He was an outlaw who wore a suit of armour, rode a horse, and challenged the law and its enforcers. Today, Ned Kelly is Australia's greatest mythological character. Icon of the Australian imagination. But who was the man behind the mask? Was he a merciless killer who unforgivably chose to take up arms against society, or a national hero who was the embodiment of the Australian spirit.
To answer this question, one must first take a journey into the legend that is Ned Kelly.
Ned was born at Beveridge, Victoria, in December 1854. It was during his school years that he risked his life to save a drowning boy who was swept off the banks of the Hughes Creek and into raging waters. Ned valued all life and refused to look away when he came across someone in need.
At the age of 12, Ned had to leave school due to the sudden death of his father. The Kelly family moved to Eleven Mile Creek, not far from Benalla and halfway between Greta and Glenrowan, an area which was later to become known as Kelly Country.
The family, like many others in the area, was faced with poverty and Ned resorted to stealing and selling livestock.
At the age of 14, Ned was first brought before the Police Court on a charge of assault on a fowl and pig dealer, and secondly with aiding the bushranger Harry Power in some of his robberies. Fortunately, for Ned, he was found not guilty in both cases. But before the end of that year, he was sentenced to six months hard labour for assault and indecent behaviour, the result of a prank on a family friend.
Within three weeks of his release, Ned was arrested again, this time for receiving a stolen horse. He had no idea the horse was stolen but was given three years hard labor.
On his release from prison, Ned returned home a hardened but much more mature man. In his absence he discovered that all but one of his thirty-two horses had been stolen, and for a while his determination to stay out of prison kept him on the right side of the authorities. However, it wasn't long before Ned's feelings changed and, in partnership with numerous relatives and associates, he carried out large scale reprisals against those who they believed were persecuting them.
In April, 1878, a police officer accused Ned's mother of attacking him and Ned of shooting him in the wrist.Whether this statement was true or not, the end result was the arrest of Ned's mother's and a one hundred pound reward was offered for the capture of Ned. From that time on Ned and his gang kept to the bush.
In October, 1878,...