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No one knows when Ned Kelly was born:

True. What we do know is that Ned was the third of 12 children born to Ellen Kelly (from three different fathers). There is no clear evidence of his actual birth, but it was most likely 1854 or 1855, near Beveridge north of Melbourne, meaning he was just 25 or 26 when he died.

Ned Kelly was illiterate:
False. There are enough surviving examples of Ned’s handwriting to know that he could write. This myth most likely evolved from the belief that fellow Kelly Gang member, Joe Byrne, penned the famous Jerilderie letter. This letter has been described as Ned Kelly’s manifesto and is a direct account of the Kelly Gang and the events with which they were associated.

How did he wear such a heavy helmet?
If you have ever seen or tried on a replica of one of the Kelly gang’s helmets, you’ll be struck by how heavy they are and how much they cut into the collar bone. The fact is that the weight of the helmet was not meant to be borne on the collar bones at all. The helmets have holes punched on front, back and sides of each helmet, through which leather straps were strung, meaning most of the weight was felt on top of the wearer’s head. Ned Kelly is reported to have worn a woollen cap to pad his head.

A film about Ned Kelly was the world’s first feature film:
True. It is often reported that Charles Tait’s 1906 film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was the world’s first full-length feature film. Its first screening was at the Athenaeum Hall on December 26, 1906, and is alleged to have prompted five children in Ballarat to hold up a group of schoolchildren at gunpoint. This resulted in the Victorian Chief Secretary banning the film in towns with strong Kelly connections. And for many years the film was thought to be lost, but segments were found in various locations, including some found on a rubbish dump.

In 2007 the film was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register for being the world’s first fill-length feature film.

Ned Kelly’s last words were “Such is life”.
Many believe that the last utterance by Ned Kelly just before his hanging were three simple word, “Such is life”. Whether uttered with weary resignation or an acceptance of misfortune, the notion that the quote is attributed to Ned Kelly survives today (even inspiring one or two tattoos).

But what Ned Kelly actually said as his last words is uncertain. Some newspapers at the time certainly reported the words “Such is life”, while a reporter standing on the jail floor wrote that Ned’s last words were, “Ah well! It’s come to this at last.” But one of the closest persons to Ned on the gallows, the gaol warden, wrote in his diary that Kelly opened his mouth and mumbled something that he couldn’t hear.

Ned Kelly courtroom curse killed the judge:
It is true that judge Sir Redmond Barry died 12 days after Ned Kelly was executed. The two men, Kelly and Barry, had been antagonists for some time, so after being sentenced to death at his trial, Ned Kelly famously replied to Sir Redmond Barry, “I will see you there where I go” or a version of that quote.

Ned Kelly was executed on the November 11, 1880, and Sir Redmond Barry died on the 23rd of the same month. However Barry’s certificate did not list the cause of death as “curse”, rather it is more likely that the judge died from a combination of pneumonia and septicaemia from an untreated carbuncle.

If you have a Ned Kelly tattoo you are more likely to die violently:
Depending on how you interpret the forensic data, wearing a Ned Kelly tattoo can be very dangerous. A study from the University of Adelaide found that corpses with Ned Kelly tattoos were much more likely to have died by murder and suicide. But it was a pretty small sample size.

 

ON THIS DAY….. 10th July 1858

GREEN TENT NEAR MEREDITH

Elizabeth Lowe was buried on the side of the creek, near to where she was murdered. A white picket fence was built around her burial site, which remained until a bush fire in the 1920s. Today nothing is left to suggest that a community once stood here or even a public house where weary travellers would stop. The man Owen McQueeny, charged on suspicion as the murderer of Elizabeth Lowe, at the Green Tent, was examined at the Police-office this morning. The prisoner is rather a forbidding looking man, an Irishman apparently, from his dialect, and is of dark complexion, with dark hair, and a defect in his right eye similar to what among horses is denominated a “wall-eye.” Among the property missing from deceased’s tent, the purse, or portemonnaic, has been fully identified, also the bowie-knife and small flute. The wedding-ring produced is sworn to by her brother as being hers, to the best of his belief, being remarkable for the depth of impression of the Goldsmith’s hall stamp on the inner side. The keeper of the wedding-ring has not yet been found. The two principal links yet wanting to connect the prisoner more fully with the terrible crime are the time when Mrs. Lowe was last seen alive on Friday, 9th July, and the time the prisoner was last seen about her tent. During the examination the prisoner tried frequently to joke on the evidence, and repeatedly laughed at the questions he put; but there can be little doubt, from his efforts, that these were forced. The Inspector of Police applied for a remand for seven days, to enable him to produce the doctor who had attended the inquest, and to collect further evidence. Remand granted. Owen McQueeney was found guilty of the wilful murder of Elizabeth Lowe and was hanged at the Old Geelong Gaol on the 20th October, 1858.

 

On this day …….. 11th of June 1857

Although there was no such things as the Guinness Book of Records in the 1850s, if there had been Black Douglas would surely have rated a mention as a persistent offender. It was on this day that the notorious vagrant was brought up before the Yackandandah Police Court. He was fined five shillings, and a promise was extracted from him that he would immediately leave the district. Only a week before, he had been let out of the Beechworth Gaol, after being sentenced to three days fir drunken and disorderly conduct. Black Douglas seemed to be always in and out of Courts, and being run out of one town or another. Wether this was the same Black Douglas who was stabbed by miners in Maryborough during a robbery attempt, is not known. That particular Black Douglas survived, only to be later hanger in Melbourne.

On this day …….. 20th October 1858

Convict Owen McQueeny was executed at the Geelong Gaol, Victoria, on this day in 1858, after being found guilty of murdering Elizabeth Lowe. After the execution an elderly woman applied for permission to have her hands stroked by the hands of the dead man to help with her arthritis.

 

On This Day ……. 24th of August 1923

On the 24th of August 1923, Angus Murray, who is serving a sentence of 15 years for robbery under arms, made his escape, by means of a small saw, he removed the stones at the base of his window. The bars were then loosened, leaving him sufficient room to squeeze through. Murray had torn his bedclothes into shreds to form a rope to lower himself to the ground. He was then able to scale the outside wall were a motor car was waiting for him. A boy, passing the Gaol at the time of the escape saw Murray clamber down from his cell and spring into a car. The police scoured the district, but could not find any trace of the fugitive. On the morning of the 9th of October 1923, Murray shot Mr Berriman the manager of the Glenferrie branch of the Commercial Bank and robbed him of £1851. Berriman died the on the 22nd of October. A large force of detectives raided, a house in St, Kilda at 5am, arresting Angus Murray, Leslie (Squizzy) Taylor, and Ida Pender. Angus Murray was charged with the Glenferrie robbery and with escaping from custody. Taylor and Pender were locked up on holding charges, but were later released. A few days after Berriman’s death Murray was charged with his murder and on 14th of April 1924, he was executed in the Melbourne Gaol. Murray stood on the scaffold and made the following statement: “Never in my life have I done anything to justify the extreme penalty being passed upon me. I have prayed hard for those who have acted against me, and I hope that those whom I have injured will forgive me.” Turning to the hangman as the rope was passed around his neck, he said: “Pull it tight.” Murray’s death was instantaneous.

 

ON THIS DAY…… 19th August 1865

Patrick Sheehan was found guilty of the wilful murder of James Kennedy, publican of the National Hotel at Rowdy Flat. Sheehan, who was in the bar quite drunk, was turned out of the hotel by Kennedy. Sheehan then went round to the kitchen and got a knife before trying to force his way back into the bar. On the landlord pushing him back, Sheehan stabbed him in the stomach with the knife. Kennedy lingered for a few hours, but died in the night. Sheehan had also stabbed another man, a schoolmaster, at the same hotel, two years earlier. He was tried at Beechworth, and convicted, but received quite a light sentence. Sheehan became the first person to be executed in the Beechworth Gaol, witnessed by 40 people. At just past 8 o’clock the Governor of the gaol delivered the prisoner into the hands of the Sheriff. Father Tierney, who had been with him almost since daylight, was the only one in the cell with Sheehan at the time. Before being pinioned, Mr Castieau asked Sheehan, in the presence of the sheriff, if he wished to say anything. He said “only to give my best thanks.” He submitted to be bound without a murmur, marched with an unwavering step out of his cell, and stood there firmly, pale and earnest, but resignation written in his face. The hangman, having completed his preparations, pulled the cap, already on head, over his face when the doomed man said, “Raise it for a minute.” The executioner promptly complied without a word, and Sheehan said, in a low but unfaltering voice,” God bless you all, and God forgive me; that will do.” Again the cap was placed over his face, the bolt drawn. Sheehan had paid for his crime. Below is a statement made to Mr Castieau, demonstrating the remorse Sheehan had for his crime. On Sunday morning, Sheehan sent for Mr Castieau, the Governor of the Gaol, and asked him to take down a statement he wished to make. He seemed greatly troubled at a report that had been circulated of his having committed a previous murder in New South Wales. Both the Reverand Father Tierney and Mr Castieau had told him that such a report was abroad. The following is his declaration, as nearly in his own words as possible. ”I wish most solemnly to declare that there is not the slightest foundation for a report, that I am told is going about, that I was accused, while in Sydney, of having taken away the life of a man by striking him with a hammer. I came to Sydney a free man about twelve years since. I worked for Henry Campbell, a blacksmith, at Parramatta, also with James Gamble. Then I went to the Braidwood diggings. I was in no trouble of any kind while in New South Wales – never even brought before a magistrate for drunkenness. I came to Yackandandah about ten years ago, and have remained there ever since. The only time I ever appeared at a court before was when I was charged with an assault, and received a month’s imprisonment. This is true, as l hope for forgiveness, and I trust the public will be made acquainted with this statement so that I may not be unjustly accused of crimes of which I am entirely innocent, it does not do for a man to tell a lie with his last breath. I hope, therefore, I shall be believed when I say I do not remember anything of the dreadful occurrence of which I was found guilty. More than that, I know I had several nobblers of brandy besides partaking of three bottles of whisky, which were had amongst six of us; when the policeman came to my house I was sitting by the fire, getting sober, I suppose; and when he charged me with stabbing poor Kennedy, I was thunderstruck; how I could have done such a deed to one to whom I owed no grudge, he a man with a large family, and I a man with a large family too, I cannot tell; I begged hard to be allowed to see Kennedy. A dying man, I knew, would not lie, and If he told me I had stabbed him I should have believed It. I remember nothing of what was sworn, and have to blame the cursed drink for the death of poor Kennedy and my own doom. I trust for the forgiveness and prayers of Mrs Kennedy. May God protect her and her family and have mercy on my poor wife and children. Had I listened to my wife’s advice, I should not have been here. She tried, like a good wife and mother as she Is, to keep me away from the drink. Had I harkened to her, such a trouble as this could never have come upon us.”

Sunday, 6th November, 1866, half-past 10 a.m.

PATRICK SHEEHAN

(Witness) J.B. Castieau, Governor of Gaol

After the execution a collection was taken up around town for his wife and children.

Doctor Dempster carried out the post mortem examination on Sheehan and stated that all organs of the body were healthy, height 5 foot 7 1⁄2 inches, eyes blue, hair brown, mole corner right eye, little finger right hand crooked.

No one knows when Ned Kelly was born:

True. What we do know is that Ned was the third of 12 children born to Ellen Kelly (from three different fathers). There is no clear evidence of his actual birth, but it was most likely 1854 or 1855, near Beveridge north of Melbourne, meaning he was just 25 or 26 when he died.

Ned Kelly was illiterate:
False. There are enough surviving examples of Ned’s handwriting to know that he could write. This myth most likely evolved from the belief that fellow Kelly Gang member, Joe Byrne, penned the famous Jerilderie letter. This letter has been described as Ned Kelly’s manifesto and is a direct account of the Kelly Gang and the events with which they were associated.

How did he wear such a heavy helmet?
If you have ever seen or tried on a replica of one of the Kelly gang’s helmets, you’ll be struck by how heavy they are and how much they cut into the collar bone. The fact is that the weight of the helmet was not meant to be borne on the collar bones at all. The helmets have holes punched on front, back and sides of each helmet, through which leather straps were strung, meaning most of the weight was felt on top of the wearer’s head. Ned Kelly is reported to have worn a woollen cap to pad his head.

A film about Ned Kelly was the world’s first feature film:
True. It is often reported that Charles Tait’s 1906 film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was the world’s first full-length feature film. Its first screening was at the Athenaeum Hall on December 26, 1906, and is alleged to have prompted five children in Ballarat to hold up a group of schoolchildren at gunpoint. This resulted in the Victorian Chief Secretary banning the film in towns with strong Kelly connections. And for many years the film was thought to be lost, but segments were found in various locations, including some found on a rubbish dump.

In 2007 the film was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register for being the world’s first fill-length feature film.

Ned Kelly’s last words were “Such is life”.
Many believe that the last utterance by Ned Kelly just before his hanging were three simple word, “Such is life”. Whether uttered with weary resignation or an acceptance of misfortune, the notion that the quote is attributed to Ned Kelly survives today (even inspiring one or two tattoos).

But what Ned Kelly actually said as his last words is uncertain. Some newspapers at the time certainly reported the words “Such is life”, while a reporter standing on the jail floor wrote that Ned’s last words were, “Ah well! It’s come to this at last.” But one of the closest persons to Ned on the gallows, the gaol warden, wrote in his diary that Kelly opened his mouth and mumbled something that he couldn’t hear.

Ned Kelly courtroom curse killed the judge:
It is true that judge Sir Redmond Barry died 12 days after Ned Kelly was executed. The two men, Kelly and Barry, had been antagonists for some time, so after being sentenced to death at his trial, Ned Kelly famously replied to Sir Redmond Barry, “I will see you there where I go” or a version of that quote.

Ned Kelly was executed on the November 11, 1880, and Sir Redmond Barry died on the 23rd of the same month. However Barry’s certificate did not list the cause of death as “curse”, rather it is more likely that the judge died from a combination of pneumonia and septicaemia from an untreated carbuncle.

If you have a Ned Kelly tattoo you are more likely to die violently:
Depending on how you interpret the forensic data, wearing a Ned Kelly tattoo can be very dangerous. A study from the University of Adelaide found that corpses with Ned Kelly tattoos were much more likely to have died by murder and suicide. But it was a pretty small sample size.

 

ON THIS DAY….. 10th July 1858

GREEN TENT NEAR MEREDITH

Elizabeth Lowe was buried on the side of the creek, near to where she was murdered. A white picket fence was built around her burial site, which remained until a bush fire in the 1920s. Today nothing is left to suggest that a community once stood here or even a public house where weary travellers would stop. The man Owen McQueeny, charged on suspicion as the murderer of Elizabeth Lowe, at the Green Tent, was examined at the Police-office this morning. The prisoner is rather a forbidding looking man, an Irishman apparently, from his dialect, and is of dark complexion, with dark hair, and a defect in his right eye similar to what among horses is denominated a “wall-eye.” Among the property missing from deceased’s tent, the purse, or portemonnaic, has been fully identified, also the bowie-knife and small flute. The wedding-ring produced is sworn to by her brother as being hers, to the best of his belief, being remarkable for the depth of impression of the Goldsmith’s hall stamp on the inner side. The keeper of the wedding-ring has not yet been found. The two principal links yet wanting to connect the prisoner more fully with the terrible crime are the time when Mrs. Lowe was last seen alive on Friday, 9th July, and the time the prisoner was last seen about her tent. During the examination the prisoner tried frequently to joke on the evidence, and repeatedly laughed at the questions he put; but there can be little doubt, from his efforts, that these were forced. The Inspector of Police applied for a remand for seven days, to enable him to produce the doctor who had attended the inquest, and to collect further evidence. Remand granted. Owen McQueeney was found guilty of the wilful murder of Elizabeth Lowe and was hanged at the Old Geelong Gaol on the 20th October, 1858.

 

On this day …….. 11th of June 1857

Although there was no such things as the Guinness Book of Records in the 1850s, if there had been Black Douglas would surely have rated a mention as a persistent offender. It was on this day that the notorious vagrant was brought up before the Yackandandah Police Court. He was fined five shillings, and a promise was extracted from him that he would immediately leave the district. Only a week before, he had been let out of the Beechworth Gaol, after being sentenced to three days fir drunken and disorderly conduct. Black Douglas seemed to be always in and out of Courts, and being run out of one town or another. Wether this was the same Black Douglas who was stabbed by miners in Maryborough during a robbery attempt, is not known. That particular Black Douglas survived, only to be later hanger in Melbourne.

EXECUTED THIS DAY…… 23rd May 1870

Ah Pew was charged at the Castlemaine Circuit Court on the 26th of April 1870 with having, at Glenluce, wilfully murdered Elizabeth Annie Hunt. Annie aged 9 year, with her sister and brother went to De Forest’s school at Glenluce, which they left at 4pm. Annie did not return in the evening, and her father searched for her almost all night, and commenced again with others at daybreak the following morning. He found her body in a hole 6 feet deep near Emu Gully on the morning of the 19th February. Her body was considerably bruised, covered over with contusions, two wounds on the side of the head. Annie had died from the multiplicity of injuries and suffocation by clay being packed in her mouth. There were appearances of attempted violation. On the place of murder, a hat and a European pipe was found, which belonged to Ah Pew. He had been well known to the children, and always brought them lollies when he came to their parents’ home to buy produce. On the 18th of February Annie had come to his hut and asked him if he had sold his boiler. She left after several minutes, but Ah Pew followed her. He was arrested on the 24th of February and was charged with murder at the Police Court at Castlemaine on the 11th March. He was convicted at the Criminal Session of the Circuit Court at Castlemaine and was sentenced to death. Ah Pew was hanged at Castlemaine Gaol at 10am on this day in 1870.

 

EXECUTED ON THIS DAY …….. 23rd of May 1892

Frederick Deeming was tried at Melbourne Supreme Court on 25 April 1892, for the murder of his wife in Windsor. Alfred Deakin, (who would become the 2nd Prime Minister of Australia) his counsel, tried to mount a plea of insanity. The defence also questioned the impact of newspaper reporting of Deeming on the jury. Perhaps wishing to aid the defence of insanity, Deeming also claimed to have caught syphilis in London, and to have received visitations from his mother’s spirit, which urged his actions. Before the jury retired, Deeming made a “lengthy,… rambling, speech of self-justification.” He repeated a story he had told police that Emily had “run off with another man”. “That is my one comfort…knowing that she is not dead”. The prosecution case was conducted by Robert Walsh, Q.C. Deeming was found guilty as charged, however. Deeming spent the last days writing his autobiography and poetry; “The Jury listened well to the yarn I had to tell, But they sent me straight to hell.” He also spent time talking to the Church of England ministers, to whom he supposedly confessed. The sentence of the court was confirmed by the Executive Council on 9 May 1892 and the judicial committee of the Privy Council refused leave to appeal on 19 May 1892. Deeming was hanged at 10:01 am on 23 May 1892, he weighed 143 pounds (65 kg), 14 pounds (6.4 kg) less than when he entered prison. The autobiography which Deeming wrote in gaol was destroyed.

It was believed at the time that Deeming was Jack the Ripper, as he was in White Chapel, London at the time of the murders. The Victoria police were asked by the British police to question him in relation.

 

Executed On This Day…….22nd May 1876

John Duffus, age 50, was executed on this day in 1876 in Castlemaine for a charge of Rape. Mrs. Duffus, who was living isolated with her family, husband and three daughters at the Bendigo Creek, near Goornong, gave information to the police that her husband, John Duffus, had criminally assaulted his own daughter, Mary Ann, 11 years of age. Mounted Constable Clark arrested Duffus, who was formally placed in the dock at the City Police Court at Sandhurst (now Bendigo) and charged with carnally knowing a girl under 12 years of age, a capital crime. Duffus not only had assaulted his youngest daughter between the 27th January and the 17th February, but also had incestuous relationships with his elder daughters, at that time 22 and 15, who both became pregnant. The youngest daughter affirmed that her father had abused her for a period of over four years, which was confirmed by a medical officer who examined her. The isolated condition of the family and the thorough control which Duffus obviously exercised over all family members was the reason why his crimes had been detected earlier. John Duffus was convicted of rape at the Criminal Sessions of the Assize Court at Sandhurst, and was sentenced to death on 29 April 1876. He was hanged at Castlemaine Gaol on this in 1876, at 10am