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7 Interesting Facts About Ned Kelly

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Ned Kelly on wikipedia
Ned Kelly is famously known as a horrid criminal; he was a thief, a gang leader, and a murderer. But is that all there is to him? What made him into the man that he become? How did he start to become the man he was so infamously known for? What was his life like? Here are seven interesting facts about him:

His Exact Birthdate Is Unknown

Edward “Ned” Kelly was thought to be born on June 1855 to Irish parents John “Red” Kelly and Ellen Kelly (née Quinn) at Beveridge, Victoria, but recent evidences point to December 1854 as his actual birthdate.

He Was A Son Of Two Immigrants

Ellen and John Kelly
Images from wikipedia
Ned Kelly’s father John "Red" Kelly was born in Ireland. In 1841, he was convicted of stealing two pigs. He left Ireland after serving his seven-year sentence and moved to Victoria where he met Ellen Quinn. Ellen Quinn was also born in Ireland. However, her family moved to Victoria six years before Red did. The two met in 1948 and wed on November 18, 1850. They had eight children: Mary Jane, Annie, Margaret, Ned, Dan, James, Kate, and Grace. Ned was among the first generation of Australian-born citizens in their family.

His Siblings’ Lives Weren’t Too Different From His

Although not all of his siblings have public records of their lives growing up, the ones that do aren’t so different from Ned’s— especially his brothers. In 1873, James, one of was charged with five years in prison for stealing cattle. He was released a year early to face a ten-year sentence for stealing horses. After serving his sentence, he lived lawfully until he died in 1946. Ned’s brother Dan was also convicted of property damage and was sentenced to three months in prison. After he was released in 1878, a warrant was allegedly issued for his arrest for stealing horses. 

He Was Momentarily A Hero

When he was about 11 years old, Ned saved a young boy from drowning in Hughes Creek. As it turns out, the young boy was Richard Shelton. Richard was from the family who owned the Royal Mail Hotel. The family gave him a green sash for his bravery, which he wore on the day that he was shot.

The Jerilderie Letter Was Their Last Attempt At Redemption

Jerilderie Letter

As the Kelly brothers grew up, they began to draw attention to themselves through the crimes they make—especially when they were only sentenced to short periods of time. For policemen, this meant that these boys shouldn’t be handled lightly, that’s why Police Superintendent C.H. Nicholson gave orders to his men to never handle the family alone. But for small town police Alexander Fitzpatrick, catching the brothers on his own meant bragging rights and honorary recognition, which is why he went to Kelly’s house alone to arrest Dan Kelly. But his plan backfired when the whole ordeal ended up with altercation and Ned and Dan fleeing to the bushes.

While Ned and Dan were in hiding, their friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart joined them, forming the Kelly Gang. A group of policemen went after them at Stringybark Creek, which resulted in three policemen dying. They were then declared as outlaws.

After a string of crimes, majority of which are bank robberies, they stayed in Jerilderie, where the Jerilderie Letter was written.

In an attempt to explain and justify his and his gang’s behaviour, Ned told stories from his childhood until present of what it’s like to be a target of police persecution and injustice, of what it’s like to be in his family, of what it’s like to live the life he’s lived. The letter was 56 pages. They tried to get it published, but police advised against it.

They thought this was their shot at redemption, but the police and everyone else were only concerned with the arrest—especially when the reward is going higher and higher.

Because Of Their Frequent Shootouts, He Was Inspired To Make His Own Armour - Ned Kelly Gang Armour

Ned Kelly Armour
Close-up of Ned Kelly armour display, Changing face of Victoria exhibition

The armour was made of iron. All four suits took about four to five months to make. It was actually believed that a professional blacksmith helped make the suits, but when it was examined, it was revealed that instead of using more fire to bend the iron easily, the gang simply used less fire or the fire that they had available and exerted more strength into bending the iron. The armour only covered the upper half of the body.

It was first and last used at the Glenrowan Shootout, popularly known as the “Last Stand” on June 28, 1880, where Joe Byrne, Dan Kelly, and Steve Hart died and Ned Kelly was finally apprehended after being shot in the legs, ending their 24-hour hostage taking at the Glenrowan Inn.

Ned was wearing the green sash, which the Shelton family gave him, that day. It is displayed in the Benalla Museum, still covered in his blood.

Such Is Life

After being treated for his wounds, he went into trial. Among all of his crimes, he was only on trial for the murder of the two policemen in Stringybark Creek. He was sentenced to a death penalty by hanging, despite a petition with around 60,000 signatures asking the government to give Ned a chance.

At the end of the trial, the judge told Ned, “May God have mercy on your soul,” to which he replied, “I will go a little further than that and say, I will see you there when I go.”

On November 11, 1880, he was hanged. Newspapers reported that his last words were, “Such is life.”

We can never know what life Ned and his family would have lived if they were given a chance. Maybe the police did have prejudice against them. Maybe Ned would have lived a better life had he known he can, instead of following his father’s footsteps or had his family had enough financial resources. What’s done is done and all we can do is learn from his life and his story, which actually inspired Defence Sporting Apparel’s Ned Kelly Collection.

But this is what we know for sure: he gave the world hell and fought until his last breath, a real sign of a true Australian.

Ned Kelly

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