11 November 1880 – Ned Kelly
The main reason why it was such a flop was probably because the chumps had chosen to get a Brit to play the Aussie ‘hero’.
And there’s the rub. How did such a violent and murderous man get to incite such nationalistic fervour posthumously?
Maybe it’s because Kelly was Aussie born and bred, and any activity against the Brits was hailed as a heroic deed. At least that’s what Wikipedia put it down to.
Ultimately, how and when Kelly became elevated to such a lofty status is uncertain. But some things remain constant. He will always be an armed robber. He will always have murdered many in cold blood alongside his brothers, despite what the rose-tinted bespectacled brigade would have you think.
He had resistance to authority flowing through his blood – Kelly’s dad, John ‘Red’ Kelly had been shipped over to Tasmania (then named Van Diemen’s Land) from Ireland as a criminal, having been caught stealing.
There he met and married Kelly’s mum – an Irish immigrant – and together then brought a raft of children into the world.
But it was the authorities’ apparently deplorable treatment of Red that sparked resentment in Ned. And it was this resentment that was to fuel the young lad’s animosity and his future brushes with the law.
Ok, so Kelly showed evidence of having a heart. According to ‘Wikipedia’, he had started off as a bit of hero. As a lad, he’d saved a local boy from drowning. For that he earned a green sash from the boy’s family in recognition of his bravery. In fact he was wearing it the very day they caught him for the last time.
Band of brothers
So what had gone wrong along the way? His dad’s mistreatment during a stint in prison prematurely killed Kelly’s beloved father and as Kelly grew older, his hatred of the law enforcers prompted him, along with his brothers, to form a gang: the imaginatively named Kelly gang.
Their main aim was to amass money and they did so by whichever means possible. The crimes ranged from bush-ranging – the Aussie equivalent of an outlaw but with additional survival skills thrown in for good measure – to horse rustling and armed bank robbery. Naturally, death was a consequence.
Disdain for the police was a recurrent theme, exemplified in a letter he wrote, which outlined why he’d become such a dodgy geezer. This letter was only unearthed in 1930 and pretty much set out his reasons for being.
And the gang was dodgy alright – during one such episode where they raided a cop shop in Jerilderie, they took a couple of policemen hostage. But perhaps the most violent event occurred while they were on the run.
They jumped some policemen and the ensuing gun battle resulted in three dead. But to add insult to injury, Kelly swiped one of the murdered men’s watches.
It was a bloody showdown that was ultimately to seal his fate. His brothers and other gang members were apparently killed or committed suicide, but needless to say old Ned copped the cops’ full wrath. Despite his now legendary armour plating, he was shot 20 times, yet still survived to face his short future in front of a judge.
Guilty of his crimes, Kelly was strung up on this day in 1880 aged just 26, but he has since been immortalised on celluloid, and thankfully not just by Mick Jagger…
Eventually the Aussies did find one of their own to play the man himself when tragic star Heath Ledger grew the beard for the 2003 remake.
Even more recently, according to a report by the BBC in March 2008, archaeologists reckoned they’d unearthed the place where he’d been buried. But so far his actual bones have not yet come to light, according to one of the archaeologists who spoke to Reuters.