I hope you enjoyed season 4! New episodes coming late January 2023.
Australian Outlaw Ned Kelly and His Gang

August 19, 2020

Australian Outlaw Ned Kelly and His Gang
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We hear the story of one of Australia's most infamous outlaws - Ned Kelly.

We learn about his early life, and how he became involved in crime. We hear about the rise of the Kelly Gang, and their notorious crimes. We also hear about the final showdown between the Kelly Gang and the police at Glenrowan, which led to the capture of Ned Kelly.


The Jerilderie Letter, dictated by Joe Byrne, written by Ned Kelly (1879)

Link to the 'Ned Kelly Trail' - A great weekend road trip

 

FAQ

  • Why is Ned Kelly so famous
    • Ned Kelly is famous because he was one of the last bushrangers in Australia. He is remembered as a kind of Australian 'Robin Hood'.
  • How did Ned Kelly die
    • Ned Kelly was executed by hanging on 11/11/1880.
  • How old was Ned Kelly when he died
    • 25 years old.
  • Was Ned Kelly married
    • No.
  • How did Ned Kelly make his armor
    • In a home-made furnace using melted down farm equipment.

 

 

Attributions:
The Ice Giants by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/5745-the-ice-giants
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://freesound.org/people/Anthousai/sounds/406493/
https://freesound.org/people/C-V/sounds/523403/
https://freesound.org/people/Nox_Sound/sounds/490951/
https://freesound.org/people/georgisound/sounds/369295/
License: https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

Transcript

It's june 28, 1880, in the British colony of Australia, Ned Kelly shelters in the burning Glenrowan Hotel. Two of his closest friends lie dead next to him. Gunshot wounds.
As the choking smoke begins to engulf the hotel and the structure collapses around him, he knows the time has come. Two years on the run have led to this very moment.

Stoically, he straps on his homemade breastplate, cocks both his pistols and walks out into a hail of police gunfire. 

This is the story of Ned Kelly, the last Bush ranger.

 

 Australia was colonised in 1788, originally settled as a penal colony, which is a nice way of saying a big jail. Prisoners would be sentenced to transportation to Australia, where they would remain until the end of their sentence. Afterwards, if they could afford to and still wanted to, they could return to England. Because of this, the original population of Australia were mainly convicts. 

 

This all changed around 1850 when huge amounts of gold were discovered around the state of Victoria. Immigrants from all over the world flocked to the new colony, British and Irish mostly, but many Chinese and South Africans also. Entire towns would spring up overnight wherever gold was discovered. People moved around from place to place very quickly, following hot tips on new spots to cast their pickaxe. There were huge amounts of gold being moved around and the police force was stretched thin. This gave way to opportunistic criminals.

 

The most famous and iconic of these criminals were known as Bushrangers.

 According to popular myth, a gang of armed men would spring up on the side of your stagecoach while pointing a loaded pistol at your face. They would respectfully relieve you of your valuables, usually charming women as they did so. After robbing you blind, they would speed away on a horse and melt back into the harsh Australian countryside with knowledge of every mountain, pass, river and cave no lawman could ever track.

 

 In a way, they were similar to the European concept of a highwayman with an Australian twist. It was into this rough and tumble era that today's person Edward Kelly, or Ned as he was known to be called, was born in 1854 in a small house in a town north of Melbourne called Beverage. His father, known as Red, had arrived in Australia after being sentenced to transportation for stealing two pigs and had served time in Tasmania, then called Van Diemen's Land. 

Once his sentence ended, Red found work and a wife and started a family. He had eight children and Ned was one of the eight. Not long after Ned's birth, Red was sent back to prison. Perhaps unjustifiably, he was sentenced to six months hard labour for stealing meat and after his release he drank heavily, eventually dying of dropsy. With his father now dead, Ned, at twelve years old, was the man of the house, something he took very seriously. 

 

Members of the Kelly family found themselves on the wrong side of the law frequently, and Ned was never afraid to stand up to coppers in the defense of his family. By his early teens, Ned was well known to the police for all the wrong reasons. But young Ned's audaciousness would do more than just put him at odds with the police.

 

One day, while walking through the woods, he stumbled across a local child who had slipped into a creek bed. Ned fearlessly lept in and saved the boy with no thought of the consequences for his own life, he was given a green sash by the boy's family as thanks.

 Not too long after the death of his father, Ned, his six brothers, sisters and mother moved even further north to the rural town of greta. The family had always been poor, but they were even poorer after the death of his father as the main breadwinner. 

 

Brushes with the law became more and more frequent as family members were accused or involved in stealing cattle. As I was researching Ned Kelly, I've sort of found that authors tend to push you either into the kelly sympathizer camp or the police sympathizer camp, as I feel like the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of these two accounts. I'm going to try and present both sides of the story where I can.

 

 In his teens, Ned began to run with harry power, a bushranger of irish descent. Under power's guidance, he began to hone his skills of horse thievery and living off the land. The partnership eventually fizzled out. According to Ned, power had an immense temper and would fly off the rails with no warning. While, according to power, Ned was an insufferable coward, and once, while rustling cattle, Ned turned completely white with fear and wasn't able to move, almost getting them both caught.

 

Harry power was eventually caught, and the community blamed Ned for ratting on him. Ned took great offence to this, going as far as to write to the police commissioner requesting them to announce that he was not the rat, saying in reference to the others in the community: ‘they look upon me like a black snake’.

Ned was eventually cleared of the snitching.

 

As Ned grew up, he found himself in and out of prison throughout his teen years. When he was out of prison, he supported himself and his family by doing odd jobs and bare knuckle boxing, something he was apparently quite good at. We've got a picture of this on our website.

When he was in jail, the charges usually related to selling stolen horses or brawling. A police informant who used to run with Kelly would led a describer of a number of scams they used to do together. One of them involved stealing horses, hiding them, waiting for a reward to be placed on them and then claiming the reward back.

And another, slightly more technical one involved stealing a horse and altering the branding on the horse and then selling it legitimately. This was done by lacing a pin with iodine and pricking the horse's skin to make parts of the branding appear raised. With this method, a capital H could easily become a capital B, thus obscuring the original ownership of the horse. 

 

There's no doubt that Ned was a criminal, but the biggest question was where he and his family were targeted unfairly by the police?

 

In total, there were 18 charges of horse stealing brought against the Kelly family. Only half were convictions. This definitely raises some eyebrows. The family was a soft target, poor and with prior convictions. To me it seems like a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy.


Ned was perceived as a criminal, persecuted as a criminal, and so he became one. Up until this point, all the crimes Ned was involved in were classified as petty crimes.

But this all changed after what historians now refer to as the Fitzpatrick incident. I'll tell the official, aka the police version of the story first, and we'll tell the Kelly version after:

  • On April 15, 1878, constable Fitzpatrick arrived at the Kelly homestead. He was there to arrest Dan Kelly, that's Ned's brother, on a charge of horse stealing.

    As Dan was not home, Fitzpatrick decided to wait. Dan arrives and Fitzpatrick tells him he is under arrest. Dan asks to have dinner first, and Fitzpatrick agrees. During dinner, Ned Kelly arrives home and shoots Fitzpatrick in the wrist.


A struggle ensues and Fitzpatrick is overpowered by Ned, Dan and their mother Ellen, who hits him over the head with a coal shovel. Ned forces Fitzpatrick to remove the bullet from his wrist in fear of it being used as evidence.

Then he makes Fitzpatrick promise not to report the incident before letting him leave on horse. Ned quickly regrets the decision and decides to chase Fitzpatrick down. But Fitzpatrick gets away and reports the incident to the police.

 

Now the Kelly version:

  • On April 15, 1878, constable Fitzpatrick arrived at the Kelly homestead. He claimed he was there to arrest Dan Kelly, on charge of horse stealing. Ellen Kelly requests to see a warrant. But Fitzpatrick is only able to produce a telegram. Ellen tells him that's not good enough and Dan does not have to leave.

    Fitzpatrick pulls out his revolver and points at Ellen, saying I will blow your brains out if you interfere. Ellen retorts with good thing for you Ned isn't here or who would ram that revolver down your throat. Looking out the window, Dan exclaims oh no, here comes Ned now!


Fitzpatrick turns for a moment and Dan tackles him, disarms him and holds him down till he's satisfied that Fitzpatrick has calmed down. Once he had calmed down, Dan hands him back his revolver and lets him leave peacefully. But sometime on the way back to the police station, Fitzpatrick shoots himself in the wrist to make more evidence against the Kelly's.

 

The first account is significantly more believable and in my opinion, is most likely what happened. But to Kelly's credit, Fitzpatrick did not have a stellar record as a police officer. Known around town to be a drunk and a womanizer.

 

He broke protocol by arriving at the Kelly residence, likely without a warrant, and he also may have had personal grudges against the family, particularly Ned, due to old arguments. Frederick Standish,The chief commissioner of the Victoria police at the time. Said about Fitzpatrick:

“The ex-constables conduct during the time he was a member of the force was generally bad and discreditable to the force” 

 

While Ned Kelly. With the subtlety of an Irish sledgehammer. Had this to say of the man:

“I've heard from a trooper that he never knew Fitzpatrick to be one night sober and that he had sold his sister to a chinaman. But he looks young, strapping, rather genteel, more fit to be a starcher to a laundress than a policeman. The deceit and cowardice is too plain to be seen in the puny, cabbage hearted looking face of his”

 

Jeez. Tell us how you really feel, huh? 

 

It's likely that we will never know for sure what happened on April 78, but whatever the case, this night pushed Ned and his friends down a path that they may have inevitably gone down anyway. The police offered a hefty 100 pound reward for the capture of Ned while Ellen Kelly was arrested. With news of the bounty spreading throughout town, Ned, Dan, and some friends take to the bush. I don't have too much information about the people Dan and Ned's friends were, but a contemporary police officer described them as so:

 

  • First on Dan Kelly: Dan was always mixed up in Ned's criminal pursuits. Dan was always known to be a cunning, low little sneak. He would be prowling around half the night, seeing what he could pick up, because he knew every road, lane, and mountain gully in the district and could ride about in the darkest nights and find his way as if it were his own garden. 
  • On Steve Hart. He had to say: Steve was known to be a slimmer, smaller boy from a fairly well to do family, who was a skilled horseman and close friends with Dan and admired both him and Ned.
  • And he described Joe Byrne:  a strapping young fellow, well educated and enjoyed writing poetry, and may have been fluent in Cantonese, but took to misdeeds early in life, already having received a six month sentence for cattle stealing.

 

 These four would come to be known by the media as the Kelly gang. From the plans that came out, the hierarchy seemed to be Ned as a leader, closely followed by Joe, with Stephen Dan doing most of the grunt work. These four friends, who may have lived out their lives as petty criminals, being remembered by no one, would be immortalised in Australian history only two years from now.

 

 Aware that Ned and the gang were not likely to hand themselves in, two parties made up of six policemen were dispatched to capture them. Police choose a spot next to a small water stream known as stringybark creek near the kelly homestead and set up camp there. Stringybark creek was remote enough for them not to be found by the Kelly’s themselves, or so they thought. 

Either by chance or by town gossip, the gang discovers one party of the troopers. With only two troopers in camp, the other two hunting kangaroos for dinner, the gang decides that this is their best chance to take on the police.

 

Storming a camp. Ned yells at the men to throw their hands up. One trooper, Lonnigan, runs for cover and debatably goes to grab his revolver.

 

Ned shoots him dead.

 

 Supposedly after Ned realized the man had died, he was stated as saying “what a pity. What made the full run?”

The story of whether Lonnegan was actually going for a revolver or merely trying to escape is important, as this is the first instance of the kelly gang committing murder. It's worth noting Ned really did not like Lonnigan owing back to a bar brawl a few months back where Lonnigan grabbed Ned's testicles in order to gain the upper hand. So called blackballing. 

 

A passerby apparently noticed this and reprimanded the officer, saying, “you should be ashamed of yourself!”....

Victoria the place to be hey?

 

After Lonnigan is killed, Ned inquires with the other man as to why they have so much ammunition. Suspecting that correctly, they are there to kill him or at least bring him in. 

 

Thinking on his feet, the other trooper, constable Mciyntre, tells Ned that they are only there to apprehend him and the extra ammunition they're carrying is for hunting kangaroos. 

 

Mciyntre spends the afternoon with the kelly gang waiting for the other troops to return. He's treated well enough and Ned opens up to him about his intense hatred for the police, describing them as completely corrupt with no morals. 

 

After what I can only imagine would have been quite a tense afternoon for constable Mciyntre .


Ned spots the other two troopers coming back into camp with tonight's dinner. Ned instructs constable Mciyntre  to call out to the troopers that the kelly gang is here and that they are to throw down their weapons immediately.

 

But one of the troopers thinks it's a joke and goes his rifle and Ned shoots him. A shootout quickly begins and one trooper, Scanlan, is clearly killed. The other trooper, kennedy, fights back but is eventually cornered and killed. 

 

In the midst of the chaos, constable Mciyntre manages to grab a horse and make his escape or is voluntarily released, depending on sources. Based on some sources and hearsay, it is believed that kennedy was executed while wounded, with some sources saying that Ned made joe byrne and steve hart fire the shots to prevent them from informing on him and dan.

 

 Whatever the case, the gang seemed to have felt some respect or remorse as his body was the only one found to be covered. 

Ned would later describe Kennedy as a brave man and would explicitly point out that he did not mutilate the body, something the local papers accused him of.

 

 The Kelly gang had crossed the Rubicon. Now they had murdered three policemen. There was no turning back. They were declared outlaws by the state, and the reward for their capture was raised to £500. And harsh penalties were imposed on anyone that would shelter them.



After the so called massacre of Stringy Bark Creek, the gang laid low for a while.

 

Despite the reward money, the Kelly gang never found themselves short on friends. And while in hiding, they would play their first real heist in the tiny country town of Eurora. 

 

What follows is one of the most comical bank robberies you'll ever hear.

 

Finding themselves low in supplies, the gang made the decision to hold up a local farmhouse in Eurora. Bursting through the front door of the family home came Ned, followed by the others, quote 

I am Ned Kelly, but you have nothing to fear from us. We shall do you no harm, but you'll have to give us some refreshment and also food for our horses. This is all we want.”

 

After Ned produced his rifle to show the family he was not joking, the owner of the farmhouse responded casually 

“well, if the gentleman want any refreshment, they must have it!”

 

While enjoying the food they'd just stolen, the bushrangers spoke freely with the family about a wide range of topics, including their intention to rob the bank. A few more people in the surrounding area were bought in to be hostages too, including a travelling salesman. The gang robbed the salesman and took some nice clothes. 

 

According to some sources, Dan Kelly had to be talked out of killing a hostage who was giving lip to him and also out of trying to pester a woman. But this secondary comment came from a police source. 

 

After they had finished their lunch, the gang members severed the telegraph line to ensure no emergency communications went in or out. With his dapper new clothes on, Ned probably felt like a million bucks and decided he could probably talk his way into the bank rather than get bogged down on a hold up.

 

Knocking on the front door, Ned convinced the manager to open the bank so he could make a quick deposit. Even though the bank was closed, the manager agreed to help him out. 

 

Once inside, Ned apologetically informed the manager that he was actually there to rob him and that he'd need him to empty out the safe. The haul was a good one, about £2000 of cash, gold and bills. The bank manager's wife, who was inside with the bank manager, would later tell the press that Ned was much better looking than his picture on the wanted posters, and she was very impressed with how he dressed!

 

 After being robbed by them, the bank manager invited the Kelly gang to go upstairs and have a drink with him and they drank to each other's good health! You couldn't make this stuff up!

 

After their drink, the gang took the money and a few hostages back to the original farmhouse with the other hostages. They had their supper and some tea and ready their horses to leave. After dinner, Ned noticed a fancy silver watch on the arm of one man and told him to hand it over. The man said he would, but it was a gift from his mother and a family heirloom, and Ned, compassionate as always, told him to hold onto it and instead took a less impressive watch from another poor bloke.

 

 After supper, the gang headed out. When the bank manager's wife piped up and asked, where are you going to go? Ned responded with ” the country belongs to us. We can go anywhere we like!”

 

A police source would later say of the hostages, quote “most of them looked upon the affair as if it was a capital joke, which had cost them nothing except their afternoon”. Rob a bank, get some new threads and make a few more friends. This was all in day's work for the Kelly gang. 

 

While the Stringy Bark Creek massacre showed Ned's violent side, this robbery definitely showed off his lariken side. It also became the blueprint the gang would use for later robberies. A methodical plan with sparse use of violence unless the police were involved. 

 

Word of this bizarre robbery spreads quickly and the gang's infamy begins to rise. Law enforcement try to pin down sympathisers of the gang, starting with family members. All men were of Irish descent and blood ties were particularly important. They were all part of large families spread across large distances and relied constantly on the charity of family members for food, lodging and or movements of the police. 

 

This network of people became known as the bush telegraph and while sympathetic, they were also paid very well by the gang when they had the money. If the opportunity arose, the gang would always give a helping hand to the poorer families of some of the areas they robbed. The most famous instance of this being when they burnt the bills of sale for some houses while robbing a bank, meaning the bank would have no record of the loan, a nod to some of the poorer families struggling under mortgage repayments. 

 

But not all links of the bush telegraph were as loyal as others. A previous close friend of the gang now turned police informant was Aaron Sherrit.

Aaron was lured in by the large reward money being offered from the police and from his tip offs, the police learnt of many of the hideouts a gang would use when trying to lay low.

 

 The police tried to stake out these places, but the gang was always one step ahead. The family members and sympathisers helped give them early warning signs. The gang was arriving late and they saw one candle was lit in the homestead, they knew to stay away, and the police were watching the place. If it was early in the night and the people inside were dancing and singing once again, that meant for the Gang to stay away as police were guarding the premises.

 

 Kate Kelly, Ned's sister, was a bit of a lariken, just like her older brother. On one occasion, knowing that the police were watching the house, she snuck out of the house late at night with a large bundle of supplies strapped to a horse. She headed deep into the mountains, knowing that the police would be following her.

 

 After 2 hours of going round in circles following her, the police turned a corner to see her sitting on a rock, fully expecting their arrival and laughing at them. 

 

The supply bundle she had was just a bunch of old rags.

 

 Despite assistance from the bush telegraph, the Gang lived rough, but all hardy and tolerant to extremes. The police constable working closely with Aaron Sherrit remarked on his ability to withstand extreme cold, go days without sleep and sleep in extremely cold weather by curling himself up in a ball in a similar way a dog would when left outside.

 

Astounded by this, the police constable asked Aaron if the Kelly Gang was just as hardy, and Aaron responded that Ned Kelly specifically was three times as hardy, describing him as superhuman. As well as snitching on Gang activity,Aaron Sherrit also was useful for the police for his ability to translate what was called bush slang.

 

Bush slang was telegraphs, or letters that were technically in English, but so completely indecipherable as they were jammed full of colloquialism expressions and terms only understood by locals. It may as well have been his own language!

 

 Through Aaron's help translating these telegraphs, the police were able to get a better picture of where the Gang was going to hit next. While the Gang was very confident in their own abilities and lack of police abilities, there was one thing the Gang certainly did fear. They were known as, quote unquote, black trackers

 

These were native Australian or Aboriginals employed by the police to follow trails. Because they had lived off the land of a millennia, they were highly attuned to marks of human habitation. The fact that Ned Kelly feared them says a lot about their skill. The Victorian trackers were said to be okay, but Queensland trackers were second to none, as the Queensland frontier was much less Westernized. Their skills were apparently sharper.

 

 As the heat on them increased, the gang planned their next big hit. The next target was to be in the New South Wales town of Jeridlerie, and it was to be just as ridiculous and brazen as the last one. 

 

Mid afternoon, the Gang breaks into a police station. Taking the officers by surprise, they tie them up, steal their clothes, and leave them in their cells. Walking through town now in police uniform, the gang chats with townsfolk and tells them their police officers sent from up north to protect them from the notorious Kelly gang.

 

Eventually, they head to the bank and after breaking in, have a few drinks with the bank manager and the patrons before scooping up 2100 lbs of currency and then heading off. 

 

Before leaving, however, Ned hands the bank assistant a letter and requests to give to the local paper for publish. This famous letter would become known as the Jerilderie Letter. There's lots of discussions on what this meant, some calling a manifesto and others a confession. 

 

The 56 page letter starts with Ned defending himself in his criminal past, putting the blame of what has happened at the feet of the Victorian police. He speaks out against his portrayal in the media, such as local papers, and blames the government for letting the poor of Victoria suffer while policemen are paid and taken care of. He also blames the English Crown for keeping down the Irish. He concludes with threats of violence to all who defy him or help the police. Many of the quotes I've referenced throughout this podcast are directly from this letter.

Here's a few more of my favorite:

    •  The first in reference to how his mother was treated by the Victorian police: She has no alternative, only to be put up with the brutal and cowardly conduct of a parcel of big, ugly, fat necked, wombat headed, big bellied, magpie legged, narrow hips, blow footed sons of Irish bailiffs or English landlords, which is better known as officers of justice or the Victorian Police.

    • Another, in reference to police informants: “what pleasure I will give some of them and any person aiding or harbouring or assisting the Police in any way whatever or employing any person whom they know to be a detective or cad or those who would be so deprived as to take blood money.”

 

  • in reference to treatment of the Irish in Australian prison colonies: “many a blooming Irishman rather than subdue to the Saxon yoke Were flogged to death and bravely died in servile chains but true to the shamrock and a credit to Paddys land.”

  • And his closing remark:  “I give fair warning to all those who has reason to fear me to sell out and give £10 out of every hundred towards the widow and orphan fund and do not attempt to reside in Victoria but as short a time as possible after reading this notice, neglect this and abide by the consequences, which shall be worse than the rust in the wheat in Victoria or the druth of a dry season to the grasshoppers in New South Wales I do not wish to give the order full force without giving timely warning. but I am a widows son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed.”

 



. As a Victorian Australian myself, I originally had to study his letter in primary school and found it incredibly boring and hard to understand. Truth be told, I still do find it a bit hard to understand, but looking back now, it's a precious insight into our most iconic figure. 

 

The first thing that came to me was the humor. Descriptions of police officers actually laughed aloud at the first time I read it. The humor is often mixed with euphemisms, such as slapped Heenan's hug on him in reference to tackling someone, or stuck to him like grim death in reference to holding onto something tightly. 

 

These strange and sometimes confusing phrases are littered throughout Australian speech and differ from region to region still to this day. The syntax aside, the letter shows a man who feels he's been wrong and is confident in his own ability to fix it. I wouldn't describe this letter as a manifesto, but more of an attempt of setting the record straight. Not long after the raid, true to his threatening conclusion, Ned Kelly and the gang arrive at the house of Aaron Sherritt, the police informant we mentioned above. Aaron opened his door and found Ned there, who immediately shot him and killed him on the spot.

 

After this murder and the recent robbery, the reward on the gang's head jumped to eight £8000, dead or alive, the highest in the history of the country.

 

As the gang grows more and more famous, the pressure builds on the police to capture them. Meanwhile, the local papers describe the police as foolhardy and incompetent. With the pressure building, the leadership of the police task force has changed and more resources allocated to it.

 

 This marks a big uptake in the efforts, with Aboriginal trackers coming in from Queensland in order to track the gang - Ned's nightmare.

 

Meanwhile, as all this is occurring, the gang begins to hatch out their most ambitious scheme yet. Joe Byrne’s mother would tease the troopers, hinting that the gang was about to do something that would astonish not only the colony, but the entire world.

This plan was to be their most ambitious and brazen yet.

 

 Aware of the extra resources now dedicated to capturing them, the gang plans to derail a train full of troopers and black trackers, specifically there to apprehend them. After much planning, the town of Glenrowan was selected to be the place where the derailment occurs due to a sharp bend in the tracks which would allow for maximum carnage.

 

In Ned's own words, they were going to, quote “send the train as occupants to hell”. The gang arrives at Glenrowan. That is a small town, about four homesteads and two hotels. In the late afternoon, the town's folk were politely rounded up and imprisoned in the hotel known as Mrs. Jones Hotel.

 

Once they have everyone aside, as usual, Ned and the gang talk freely of their plans for the night and share a few beers with the people they've just imprisoned. After everyone's good and merry, Ned instructs two of the gang members to go and destroy the train track, but they are unable to do so and instead force two rail repairmen to do it at gunpoint.

 

Meanwhile, in the hotel, the townsfolk are having a great time as usual. Ned organizes hopscotch followed by a dance, but the mood becomes sombre when Ned discovers one hostage once applied to be a policeman, threatening several times to shoot him. Eventually, he says he forgives him, but he must swear not to try and apply again. 

 

Spoiler, he swears. 

 

After this, he hands him some brandy, and the party goes on. Dan Kelly was reportedly quite drunk, but Ned, as usual, remains so bad watchful, but everything's not as it seems in the hotel. Thomas Curnow, a principal of a local school, had been a hostage the whole night and was deliberately trying to gain the gang's trust. Over the night, Ned and him chatted, and Ned expressed his desire to fill the ground with the “bloated bodies of the police officers” of the train and other pleasant sentiments. Curnow knew of a particular hostage who had hidden a revolver nearby and told Ned of this, gaining his trust. After this, he requests a favour of Ned that he might take his family home to bed, as it's now getting late. 

 

Ned says it's fine, but tells him ominously not to dream too loud. 

 

Curnow would be doing no dreaming tonight.

 

As soon as he was out of sight of the hotel, Curnow heads to the railway track as fast as he can and flags down the approaching train using a candle and a red scarf. 

 

The train comes to a gentle halt. The trackers, horses, and the entire police squadron all get off the train unharmed. Ned's plan has failed, and now they're all coming for him. 

 

Back at the hotel, Ned had let many of the hostages go home to bed, considering he was now getting quite late, while a few others voluntarily stayed around to hear Ned give a speech, presumably about his dislike for the police. 

 

I don't know if you've seen a pattern here, but Ned did not like the police.

 

The gang received word just in time of the police arrival and advised the hostages to lay low. Looking out the window, they could see an entire squadron of armed police now surrounding their small hotel. The police had even gone as far to arm the trackers with rifles. 

 

There was to be no quarter given to the gang.

 

 As the police crept into formation, not knowing if they had been seen or not, Ned took aim at the superintendent and fired, shattering his wrist with his very first shot.

 

The shootout had begun.

 

During the opening salvos, the four gang members put on armor made specifically for an occasion just like this. 

This iconic armor is what most people know the Kelly's for, and I'll go through it. The armor was made of melted down pieces of a plough, as in for a farm, which was either donated or stolen.

 

Originally, it was believed the armour had been made professionally by a blacksmith, but recent testing proves that it was likely made by the gang themselves using an amateur furnace.

It was about a quarter inch in thickness and weighed 44 kilos, or 97 pounds. Each gang members were slightly different, and Ned's was the most complete, having a breastplate, a back plate, a bucket helmet, shoulder pads and apron padding to cover the groin and upper legs. 

 

For any monty python fans, the armor looks very similar to the black knight from the holy grail. 

The gang's inspiration for this is really anyone's guess.

 

Theories range from Ned's favourite toy from the middle ages to a trip to the melbourne museum or even a chinese street festival that would have been common at this time in victoria.

 

 The imaginative design of the armour is impressive. Likewise is the ability to transport these heavy, bulky suits, presumably on horseback, over dense terrain.

 

 Apparently, the police were earlier informed the gang was working on armor, but dismissed it as, quote, nonsense. Whatever the case, we've got a picture of a few of these suits on our website, and they are really worth a look.

 

As the shootout heated up, joe byrne was the first to be hit. He was sitting at the back bar in his armour and made a toast to, quote, many more years of the kelly gang. A stray ball hit him in the groin in between the tiny gap between the breast plate and the apron plate, and he died soon after. 

 

Ned kelly, defiant to the very end, as usual, called out “shoot away, you buggers. You can do us no harm!”

 

Meanwhile, the remaining gang members sent hostages out the back door. As Ned prepared to make his final stand, the police, with an impression that all hostages were out, decided to bring down the whole hotel, attempting to light it on fire and even ordering a field cannon to be bought in. 

 

Yes, a literal artillery cannon.

 

 Four men against an entire country, and there is still concern of the odds here.

 

Ned, after hearing the horses that had saddled out the back had been shot by the police to prevent escape, likely understood the futility of what he was doing. As the rays of the new morning day began streaming in through the bullet riddled windows of the hotel, Ned opened the front door. 

 

The police were dumb struck, not knowing who or what they were fighting.

 

They were stunned, some believing that they were fighting a, quote, humongous black fellow, while others thinking it was a bunyip (that's a mythical australian creature).

 

Ned walked coolly among the police, unloading volley after volley into the ranks. The police would fire back, but could not understand why he was taking no damage. The shots would cause Ned to stagger, but otherwise he would keep walking. 

 

At one point, he would snicker and tap the butt of his revolver against the armor. Evidently impressed with how it was holding up! Sergeant Steele eventually realised what was happening and took shot at Kelly's legs with a double barrel shotgun. Ned went down shouting “I'm done! I'm done!” But continued firing until he was eventually disarmed.

 

As armor was removed, The police were stunned to find that it was Ned Kelly himself, thinking he'd have gotten away earlier. 

 

Underneath his armour mottled in sweat he wore the green sash had been given as a teen for saving a drowning child. 

 

The siege would go on to the early afternoon, but eventually the returning fire from Steve Hart and Dan Kelly went silent. A priest entered the building, but found the two already dead, possibly as part of a suicide pact.

 But this is debated.

 

 Ned Kelly was now the sole survivor of a gang shot twice in the left arm, once in the right, once in the right foot, two in the right leg. It finally took two more shots to the leg to bring him down. 

 

The casualty list for the shootout was seven. Three gang members had died, as had four civilians.

 

 It was over. The gang had been on the run for over two years and had cost the state around £115,000 to bring in. 

 

Kate Kelly. Loyal to her family, would petition the governor for his release and gathered 32 thousand signatures and also had a street rally attended by thousands. But it was all to null.

 

Despite the sympathies of many people of the poorer class. It was clear from the start that Ned would hang for this barrier. As usual in the courtroom, after the judge delivered the sentence, concluding with “may God have mercy on your soul”, Ned fired back with “I will go a little further and say that I'll see you there!”.

 

The one clemency Ned was granted was the right to see his mother before his execution, who was still in jail over the Fitzpatrick incident. She told him, “mind you die like a Kelly”. As he walked from his cell to the gallows, Ned remarked to the jailer that the gardens looked nice that day. 

 

A priest sat him down and read him his last rites. The same priest who baptized him as a child. 

As the slipknot tied around his neck. Ned was asked if he had any last words and supposedly muttered to himself:

 

“such as life.”

 

The execution of Ned Kelly marked the end of the time of the Bush Rangers of Australia. Settlers of Australia began to move away from their criminal routes with the introduction of a train line and the electric telegraph. It meant that information could travel much faster. Bush rangers couldn't operate with the impunity that they had before. The Kelly gang and the lesser known but equally interesting Captain Moonlight were to be the last. 

 

One thing I could say about Ned Kelly is that he was unequivocally Australian. Love him, I hate him. He was a juxtaposition of ambivalence and fiery determination with a carefree demeanour to bring it all together.

And this mix was as frightening and aspiring to contemporaries of his, as it is to Australians of today. 

 

In recent times, Ned's attributed last words such as life have been printed on anything bumper stickers, tshirts, beholders, eskys, and, of course, people's skin.

 

 While his iconic beard has been an inspiration to all hipsters in northern suburbs of Melbourne within the last few years. If you haven't seen the classic photo of Ned Kelly sitting there steeleyed with his big beard, you can have a look at it on our website.

 

 Apart from the merchandise, Kelly tourism is still big in Victoria. Glennrowan, Jeridlerie and other country towns sustain themselves on tourism based on the Kelly gang.

 

 On a quick side note, country towns in Victoria can always use an economic boost. If you've liked this story, grab some mates and check out some of these places over one weekend. It's a really good trip. I'll be sure to put a map of these on our website.

 

In case anyone's interested, we're lucky enough to still have some artefacts from Ned Kelly and the gang themselves. Ned's armour, his rifle and the Jeridlerie letter are free for viewing in the Melbourne State Library. Definitely worth a look as it's free to enter.

 

 Meanwhile, the armor belonging to Joe, Steve and Dan, which were originally part of private collectors, has now made its way into the hands of the police museum, also in Melbourne.

 

The house Ned was born in is still intact, but in pretty rough shape. It's about 20 minutes outside of Melbourne and worth a look if you're in the area. Meanwhile, the house where the Fitzpatrick incident occurred is now gone, except for the brick chimney. 

 

To summarise, I would say for me, Ned is someone who you'd like to get a beer with on a Friday night. You'd know, it would be a good night out with him. He'd likely punch on with a bouncer and get thrown out, but he'd have your back If push came to shove.

 I think that's the description he'd be happy with, and if not, well, such is life.