In February 1879 the Kelly Gang crossed the border into New South Wales. The reward on their heads was £4000 and having been declared outlaws by act of parliament, they could be shot dead without challenge. Having successfully robbed the bank at Euroa and made Victoria’s police the target of much derision from the press, the gang decided to take the flashness out of the NSW police as well.
The Kelly Gang performed an incredible raid on the township of Jerilderie over the course of a weekend. They locked up the police, scoped the town in stolen police uniforms, then took the townsfolk as prisoners while they robbed the bank. The plot was executed almost perfectly, except that Ned Kelly’s attempt to apprehend the newspaper editor, Gill, to make him publish a letter he had dictated to Joe Byrne (largely based on the one he had earlier sent to Donald Cameron M.P.) had been thwarted by the man’s fleeing town at the sight of the outlaws in the bank.
Letter writing was a key part of Ned’s public relations campaign to soften his image. He wanted his version of events published so that the public would have a different perspective on events to the one pushed by the press. He believed, quite inexplicably, that he could both state his interpretation of crimes associated with him, as well as graphic insults and threats against his enemies, and come away with people seeing him as the victim.
It was not altogether unheard of for bushrangers to write to the press to state their opinions or try to clear their name. Both Frank Gardiner and John Peisley had done so in the 1860s. The key difference was in the brevity of their correspondence, whereas Ned’s letter spanned 50+ pages.
In response to the Jerilderie affair, Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of New South Wales, doubled the reward for the gang to £8000. This was an incredible sum, equivalent to over $1000,000 in modern Australian decimal currency. This, naturally, raised eyebrows and seemingly prompted Ned Kelly to pen a letter, mocking the New South Wales government and police force.
March 14, 1879
To Sir Henry Parkes
Premier N S W
My dear Sir Henry Parkes
I find by the newspapers that you have been very liberal in offering a reward for the Kelly gang or any one of them Now Sir Henry the man that takes I Captain E. Kelly will have to be a plucky man for I do not intend to be taken alive. And as I would as soon die in NSW as Victoria I will give you or any other person who wishes to take me a fair chance to try your pluck. I am at present not very far from Bathurst (in fact I have been in the town of Bathurst and has taken a peep at the bank) Now I tell you candidly that I intend to rob Bathurst and particularly the bank. So now you are warned of course I will not say what time I and the gentlemen that follows in my train will visit the City of the plains. But one thing you can count on that I will pay it a visit. Now Sir Henry I tell you that highway robbery is only in its infancy for the white population is been driven out of the labour market by an inundation of mongolians and when the white man is driven to desperation there will be desperate times. I present my respects to the Sydney police
yours E. Kelly
Needless to say, the Kelly Gang did not rob the bank in Bathurst as suggested, and this was likely a ploy to redirect attention to allow the gang to move without risk of being caught, if indeed the letter was genuine.
If this is truly a letter from Ned Kelly, apparently written without the input of Joe Byrne, it gives an intriguing insight into Kelly that the other letters do not offer. Here, rather than trying to justify his criminal career and threatening violent retribution against his foes, this Kelly engages in a much more playful manner of speaking that is more reflective of the tone used in many of his speeches, albeit with less emphasis on his own victimhood and more on a political bent. It seems he is trying to summon up the spectre of the golden era of bushrangers that he grew up with in an effort to get the government on edge, if only for his own amusement. Again, if this is genuine, it provides a glimpse at a playful, boastful side of Ned that takes a back seat in his other missives.
The author does make a rather odd claim that the Chinese (referred to as “Mongolians”, as per the racist styling of the time) are forcing white men to turn to crime by squeezing them out of the labour market. Such invective was not uncommon at the time, and the prevailing belief among many lower class white men was that the pitiful wages Chinese workers commanded was undercutting their competitors, thus giving an unfair advantage that put white men out of work. Such a mentality was not helped by the press, who seemed to prey on the xenophobia. Little has changed on these fronts. The reality was that economic depression was the root cause of much of the unemployment, as would be experienced by Captain Moonlite’s gang only a few months after this letter was written, leading to their depredations at Wantabadgery.
Ned, as is well known, did not exactly have a good track record with the Chinese. In 1870 he was put on trial for assaulting a Chinese man named Ah Fook. Ned got off due to the prosecution case being weak (much of this likely due to poor translation.) Ah Fook, or at least a countryman of the same name, would later suffer a hideous fate at the hands of his fellows, being mutilated then murdered. Ned didn’t exactly deny that he had beaten the man with his own bamboo staff, justifying himself by stating that he was responding to his sister’s distress as the man verbally abused her. However, this does not automatically translate to Kelly having a racist hatred of the Chinese.
Now, it is certainly possible, if not probable, that the letter is a fake. People impersonating the gang was common for a myriad of reasons. In this case it may have been a practical joke to make fun of Parkes and the police. With that said, the tone and style in of language is quite in keeping with the patterns of speech we know Ned employed when he didn’t have Joe Byrne to refine it. The strangely polite, almost erudite, manner of speaking despite the rough edges, as well as the tendency to declare what will happen with absolute certainty, is typical of Kelly. However, much of the turn of phrase and the overall contents of the letter are so unusual for him that the most likely scenario is that this was a letter penned by someone else pretending to be him, maybe even a sympathiser or close associate who was familiar with the way Ned spoke.
If nothing else, the letter is an interesting curiosity that highlights the way that Ned Kelly had become such a celebrity, even by February 1879, that people could actively contribute to the mythos by impersonating him, and his actions had begun to suggest he represented something political to sections of the population. In essence, this letter encapsulated the zeitgeist of that small period between the bank robberies and the Glenrowan plot.
At the Police court, Young, on the 11th and 14th instant, the following examinations took place :—
Robert Cotterell, alias Blue Cap, was charged with robbery with firearms. William Marshall said. — I am an inn keeper, and reside at the Rock Station, on the Levels. I know the prisoner. I have seen him several times. My place was robbed in the middle of July last by three men. The prisoner is one of them. They took about £11 in money, a saddle and bridle, a gun, a revolver, Crimean shirts, a coat, grog, and several other articles. They were all armed. On the evening of the robbery, about half past six o’clock, and while sitting at tea, a knock came to the door. I sent the girl to see who it was. As soon as the door was opened the prisoner and another named Scott rushed in and told us all to bail up. Scott went through the passage, while the prisoner kept sentry over us with a gun. It being a cold night I told him to come to the fire. He said he did not want fire, but “tin.” I told him he had come to a wrong place for it. He searched my coat pockets, and when attempting to rifle my trousers pockets, I took out what money I had in the pockets and laid it on the table; there was about £2. There was a third person with the bushrangers, whose name, I believe, is Duce. Scott and Duce went to the store and helped themselves, while the prisoner kept sentry over us in the house. They had tea. The prisoner kept guard while his mates had their repast, and they relieved him until he had his. They stayed about an hour.
The same prisoner was further charged with a like offence. Jeremiah Lehane said. — I am a grazier, and reside at Reedy Creek. On the 24th July last my place was robbed. I was close by the house, at a well which some men I had employed were cleaning out. The prisoner came up to us and asked for Mr. Lehane. I told him I was Mr. Lehane. The prisoner then ordered all of us to go up to the house. I asked him if he belonged to the police force. He said, “No, I am a bushranger.” The prisoner was armed. He marched us up to the verandah of the house, where we saw an accomplice of the prisoner’s. He was also armed, and called himself the “White Chief,” I believe his name is Jerry Duce. The prisoner gave the men in charge of Duce, and then ordered me to accompany him to my private office. Prisoner then said he wanted a revolver I had. I gave it to him. He then ordered me to open a certain drawer in my desk, in which were several papers and a pocketbook, the latter containing six one-pound notes. He opened the book and abstracted the money. He searched about for more money, but found none. He took a double-barrelled gun, which he returned as he was leaving. He ordered me to proceed with him to the stable; he took a saddle, but, being told it belonged to one of the labourers, he put it back, and took another belonging to my stockman. The whole of the articles stolen, including the money, I value at about £20 10s. I identify the saddle (produced) as the one prisoner stole from out of my stable.
The same prisoner was charged with robbing Philip Saunders’s Sydney Hotel, in June last. Philip Saunders said. — I am a publican, and reside at the Halfway-house, Lachlan-road. Some time in June last my place was robbed. I was then residing at Spring Creek, Young. I cannot swear that prisoner was one of the two men who robbed me. Two men came to my place on the evening of the day, referred to about four o’clock- They asked for some drinks and departed. One was riding a chestnut mare, and the other a bay mare. They returned after dark about seven o’clock. Mrs. Saunders went to the bar and asked them what they wished to drink. They said, they did not want drink, but money. Mrs. Saunders said they would not get much money from her. She produced a box containing some silver. One of the men said, ” You’ve got more money than that.” Mrs. Saunders said, “Not much.” She brought another box, in which there were some half-sovereigns and other money. I don’t know how much it amounted to. There was also a revolver taken and a bottle of grog. I can swear that the man who demanded the money is not the prisoner. If the second man is the prisoner he is much altered. I cannot swear he is one of the men who robbed me. — The same prisoner was charged with having robbed Mr. Lehmann at Stony Creek, on the 28th June last.
H. Lehmann deposed. — I am a publican, and reside at Stony Creek. On the 28th June last, about ten o’clock at night, I was in my store. Two men came into the store ; one was a stout man, with a revolver, the other a sparer man with a gun. The first man said, “Hand me over the ‘tin.'” I thought he was joking. He said, “Be quick.” I gave him the cashbox saying, “Here, take it.” There were notes, half-sovereigns, and silver in the cashbox, amounting to about £8 or £9. He then asked for a revolver, which I gave him.He then wanted some clothing and took some Crimean shirts, socks, two ponchos, three silk handkerchiefs, and other articles. He then asked me to go into the bar to have a drink. On going to the bar his companion was there. The prisoner is the second man. They then locked the doors and remained inside until the police arrived. I heard a knock at the door, and called out, “Who’s there?” The reply was, “Police.” The prisoner, or his companion, then said “We’re too long here, it’s time to be off.” They went out, at the back, secured their horses, and escaped. It was very dark.
We could be getting a three-hour director’s cut of The Legend of Ben Hall
by MATTHEW EELES
The Legend of Ben Hall will become an even bigger spectacle with the possible release of a three hour director’s cut if things go to plan for the filmmakers behind the ambitious bushranger epic.
On December 4, The Legend of Ben Hall director Matthew Holmes posted to the film’s Facebook page asking fans if they would support a crowdfunding campaign for an extended director’s cut which would restore almost an hours worth of unseen material back into the film featuring thirty new scenes and forty-eight expanded scenes.
“If we get 500+ votes for ‘Yes’ then we have a real shot at making it become a reality!!!,” the post read.
Twenty days later Holmes’ dream to release his original vision for the film came one step closer to reality with another Facebook post announcing he had received over 500 votes in support of his ambitious venture.
“In early 2020, we will be launching a crowd-funding campaign so we can make the definitive director’s cut of this film,” the post announced.
The Legend of Ben Hall is based on the true story of Australian bushranger Ben Hall, played by Jack Martin, who reforms his old gang with newcomer John Dunn in tow. After killing two policemen in a botched holdup the government declare the gang outlaws and they’re now outrunning do-gooders eager to fill them full of bullets in return for an attractive cash reward.
If the crowdfunding campaign is to meet its target, it wouldn’t be the first time for Holmes. In 2014 the director launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to raise $75,000 for a short form version of The Legend of Ben Hall. The film went on to raise over $145,000 using crowdfunding. Six months later the project had secured an international sales agent, an Australian distributor and multiple private investors, including state funding and The Legend of Ben Hall was expanded into a two hour feature film.
In September Holmes received public support to release a digitally remastered version of his sophomore feature film, Twin Rivers. That campaign saw $7906 pledged of a $4000 goal.
Unfortunately, not all of Holmes’ crowdfunding campaigns have been realised. Glenrowan, a feature film about the infamous last stand of Ned Kelly with Walking Dead actor Callan McAuliffe tipped to star, was not successful. The project is now being developed into a 6-part mini-series.
As one of Australia’s most eager filmmakers, Holmes is also working on a remake of Blue Fin based on Colin Thiele’s story of tuna fishing in Port Lincoln. Holmes is also developing a new horror film called The Artifice, based on his short film of the same name. You can watch that short film here.
Keep an eye on Cinema Australia and The Legend of Ben Hall’s Facebook page for more announcements regarding the 2020 crowdfunding campaign.
Cinema Australia wishes Matthew and his team all the best.
With November 2019 seeing the 140th anniversary of the Wantabadgery Siege, the decision was made to make a pilgrimage to Wantabadgery. As no formal acknowledgement of the anniversary or notification of any organised commemoration thereof had been announced, I decided that somebody ought to fill the void — and who better than the chap that does all the bushranger stuff online? It should be pointed out before we continue that this recap is not all about bushrangers, but rather a recounting of the things that happened during the trip. Hopefully it will give you some travel ideas. That said, let us continue…
With Georgina Stones from An Outlaw’s Journal in tow, I headed up northeast of Melbourne. On the way we passed through Benalla, where Georgina added some fake flowers to Joe Byrne’s grave. Previously she had left real flowers, but this time wanted to leave something a little more enduring. Every time we go up I see if I can spot the little bust I placed on the grave. The tiny polymer clay portrait has been there through searing heat, bucketing rain and everything in between but is still looking pretty good despite being put through the ringer.
Our first night was spent in The Empire in Beechworth. This heritage hotel was around in the days of the Kelly Gang and has an interesting anecdote connecting it to the Kelly story. Following the murder of Aaron Sherritt, his widow Belle and her mother Ellen were lodging in The Empire. Aaron’s inquest had been held in The Vine (no longer in existence, and definitely not the one in Wangaratta) and the pair had stayed on in Beechworth long enough to see Ned Kelly arrive for his committal. Having been convalescing in the hospital in Melbourne Gaol, he had been deemed fit enough for transportation to Beechworth via train. When being taken from the station to the gaol by buggy, he was taken past The Empire where he saw two women watching him from the balcony. He tipped his hat to them in a conspicuous show of gentlemanly behaviour, perhaps unaware that it was his machinations that had led to the brutal slaying of the husband and son-in-law of the two women he was saluting.
Dining at The Empire was exquisite. Food and drink were top notch, and the service equally as commendable. That night we were the only ones in the building, which should have meant a nice, quiet stay. However, there were other occupants that were not keen on staying quiet — occupants who were not of the physical world. Disembodied footsteps and the sound of objects being shifted or dropped was pervasive throughout the night, though we did get some shut-eye. It should be added that the rooms at The Empire are nice and cosy with very comfortable beds, so if you’re looking for a place to stay, give them a look-in (the ghosts don’t cost extra).
The next morning after an obligatory visit to the Beechworth Bakery, we headed to the Beechworth Cemetery so that Georgina could pay her respects to Aaron Sherritt. While there I tracked down the grave of John Watt. Watt was the proprietor of the Wooragee Hotel on the outskirts of Beechworth. One night he answered the door of the pub to reveal three bushrangers who ordered him to bail up. Rather than comply, Watt turned to head back inside. One of the bandits shot him in the back, then they fled. It took Watt over a week to die from his wound. Subsequently, two of the bushrangers, James Smith and Thomas Brady, were hanged in Beechworth Gaol for the murder.
Upon leaving the cemetery, we began the journey into New South Wales. Our prior search for accommodation had led us to a motel in Gumly Gumly, just outside the city of Wagga Wagga. The accommodation was nice enough for the price, however our neighbours weren’t exactly the quiet type. One couldn’t help find some amusement in their loud interrogation as to whether their companions were “giving wristies” while blaring Spotify over a Bluetooth speaker right in front of our door. In fairness, they did apologise when they realised that it was actually people they had seen park and enter the room they were in front of and not a very potent hallucination.
For the next few days we were right in the heart of the territory connected to Dan Morgan and Captain Moonlite. After so many visits to Kelly Country, it was great to finally be immersing myself in other bushranger stories. The only major drawback was the threat of fire. Following prolonged drought, much of New South Wales was suffering from their worst bushfires in living memory. Though the region we were exploring was safe, one couldn’t help but think about the beleaguered fireys battling the blazes further north on the other side of the Blue Mountains. Driving through the lower portion of the state and seeing how bone dry it was and how wispy the vegetation looked, it did not take much imagination to picture it going up like a celluloid girdle on bonfire night. With the anniversary of the Wantabadgery Siege, there are no prizes for guessing where was first on the list of locations.
Wantabadgery is a small town between Wagga Wagga and Gundagai that is mostly farmland and built on a mix of steep hills and flat pasture. It was here in November 1879 that Andrew George Scott would seal his name in infamy. Having been the target of police harassment since his release from prison earlier in the year, Scott had decided to seek his fortune in New South Wales. Venturing out on foot from the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy with his companion James Nesbitt, Scott soon added Frank Johns, August Wernicke and Thomas Rogan to the mix. A few miles outside of Wantabadgery they convinced a swaggie named Graham Bennett to join them and from there they continued on to Wantabadgery station, which Scott had been told would provide them food, shelter and possibly work. When they got there they were made to wait outside for two hours to see the superintendent, who simply told them to go away. On that day 140 years ago it was cloudy and raining, but when we were there the heat was unrelenting, as were the flies. Despite the difference in climate, the immersion was easy. The terrain doesn’t appear to have altered much all these decades after the fact. It is very easy to picture the bushrangers huddled among the boulders on the outskirts of Wantabadgery station, trying to get some sleep after being turned away.
The first stop for us was the Webb-Bowen memorial (“The hero of Wantabadgery”), which is the only real public acknowledgement of the bushranging event in Wantabadgery. The result of a wonderful community effort to honour the fallen officer, it features a metal sculpture by Max Burmeister and artworks by locals that portray Webb-Bowen as something of a pop culture figure (I personally really love the Warhol inspired piece on display there and would like to see that become a poster of some description). A simplified map is on display to indicate the significant spots in the area related to the events, which gives a decent indication of where to go and came in handy. It would have been nice to see some signage at the relevant sites akin to those placed at locations pertaining to the Ned Kelly story, but it is understandable that more of an effort hadn’t been made to draw attention to these places in that manner, especially as these are still working farms. Regardless of where you go that is connected to the Moonlite story, there is almost no acknowledgment of it or only a vague understanding of it. Captain Moonlite does not bring tourists into towns like Ned Kelly does, unfortunately.
Wantabadgery Station is currently a working cattle farm, concerned with raising black Angus, and by all accounts they do a very good job of it. No doubt they occasionally get visitors asking to see the homestead the Moonliters bailed up in 1879, but on this occasion I decided it was better to be more respectful than simply rocking up and asking to have a sticky beak. It must be remembered that a great many of the sites associated with bushranger stories are on private property, especially in the Riverina where bushrangers preferred to raid farms rather than rob mail coaches. One day, perhaps, I’ll pluck up the courage to get a look at the farm, but until then I must be satisfied with having stood at the gate, much as Moonlite and his boys did while waiting to see Percy Baynes.
McGlede’s farm was the location of the final shootout between the gang and police. While a gunfight had occurred at Wantabadgery station, there were no casualties. When a combined troop of police from Wagga Wagga and Gundagai intercepted the gang at the McGlede selection, however, a deadly battle ensued. It was here that James Nesbitt and Gus Wernicke were killed, and Constable Webb-Bowen was mortally wounded. There is nothing left of the selection now apart from the land. There are no signs pointing to it or seemingly anything at all to indicate the site. I stopped to ask some locals if they knew where to find it and they merely stared at me with the vaguely confused look cows usually give humans (Georgina did not find my bovine interrogation a-moo-sing). Having to be satisfied with having gone to the approximate location, the decision was made to head for Gundagai, where hopefully at least one of us might get enough phone reception to plot our return trip. I annoyed Georgina greatly by cranking up Slim Dusty’s version of “The Road to Gundagai” as we approached the town. It was a place that I had wanted to visit ever since I was a little boy. Some of my family members had visited back in the ’90s and brought us back souvenirs related to the statue of Dad and Dave, Mum and Mabel. It became something of an ambition of mine to see the real deal myself. It wasn’t hard to find exactly what I had sought for so long. The statue is right next to the visitor centre. The familiar shapes of the popular Steele Rudd characters immediately caught my eye. We parked and walked down to the statue. It was incredible to see these strange, almost malformed figures looming over me with hollow eyes. The statue was far bigger than I had imagined, and far more detailed. It’s original location when unveiled in the 1970s was opposite the statue of The Dog on the Tuckerbox (more on that later), but in 2005 it was relocated to the reserve next to the info centre. The connection to Gundagai comes from the old radio series of Dad and Dave of Snake Gully that used the song “The Road to Gundagai” at the beginning of each episode. To get a sense of Australian culture from the turn of the century, I recommend getting your hands on some form of media pertaining to Dad and Dave. I think Dad and Dave: On Our Selection, starring Leo McKern and Geoffrey Rush in the title roles, is a great way to get an introduction to the quirky world of the Rudd family.
One of the best and newest attractions in Gundagai is the statue of Yarri and Jacky Jacky. These two courageous men are hugely important in the history of the town and more than deserving of such a beautiful sculpture to commemorate them. In the 1850s Gundagai was first founded on the flood plains of the Murrumbidgee river. Of course, the local Wiradjuri people had warned the whites about the risk of flooding; after all, the name of the place came from a word in the local dialect meaning “big water”. In 1852 the area was subjected to a catastrophic flood, destroying homes and leaving many people stranded amongst the gurgling floodwaters. Seeing that the people needed assistance, Jacky Jacky and Yarri led a rescue mission, riding out in bark canoes with other Wiradjuri men into the torrent to rescue survivors, saving 69 people. 89 of the 250 settlers perished in the flood, which left only three buildings intact when things settled. It is hard to say anything to adequately emphasise or exaggerate what is already an incredible turn of events. Happily, the statue stands in front of a series of information panels that describe Gundagai’s history. More effort needs to be made to highlight these stories of unity from our history, but this is a good start.
Antique shops have always been attractive to me, most likely because of my Dad’s hobby of looking for a bargain in any obscure place he came across. A collector of items ranging from ceramic horses to Inuit soapstone carvings, he played a big part in my fascination with collecting. Naturally, the moment I saw what appeared to be a decent collection of vintage knick-knacks I had to poke my head in. Beyond the rows of vintage clothing and antiques in Junque and Disorderly, a creaky staircase led up to the Gabriel Gallery, a collection of photography from the turn of the century by Dr. Charles Gabriel. The images were a fascinating look at the history of Gundagai and portrayed a vibrant community at the dawn of Federation. Of course, as is the way with basically every museum, big or small, there was one very unique part of the collection. In this case it was a walking stick and letters belonging to Henry Lawson, the great bush poet. If you have an interest in photography or early federal Australian history, the Gabriel Gallery is a great attraction to visit in Gundagai.
After a brief rest to have a cool drink, we decided it was time we headed for the gaol. Gundagai Gaol is located on a steep incline behind the courthouse and is only accessible on a tour, which you can book in the information centre. The blistering heat proved not to be very conducive to getting up the hill without becoming out of breath, but it was good to tick off the list, even though we didn’t go in. The gaol consists of two small buildings around the size of camp dormitories, and was the location where the Moonliters were held after their capture. The courthouse being so close to the gaol meant that it was no effort to have a quick walk around the outside on the way back down the hill from the gaol. The courthouse is a handsomely designed and built structure that operates very rarely, but is still a functional courthouse. It was the place where the Moonliters were committed for trial, which would take place in the Supreme Court in Sydney.
We geared ourselves up for a visit to the local museum but a makeshift sign informed us that the opening hours had changed and we would not be getting in this particular day. Unfortunate, but not unexpected. The itinerary was subsequently shifted around and we made way for the cemetery. By this stage I was glad to be taking advantage of the air conditioning in the car. Throughout the trip the temperature rarely dipped below 30°C.
The Gundagai Cemetery was a little way out of town but worth the visit. It is the one location that makes an effort to signpost anything connected to Captain Moonlite. The cemetery is surprisingly vast and open and the ground rock hard from the rigorous drought that has plagued the region. The monument marking the resting place of Senior Constable Webb-Bowen is hardly inconspicuous and juts out of the smattering of squat and crumbling grave markers, gleaming white. Next to it is the far more humble headstone belonging to Sergeant Edmund Parry who was killed by Johnny Gilbert in 1864. To see two officers of high esteem next to each other in such a way is just brilliant for the die-hard bushranger buffs.
To find Moonlite’s grave one must trek further uphill to the back of the cemetery. Here you will find a large rock with a plaque on it marking the resting place of the notorious preacher. Were it not for the seating heat and the incessant flies, the moment would have been quite profound – after all, this was my first time visiting the resting place of one of my favourite historical figures. I left a copy of my article about Wantabadgery on the grave, both as a sign of respect to Scott and his mates as well as the police, but also so that people that visited after us could learn something about the reason why the grave was significant enough to earn signage. I should point out that Scott would be fairly chuffed at being in such a prime location in the cemetery, looking down on the rest of the graves from beneath the shade. It was very rewarding to have finally connected with these historical figures.
The Dog on the Tuckerbox statue is a must-see if you are in Gundagai. This humble canine has become an icon ever since its unveiling in 1939. Inspired by a poem about a bullocky who is having a bad day, the statue depicts a cattle dog perched on a tuckerbox and is mounted on a plinth in a little pool. Recently the statue was vandalised but was quickly repaired and put back on his pride of place. There are some ruins adjoining the courtyard that used to be hotels for travellers going through the region, and there is a cafe where you can get a bite to eat and a Dog on the Tuckerbox souvenir. One of the more unexpected sights in this location is a cubist statue of folk musician Lazy Harry. Long time Kelly buffs will be well acquainted with Lazy Harry from his album about Ned Kelly, which has been on loop in Glenrowan for several decades.
After our jaunt through Moonlite country, we headed into Junee for a day without the focus being on bushrangers. Though Junee was on Ben Hall’s beat and was the location of a store his gang robbed multiple times, we had something else in mind.
Junee itself is quiet and pleasant, with easy to navigate streets. It wasn’t difficult to find the Licorice and Chocolate Factory, a huge brick building surrounded by gardens and gravel car parks. We were greeted by the sound of live music wafting as we walked into the premises. There were statues of sheep and dogs, the meaning of which were somewhat lost on us, and we made our way inside. Crossing through the cafe, we reached the factory where many warm and tasty smells lingered in the air – the rich aroma of chocolate mingling with the tang of licorice. There was not much to see through the big windows that kept the onlookers separated from the equipment on this day, but it would be interesting enough if we were on a guided tour, which the television display was obviously a part of. We went upstairs and looked at the homewares and knick-knacks, noting the beautiful writing sets and kitchenware. There was a lot of cast iron pieces as well, which were quite nice. We went back to the cafe and had hot chocolates, which were delicious and creamy. Georgina bought Orange Whiskey Marmalade, and although we didn’t buy any chocolate for fear it would simply melt in the heat, there was a lot of items we would have snapped up (though the chocolate boobs – yes, that’s a thing – were not on that list).
Monte Cristo is one of the most spooky and well-known attractions in New South Wales and probably the best known thing in Junee. Billed as Australia’s most haunted homestead, it dates back to the mid-1870s and has many spooky stories attached to it. Restored from essentially ruins by Reg and Olive Ryan, the homestead is an impressive example of late-Victorian/early-Edwardian architecture. Though the buildings are starting to look a little shabbier than in the glory days after the restoration, one can appreciate the degree of work that went into essentially rebuilding the place. While I had believed that the property must have been remote, it turns out that Monte Cristo is right in the heart of Junee, making it super easy to find.
Though the place dates from later than the height of bushranging in the area, one can still imagine how the Crawleys who owned the property might have responded to news that the Kelly Gang and the Moonliters were close by in the late 1870s. Of course, the one thing everyone wants to experience at Monte Cristo is the paranormal, and if you’re open to it you won’t be disappointed. I personally witnessed a man’s shadow moving in “the boy’s room” when nobody was in there, and there were plenty of weird vibes in certain rooms. The Dairy Room is the most disturbing part of the property. Both Georgina and I entered thinking it looked nice and cozy, but that quickly changed. For me it struck when I realised the chain looped through a hole in the wall was not for locking the door. See, it was in this room that an intellectually disabled boy was restrained by a chain in that same spot, resulting in the extreme wear and tear on the bricks. In fact he had been in there, restrained, when his mother died of heart failure right in front of him and left there for days before someone went to investigate. It was in this building also that a caretaker was murdered by a local youth who allegedly was inspired to kill after watching the movie Psycho.
One must be careful not to let the spooky reputation get the better of you, as we almost gave a visitor a heart attack when he came past the original homestead and saw Georgina and I taking the weight off our feet on a bench. Certainly the place could have done without all the Halloween decorations everywhere, most of which appeared to have been left partly taken down. In the courtyard between the servants’ quarters and the ballroom were two old hearses filled with plastic skeletons. It cheapened the vibe of the place considerably. A recent addition to the site is the Doll Museum, which I knew we had to do as soon as I saw it. Though only a small building, the collection is huge and very impressive. The horror section should appeal to many visitors with replicas of Annabelle and Chucky in glass cabinets. There’s even a Ned Kelly doll in the mix. Seriously, Ned is everywhere!
When our time in Wagga Wagga was at an end, it was time to head back towards the border. Of course, the Riverina was the home to many notorious bushrangers – Dan Morgan, Blue Cap, Harry Power – but our next stop put us in a key location in the Kelly story. Jerilderieis not far from the border, but it isn’t exactly the kind of place you would go to unless you had a specific reason to, and you would be able to see the attractions in an afternoon. While trucks rumble through it at all hours, there is hardly any other traffic, and the place is so small that it really isn’t hard to understand how easy it was for the Kelly Gang to keep essentially the whole town prisoner in the pub. Alas, such is life where many of these old country towns are concerned, as infrastructure has frequently bypassed many of them, leading to isolation and a reduction in the strength of the local economy. A town like Jerilderie could definitely use the cash injection that tourism would bring, but the lack of tourism has led to many of the tourist attractions becoming little more than dots on a map. It’s a “catch 22”.
By the time we arrived, the heat was fairly intolerable. We stayed in Ned’s Studio Apartment, which was a really lovely spot. With its close proximity to everything the town offers as well as its own amenities enabling us to cook and clean our clothes, it was a perfect base during our stay. There was only one downside. At first we didn’t make much of the fact that the water tasted strange but when we washed our clothes and they smelled like they had been washed in a swimming pool we knew something was up. Sure enough, a bit of Googling revealed that Jerilderie has an issue with chlorine in the water supply. While easy to get around, it’s the kind of thing that is helpful to be aware of in advance and the sort of thing you don’t find out about unless you specifically look for information about it.
After our arrival in town, we stopped in at the Royal Mail Hotel, where the Kelly Gang had kept their prisoners while they robbed the bank. In 1879, this building was attached to the bank, which is now the location of a motor mechanic shop, and this feature proved useful to the Kellys. While Dan Kelly kept the prisoners guarded in what is now a dining room, Joe Byrne walked next door to the bank via a rear passage and began the work of robbing it. Where once Ned Kelly gave a speech about the circumstances of his life that led him to become an outlaw, now stand inactive arcade machines and dining tables. The walls are decorated with a mix of historical photos and framed photocopies of images from Ned Kelly: A Short Life. As Georgina had a whiskey and I unwound from driving through kilometres of parched New South Welsh farmland, the other patrons comprised entirely of a man of around his late thirties and his friend who was a “little person”. The pair added a bit of life to the bar. Perhaps we just went in at the wrong time, seeing as that night when we went there for dinner the bar room was full of men knocking back beers after a hard day’s work.
After settling in at the accommodation, we decided to take a quick look around town. It soon became apparent that when reports described Ned Kelly and Constable Richards going through the streets so Ned could make a mental map of the town, it wasn’t quite as much effort as one might imagine. Where the gang’s plot unfolded was in a small section in the heart of the town.
The old printing shop that was run by Gill, the newspaper editor, was only a short distance away from the hotel. Gill was the man Ned Kelly wanted to publish his letter. At some stage the place had been turned into a museum but there was no way in as the place was locked up and left alone, though a peek in the windows showed there were displays set up inside still. No doubt there would have been interesting things to see in the museum had it ever opened, but alas it was another closed door to add to the list.
The Traveller’s Rest is situated in the street behind the council building, right by a giant windmill. This was the location of the infamous incident wherein Steve Hart took a watch from Reverend Gribble. Gribble complained to Ned Kelly, who in turn made Steve return the watch. It was also here that Ned had his last drinks before heading home after the bank robbery. It is said that he placed his pistol on the bar and said in his typical braggadocio fashion, “There is my gun. Anyone can take it and shoot me; but if you do, Jerilderie will drown in its own blood.”
The telegraph office is probably the most iconic building in Jerilderie, owing to its very conspicuous signage stating its connection to the Kelly story. In the past it was open for visitors but now remains closed. A peek through the windows reveals not only the huge cracks in the walls, but also the few exhibits that have been left out to gather dust, the plaque on the wall in the main room and a bunch of boxes and crates that were evidently used for packing up items in the building. There is also a plastic box out front that presumably used to contain maps or pamphlets of some kind, but is now empty. I left a printout of my article on Jerilderie in the box for a visitor to collect with the intention that it could help set the scene as they explored the town.
The old blacksmith shop was where Joe Byrne took the gang’s horses to be shod. No longer publicly accessible, in previous years it was able to be explored for $2, and a radio interview with Andrew Nixon, one of the smithies that worked there when the gang visited, would play in the background to set the scene. Now, apart from the Kelly trail signage there is nothing to indicate the historical significance of the building.
Jerilderie’s information centre doubles as a lolly shop, appropriately dubbed Sticky Fingers. In a back room you can get information about the town and surrounding areas, while in the main entrance you can buy souvenirs and lollies. As well as getting maps and useful tips, I procured some sweet treats to enjoy. The souvenirs are the usual Kelly fare with Jerilderie slapped on where otherwise it would say “Glenrowan” or “Beechworth” or whatever town the things were to represent. It would be great to have something to purchase that reflected Jerilderie specifically, but sometimes you have to be satisfied with what you have on offer.
A little further out is the site of the old police complex, where once stood the barracks, stables and lock-up. All that remains is the stables, and what I took to be the adjoining lock-up cell, but the printed sheet that explained the building was long rotted by the elements so it wasn’t exactly easy to find the info. Road works were being undertaken at the site so we had to dodge earth moving vehicles as we headed up to the stables. There is something strangely poetic about the dilapidated state of the building, excepting the recently installed guttering. It was here that the Kelly Gang had their base of operations in the town after locking the police up in the cell. The original police station is long gone, now a big empty patch of dirt marks where the police station used to be.
As was becoming a recurring theme in our travels, we started our days in town at the bakery. The food is good, the prices reasonable and the service friendly. The mural of notable figures from the town’s history was certainly… unique. Now, at the risk of sounding perhaps a smidge insensitive, I am used to seeing wall murals that adhere to artistic conventions like balance in the layout and verisimilitude in the portraits. Evidently some degree of effort went into the portraits, but there’s something odd about seeing a depiction of Joe Byrne with what looks like an advanced case of Proteus syndrome. Fortunately around the corner is a nice little exhibit of items found on the site, including a shortened Martini Henry rifle that may have been dropped by one of the trooopers that went to the town from Victoria in search of the gang. Out the back there is also a big statue of Ned Kelly made from bread tins, which I quite liked. It gave me a few little flashbacks to my short-lived baker apprenticeship seeing all those tins.
After a short stay in Jerilderie, it was time to hit the road again. I made the executive decision to pass through Culcairn so that I could get a chance to see some key sites related to Dan Morgan. We stopped for brunch at the Culcairn Bakery and had some of the best, freshest food we had had the entire trip. Honestly, it was tempting to linger in town a bit longer, but we had places to be and things to see.
Just outside of town is the grave of John McLean, the stockman who has the dubious honour of being the first man murdered by Dan Morgan. After Morgan had drunkenly fired his pistol into a crowd of captives at Round Hill Station, a local squatter named John Heriot had been badly wounded when a bullet struck his leg. McLean had gotten Morgan’s permission to fetch a doctor, but Morgan’s accomplices convinced him that McLean was going for the police instead. When Morgan ordered McLean to stop and the man continued riding, Morgan shot him. He took McLean back to the station and stayed with him all night. McLean died soon after and even though the grave by the side of the road has a big sign next to it to tell the story, it is in fact a fake grave. The real grave is actually several hundred metres away by Round Hill Station.
Round Hill Station is another example of a bushranger site that has continued to thrive beyond its infamous past. Now billed as Round Hill Homestead, it is both a farm and a perfect place for functions such as weddings. As with Wantabadgery Station, I elected not to go wandering in uninvited, satisfied with knowing I had been to the spot, more or less, where Morgan went from just another highwayman to Morgan the Murderer.
The brief spell outside the car saw me swarmed with flies and seriously wishing I had one of those hats with the corks hanging off the brim. I happily shooed the last of them out of the car before we headed off towards Walla Walla.
Morgan’s Lookout was one of the few things on the list that I had positioned as a must. Located on the outskirts of Culcairn, northwest of Walla Walla, the lookout is essentially a collection of huge boulders where Dan Morgan is believed to have made a camp so he could monitor the movements of police and potential victims from afar. There is no admission fee and it opens from sunrise to sunset. By the time we arrived the heat was blistering and the moment we stood outside it hit like opening a preheated oven. It appeared that some effort had been made to create a set of signs detailing the history and ecology of the location. Walking through the huge boulders was incredible. You could easily imagine Morgan sleeping inside the overhangs or lurking between the rocks, ready to pounce. A steel staircase allowed access to the top of the largest boulder. On the way around we met another visitor that was taking photographs – the only other living soul at the spot at the time. The hike up the stairs was almost as breathtaking as the view from the top of the lookout; once up on the platform you realise just how far Morgan would have been able to see. For what seemed thousands of miles around, everything was dry, mostly flat and yellow. It was easy to see how an enterprising bushranger would find the viewpoint useful. Unfortunately the weather proved intolerable and we headed back to the car quicker than originally intended. Once inside our conveyance we spent five or more minutes trying to get the flies out before resuming the trip.
We returned over the border much earlier than originally planned due to a decision to power through to Beechworth. This decision may have proved to have been wise given that only an hour or so after passing back through Wodonga we heard news of fires breaking out in Albury. Once we were back in Victoria we were relieved to once again see hills and the colour green. The trip was slowed considerably by road works, but hopefully soon there will be nice new road surfaces for drivers in the area. When we finally made it to Beechworth we checked in at the George Kerferd Hotel. This lavish accommodation, especially in comparison to our previous lodgings, is situated within the grounds of the former lunatic asylum (somewhat appropriate, some may say, for someone such as I). That night we indulged in Chinese food from the Chinese Village Restaurant. Georgina probably wouldn’t have felt the trip was complete without having done so at least once.
One of the best things to do in Beechworth is to explore the darker side by going on a ghost tour of the old lunatic asylum. As an enthusiast of all things paranormal, this came highly recommended and did not disappoint. Our original plan to walk from the accommodation was vetoed by our disinclination to walk after our dinner. This proved a wise decision as the asylum grounds are deceptively huge. The winding road to where the tours operate was suitably eerie as night closed in and a light drizzle began. The Asylum Ghost Tours signs, with their ominous bloody handprints, led us to the Bijou Theatre from where the tour would begin. The theatre is decked out with a mix of historical medical paraphernalia and ghostly themed decorations of questionable taste, but you can buy merchandise from there either before or after the tour. I bought a copy of the book Palace of Broken Dreams, which is an interesting read and details the history of the site. Our guide Bronwen was excellent, leading us through the buildings and recounting the history, both earthly and otherworldly, clearly and without any forced theatricality. It should be noted that this is not one of those tacky tours where you’re led into darkened rooms where some git in a Halloween costume will jump out and scare people. No, this tour lets the history and the location do all the work. As for paranormal experiences, both Georgina and I experienced things on the tour. For myself, I saw what appeared to be a young boy with a shaved head trying to hide behind some cars parked outside of what was at one stage an arts room, as well as hearing the voice of an older male in an empty room as we entered the complex where the nursery was housed. Throughout the tour, our guide was gracious in answering questions. My inclination during such tours is always to dig deeper where possible and Bronwen demonstrated that she was intimately acquainted with the place and the entities therein, as much as the history side of things, which was very impressive. Ultimately I would rate this tour extremely highly and recommend it for anyone with an interest in the paranormal or even just in the history of medicine in Australia.
One of the important things we had to do while in the region was visit the El Dorado Museum for a meeting. Georgina’s work on An Outlaw’s Journal has led to a very close relationship with the museum as they are in the process of updating their collections and displays. As small local museums go, El Dorado is a beauty. Their collection ranges through all sorts of history from the colonial era to militaria and even geology. Our work with the museum at present is super secret, but Georgina took the opportunity to give the museum a beta copy of the book she has been working on about the El Dorado cow that Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt stole. As usual, it was a fruitful meeting and an absolute pleasure to meet the committee with whom we look forward to working with in future.
As in previous visits, we went to the Beechworth Courthouse, where many infamous faces had their day in court. Recently restoration works were performed in parts of the building and the historical books in the library were treated to prevent any creepy crawlies from making a meal out of them. The courtroom is basically unchanged from the era that saw members of the Kelly gang and their families on trial there and there are some very interesting exhibits. The staff are friendly and happy to have a chat about the building and its history, and even though I’ve heard the spiel a half dozen times it never gets dull.
We also made a trip to theBurke Museum, where they are doing refurbishment to a portion of the interior where the Chinese collection is housed. The Chinese artifacts are one of the most important collections in the museum, owing to the cultural significance both to the Beechworth community and the Chinese in equal measure, many of whom travel to Beechworth specifically to connect with their heritage. In light of this, I purchased a set of postcards with illustrations depicting frontier life for the Chinese featuring artwork by Andrew Swift. We were privileged enough to get a look through some of the historical photographs in their archives in search of sites connected to Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go back and get copies as intended. The team at the museum are friendly, enthusiastic and very helpful if you are looking for assistance in your research.
We also went to the Ned Kelly Vault, one of Beechworth’s best attractions. The small building houses the best singular collection of Kelly related relics in the world, spanning the whole story and it’s cultural influences. As a big enthusiast of film, it is always a hoot to see armour worn by Mick Jagger, John Jarratt and Heath Ledger on display, among the various other exciting items such as Ann Jones’ table, helmets and weapons used by Victoria Police, and a range of photos of people involved in the story, including an image purporting to show Ned and Dan Kelly prior to their outlawry (which can only be viewed in a specially constructed box). The volunteer-run museum has thousands of people going through its doors every year and hopefully things will continue to grow.
Another spot we visited in Beechworth was the remnants of the old hospital. Essentially, all that remains of the busy frontier hospital is the stonework from the front wall. As impressive as it is, there is something rather melancholy in the absence of the rest of the building, but that’s progress for you. Once upon a time, this would have been bustling with nurses and doctors going about their duties, attending to patients from the town and the goldfields. Now, it’s just a bunch of carved stone leading onto an empty lot.
The following day we started with a trip to the El Dorado Pottery, a favourite of mine. After making a few purchases, we headed through the Woolshed Valley. Although the speed limit along the trail is 100km p/h, the road is covered in fine dust and gravel – not exactly prime conditions in case of a need to stop suddenly at top speed. We briefly stopped at Reedy Creek so Georgina could dip her toes in the water. As we were leaving there were already locals coming down in their swimmers to cool off. It’s a beautiful spot to have a swim and no doubt Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt did as much back in the day. As we continued, we stopped at the site of the Sebastopol Flats, where Joe Byrne used to work and socialise with the Chinese. Georgina made a series of videos for her Facebook page covering aspects of the story related to the locations we were visiting, the last of which was The Devil’s Elbow, where Aaron Sherritt lived at the time of his murder. The trail is conveniently signposted throughout and you can read up on the history as you go. Unfortunately there is not a lot of structures left to see, so the signs do a fantastic job of explaining what things were there and their significance.
We then made our way back to Beechworth where we managed to get in on a tour through the Beechworth Gaol. Despite some factual inaccuracies on this occasion that only big nerds like myself would pick up on, the tour was lively and engaging. The gaol itself is in excellent condition, owing to the fact that it was only fifteen years ago that it was decommissioned. If you are in Beechworth, try and get on the tour, which operates twice daily. There are many links to not only the Kelly Gang (all of whom had served time there), but also more recent high-profile criminals such as Squizzy Taylor and Carl Williams. To drive home the Kelly connection, a set of dummies dressed in replica armour stands between the corridors of cells. For some reason Joe Byrne’s helmet had been swapped with a second Dan Kelly helmet, but not everyone is as pedantic enough to notice as I am. Hopefully there will be more attractions at the gaol soon to encourage visitors beyond the tour, but as in all things it requires money and time, which is often in short supply these days.
That night we returned to the Beechworth Gaol for an evening hunting for ghosts. The Beechworth Gaol is the location of the four hour long paranormal investigations hosted by Danni from Paranormal Prospectors. Entering the gaol with the lights off, after dark, was a confronting experience itself, but this was heightened by the fact that the electronic temperature gauge that had been set up in the aisle of the male cell block appeared to be floating when we entered, though it may have been an optical illusion caused by the dramatic change in lighting. Regardless of whether or not it was, this has to be hands down the single most paranormally active place I’ve ever been. We got EVPs, Georgina was poked in the back by a disembodied finger (with an EVP capturing a voice describing exactly that), the laser grid was manipulated to go brighter and duller, there were intelligent responses where whistling patterns were being repeated by a disembodied voice in various points in the prison, there were disembodied footsteps, and intelligent responses on the spirit box. One of the most incredible things was the table tipping, where the group lightly rested their fingertips on the edge of a small table and it began to tilt and spin. It spun so fast we were all running in a circle and it tipped so intensely it fell over several times, and yet nobody was gripping the table at all – I have no conventional explanation for it. Overall, it was absolutely exhilarating to experience and as a ghost buff I feel like I definitely got my money’s worth.
On the return trip we popped into the Beechworth Galleries, where we examined the bric-a-brac and marvelled at the welded sculptures. The statues, of which a considerable number depicted Ned Kelly in armour, are made by a South African artist and range from the whimsical to the absolutely astounding. Any garden or deck would be immediately improved by having one of these amazing artworks on display there – just don’t ask me how you’ll get a life-size elk made of steel home. A keen observer might recognise the artist’s work on display outside of the Billy Tea Rooms in Glenrowan.
We also made sure to visit Glenrowan. For me, this is where it all began in 1998 during a stop on the way to Beechworth for my grade six school camp. Of course, in some ways it was a very different place back then. For one, back then Bob Hempel was still fit enough to charge out of the animated theatre ringing a bell to attract visitors whenever a session was due to begin. Nowadays, he’s far more subdued but you still hear the crack of the “gunfire” echoing through the main strip to remind you of the attraction’s presence. Kate’s Cottage hasn’t really changed, though the pet birds are dead now and the re-created Kelly house is starting to sag like an under-baked cake, but they still play Lazy Harry on loop, and you can still get your Ned Kelly tea towels and ciggie lighters from there. The site of the siege has recently had the stolen wooden replica of the inn sign replaced with a metal one that is hopefully harder to pinch, though the metal sculpture approximating Ned’s armour at the capture site has already had the helmet stolen, having been there for only around a month.
We had our brunch at the Vintage Hall Cafe, which is both a cafe and a shop that sells a mix of souvenirs and second hand items. It was here in 1970 that the Mick Jagger film had it’s Victorian premiere, and some local brainboxes decided to set off explosives around the building in protest (surprisingly this act did not somehow stop the film from existing). I managed to pick up a copy of the Monty Wedd Ned Kelly comic strip in a hardcover book, which was something I had been wanting for a long time. Then Georgina and I did our usual trip to Kate’s Cottage to browse the books. If you’ve got a decent wad of cash on you, you can pick up some really great titles from the range of second-hand books. I was very tempted by a number of the titles but decided to save up. Then it was a quick sojourn at the Billy Tea Rooms, which provide a lovely spot to have a bite to eat. We walked to the site of the siege where we had a moment of contemplating. It probably would have been longer than a moment if it wasn’t so hot that we could feel our skin baking.
After this we made our way to Greta to visit the cemetery, but ended up going to Moyhu and buying a fake plant centrepiece because we couldn’t find anywhere nearby that we could get flowers from. The volunteers that have been working to maintain and upgrade the facilities in the cemetery have done exemplary work and it is a pity that more of the smaller country cemeteries don’t get as much TLC. The Kelly graves are not marked, though with some research you can find out where the plots are. While many people complain that the graves are unmarked, it is very unlikely that it would make much of a difference. The marker at the gate is a tasteful memorial to the whole family, unified in the afterlife. Of course, having visited three quarters of the gang, we had to visit Joe Byrne one more time as we returned via Benalla (I doubt Georgina would have forgiven me if we hadn’t). From that point it was just a straight ride into the sunset on our way home where I hoped the cat hadn’t baked to death in my heat-trap of a house. Fortunately my mum had been an angel, as always, and made sure that the cat was looked after in my absence. By the time we got home we were both exhausted and decided that it was time to order a pizza now that we were somewhere that it would actually get delivered to.
It was indeed a very eventful trip. To experience the places where these incredible stories unfolded is always wonderful and exciting. It was good to see so much of the history preserved, but at the same time the amount of attractions that were poorly maintained or not maintained at all was disappointing. Australia’s heritage may not be full of Roman hippodromes or Greek amphitheatres, but what we do have is valuable and it is disheartening to see so much being lost because people either can’t afford to restore and maintain, or just can’t be bothered. Ideally, a town like Jerilderie could be thriving with frequent visitors coming through to visit the Kelly sites, if it wasn’t for the fact that they are so small and off the beaten track. Towns like Beechworth, in comparison, embrace their history and perhaps it could even be said that they take it for granted along with their accessibility due to proximity to the highway. It’s sad to see, but the reality is that it’s getting harder and harder to keep these things up and running in Australia, and these attractions will exist only as long as the people owning them are physically able to be there. Some young entrepreneur with a bit of cash behind them could revolutionise the tourism industry in bushranger country, but it would require real passion for the history as much as a fat bank account. These sites are our history and our culture and deserve to be maintained and cared for. Perhaps in the not too distant future, they will get the attention they need. Only time will tell.
The most anticipated project at present is Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of True History of the Kelly Gang. The Booker Prize winning novel has had an awful time reaching the screen as detailed in previous articles. With this outing by the Assassin’s Creed director, there has been very little news since production wrapped in 2018. Repeated attempts by A Guide to Australian Bushranging to contact the production and distribution companies connected to the film to gain any information was been met with resounding silence. However, on 24 July we finally got a release date and the first official images from the film.
According to reports, the film will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2019. This means that it will have been over a year since production wrapped when audiences first get a chance to see it. It also means that Australian audiences will have to wait even longer to see the film, which naturally has some people scratching their heads. Whether Canadian audiences will respond to the film will be interesting to see.
Available information for the film states that it remains in post-production. For months, rumours abounded that it would premiere at Cannes, which it did not as it was not ready in time to qualify, then more recently it was speculated to be premiering at the Venice Film Festival. What is clear is that regardless of where it was to debut, it was always intended to play to international audiences at a film festival first. There is still no word on the release date for general audiences or if it will be a limited release.Oddly, the film has already been nominated for best film adaptation at the 52nd AWGIE awards, despite not having been screened or released, which begs more questions than it answers. Shaun Grant’s screenplay seems to only have one other contender – another as-yet unreleased Essie Davis vehicle in Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears – to duke it out with, so that remains a curiosity.
Essie Davis, who will be playing Ellen Kelly, has mentioned the film several times in interviews about her latest project, Lambs of God. Davis in one interview talks about how a scene in THOTKG saw her thrashed about and bruised, while in another interview she talks about having to keep her hair during the making of Lambs of God because of her role as Ellen. This makes one curious as to what scene could possibly see Ellen thrashed around and beaten.
Another cast member that has spoken of the film in interview is Sean Keenan, who was asked about the film on The Project while promoting his stage production of Cosi. During the brief and awkward interaction Keenan described filming on the snow, Winton Wetlands and in Wangaratta. He also confirmed that he is playing Joe Byrne and that the film is a “contemporary mix” and “modern retelling” of the story.
Artwork used on sites associated with the film’s production and distribution around March appeared to depict something of a concept for the poster design. With a pink colour scheme, the only graphic was an assortment of half-naked young men holding firearms and wearing dresses or ladies underwear. None of the faces of the men Were shown, indicating that these are not the actors from the film, but rather stand-ins. It is unlikely that this will reflect the final poster design.
The production images are not very specific in what they depict but there are perhaps some clues as to the style of the film, it’s attitude to the source material and some of what we can expect to see in the film. It is a little strange that for a film titled True History of the Kelly Gang there are no images of the eponymous bushrangers. It is also strange that Nicholas Hoult, one of the bigger international stars in the film, is not included while two of Russell Crowe were despite the former likely having a more significant role.
Meanwhile, Ben Head’s short feature Stringybark debuted at the Lorne Film Festival on 26 July. The film, centred around the ill-fated Mansfield party rather than the bushrangers, has had an interesting production history; starting out as a student film then getting a huge boost from crowdfunding that allowed the team to get closer to their vision. After an investor screening of the film, things went quiet while the team tried to tee up screenings. Several official photographs from the film were released as well as a trailer, giving audiences a good sense of what to expect ahead of time. Beyond its Lorne premiere there is no further word yet on when there will be other opportunities for people to see the film on the big screen or via streaming, but according to Ben Squared Films they are currently looking at independent cinema screenings in the next few months.
Matthew Holmes’ Glenrowan remains in development, but is now being pitched as a six-part mini-series, intended for streaming. This will allow the story to expand to include elements previously unable to be included due to time constraints. Whereas the original screenplay focused almost entirely on the actual siege, the expanded format will include more of the prelude and aftermath, including an entire episode to open the series based on an expanded version of the short feature screenplay Blood and Thunder, and more emphasis on Aaron Sherritt and the politics that led to the formulation of the Glenrowan plot. The new format also allows more focus to be put on the people outside of the outlaws and the police such as Ann and Jane Jones, the Kelly sisters and key sympathisers like the Lloyds and Harts. It follows the structure and content of the novel that was written parallel to the development of the initial screenplay (by yours truly) more closely than was previously possible.
As details come to hand about any films or other bushranger related productions, you will be able to find them at our Facebook page.
Forever consigned to popular culture as Ned Kelly’s little brother, Dan Kelly was a young man of only nineteen when he lost his life fighting the police. Like so many “boy bushrangers” his young life was snuffed out without him having ever fulfilled his potential, wasting his youth on a life of crime. But there was more to Dan Kelly than just having Ned Kelly as his big brother.
Daniel Kelly was born on 1 June, 1861 to John “Red” Kelly and Ellen Quinn. He was named after one of his father’s brothers and christened in the church in Beveridge, Victoria, where the family were living in a house John had built. Before Dan was born, there had been Mary Jane (died in infancy), Annie, Ned, Maggie and Jim. Dan would be followed by Kate and Grace. Dan’s infancy years were quiet for the family. John turned his hand to a number of occupations but was primarily employed doing odd jobs around the district and splitting timber. Financial strain, however, soon saw John attempting to distill his own whiskey. Unfortunately he took to drinking most of the produce himself. The difficulty saw the family relocate to Avenel, but here their problems would not only continue, they would worsen.
John spent six months in gaol in 1866 for stealing and butchering a calf. This meant that for half a year Ellen was reliant on her brothers for help around the place. The Quinn brothers were not model citizens by the furthest stretch, Jimmy Quinn being the worst of the lot. Jimmy was too fond of liquor, quick to violence and did not discriminate when choosing a target. No doubt Dan’s exposure to this would have negatively shaped his young mind. When John was released from gaol he was a broken man. Dan was barely five years old when his father died of dropsy, an old term for oedema (build-up of fluid in the soft tissues), likely linked to his alcoholism. He was buried in Avenel. The family soon found themselves frequently homeless, moving from Avenel to an abandoned pub in Greta. Here the Kellys co-habited with Ellen’s sisters, both of whose husbands were in prison at the time, and their children while they attempted to make ends meet.
The new home in Greta was short-lived. One night John Kelly’s brother James had arrived at the house drunk and his sexual advances were rebuffed by Ellen. He returned later that same night and burned the place to the ground. The children inside were asleep but the sisters remained awake, fearful of retribution. After another binge at the local pub, James threw incendiary devices at the house until a fire took hold, but thankfully there were no fatalities. The families were now homeless again and devoid of earthly possessions such as clothes and furniture. When James was tried he was sentenced to death by Sir Redmond Barry. This was later commuted to a long prison sentence by the executive council. The Greta community got together and helped the victims get back on their feet. Ellen soon gained a lease on a selection on the 11 Mile Creek. Things were starting to look up.
With his big brother Ned, only twelve himself when Red died, acting as man of the house, Dan and his brother Jim often ran wild. By 1870 things had changed dramatically for the family. Ellen had her selection but the land was not fit for crops. The family had to rely on the money they made from lodgers and travellers looking for a drink. Fifteen year-old Ned worked for a time as Harry Power‘s offsider, and then found himself in and out of gaol, eventually copping three years for receiving a stolen horse. Jim was now the man of the house in Ned’s absence. Jim was not a good candidate, however, and would coax Dan into mischief; their first arrest occurring when Dan was only ten years old.
In September 1871, Jim and Dan had borrowed horses without permission from a hawker named Mark Krafft. Krafft had been grazing his horses at the Kelly selection, as he had frequently done, and the boys had taken them for a joyride. Jim had previously been working as Krafft’s servant to get some extra money, the pudgy child being less physical than his big brother and thus less suited to splitting work. Constable Ernest Flood, newly stationed in Greta, nabbed them on a charge of illegally using a horse and took the children to Wangaratta to be kept in the logs until trial. When they went to court two days later the case was quickly dismissed on account of Jim’s and Dan’s ages (12 and 10 respectively) and the fact that Jim had been a servant of Krafft for a time. One can only imagine the impact that the experience of being taken away from their family and locked up in a cell with a bunch of strange, grown men waiting for trial for two days would have been on the children. It would eventuate that Flood was nothing but bad news for the family, allegedly stealing their horses and selling them to railway workers and sexually assaulting Dan’s big sister Annie and making her pregnant, though the truth of this is debatable owing to there being no solid evidence to back the claims.
Jim, only fourteen, ended up in gaol in 1873 with two sentences of 2 1/2 years to be served consecutively for helping shift stolen cattle. With Red gone and Ned and Jim in gaol, Ellen was on the lookout for a new man to help around the house and to protect her from her brothers or anyone else that might come sniffing around with bad intentions. She took the bold move of selling grog on the sly to travellers and seemed to think she had found her man in Bill Frost, an itinerant worker who had lodged with the family. Frost engaged in a sexual relationship with Ellen, from which she became pregnant with a daughter. Frost was apparently not keen to be a father and skipped town. Ellen, not one to be passive, tracked him down and took him to court for maintenance. After a long and bitter dispute she won but the infant died before the first maintenance payment came through. One can only imagine how this would have impacted young Dan, who had to assume the role of man of the house.
It wasn’t all gloomy for Dan though. According to some accounts, while his big brothers were doing time, Dan was lavished with affection from his sisters. Some considered this made him spoiled, but at any rate he managed to keep his nose clean during this period. It was at this time that Ellen took in George King, a 25 year-old American-born traveller, miner and stock thief. It was a remarkably short courtship as they were married in 1874, just after Ned came home from Pentridge. Within a month Ellen gave birth again. No doubt Dan, now thirteen, was relieved not to have the responsibility of being the male head of the household anymore. Between Ned and George the role was well taken care of.
Dan’s main hobbies at this time were much the same as the majority of young men in the country – riding and hunting. Dan would latch onto groups of boys who were out kangaroo hunting and took much pride in his marksmanship. He also took much joy in racing his peers on horseback. A brilliant description of Dan came from Joseph Ashmead, a friend of the Kelly family, in an unpublished memoir:
He was riding a smart black pony, and proudly told us it was a galloper and could clear any fence in the north east. The boy was alert and active with piercing black eyes that took in everything at a glance. He wore strapped trousers, a red shirt and straw hat tilted forward, secured by a strap under his nose. The back of his head was broad and covered with close cropped hair as black and shiny as a crow; his jaw was heavy, his lips thin, and when closed tightly, there seemed to be something cruel in them, but when they relaxed into a smile, he appeared to be a jovial, good-natured fellow. His name was Dan Kelly and he was a great lover of horses. I was the only one of the boys who had a horse. A bay pony. She had belonged to a clergyman and was an honest goer. Dan ran his eye over my over my horse and proposed that we should have a race, a challenge that I gladly accepted. When Dan found that he could not shake me off, he developed a great respect for me, and declared there was not a kangaroo in all the country who could get away from us, so we went kangaroo hunting, not once but many times. I left my cows to look after themselves, or bribed some of the boys to look after them for me, with the promises of some sinews out of the kangaroo’s tail to make whip crackers with.
No doubt Dan’s hunting provided much needed meat for the family, or at least was able to be sold to raise money for other goods. Seemingly Dan left home at the first opportunity to seek work. By some reports he travelled into New South Wales to work on sheep stations around the Monaro region as a shearer. He was also reported to have worked in Chesney Vale with Ned as a brick layer, but was not very good at it. It is likely that this is when Dan took up possession of an abandoned miner’s hut by Bullock Creek in the Wombat Ranges and began prospecting for gold. Sluices were later constructed along the creek and this would have provided a bit of pocket money. No doubt the seasonal nature of most of these jobs left Dan with a considerable amount of free time in between and he soon found himself adopting the larrikin culture of the day.
The fast riding, clownishly attired, skirt chasing lifestyle of the larrikin had become a widespread issue throughout the colonies. Gangs of youths in porkpie or billycock hats worn on jaunty angles, short Paget coats and jackets, bell-bottom trousers, colourful sashes and pointy high-heeled boots would loiter in public areas making a nuisance of themselves. Dan became a founding member of the “Greta Mob”, who populated the streets around Greta and Wangaratta. Apart from Dan, the mob consisted mostly of his cousins Tom and Jack Lloyd and a young Wangaratta jockey named Steve Hart, with the rotating roster of associates typical of these forms of social group. Their primary interests were fast horses, smoking, booze and chatting up girls. The boys were known to ride full gallop through the streets and challenge each other to various horse tricks. Steve Hart, for instance, could get his horse to vault over the railway gates, much to the chagrin of the gatekeeper. The Greta Mob adopted as their signature the larrikin badges of high-heeled boots, cocked billycock hats with the hatstring worn under the nose (to stop the hat flying off when riding at full gallop) and brightly coloured sashes worn around the waist. The style was clownish but that’s not unusual for teenage boys of any era. Unfortunately, Dan was still living in hand-me-downs and cut an odd figure in his threadbare, oversized, outdated outfits. The only verified photographic images we have of Dan illustrate this clearly. He wears a rumpled hat, a baggy sack coat with missing buttons and fraying cuffs as well as baggy trousers held up with a piece of rope. He was known to grow his hair long and seems to have cultivated a moustache at some point. But what Dan lacked in creole couture he made up for in his riding and his drinking. It has been written that Dan had many sweethearts but whenever they were unavailable for a night of frivolity he would employ the services of working girls, though it is incredibly unlikely that a fifteen year-old boy would have the presence of mind or the funds to engage in that lifestyle, regardless of the usual rampant libido they enjoyed.
One of the few times Dan graced the courts was in relation to a supposedly stolen saddle. In March 1877 he was charged with stealing the saddle in question in Benalla and was tried during the Beechworth general sessions before Judge Hackett. It had taken five months to lay charges against the teenager. The saddle in question was one that Dan had purchased from a man named Roberts in exchange for a different saddle and £1, and he produced a receipt to prove it, which was verified in court. Along with Jack Lloyd and his brother-in-law Bill Skillion, Ned Kelly was present during the hearing as a witness to back up his little brother. In the end the case was dismissed and Dan walked away with a sense of vindication. Judge Hackett stated that he “did not see why the prisoner was there at all” as his case was clear-cut. During this case Dan displayed a trait that distinguished him from his older brothers – he provided no resistance to arrest and complied happily with the police. This could be interpreted by some as overconfidence in his ability to dodge a conviction, but more likely Dan understood that resisting arrest was a fool’s game and further that he was innocent of the crime of which he was accused (which a trial would – and did – prove). This would not be the last time he displayed a conspicuous willingness to comply.
While he had been waiting to appear in court over the saddle charge, Dan met two boys from the Woolshed Valley named Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt. They were also waiting to appear in court that day over a charge of assault against a Chinaman named Ah On. It would eventuate that the pair would not get their day in court that same day, remanded to be tried in the next session. What exactly transpired between the young men in that cell can only be guessed at, but this would prove to be a fateful friendship.
Dan’s first and only conviction came from an incident at Goodman’s store, Winton, on September 28, 1877. Dan had travelled into town to exchange meat for goods. When he arrived the establishment wasn’t open and therefore no trade took place. Annoyed, Dan went drinking with his cousins Tom and Jack then returned with them to Goodman’s store, drunk. Dan smashed in the door and took the goods he sought. A man going by the name Moses Solomon was also there and claimed he was assaulted by the rowdy larrikins. Tom Lloyd lingered and flashed Mrs. Goodman, the other two pushing Tom into her with the lights out. Dan was found guilty of wilfully damaging the property and sentenced to three months in Beechworth Gaol. Tom Lloyd was additionally charged with intent to rape but was found not guilty, yet still got six months for his part. Dan did his time in Beechworth Gaol without incident. Almost miraculously for a Kelly boy he managed to get through his sentence without incurring any additional penalties. Three months crushing granite would have given Dan bigger muscles, but also greater resolve to walk the straight and narrow once he was out. Unfortunately fate had a different plan for him.
While Dan was still in prison a warrant was issued for his arrest. A witness saw two young men they believed to be Dan Kelly and Jack Lloyd leading a mob of stolen horses near Chiltern. They reported it to the police and the paperwork was duly issued. This was noted by Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick after reading the announcement in the Police Gazette. On April 15, 1878, Fitzpatrick was sent from Benalla to take over at Greta police station. Fitzpatrick informed his superior, Sergeant Whelan, that he knew of a warrant for Dan Kelly and intended on arresting him on his way to the station. Fitzpatrick went alone to the Kelly property and what occurred has been subject to much scrutiny and debate. The general thrust is that Fitzpatrick enquired after Dan but found he was away. The constable then asked a neighbour, Brickey Williamson, about Dan’s whereabouts before electing to return to the Kelly house and wait. He was greeted by Dan who offered to go quietly on the provision that he could finish his dinner first. After this, a scuffle broke out and Fitzpatrick was wounded in the wrist. The policeman claimed Ned Kelly had shot him, Ned Kelly claimed he wasn’t even there. Each witness account conflicted with the others in some way. Regardless, Dan and Ned immediately fled to the Wombat Ranges. Ellen Kelly, Brickey Williamson and Dan’s brother-in-law Bill Skillion were arrested and charged with aiding attempted murder.
For six months Dan and Ned hid in the ranges. A second, fortified, hut was built further up the creek from Dan’s place using thick logs, and both huts were equipped with whiskey stills. The intention was to raise money for Ellen Kelly’s defence by selling gold and bootleg whiskey. Unfortunately it was not enough and Ellen got three years, the men each received six years.
After the trial police parties were organised to bring the Kelly brothers to justice. Warrants had been issued for their arrest. There was £100 on each of their heads; Ned for attempted murder, Dan for aiding and abetting. A party was sent from Mansfield to find the Kellys in the Wombat Ranges. The party consisted of Sergeant Michael Kennedy and constables Michael Scanlan, Thomas McIntyre and Thomas Lonigan. When Ned found the police party’s tracks he sent Dan to find their camp, which he duly did. The next day the brothers, roused by McIntyre firing a shotgun while hunting parrots, went to the police camp with Joe Byrne and Steve Hart. They hid in the spear-grass and intended on ambushing the camp to take the police guns and horses. When the bushrangers emerged they held McIntyre at gunpoint. When Lonigan ran to cover and moved to fire at the arrivals, Ned shot him. There was a moment of disbelief as Lonigan struggled on the ground. Dan remarked “He was a plucky fellow. Did you see how he went for his gun?” He then seized the police shotgun and searched the tent. When Lonigan’s identity was revealed, Dan exclaimed that “He won’t be putting any of us poor buggers away again.”
McIntyre took a particular dislike to Dan, describing his nervous laughter and his “grotesque” appearance in his oversized hand-me-down clothes. McIntyre fully believed that Dan would be the one to put a bullet in him.
Dan insisted McIntyre be handcuffed but Ned refused, believing a fear of being shot was incentive enough for the trooper to obey his orders. This did not sit well with Dan who grumbled that the police would just as soon clap cuffs on them.
When Kennedy and Scanlan returned from scouting McIntyre tried to persuade them to surrender but a gunfight broke out. Scanlan was shot, McIntyre escaped on Kennedy’s horse and Kennedy fired at the Kellys with his pistol. A bullet from Kennedy hit Dan’s shoulder as the sergeant retreated into the bush after McIntyre. Kennedy was soon killed by Ned a considerable distance from the camp. The gang looted the bodies and Dan took Scanlan’s pocket watch. The salvageable items were collected and the tent burnt as the gang escaped.
As a result of the incident at Stringybark Creek, Ned and Dan were outlawed with a reward of £500 each. At this stage Joe and Steve were unidentified.
In December 1878 the gang re-emerged near Violet Town. They stuck up Younghusband’s Station on Faithfuls Creek in the afternoon and began herding the staff into a shed. They kept the staff as prisoners in the tool shed overnight and stole new outfits from a hawker’s wagon. That night the gang chatted with their captives, answering questions but with Ned doing most of the talking. Dan and Steve were overheard talking about how they’d like a lark with the female prisoners. In the morning the nearby telegraph poles were damaged by Ned, Joe and Steve. In the afternoon Ned, Dan and Steve headed into Euroa to rob the bank, leaving Joe on sentry at the station. The timing was meticulously arranged to coincide with a funeral that would keep the townsfolk occupied during the gang’s activities. Dan acted as a guard, standing at the rear of the bank, making sure that nobody escaped or interrupted while Ned and Steve robbed the place. Once the loot had been acquired the bushrangers headed back to the station with the bank staff and the manager’s family and servants. On the way Dan rode in the stolen hawker’s wagon and kept his gun trained on Mrs. Scott, the bank manager’s wife, who was driving a buggy alongside, in case she tried to escape or raise an alarm. The raid went off without a hitch and the gang escaped with thousands of pounds to distribute among their families and sympathisers. Before they left, Dan gave Constable Scanlan’s watch to Becroft, the hawker’s assistant, and money with which to repair it. It is unclear what the nature of the damage was.
In February 1879 the gang struck again at Jerilderie. They travelled over the border to answer a challenge that they wouldn’t last 24 hours in New South Wales. The gang roused the police in the middle of the night and locked them in their own cells. Mrs. Devine, the wife of the senior constable, recalled how as the gang occupied their home during their stay Dan would bounce her son on his knee but later spoke in quite a violent manner in order to make her work faster as she decorated the courthouse for mass. The gang then went through town disguised in police uniforms pretending to be reinforcements against the Kelly Gang. On the Monday Dan and Joe had their horses shod at the blacksmith and investigated the telegraph lines before the gang put their plan into full effect. Ned, Steve and Joe robbed the bank while Dan kept prisoners under control next door in the hotel. The gang had successfully managed to occupy the town for a whole weekend unmolested and rode away with thousands of pounds in unmarked notes that could not be traced. In response, the New South Wales government doubled the reward for the gang to £8000.
Upon leaving New South Wales, the gang split up to reconvene at the Byrne selection at a set date and time. Only Dan arrived on time. He stayed for dinner and questioned the Byrnes about whether the other gang members had been past. Dan seems to have had a good relationship with the Byrnes, frequently stopping by in much the same manner for a meal and a chat. Dan also seemed to be the most active gang member, being reported as having been spotted more than any other member of the Kelly Gang. It is also probable that he partook in Joe’s favourite past-time of visiting the Sebastopol opium dens for a smoke and card games.
Over the course of 1879 and early 1880, Dan and Joe Byrne tested the loyalty of the Sherritts and various other sympathisers that were suspected of turning on the gang. On 14 May, 1880, Dan paid a visit to his uncle Tom Lloyd. Lloyd’s neighbour, a police informant named Jacob Wilson, saw horses in Lloyd’s garden and began snooping. He was found behind the cow shed by the dogs and the barking roused everyone in the house. Uncle Tom sent the dog to chase the man down and he climbed up a cherry tree. Dan Kelly and cousin Tom Lloyd, who were unarmed, fetched the dog and yelled taunts to the police they assumed were nearby, before going back inside. Wilson was so terrified he stayed in the tree until morning. Incidents like this were increasingly common and the gang began to stop visiting certain people in case they were spotted.
More concerning to the gang however was the rumour that had been circulating that the Sherritts were in cahoots with the police, fuelled by the vicious game of “Chinese Whispers” that accounted for the gang’s bush telegraph. On one occasion Dan arrived at the Sherritt selection on Sheepstation Creek looking for Jack Sherritt, Aaron’s younger brother. When he was told Jack wasn’t home he pushed his way inside with a revolver drawn and searched for him. Dan said they wanted to speak with him. Unbeknownst to Dan, Jack was at that moment speeding away to speak to Assistant Commissioner Nicolson in a desperate attempt to seek protection. Nicolson told him to go to a local pub and use that as his alibi. It was clear to everyone that the gang was getting desperate and had cottoned on that something was up and Ned was determined to address it in his next big scheme.
In early 1880 a plan had been devised by Ned Kelly to escalate the gang’s activities. The banks were too heavily guarded to rob as they had done previously, so now they were struggling to find ways to keep their network of sympathisers on-side. The gang’s health was also deteriorating as the rigours of life on the run was wearing them down. Ned suffered sciatica and sandy blight, Joe struggled with withdrawals as his opium supply was cut off due to lack of funds, and Dan was described by one witness as looking gaunt and hollow-cheeked. Police parties were coming closer than before to catching the gang and even had the assistance of an elite team of black trackers from Queensland on top of a network of police spies and informants. Ned wanted to end the pursuit in dramatic fashion by luring a trainload of police and trackers to be derailed at Glenrowan. He sent Dan and Joe to create a commotion at Aaron Sherritt’s hut, where a team of constables had been allocated to protect him, as the bait. On Saturday 26 June, Dan and Joe kidnapped Aaron’s neighbour Anton Wick and used him to lure Aaron to his back door whereupon he was murdered by Joe with a shotgun. Dan guarded the front door in case the police that were hiding inside tried to escape. The two bushrangers then terrorised the party of constables as they cowered in the bedroom, Aaron’s mother-in-law and pregnant wife stuck between the two sides. Attempts to burn the place failed and the outlaws rode away two hours later. It would be midday the next day before any of the police were brave enough to see if they had gone. Initially Ellen Barry, the mother-in-law, stated that Dan had been quiet when entering the hut with a pistol. It was only later when attempts were being made to gain a payout from the police that she would describe him resting on the table as he looked at the murdered Sherritt with a grin.
Dan and Joe arrived at Glenrowan at around 5am on 27 June, 1880. Dan was immediately employed with tending the horses and carrying the gang’s armour into the Glenrowan Inn. Over the course of the day Dan guarded the prisoners in the inn and even initiated dancing to keep them entertained. He was seen to get intimate with Jane Jones, the publican’s daughter, she having been spotted sitting on his knee and kissing him, even being given one of his revolvers to use while she kept the prisoners at bay when Dan had to leave the room. As the weekend rolled on and the special train did not appear as expected, tensions began to rise. Multiple times during the gang’s stay at Glenrowan, Dan told Ned they should leave and argued the point only to be shouted down by his brother who was determined that they would stay and fight. The longer they waited the more difficult it became to keep the prisoners under control and the more they risked accidentally derailing a civilian train. Ned refused to heed his brother’s pleas. When Ned decided to release Thomas Curnow, the school teacher, Dan argued publicly with him as he knew Curnow could not be trusted. Curnow had spent the day trying to butter Ned up, a suspicious Dan watching like a hawk. Sure enough, when the train did appear in the early hours of 28 June, Curnow warned the police that the tracks were damaged and the gang was in Glenrowan. Just before the train arrived, Dan had told the prisoners to head home, however they were detained by Ann Jones who told them to wait for Ned to make a speech. If Dan’s instructions had not been countermanded a considerable amount of the tragedy that was to unfold could have been avoided.
When the train arrived the gang dressed in their homemade armour and engaged in a gun battle. Ned and Joe were wounded early on and they retreated inside. Ned soon disappeared into the bush behind the inn and Dan took control of the situation, doing his best to evacuate the women and children despite the relentless firing from police. Joe was shot dead by a police bullet early in the morning and Dan and Steve became very disheartened, believing Ned had also been killed or had abandoned them. When Ned re-emerged just before 7am the remaining gang provided covering fire from the inn, but within a half hour Ned was captured and the two bushrangers were stuck in the inn surrounded by police in broad daylight. Dan had received a bullet in the leg that shattered his knee and necessitated a retreat into the inn. At 10am the rest of the prisoners were released and Dan and Steve remained inside. As the prisoners left they shook Dan’s hand.
What happened in the inn next is unknown but it is possible that Dan was struck in the neck by a bullet while his helmet was off and killed or that he took his own life by taking poison. All that is known for certain is that at 3pm the inn was burned and while it was on fire his corpse was witnessed by multiple people, in the back room still in body armour and resting on a pillow made of sacks. The body was effectively cremated in the fire and the burnt remains released to his family. Later, Dr. Hutchison, a medic who had been called up to assist during the siege, retrieved what was believed to be Dan’s foot from the ruins and the scorched bones were handed down through the family.
Around 200 people attended the wake at Maggie Skillion‘s home, many of whom were drunk and armed. Police efforts to reclaim the bodies were scrapped in response, the risks being too high. Though there are a number of (probably deliberately) conflicting oral histories with respect to the location of the last resting place of the two outlaws, most accounts indicate Dan Kelly was buried in an unmarked double grave in Greta cemetery with Steve Hart. The location within the cemetery of the exact double grave they were interred in is a closely guarded secret in family traditions in an effort to avoid the graves being disturbed. Unfortunately, this has added fuel to the fire of conspiracy theories and in one infamous case a particularly motivated “truther” went through the cemetery plunging steel probes into grave sites hoping to prove that there were no coffins in them. When Ellen Kelly died the 1923, she was buried in an unmarked plot next to the official spot where Red Kelly’s youngest son is buried.
In the years after Glenrowan there were rumours that Dan and Steve had escaped to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. In 1911, novellist Ambrose Pratt, author behind the memoirs of Captain Thunderbolt’s apprentice William Monckton, published a book claiming to be the memoirs of Dan Kelly. In fact, many people claimed to be Dan Kelly over the years, most notably a tramp called James Ryan whose ridiculous attempt to cash in on the survival rumours were published in the press and convinced scores of people who lacked knowledge of basic facts of the story. Ryan’s story even inspired the utterly woeful film The Glenrowan Affair. Ryan was killed by a coal train in the 1933 and is buried in Ipswich, Queensland. In order to lure tourists, the cemetery even erected a memorial telling the story of the claimant. None of the alleged Dans ever had any solid case to back their claims up but the myths of a miraculous escape from the burning inn persist to this day.
Dan Kelly was, in most ways, at least as competent as his big brother. As a horseman, tracker and marksman, his abilities were perhaps even better. Certainly he was more ruthless than Ned, a pragmatism that some interpreted as callousness or even psychopathy. It must be remembered that the gang were wanted dead or alive (preferably dead) and mistakes could not be afforded. Dan was a much better judge of character than Ned and certainly better at performing under pressure. Even the Kelly matriarch was known to have held Dan in more regard than Ned in these measures.
Unlike his brothers, Dan was fairly successful at avoiding trouble. In fact, it is probably telling that the worst trouble in Dan’s life seemed to come from following Ned’s and Jim’s lead. Imagine how different the story would have turned out if Dan had been able to accompany Fitzpatrick as intended, before Ned and Ellen had attacked the policeman. A stint in the logs, a quick trial during which the mistaken identity could be proven and Dan could have gone home as a free man. Sadly, as in all things, life never pans out the way we think it should.
Stuck on what to get that special bushranger lover in your life? Here are some things to look at that might give you some ideas with links to buy online. Just remember: if you see a portly old man with a big white beard carrying a sack full of goodies it may just be Harry Power…
The name John Dunn is one that has been immortalised in songs, stories and film yet his story is one that very few people have heard. The historical fiction approach applied by Kerry Medway in Teenage Bushranger enables us to see the junior member of the Hall Gang in a unique way that leads us to sympathise with the young renegade.
Teenage Bushranger, now in its third edition, is written from the perspective of Dunn as he awaits his execution for murder. Throughout he reflects on his notorious career as well as his early life, often ruminating on what was wasted by pursuing bushranging. Dunn comes across as youthful, exuberant and penitent for his crimes but most importantly he is relatable. This is a Dunn that is fallible and suffering from the folly of youth, struggling to come to terms with his actions. To see his world through his own eyes brings it all alive from racing horses to being twitterpated over Peggy Monks or even the thrill of robbing a mail coach. Dunn’s discovery of his faith in his last days shows a young man grappling with seeking forgiveness while wondering if he really could be forgiven for his awful crimes. When you finish the book you leave feeling more understanding of how easily someone can end up on a very bad path when they have a lack of positive guidance and how it is that so many condemned men throw themselves into religion as they face the ultimate punishment. Medway’s Dunn is a superb realisation of a historical character who is well rounded and human.
Another strength of the book is in its portrayal of Ben Hall and John Gilbert. You truly get the sense that as Medway was writing he had an intimate understanding of the personalities of these two men that went beyond merely their acts as stamped into the history books. Gilbert is a skirt-chasing adrenaline junkie who is also extremely worldly and skilled in many fields. Hall on the other hand is aloof and driven by a need to survive as much as by his anger, which often explodes, yet can find moments of jubilation where he’s compelled to playfully bounce a little boy on his knee during a raid. It is easy to see how these men might seem alluring to a young tearaway like Dunn.
A key factor of this book, however, is an emphasis on Christianity. This on the surface may seem a deterrent to some readers who could consider it “preachy” but it never comes across as anything other than a) contextually appropriate; and b) an extra layer of meaning to the journey of the protagonist. This is not a sermon per se, but it does draw heavily upon Bible verses to illustrate the path to redemption that Dunn would have taken in prison. This provides a very interesting insight into how faith manifests, especially for those unaccustomed to religious belief or practice. It must be remembered that religion in the 19th century was extremely important to attitudes and everyday life, a fact that is hard to imagine in these secular times. There are some parts of the book that follow the narrative that are of a heavily religious bent that act as a Q&A for people curious about the beliefs of Christians, but these are optional to read if they aren’t your cup of tea.
Where the text gets a little shaky is where a number of oral traditions work their way in (for example the Clarke brothers assisting in the failed Araluen robbery or Ben Hall and Billy Dargin being friends). However, these do work in context as many of these instances can be attributable to the unreliability of the narrator, the root cause of such misinformation in the first place. This does not detract from the rest of Medway’s fantastic research. Really, it’s so minor as to barely rate a mention but bushranger enthusiasts can be very pedantic.
Kerry Medway has crafted a breezy, fun and engaging account of John Dunn’s life that is empathetic and authentic. It doesn’t shy away from Dunn’s criminality, in fact it uses it to support his redemption story. This is a version of the story that will appeal to readers across a broad spectrum of ages, though is probably better suited to mature readers, and provides an intriguing and sensitive insight into one of the handful of people ever declared an outlaw in Australian history.
If you would like to purchase your own copy of Teenage Bushranger, you can do so from this link.
The following is a report from just after the Kelly Gang raided the bank at Euroa. It describes in a fair amount of detail the events at Younghusband’s Station and Euroa, while missing some of the details and getting a few spellings wrong – as was typical of reporting at the time. It provides an interesting insight into how the bank robbery caught the public’s imagination after the outrage over the tragedy at Stringbark Creek. It is also worth noting that while Joe Byrne’s identity had been known for some time, it was only because of one of the servants in the bank recognising Steve Hart that the identity of the fourth gang member was finally revealed. This report also references the Egerton bank robbery, which some may remember is the well publicised robbery allegedly performed by Andrew Scott aka Captain Moonlite.
FURTHER OUTRAGES BY THE KELLY GANG
By Electric Telegraph
— [FROM OUR OWN REPORTER.]
Euroa, 11th December.
The greatest excitement has prevailed here in consequence of the perpetration by the brothers Edward and Daniel Kelly, and two men named Steve Hart and Byrne, of one of the most daring and skilfully planned bank robberies that has occurred since the Egerton gold robbery, and the sticking up of Mr. Younghusband’s station at Faithfull’s Creek, at the foot of the Strathbogie Ranges, about four miles from here, in the direction of Violet Town. The particulars I have been able to glean are as follows : — On Monday last, about half past twelve in the day, a man arrived at the Faithfull’s Creek station and asked one of the station hands named Fitzgerald, who was having his dinner in the kitchen, whether the manager, Mr, Macauley, was at home. He was told by Fitzgerald that the manager was not in, and was asked if he wanted anything particular, and whether he, Fitzgerald, could do anything for him. The stranger said it was no matter, and going from the kitchen made signals to some persons outside, and then two other men out of three, who were a little distance away, came up, leading with them four very fine saddle horses, three bays and one grey. The man who had arrived first; then went into the dwelling house where Fitzgerald’s wife was engaged in some household duties, and said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid ; I am Ned Kelly ; we won’t do you any harm ; you must give us refreshments and food for our horses.’ Mrs. Fitzgerald was naturally greatly surprised, and much alarmed. She called her husband, and said, ‘Here’s Mr. Kelly, and they want food for their horses and refreshment.’ Fitzgerald, seeing that the stranger had a revolver, and that resistance was useless, said, ‘No matter who they are, if they want refreshment and food for their horses, of course they can have it.’ Edward Kelly, for there is not the slightest doubt it was he, then asked how many men there were about the station, and threatened Fitzgerald if he did not tell him the truth. Fitzgerald told him there were only three or four hands. Kelly then informed Fitzgerald that it was his intention to lock him and a lad who was also present in the store room. This purpose Kelly and his mates immediately carried into effect. Three other men shortly afterwards came in to their dinners, and as they arrived they were bailed up and placed in the storeroom along with the others.
Shortly after this Mr. Macauley, the manager of the station, arrived home. As he was crossing a little wooden bridge over a creek near the homestead he noticed that the place appeared unusually quiet for the time of day, it being customary for the men engaged about the station to be working about. He had no suspicions, however, of anything being wrong, and rode straight on to the buildings. When he got to the storeroom Fitzgerald, who was allowed to put his head out of the door, told him the Kellys were there. Mr. Macauley would not believe him at first, but Edward Kelly came out of the building and said, ‘I am Ned Kelly ; you will have to bail up,’ Mr. Macauley, in reply, said it was no use their sticking up the station, as there were no horses on it better than those they had with them. Kelly said they did not want to take anything from the station ; all they wanted being a rest and food for their horses, and to have a sleep themselves. Mr. Macauley then, seeing that all the men were armed, gave in. At first he could not believe that it was really the Kellys who had paid him such an unwelcome visit ; but afterwards he saw Daniel Kelly, and immediately recognised him from the portraits that have been published in the Illustrated News, and the photographs that have been circulated throughout the country. One of the other men was afterwards recognised as one Steve Hart, well known as an associate of the Kellys, and who is probably identical with one of the two unknown men who took part in the Mansfield murders. The other man, Byrne, is supposed to make up the fourth of the party who slew Constables Scanlan and Lonigan and Sergeant Kennedy. Both these men are said to answer to the descriptions published.
To return to the narrative, however, Mr. Macauley, seeing there was no help for his position, proposed that dinner should be partaken of, but the bushrangers refused to eat anything unless they saw the others partake of the food, being evidently frightened of being poisoned. The horses had in the meantime been put in the stable and attended to. Ultimately the men had dinner, and the party of outlaws also, the latter leaving two of their number to keep guard while the others took their food. It was then getting towards evening, and shortly before dark a man named Gloster, who keeps a store at Seymour, and also follows the trade of a hawker around the district, arrived at the station, and prepared to camp on its outskirts. He had unharnessed his horse and went to the kitchen to get some hot water for his tea. One of the women there told him he had better bail up, as the Kellys were there. Gloster treated the matter as a joke, and went on with what he was doing and was about to return to his cart. Daniel Kelly then raised his gun, and Edward Kelly called out to Gloster to stop, and Mr. Macauley, knowing him to be a man of considerable courage and determination, also endeavored to dissuade him from resisting, as he feared if he went to the waggon and got at his revolver, murder would be committed. Gloster, however, persisted in going to the waggon, and got up into it, but Edward Kelly followed him, and, putting his revolver up to Gloster’s cheek, ordered him to get down again. This he did very reluctantly, and was very surly and short in his language to the bushranger. Edward Kelly said he would like to shoot him, and that he was one man out of a hundred not to do so. Gloster having been thus secured was disposed of in a similar manner to the other men, and put into the store with the hands. The outlaws then commenced to ransack Gloster’s waggon, and quickly had its contents strewn over the ground, so that they might pick out such articles as they were most in need of, or as took their fancy at the moment. Each man then arrayed himself in a new rig out from head to foot, and even such luxuries as soaps and perfumery were not despised, – the bushrangers pouring bottles of the latter over themselves, and pocketing the former for future use. Having got tired of overhauling the unfortunate hawker’s stock-in-trade, the two Kellys and their mates composed themselves for the night. Two men were kept on guard while the others slept, all the station hands being kept in the storehouse except Fitzgerald and Mr. Macauley, who were allowed to move about the place, but only under strict surveillance, and on their promise that they would not attempt to escape.
In the course of the night the desperadoes conversed freely with their captives, and, indeed, appear to have taken them into their confidence to a certain extent. In speaking of the Mansfield murders, Edward Kelly said he was sorry Kennedy had been shot, and that it had never been their intention to kill him. He stated that Kennedy fired five shots at the bushrangers, one of which grazed Edward Kelly’s whiskers, and another his sleeve. The first time Kennedy was hit it was in the arm, and Kelly did not intend to fire at him again. Kennedy, however, when hit was partly behind a tree, and, being shot, threw his arm up as if to aim at Edward Kelly, whereupon the latter again fired, hitting him in the side, and be dropped. They also spoke of Constable McIntyre in a way the reverse of complimentary as to his courage. They said that when Kennedy arrived at the camp and jumped from his horse he dismounted on the wrong side, throwing his leg on the horse’s wither, and that McIntyre immediately mounted and rode off, leaving his companions to cope with the gang themselves. Edward Kelly is also stated to have said that had it not been for the police separating things would never have happened as they did. With respect to the shooting of Constable Fitzpatrick, he asserted that he was not concerned in that outrage at all, and could bring evidence which would prove beyond a doubt that he was fifteen miles away when it occurred. He also said that he and his party had no wish to harm any one who did not harm them. One of the most remarkable statements made by the outlaws, however, was that they had written a communication addressed to the Legislative Council, and containing a detailed account of the exploits of the gang and the causes of their being led into a career of crime. There may be some truth in this, as Mrs. Fitzgerald has been understood to say that a document was given to her by one of the Kellys, and that she posted it at his request.
The night having been passed in this manner, the first thing done by the bushrangers on the following Tuesday morning was to break down one of the galvanised iron telegraph posts on the line of railway which runs within a few yards of the home station and out the wires, thereby preventing communication with Benalla, where a large body of police was known to be stationed. The bushrangers appeared to be very apprehensive of being observed by passing trains, as everyone that went by slackened speed, the driver’s attention being no doubt attracted by the broken telegraph wires. About half-past four p.m. the train for Melbourne passed and stopped, leaving a man who had been sent from Benalla to repair the damage, but as soon as the train that brought him had departed he was bailed up and speedily placed with the rest of the captives in the storeroom. Shortly after breakfast another incident occurred. It appears that two selectors named Casement and Tannant respectively, and two visitors named Dudley and McDougall, had been out shooting kangaroos, having a saddle horse and a springcart with them, and two carrying double-barrelled guns. To return to their home they had to pass the station, and while so doing, they were met by two of the bushrangers, one of whom told them to bail up, as he was Ned Kelly. Casement said to Kelly he had better mind himself, or the consequence might be bad. Kelly told Tannant to get down from his horse. Tannant dismounted and said to Casement ‘Let’s go and load the guns’ and he went to the cart and began to charge them. Kelly then ordered him off the cart, and throw his rifle down and put his fist up, saying, ‘Won’t you come and try it out with me? That’s the fist, of Ned Kelly ; it won’t be long before you feel the weight of it.’ Tannant then got off the cart and was ordered by Kelly to go and open the gate leading to the home station, Tannant at first refused, but Kelly forced him to comply by putting the barrel of his revolver in his mouth and saying, ‘Now, will you go?’ Tannant afterwards declared he could feel the cold iron between his jaws. Kelly and his mate then drove the men before them up to the huts, and they were consigned to captivity in the storeroom, along with the rest, They took the spring cart and horse with them also. This, with the hawker’s wagon, made two vehicles at the bushrangers’ disposal, to be afterwards utilised in their raid upon the National Bank at Euroa.
On returning to the station, Edward Kelly went to Mr. Macauley and asked him to write him a cheque, but Mr. Macauley refused to do so. It would seem that Kelly’s reason for wanting the cheque was not so much for the sake of the money as for an excuse for going to the bank, for pointing to a drawer, he said to Mr. Macauley, there is a cheque in that drawer for £4. There was such a cheque drawn out and signed, and Mr. Macauley replied, ‘I can’t stop you from taking that, but I won’t sign a cheque.’ Kelly then took the cheque, and left the station with his brother Daniel and Steve Hart, Byrne staying behind to guard the prisoners in the storehouse, Mr, Macauley being put in along with the others. The bushrangers then appear to have gone direct to the township, taking, with them Gloster’s waggon and Casement’s spring-cart.
At about a quarter-past four in the afternoon Edward Kelly knocked at the door of the bank office, it being after bank hours, and on its being partly opened by Mr. Bradley, one of the clerks, Kelly said he wanted a cheque of Mr. Macauley’s for £4 cashed. Mr. Bradley said it was too late, whereupon Kelly said he wanted the money, and asked to see the manager, Mr. Scott. Mr. Bradley replied it would be no use his seeing him, as he had locked the cash up. Bradley was still holding the door partly open when Kelly pushed himself in and announced who he was. He and Steve Hart then rushed in and covered Mr. Bradley and Mr. Booth, the other clerk, with their revolvers, and, driving them before them, passed round the counter into the manager’s room, where Mr. Scott was sitting. They ordered Mr. Scott to tell the female inmates of the house who were there not to, make a row. Mr. Scott did so, and Mrs. Scott, With her mother, six children and two female servants came into the passage. The two clerks were also sent there, and saw Daniel Kelly at the back door. Edward Kelly then demanded from Mr. Scott what money was in the bank. Mr, Scott replied that he had not the entire care of it, there being duplicate keys, some of which were kept by Mr. Bradley. Kelly then put a pistol to Mr. Bradley’s head and asked him for the cash, and Mr. Bradley, after much hesitation, had to give up the keys of the safe drawers. Edward Kelly went out and got a gunny bag from the waggon, and, taking the money from the drawers, put it into it, mixing notes, gold and, silver indiscriminately. The clerks here cannot say, in Mr. Scott’s absence, what the actual amount was that was taken, but it is currently stated to have been between £1500 and £2000. Having secured the cash the robbers proceeded to the yard and got ready Mr. Scott’s horse and buggy. They allowed the bank officials to put the books away in the strong room, and then took Mr. and Mrs. Scott, their family and servants, and the two clerks, out by the back way, locked up the premises, and, putting them into the three vehicles, drove them rapidly off towards Mr. Younghusband’s station, Gloster’s waggon leading the way, with Edward Kelly driving, the buggy driven by Mr. Scott next, and the spring cart last.
On arriving at the station they found the other man, Byrne, pacing up and down in front of the storehouse with a rifle in each hand, and they saw all the people who were shut up inside looking through the windows, when they all alighted from the traps. The ladies were allowed to go into the kitchen, and Byrne unlocked the store and let the prisoners go as far as about the door, but they were not allowed to go further. The bushrangers appeared to be well armed, as four rifles were noticed lying in the waggon. Mr. Macauley was allowed to come out of the storeroom, and the horses were then taken to their stables by the station hands, the Kellys keeping guard over them. Ned Kelly took the money from Casement’s cart, and strapped the bag on to the front of his saddle. After that they had tea served in the kitchen. The bushrangers stopped about the premises until near nine o’clock, when they rode away. Before leaving they locked every one up except Mr. Macauley and the women, and told the former not to let any one out for three hours, saying that if they came back within that time and found he had done so he would have to be responsible for the consequences. Edward Kelly distributed a quantity of silver coin among the servants and other women about the station before he left. Mr. Macauley opened the store about a quarter of an hour after the gang had departed in order to let fresh air in and about 10.30 Messrs. Scott and Bradley, with Mrs. Scott and the younger children left the station in the buggy, while Mr. Booth and the elder children walked to the township along the railway line. The robbery was altogether a most audacious one, and at the same time was cleverly planned, for although it was committed in broad daylight, everything was so well managed that the residents of the township had not the slightest idea of what was being done. The outlaws wore to some extent favored by the position of the bank, it being the first house in the township coming from the direction of Faithfull’s Creek station.
The first intimation of the robbery was given when the captives returned from the station ; and Constable Anderson, the only officer stationed at Euroa, went by the night train to Benalla to give information. Superintendent Nicolson, with a body of police numbering about a dozen, in addition to black trackers, left Benalla at midnight on Tuesday by special train, and on arrival at Euroa they at once commenced search operations, which were continued during the day. About eleven o’clock to-night the police again made a start, but were, as usual, very reticent as to the direction they meant to take, as well as whether there were any good reasons to believe that a capture would be effected. All kinds of rumors are afloat as to the locality the Kellys have made for, some saying they have gone towards Murchison, while others maintain that they will be found in their old haunts in the ranges near the scene of the murders. In the meantime, great excitement and a general feeling of insecurity prevails all over the district. A special train left Benalla for Euroa at half-past twelve to-night, with extra police and black trackers. There is no further news to be obtained here.
“FURTHER OUTRAGES BY THE KELLY GANG.” Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918) 14 December 1878: 21.v
[The following article appeared in February 1897 and illustrates the continuing struggles of the Kelly family even after the end of the bushranging outbreak. Maggie Skillion had become Tom Lloyd’s wife in the wake of the outbreak. Alas, Maggie died in January of 1896 leaving Tom to look after the family but this put incredible strain on the children leading to the tragedy that took place the following year.]
NED KELLY’S NIECE.
An inquest was held on Friday at Greta to ascertain the cause of the death of Ellen Skillion, a niece of Ned Kelly, 22 years old. The evidence of the girl’s stepfather, Tom Lloyd, was to the effect that he went to Melbourne for the benefit of his health, leaving the deceased in charge of domestic affairs. He gave her a cheque for £22 13s 4d before going away to cover household expenses during his absence. When he returned last Saturday he inquired of the girl as to how she had spent the missing money.
She accounted for the whole amount with the exception of some £5 or £6 Lloyd told her he would find out where she had spent the missing money, and exchanged a few angry words with her on the subject.
Next day, Sunday, she seemed in her usual health and spirits, and in fact brighter than usual. She retired to bed at about 10 p.m. When Lloyd arose next morning his niece was nowhere to be found. He then made a search in the neighborhood and found no trace of her, and reported the matter to Constable Purcell, of Greta, who at once instituted inquiries. A black tracker from Benalla was sent out on Wednesday, and during the afternoon of that day tracks of the girl were picked up, and followed along the Fifteen Mile Creek to a deep lagoon two miles from her residence, where the tracks ended.
The tracker pointed to the waterhole and said, “She in there.” Next day the body was recovered. The girl left a letter behind addressed to her brother, Jas. Skillion, in which she bade him good-bye, stating that she was going on a long journey. She told him that he
could have certain property of hers, and advised him to avoid bad company. No marks of violence were found on the body, nor were there any traces of a struggle near the lagoon. A verdict that deceased committed suicide by drowning was returned.
Deceased was a daughter of the late Mrs Skillion, whose husband is said to have started the first trouble which led to Ned Kelly and his confederates beginning the lawlessness which culminated in their downfall as bushrangers at Glenrowan.
“NED KELLY’S NIECE.” Bairnsdale Advertiser and Tambo and Omeo Chronicle (Vic. : 1882 – 1918) 16 February 1897: 4 (morning.).