Here’s all you need to know: The Ned Kelly Facts. On the verge of succumbing to the humdrum life of the mid-1800s rural Victoria, Ned Kelly began life as a notorious bushranger. But when his mother was unjustly imprisoned, he had to stand up to the authorities—before the Australian underdog fighting spirit was lost.
Ned Kelly Facts: The Story of an Aussie Icon
The Birth of an Icon
1. In 1855, Ned Kelly was born to John ‘Red’ Kelly and Ellen Quinn in the town of Beveridge, Victoria.
2. He was the eldest of eight children.
3. As a child he risked his life to save another boy from drowning. The appreciative family rewarded his bravery with a green silk sash.
4. At 14 years old Ned Kelly’s life of crime began when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting a Chinese man. The following year he was arrested again, this time because the police suspected he was the accomplice of a prominent bushranger. However, both charges were dismissed.
5. Around a decade later, in April 1878, a police officer named Fitzpatrick visited the Kelly’s home. He was looking for Ned’s brother Dan, who was suspected of stealing horses. While it’s unclear whether Ned Kelly was even present at the time of the shooting, Officer Fitzpatrick claimed Ned Kelly shot him. Then, Ned’s mother, Ellen, was arrested for aiding and abetting attempted murder.
6. Judge Redmond Barry sentenced Ellen Kelly to three years of prison time. While Ned and Dan went into hiding and were not sentenced at the time, it would be the same Judge Barry who would later decide Ned Kelly’s fate.
The Beginning of the End
7. In hiding, Ned and Dan were joined by their friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart. In October 1878, the four friends went to Bullock Creek hoping to run a whisky distillery and earn enough money to appeal Ellen’s three-year sentence.
8. Not long after arriving in Bullock Creek, the gang of four were warned the police were tracking them. So the gang decided to track the trackers and find the police.
9. By following some horse tracks, Ned Kelly discovered the group of four policemen nearby at Stringybark Creek, yet managed to remain hidden from view. Upon returning to his brother and friends, they planned to ambush the police.
10. When they ambushed the police, two constables were standing around the fire—the other two were nowhere to be seen. One surrendered and Ned Kelly shot the other. When the other two policemen returned, they refused to surrender. In the firefight that followed both policemen were killed.
11. The four friends, two of them brothers, then became known as the notorious Kelly Gang as—outlaws.
12. Fearful of future firefights, the Kelly Gang created thick metal suits of armour. The metal for the armour was bought, stolen, and gifted from local farmers sympathetic to their cause.
The Last Stand
13. The Kelly Gang had managed to evade the police for years and had captured the support of the local community. But they were tired of running. The Kelly Gang wanted to inspire a full-blown rebellion against the unjust legal system.
14. In June 1880, the Kelly Gang lured the police to a fight in Glenrowan, Victoria. The gang took over the Glenrowan railway station. They were careful to leave the telegraph intact so the station master could call the police for help.
15. The Kelly Gang took the railway staff as hostages and moved them to the Glenrowan Inn. They spent the night there awaiting the police. But because many of the hostages were in fact Kelly supporters, the night was jovial and filled with song.
16. During the night, a local school teacher told police that the Kelly Gang and hostages were holed up at the Glenrowan Inn. The police surrounded the building.
17. At dawn, Ned Kelly stepped out the front door, dressed in his now infamous armour. Police were shocked by his appearance.
18. The police started a fire in the Glenrowan Inn to smoke out the other three members of the Kelly Gang. Steve Hart and Dan Kelly died in the fire, and Joe Byrne was shot as he ran out the side of the hotel.
19. Ned Kelly survived the confrontation. But he was then sentenced to death by Judge Redmond Barry—the same Judge who had sentenced his mother to three years in prison and initiated Ned Kelly’s rebellion.
The Death of Ned Kelly
20. Ned Kelly died at the gallows in Melbourne Gaol, on 11 November 1880.
21. His last words were the now infamous, “Such is life.”
The Immortal Letter
22. Ned Kelly was a notorious criminal. But he also became an Aussie symbol of the underdog willing to challenge authorities and fight for his freedom. This is due to stories told about him by those in his local community, but also because of an 8,000 word manifesto he wrote.
23. The manifesto is known as The Jerilderie Letter. It went into details of the unfair police persecution of his family and himself.
24. The letter was given to an accountant when the Kelly Gang robbed the Jerilderie Bank. He told him to have it published, however, the accountant took it to the police instead. The letter was rediscovered at Kelly’s trial.
Gone But Not Forgotten
25. Today, Ned Kelly remains a national icon.
26. A mask of him now sits on display at the state library.
27. At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, his image was featured in front of the world during the opening ceremony.
We hope you enjoyed these Ned Kelly facts. He’s certainly a fascinating man and an important figure in Australian history. While there are many Ned Kelly facts, it’s the Ned Kelly myth that has inspired Australia most.