THE KELLY RELICS
“Ned Kelly relics, sometimes, have taken on a sacred quality, almost as if they were splinters of the true cross. It all began immediately after the last stand at Glenrowan. The scramble for souveniers then was like the modern scramble for cricket stumps and bails at the end of an England-Australia Test match.”
to the recent advent of NED:THE EXHIBITION and people like Matt Shore and
Brendan Pearse, we have the unique opportunity to view the majority of surviving
Kelly relics under one roof. This has never occurred before and probably won’t
again unless the guys plan to take the show on the road which would be great for
the rest of Australia but a logistical nightmare.
Following is a brief overview of surviving Kelly relics and where they can be viewed. Unless otherwise noted, the exhibition at The Old Melbourne Gaol is the place to go at least until the end of May at this stage.
four suits of original armour are probably the most iconic and revered of all
surviving relics. It is a wonder they survive at all considering Chief
Commissioner Fred Standish wanted them smashed to pieces. He obviously didn’t
want any reminders of his less than glorious performance during the Kelly Hunt.
I entirely disapprove of this request for the armour to be displayed as it’s
exhibition will keep up the disgusting Kelly heroism and have a very detrimental
effect on the rising generation.”
above quote from Standish was made in response to the Beechworth Burke museum
requesting a suit of armour for display purposes in their building in Loch St.
It was obviously denied and therefore there has never been an original suit of
armour on display in North Eastern Victoria on a permanent basis. Over the
years, all four suits have remained in Melbourne apart from very brief soujourns
inter-state. An example of this was the State Library suit appearing in Adelaide
in 1988 as part of the bi-centennial celebrations. It appeared alongside other
Australian icons such as Norman Lindsays sketches, a Diggers slouch hat, Dame
Edna Everages glasses, Ian “Molly”Meldrums hat and some Sidney Nolan
etchings depicting Ned on a horse.
many years, the 4 suits were erroneously labelled but we are finally getting
closer to matching all pieces correctly and displaying them how they were
originally worn at Glenrowan that cold June night in 1880.
suit comprises Neds helmet, breastplate and a further breastplate hung as a
backplate -probably that of Steve Harts.Whilst this suit usually resides in the
Kelly display at the library, it can currently be seen at the exhibition. For
many years it appeared in a glass case under the Gallows @ The Old Melbourne
Gaol with the National Trust suit. In the early days, it was on display @ the
Melbourne Aquarium until 1953. It then lay forgotten in a store room until 1956
when it went to the Institute of Applied Science and then onto the State Library
all 4 suits, this one is in the best condition and was worn by Joe Byrne.Whilst
it is the least vandalised of them all, unfortunately, viewings have been few
and far between. Although the owners for many years thought they were in
possession of Neds suit, it was identified in 1966 by Ian Jones. It was
presented to the Clarke family at Rupertswood, a private residence in Sunbury
Victoria by Superintendent Frank Hare.(There was a family connection.)
it was used in the making of the first Kelly film in 1907.
suit comprises Neds backplate and apron with Dan Kellys breastplate and Steve
Harts helmet. Note the unusually wide eye slit- probably to accomodate Steves
small statue. Prior to armour going to Police museum, it resided in the vaults
of the treasury building in Spring St. Melbourne. The children of the last
caretakers recall playing with the armour in the 1920s and 30s.
Kellys helmet and apron and Dan and Steves back plates make up the National
This suit of armour has been at The Old Melbourne Gaol on consistent display
since 1970. Where it was prior, I don’t know. If anyone does, please let Mike
or myself know.
to the current exhibition, the four suits made an appearance at The Old
Melbourne Gaol from October 1998 to March 1999 in the MEN OF IRON exhibition.
They were all well displayed but incorrectly identified. Some original Kelly
etchings by Sidney Nolan also made an appearance. In November of 1998, Ian Jones
gave an informative lecture @ the Gaol in which he expressed his desire for the
suits of armour to be identified correctly and displayed accordingly. This
finally looks like coming true.
original suits of armour are currently on display @ NED:THE EXHIBITION.
OCTAGONAL BARREL FIVE CHAMBER REVOLVER-This
precious Kelly relic was shipped to the United States with a suit of Armour, a
lock of Captain Cooks hair and other relics to the U.S. Bi-centennial
celebrations. The revolver was stolen whilst in Chicago!
“ In the 1970s, all along the line from Euroa to Beechworth there was a ruthless struggle for Kelly relics.”
cell, now on display @ the Benalla Pioneer museum reputedly held Ned. Originally
@ Glenrowan, Benalla won the fight. Apparently, it was the original Greta gaol.
Genuine or not, it is part of Benallas Kelly exhibit alongside the silk sash.
QUINN FORGE DOOR-Sensitively
displayed @ the exhibition, young Neds initials can be seen as can the Quinn
fascinating relic is from a private collection.
OF THE KELLY HOMESTEAD-The
remains, from Eleven Mile creek near Greta West include a slab, a door latch and
the back door itself all from a private collection.
Among the many carvings on the door are ones from young Dan and Grace Kelly.All
items are well displayed @ exhibition.
this is the door to which Joe Byrnes corpse was tied for the benefit of press
photographers and artists. Lately though, I have been advised this relic may not
be authentic. Hopefully, time will tell. For many years, it could be seen @
Ernest Straughairs Kelly Museum on Bridge St. Benalla. Following his death, door
can now be seen @ Benalla Pioneer museum.
POLICE CELL STONE STEP-This
is reputed to be the step that supported Joe Byrnes body as he hung on the gaol
door for photographs. I originally viewed this item in the Kelly Museum @
Benalla. I am yet to be convinced it is a genuine relic though. I am unaware of
its current whereabouts.
BANK CEILING CORNICE-The
surviving section of the Euroa National Bank cornice is on display @ the
exhibition. Prior to this, it was part of the Kelly Museum @ Kates Cottage-
Glenrowan. The original bank building on the corner of Binney St. and Railway
Tce. Euroa was demolished as recently as the 1970s.
original Gallows beam that held the bodies of Ned Kelly and Ronald Ryan has
recently been re-installed at The Old Melbourne Gaol.
Prior to this, it resided at Pentridge prison @ Coburg.
is reputedly the door behind which Devine and Richards were kept during the raid
in 1879. It is on display @ “The Willows” museum in Powell St. Jerilderie.
building itself was in existence when the Kellys called on the riverina town.
KELLY WHISKY STILL-A
fragment of the cast iron pot from Neds whisky still @ Bullock creek, near
Tolmie is on display @ NED:THE EXHIBITION. Ian Jones and his sons discovered the
remains after they had been unearthed by feral pigs in 1968.
Kellys letter to Sergeant Babington of Kyneton is the only known example of Neds
handwriting in existence. Refer to Angeline Baron for an analysis of writing.
The spelling and grammar are on par with a boy who finished school @ 11 years of
age. The letter was first published in 1985 by John Lahey of the Melbourne
pink granite house, built by Ned in 1876 still stands @ Chesney Vale. One of the
granite blocks contains Neds carving of the year. (Near Lake Winton/Mokoan.)
Ned was brought down at Glenrowan and Doctor Nicholson had removed his boot from
a wounded foot, railway guard Jesse Dowsett of Benalla souveniered it. (The only
civilian to claim part of Kelly Reward.) The boot itself was taken by Ned from
the police @ Jerilderie in 1879.This
fascinating relic, after having disappeared for some years,
late 2001 after an intensive search. At this stage, the boot has only
been displayed once, @ NED:THE EXHIBITION for St. Patricks Day only. On
inspection, it appears Ned would have been a size 8 or so. The relic belongs to
the State Library of Victoria. Let’s hope it will see the light of day again
were 8 death masks made of Ned and 2 of them are on display: in the Burke Museum
@ Beechworth and The Old Melbourne Gaol.
They were made in 1880 by the proprietor of a Melbourne wax works(!)
granite block that served as Aarons doorstep at the Devils Elbow in the Woolshed
Valley has been on consistent display at the Burke Museum for many years. This
is the block Joe Byrne stepped over as he fired into his former friend. If
memory serves, presentation of doorstep was instigated by Roy Harvey, an
innovative curator of the museum in the 1960s. It is currently doing duty at
dock from the old Benalla Courthouse in Arundel St. can be seen @ the Benalla
Pioneer and Costume Museum in Mair St. Prior to this, it was on display in Ern
Straughairs Benalla Kelly Museum.
magnificent document was from both Joe Byrne and Ned Kelly. The original, in
Joes distinctive handwriting, has recently gone on display for the first time at
Ned:The Exhibition, courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. (Australia Day
on display @ The Old Melbourne Gaol is a piece of the red scarfe Thomas Curnow,
the Glenrowan school master used to flag down the Police train and warn the
occupants of the Kelly presence.
AND AARONS SHOVEL-Recently
discovered by Ian Jones himself in the Woolshed valley near Beechworth,
the shovel was kept hidden by the boys for the purpose of digging drinking
troughs for their stolen horses. This is a magnificent recent find and can be
viewed at the exhibition.
somewhat dubious artifact can be seen @ Kates Cottage in Glenrowan and is
REPUTEDLY a fence built by Jim, Neds brother.
the events @ Glenrowan in June 1880, a grateful Stock Protection Society
presented this sword to Sergeant Steele of Wangaratta. Mr.James Whitty,squatter
and an enemy of Neds was a member. Relic can be seen @ NED:THE EXHIBITION:-a
FROM GLENROWAN INN-Before
the Police arrived in Glenrowan that fateful night, this table was dragged out
onto the veranda of Ann Jones Inn to make room so the prisoners could dance.
(Ned was evidently a good host.) Photos of the day show the table plainly under
the veranda. It escaped going up in flames with the Inn and has survived. It has
been loaned to the exhibition by descendants of the Twomley family of Glenrowan.
A bullet hole can be seen in the table on inspection.
RAILWAY TAVERN BAR-For
many years, this bar from the “other” pub in Glenrowan was the prime exhibit
of Don Tibbits Glenrowan Tourist Centre. “I hunted all over it, hoping Ned
might have carved his initials on it sometime….” After 1984, it disappeared
and may still be somewhere within Bob Hempels animatronic show. If anyone has
further information, I would love to hear it.
FROM THE POLICE CAVES-Fragments
of bottles still bearing labels, two beef tins and a sardine tin were discovered
by Ian Jones in the Police Caves in the Woolshed valley near Beechworth in 1966.
They were standard rations used by the Police as they sat out the freezing
weather with Aaron Sherritt, waiting for a sign of Joe Byrne. The first thing I
wondered when I saw these pieces @ the exhibition was if the sardine tin was the
one Mrs Byrne saw when it caught the sun and thus gave away the Police.
a private collection, the belt can be viewed
the first time @ Ned: The Exhibition.
The end of the belt is missing and was most likely worn outside of his armour
and may also have supported a Keens Mustard tin which he used as a bullet pouch.
dock from the old Beechworth courthouse can be seen in the Burke Museum in Loch
St.Beechworth. Ned surely stood here.
not strictly a Kelly relic, the Chinese armour, for many years on display @ the
Burke Museum in Beechworth, inspired Ned and Joe in the design of their own
armour. This may seem too
coincidental to be so but in 1873, the Chinese armour was a feature of the
Prince of Wales celebratory procession down Ford St. It is highly likely a young
Aaron Sherritt and Joe Byrne were there helping to line the streets and
witnessed it. Let’s hope the armour sees the light of day soon in some sort of
display perhaps relevant to the Kelly story.
beautiful tureen was presented to Judge Redmond Barry in 1878-possibly as the
result of conviction against Ellen Kelly and two others for their supposed
involvement in the Fitzpatrick incident @ Eleven Mile creek. It was possibly a
gift from the Stock Protection Society. From a private collection, it can
currently be seen @ the Old Melbourne Gaol.
Constable Robert Graham was stationed @ Greta in the months after the gangs
destruction. To accept a post in the Kelly heartland and one of the most
volatile districts says a lot about the man. Graham, Sadleir, Montford and a
handful of others were responsible for helping to difuse the explosive situation
after the outbreak and give many of the storys participants a “fair go”.
Graham occupied the first floor of O’Briens Greta hotel whilst Kelly
sympathisers drank below. A page in his scrapbook depicts an engraving of the
hotel from the newspaper of the day. It can be seen @ the exhibition.
Brighton Antiques and Maps in Melbourne had an exhibition just recently
displaying many original newspaper engravings of the Kelly days with many for
sale @ affordable prices.
“In my travels around the Kelly Country I have seen beds Kelly is supposed to have slept in, prisoners docks he is supposed to have stood in, bars he is said to have leant against, boots maybe he has worn, old trunks he kept his clothes in and innumerable Kelly firearms.”
NED”-KEITH DUNSTAN (1980)
by Ned from Sergeant Micheal Kennedy after the events at Stringybark creek, the
watch eventually found it’s way back into the Kennedy family. Senior Constable
Micheal Kennedy, the great grand-son of Sergent Kennedy is now custodian. He had
it with him when Mansfield commemorated the three dead policemen on 28th October
OF McDONNELLS TAVERN-All
that remains of Patrick McDonnells pub @ Glenrowan is represented by a scrap of
newspaper lining from a wall, a piece of wallpaper and the rusty backdoor key.
The building was demolished in the 1960’s and stood in vacant block next door
to the current Glenrowan Hotel on Galdstone St. The artifacts can be seen in the
Glenrowan cabinet @ Ned: The Exhibition.
CALIBRE COLT NAVY REVOLVER-Ned
originally took this gun from Senior Constable Devine @ Jerilderie.
Possibly the same time he took the boots. Upon Neds capture, it was taken by
Benalla railway guard Jesse Dowsett. It has been loaned to the National Trust by
grand-sons of Jesse Dowsett.
CASE AND DAMAGED BULLET-These
artifacts were found at the Glenrowan siege site and can now be seen in the
Glenrowan cabinet adjacent to the McDonnell fragments @ Ned: The Exhibition.
Prior to this, they could be seen @ Kates Cottage-Glenrowan courtesy of Rod and
Chris Gerrett. Back in 1997, an old pistol was recovered in the same vicinity
during some beautification works to siege site.
“Many relics have strangely disappeared. The cap Ned wore under under his helmet at Glenrowan has gone. His spurs, his yellow oilskin cape, his silver watch, the boot cut away from his wounded foot, all gone….”
NED”-KEITH DUNSTAN (1980)
“KELLY GANG”POSTCARD-Also seen @ exhibition is an original of a postcard doing the rounds in the Kelly days. Supposedly, it depicts the gang as they were encountered by a travelling photographer. This copy was discovered by one of the exhibition organisers in the middle of an old second hand copy of a Kelly book-being used as a bookmark! This goes to show a Kelly relic can turn up anywhere….The best may be yet to come…
COIN and BULLET-During
the robbery of the Euroa National Bank,employee Bob Booth was given some
souveniers to mark the occasion. Dan gave him a crooked sixpence while Steve
donated a bullet engraved with “H”.
They were donated to Bank archives by Booths daughter. Both items have been
loaned to exhibition by the National Australia Bank Heritage collection. Some
bank notes of the type procured by the Kellys can be seen in the same display
case at the exhibition.
favourite rifle, complete with “K” carved into the wood by Ned was taken
from a party of kangaroo hunters at Faithfuls creek, near Euroa.
Although from a private collection, it can be seen @ the Old Melbourne Gaol in
“A pocket revolver used by Ned Kelly at Glenrowan and formely in the collection of the Latrobe Library, was stolen in the United States in 1976. Neds sawn off carbine was rescued from the old Melbourne Aquarium when it burnt down in 1953 and was transferred to the Museum of Applied Science. Here, with one of Neds shoulder pieces, it disappeared.
The police used to have Kennedys Webley, recovered from Joe Byrnes body at Glenrowan, but it too seems to have vanished.”
GUNS OF THE KELLY STORY-IAN JONES(1980)
of the Kelly days used this “wooden box” for their police gear which usually
consisted of pistols, ammunition, leggings etc...All police involved in the
Kelly Outbreak were issued with such a foot locker. Until recent times, an
example of one could be seen in Straughairs Kelly Museum in Benalla. Its current
whereabouts is unknown.
among the ruins of the Kelly Homestead @ Eleven Mile creek, near Greta. From a
calibre bullets and a ball for Colt Revolving carbine can be seen @ Ned: The
Exhibition. Courtesy of a private collector, they were taken from Ned Kellys
pouch after capture.
there you are. The list is far from exhaustive. I haven’t included the
numerous original photographs that are available and keep turning up. The
document availability is a subject in itself and encompasses everything from
letters, reward posters,telegrams, newspapers,prison record sheets, birth and
death certificates and petitions which I hope to cover in a further section
dealing with Kelly documents, both in private hands and the Public Record
that the excellent NED:THE EXHIBITION is in the public domain, let’s hope the
publicity continues to generate strong interest and possibly turn up further
relics. As I mentioned, the Keens Mustard tin, Neds oilskin coat and his watch
would bring even more interest to this incredibly rich piece of Australian
history. And stranger things have happened. After all, Neds boot was recently
returned to us…
as it should probably be, I will leave the last word to Ian Jones, Kelly student
“For brief periods, the four suits have been displayed together-standing side by side as they did in the cold moonlight at the start of the Glenrowan battle.
Even in their battered, abused and confused condition of today, they are to be reckoned with-shape and substance to the wild dream of rebellion that carried the gang to their armageddon.”