Jun 2, 2010

Ned Kelly: Oz Icon

It says much about Anglo Saxon Australians of my generation that we pride ourself in either being of Irish descent (like myself), or of Scottish descent (like myself) or, treasure of treasures, the descendants of convicts (my great great grandfather and my great great grandmother).

It's odd that I don't tell many people that my grandfather was an honest and hard working man who worked in a tannery all his life. But I might tell them that my great great grandfather was sentenced to death in 1817 for escaping from the prison boats on the Thames - but escaped his sentence and was transported to Australia. (see footnote*) by the evil English.

In fact Caucasian Australians will claim to be descended from anything wild and wooly - as long as it has nothing to do with the good upstanding English middle class who had invaded (seemingly) most of the known world by the time Australia was being settled..

So it follows, given our true fore-bears  (we were brainwashed at school in the LBJ era to believe that we are English/Americans)  that one of our main folklore heroes is an Irish Australian Bushranger called Ned Kelly.

Now our Ned (as we call  him) started his 'criminal career' in 1869, when at the age of 14 he assaulted a Chinese pig farmer named Ah Fook." . (Yes, Ah FookI kid you not). Ned and his brothers and later his gang
had a tendency to play rough with the police - and the police returned the favour. According to Wiki:

 "In September 1877 Ned was arrested for drunkenness. While being escorted by four policemen he broke free and ran into a shop. The police tried to subdue him but failed and Ned later gave himself up to a Justice of The Peace and was fined. During the incident Constable Lonigan, who Ned was to later shoot dead, "black-balled" him (grabbed and squeezed his testicles). Legend has it that Ned told Lonigan "If I ever shoot a man, Lonigan, it'll be you!"."

In the end Ned and his gang killed three policeman, and a few civilians, not to mention robbing two banks and distributing the proceeds to the poor. So as his reward, apart from hanging him and giving him  an umarked grave, we have made him into a national icon.

 Tells you a lot about us  wild colonial boys, aye?
What follows is a small excerpt from Wiki. Glenrowan was the tavern that the Kelly Gang made their last stand in. ( I have taken the liberty of removing the more boring bits)


""The gang discovered that Aaron Sherritt, Joe Byrne's (a gang member) erstwhile best friend, was a police informer. On 26 June 1880, the same day their outlaw status expired, Dan Kelly and Joe Byrne went to Sherritt's house and killed him....... The four policemen who were living openly with him at the time hid under the bed and did not report the murder until late the following morning. .....

The Kelly Gang arrived in Glenrowan on 27 June forcibly taking about seventy hostages at the Glenrowan Inn. They knew that a passenger train carrying a police detachment was on its way and ordered the rail tracks pulled up in order to cause a derailment......

The gang members were equipped with armour that was tough enough to repel bullets (but left the legs unprotected).

The armour  was likely forged from stolen or donated plough mouldboards. Each man's armour weighed about 96 pounds (44 kg); all four had helmets, and Byrne's was said to be the most well done, with the brow reaching down to the nose piece, almost forming two eye slits. All wore grey cotton coats reaching past the knees over the armour.

The accounts of who opened fire first are contradictory. According to Superintendent Hare he was close to the inn when he saw the flash of a rifle and felt his left hand go limp. Three more flashes followed from the veranda and then whoever had first fired at him stepped back and began to fire again after which the police opened fire. Kelly testified in court that he was dismounting from his horse when a bolt in his armour failed. While he was fixing the bolt the police fired two volleys into the inn. Kelly claimed that as he walked towards the inn the police fired a third volley with the result that one bullet hit him in the foot and another in the left arm. It was at that moment he claimed his gang began returning the fire.

 Kelly now walked in what police called a "lurching motion" towards them from 30 metres (98 ft) away. Due to the restrictions of his armour, and now only being able to hold his revolving rifle in one hand, he had to hold the rifle at arm’s length to fire, and claimed he fired randomly, two shots to the front and two shots to his left. Constable Arthur fired three times, hitting Kelly once in the helmet and twice in his body, but despite staggering from the impacts he continued to advance.

Constables Phillips and Healy then fired with similar effect. Kelly's lower limbs, however, were unprotected, and when 15 metres (49 ft) from the police line he was shot repeatedly in the legs. As he fell he was hit by a shotgun blast that injured his hip and right hand.

The other Kelly Gang members died in the hotel; Joe Byrne perished due to loss of blood from a gunshot wound that severed his femoral artery as he allegedly stood at the bar pouring himself a glass of whisky, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart committed suicide (according to witness Matthew Gibney). No autopsy was done to determine cause of death, as their bodies were burnt when the police set fire to the inn. The police suffered only one minor injury: Superintendent Francis Hare, the senior officer on the scene, received a slight wound to his wrist, then fled the battle. For his cowardice the Royal Commission later suspended Hare from the Victorian Police Force.[20] Several hostages were also shot, two fatally.

Ned Kelly survived to stand trial, and was sentenced to death by the Irish-born judge Justice Redmond Barry. This case was extraordinary in that there were exchanges between the prisoner Kelly and the judge, and the case has been the subject of attention by historians and lawyers. When the judge uttered the customary words "May God have mercy on your soul", Kelly replied "I will go a little further than that, and say I will see you there when I go".[21] At Ned's request, his photographic portrait was taken and he was granted farewell interviews with family members. His mother's last words to Ned were reported to be "Mind you die like a Kelly".

He was hanged on 11 November 1880 at the Melbourne Gaol for the murder of Constable Lonigan. .... two newspapers (The Age and The Herald) reported Kelly's last words as "Such is life".....

Sir Redmond Barry died of the effects of a carbuncle on his neck on 23 November 1880, twelve days after Kelly." End Wiki Quote

Killer Carbuncle? Well well.   

Footnotes: *

1)You can read the 'true' history of Ned Kelly here. Or an eyewitness account here.
2)As far as myself? You can read about my convict Great Great Grandfather here: Benjamin Harmer
3)You can also read about my convict Great  Great Grandmother here: Mary Budd
4)Also available are transcripts to their trials from Old Bailey. Mary Budd, Mary Budd , Benjamin Harmer, Benjamin Harmer.

PS clicking for big removes carbuncles. Thanks  again for looking!

By the way, I am not here, so don't read this. I'll be offline for a while for reasons that poor old Ned would understand - if he hadn't been hung.


  1. I am glad I am not the only one
    who says I'll be gone
    and be offline
    and then put up a new post.
    I am glad you do too.
    As I am on my way to work again,
    I shall return to peruse
    this wondrous tale again.
    Dood Gay, I mean Good Day!!!

  2. I love that you give us all something to look at, read over and contemplate while you are away Mr. Finnie. Your kind and generous comments will be missed while you are away as well as your intriguing work. If I miss being drawn into your world too much I will make due with past illustrations until your return.

  3. A perfect piece for my mood. Good night, my friend. :)

  4. You and Wikipedia are a dangerous combination, I hope you know. What with your skillful storytelling, You could rewrite history, and throngs of followers will beg to live in your alternate universe. Can you imagine?

    What a fantastic piece! The layers make this look a little ghostly, which is brilliant. And goodness, you even included an angry vein on the horse's head!

    ACK! I had to google carbuncle, and I'm so sorry I did.

    Okay, off I go to put on my bucket hat and snarl like a scoundrel. And check for carbuncles. Good luck doing the things that you are doing!

  5. Hi, Andrew! You know, you've always been good but your latest illustrations show a certain quality...they are really elegant! I love the atmosphere in this one and the perspective in the IF post. As for Brian, he's the first darf I fall in love with. A guy that shows up more than seventeen hours in advace,inspite of his pain! Like most of your characters, he's charming, deliriously charming.
    I hope you come back soon. You're not in trouble with the law, are you?

  6. Oooh Bella
    she googled carbuncle!
    Next time she
    may try pustule
    or nodule
    perhaps a verruca
    and pediculosis
    or granuloma inguinale.

  7. i love dark images.
    i guess you already knew.
    and im not talking about carbuncle, pustule, nodule, verruca, pediculosis, granuloma inguinale, blablabla.

  8. i dont understand people sometimes.
    (yea, like they understand me...)

  9. Ombres primordialement, assez pour cacher une nature douce.

  10. Well, Andrew, I can not really say much about what is written in this post, because the Google translator is not very reliable. I can only say something about the graph, and the reality is that I know not how to classify it. But as to describe it, I can think of a word that would be excellent.

  11. Read the docment. OMG! 24! That is young. I was 24 when I immigrated to the US, but I was not a convict.

  12. Hey Andrew! Love this one. Another great great (but much much longer) account of Ned Kelly can be read in Peter Carey's Booker Prize-winning novel, The True History of the Kelly Gang, which I LOVED. You know what's strange? I was actually considering doing an illustration of the homemade armour (being worn, of course!) for the 12WC- but decided against it because I thought that I should focus on a more kiddie-lit thing. (and then did the cutting-the-eyes-out story, natch!very kid-friendly...)

  13. I am glad you added this narrative. I have told you that my family, for the most part, is Irish. My great-grandfather, Thomas Carroll, came here in the late 1800's. (I use the name Patrick O'Carroll on my SCBWI posts). I suppose that anyone who is not of Irish heritage may not know of the discrimination that was incurred in the British Isles, the Americas and Australia. I had a good friend named Dowdell (O'Dell) when I was in the Marines. His father told me of many of the atrocities that had been inflicted on his ancestors. I guess what I'm sayin is...Judging people by their culture, color or religious affiliation is not a new thing. Hopefully, communication between those who share different backgrounds will eventually lead us to a common ground. And, Erin Go Bragh!

  14. Well...I DID read this--what a fascinating account. It sortof ties in with what I was thinking about this week (but DIDN'T attempt to illustrate). I like the images too, especially the boy sitting in the doorway, which colored how I read the story. Fabulous!

  15. What a great read...the post and the wiki story....
    illustration is fabulous as is your new header...though it is taking a while to load...
    coming back for more later:-)


Hya! Thank you so much for leaving a comment. I appreciate your time and thoughts.