Ned Kelly’s Last Stand at Glenrowan, Australia

As we turned off the main freeway to head to the town of Glenrowan in the North of Victoria, Australia, I wasn’t really sure what I would find. This town is the site of Australia’s most famous bushranger battle – Ned Kelly’s Last Stand. I remember learning all about Ned Kelly in school, and although he was an outlaw, it was his story that I found most interesting.

Ned Kelly’s story takes us back to the 1800’s, when the country of Australia didn’t even exist yet. Back then, the country was split into several different colonies of the British Empire that now make up the states of Australia. Ned’s parents originated from Ireland, his father (John Kelly) a former convict who moved to Victoria on release met Ned’s mother (Ellen Kelly). The Kellys had seven children, the oldest son being Edward (Ned) Kelly.

Ned was brought up in a tough and unfair environment, surrounded by crime and convictions. His family was suspected of horse and cattle stealing, and his father ended up in prison to serve 6 months for stealing a farmer’s calf. His Irish heritage meant that he was treated poorly in the prison, which ultimately led to his death. This was just the start of Ned’s anger towards the authorities.

Statue of Ned Kelly in Glenrowan, Australia

Statue of Ned Kelly in Glenrowan

What followed was a lot of different charges against the Kelly family, most of which were false and led to the obvious targeting of the family by the police.

Ned Kelly’s bushranging days came about after a police officer (Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick), drunk and against orders, went to the Kelly house to arrest Ned’s brother Dan for horse stealing while Ned was away. He waited at the Kelly house for Dan to return, where he made his arrest. Unable to provide a warrant, Ned’s mother Ellen challenged him, where Fitzpatrick pulled a revolver on them and threatened them all. Dan then managed to corner him and relieve him of his revolver and was sent on his way.

Fitzpatrick then rode onto Benalla where he claimed that he was attacked and shot by Ned, Dan, Ellen, Bricky Williamson and Bill Skillion who he claimed were armed with revolvers. Ned told the police that he was not present at the time of the incident and that Fitzpatrick’s wounds were self inflicted. Police arrested and imprisoned his mother Ellen along with Bricky Williamson and Bill Skillion and a reward was offered for Ned’s arrest.

Furious with the injustice, Ned and Dan went into hiding in the bush where they were joined by their friends, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart who formed the infamous Kelly Gang.

The Kelly Gang was hunted for a couple of years by the police as they continuously robbed banks and stole horses in their rebellion. Ned Kelly’s last stand happened in the town of Glenrowan where they planned on stopping the police train by pulling up some tracks in the town. With the town’s residents as hostages in Ann Jones’ Inn, Ned, Dan, Joe and Steve faced off against the huge police force wearing homemade iron armour suits. Their suits each weighed about 44 kilograms covering their torsos and heads, but leaving their legs unprotected. The weight of the armour heavily limited their movements.

Railway station in Glenrowan, Australia

The railway station in Glenrowan

Their attempt to derail the train failed due to a released hostage waving down the train before it got there. The police therefore laid siege against the Kelly Gang inside the inn. It was at dawn on the 28th of June, 1880, when the firing began. Both parties fired on each other throughout the day, with the police receiving reinforcements from nearby stations. Joe Byrne had been shot while drinking whisky at the bar. Amongst the firing, Ned had somehow moved out of the inn to attack the police from the rear, firing upon them with a single revolver while using the surrounding trees as cover, despite being injured. The police charged him, firing upon him heavily without affect due to his armour. When they realised that his legs were unprotected, he was brought down with two shots where he was finally captured. He was brought to the train station where his wounds were treated, six bullet wounds in total.

Site of Ann Jones' Inn in Glenrowan, Australia

Site of Ann Jones’ Inn in Glenrowan

The siege on the inn continued during this time while Dan Kelly and Steve Hart released the hostages and continued to fire on the police, their armour protecting them. Eventually, the firing stopped and the police set the inn on fire. When Dan and Steve’s burnt bodies were found, it was believed that they had shot each other. It is still unknown whether they were shot during the siege or committed suicide.

Ned Kelly stood trial on the 19th October, 1880, and was hung on the 11th of November at Melbourne Gaol. A petition to spare his life apparently attracted around 30,000 signatures. Ned had a great following of sympathizers.

Site of Ned Kelly's arrest in Glenrowan, Australia

The spot where Ned Kelly was shot down and captured

As I wondered around Glenrowan, it was hard to picture such a bloody battle happening here. I walked across the railway line to where the siege took place, stood at the site of the inn where the gang made their last stand and where Dan, Joe and Steve died. I then walked past the old police station to the spot where Ned had finally been shot down and arrested. I had no idea what to think. Was Ned really a bad person? Sure, he had done some bad things, but his ultimate demise was due to his anger at the injustice towards his family. I imagine that if I was in his shoes back in those days, I would have been just as angry. Ned wasn’t a blood thirsty killer as he was made out to be. He simply wanted a fair go. He simply loved his family.

It was only at the beginning of this very year, nearly 133 years after his death, that Ned Kelly’s remains were finally returned to his family. His last wish was to be buried at the Greta Cemetery with the rest of his family. I went there to pay my respects.

Ned Kelly and Family grave stone in Greta, Australia

Ned and the Kelly Family’s tomb stone in Greta Cemetery. The graves are unmarked.

He now rests in an unmarked grave with the rest of his family, along with his mother Ellen and his brother Dan. Finally, he can rest in peace.

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18 comments… add one
  • Nat Apr 11, 2013

    I have heard about this place before. Think I researched it because I watched a film with a similar plot line to the one in this article. I don’t think he was a bad man, just was not prepared to be shat on all his life!
    Nat recently posted..The Gaziantep Mevlevi MuseumMy Profile

    • Dean Wickham Apr 12, 2013

      Hi Nat. I agree, I don’t see him as a bad man. Really, he just stuck up for his family, and for that he was punished. They all were. It’s very sad really.

  • I was obsessed with this story for the longest time — read the book, saw the movie, even went to see the display at the Melbourne Gaol. Jealous that you went to Glenrowan. 🙂

    • Dean Wickham Apr 12, 2013

      Hi Raymond. It really is an interesting story and worth getting into. You should definitely go to Glenrowan if you ever get the chance. You can easily drive there for the day from Melbourne if you wanted to as it’s just off the main freeway.

  • Natasha von Geldern Apr 12, 2013

    I stopped at Glenrowan on the way to somewhere also and find the whole Ned Kelly legend quite fascinating – an insight into the harshness of life in Australia back then certainly. The reconstruction of the type of house they would have lived in behind the museum was very interesting. I have Australian family and he is definitely a hero rather than a criminal to them.
    Natasha von Geldern recently posted..Australia: The King’s Canyon Rim WalkMy Profile

    • Dean Wickham Apr 13, 2013

      Hi Natasha. I would say he is certainly regarded as a hero by many Australians. I’m glad you made the stop in Glenrowan. It is certainly an interesting story.

  • Jennifer Apr 13, 2013

    Nice short history of Ned Kelly, I didn’t know much about him until now. I hope your travels are going well?
    Jennifer recently posted..Round the World: before you depart checklistMy Profile

    • Dean Wickham Apr 13, 2013

      Glad you liked it Jennifer. We are having a fantastic trip, thanks for asking 🙂

  • Thomas May 2, 2013

    Thanks for filling me in about Ned Kelly! The ozzys nevert stop talking about him so was good to know a little bit about his history.

    • Dean Wickham May 7, 2013

      Glad you liked the post, Thomas. Yes, Ned is certainly a popular guy here in Australia.

  • the stensil man Jun 24, 2013

    pik of the grave sight is good but he was dug up many years after being hung in the old melbourne gaol. all the in mates put on death row that were hung in the gaol were buried out the back of the gaol. Also ned being a distant uncle of mine.a lot of his story will never be told. he was a simple man defending his family and his rights as a person in Australia.(as now called) Has anything in this country really changed from neds time?????? you be the judge.

    • Dean Wickham Jun 27, 2013

      Yes, all Ned wanted was to stand up for his family, and for that he was punished. Very sad indeed. I can’t believe that it took until 2013 for him to finally be buried where he wanted to with his family. I hope he can rest in peace now.

  • Chris Aug 23, 2014

    I lived just down the road from Glenrowan in Benalla. Good to see you visited the small town of Glenrowan.

    • Dean Wickham Aug 24, 2014

      Hey Chris. I believe I went through Benalla. Nice area. Cheers!

  • Stuart Dawson Oct 6, 2016

    Hi, the slur that Fitzpatrick was drunk when he went to arrest Dan Kelly has been proved compete and utter nonsense. Please see http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/eras/files/2015/11/Eras-171-4-Stuart-Dawson-FINAL.pdf
    Best regards, Stuart

  • Susie Stevens May 8, 2017

    Hi Mark
    I am working on a book about Ned Kelly, very sympathetic to his plight. Would you mind if we use the image of the gravestone at Greta? Please let me know.
    Regards
    Susie

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