While many folk songs have been written about the Kelly gang, one that stands above the others is this one supposedly penned by none other than Joe Byrne himself. Joe’s reputation as a wordsmith would certainly be demonstrably true if this were the case, but it is just one of history’s mysteries. Many versions of this song exist with slight variations in the lyrics (many often discarding facts along the way) and sometimes being performed to a different tune. It was featured in a party scene in The Last Outlaw being sung to the tune of “The Wearing of the Green”. Below is a version of the lyrics followed by a some interpretations of the song for your viewing and listening pleasure.
The Ballad of the Kelly Gang
Oh, Paddy dear, and did you hear the news that’s going round
On the head of bold Ned Kelly, they have placed two thousand pound
And on Steve Hart, Joe Byrne and Dan, two thousand more they’ll give
But if the sum was doubled, boys, the Kelly gang would live.
‘Twas in November, 78 when the Kelly Gang came down
Just after shooting Kennedy, to famed Euroa town:
To rob the bank of all it’s gold was their idea that day,
Blood horses they were mounted on to make their getaway.
Ned Kelly marched into the bank, a cheque all in his hand,
For to have it changed for money then of Scott he did demand,
And when that he refused him, he, looking at him straight,
Said, “See here, my name’s Ned Kelly, and this here man’s my mate.
The safe was quickly gutted then, the drawers turned out as well,
The Kellys being quite polite, like any noble swell.
With flimsies, gold and silver coin, the threepennies and all,
Amounting to two thousand pounds, they made a glorious haul.
“Now hand out all your firearms”, the robber boldly said,
And all your ammunition – or a bullet through your head.
Now get your wife and children – come man, now look alive,
All jump into this buggy and we’ll take you for a drive”
They took them to a station about three miles away,
And kept them close imprisoned there until the following day.
The owner of the station and those in his employ
And a few unwary travellers their company did enjoy.
And Indian hawker fell in too, as everybody knows.
He came in handy to the gang by fitting them with clothes
Then with their worn-out clothing they made a few bonfires
And then destroyed the telegraph by cutting down the wires.
They rode into Jerilderie town at twelve o’clock at night,
Aroused the troopers from their beds, and gave them an awful fright.
They took them in their night shirts, ashamed I am to tell,
They covered them with revolvers and they locked them in a cell.
They next acquainted the womenfolk that they were going to stay
And take possession of the camp until the following day
They fed their horses in the stalls without the slightest fear,
They went to rest their weary limbs til daylight did appear.
They spent the day most pleasantly, had plenty of good cheer,
Fried beefsteak and onions, tomato sauce and beer,
The ladies in attendance indulged in pleasant talk,
And just to ease the troopers minds, they took them for a walk.
On Monday morning early, still masters of the ground,
They took their horses to the forge and had them shod all round.
Then back they came and mounted, their plans they laid so well,
In company with the troopers they stuck up the Royal Hotel.
They bailed up all the occupants and placed them in a room,
Saying, “Do as we command you, or death will be your doom”
A Chinese cook, “No savvy!” cried, not knowing what to fear,
But they brought him to his senses with a lift under the ear.
All who now approached the house, they shared a similar fate,
In hardly any time at all, they numbered twenty-eight.
They shouted freely for all hands, and paid for what they drank,
And two of them remained in charge, while two went to the bank.
The farce was here repeated, as I’ve already told,
They bailed up all the banker’s clerks and robbed them of their gold.
The manager could not be found and Kelly, in great wrath,
Searched high and low, and luckily, he found him in his bath.
The robbery o’er they mounted then to make a quick retreat,
They swept away with all their loot by Morgan’s ancient beat
And where they’ve gone, I do not know. If I did, I wouldn’t tell
So now, until I hear from them, I bid you all farewell