10 Ned Kelly Facts

Here are ten facts about Ned Kelly, the Australian bushranger (highwayman) and bank robber.

  • Ned Kelly is an iconic Australian outlaw, whose legend was born during the 19th century. Opinion about him is divided between those who see him as a folk hero and others who view him simply as a killer and a criminal.
  • Kelly was an Irishman by descent, with his father, John Kelly, also known as ‘Red’ being born in Tipperary. John was transported from there to Tasmania in 1841, reportedly for stealing two pigs.
  • Edward Kelly, later called Ned, was born at Beveridge, Victoria, Australia, though the exact date is unknown. It is believed to have been either June 1854 or 1855.
  • While he was still a boy, Ned saved another boy from drowning. For this feat of bravery, he was awarded a green sash, which he would be wearing under his armour in his final gun battle.
Ned Kelly

  • Ned’s first brush with the law came in 1869 when he was aged 14. He beat and robbed a Chinese worker, though there is some dispute about what actually triggered the incident and its exact details.
  • After going on the run in 1878, following the shooting of a policeman, Kelly and his partners in crime got into a gun battle with police, and Kelly shot three officers.
  • The legend of the Kelly Gang grew from this point, and the gang became famous for their homemade armour. This crude plate armour was made from metal taken from agricultural equipment and offered significant protection from bullets.
  • While on the run, Kelly dictated the famous 8000-word Jerilderie Letter. This outlined his reasons for becoming an outlaw, and detailed the ways in which he felt his Irish Catholic family had been victimised by the law.
  • The gang’s final shoot-out took place at the Glenrowan Hotel, where Kelly’s armour made him look like a ghost as he emerged to face the police.
  • All of the gang members apart from Kelly were gunned down though, while Kelly himself was arrested. He was hanged on 11th November 1880.
  • Ned Kelly has been portrayed by numerous actors over the years, including the Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger, Heath Ledger, John Jarratt, and George MacKay.
  • Peter Carey’s novel called True History of the Kelly Gang won the Man Booker Prize in 2001.
  • Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings have both recorded songs about Ned Kelly.

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Such is life.

Ned Kelly’s final words before his exectution in 1880.

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