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Ned Kelly

Updated on September 8, 2014

Villian or Hero?

Ned Kelly should have gone down in history as a criminal, an outlaw and despised. However his influence and story has grown into the legend. He's now painted as a renegade, rebel, rogue and rascal.Ned Kelly has become an iconic figure in Australian history and folklore, even over a century since his demise he's still revered, talked about and the subject of books, films and study.

Ned Kelly at a Glance

The last and best-known of all bushrangers, Ned (1854 - 1880) was the son of an Irish convict, and first gained notoriety at the age of 15 when he was arrested as an accomplice of Bushranger Harry Power. he was arrested twice more, the second arrest, for horse-stealing, earning him three years in prison.On his release Kelly worked at various laboring jobs but again fell foul of the police in 1877. With his brother, Dan, and two friends, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, Kelly fled to the Wombat Ranges where they formed a bushranging gang which he led.Ned Kelly, embittered by what he considered was repressive authority, led the gang in a series of desperate exploits. Three troopers were killed when an attempt was made to arrest the gang. In late 1879 the gang robbed a bank at Euroa, and in the following year repeated this act at Jerilderie. In June 1880 the gang became trapped by troopers in a hotel at Glenrowan. Byrne, Hart and Dan Kelly were killed by the troopers but Ned escaped. He returned to challenge the police and was wounded and captured.In October 1880 Kelly was tried in Melbourne, found guilty and sentenced to death by Sir Redmond Barry. In November of that year he was hanged.

Films about Ned Kelly

Unfortunately not available at Amazon

Ned written, directed and starring Abe Forsythe. Abe manages to pull of one of the finest Australian comedies this decade with an irreverent and politically incorrect retelling of the Ned Kelly legend.

Ned Kelly by Sidney Nolan

This painting, by the Australian artist, Sidney Nolan, is of Edward 'Ned' Kelly, the last and probably the most famous of the Australian bush rangers.Ned, who is depicted wearing his famous armor, is standing over a dead trooper, one of the three he and his gang killed during an attempted ambush.Ned Kelly captured the imagination of the public, who viewed him as a symbol of the workers in their conflict with the wealthy landowners.

What do you think of Ned Kelly?

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Birth of the feature length film

At an unprecedented 70 minutes The Story of the Kelly Gang is regarded as the world's first feature length film.It premiered at the Athaneum Hall in Melbourne (Australia) on the 26th December 1906. Written and directed by Charles Tait, the film traces the life of the legendary Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly (1855-1880).The film cost an estimated $2,250. But that money and more was recovered within its first week of screening.The film was chiefly shot on the Veitch Chartersville family estate at Heidelberg outside Melbourne. As well as the suburbs of St Kilda, Eltham, Greensborough, Mitcham and Rosanna.There was a public apology by the producers for dressing the police in uniforms, which they would not have worn while out in the bush. It was explained as necessary to enable the audience to distinguish between the outlaws and the police (in a time before color film and close-ups allowing distinctions among characters were rare).Narration was performed by an on-stage lecturer who also provided sound effects including gunfire and hoofbeats.Read more...

Jerilderie Letter

Only two original documents by Ned Kelly are known to have survived. The most significant of these is the Jerilderie Letter, dictated by Ned Kelly to Joe Byrne in February 1879. It is the only document providing a direct link to the Kelly Gang and the events with which they were associated.Approximately 8000 words long, this letter has been described as Ned Kelly's 'manifesto'. It passionately articulates his pleas of innocence and desire for justice for both his family and the poor Irish selectors of Victoria's north-east.Donated to the State Library of Victoria in 2000, the Jeriderie Letter brings Ned Kelly's distinctive voice to life, and offers readers a unique insight into the man behind the legend.

What's in the letter? The Jerilderie Letter provides a detailed account of Ned Kelly's troubled relations with the police and offers his version of the events at Stringybark Creek where three policemen were killed in October 1878. The letter also clearly reveals the intensity of his antagonism towards the police, and his sense of injustice about the police's treatment of his family.

When was it written? The Jerilderie Letter was written some time before the Kelly Gang's raid on the Riverina town of Jerilderie in February 1879. Kelly took the letter to Jerilderie with the intention of having it published as a pamphlet for public distribution.After holding up the Bank of New South Wales and stealing more than 2000 pounds, the gang took over the town for several days. During that time Kelly sought out Samuel Gill, the editor of the Jerilderie Gazette, with the specific demand that the letter be published.Gill could not be found but the bank's accountant, Edwin Living, offered to accept the letter and pass it on to Gill. Kelly gave it to him saying 'mind you get it printed, or you'll have me to reckon with next time we meet'. Undeterred, Living did not have the document printed.

What happened to the letter? Once the Kelly Gang had left Jerilderie, Living and the Bank Manager travelled to Melbourne where they delivered the letter to the office of the Bank of New South Wales. It was then temporarily loaned to the police in July 1880 and copied for use in Kelly's trial. This copy was lodged at the Public Record Office and the original was returned to Living after Kelly's execution. The letter remained in private hands until it was generously donated to the Library. Source

Read the Jerilderie Letter in it's entirety here.

Did you learn about Ned Kelly at school?

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    • sherridan profile image

      sherridan 5 years ago

      Never learnt about him in school, but I remember watching Mick Jagger play him in the 1970 film and thinking how like Mick Jagger the actor playing Ned Kelly was (had not realised Mick Jagger could act!)

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 6 years ago

      No, I had never heard of him until now. Nice lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Learnt about Ned Kelly today!