Legend of the Iron Man Ned Kelly
Ned Kelly, Australian Legend
Was He Robin Hood?
Some say Ned Kelly was on their side and a Robin Hood of the poor. Ned was born to a poor Irish family consisting of his father, John (Red)Kelly and mother Ellen (Quinn)Kelly. Ned's father was sentenced in 1841 to seven years for stealing two pigs. His father was released after serving six months but died shortly after. This left his mother Ellen a widow with eight children to care for. Ned was only 12 years old and now the man of the house.
The settlement of Australia was great for squatters, who received the best fertile land while the selectors received the poorest of land. Most of the selectors were the poor Irish trying to survive. The squatters were in cahoots with the officials and the police leading the selectors agitated.
It seems almost a necessity that the poor, having no choice to survive but to steal food. Ned felt an almost unbearable load to provide for his mother and his brothers and sisters. Along came a bushranger named Harry Power who took Ned under his wing to groom him as a bushranger. Ned had already been on the radar by the local constable from a prior minor charge.
Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick
Confrontation at Kelly Home
In 1878, Fitzpatrick had gone yo the Kelly home to arrest Dan Kelly. A scuffle took place when Fitzpatrick, who was drunk, made advances to one of the Kelly sisters. Fitzpatrick was shot in the wrist, and Ned fled to the bush. Instead of arresting Dan, the constable arrested Ellen for aiding in the attempted murder of him. She was later sentenced to three years of prison. When Ned heard this, he vowed revenge.
Ned, his brother Dan had two friends, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, join them in the gang. Now, outlaws, the reward was rising.
A shoot out at String Bank Creek resulted in the death of three police officers. Now the Crown declared the Kelly gang criminals with a price on their heads. For the next two years, they managed to elude police. It was at this time that Ned fashioned his coat of armor from a piece of plow boards from an old plow. He probably had a blacksmith join the pieces together and then added leather ties for wearing.
The gang was running out of money and decided to rob a bank in Euroa. When they robbed the bank, Ned also destroyed all the paperwork of debts owed by the poor. Perhaps this led to his Robin Hood name.
Bank Robbery, Stringybank Creek Shootout, Glenrowan Inn Capture
Towards The End
Running out of money, the gang decided to rob another bank. The dressed as police officers and robbed the Jerildenie Bank and fled to Glenrowan Creek. Soon, surrounded the band fought back, killing three police officers. They then took hostages at the Glenrowan Inn, and police surrounded the gang. Kelly ket the women and children out, and the shooting started again. Ned decided to dress in his armor and go out the back and sneak up on the police. However, the police finally realized to shoot the unprotected legs, and Ned was severely wounded.
Ned's gang were all shot dead, and he was severely wounded and headed to the Old Melbourne Gaol. After he was captured and sentenced to death, thousands signed petitions for his reprieve, but the Crown was having none of it. He was set to be hanged 11 November 1880 and his mother visited him the eve of his ganging. In parting, she said to Ned, "Die like a Kelly, Ned."
When Ned was asked his last words, it is said he quipped "such is life."
Royal Commission of 1881 Regarding The Kelly Gang
In 1881, the Royal Committee had to look into police corruption and the harassment of the Kelly. After some 66 meetings, 65 witnesses the report was published. It found no evidence of persecution of the poor Irish or Kelly Gang. Instead, it was determined Kelly described as a criminal, cruel, wanton, and inhuman. It seemed almost as if they whitewashed the corruption of the officials.
A movie made in 1906, and it proved to be so successful that it was banned six years later because officials were afraid it promoted criminality.
Hundreds of songs, plays, and books have been written on the most famous bushrangers of Australia, namely Ned Kelly. Kelly motto was that the wealthy should share the land, and he often said: "it will always pay a rich man to be liberal with the poor for if the poor are on your side, you will lose nothing."
The suit of armor Kelly wore is on display at the State Library of Victoria with 18 bullet holes still visable.