from the burning hotel and laid on the ground, where Father Gibney administered the last sacrament. Cherry was insensible, and barely alive. He succumbed within half an hour. He was fortunate to not have burned alive. He seems to have been shot by the attacking force, of course unintentionally.[129] The unmarried Cherry was an old platelayer of the district who resided about a mile from Glenrowan. He was born at Limerick, Ireland and was about 58 years old.[133]

All that was left standing of the hotel was the lamp-post and the signboard.[129]

A man named Rawlins, a reporter with a newspaper at Benalla, was shot and wounded. A boy and girl, the children of Mrs Jones, were shot. The young girl survived, but the boy later died in hospital the following day. Reardon's son was shot accidentally by Sgt. Steele when they were attempting to escape the hotel. An Aboriginal tracker also had a narrow escape with a ball grazing his forehead.[131]

The Royal Commission recommended that Superintendent Hare be allowed to retire from the force, as though he had attained the age of 55 years, and that, owing to his wound, he receive an additional allowance of £100 per annum.[134]

The body of Joe Byrne was strung up in Benalla as a curiosity. Byrne's friends asked for the body but it was instead secretly interred at night by police in an unmarked grave in Benalla Cemetery[135]

The charred remains of Dan Kelly and Hart were taken to Mrs Skillion's place at Greta. They were then placed into very expensive coffins, the lid of the one was lettered "Daniel Kelly, died 28th June 1880, aged 19 years" and the other "Stephen Hart, died 28th June 1880, aged 21 years."[9] They were buried in unmarked graves by their families in Greta Cemetery 30 km (19 mi) east of Benalla.

List of people killed or wounded during the Kelly Outbreak

Name Injury Date Explanatory comments
Constable Fitzpatrick wounded 15 April 1878 Policeman, claimed to have been shot by Ned Kelly, but wound was possibly self-inflicted[35]
Sergeant Michael Kennedy shot dead 26 October 1878 Policeman, killed at Stringybark Creek
Constable Scanlan shot dead 26 October 1878 Policeman, killed at Stringybark Creek
Constable Lonigan shot dead 26 October 1878 Policeman, killed at Stringybark Creek
Aaron Sherritt shot dead 26 June 1880 Killed due to being a police informer
Martin Cherry shot dead 28 June 1880 Civilian, killed at Glenrowan by police in crossfire[136]
Joe Byrne shot dead 28 June 1880 Kelly gang member, killed at Glenrowan by police
John Jones (aged 11) shot (died) 29 June 1880 Civilian, killed at Glenrowan by police in crossfire[137]
Dan Kelly shot dead or suicide 29 June 1880 Kelly gang member, died at Glenrowan
Steve Hart shot dead or suicide 29 June 1880 Kelly gang member, died at Glenrowan
Charles Champion Rawlins wounded 28 June 1880 Civilian volunteer with police, shot at Glenrowan by Kelly Gang
Michael Reardon (aged 16)[138] maimed for life 28 June 1880 Civilian, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Reardon, shot at Glenrowan by police[139]
Superintendent Hare wounded 28 June 1880 Policeman, shot at Glenrowan by Kelly Gang
[Name not recorded] wounded 28 June 1880 Aboriginal tracker, shot at Glenrowan by Kelly Gang
Ned Kelly wounded 28 June 1880 Leader of the Kelly gang, shot at Glenrowan by police
Martha Jones (aged 14) wounded 28 June 1880 Civilian, shot at Glenrowan by police in crossfire[137]

Total: Nine dead (three policemen, one informer, three members of the gang, and two bystanders), seven wounded (two policemen, one police volunteer, one native tracker, two bystanders, and Ned Kelly).[140]


Kelly in the dock

Kelly survived to stand trial on 19 October 1880 in Melbourne before the Irish-born judge Justice Sir Redmond Barry. Mr Smyth and Mr Chomley appeared for the crown and Mr Bindon for the prisoner.[141] The trial was adjourned to 28 October, when Kelly was presented on the charge of the murder of Sergeant Kennedy, Constable Scanlan and Lonigan, the various bank robberies, the murder of Sherritt, resisting arrest at Glenrowan and with a long list of minor charges.[142] He was convicted of the willful murder of Constable Lonigan and was sentenced to death by hanging by Justice Barry. Several unusual exchanges between Kelly and the judge included the judge's customary words "May God have mercy on your soul", to which Kelly replied "I will go a little further than that, and say I will see you there when I go."[143] At Kelly's request, his picture was taken and he was granted farewell interviews with family members. His mother's last words to him were reported to be "Mind you die like a Kelly."[144]


Ned Kelly's death mask in the Old Melbourne Gaol

He was hanged on 11 November 1880 at the Melbourne Gaol. Kelly's gaol warden wrote in his diary that when Kelly was prompted to say his last words, the prisoner opened his mouth and mumbled something that he could not hear.

The Argus reported that Mr. Castieau, the governor of the gaol, informed the condemned man that the hour of execution had been fixed at ten o'clock. Kelly simply replied "Such is life." His leg-irons were removed, and after a short time he was marched out. He was submissive on the way, and when passing the gaol's flower beds, he remarked "what a nice little garden", but said nothing further until reaching the Press room, where he remained until the arrival of chaplain Dean Donaghy. The Argus also reported that Kelly intended to make a speech, but he merely said, "Ah, well, I suppose it has come to this", as the rope was being placed round his neck.[145][145]

Although the exact number is unknown, it is alleged that a petition for a commutation of sentence attracted over 30,000 signatures.[146]


There was considerable controversy over the division of the £8,000 (A$400,000 in 2008 dollars) reward. Most commentators complained that Curnow should have received more while many of the police deserved less. Public opposition was such that Superintendent Hare and Sub-inspector O’Connor, who was in charge of the black trackers, declined to collect their shares of £800 and £237 respectively.

Despite being suspended for cowardice at Glenrowan, Superintendent Hare was allocated the largest share while Thomas Curnow, who alerted police to the ambush, thus saving many lives, received £550. Seven senior police officers received from £165 to £377 each, seven constables £137, Mr. Charles Champion Rawlins[147][148] (civilian volunteer) £137, one constable £125, 15 constables £115, the three train engineers £104, one detective £100, one senior constable £97, the train driver, fireman and guard £84 each, assistant engine fireman £69, assistant engine driver £68, one senior constable £48, 14 constables £42 each and Messrs Cheshire and Osborne, £25 each.[149] Nine civilians, 13 constables and two police agents applied for a share of the reward but were rejected. The board acknowledged that some who received nothing deserved a share but adherence to the terms of the proclamation precluded rewarding them. Four members of the media had accompanied the police and the board stated that, had they applied for a share, it would have been approved.

Seven native trackers also received £50 each although the board deemed it undesirable to "place any sum of money in the hands of persons unable to use it" and recommend that "the sums set opposite the names of the black trackers be handed to the Queensland and Victorian Governments to be dealt with at their discretion".[150]


Ned Kelly's armour, from an 1880 illustration
Armour on display in the State Library of Victoria. The apron, and one shoulderplate are not Ned Kelly's and comes from either Dan Kelly's or Steve Hart's armour.

The gang's armour was made of iron a quarter of an inch thick, and consisted of a long breast-plate, shoulder-plates, back-guard, and helmet. The helmet resembled a nail can without a crown, and included a long slit for the eyes. The suits' separate parts were strapped together on the body while the helmet was separate and sat on the shoulders, allowing it to be removed easily.

Ned Kelly's armour weighed 44 kilograms (97 lb). His suit was the only one to have an apron at the back, but all four had front aprons. Padding is only known from Ned's armour and it is not clear if the other suits were similarly padded. Ned wore a padded skull cap and his helmet also had internal strapping so that his head could take some of the weight. After the shootout there were five bullet marks on the helmet, three on the breast-plate, nine on the back-plate, and one on the shoulder-plate.[151] All the men wore dustcoats over the armour.

The manufacture of the four suits occupied four or five months. Two stolen circular saws and iron tacks were tried and found not to be bulletproof. Mouldboards for plough shares were ultimately adopted. It was likely that the first suit made was defective, and was therefore discarded.[152]

About April 1880, the police learned of the theft of mould boards from five farmers in the vicinity of Greta and Oxley by the Kelly gang. About a month later the secret agent known as "diseased stock" wrote a letter to the assistant commissioner intimating that the object of the outlaws in stealing the mould-boards was to manufacture armour.[153] His message was an important one: "Missing portions of cultivators are being worked as jackets and fit splendidly. Tested previous to using, they can withstand a bullet at 10 yards. A breakout may be anticipated as feed is getting very scarce. Five are now bad ... other animals are, I fear, diseased."[99] One of the farmers later identified some of the plates by marks on them.[151]

The Victorian Police were told about the armour three times by informants, but Hare and Sadleir both dismissed the information as "nonsense" and "an impossibility". None of the police realised the gang were wearing armour until Ned fell. The police even questioned whether he was human. Constable Arthur, who was closest, thought he was a "huge blackfellow wrapped in a blanket", Someone said, "He is a madman!" Dowsett said. "He is the devil!" Sergeant Kelly exclaimed, "Look out, boys, he is the bunyip!"[154] Constable Gascoigne, who recognised Ned's voice, told Superintendent Sadleir he had "fired at him point blank and hit him straight in the body. But there is no use firing at Ned Kelly; he can't be hurt". Although aware of the information supplied by the informant prior to the siege, Sadleir later wrote that even after Gascoigne's comment "no thought of armour" had occurred to him.

Following the siege of Glenrowan the media reported the events and use of armour around the world. The gang were admired in military circles and Arthur Conan Doyle commented on the gang's imagination and recommended similar armour for use by British infantry. The police announcement to the Australian public that the armour was made from ploughshares was ridiculed, disputed, and deemed impossible even by blacksmiths.[155]

There was considerable debate over whether to destroy the armour, but all four disassembled suits were eventually stored in Melbourne. Hare gave Ned Kelly's armour to Sir William Clarke, and it was later donated to the State Library of Victoria. Joe Byrne's was kept by Hare and now belongs to his descendants. Dan Kelly and Steve Hart's are still owned by the Victorian Police force. As no effort was made to maintain the armour's integrity while stored, the suits were reassembled by guesswork. In 2002 several parts were identified from photographs taken shortly after the siege and reunited with their original suits. The State Library of Victoria was able to exchange Steve Hart's breastplate for Ned Kelly's, making Kelly's suit currently the most original.[156] In January 2002 all four suits were displayed together for an exhibition in the Old Melbourne Gaol.[157]

According to legend the armour was made on a

  • Kelly, Ned (1855–1880) National Library of Australia, Trove, People and Organisation record for Ned Kelly
  • The Kelly collection, including John Hanlon's transcript of the Jerilderie letter at the National Museum of Australia
  • )the first site on Ned Kelly, established 1995Ned Kelly: Australian Ironoutlaw (
  • Culture Victoria – historical images and video interview with Peter Carey about his novel "True History of the Kelly Gang"
  • Library resources in your library and in other libraries about Ned Kelly
  • Works by or about Ned Kelly at Internet Archive
  • Works by Ned Kelly at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)

External links

  • Morrissey, Douglas. "Selectors, Squatters and Stock Thieves: A Social History of the Kelly Country", PhD, La Trobe (in Borchardt Library, La Trobe University, Victoria)
  • O'Brien, Antony. "Awaiting Ned Kelly: Rural Malaise in Northwestern Victoria 1872–73", B.A. (Hons), Deakin University, 1999 (sighted in Burke Museum, Beechworth) (See. p. 45, re Royal Commission questions)

Unpublished Kelly theses



  • Baron, Angeline; White, David (2004). Blood in the Dust: Inside the Minds of Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne. Network Creative Services Pty Ltd.  
  • McMenomy, Keith (2001). Ned Kelly: The Authentic Illustrated History. Hardie Grant Books.  
  • Seal, Graham (2002). Tell 'em I Died Game: The Legend of Ned Kelly. Hyland House Pub.  
  • Terry, Paul (2012). The True Story of Ned Kelly's Last Stand. Allen & Unwin.  



  1. ^ The date of Kelly's birth is not specifically known, as there is no record of his baptism. Kelly himself thought he was 28 years when he was hanged, and as such this was the age recorded on his death certificate. The best evidence for December 1854 is from a 1963 interview with his brother Jim. Jim Kelly said it was a family tradition that Ned's birth was "at the time of the Eureka Stockade" (the Eureka Stockade took place on 3 December 1854). (p346 Ned Kelly: A Short Life, by Ian Jones) in July 1870, Ellen Kelly, Ned's mother, recorded Ned's age as 15 ½ which could easily refer to a December 1854 birth. (p346 Ned Kelly: A Short Life, by Ian Jones) There is also a remark made by G. Wilson Brown, school inspector, in his notebook on 30 March 1865, where he noted that Ned Kelly was 10 years and 3 months old. (p346 Ned Kelly: A Short Life, by Ian Jones) The only evidence given in support for Ned Kelly's birth being in June 1855 is from the death certificate of his father, John Kelly, who died on 27 December 1866. Ned Kelly's wrote his age as 11 ½.
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Brear, Bea (9 April 2003). "Ned Kelly: freedom fighter or villain?", Green Left Weekly. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
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  5. ^,194,90,L,80
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  7. ^ "Kelly Brothers: Their Mother Dead".  
  8. ^ a b c Aubrey, Thomas (11 July 1953). "The Real Story of Ned Kelly". The Mirror (Perth: National Library of Australia). p. 9. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d "The Kelly Gang".  
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  11. ^ Rennie, Ann; Szego, Julie (1 August 2001). "Ned Kelly saved our drowning dad ... the softer side of old bucket head". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
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  13. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 17.
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  15. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 11.
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  17. ^ "Bombs, Police, and Ned". The Canberra Times. 29 July 1970. 
  19. ^ Jones 1995, p. 25
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  21. ^ a b c d Jones 2010, pp. 37–48
  22. ^ Jones, 2010.
  23. ^ Solomon, Sir (17 May 1924). "Did Fitzpatrick Cause the Kelly Outbreak?".  
  24. ^ Corlette, Frank (5 February 1910). "Life of Bushranger Power".  
  25. ^ "South Australia".  
  26. ^ as described by Kelly himself in The Jerilderie Letter
  27. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 73.
  28. ^ Ned Kelly was still in Beechworth Gaol when the horse was reported stolen and had been home only a few days when Wright arrived.—Mansfield Independent Newspaper 5 May 1871
    The horse belonging to the Mansfield Postmaster, Mr Newland, was agisted on the Maindample property of a Mr Highett. The son of the farmer who owned the property adjacent Mr Highett's on the Maindample-Benalla road (now part of the Midland Link Highway), 14-year-old Archibald McPhail testified at Wright's trial that he witnessed Wright taking the horse.—Mansfield Independent Newspaper, 25 August 1871
  29. ^ Jones.
  30. ^ "Rare Ned Kelly picture sold for $19,800".  
  31. ^ Two years later, Jim Kelly was arrested for cattle-duffing. He and his family claimed that he did not know that some of the cattle did not belong to his employer and cousin Tom Lloyd. Jim was given a five-year sentence, but as O'Brien pointed out the receiver of the 'stolen stock' James Dixon was not prosecuted as he was 'a gentleman'.O'Brien 1995, p. 69
  32. ^ "KELLY GANG ECHO.".  
  33. ^ "Overview of Kellyana".  
  34. ^ a b Kenneally, 1929, p. 26.
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  39. ^ "KELLY GANG ECHO.".  
  40. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 34.
  41. ^ a b Kenneally, 1929, p. 37.
  42. ^ "A KELLY GANG ECHO.".  
  43. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 36.
  44. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 35.
  45. ^ "THE KELLY GANG.".  
  46. ^ "The Greta Outrage.".  
  47. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 74.
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  50. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 46.
  51. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 48.
  52. ^ a b c d e f g "BUSHRANGING IN VICTORIA.".  
  53. ^ "Trail of Ned Kelly. [?].".  
  54. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 47.
  55. ^ a b "NED KELLY'S LETTER.".  
  56. ^ "Trail of Ned Kelly. [?].".  
  57. ^ a b "The Trial of Ned Kelly at Beechworth.".  
  59. ^ "Prosecution of Ned Kelly.".  
  60. ^ "The Police Murders".  
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  63. ^ "Bushranging in Victoria".  
  64. ^
  66. ^ "Atrocious Murders by Bushrangers".  
  67. ^ "How the Kelly Gang Murdered the Cobstables".  
  69. ^ Denheld, Bill (2003). "Germans Creek". Retrieved 30 December 2006. 
  70. ^
  71. ^ "Ben Hall and the outlawed bushrangers". Culture and Recreation Portal. Australian Government. 15 April 2008. Retrieved 19 September 2008. 
  72. ^ Cowie, N. (5 July 2002). "Felons' Apprehension Act (Act 612)". Retrieved 19 September 2008. 
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  76. ^ a b "KELLY GANG AT EUROA.".  
  77. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 67.
  78. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 69.
  79. ^ "THE KELLY, OUTRAGES.".  
  80. ^ "KELLY GANG AT EUROA.".  
  81. ^ "THE KELLY GANG.".  
  82. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 71.
  83. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 9.
  84. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 84.
  85. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 79.
  86. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 85.
  87. ^ "TALE: By a Resident of Coonamble".  
  88. ^ Kenneally, 1929, pp. 88–89.
  90. ^ a b Kenneally, 1929, p. 90.
  91. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 91.
  92. ^ Kenneally, 1929, pp. 92–93.
  93. ^ The Rev. J. B. (John) Gribble was later prominent as missionary among Aboriginal peoples of northern Australia. (The Advertiser (Adelaide), 19 August 1911, p. 23.)
  94. ^ a b c Kenneally, 1929, p. 94.
  95. ^ "MR. LYVING'S NARRATIVE.".  
  96. ^ a b Kenneally, 1929, p. 93.
  97. ^ "THE KELLY GANG.".  
  98. ^ a b Kenneally, 1929, p. 105.
  99. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Real Story of.".  
  100. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 96.
  101. ^ "EDWARD KELLY'S LETTER.".  
  102. ^ Jerilderie Letter, National Museum of Australia
  103. ^ Gelder, Ken (5 May 2014). "The case for Ned Kelly's Jerilderie Letter", The Conversation. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  104. ^ "WEDNESDAY, JULY 2, 1879.".  
  105. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 122.
  106. ^ "THE KELLY GANG.".  
  107. ^ Jones 2010.
  108. ^ a b Kenneally, 1929, p. 127.
  109. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 123.
  110. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 98.
  111. ^ Kenneally, 1929, pp. 130–31.
  112. ^ a b Kenneally, 1929, pp. 130–34.
  113. ^ a b Kenneally, 1929, p. 134.
  117. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 135.
  120. ^ "THE KELLY GANG.".  
  121. ^ a b Seal, Graham (1996). The Outlaw Legend: A Cultural Tradition in Britain, America and Australia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521557405, p. 159
  122. ^ "The Bushrangers.".  
  123. ^
  124. ^ "The Black Trackers and the Kelly Gang.".  
  125. ^
  127. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 138.
  129. ^ a b c d e "Destruction of the Kelly Gang.".  
  130. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 151.
  131. ^ a b "THE KELLY BUSHRANGERS.".  
  136. ^ "Destruction of the Kelly Gang.".  
  137. ^ a b Ann Jones and her children were held hostage by Ned Kelly during his gang's infamous Last Stand, Herald-Sun, 13 November 2012
  138. ^ Reardon, Michael (1863–1942), Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
  139. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 147.
  143. ^ "TRIAL OF EDWARD KELLY.".  
  146. ^ "Reprieve". ned online. Retrieved 29 August 2008. 
  147. ^ Victoria. Kelly Reward Board, James MacBain, Charles MacMahon, and Robert Murray Smith, Kelly Reward Board: Report of the Board Appointed to Enquire Into and Report Upon the Proper Mode of Distributing the Rewards Offered for the Capture of the Kelly Gang: Together With the Minutes of Evidence, Melbourne: Robt. S. Brain, Acting Government Printer, 1881
  148. ^ Rawlin(g)s-Rollin(g)s Family History Association Newsletter, June 1996, page 19
  151. ^ a b "THE KFLLY GANG.".  
  152. ^ "Trial of Ned Kelly.".  
  155. ^ The Kelly Armour Ned Kelly Bushranger
  156. ^ Ned Kelly Fact Sheet State Library of Victoria
  157. ^ Piecing Together the Past: The Kelly Armour Exchange State Library of Victoria January 2003
  158. ^ Kelly Gang Armour Australian Broadcasting Corporation 21 August 2003
  159. ^ Testing Joe Byrne's Armour Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)
  160. ^ "NED KELLY'S ARMOUR.".  
  161. ^ "The Police Enquiry".  
  162. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 10.
  163. ^ McQuilton 1979, Chapter 10
  164. ^ "Sadleir, John". Retrieved 3 May 2012. 
  165. ^ "BUSHRANGER'S MOTHER.".  
  166. ^ "DEEMING'S GEAVE.".  
  168. ^ a b c d e Ned's Head SBS One Documentary: The scientific investigation and DNA testing of Kelly's skeletal remains 4 September 2011
  169. ^ "No title.".  
  170. ^ "NED KELLY'S GRAVE.".  
  171. ^ "DISHONORED DEAD.".  
  172. ^ "Ned's Skull is Now Locked Up.".  
  173. ^ Bluestone Seawall (stories in the stones) Bayside City council
  174. ^ "Ned Kelly's skull stolen.".  
  175. ^ Standing, Jonathan (9 March 2008). "Grave of Australian outlaw Ned Kelly said found".  
  176. ^ The Times, 10 March 2008.
  177. ^ "GHOULISH SCRAMBLE.".  
  178. ^
  179. ^
  180. ^ Cormick, Craig, ed. (2014). Ned Kelly. CSIRO Publishing.  
  181. ^
  182. ^ Curran, Enda (2 September 2011). "Scientists Nab an Australian Outlaw".   (Article on the web is slightly different from the print edition.)
  183. ^  
  184. ^  
  185. ^ Time magazine "Outlaw Ned Kelly's Remains Given to Family — 132 Years After His Death", 6 August 2012 Retrieved on 13 August 2012.
  186. ^ The Age
  187. ^ "Kelly Gang gun goes for $70,000, but is it the real thing?". The Age (Melbourne). 14 November 2007. Retrieved 8 March 2008. 
  188. ^ "Kelly gang gun is a fake, say firearms experts". The Age (Melbourne). 15 November 2007. Retrieved 8 March 2008. 
  189. ^ Keith McMenomy, 1984, p. 69.
  190. ^ Seal, Graham (2011). Outlaw Heroes in Myth and History. Anthem Press, ISBN 978-0-85728-792-2. pp. 99–100.
  191. ^ Barry, John V. (1974). "Kelly, Edward (Ned) (1855–1880)". Australian Dictionary of Biography 5. Melbourne University Press. pp. 6–8. Retrieved 8 April 2007. 
  192. ^ "Australian National Dictionary Centre's Word of the Year 2014", Ozwords. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  193. ^ Kenneally, 1929, p. 15.
  194. ^ Ned Kelly, National Gallery of Australia. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  195. ^ Innes, Lyn (2008). Ned Kelly: Icon of Modern Culture. Helm Information Ltd. ISBN 9781903206164, p. 247.
  196. ^ a b Imagining Ned: Exploring the Truth and Myth Behind Australia's Che Guevara by Fiona Gruber, The Guardian, April 1, 2015
  197. ^ Turnbull 1942
  198. ^ Hobsbawm 1972
  199. ^ O'Brien 2006


See also

In the time since his execution, Kelly has been mythologised among some into a "Robin Hood" character,[197][198] a political revolutionary and a figure of Irish Catholic and working-class resistance to the establishment and British colonial ties.[199] Kelly has also been referred to as "Australia's Che Guevara", while his image has inspired generations of artists and film-makers.[196]

"As outlaws go, the Victorian horse rustler, bank robber, distributor of funds to the poor, cop killer and firebrand anti-establishmentarian had bags of charisma and was a beacon of defiance and excitement for the downtrodden, mainly Irish, farmers and small-town strugglers. Ned's appeal still resonates today with anyone who identifies with the 'disenfranchised outsider and the underclass'. Like the helmet, he's strong, enduring, symbolic."
— Karen Quinlan, director of the Bendigo Art Gallery [196]

Political icon

Kelly has figured prominently in Australian cinema since the 1906 release of The Story of the Kelly Gang, the world's first feature film. Actors who have played the bushranger include Mick Jagger (Ned Kelly, 1970) and Heath Ledger (Ned Kelly, 2003). In the visual arts, Sidney Nolan's 1946–7 Kelly series is considered "one of the greatest sequences of Australian painting of the twentieth century".[194] His stylised depiction of Kelly's helmet has become an iconic Australian image; hundreds of "Nolanesque Kellys" starred in the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics.[195] In 2001, Peter Carey won the Man Booker Prize for his novel True History of the Kelly Gang, written from Kelly's perspective. Kelly is the subject of songs by musicians as diverse as Johnny Cash and Midnight Oil.

One of the gaols in which Kelly was incarcerated has become the Ned Kelly Museum in Glenrowan, Victoria, and many weapons and artefacts used by him and his gang are on exhibit there. The phrase "such is life", Kelly's alleged final words before being executed, has become entrenched in Australian English. "As game as Ned Kelly" is a common expression for bravery,[191] and the term "Ned Kelly beard" is used to describe a trend in "hipster" fashion.[192] The rural districts of northeastern Victoria are collectively known as "Kelly Country".[193]

Ned Kelly has progressed from outlaw to national hero in a century, and to international icon in a further 20 years. The still-enigmatic, slightly saturnine and ever-ambivalent bushranger is the undisputed, if not universally admired, national symbol of Australia.

Ned Kelly remains all-pervasive in Australian culture. Academic and folklorist Graham Seal writes:[190]

A homemade letterbox in the style of Ned Kelly's armour, Bullio, Southern Highlands, New South Wales
Actor playing Kelly in The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), the world's first feature film

Cultural effect


According to press reports[188] in the days following the auction, firearms experts assessed the revolver as being of a design (a copy of an English Webley .32 revolver) not manufactured until 1884, well after the claimed provenance had the weapon changing hands from Constable Fitzpatrick to the Kellys. In addition, a stamp on the gun which the auction catalogue interpreted as R*C, an indication that the revolver was of the Royal Constabulary, was instead read as a European manufacturer's proof mark. Further, evidence by Constable Fitzpatrick said that when he left the Kelly homestead after the incident, he had his revolver and handcuffs.[189]

On 13 November 2007, a weapon claimed to be Constable Fitzpatrick's service revolver was auctioned for approximately $70,000 in Melbourne and is now located in Westbury, Tasmania. The vendor's representative, Tom Thompson, claimed that the revolver was left by Constable Fitzpatrick at the Kelly house after the melee in 1878, given to Kate Kelly, and then (much later) found in a house or shed in Forbes, New South Wales.[187]

False artifacts

On 20 January 2013, Kelly's descendants granted Kelly's final wish and buried his remains in consecrated ground at Greta cemetery near his mother's unmarked grave. A piece of Kelly's skull was also buried with his remains and was surrounded by concrete to prevent looting. The burial followed a Requiem Mass held on 18 January 2013 at St Patrick's Catholic Church in Wangaratta.[186]

On 1 August 2012 the Victorian government issued a license for Kelly's bones to be returned to the Kelly family, who made plans for their final burial. They also appealed for the person who possessed Kelly's skull to return it.[185]

Final burial

In August 2011, scientists publicly confirmed a skeleton exhumed from the old Pentridge Prison's mass graveyard was indeed Kelly's after comparing the DNA to that of Leigh Olver.[182] The DNA matching was based on mitochondrial DNA (HV1, HV2). This is indicative of Kelly's maternal line. The investigating forensic pathologist has indicated that no adequate quality somatic DNA was obtained that would enable a y-DNA profile to be determined. This may be attempted at a later date. A y-DNA profile would enable Kelly's paternal genetic genealogy to be determined with reference to the data already existing in the Kelly y-DNA study (see this page).[183] The skeleton was missing most of its skull, the whereabouts of which are unknown.[184]

Forensic pathologists also examined the bones from Pentridge, which were much decayed and jumbled with the remains of others, making identification difficult. The collar bone was found to be the only bone that had survived in all the skeletons and these were all DNA tested against that of Leigh Olver. A match to Kelly was found and the associated skeleton turned out to be one of the most complete. Kelly's remains were additionally identified by partially healed foot, wrist bone and left elbow injuries matching those caused by the bullet wounds at Glenrowan as recorded by the gaol's surgeon in 1880 and by the fact that his head was missing, likely removed for phrenological study. A section from the back of a skull (the occipital) was recovered from the grave that bore saw cuts that matched those present on several neck vertebrae indicating that the skull section belonged to the skeleton and that an illegal dissection had been performed.[168]

On the anniversary of Kelly's hanging, 11 November 2009, Tom Baxter handed the skull in his possession to police and it was historically and forensically tested along with the Pentridge remains. The skull was compared to a cast of the skull that had been stolen from the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1978 and proved to be a match. The skull was then compared to that in a newspaper photograph of worker Alex Talbot holding the skull recovered in 1929 which showed a close resemblance. Talbot was known to have taken a tooth from the skull as a souvenir and a media campaign to find the whereabouts of the tooth led to Talbot's grandson coming forward. The tooth was found to belong to the skull confirming it was indeed the skull recovered in 1929. In 2004, before the skull was handed to police, a cast of the skull was made and compared to the death masks of those executed at Old Melbourne Gaol which eliminated all but two. The two were those of Kelly and Ernest Knox, who had been executed in March 1894 (headstone marked E.K., 19–3–94) and buried near Frederick Deeming (headstone marked with the initials A.W. and a D underneath). In April 1929, the skulls of the E.K. marked grave (which was thought at the time to belong to Kelly) and Frederick Deeming were looted from the excavated graves.[177] The death mask of Knox and a facial reconstruction of a cast of the skull were a close match.[178] In 2010 and 2011, the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine performed a series of craniofacial super-imposition, CT scanning, anthropology and DNA tests on the skull recovered from the E.K. marked grave and concluded it was not Kelly's.[179] In 2014, the remains of Frederick Deeming's brother was exhumed from Bebington cemetery and tissue samples were obtained from the femur bone. A DNA profile was successfully obtained from the samples and compared with a DNA profile that had been previously obtained from the skull that was stolen from the Old Melbourne Gaol. The DNA profiles did not match, conclusively proving that the skull is not Deeming's.[180][181] It is now accepted that the skull recovered in 1929 and later displayed in the Old Melbourne Gaol was not Kelly's or Deeming's.[168]

On 9 March 2008 it was announced that Australian archaeologists believed they had found Kelly's grave on the site of Pentridge Prison.[175] The bones were uncovered at a mass grave and Kelly's are among those of 32 felons who had been executed by hanging. Jeremy Smith, a senior archaeologist with Heritage Victoria, said that "We believe we have conclusively found the burial site but that is very different from finding the remains." Ellen Hollow, Kelly's then 62-year-old grand-niece, offered to supply her own DNA to help identify Kelly's bones.[176]

Historical and forensic investigation of remains

In 1972 the skull was put on display at the Old Melbourne Gaol until it was stolen on 12 December 1978.[174] An investigation in 2010 proved that the displayed skull was in fact the one recovered in April 1929.[168]

Theft of skull

During the Great Depression the Bayside City council built bluestone walls to protect local beaches from erosion. The stones were taken from the outer walls of the Old Melbourne Gaol and included the "headstones" of those executed and buried on the grounds. Most, including Kelly's, were placed with the engravings (initials and date of execution) facing inwards.[173]


In 1929, Melbourne Gaol was closed for routine demolition, and the bodies in its graveyard were uncovered during the demolition works. During the recovery of the bodies, spectators and workers stole skeletal parts and skulls from a number of graves, including one marked with an arrow and the initials "E. K."[169] in the belief they belonged to Ned Kelly.[170] The E.K. marked grave was situated by itself, and on the opposite side of the yard where the rest of the graveyard was situated.[171] The site foreman, Harry Franklin, retrieved the skull from the E.K. marked grave and gave it to the police. As no provision had been made for the disposal of the remains, Franklin had the bodies reburied in Pentridge prison at his own expense.[168] The skull from the E.K. marked grave, which had been stored at the Victorian Penal Department was taken to Canberra for research by the first director of the Australian Institute of Anatomy (Sir Colin Mackenzie) in 1934. For a period of time it was lost, but was later found while cleaning out an old safe in 1952.[172] In 1971, the Institute gave it to the National Trust.

Grave robbery

A newspaper reported that Kelly's body was dissected by medical students who removed his head and organs for study.[167] Dissection outside of a coronial enquiry was illegal. Public outrage at the rumour raised real fears of public disorder, leading the commissioner of police to write to the gaol's governor, who denied that a dissection had taken place.[168] (Saw cuts on a piece of his occipital bone recovered in 2011 confirm that a dissection had been done.) His head was allegedly given to phrenologists for study, then returned to the police, who used it for a time as a paperweight.


In line with the practice of the day, no records were kept regarding the disposal of an executed person's remains. Kelly was buried in the "old men's yard", just inside the walls of Old Melbourne Gaol.[166]

Remains and graves

Mrs. Kelly outlived her most famous son by several decades and died aged 95 on 27 March 1923.[165]

McQuilton suggested that two police officers involved in the pursuit of the Kelly Gang – John Sadleir,[164] author of Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer, and Inspector W.B. Montford – averted the Second Outbreak by coming to understand that the unresolved social contradiction in Northeastern Victoria was about land, not crime, and by their good work in aiding small selectors.

Though the Kelly Gang was destroyed in 1880, for almost seven years a serious threat of a second outbreak existed because of major problems around land settlement and selection.[163]

Others, commencing with Kenneally (1929), McQuilton (1979) and Jones (1995), perceived the Kelly Outbreak and the problems of Victoria's Land Selection Acts post-1860s as interlinked. McQuilton identified Kelly as the "social bandit" who was caught up in unresolved social contradictions—that is, the selector–squatter conflicts over land—and that Kelly gave the selectors the leadership they lacked. O'Brien (1999) identified a leaderless rural malaise in Northeastern Victoria as early as 1872–73, around land, policing and the Impounding Act.

Writers such as Boxhall, The Story of Australian Bushrangers (1899) and Henry Giles Turner, History of the Colony of Victoria (1904) dismiss the Kelly Outbreak as simply a spate of criminality. Two of those involved, Superintendents Hare and Sadleir,[162] and later, in the late 20th century Penzig (1988) wrote legitimising narratives about law and order and moral justification.

After Ned Kelly's death, the Victorian Royal Commission (1881–1883) investigation of the Victorian Police Force led to many changes to policing. The Commission took 18 months and witnesses included journalists Melvin, Carrington and McWhirter, who were present at Glenrowan.[161] Its findings put many of the police involved in the Kelly hunt in a less-than-favourable light, yet it did not excuse or sanction the actions of the Kelly Gang. The Commission's work led to reprimands, demotions, or dismissal for a number of members of the Victorian police, including senior staff.

Aftermath and lessons

The Hobart Mercury reported that Glenrowan district blacksmith Joe Grigg had made the armour from parts of ploughs and harvesting machines while watched by Ned and Dan Kelly. Ned paid for Grigg's work in gold sovereigns. Grigg immediately told the authorities about it and was told to keep the cash as he had earned it honestly. This information did not become known until Grigg's death in 1934 as authorities apparently did not want details known to the public and, apart from its mention in Grigg's 1934 obituary, the story remained relatively unknown.[160]


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