Edward Kelly (1855-1880), bushranger

He was born in at Beveridge, Victoria. His father was born in Tipperary, Ireland and sentenced in to seven years' transportation for stealing two pigs. He arrived in Van Diemen's Land in and when his sentence expired in 1848 he went to the Port Phillip District. Ned finished his education age 12, when his father died.

Two years later he started his criminal career by assaulting a Chinaman and was held for ten days on remand but the charge was dismissed. Kelly worked for two years at timber-getting but in 1876 joined his stepfather in stealing horses. The Kelly family saw themselves as victims of police persecution, but as they grew up the boys were probably privy to the organized thefts of horses and cattle for which the district was notorious. After the reward was offered for them Ned and his brother Dan went into hiding in the Wombat Ranges near Mansfield and were joined by two others.

Among many crimes the most spectacular was in Euroa where they held up the National Bank, taking £2000 in notes and gold and later wearing police uniforms, they held up the Bank of New South Wales for £2141 in notes and coins, and rounded up sixty persons in the Royal Hotel next door. The reward for the outlaws was increased to £2000 a head and black trackers were brought from Queensland. Finally captured 1880 at Melbourne, Kelly was tried for the murder of Constable Thomas Lonigan at Stringybark Creek. He was found guilty and the judge, Redmond Barry, sentenced him to death. Despite strong agitation for a reprieve, Kelly was hanged at the Melbourne gaol on 11 November. He met his end without fear. His last words were 'Ah well, I suppose it has come to this', and by another version, 'Such is life'.

One of the gaols in which Kelly was incarcerated has become the Ned Kelly Museum in Glenrowan, Victoria, and many weapons and artifacts used by him and his gang are on exhibit there. Since his death, Kelly has become part of Australian folklore, the language and the subject of a large number of books and several films. The Australian term "as game as Ned Kelly" describes the ultimate in bravery.

In the time since his execution, Ned Kelly has been mythologized among some into a Robin Hood, a political revolutionary and a figure of Irish Catholic and working-class resistance to the establishment and British colonial ties. It is claimed that Kelly's bank robberies were to fund the push for a "Republic of the North-East of Victoria", and that the police found a declaration of the republic in his pocket when he was captured, which has led to his being seen as an icon by some in the Australian republicanism cause.

Source: Australian Dictionary of Biography

Picture:State Library of Victoria, H18202