Friday, 25 April 2008

Jerilderie: Bushranger Country

Ned at the Telegraph Office

Ned Kelly's single foray into New South Wales is one of his most notorious exploits. The Kelly Gang crossed the Murray River and rode into Jerilderie in February 1879. They forced the local police to surrender their uniforms and then locked the poor sods in their own gaol. Dressed as cops, the Kelly Gang announced to the townsfolk that they were reinforcements from Sydney, sent to defend Jerilderie against the … Kelly Gang.

Ned at the cafe

They robbed the Bank of New South Wales of more than £2100. To prevent news of their crime reaching the authorities, they chopped down the telegraph poles outside the Telegraph Office. They then bundled 30 hostages into the Royal Mail Hotel and held them there for a couple of nights, during which Kelly dictated what is now known as the Jerilderie Letter to gang member Joe Byrne.

Over 53 pages, Kelly blamed police corruption for his life of villainy. His letter concludes:
    I give fair warning to all those who has reason to fear me to sell out and give £10 out of every hundred towards the widow and orphan fund and do not attempt to reside in Victoria but as short a time as possible after reading this notice, neglect this and abide by the consequences, which shall be worse than the rust in the wheat in 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 widows son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed.
Brevity was not quite Ned's thing but he did have an ear for a dramatic turn of phrase.

Ned points the way to the public loos

He tried to get his letter published in the local newspaper but couldn't find Sam Gill, the paper's editor. When he tried to hand it to Gill's wife, she told him to sling his hook and take it elsewhere*. One of the bank tellers offered to hold on to it until the editor reappeared. He fulfilled half of the offer — he did hold onto it but didn't hand it over. It was almost a century before the letter resurfaced.

The Kelly Gang was finally captured in June of the following at the Glenrowan Inn, Australia's equivalent to the OK Corral. I'll save the story of the Siege of Glenrowan for another day because it's worth taking the camera to town to capture the continuing impact of the event. Those of you who have visited the area will know what I mean.


* I may be paraphrasing

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