Ever since Upjohn put the noose around Ned's neck on 11th November 1880, the Outlaw has been immortalized in song, film, statues, posters, postcards, childrens toys and even more obscure items such as soap, aftershave and candles. His image has been used to sell insurance, Kodak film, alcohol and many others. Even prior to his death, he was the subject of bush ballads and @ least 4 books. Today, over 120 years after Ned died at the Old Melbourne Gaol, the publications continue to find a ready audience. This article will briefly examine some of the more well known authors whose words have helped Ned and his gang come alive over the years.


J.J.KENNEALLY-James Jerome Kenneally (1870-1949) produced one of the first, more comprehensive, historical works. His book was called “The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and their Pursuers.” First published in Melbourne in 1929, the work has seen numerous re-prints. Whilst the book is accurate in terms of historical data, his sympathies clearly lie with the Kellys and therefore, it cannot be considered an objective piece of writing. Kenneally was also the first author to use oral tradition in terms of information provided by Tom Lloyd, cousin of Ned and considered a fifth member of the gang during the Kelly Outbreak. “He studied @ McCristals college in Benalla and became a schoolteacher, but till the day he died it remained his most important concern to give voice to the cause of a people whom death had silenced.”


IAN JONES-Ian Jones is a writer, producer and Historian. A former journalist, his film and television work includes the old Crawford “cop shows” such as “Homicide” and “Matlock”, “The Sullivans” and the excellent 1980 mini-series on Ned Kelly, “The Last Outlaw”. He is also well known in military circles and has written books on the Australian Lighthorse as well as worked on the feature film. One of his earliest published works were the papers he contributed to the Kelly Symposium @ Wangaratta. Papers appear in “Ned Kelly-Man and Myth”. (1967) In 1992, Ians masterpiece (to this writer anyway) was published. “The Friendship that Destroyed Ned Kelly-Joe Byrne and Aaron Sherritt”. The book, an extension of his 1967 “The Kellys and Beechworth” paper, looks at the outbreak through the friendships of Joe, Neds lieutenant and his life long friend from the Woolshed valley Aaron Sherritt. The almost demented vigor with which Byrne and Sherritt operated makes for gripping reading. The book tells the story of a supposed betrayal in a peculiar setting. It is obvious this particular facet of the Kelly story is close to Ians heart. The book is about to be re-issued under the less cumbersome title “The Fatal Friendship”. In 1995, Lothian published what some consider to be the ultimate Kelly book, “Ned Kelly-A Short Life.”The book has since gone on to many re-prints. His most recent work is providing the text for the catalogue “Ned:The Exhibition”.



“An old gardener called Tom Maine  introduced me to Ned Kelly. Seated on a throne of sacks in a tool-shed, he shaved a plug of tobacco, packed a pipe with broad, dirt-grained fingers and sucked a match flame into the bowl. Then he spun magic, musty images of the fabulous outlaw among the heavy smoke skeins he puffed into a door- angle of sunlight.”

        “Historians at Work”-Ian Jones




DAGMAR BALCAREK-A Czechoslovakian, Dagmar is based in Adelaide. Her first books were “Ellen Kelly” published in 1984 and “Women and Bushrangers.” She says “Very little has been documented about the women of those times and very little has been written about them.” She has gone on to co-author several books with Gary Dean, amongst them “Ned and the others” and “To Crack a Whip”- the story of Neds half brother Jack King and his wife Violet. Her most recent work is an updated version of “Women and Bushrangers” with Gary Dean.


JOHN McQUILTON-“The Kelly Outbreak.1878-1880. The Geographical Dimension of Social Banditry” was published by Melbourne University Press in 1979. The book cites Hobsbawms description of social banditry and presents a case that Ned Kelly falls within the guidelines. The front section of the book gives an excellent description of the “Squatters versus Selectors” issue and how it came to shape the North East. The state of the police force in Kellys time is also meticulously examined. The book was re-printed in 1987 with a new preface. John comes from Yackandandah in Kelly Country and is currently an associate Professor in the History and Politics Programme @ the University of Wollongong, where he has been teaching Australian History since 1991. His research interests include Australian military history and the links between rural settlement and lawlessness, place and identity. He has recently completed a manuscript on the impact of the First World War on North Eastern Victoria. “Kelly Country-A Photographic Journey” was published in late 2001. Johns text segues well with Brendon Kelsons photographs.


KEITH McMENOMY-In 1984, Currey O’Neil Ross published Keith McMenomys “Ned Kelly-The Authentic Illustrated Story”.To some, it represents the pinnacle in Kelly publications. Keiths interest in Ned began when he selected work on the bushranger @ Swinburne Art School in Melbourne. He spent years collecting material and travelling Kelly Country to photograph the locations as they exist today. During this time, he also farmed a property @ Wallan East, near the birthplace of Ned Kelly. Following a stint in Cambridge in the U.K, his major employment has been in the Graphic Arts sphere. His book was re-issued by Hardie Grant publishers in 2001 with a new lay-out and some newly discovered photographs with a slight change in title-“The Authentic Illustrated History.”    



“The pictorial or visual side of the Kelly Story has never been adequately represented, and that is where this work differs from others on the subject.”




GARY DEAN-The proprietor of the Cobb and Co. museum and souvenier shop in Gladstone St. Glenrowan also finds time to research and write about varied aspects of the Kelly story. His many co-authored books with Dagmar Balcarek include “Ned and the others” (1995-self published), “The Bushranger Harry Power-Tutor of Ned Kelly”(1991-with Kevin Passey) and the excellent “To Crack a Whip”,an account of Neds half brother Jack and his days as a performer. (1990). Interestingly, Garys basement museum in Glenrowan devotes substantial space to this story of the performers known as Kelly and Kelly. Gary hails from Mooroopna and grew up @ Katandra West. He held the position of Superintendent with the City of Wangaratta gardens until he finally had the dream realized in 1984 and opened his shop (and later the museum) in Glenrowan.



KEVIN PASSEY-Kevin Passeys first book was “Lachlan Landmarks-Bushranger sites of mid-N.S.W.” Published in 1986, the book is a chronicle on the lives and locations of bushranger Ben Hall and co. This was followed up in 1988 with “In Search of Ned-A travelogue of Kelly Country”. The book includes detailed directions to localities of the Kelly story. Kevin completed the trilogy in 1993 when Lachlan Publishing released “Riverina Rogues-Bushranger Sites of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Districts”.

Coming from Yallourn, Victoria, Kevins interest was sparked after a visit to the of Collector-Ben Hall Country. Today, he resides in Albury-Wodonga, the heart of “Bushranger Country”.



GRAHAM JONES-An author, broadcaster and cartoonist, Graham Jones was fascinated by the history of North Eastern Victoria since he joined Radio 3NE in Wangaratta over 35 years ago. His two books in the “People, Places and Things” series, “North East” and “The Kelly Years” (with Judy Bassett) began their lives on commercial radio, commissioned for the 1980 Kelly centenary. His other books include “Bushrangers of the North East”(1991), “Discovering the North East”(1992), “Ned Kelly-The Larrikin Years”(1990) and “There was a Time”, a history of the Wangaratta shire. With Judy Bassett of Benalla, he wrote the framing pages for “The Book of Keli” by G.W.Hall. One of his last works was an attempt @ a romantic novel entitled “Kelly and Ned.” Graham has only recently passed away.



GRAHAM SEAL-Also well known as a folk musician and record producer, Graham Seal wrote “Ned Kelly in Popular Tradition” in, appropriately, the Kelly centenary year-1980. He examines the popular tradition through songs written during and after the gangs career and through media productions. The reader sees the image of Ned becoming a “defining national legend”.1996 saw publication of  “The Outlaw Legend” by Cambridge University Press. The book deals with British Highwaymen, American Outlaws and Australian Bushrangers, especially Ned Kelly in terms of their place in mythology and our culture. He has been the director of Australian Studies @ Curtin University(W.A.)


“This book makes a major contribution to Kelly literature by showing that, in a sense, the facts are unimportant. Australians of several generations have needed to believe in Ned Kelly; and we have tailored his legend to fit our needs.”

                     “Ned Kelly in Popular Tradition.”




The authors discussed do not have the final say on Ned by any means. The books will keep on coming as long as there is an audience. And there has been an audience since before 11th November 1880. Other authors to write on the subject include Brian Carroll, Max Brown, Charles Osborne, George Farwell, John Molony, Keith Dunstan, Frank Clune, Peter Carey(!),Nancy Keesing, Francis Augustus Hare, John Sadleir, Frank Haddon, Alan Sharpe, Charles White, Les Carlyon, Colin Cave, John Phillips, Brian Ridden, Douglas Stewart, G.W.Hall, Tom Prior, Eric Lambert, Robert Drewe, Wendy Morgan, Bill Scott, John Meredith, George Boxall. And on it goes……………..



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