Biography of Australian Outlaw Edward Ned Kelly Part 3

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


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

Following the pattern of Euroa and Jerilderie, Ned commandeered a hotel near the Glenrowan railway station and imprisoned several townspeople, most of whom were only too happy to become "prisoners" of Ned Kelly. A weekend of wild partying ensued, during which Ned and his cronies competed in athletic and drinking bouts with the "prisoners."

Kelly's plan was to derail the train over a steep embankment, kill the survivors and, according to one theory, instigate an areawide rebellion that would create an independent republic of Victoria, the "colonial stratagem" promised in the Jerilderie Letter. They planned to outfit themselves and their supporters in suits of armor they had been making for just such a confrontation.

As the train neared Glenrowan, however, the police were warned. The hotel was quickly surrounded and a furious gun battle began. Ned was seriously wounded in the first exchange but fought gamely on. Sometime during the day, Byrne, Hart, and Dan Kelly were also wounded. Desultory firing continued throughout the night. In the early dawn, the police were astonished to see an armor-clad apparition clanging toward them out of the mist, arm extended, firing a gun. The return fire of the police bounced off the armor for a time; then one constable began firing at the figure's unprotected legs. When the mysterious combatant was finally felled, it proved to be Ned himself, dressed in hammered-out plowshares. He had been wounded 28 times.

The police then torched the hotel, but not before the lifeless bodies of Hart, Byrne, and Dan Kelly had been dragged from the flames; they had taken poison, preferring death to surrender.

Whether Ned had tried to escape, repented, and returned to help his mates, or whether he had gone to warn the neighboring selectors that the uprising had been aborted, remains unclear. Whatever his motive for returning on that second morning, his bizarre one-man attack was recognized as an act of great courage.

Kelly was bound over for trial and charged with the murder of one of the three constables killed at Stringybark Creek. He succeeded in enraging the judge by insisting at his sentencing that he would have been acquitted had he been able to conduct his own defense. On Nov. 11, 1880, Ned Kelly mounted the scaffold. True to his mother's final admonition, he "died like a Kelly"; as the hangman adjusted the noose, Ned's last words were "Such is life." His fabled career of bushranging and rebelling against authority, which ended spectacularly in a grand gesture against insuperable odds, has made the epithet "game as Ned Kelly" one of the highest compliments any Australian can bestow.

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