The Real Story of NED KELLY
A Brilliant New MIRROR Serial
by Thomas Aubrey
JOHN (better known as Red) Kelly was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, and in common with the great majority of his countrymen, had very few material possessions. With the poverty and oppression that was his birthright, however, he inherited also a
strong, healthy body, a quick mind and a clear eye . . . plus a full measure of the reckless courage, the quick temper, the flar- ing resentment which were to flood his homeland with the blood of Irish rebels along with that of their hated, foreign, "Police landlords." Inevitably 'Red' Kelly had his clash with authority and, just as inevitably, was im-
prisoned. His era happened to be one of deter- mined Empire Build- ing. So Red was ship- ped, in irons, to Van Dieman's Land, there to expiate his crimes against the Crown in the regenerating en- virons of a tough, young penal colony. Kelly served his sen- tence in full with no re- missions for good be- havior, and moved to the mainland. Australia was a big, new country where even a convicted Irish re- bel should be able to make something of himself, "given a fair go." He worked for a time in Melbourne, already a fast- growing village with im- posing brick houses on Eastern Hill for the gen- try and an equally impos- ing gallows next to the new gaol in Russell -st. for those among the ex-con- victs who took their "free- dom" too seriously. Red Kelly envied the big houses and respected the gallows. He moved north to the gold-fields, where rumor had it there was a fortune "just wait- ing to be picked up." Kelly found no fortune, but his labors did earn some reward. After a time he returned south to buy a farm at Beveridge and marry Ellen, third daugh- ter of James Quinn, a neighboring farmer. The farm was small, the home a rough slab hut of green wood and bark. But the land was rich, food plentiful, and the future seemed good. For a time the Kellys were happy. Newcomers told harrow- ing tales of "Black '47" in Ireland; English granaries crammed with Irish wheat and 2 million Irish dead in a single famine. Helped . by his energetic son-in- law, a skilled bush car- penter, James Quinn pros- pered. Diggers, dfrifting back from the goldfields accel- erated the war between squatter and selector. Trouble was obviously brewing . . . but the Quinns were used to trouble. They liked what they had and were confi- dent they could hold it against any challenge. The land was cleared, new huts and stockyards were built. At Wallan Wallan, in 1854, Ellen Kelly was delivered of her
third child and first son, a big, healthy baby whom they christened Edward. Red was inordinately proud of his boy, boasted of his strength and intelli- gence, dreamed maybe of the future that could be his. Red was destined to in- fluence that future great- ly. Young Ned was an ac- tive lad, loved the bush that was his home and be- came part of it. He loved, too, the stories that the old people told round the fire at night. Years later, outside a hotel in Glenrowan, bleed- ing from a dozen wounds, he was to remember the story of legendary Irish hero Brian Boru, killed at Clontarf in 1014 leading his people to victory over the invading Danes. He was to give substance to legend with his bitter credo: "Better to fight like a man and die with my mates. I've no stomach to be forever hunted like a dog."
NED was hunted early. Powerful interests had become alarmed at the in- rush of aggressive new settlers. Wealth rallied to protect its monopoly; pressure was exerted and the LAW moved in on the "Kelly Country." Assistant Chief Commis- sioner of Police, Supt. C. H. Nicholson, directed that "the officer in charge of that district . . . should endeavor, whenever they committed any paltry
crime, to bring them to justice and send them to Pentridge even on a paltry sentence, the object being to take prestige away from them, which was as good an effect as being sent to prison with very heavy sentences, because the prestige those men get up there from what is termed their flashness helped them to keep together, and that is a very good way of taking the flash- ness out of them." Early in 1864, 10 charges were brought against the clan; two convictions were recorded. James Quinn, Jnr., was gaoled for six months and fined £10 for assaulting the police and illegally using a horse; James Kelly, Red's bro- ther, was said to have sto- len cattle. He spent three years in prison.
Quinn the elder, too old and tired for further struggle, sold his property and moved further north to part of the Glenmore station, within sight of Mt. Buffalo and temporar- ily beyond regular police jurisdiction. Red Kelly was more stubborn. He stayed on his land and defied both squatters and "traps" to make him move. Within weeks he was in gaol for the first time since his convict days. Police charge — "unlawful possession of a bullock hide" — was so weak that the minimum sentence of 6 months was imposed by magistrates known to be the reverse of lenient. Imprisonment lessened Kelly's "prestige" very ef- fectively. He was released in November, 1864, a broken man. The family moved to a smaller hold- ing at Avenal. There Red Kelly died, leaving a widow and 8 young or- phans. [?] At 10 years Ned had more immediate injustices to avenge than had his revered ancient Irish kings. With his 2 elder sisters he took charge of the Kelly fortunes, moved his grief-stricken mother and younger brothers and sis- ters to a small farm at 11 Mile Creek, adjacent to his grandfather's property. The land was rich and fertile; the established graziers were determined that it should not be dis- sipated among the migrant riff-raff. They formed as- sociations and councils; they impounded any cat- tle that did not bear their brand . . and they found their own stock slaughter- ed, their best horses stolen. More police were sum- moned and the war, waged so successfully by the law and so tragically by the Kellys in the south, began anew. In 1869, old man Quinn died and his family spread out over the surrounding countryside. The clan was a fertile one and number- ed more than 2 score bro- thers, sisters, husbands, wives and children. From Mansfield in the south to Yarrawonga in the north, from Euroa in the south-west to Tallan- gatta in the north-east, the Kellys had friends and blood-relations. It was, and is, real Kelly Country.
All were fanatically loyal; blood was their pride and their law. Truly they were "faithful to the death." * * * DENSELY wooded hills and ranges gave sanctuary to those adventurous enough to have earned a "wanted" notice outside the local police stations, and the Kelly boys came to help and learn from the "Wild Colonial Boys" always hiding there. Ned was the "bush tele- graph's" most trusted mes- senger. Close - lipped, shrewd, tough, he was al- ready the best horseman in the district, a crack shot and more than a
match for most men in a brawl. He knew every inch of the countryside, boasted he could lose the "traps" blindfolded if need be. And in a score of wild night rides through the gullies and gorges, often leading stolen horses, he more than proved his point. Tall (5.10), well built, handsome, with the first stubble of a black beard on a strong jaw, he had much of the "prestige" Supt. Nicholson dreaded. He re- garded the police as his natural enemies. They, in turn, decided to break the Kelly spirit, once and for all. In the early part of 1870, Ned was arrested and charged with having aided Harry Power, one of the district's minor bush- rangers and an escapee from Pentridge gaol. Po- lice failed to produce any positive identification and 15-y-o Ned was released. Later in the same year Ned had another brush with the law. In the course of an argument wifh a hawker, Ned knocked him down and was consequent- ly charged with assault. He received 3 months' gaol on this charge, a similar sentence on an additional charge of having sent the hawker's wife an obscene note. The "obscene note" in the case was a parcel of a bull calf's anatomy which the Kelly boys sent to McCormack and his childless wife with a note to the effect that the new country needed population and the McCormacks were not doing their share. Grim humor, but typi- cal of the age and frontier country. McCormack claimed later that he laid the charges in the heat of his humiliation at being beaten by a mere boy, and that the police refused to let him withdraw them. Supt. Nicholson sent an- other report to his super- ior in Melbourne, Capt. Standish. "Until this gang (eldest 15) is rooted out of the neighborhood, one of the most experienced and suc- cessful mounted constables in the district will be re- quired in charge of Greta. I do not think the present arrangements are suffici- ent." He also told of the Kelly home: "I visited the no- torious Mrs. Kelly's house on the road . . . . to Ben- alla. She lived . . . in an old wooden hut with a large bark roof . . . There were no men in the house, only children and 2 girls about 14 years of age, said to be her daughters. They all appeared to be existing in poverty and squalor." It was to this poverty and squalor that Ned re- turned in May, 1871, after his first term in prison. Harder now and bitter, Kelly settled down to work to support his mother and her 7 other children. De- termined to stay out of trouble, if only for their sake, he worked, as had his father before him, as a carpenter and general bush handyman. His undoubted "prestige" still told against him, however. A neighbor and close friend, one ''Wild" Wright , lost a fine mare and en- listed Ned's help to re- cover it. He neglected to tell him that the animal
To Be Continued
had been "borrowed" from the local school teacher — in the teacher's absence. Ned soon found the ani- mal in the bush he knew so well. Leading the horse through Greta he was seen by Constable Hall, the local law. Hall tried to drag the youth from the horse and was soundly beaten for his pains. Kelly, releasing long pent-up emotions, fought like a fury, knocked the constable down and raked his thigh with his spurs. Some men working nearby came to the policeman's aid, held the boy down while Hall, remembering the spurs, hit him about the head with his revolver. Ned had 9 stitches in his head and got 3 years in Pentridge for "receiving." Wright, who stole the horse, escaped with 18 months, and came out to tell of gaol savagery de- signed to take the "flash- ness" out of Kelly, but which made him a seeth- ing, dangerous man. * * * NED was discharged from gaol in 1874. But, unlike his father, he was far from being a "broken" man. Twenty years old, he was described as being "physically most imposing, handsome with a full beard, but strangely piercing eyes." Eyes that smouldered with resentment, and planned to be careful if not more righteous in fu- ture. Evidence of his care was the fact that, though he was undoubtedly breaking the law and the law was most eager to catch him at it, his next appearance in court was in 1877, charged with being drunk and having ridden his horse across a footpath. Ned claimed that his drink had been deliberate- ly drugged. And he was probably telling the truth. Throughout a reckless life this is the only time he is ever described as hav- ing been the worse for liquor. Though no tee- totaller (there were very few in the Kelly country) he drank very little and always took care that his brain and magnificent fighting body were unim- paired by the alcohol that hampered the efforts of some of his companions. Kelly actually escaped from the lock-up on this occasion and was only re- captured after a bloody brawl in the shop of a nearby bootmaker. Records of the local court show that it took 5 men, 4 po- lice and the bootmaker to subdue him. Kelly was fined £3/1/-, which included "damage to 4 police uniforms." The fight was proof of Kelly's tremendous physi- cal strength and evidence of his determination to escape another gaol sen- tence at all costs. It is also significant for his threat to one of the policemen: "If I ever shoot a man, Lonigan, you will be the first." Lonigan had punched and held Kelly in the groin . . . and was later to die, deep in Kelly Coun- try, from a well-aimed Kelly bullet. The web of destiny was now being fast spun for Edward Kelly.