November 11th, 1880 – Ned Kelly, The Iron Man Outlaw

Today-In-History

On November 11th, 1880Australian bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged at Melbourne Gaol.

Ned Kelly Iron Man

The unstoppable Ned Kelly?

Edward “Ned” Kelly was an Australian bushranger of Irish descent. He was born in the British colony of Victoria as the third of eight children to an Irish convict from County Tipperary and an Australian mother with Irish parentage. His father died after a six-month stint in prison, leaving Kelly, then aged 12, as the eldest male of the household. The Kellys were a poor selector family who saw themselves as downtrodden by the Squattocracy and as victims of police persecution.

Ned_Kelly_in_1880

Edward “Ned” Kelly (December 1854 – November 11th, 1880)

Arrested in 1870 for associating with bushranger Harry Power, Kelly was eventually convicted of stealing horses and imprisoned for three years. He fled to the bush in 1878 after being indicted for the attempted murder of a police officer at the Kelly family’s home. After he, his brother Dan, and two associates fatally shot three policemen, the Government of Victoria proclaimed them outlaws.

During the remainder of “The Kelly Outbreak”, Kelly and his associates committed two major armed robberies and fatally shot Aaron Sherritt, a known police informant. In a manifesto letter, Kelly—denouncing the police, the Victorian Government and the British Empire—set down his own account of the events leading up to his outlawry. Threatening dire consequences against those who defied him, he ended with the words, “I am a widow’s son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed.”

When Kelly’s attempt to derail and ambush a police train failed, he and his gang, dressed in homemade suits of metal armor, engaged in a final violent confrontation with the Victoria Police at Glenrowan on June 28th, 1880. All were killed except Kelly, who was severely wounded by police fire and captured. Despite significant support for his reprieve, Kelly was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by hanging, which was carried out at the Old Melbourne Gaol. His final words are famously reported to have been, “such is life“.

Ned Kelly Armor

Ned Kelly’s armor on display in the State Library of Victoria.

Even before his execution, Kelly had become a legendary figure in Australia. Historian Geoffrey Serle called Kelly and his gang “the last expression of the lawless frontier in what was becoming a highly organized and educated society, the last protest of the mighty bush now tethered with iron rails to Melbourne and the world.” Despite the passage of more than a century, he remains a cultural icon, inspiring countless works in the arts, and is the subject of more biographies than any other Australian. Kelly continues to cause division in his homeland: some celebrate him as Australia’s equivalent of Robin Hood, while others regard him as a murderous villain undeserving of his folk hero status. Journalist Martin Flanagan writes, “what makes Ned a legend is not that everyone sees him the same—it’s that everyone sees him. Like a bushfire on the horizon casting its red glow into the night.”

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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