On this day ………… 10th February 1879
Early in February 1879, Ned Kelly and his gang rode into the small town of Jerilderie, located in the Riverina area of southern New South Wales. After robbing the bank of some two thousand pounds, Ned Kelly then dictated a letter to gang member Joe Byrne, which became the infamous “Jerilderie letter”, one of just two surviving original documents from Ned Kelly. Kelly sought to have the letter published as a pamphlet by the local newspaper editor, so that others could see how he had apparently been mistreated. The Jerilderie letter outlined a number of Ned Kelly’s concerns and grievances about the way he had been treated by police, and what he believed were injustices in how his actions had been perceived. In the letter, Kelly tried to justify his criminal activity, and outlined his own version of events leading to the murder of three policemen at Stringybark Creek the previous October. He also alleged police corruption, outlining evidence for his argument, and called for justice for families struggling with financial difficulties – as his own had done. The letter began: “I have been wronged and my mother and four or five men lagged innocent and is my brothers and sisters and my mother not to be pitied also who has no alternative only to put up with the brutal and cowardly conduct of a parcel of big ugly fat-necked wombat headed big bellied magpie legged narrow hipped splaw-footed sons of Irish Bailiffs or english landlords which is better known as Officers of Justice or Victorian Police…” In essence, the missive was an expansion of a letter Ned Kelly had written previously to Victorian parliamentarian Donald Cameron and Victorian police in December 1878, also outlining his version of the events at Stringybark Creek. Kelly’s pleas for understanding were dismissed: thus, Kelly sought to elicit sympathisers among a new audience. The Jerilderie letter contained some 8000 words, and went on for 56 pages. A copy was made by publican John Hanlon, and another by a government clerk: the original and both handwritten copies have survived. It was first referred to as the ‘Jerilderie Letter’ by author Max Brown in his biography of Kelly, “Australian Son”, written in 1948.