Ned Kelly: outback legend, or cowardly criminal? You decide!
In this kind-of-a-bonus-but-not-really episode, we tackle an Aussie icon, none other than Edward Kelly, better known as Ned, and his gang of rambunctious friends. Some people (Ellen) believe that Ned was a hero, a legend, and a man of the people. Sure he stole a few horses and killed a few cops, but what else are you gonna do in the outback in the late 1800s? Some others (Jess) believe that Ned Kelly was a bad man, actually, and we shouldn’t really worship a guy who stole horses, robbed banks, captured hostages, tried to blow up a train, and yeah, okay, murdered a few people.
Whichever side of the Kelly Divide you’re on, there’s no arguing that Ned Kelly is one of the most interesting and infamous people in Australian history. In Part One we’re gonna get a little high school English and discuss the socio-historic context of the Kelly gang before diving right in to Ned and co’s many and varied exploits.
Ned Kelly and his gang lightly terrorised the north east of Victoria for many years, stealing and selling horses, thumbing their noses at the la and the upper-class ‘squattocracy’ they believed were oppressing the poor working class. The Kelly gang were legends – bushrangers, outlaws, the Australian answer to Robin Hood.
But ol’ Ned and his pals were also murderers. Ned was a legend in his own corner of the globe, but it wasn’t until the gang bailed up and shot a group of policeman that were out searching for Ned that they became outlawed. The highest bounty in Australian history were placed on their heads, and Ned was determined to get revenge on – in his opinion – the corrupt Victorian police.
From this act, their legend would grow, from the north east of Victoria in the late 19th century, to the absolute phenomena that the Kellys continue to be in 21st century Australia. That little corner of Victoria where Ned and pals kicked around will forever be known as Kelly Country. Ned Kelly has come to exemplify so much of what some believe it means to be Australian. But debates continue to this day: was Ned Kelly truly an outback legend, or was he just a horse thief turned murderer that deserved to answer for the crimes he committed?
We won’t be able to answer that question in this ep, but we will cover the first half of Ned’s brilliant career, spanning up to the murders at Stringbark Creek. You’ll have to wait for Part 2 to hear the rest.
Our main source this week was Peter Fitzsimmons’ Ned Kelly, which is a great book not only because of the wealth of information in provides but also because, at a whopping 826 pages, you can use it as a door stop or perhaps a brick once you’ve finished reading it. Cop it here https://www.penguin.com.au/books/ned-kelly-9780857988140
To read a biography of Ned’s short but busy life, go here http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kelly-edward-ned-3933
A very interactive and fun website about Ol Ned can be found here https://www.ironoutlaw.com/
If you’re not a fan of Ned Kelly you can have your worldview supported by reading this salty Herald Sun article https://www.heraldsun.com.au/rendezview/ned-kelly-was-a-failed-terrorist-not-a-folk-hero/news-story/5b80433f048c89e6836898b255f44fb0
Should we start a book club? Get in contact with us on the socials! We promise the books we chose will be less than 800 pages.