Oct 15, 2011

Stand and Deliver!

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 :)

Stringybark Creek 

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 ;)


  1. Ah, I can understand the sentimentality over men and women who defied the authorities and fought them even if it meant murder and mayhem. During those times, the authorities were corrupt and dishonest and therefore it was the people versus the authorities. I think I will leave it in the past. Your illustrations, especially of the boy admiring the museum displays is incredibly delicious. Yes, I am using the word delicious because sometimes when I admire art I literally drool. Must be my oral fixation. The music is wonderful and the melody mesmerizing; makes me imagine how it would have been like during those times and I find myself brandishing a very long bolo (Filipino machete) and beheading those scoundrel magistrates. Ay yay! I often wonder if I would have survived in the bush. I am afraid of bugs, lizards and snakes. I would have not survived being an outlaw. I would probably have collaborated with the corrupt lawmen, fed them and entertained them while I slowly poisoned their drinks or in some instances fed them rat poison and watch them vomit their guts out. I love revenge!!! I am so glad that today's Australians are law-abiding and civilized citizens. Maybe not. Hahahahah!

  2. Andrew, you are in incredible story telle both in words and pictures.

  3. Your header rocks! One way or another :)

  4. This is very very educational post. So we get history lessons , and just for free! You are very kind person, Mr. F!
    It is not necessary to stress the artistical aspects of these illustrations - because everybody knows, they are very beatiful. But I like to mentioned something about technical aspect: it is amzazing how you deal with different angles of view and perspective especially in the museum. I like also the "glass-feel" in display cases......

  5. I also wear suit of armor , not so nice as Ned's suit, but my is lighter , I think about 43 kg. :D

  6. Bonjour Andrew,
    Je rage de ne pas pouvoir écouter les mélodies qui accompagnent ta publication... Le son de mon pc est grrrrrr et + encore il ne fonctionne plus. J'attends l'aide de mon fils...
    Toutefois je ne sais pas si je serais aussi admirative devant un crâne! Je serais impressionnée oui!
    J'aime l'attitude de ce petit garçon aux bras croisés, retranché dans sa timidité et sa perplexité.
    Je n'aurais pas aimé porter une de ces armures!! Rien que le poids m'en aurait découragée...
    Je suis toujours aussi éblouie par l'ensemble de ton travail... Bravo!

    Gros bisous

    Je te plains Andrew de devoir aller à la plage !!! L'été s'attarde encore un peu, mais les températures baissent... La semaine dernière j'étais à Montmartre pour la fête des vendanges...

  7. love this post Andrew and the Museum illustrations are excellent! I love them. When I saw the new header, I said to myself "he's back" ;) hmmm, I say "such is life" a lot...

  8. Whoa, with the added soundtrack, your illustrations look even MORE like a movie. Quite epic, from Ned's glory days to his days in a museum. Gorgeous illustrations, all of them. Good golly, man, you even have horsehair texture!

    Really? They made a cast of his head? I hope they do not put that on top of his skeleton. That would be a tad creepy.

    Loved this post! But then again, I love everything you've posted. Even when they frighten me like your last one.

  9. I never heard of Kelly before but I can see why he is popular, looks like he had an interesting life. The kind of life most of us want to know more about but never want to live... living otside the law killing cops would be a little too much for me :)
    I really like your illustrations, specially the texture in the first pics and the lights and shadows in the museum illustrations.

  10. I can't leave without mentioning your new header. I love it, makes me think I'm about to enter Dante Alighieri's Inferno, which I don't mind of course if it's only for a short visit.

  11. I'm gonna look for pictures of that plaster cast.

  12. I think Australians and Americans must be an awful lot alike, but then we got English convicts first :) I love story time with Andrew! I'm always entertained, and this time I learned something too. Of course now I'm also stuck in Australian folk music, and I'm not exactly sure how to get out of that again? :) Me too, with liking the new header (but it did take quite a while to load). Love all the pics, but especially the boy looking at Ned's death mask. Wonderful post!!

  13. Aww geez! I am black and blue, and it's all your fault. I collapsed in hysterics on the hard kitchen floor after reading your story. I knew if you came around that you'd be able to come up with a doozy, and you did NOT disappoint. A dandruff storm???? BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

  14. hello ANdrew, before we knew the songs are settling down, Ned and i will be at home and sound.

  15. Hey--the thumbnail looked so unlike your usual stuff that I didn't know what to expect, and sure enough, somehow this seemed more serious. Or maybe not serious, but sober. Or something. It all makes me feel kindof nostalgic, though I'd be hard put to say what for. Maybe it's that I'm listening to the song as I'm reading and looking, maybe it's the boy's earnestness in looking at all the artifacts, but certainly interesting indeed!

  16. It reminded me a bit of Peter Lorre...maybe it's just the bald head because in the pictures with the hair and beard he looks nothing like him.
    The Armour is scary.

  17. you make the best blog headers, Andrew.

  18. Andrew. How do I say this gently... hmm...uh...that was not a sand pit. Nevertheless, you are welcome to play there anytime.



  19. Thanks, And And...Andrew! (for your visit, slow down you should not be in a hurry, the driver of the car you'll find the next corner may also be in a hurry, and that would be disastrous)
    I have an armor, similar to this, I like to use for travel, but every time I get on a plane I have to pay for excess weight!

  20. Very cool Andrew! Fabulous new header too-- that wolf has fine taste in clothes. Love those museum settings.

  21. Lemme get my bowl of popcorn and I'm set.

  22. Well, that was entertaining, indeed. I think I now know more about Ned from you than anywhere else. Always good to go straight to the expert, eh? No Wiki for once, cause it's a snore...zzzzzzzzzzzz

    Anyway, love the vintage rustic feel to everything. The museum clips tricked me! I actually thought they were photographs! Until I saw the boy... Hhm, lack of sleep numb the brain, you know. :))

    PS: Love seeing little red up there...

  23. Now that is one interesting tale my friend. And told so very well indeed! The music playing in the background really gave it a dramatic flair. Nice touch! Your new header is fantastic! Love the colors and the wolf’s fashion sense. I like that you have elevated Kelly (a horse thief) to folklore heroism. My cousin was looking up our family roots to see if we had any upper-class ancestors and all he could find out was that our great great grandfather was a horse thief in Idaho. He was hanged. His last words were “I should have went to Australia and looked up cousin Ned.” Great post Andrew!

  24. This is magnificent, Andrew..from the tale to the amazing illustrations..you are simply a master of all of it and I'm bowing to you very sincerely!

    And by all means not least, your header is one of the finest images I've seen of yours to date. Everything about it, from little Red to the stance of wolf, to the gorgeous details in your woodland background..amazing!!

  25. Okay, you get that melody line uploaded, right quick, fella. I'll wait.

    While I'm waiting, I would love to play this music, but I'm at work and don't have a sound card on this contraption.

    But I do admire me a fella who kin shoot another fella smack-dab in the wrist. Seems like he coulda been of use by the Po-lice.

    Thank you for this interesting article! (but really, I get this magazine for the photos)

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