Ned Kelly

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Let the hand of the law strike me down if it will, but I ask that my story might be heard and considered.

Edward "Ned" Kelly (c. January 1855 - 11 November 1880) is a legendary Australian bushranger who killed three policemen, but is also regarded by many people as a hero for standing up to colonial authorities. He is noted, along with his gang members, for wearing home-made suits of amour. He was hanged in 1880 in the Melbourne Gaol.


Babington Letter (1870)[edit]

Everyone looks on me like a black snake.

Ned Kelly Letter to Sgt. James Babington, 28 July 1870

  • Everyone looks on me like a black snake.

Cameron Letter (1878)[edit]

Quotes from "The Cameron Letter" at
  • Fitzpatrick shall be the cause of greater slaughter to the rising generation than St. Patrick was to the snakes and toads of Ireland.
  • [Fitzpatrick] seems a strapping and genteel looking young man, and more fit to be a starcher to laundress than a trooper, but to a keen observer he has the wrong appearance to have anything like a clear conscience or a manly heart. The deceit is plain lit to be seen in the white cabbage-hearted looking face.
  • Had I robbed, plundered, ravished and murdered everything I met my character could not be painted blacker than it as present, thank God my conscience is as clear as the snow in Peru.
  • I am really astonished to see Members of the Legislative Assembly led astray by such articles as the Police, for while an outlaw reigns their pocket swells, tis double pay and country girls.

Jerilderie Letter (1879)[edit]

The Jerilderie Letter (online at Wikisource); though intended for publication, this remained unpublished until 1930. - Images, transcript and audio of John Hanlon's transcript at the National Museum of Australia - Images and transcript at the State Library of Victoria
I will be compelled to show some colonial stratagem which will open the eyes of not only the Victoria Police and inhabitants but also the whole British army ...
  • I wish to acquaint you with some of the occurrences of the present past and future.
  • The Queen must surely be proud of such heroic men as the Police and Irish soldiers as It takes eight or eleven of the biggest mud crushers in Melbourne to take one poor little half starved larrakin to a watch house. I have seen as many as eleven, big & ugly enough to lift Mount Macedon out of a crab hole more like the species of a baboon or Guerilla than a man.
  • I could not suffer them blowing me to pieces in my own native land and they knew Fitzpatrick wronged us and why not make it public and convict him but no they would rather riddle poor unfortunate creoles.
  • I threw big cowardly Hall on his belly I straddled him and rooted both spurs onto his thighs he roared like a big calf attacked by dogs ... I used to trip him and let him take a mouth ful of dust now and again as he was as helpless as a big guano after leaving a dead bullock or a horse.
  • I would have scattered their blood and brains like rain I would manure the Eleven Mile with their bloated carcasses and yet remember there is not one drop of murderous blood in my Veins.
  • The public could not do any more than take firearms and assisting the police as they have done, but by the light that shines pegged on an ant-bed with their bellies opened their fat taken out rendered and poured down their throat boiling hot will be fool to what pleasure I will give some of them and any person aiding or harbouring or assisting the Police ...
  • It will pay Government to give those people who are suffering innocence, justice and liberty. if not I will be compelled to show some colonial stratagem which will open the eyes of not only the Victoria Police and inhabitants but also the whole British army and no doubt they will acknowledge their hounds were barking at the wrong stump.
  • The Police got great credit and praise in the papers for arresting the mother of 12 children one an infant on her breast and those two quiet hard working innocent men who would not know the difference a revolver and a saucepan handle and kept them six months awaiting trial and then convicted them on the evidence of the meanest article that ever the sun shone on it.
  • I have been wronged and my mother and four or five men lagged innocent and is my brothers and sisters and my mother not to be pitied also, who have no alternative but to put up with the brutal and cowardly conduct of a parcel of big ugly fat-necked wombat headed, big bellied, magpie legged, narrow hipped, splaw-footed sons of Irish bailiffs or English landlords, known as 'officers of justice' or 'Victorian Police' who some call honest gentlemen but I would like to know what business an honest man would have in the Police as it is an old saying it takes a rogue to catch a rogue.
  • I would advise all those who joined the Stock Protection to withdraw their money and give it to the poor of Greta where I have spent and will again spend many happy days fearless free and bold as it only aids the police to procure false witnesses to lag innocent men I would advise them to subscribe a sum and give it to the poor of their district.
  • Neglect this and abide by the consequences, which shall be worse than the rust in the wheat of Victoria or the druth of a dry season to the grasshoppers in New South Wales I do not wish to give the order full force without giving timely warning, but I am a Widow's Son, outlawed and my orders must be obeyed.

Statements to the press (1880)[edit]

Quotes from "Interview with Ned Kelly", The Age, 9 August 1880.

  • I do not pretend that I have led a blameless life, or that one fault justifies another, but the public in judging a case like mine should remember that the darkest life may have a bright side, and that after the worst has been said against a man, he may, if he is heard, tell a story in his own rough way that will perhaps lead them to intimate the harshness of their thoughts against him, and find as many excuses for his as he would plead for himself.
  • Let the hand of the law strike me down if it will, but I ask that my story be heard and considered.
  • If my life teaches the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the police are taught that they may not exasperate to madness men they persecute and illtreat, my life will not be entirely thrown away.

Sentencing (1880)[edit]

Quotes from the "The Sentencing of Edward Kelley 30th October 1880" at
My mind is as easy as the mind of any man in this world, as I am prepared to show before God and man.
  • My mind is as easy as the mind of any man in this world, as I am prepared to show before God and man.
  • More men than I have put men to death, but I am the last man in the world that would take a man's life. Two years ago—even if my own life was at stake—and I am confident, if I thought a man would shoot me—I would give him a chance of keeping his life, and would part with my own; but if I knew that through him innocent persons' lives were at stake, I certainly would have to shoot him if he forced me to do so; but I would want to know that he was really going to take my innocent life.
  • ... a day will come, at a bigger Court than this, when we shall see which is right and which is wrong. No matter how long a man lives he is bound to come to judgement somewhere, and as well here as anywhere.
  • It appeared [based on the evidence given] that I deliberately took up arms, of my own accord, and induced the other three to join me, for the purpose of doing nothing but shooting down the police.
  • That charge [stealing over 200 horses] has never been proved against me, and it is held in English law that a man is innocent until proven guilty.
  • I will go a little further than that, and say I will see you there where I go.
    • To Judge Redmond Barry when told "May the Lord have mercy on your soul" after being sentenced to death by hanging.

Other quotes[edit]

Such is life.
  • I'm a bushranger.
    • Ah Fook, a Chinese hawker, attributed these words to Kelly after the pair had an altercation in 1869. They are the first publicly recorded words said to have been uttered by Kelly.
    • Molony, John Neylon (2001). Ned Kelly. Melbourne University Publishing, ISBN 9780522850130. p. 37.
  • They are all damned fools to bother their heads about Parliament at all, for this is our country.
    • On the rural people of Victoria, said during a speech to his hostages at Glenrowan.
  • If they were in my position they would not smile much.
    • Quoted by a policeman who, during Kelly's trial, alerted him to a group of females who were smiling at him from afar.
    • The Herald (11 August 1880)
  • Oh, what a pretty garden.
    • Passing through a small garden on the way to the gallows for his execution.
  • Such is life.
    • Kelly's last words, recorded by two journalists present at his execution. According to two of the other four journalists at the gallows, Kelly's final words were, "Ah well, I suppose it has to come to this", or "Ah well, it's come to this at last". However, according to the goal warden, the man closest to Kelly at the time, his final words were mumbled and could not be heard.

Quotes about Kelly[edit]

  • In California this man ... would have been dragged out of gaol and lynched. I don't admire the mob for superseding the law, but the spirit in which it is done there contrasts strangely with the exaltation here of Kelly as a hero.
  • The resurgence of the Ned Kelly legend ... stresses the enigma of why one of the most decent, law-abiding peoples in the world should make a national hero of one of the most cold-blooded, egotistical, and utterly self-centred criminals who ever decorated the end of a rope in an Australian jail. His frankness in turpitude, his utter vengefulness, his cruelty, his cold-blooded lack of regret at the wiping out of the lives of decent men can only repel even an unfastidious mind. Yet his spirit has been extolled as the spirit of Australia, his animal lawlessness has been held up as a renewal of the spirit of Eureka.
  • Ned's story falls on that universal fault line that makes someone a rebel or a freedom fighter to one group and an outlaw or a terrorist to another. He is regularly attacked as a thief and murderer. Much less regularly is it recalled that a government inquiry the year after the Kelly outbreak demoted or suspended most of the police involved. But what makes Ned a legend is not that everyone sees him the same—it's that everyone sees him. Like a bushfire on the horizon casting its red glow into the night.

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