Ned Kelly photograph taken by Charles Nettleton the day before he was hanged
On 1th November, 1880, At the age of 26, Ned Kelly was hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol and was buried in a grave there. In 1929, Kelly remains were reinterred in HM Prison Pentridge. In 2011, Ned Kelly’s remains were returned to his surviving descendants for a proper family burial. The Kelly story ends there. But a nation with a very short recorded history, feeling inadequate about the lack of folk heroes, picked up the pieces from where it ended and made him a national icon. Ned Kelly is a polarising figure – A thief, a murderer and a hero. Though Ned Kelly tried to portray himself as a Victim of the system that unfairly targeted the Irish, the reality paints a different picture. Crime, whether it is robbery, assault or murder was pretty much the way of life for Ned Kelly and his extended family.
Ned Kelly’s mother Ellen Kelly in 1874 pregnant with son Jack
In 1850, when Ned’s parents Ellen Quin and John Kelly got married at the St Francis Church in Melbourne, Ellen’s parents were dead against it, John being an ex-convict. John Kelly was sentenced for stealing a pig and shooting at a landlord with the intention to kill. Crime was strongly etched in Kelly family’s DNA. Ned made his first court appearance at the age of 8, to give his uncle, who was accused of stealing cattle, an alibi. Bush Ranger Harry Power was a family friend from whom Ned learned his first lessons of being an outlaw. Ned’s brother Jim was sent to an adult jail at the age of 13 and another brother Dan joined a criminal gang in his teenage years.
A Murray Advertiser report published on the Kelly family on 12th October 1878 reads,
“There are several amongst them reared up in crime, who have for years’ past been making a dishonest livelihood by thieving.
“It is one of the strangest phases of our human nature that with some, crime is hereditary.”
The Kelly Legend is a polarising narrative of Australian history and a journey through the Kelly country, 138 years after Ned’s death, reliving pages after pages of Ned Kelly’s life should open up a lot more about the life of Ned Kelly and the early European settlers to Australia. Most of the country towns that witnessed the Kelly story, still remain the same way, without much change. So when we take the Ned Kelly tour route, the first stop should be at the house Ned Kelly spent his early life as a child. To make the tour most economical, the route chosen is Melbourne – Beveridge – Avenel – Euroa – Benalla – Glenrowan – Beechworth – Greta – Powers Lookout – Stringybark Reserve – Mansfield and back to Melbourne. Obviously leaving Jerilderie, which has the most number of Ned Kelly monuments intact.
Ned Kelly’s Childhood home in Beveridge
The Kelly house is situated at the town of Beveridge, located along the Hume Highway, 42 kilometres north of Melbourne. Beside a gravel road, but surrounded by big houses lies a small cottage protected by a wire fence, where Ned spent his childhood years. After marrying Ellen, John Kelly lived at the Quin Family house in Wallan. Then he moved to Beveridge buying a 41-acre farm which he later sold and bought a smaller 21-acre property at Beveridge. John built this cottage from materials he could obtain from the bush, in a typical Irish way. Ned Kelly lived here from age five to age nine and then moved to Avenel to escape the continued police harassment. In 1863, Police arrested Ned’s brother, James Kelly for cattle theft and the family believed he was innocent, which was the last straw of the series of incidents of Police harassment.
Avenel Stone Bridge, 150m from here Ned Kelly rescued Richard Shelton
John Kelly started his life anew at Avenel renting a 40-acre farm for £14 a year from Mrs Elizabeth Mutton and ran it as a dairy farm. He built a house there for the family to live in. The Kellys were getting prosperous again, but destiny had other plans. The drought in 1866 put the family in trouble again and John had to kill and sell the meat of his cattle to survive. John Kelly was arrested again for killing the cattle of his neighbour and was fined 25 pounds, defaulting which will result in 6 months’ hard labour. In 1866, John Kelly died, leaving the 12-year-old Ned Kelly to fend for himself. John was buried at Avenel Cemetery in an unmarked grave. Later the Avenel Historical Society has marked his grave with a headstone and iron railing.
Avenel Cemetery ( Inset John Kelly’s Tomb)
The Avenel stone bridge, which was built in 1869, replacing a wooden bridge built in 1847, also carries a brush of Ned Kelly history. Approximately 150m downstream is the site where Ned rescued Richard Shelton. Shelton accidentally fell from a makeshift foot bridge into the high flowing Hughes Creek on his way to school. Richard’s parents, who were proprietors of the nearby Royal Mail Hotel, presented Ned a Green Silk sash for saving their son. Ned was wearing this sash when he was captured at Glen Rowan. The sash is now housed at the Costume and Pioneer Museum in Benalla.
The Green Sash Presented to Ned Kelly by Richard Sheldon’s parents for saving their son – Now on Display in Pioneer Museum, Benalla
After the death of John Kelly, Ellen Kelly moved to Greta, located east of Benalla with her family. The Original Greta township is located at Fifteen Mile Creek and now call the Greta West. Now, only two Chimneys are all that left of the Kelly Homestead. It is a bit far from the road, which makes it difficult to photograph. Ellen made her selection of the 88 acres of land here, earning a living and occasionally providing refreshments to travellers passing by. It is here she married George King who was just 25 years at that time. Ellen is buried at the Greta Cemetery here after her death in 1923 at the age of 91.
Original Greta Police Lockup now relocated to Glenrowan
A view from the Powers Outlook
Powers Outlook is named after the notorious bush ranger Harry Power. Harry Power was one of Victoria’s most notorious bush rangers committing over 30 crimes. Harry Power used this natural vantage point to look out for approaching Police. Then Police used to travel by horse and cart which gave him ample time to make an escape. But on 5th June 1870, his luck ran out. What make Powers Outlook relevant for Ned Kelly Fans is the fact that Power was Kelly’s mentor. The teenage Ned Kelly partnered Power on several holdups, and as his apprentice learned how to escape the Police and survive in the bush. Harry Power was an excellent Bushman and horseman, often eluded capture by disappearing into the rugged terrain. While in Pentridge Gaol Harry met Ned’s uncles. The Quinn Family homestead (Ned’s maternal Grandparents) Glenmore station was located below the outlook, where Harry setup a permanent camp. There was a reward for capturing Harry which enticed Ned’s uncle Jack Lloyd to dob in Harry. But Harry was convinced that Ned Kelly had dobbed him in.
Benella Pioneer Museum
In Greta, Ned was already in the Police watch list as an accomplice of Harry Power. In 1870, just 16 years old, he was sentenced to six months’ hard labour for delivering a parcel containing calves’ testicles to a Hawker on behalf of his arch rival. But infact Kelly had no knowledge of the contents of the parcel and he was just doing a favour by delivering the parcel. He served his sentence at the Beechworth Gaol. In 1871, Ned was sentenced again for the possession of a stolen horse – three years of hard labour at the Pentridge Prison. Ned Kelly was innocent in this case too as the horse was stolen while he was serving his sentence at the Beechworth Gaol by Isaih Wild – A family friend. By the age of 16, he had enough experiences to hate the Police establishment, which was made worse by the Benalla incident.
The Old Court House in Benalla – Now Anglican Church
On 17th September 1877, Ned Kelly was in Benala. After being arrested for riding across a footpath and drunkenness, Ned who is known to hardly touch a drop, suspected the Police of spiking his drink. Furious with the police, he broke away from the escort, and escaped to the shop. The four Police escort, Sergeant Whelan, Constables Fitzpatrick, Day and Lonigan followed in hot pursuit and a violent brawl ensued, Police assisted by King the bootmaker. In the fracas, Ned knocked down Fritzpatrick and inturn was grabbed by Constable Lonigan in his privates.
Ned was said to have howled in pain, yelling, “ Well Lonigan, I never shot a man yet, but if I do, so help me God, you will be the first”. Ned fought like the devil against the persecutors and only agreed to surrender after a sympathetic justice of peace, William Maginess, convinced Ned to accompany him to the courthouse. Now the Boot shop is King Fine wares. Ned was fined for the incident, which he paid and avoided Jail term for defaulting.
King’s Bootmaker Shop at Benalla
The historic city of Beechworth preserved as it was in the 1800’s
The well preserved historical town of Beechworth also played a role in Ned Kelly’s life. The Government buildings of Beechworth built in 1800’s still stand in good shape and most of them are still in use. The Beechworth Courthouse has witnessed the Kelly family members passing through its doors charged on various offences. It was here James Kelly was sentenced to five years’ hard labour for stealing cattle. One of Ned Kelly’s pre-trial hearings also took place here. It was here the trial of Mrs Kelly, for the attempted murder of Alexander Fitzpatrick took place in 1878. Ellen Kelly was sentenced to three years’ hard labour.
Beechworth Court House
Ned Kelly after the knuckle fight with Isaiah
In 1871 when Ned was just 16 years old, Ned, Isaiah, and Alex Gunn were sentenced at the Beechworth Courthouse. Ned and Alex got three years while Wild, who actually stole the horse, received only eighteen months. To settle the score a bare knuckle fight was organised on 8th August 1874. Ned came victorious in the fight.
It was in Beechworth gaol that twenty-one men, suspected Kelly Gang supporters, relatives and other sympathisers were held without trial or evidence for over three months, by the Chief Commissioner of Police Captain Standish, under the Outlawry Act.
It was in Beechworth Gaol, Ned Kelly spent four months for delivering cattle testicles to a Hawker. Ned’s brothers Jim and Dan also served their time in Beechworth Gaol.
Stringybark Creek and Mansfield
The Stringybark Creek – Inset Kelly Tree
The infamous shootout between the Kelly gang and four Victoria Police officers took place at Stringybark Creek on October 26, 1878. Police had information that Kelly Gang is hiding in the area but they were not sure of the exact location. Sergeant Michael Kennedy, and Constables Thomas Lonigan, Michael Scanlon and Thomas McIntrye set out from their posts at Mansfield, Benalla, and Violet Town into the Wombat Ranges with instructions to capture the Kelly gang. The Police party was well armed.
Police Monument at Mansfield
The Police men were dressed in plain clothes. On 26th October Kennedy and Scanlon left early for patrolling surrounding areas leaving McIntyre and Lonigan at the Camp. At mid-day, Mc Intyre left the camp to investigate a noise further down the creek. On his return McIntyre fired at some parrots which caught the attention of the Kelly Gang, who were camped at the Bullock Creek nearby. The Kelly team ambushed the Police Camp. McIntyre, unarmed at the time, surrendered. Lonigan, however, fired his gun and was shot and killed by Ned Kelly. Among the Kelly Gang, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart were sent back to Bullock Creek to check whether Kennedy and Scanlon found their Bullock Creek hideout. The rest of the Kelly Gang waited till night fall for the other two police men to return. When they returned a shootout ensued which killed both the Policemen. McIntyre seized the opportunity and fled. The Policemen killed were laid to rest at the Mansfield Cemetery.
The deaths, which Kelly would later claim were in self-defence, the gang members were quickly declared outlaws and a 200-pound reward was declared for each member of the Kelly gang.
This was the location of the National Bank at Euroa
Soon after the murder the Gang disappeared into wilderness only to emerge at Euroa to struck at the National Bank. 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, and took the men hostage for their safety. On 10th December 1878, leaving Byrne in charge of the hostages, the rest went to cut the telegraph wires. Whoever interfered with their work joined the hostages at the Wool station.
The Second building of Euroa National Bank
Then heavily armed, carrying a cheque drawn by the owner of the farm, McCauley on the National Bank for a few pounds, the gang reached the bank after closing time. Ned knocked the door and convinced the Clerk to open the door to cash the cheque he had. All together they took assets worth more than £2000 from the bank. For their safety they took the Bank Manager, his family and their maid as hostages and took them to Younghusband’s. Half past eight that night the Gang left warning the hostages not to move for another three hours.
On February 1879, The Kelly Gang ransacked Bank of NewSouthwales in JERILDERIE and took a total of £2141. The main purpose of Ned Kelly’s visit to Jerilderie was to have his manifesto published; now known as The Jerilderie Letter. After the Jerilderie incident, NSW government issued a reward of £4,000 for the gang, dead or alive. The Victorian Government matched it making it a total of £8,000.
The Last stand at Glenrowan
The location of Ann Jones Inn at Glen Rowan
On 26th June 1880, Ned Kelly and Steve Hart arrived at Glenrowan with the intention of wrecking any special train bringing additional police to join in their pursuit of catching Ned Kelly. They have already selected the Glenrowan inn for holding the hostages. The plate layers Micheal Reardon and his mate Dennis Sullivan were roused from bed, taking their family hostage, and the two were taken to damage the rail line. One rail was raised on each side and the sleepers were removed.
an exact replica of Kelly Homestead in Glenrowan
Joy Byrne and Dan Kelly arrived at Glenrowan on 27th Morning, joining their companions and their seventeen prisoners in the inn. They gang had to gang up more people and by Sunday evening around 62 people were held by the gang. He freed some of the hostages and among them was Thomas Curnow, an school teacher. He warned the Police that Glenrowan is in Kelly’s hands. The Police charged at the Inn and the four Gang members were waiting dressed in their armour.
The marking of Ned Kelly Capture site in Glenrowan
A reconstructed Glenrowan Train station
Glenrowan railway line
Shots were exchanged. Ned Kelly was badly wounded in the arm and foot. The shootings continued for some more time. But exhaustion and serious loss of blood took its toll on Ned. The siege continued till Monday morning. The armour protected Kelly from the Police shots but finally Sargeant Steele shot Ned on his legs which was not protected by the armour. An injured Ned Kelly was taken to the Glenrowan railway station, with a shattered arm and over 26 wounds. Ned Kelly was taken to Benallla, and the next day moved to Melbourne Gaol.
Ned Kelly’s death mask, made immediately after the execution by Maximilian Kreitmayer, proprietor of Burke Street Wax works
The headless remains of Ned Kelly
When Ned Kelly was brought to the Melbourne Gaol, his mother Ellen was already serving her three-year sentence at the prison for allegedly assaulting a police officer. But the Kelly family claimed that the Police Officer was drunk and made a pass at daughter Kate. Mrs Kelly was allowed to see her son at Melbourne Gaol, two days after he was brought there.
Ned Kelly was hanged at the Old Melbourne Gaol. After he was certified dead, his hair and beard were shaved and a death mask was made which was on display in Melbourne, the next day. His head was severed from his body for phrenological study and the brain removed for preservation and research. The headless body was buried in the Gaol yard in an unmarked grave.
A crowd of around 4000 have gathered outside the Gaol.