This week I have been revisiting the bush ranger Ned Kelly, whose bones have recently been identified in a mass grave outside one of our oldest prisons. (you can find my original post here)
Well most of his bones - his skull is yet to be found. I had heard it was being used as a paper weight by the prison warden for quite a few years - and then vanished. But that could be apocryphal. But maybe not. The victors have often treated the bodies of the vanquished with distain. Just look at the Iliad and Hector and Achilles.
But before we go on, can you do me a favour? Just start the music in this youtube video while you look at the pics? - assuming you are looking at the pics ! It's not Kelly, but another bushranger. But it sounds kinda good. :0
Ned Kelly is treated as a hero in Australia. Of Irish descent, he stood up for himself against the local constabulary who had victimised his family.
Well that's what we like to believe. In reality it seems like he was an apprentice bushranger and horse thief. He also beat up on a Chinese fellow called Ah Fook. :) Mind you, he had the guts to shoot a local constable in the wrist (the constable had been making free with Kelly's sister). Afterward he was forced to go on the run.
While on the run he killed three policeman who were 'a hunting him - (the story is told in the song Stringybark Creek in one of the videos at the end.) and was declared an outlaw for his trouble.
That meant he could be legally shot on sight by anyone - if they were game.
He had a f inal shootout at a place called Glenrowan in Victoria. The Glenrowan Seige lasted two days. Kelly and the other three members of his gang wore armour made out of plough shields. Each suit of armour weighed about 44 kilos.
Before the siege he'd known the police were coming for him en mass by rail, and had laid a trap, where the train would be derailed and he and his gang, wearing their suits of armour, would take the 'police' prisoner.
But he was betrayed by the local schoolteacher - who stopped the train. Kelly and his 'gang' were caught in the Glenrowan Inn by an overwehelming number of police. One of his gang was killed out right by the first volley (through the inn walls) while drinking a toast to the Kelly gang.
The siege resulted in the deaths of Kelly Gang members Joe Byrne, Dan Kelly & Steve Hart.
Kelly, himself was shot in the legs and captured and sent to jail.
As Wiki says, "He was convicted of three counts of capital murder and hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol in November 1880. His daring has made him an iconic figure in Australian history, folklore, literature, art and film." There's been several movies made about Kelly. The first ever Australian movie was based on his story. The last two have had Mick Jagger and Heath Ledger in the leading roles.
In Australia we idolise people who stand up for themselves. Even if they have had to murderer and steal to do it. It's something to do with our heritage, the fact that the nasty bad bad terrible and rottenly bad bad English transported so many of our ancestors from their homes - for political as well as juidicious reasons.
Of course we were all inmocent....
Ned Kelly's remains have long been one of the many missing parts of the story of the Kelly Gang. In September this year scientists used DNA to identify the skeletal remains. Now they want to put his skeleton - sans head - on display. Nice.
Kelly’s last words were “Such is life.”
When he was dead they shaved off his beard and made a plaster cast of his head.
Over the page break tere's a song I used to love. It's about the sergeant and three constables who went hunting Kelly, and met with unexpected resistance. I got out my flute today and recorded the melody line - but I can't get it to upload. Ugh. Lucky for you :)
A sergeant and three constables set out from Mansfield town
Near the end of last October for to hunt the Kellys down;
They started for the Wombat hills and thought it quite a lark
When they camped upon the borders of a creek called Stringybark.
They had grub and ammunition there to last them many a week,
And next morning two of them rode out, all to explore the creek,
Leaving McIntyre, behind them at the camp to cook the grub
And Lonergan to sweep the floor and boss the washing tub.
It was shortly after breakfast Mac thought he heard a noise
So gun in hand he sallied out to try to find the cause,
But he never saw the Kellys planted safe behind a log
So he sauntered back to smoke and yarn and wire into the grog.
But Ned Kelly and his comrades thought they'd like a nearer look
For being short of grub they wished to interview the cook;
And of firearms and cartridges they found they had too few,
So they longed to grab the pistols and the ammunition too.
Both the troopers at a stump alone they were well pleased to see
Watching as the billies boiled to make their pints of tea;
There they joked and chatted gaily never thinking of alarms
Till they heard the fearful cry behind, 'Bail up, throw up your arms
The traps they started wildly and Mac then firmly stood
While Lonergan made tracks to try and gain the wood,
Reaching round for his revolver but, before he touched the stock
Ned Kelly pulled the trigger and he dropped him like a rock.
Then after searching McIntyre all through the camp they went
And cleared the guns and cartridges and pistols from the tent,
But brave Kelly muttered sadly as he loaded up his guns,
"Oh, what a bloody pity that the bastard tried to run."
PS: Heres a translation if you'd like it.
- A 'lark' is not just a bird, but a fun time, a bit of an unserious occasion.
- A 'stringybark' is a type of gum tree, that's bark peels off when the weather heats up and the tree has grown out of its 'skin'.
- A "billy" is a can with a lid and a wire handle that you can hang over a fire and boil some water for your tea.
- "Bail up" means stop what you are doing.
- "Traps" is slang for police.
There's also a few more folksongs below, you might like, Thanks for looking ;)