Biography of Australian Outlaw Edward Ned Kelly Part 2

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


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

Ned and Dan swore vengeance. They were joined in the bush by Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, who had their own grievances against the authorities. Together they took up the life of "bushrangers" (outlaws); Ned was their undisputed leader. An intense police hunt led to a gunfight at Stringybark Creek between the four outlaws and four constables. Three of the lawmen were killed. When the lone survivor returned to tell his tale, the Victoria State Parliament posted a pound 2,000 reward for the outlaws and passed the Felons Apprehension Act, entitling anyone to shoot the members of the gang on sight.

Two months later (December, 1878) the gang embarked on a series of colorful escapades that increasingly captured the popular imagination. Still dodging the police, Ned and his gang entered Younghusband station (ranch) and locked up its 22 inhabitants. Leaving Byrne as a guard, Ned, Dan, and Steve rode into Euroa and made an unauthorized withdrawal of pound 2,000 from the bank. The reward jumped to pound 1,000 per man.

In February of 1879 the gang again crossed the border into New South Wales and pulled their most famous job, the Jerilderie Bank episode. Stealing into town under cover of night, they captured two policemen and took their uniforms. The next day Ned rounded up some 60 townspeople and held them prisoners in the hotel. He then dictated a document he hoped the world would read--the "Jerilderie Letter"--a remarkable blend of autobiography, self-justification, and social criticism. In it Ned railed against the oppression inflicted on the Irish in general and his relatives in particular. He also hinted at "some colonial stratagem which will open the eyes of not only the Victoria police...but also the whole British army." Ned's intention was to have the document printed in the local newspaper, but the editor had run away. Instead, he read the 8,300-word manifesto to the captive townspeople and left it behind with a bank teller, who promptly turned it over to the police after the gang had left the bank some pound 2,000 poorer. The reward jumped to pound 8,000 for the gang.

The escalating reward soon proved too great a temptation for an old friend of Joe Byrne. The friend was Aaron Sherritt, who informed the police of the gang's whereabouts. Byrne came out of hiding and fatally shot Sherritt. News of the shooting was wired to Melbourne before the gang could cut the telegraph wires. A special police train was dispatched north, and Ned decided the time had come to stand and fight. The result was a battle with every bit of the drama of the gunfight at the OK Corral, and more.

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