KELLY, Edward (1854-1880)

KELLY, Edward (1854-1880)
always known as Ned Kelly
was born at Wallan, Victoria, in 1854. His father, who had been transported from Ireland to Tasmania, came to Victoria and married a Miss Quinn. Ned Kelly had been associated with Power the bushranger when a boy of 16, but was not apprehended in connexion with him, though he served two or three sentences for horse and cattle stealing before he was 21. In April 1878 he shot a constable in the wrist who was attempting to arrest his younger brother Dan, and the brothers then escaped to the mountains. In October 1878, with two associates Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, they surprised a party of four policemen and shot three of them. The gang was outlawed and rewards eventually increased to £8000, were offered for their capture; but the country was difficult, and there were many relatives and sympathizers who kept the gang advised of the movements of the police. For a period the bushrangers kept to the ranges, and then descended on the township of Euroa, stuck up the bank, and departed with over £2000. In February 1879 they appeared at Jerilderie, New South Wales, considerably more than 100 miles from Euroa, took complete possession of the town, and again got away successfully with their plunder. For more than a year the outlaws went into hiding, the police in the meanwhile being largely reinforced. A former associate of the Kellys, Aaron Sherritt, was employed by the police to help them and the outlaws decided to have revenge on him. On 27 June 1880 they went to his house and when Sherritt came to the door he was shot. A special train was then sent to the district with fresh police, but this would have come to disaster, if it had not been for the courage of the local schoolmaster, Thomas Curnow, who held a light behind a red shawl and succeeded in stopping the train. The rails had been torn up near Glenrowan, where the gang was in possession of the hotel a short distance from the station. The police surrounded the building, three of the bushrangers were shot in the house, and the leader then came out, covered with a suit of rough armour and firing at the police. He was eventually shot in the legs and taken to Melbourne to be tried for murder. He was sentenced to death on 29 October 1880 and executed on 11 November.
Ned Kelly was the last of the bushrangers. There have been various attempts to make a hero of him, and it has been suggested that in his early days he was the victim of police persecution. There is, however, no evidence of this. He was unfortunate in his early associations and in belonging to a district where cattle-duffing was looked upon with a lenient eye. He had courage, but little more can be said for him, and his adrnirers have not succeeded in making a convincing case for the shooting of policemen who were trying to do their duty.
F. A. Hare, The Last of the Bushrangers; C. H. Chomley, The True Story of the Kelly Gang; Clive Turnbull, Kellyana.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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