Did The Kelly Gang Perish At Glenrowan?
HEAR THIS VOICE FROM AN "OFFICIAL" GRAVE
ACCORDING to the stirring story of the exploits of the Kelly Gang related by Mr. C.E. Taylor in "The Girl Who Loved Ned Kelly," the outlaws, Dan Kelly, Joe Byrne, and Steve Hart perished in the flames at Glenrowan, but—did they? Listen!
" I AM Dan Kelly, brother of Ned, who fell at Glenrowan." That is the statement made in
ringing tones by an old and bearded man now living at Darra. The light of pride flashes in his eyes, his shoulders square, and up goes his head: "I was born a Kelly," he says, "and I will die a Kelly." To-day he walks bent beneath the burden of the years, and time has dimmed his eagle sight. In outward appearance he is just a benevolent, ruddy-cheeked old man, walking peacefully down hill in the evening of life. Yet, if the story be true, and so far as can be ascertained there has not been found anyone to dis- prove it, then he is a survivor of the gang who in the lawless age terrorised the Victorian countryside, whose bandit deeds caused the world to ring with laughter at the dis- comfiture of the exasperated police and caused a government to place upon the heads of the gunmen the price of outlawry. Fifty-eight years ago, when the cry of "The Kellys are out" echoed through the Australian bush, there was no such miracle as wireless to bring them to heel. They rode defiant. It was then a case of courage matched against courage, man against man, and horse to horse, and the devil take the hindmost. In the battle of wits and bullets the Kellys always won, until that day at Glenrowan, when, for the police, a lucky shot in the knee brought Ned, their leader, low. More than half a century later, if the story of the man who says he is Dan Kelly
be true—and he threatens legal proceed- ings against anybody bold enough to say that he is not—then we have the amazing spectacle of a one-time killer, chased and hunted by the police, and hounded by law-abiding people, proclaiming his iden- tity to an incredulous world. "I Was Outlawed" Talk to this old man at Darra and he will tell you: "I was born at the Eureka Stockade on June 12, 1854. I was one of a family of four girls and three boys. At the age of five my parents removed to Greta. Victoria, and there I spent my childhood days and grew into manhood. "In 1878, in company with my elder brother, Ned, Joe Byrne, and Steve Hart, I was outlawed. On June 19, 1880, the Kelly gang fell at Glenrowan. Joe Byrne, Steve Hart, and myself escaped. Ned was the only one captured, and even when he fell wounded he was unaware that we had got away. In the raiding party there were 116 police, and Sergeant Steele, who was in charge, set fire to the hotel in which I was supposed to have been burned to death." The old man becomes agitated. "All boys and girls, every man and woman in this country, imagine they know the story of the Kelly Gang," he says, "they have got it from story books, and they have got it all wrong. "I am Dan Kelly, and I can prove it. I challenge anyone, even the police, to show to the contrary. The name and the deeds of the Kellys have been foully blackened. Actually we were honest men, driven to desperation, and when a policeman in- sulted my sister Kate he was shot down. That was the start of our life as outlaws." "Ned Has Been Blackened" Into the eyes of the old man there comes a faraway look and the tears well up. "Poor Ned," he murmurs, then straight- ening his shoulders, he shouts, "It's a shame the way he has been blackened, by lying tradition. No less an authority," he says, "than the eminent sociologist, Have- lock Ellis, stated in one of his works that it was a disgrace that Ned was called an outlaw. Havelock Ellis declares that Ned was a born leader of men, who was kind to women and children; who did not rob for personal gain, but merely because he was a rebel against the injustice of the social order of his day. Ellis also said that had Ned been born in a different environ- ment and been given an education there were no heights to which he could not have risen. "And because of that, because I have the same blood as Ned in my veins, and because I am not ashamed of being Dan Kelly, I make this declaration. "Yes," says the old man, his chin thrust forward, "you smile. Inwardly you scoff, don't you? You sneer. You, like most fools, think that I, Dan Kelly, perished in the flames along with Steve Hart and Joe Byrne. There are people besides my self who could tell you different. You can laugh as loud as you like, but I, I am telling you, that me, and Joe, and Steve got away. If they tell you they found our bodies they lie. I was badly burnt, but I crawled away, and it was my sister Kate who nursed me back to health and strength. "Joe Byrne and Steve Hart were not hurt at all. They were the first out of the pub. They threw their coats of mail into the flames and 'got.' I won't tell you where Steve is. it wouldn't be fair to him, he doesn't want to be in this, but he is alive and in Queensland. I don't know where Joe Byrne is now, but 34 years ago, when as Jim Davis, I was taking horses to South Africa, I met him six miles out of Johannesburg." "Became a Wanderer" The saddest moment in the life of this old man who says he is Dan Kelly was when he parted from his sister Kate 10 miles from their home. He knew that the parting was for life. For the next 54 years he lived and worked as Jim Davis. After his escape he went to Central Australia. "I had a photo of Kate," he says, but I lost it in my travels, but I still have a lock of her hair and a dress she wore in the days of our troubles." In 1882 he married in Western Australia, and worked in the Black Mountains, pump- ing water with an engine on a new pipe track between the Swan River and Cool- gardie. In 1889 his wife, son, and daughter were killed by lightning, and he, as a re- sult of shock, was blinded for an hour. When he recovered he made the discovery that his wile and children were dead. To secure aid he had to ride 150 miles to the nearest habitation, and brought some police from Perth back with him, and his wife and children were buried on the spot. Two years later they were reinterred in the Perth cemetery. Following the tragedy he was ill for 12 months, and when he regained his health
he went to the Northern Territory, where for 30 years he worked on all the important cattle stations in that part of the country. In 1931 he went to Blackall. where he acquired an acre of ground and built him self a house, all of which he gave to a destitute family. He came to Brisbane, and since then has been a wanderer. His one aim in life now, he says, is to eradicate the impression of the Kelly Gang given in history and fiction. "I repeat," he says, "that I am Dan Kelly, and I defy you, or anyone else, the whole of the police force, to prove any thing different." Contrary to most versions of the Aaron
Sherritt tragedy, this old man says, "There never was an Aaron Sherritt, but there was Owen Sherritt, and I killed him because he was a traitor, riding with us and riding with the police." The question may have occurred to you, if this man be, as he says, Dan Kelly, the brother of Ned, who fell at Glenrowan, why has he not been arrested and charged with the crimes he himself says he was driven to commit? The answer is simple. Whether he be Dan Kelly or not, does not now worry the authorities. According to official records Dan Kelly is dead, burned in the hotel at Glenrowan.
"I defy anyone to prove that I am not Dan Kelly," says the old man, who is now a wanderer over the face of Australia.