Thursday 3 March 2011

Such is life, the real story of Ned Kelly

Great talk last Tuesday!!
I’d like to thank Sonia Blanco (from Oxford University Press) and Robin Walker because this activity has been a success among our students.
After speaking with the four groups that attended the talk, I am glad to say that every opinion has been positive. Therefore, I can only wish that we have the opportunity to repeat it some time in the near future. Cross your fingers!!
Well, some of you discovered the lie Robin had told you (thank you Alba and Belén for your interest) and reported it to me the day after the talk. The lie was that Ned Kelly wasn’t a murderer at all.  
Here is Ned Kelly’s real story:

Edward 'Ned' Kelly was born at Beveridge in 1855, the first-born son of an Irish Catholic couple. His father, John 'Red' Kelly was an ex-convict (transported from Ireland for the theft of two pigs), who ran away with Ellen Quinn, an Irish 'bounty migrant'. They settled in the north of Melbourne. Red Kelly supplemented his income by horse stealing. After his arrest and gaoling for horse-stealing, Red Kelly died before finishing his sentence.

Ned Kelly grew up with the tales of bushrangers and when he was 14 he was arrested for stealing 10 shillings. Some time later, Kelly was charged with robbery under arms then freed for lack of evidence, although a few months later has was back in the lockup for assault.

Ned's real troubles with the police began when his mother was arrested for the shooting of Constable Fitzpatrick, who was later dismissed from the police force as “a liar”. Fitzpatrick was in charge of the Greta Police Station for a few days and had been warned to stay away from the Kellys - a warning he ignored. He went to arrest Dan Kelly for horse stealing; Dan had just returned home from gaol[1]. At the hut, Fitzpatrick assaulted Kate, Ned's older sister. During this affray, Ellen Kelly shot Fitzpatrick in the wrist but because she wanted to avoid any repercussions, tended Fitzpatrick's wounds, fed him, gave him something to drink and sent him on his way, with an understanding that no more would be said. 

Fitzpatrick returned to the police station with a different story which involved being hit on the head, an ambush by Kelly sympathisers and being shot at three times by Ned Kelly. Ned Kelly was 400 miles away at the time. Ellen Kelly was sentenced to three years in gaol, with a breastfeeding infant, for attempted murder of Constable Fitzpatrick.

While Ned Kelly did not try to break into gaol to rescue his mother he offered an ultimatum to the government:

" give those people who are suffering innocence, justice and liberty, if not I will be compelled to show some colonial stratagems which will open the eyes of not only the Victoria Police and inhabitants but also the whole British Army..."
(Jerilderie Letter, p. 19)

Ned was so enraged that he made a hide-out, with his brother Dan and their mates[2] Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, at the head of the King River, a virtually impenetrable place. Ned was furious about the use of the Felons Apprehension Act and the use of black trackers brought in from Queensland. The Gang relied upon their network of friends. 

The police were determined to hunt down the Kelly Gang, and in October 1878 a party of four police with heavy arsenal were sent out. Their camp at Stringybark Creek received a surprise visit from the Kellys with Ned commanding 'Bail up! Throw up your arms'. Constable McIntyre surrendered but Constable Lonigan went for his revolver, before being shot dead by Ned Kelly. When the other two police appeared and, Sergeant Kennedy reached for his revolver, he was mortally wounded. Constable Scanlon was then killed trying to drag his rifle from its holster.
The Kelly Gang were declared outlaws[3] after raids on the National Bank at Euroa and Faithful Creek station in December 1878. The sum of £8000 was put on their collective heads for robbery and murder. A further £4000 was added by the Government of Victoria. In February 1879, Ned and his Gang bailed up the Bank of New South Wales at Jerilderie.
In June 1880, Joe Byrne and Dan Kelly visited Aaron Sherritt, a close friend of Joe Byrne and whom Joe and Ned Kelly had helped fence his property. This, however, had only marked him as a Kelly accomplice and Sherritt had ended up colluding with police. Four policemen were hiding in Sherritt's hut and, after Sherritt was shot by Byrne for betraying Kelly, the police remained hiding, using the women in the hut as hostages. The Kelly's shooting of Sherritt made it look as if the Gang could move about the district as they wished, and the police redoubled their efforts to capture the Gang.

After more bank robberies, the Kelly Gang had their 'last stand' in the small town of Glenrowan, Victoria in 1880, where they took 60 hostages in a hotel. The Gang established a base at the Glenrowan Hotel, determined to fight iwith police when they came. Kelly planned to derail the expected train carrying the police, but this was prevented by a school teacher, let out of the hotel, who flagged the train to a halt. The troopers attacked the Gang in the hotel. Some police officers were wounded when the Gang shot at them. The townsfolk were allowed to leave the hotel when there was a lull in the fighting.

Ned Kelly was shot in the arm and thumb, and retreated to the bush, from where he hoped to attack police from behind. Knowing that the Felons Apprehension Act meant they could be shot, the Kelly Gang all wore suits of steel armour, made during the previous year. Despite this, Joe Byrne was shot and died. Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were shot dead, and the hotel was burned to the ground by the police. 

As dawn broke, Ned Kelly, in his armour, approached the police from the rear and began shooting at them with his revolver, despite his wounds. After half an hour, he was shot in both unprotected legs. A wounded Ned was arrested and charged with the murder of a policeman. Ned Kelly was tried and convicted of the murder of Constable Lonigan at Stringybark Creek.

In gaol, Kelly wrote a long letter to the authorities demonstrating the discrimination against poor Irish settlers. Despite public protests, the judgement of Redmond Barry prevailed. Kelly spoke the immortal last words 'Such is life' and was hanged on 11th November 1880 at Melbourne Gaol. 

Ned Kelly's final defiant stand against the Felons Apprehension Act and his pleas for justice to end discrimination against poor Irish settlers did end up opening the eyes of people. Ned Kelly in his armour came to symbolise a fight by a flawed hero, a convicted criminal, for 'justice and liberty' and 'innocent people'. This captured the imagination of writers, authors and the general public alike.

Full article in: 

[1] Jail, prison
[2] friends
[3] bandits

No comments:

Post a Comment