Biography of Australian Outlaw Edward Ned Kelly Part 1

About the Australian Outlaw Edward "Ned" Kelly, biography and history of the famous criminal.


EDWARD "NED" KELLY (1854-1880), Australian outlaw

"I'll see you where I'm going, Judge." With the matter-of-factness of a man whose own future is as certain as the sunset, Edward "Ned" Kelly took his leave of Sir Redmond Barry, who had just sentenced him to death for the murder of an Australian policeman. Kelly had no doubt that the hated judge, who had once sentenced Kelly's mother to three years in prison on a trumped-up charge involving another policeman, would have to answer to a higher court. Kelly's prophecy was ironic. Within a fortnight both men were dead: Kelly from the hangman's rope, Sir Redmond of a heart attack.

Little known beyond his native land, Kelly is the most balladed Australian of them all. He combines all the daring, resourcefulness, and drama that Americans find in Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and John Dillinger. Kelly was a crook with style, romance, and a sense of chivalry. Descended from a poor Irish farmer who had been transported to penal servitude in Tasmania for stealing two pigs, Ned grew up on intimate terms with poverty, hardship, and a class system marked by entrenched privilege protected all too often by brutal police.

Ned Kelly was one of eight children of "Red" John Kelly and Ellen Quinn Kelly, who scrabbled out a living in the outback of northeast Victoria, about 150 mi. north of Melbourne. The mostly Irish selectors (small landholders) of the area constantly chafed under the power of the big landowners. Ned's uncles and cousins, the Quinns and the Lloyds, were frequently in and out of jail for rustling cattle, stealing horses, and brawling. By the time he was 21, Ned had become an accomplished bushman. He could break horses, tend cattle, cut timber, and mend fences. He was an expert rider, a crack shot, and a boxer with a mean reputation. He had also served three years for receiving a stolen horse, the result of only one of several brushes with the law.

But Ned had a determination to straighten out his life. For a few years following his release from prison, he rendered a good account of himself as a timber cutter, a prospector, and foreman of a sawmill. However, in 1878 a sequence of events began that would lead him to the gallows.

It started when Ned's younger brother Dan fell under suspicion of horse stealing. One Constable Fitzpatrick, who was dispatched to haul Dan in, ignored the counsel of his superior and enter "Kelly country" alone; he found it prudent, however, to take on some courage at a nearby bar. According to the story, Fitzpatrick made a drunken pass at Ellen Kelly, whereupon he received a coal shovel over the head (from Ellen) and a drubbing (from Dan and two friends) as rewards for his ardor. To counter the embarrassment of returning without his man, Fitzpatrick concocted a story of having been set upon, shot at, and wounded by the notorious Ned, who had not been present at all. Returning with reinforcements, Fitzpatrick found that Dan had "gone bush." Ellen and the two other men were arrested and sentenced to stiff jail terms by Sir Redmond Barry.

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