Little Bits of History

The Kelly Gang

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 28, 2010

Ned Kelly's armor (Photo by Chensiyuan)

June 28, 1880: Ned Kelly is captured at Glenrowan, Australia. Kelly was born in 1854 in Beveridge, Victoria, Australia. He was the oldest of eight children. There was a vast extended family from both of his parents. His father who was transported to Australia for stealing a pig, died when Ned was twelve. He was forced to quit school and support the family who moved to Glenrowan.

There were plenty of charges brought against many of the extended family, but less than half resulted in guilty verdicts. This may point to the fact that the family was unfairly targeted. Ned, himself, was first arrested in 1869 when he was 14. He was in trouble with the law for the rest of his life. In 1878, after a shootout with police, Ned, his brother Dan, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart formed the Kelly Gang. They robbed two banks.

While robbing a bank and holding citizens hostage, Ned dictated The Jerilderie Letter. In it, he described the mistreatment of his family in particular and Irish Catholics in general and discussed the possibility of an uprising against the oppressors. On June 27, 1880, the gang entered Glenrowan Inn and held approximately 70 people hostage in order to elude police capture. It failed. At dawn on this date, Ned Kelly emerged from the Inn dressed in a suit of armor and was captured. He was sentenced to death and was hung on November 11.

Ned Kelly’s pursuit and capture were romanticized by the locals. The police actions were seen as both punitive and unsavory. In face, a Commission to study the case either reprimanded, dismissed, or terminated many of those involved. The Commission did not give the Kelly Gang a free pass as their actions were illegal. Changes in police procedure followed and Ned Kelly became a hero in the style of the Billy the Kid here in the US or Robin Hood in the UK.

“Criminals do not die by the hands of the law; they die by the hands of other men.” – George Bernard Shaw

“While the State may respectfully require obedience on many matters, it cannot violate the moral nature of a man, convert him into a serviceable criminal, and expect his loyalty and devotion.” – Liane Norman

“While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” – Eugene Debs

“There’s a difference between criminals and crooks. Crooks steal. Criminals blow some guy’s brains out. I’m a crook.” – Ronald Biggs

Also on this day, in 2000 Elian Gonzalez went back to Cuba.

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