The story behind the Australian Icon - Ned Kelly

Emma Godbold

Ned Kelly Hero, Villain or Victim


You might say that Ned Kelly is a villain, a criminal, thief and murderer, or maybe a hero, a confident, proud and outgoing man, but have you ever considered Ned Kelly to be a victim. Edward (Ned) Kelly was an Irish-Australian bushranger. He was born in June, 1854/55, at Beveridge, Victoria. Ned’s father, John Kelly, was born in Tipperary, Ireland. John was transported to Australia for stealing two pigs. In 1848, after his release, John moved to Victoria, and married Ellen Quinn three years later. However, once again he was convicted of crime, this time he was found guilty of removing the brand from the skin of a calf. He was sentenced to serving six months of hard labor in the town’s abominable jails. Red’s unfair treatment by the police made a big impression on Ned, and was the fuse that lit the flaming fire of Ned Kelly’s life.

Ned Kelly’s first brush with the law occurred on the 15th of October, 1869, when Ned was only fourteen years of age. He was charged for the assault and robbery of Ah Fook, a pig and fowl trader. According to Ned, Annie (, Ned’s sister), and two witnesses; Annie was peacefully sitting on the front verandah, sewing and mending clothes, when she was approached by Ah Fook. Asking for a drink of water, Annie politely returned with a drink of fresh, creek water in her hands. As this event was unfolding, Ned was listening and heard them talking from inside the house, at the sound of his sisters cries for help, he ran to her side. Ah Fook started abusing Annie; and Ned fought back, he was hit three times with a bamboo stick and ran to the bush, where he didn’t return until after sunset. The following day, Ned was arrested for Ah Fook’s high way robbery and locked up over night.

Ned appeared in court the following morning, and was denied trial as there were no present interpreters (even though an interpreter had been used to translate Ah Fook’s case). Ned was held prisoner for four days, he then appeared in court for the second time on the 20th of October 1869. The Victorian police had once again failed to produce an interpreter, Ned was released and all charges dismissed on the 26th of October 1869. However, Sergeant Whelan continued to keep a close watch on the Kelly family and became to be known by his fellow colleagues, as a perfect encyclopedia about the Kelly family. In this situation Ned was unfairly treated by the police and convicted of a crime he never committed. The Irish-Catholics were unfairly treated and therefore, I believe that Ned was a victim of the Victorian Police force.

On the 15th of April, 1878, Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick rode to the Kelly’s house to arrest Dan Kelly. As he arrived at the house, he was informed that Dan was not present, and neither was Ned. Constable Fitzpatrick joined in a conversation with Mrs. Kelly, and spent quite a considerable amount of time talking to other family members. . At the sound of wood chopping, Fitzpatrick left to ensure that they held a licensed and it was a legal action by William ‘Bricky’ Williamson. On his return to the Kelly’s house, Constable Fitzpatrick witnessed two horse men riding to the home of the Kelly’s. Dan Kelly and Bill Skillion, had been out leisure riding in the bush, and were surprised to find Fitzpatrick in their house when they returned. As Fitzpatrick attempted to make the arrest, Ellen tried to interfere by stating that Dan didn’t have to leave if Fitzpatrick didn’t have a warrant to prove his arrest was official. However, Constable Fitzpatrick threatened to blow her brains out if she dared to interfere again.

As this event started to unfold, Dan was becoming increasingly concerned for his family’s safety and started to fight back against Fitzpatrick’s violent threats. Dan stood up and corned Fitzpatrick, he stole his revolver, but didn’t intend on harming him at any point. Fitzpatrick was freed and immediately rode to Benalla to report the event to his fellow police colleagues. He reported that he had been attacked by Ned, Dan, Ellen, William Williamson, and Bill Skillion. Due to this unfair conviction, Williamson and Skillion were arrested, and Ellen was held in custody with her baby Alice. Dan fled to the bush, along with Ned, and didn’t reappear until much later. It has recently been confirmed that Fitzpatrick was a drunk, and a disgrace to the Victorian police. I believe that the way Ned Kelly was treated by Fitzpatrick was appalling, and that is unthinkable to convict someone of a crime that occurred 200 miles away from his location.

Ned Kelly had survived to stand trial on the 19th of October, 1880, before Justice Sir Redmond Barry. The trial was changed to the 28th, where Kelly was presented on the charge of the murder of Sergeant Kennedy, Constable Scanlan, Constable Lonigan, various bank robberies, murder of Sherritt, and resistance to the police at Glenrowan, together with a forever-continuing list of minor charges. At his request, Ned’s picture was taken and he was granted farewell interviews with family members. His mother’s last words to Ned were”Mind you die like a Kelly.” Ned was sentenced to death by hanging. His last wish was for his mother to be released from jail and for his younger sister, Alice, to have the opportunity to grow up as a normal child. Of course this was overlooked and not considered by anyone to be an honorable action.

Ned was hanged on the 11th of November, 1880, despite over 30 000 signatures on a petition to save his life. Ned was informed of his execution time, he simply remarked, “Such is life.” It has always been thought that Ned Kelly and his family, was unfairly victimized by the police. On many occasions, there were also rumors that that the police had planned to shot Ned and capture him without a warrant of arrest. I believe that Ned Kelly deserved to be given a fair trial with a very experienced judge. Ned Kelly was given an unreasonable trial and this mistake has affected many families that still mourn his death today.

In conclusion, I believe that Ned Kelly was a very heroic many who was victimized by the Victorian police ever since he was just a boy. At the vulnerable age of fourteen Ned was charged for highway robbery and locked up for over four days; he was charged for a crime he never committed. He was convicted of wounding Constable Fitzpatrick, event though he was located over 200 miles away from him at the time. Ned, was also given a very poorly conducted trial, of which the outcome may have possibly been very different if he had being granted an official trial. I strongly believe that Ned Kelly was a victim of stereotyping, and that he is an inspiration to all, through his courageous actions, and the way that he always stood up for what he believed in.

Killings at Stringy Bark Creek

Factual Recount

On Friday, the 25th of October 1878, the police were notified of the Kelly’s location in the Wombat Ranges. Two police search parties were secretly dispatched from Greta and Mansfield, and they immediately began their treacherous journey into the bush. The police set up camp on a disused diggings site near two old, ruined miners huts, on Stringy Bark Creek.

At 5pm, Constable McIntyre and Constable Lonigan were at the campfire preparing dinner for their search party. They were suddenly, surprised by the sound of, “Bail up! Throw up your arms.” The four members of the Kelly gang appeared before the pair with guns, and weapons ready and loaded. McIntyre raised his hands above his head and followed the instructions given by Ned. Lonigan turned and ran towards the shelter of the bush, as he went to put his hands on his revolver; he was shot down, chanting, “Oh Christ, I am shot.”

Ned ordered his brother, Dan Kelly, to search Constable McIntyre, and to take possession of all weapons on camp. As Kennedy and Scanlan rode back into camp, McIntyre approached them and asked them to surrender. Kennedy followed the instructions and politely apologized to his group members. Scanlan, on the other hand, ran towards the security and safety of the scrub. The Kelly’s shot him down and he was mortally wounded.

As the situation started to unfold, McIntyre realized that the Kelly Gang intended to kill all members of the Victorian police force. He took the opportunity and made a dash down Stringy Bark Creek on Sergeant Kennedy’s horse. McIntyre galloped through the scrub for over two miles until his horse became overly exhausted. He concealed himself inside a small wombat hole until dark, and then started his journey on foot. McIntyre finally collapsed at Bridge’s creek, only to continue until he reached the home of John McColl. After a grueling twenty mile journey, McIntyre had made it back alive and was the only living witness of this event. He reported the incident to Sub-Inspector Pewtress, and requested for a search party to be released.

Killings at Stringy Bark Creek

Constable McIntyre


To Charlotte Kennedy,

My name is Constable McIntyre. Before I begin my letter, I would like to remind you, that I worked with your father for many years, and that I am greatly saddened by his death. I always admired your father’s bravery, and I am very ashamed of my actions, that occurred down at Stringy Bark Creek.

Your father, Sergeant Kennedy, was a very courageous officer, who earnt a very high rank during his service as a member of the Victorian police. He was notified that the Kelly gang was situated in the depths of the Wombat Ranges. Two days ago, I, along with your father and two other men, secretly set off on a man hunt for the Kelly Gang. As I was preparing dinner with Constable Lonigan, we were surprised by the threatening words, “Bail up, throw up your arms.”

It was the Kelly Gang. I wistfully raised my arms above my head and stared at the ground. My poor college Constable Lonigan tried to run for shelter, as he put his hands on his revolver, he fell to the ground. He slowly bled to death chanting, “Oh Christ, I am shot.” I was left alone with the Kelly Gang; scared, tired and longing for someone to talk to.

I sat there, on that log, waiting for that dreaded moment when Constable Scanlan and your father, would come back to our campsite, to this fearful place of death. At last, that time finally came, as they came riding into camp, I quickly and politely asked them to surrender and briefly explained to them the fragile situation that we were in. Sergeant Kennedy jumped down off his horse following directions, while Scanlan naively ran for cover. He was shot down with a number of bullet holes in his body. Without thinking, I jumped on your father’s horse and made a dash down the creek.

I galloped through the scrub for over two miles until my horse became overly exhausted, and could take no more. I concealed myself in a wombat hole until dark and continued my journey on foot. After a grueling twenty mile journey, I collapsed at Bridge’s Creek. I made it to the home of John McColl; he kindly took me in to town and helped me distribute the important information of the events.

I am an admirer of your father’s actions, and if I had the opportunity to travel back in time, I would save his in the place of mine. I hope you forgive me and try to understand my pain.

Yours Sincerely,

Constable McIntyre

Killings at Stringy Bark Creek

Charlotte Kennedy


To Sir McIntyre,

My father was a brave and courageous man; he stole the hearts of many and was an inspiration to all. On the day when my father ventured out into the bush in search of the cold-blooded killer, Ned Kelly, he left me alone with only his words to comfort me, “ I’ll be home in a few days, don’t worry my dear. I love you.” I believed in him and waited for his return.

On the third day of his exploit, the news of the killings at Stringy Bark Creek had arrived in our town. One of his honored colleagues, Sergeant Baker, arrived on our doorstep with tears in his eyes. “Your father was a dignified figure of our Victorian Police Force; he has passed protecting the people of our community.” I invited the Sergeant in to have afternoon tea with my mother and I, we listened to his brief recount and mourned my father’s death together.

Sergeant Baker told me of your cowardly actions down at Stringy Bark Creek. My dear father might have had a chance to escape from Ned Kelly’s trap if it wasn't for your desperate dash down Stringy Bark Creek. You stole my father’s horse and most likely his life too; I wish you all the best.

Yours sincerely,

Charlotte Kennedy

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