Ned (Edward) Kelly, (1855-1880), Australian bushranger, was hanged.
His last words were “such is life”.
Ned was the son of John “Red” Kelly [see 1866 (9)], who was born in Moyglass, Killenaule, Co. Tipperary, on February 20, 1820. John was the son of Thomas Kelly (1800- ) and Mary Cody (1798- ) and grandson of John Kelly and Ellen Head. “Red” Kelly was convicted of stealing pigs and sentenced to be transported to Van Diemans Land (now Tasmania).
On his release in 1849, he went to Victoria,where he married in 1850 Ellen Elizabeth Quinn, who was born in Armagh, Ireland. John died in 1866. They had three sons, Ned who was born in Beveridge on June 1855, James (1859-1946) and Daniel (1861-1880), and five daughters, Mary Jane (1851-1851), Anne (1853-1872), Maggie (1857-1896), Kate (1863-1898) and Grace (1865-1940).
The boys were very wild and soon were in trouble with the law. In 1878, a party of constables arrived at their home to arrest Daniel on a charge of horse stealing. The Kellys resisted the arrest. Ned shot a constable in the arm. Ned and Daniel made good their escape. Their mother was imprisoned for her part in the affray. Ned and Daniel were soon joined by two others called Byrne and Harte. For the next two years the Kelly Gang terrorized the borderland of Victoria and New South Wales. The two state governments jointly offered a reward of £8, 000 for their capture.
Among the many escapades that they were involved in, was the capture of a town. They entered the town of Eurora, Victoria and made all whom they thought would oppose them, prisoner. They robbed the bank taking £3,000. Two months later they repeated the performance in Jerilderie, N.S.W. There they overawed the three hundred residents, robbed the bank of £700, and held the town for two days. The fact that their murders were mainly policemen, and that their robberies were mainly banks and government property, made them heroes with some of the people, particularly the down trodden poor Irish. With the assistance of sympathizers, who sustained the and fed them information, they were able to keep the law at bay. His main following was called the “Greta Mob”.
In June 1880, the Kelly Gang’s luck ran out. Shacked up in a wooden shanty, near Beechworth, they were surrounded by a great number of heavily armed police. The gang put up a spirited resistance which was afterwards called “Ned Kelly’s Last Stand. The wooden walls of the shanty gave poor protection, to the defenders. Soon all the occupants were dead except for Ned who had left the shanty to relieve himself. He chose to remain and help his companions, an act that may have contributed to his later semi-hero status. He came out clad in homemade armour, firing at the police. He was severely wounded. After a period in hospital, he was tried by Judge Redmond Barry and hanged in Melbourne in 1880. Ned is alleged to have said to Barry who was born in Ireland that they would soon meet a higher Judge. Barry died one month after Kelly was hanged. Ned’s mother said to her son on the day before his execution “I want you to die like a Kelly”. The last words Ned uttered with the noose around his neck, before the hangman pulled the leaver for the drop was, “such is life.”
[ Martin O’Dwyer in his Biographical Dictionary of Tipperary (1999), that “Red” Kelly was an agrarian agitator and was deported for stealing two pigs and was transported for seven years !] [One hundred and thirty years after Kelly’s death he is considered a folk hero in Australia. At least two films have been made about The Kelly Gang. Mick Jagger played the role of Ned in one of them. Numerous books and countless articles have been written about the Kellys. Sydney Nolan the great Australian artist of Irish descent had a large exhibition of paintings of the Kellys which gained world wide fame. Ned’s fame is extra-ordinary when one considers he was only 25 years of age when he was hanged.]
[ On April 24, 2001, a horse called Ned Kelly won The Fair Champion Novice Hurdle, at Fairyhouse. Ned Kellys won by six lengths, resulting in the bookmakers making Ned Kelly a 14-1 shot for the 2002 Smurfit Champion Hurdle. Ned Kelly was trained by Edward O’Grady and was ridden by Norman Williamson. He is owned by John Magnier. The Bushranger who loved horses would have been very proud of his namesake. A suitable caption might read
Ned Kelly rides again!
Dr. Joe M Kelly.
Historian to the Kelly Clan Association.