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August 31, 2011 6:44 PM   Subscribe

The headless body of Australian folk hero Ned Kelly has been found in a mass grave. Ned Kelly was an Australian bushranger (outlaw) best known for the suit of homemade armor he wore during his last stand at Glenrowan. Since then Ned Kelly has been an Australian icon, celebrated in films (including one starring Mick Jagger) and song.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn (86 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:44 PM on August 31, 2011


.
posted by Renoroc at 6:45 PM on August 31, 2011


sweet, Renoroc found his head!
posted by mannequito at 6:49 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


I can't believe it ended with Ned losing his head.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:52 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


The Peter Carey novel about the Kelly Gang is highly, highly recommended, even to non-Australians.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:55 PM on August 31, 2011 [10 favorites]


"The Government should put a request in the public arena for the return of Ned Kelly's skull"

amen.
posted by clavdivs at 6:57 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is steampunk about Ned Kelly?
posted by pompomtom at 6:57 PM on August 31, 2011


What is steampunk about Ned Kelly?

The home made armor, basically. I admit my utter ignorance, and will leave the thread in more capable hands. I just thought the discovery of his body was an amazing story.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:59 PM on August 31, 2011


Indeed The Story of the Kelly Gang is believed to be the world's first movie feature
posted by the noob at 6:59 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seconded, Capt. Renault. That's a really great book.
posted by brundlefly at 6:59 PM on August 31, 2011


What is steampunk about Ned Kelly?

After his legs were shot off in the civil war he took to riding around on a steam powered wheel chair, and invented a number of steam powered super weapons.
posted by the noob at 7:01 PM on August 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


Wait isn't this huge news?
posted by sweetkid at 7:05 PM on August 31, 2011


Why did they do this? Is there really a reason why identifying his corpse is of any use?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:27 PM on August 31, 2011


It's an adjectival book, is what it is.
posted by felix grundy at 7:27 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why did they do this? Is there really a reason why identifying his corpse is of any use?

Presumably they'll reanimate his corpse... with steam!
posted by brundlefly at 7:37 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why did they do this? Is there really a reason why identifying his corpse is of any use?

Like, you're, like, so right, you know? Like, who cares what those arky...those arachno...those Indiana Jones old men do anyway? Like, what does this have to do with, like, me?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:42 PM on August 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


Don't forget Yahoo Serious's Ned Kelly movie. (As hard as I try, I can't)
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:42 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


--Why did they do this? Is there really a reason why identifying his corpse is of any use?--

It's a good question. I suppose at the very least, Kelly has become so much of a folk hero that forensic findings will contribute to the historical record. They might able to infer diet and disabilities etc too, which may seem incidental, but could conceivably add to the story.

I've personally raised the (mistaken) observation in the past questioning why Kelly is important and why we should care and why there is all these artworks and books and folkloric industry surrounding him.

The story is multi-layered. Socio-eco-sectarian issues, a family saga, a myth, a classic tragedy.
It also coincided with rise of communications - telegraph, news, Victorian bureaucracy; it is extensively documented and forms a significant dimension of the background tapestry, metaphorically and temperamentally, to growing up here. That makes him and his life of very great importance and the identification of his remains a big story.
posted by peacay at 7:45 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


The story is multi-layered. Socio-eco-sectarian issues, a family saga, a myth, a classic tragedy.
It also coincided with rise of communications - telegraph, news, Victorian bureaucracy; it is extensively documented and forms a significant dimension of the background tapestry, metaphorically and temperamentally, to growing up here. That makes him and his life of very great importance and the identification of his remains a big story.


Could you give a quick rundown? I'm not sure why he's such a huge hero/figure, and I'd love to know more.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:48 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't forget Yahoo Serious's Ned Kelly movie. (As hard as I try, I can't)
I will admit to confusion, bemusement, and then nostalgia looking at the "What's hot" movie listing on the linked page (scroll down). I love Internet time capsules.
posted by smirkette at 8:03 PM on August 31, 2011


wikipedia has your back.
posted by sneebler at 8:04 PM on August 31, 2011


It's not much different to any other outlaw mythology. He's somewhere between Robin Hood - in the sense that some part of Australian society feels sympathy for his alleged stance against authority while others say 'meh, criminal' - and Billy the Kid, in the sense that he's perceived to be a badass who took on 'the man' and stayed one step ahead of hapless and unjust law enforcement, for a while anyway. Throw in the armour, sprinkle underdog / Aussie battler, stir, and suddenly that becomes something special, up there with Zorro or the V for Vendetta dude.

I'd hazard a guess that many of the Australians who idealise Kelly don't know anything more than he was some bloke who knocked up some armour in a shed and shot at cops. I've heard people claim he was at the Eureka Stockade, that he was going to overthrow the government and the Crown - if you've got an antiauthoritarian cause and you're happy to be a bit militant / law-breaky about it, Ned's your campaign sticker (next to the 'Fuck Off We're Full' sticker, above the RM mudflaps, carefully lined up with the Ettamogah Pub and Bundy rum stickers). His childhood, the context around his criminal history pre-Glenrowan, the Jerilderie letter, the royal enquiry into policing - nada.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:13 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


Bloke was a crook, a crim, a bully, a thug and a baddie. Why he is revered to any extent is completely beyond me. It wasn't "Irish rebelliousness", it was just drunkenness and ill-temper. "Aye, the world's out tay get me, innae?" Suck it up, beardy.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:16 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I should add, though, that there's a special subset of Ned fans who know everything - everything - there is to know about him. If they've got the same beard and a Kelly-related tattoo, don't try to call them on trivia, because that bloke will put down his stubby and own you with a passionate tirade against the Land Selection Acts.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:16 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is the outlaw mythology aspect heightened because of Australia's history of being a convict colony?
posted by infini at 8:18 PM on August 31, 2011


I think it's mainly because it's like the only interesting thing that ever happened here.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:22 PM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think it's mainly because it's like the only interesting thing that ever happened here.

Ummm. Mary McKillop?
posted by the noob at 8:28 PM on August 31, 2011


I think it's mainly because it's like the only interesting thing that ever happened here.

That's patently untrue! There was...a thing...that time.

Um...

Damn.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:28 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"by others a folk hero and symbol of Irish Australian resistance against oppression by the British ruling class for his defiance of the colonial authorities"

It's always the fuckin' British...
posted by MikeMc at 8:29 PM on August 31, 2011


Ummm. Mary McKillop?

How was she interesting?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:33 PM on August 31, 2011


Don't forget Yahoo Serious's Ned Kelly movie.

I did not know this existed and may have to watch it if I can find it.
posted by immlass at 8:36 PM on August 31, 2011


I think it's mainly because it's like the only interesting thing that ever happened here.

If I hear you disrespect the memory of Molly from A Country Practice one more time...
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:39 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


Okay:

The Kellys were Irish at a time when the stereotype of being Irish did not make you an adorable boozy leprechaun with a cute accent and a penchant for comedic fighting. It made you lazy, criminal, and my word, no better than a darkie. It didn't matter very much that there were a lot of Irish who came over to settle and farm the new land, like the Kellys. As far as the English were concerned, they were little better than primates.

Australia's ruling minority at the time were very firmly English, a relic of trasportation and the lovely way that the ruling classes tend to ensure their own success by promoting the "right kind of people" for the positions of power. Australia's always had a big anti authoritarian streak that stems from the fact that the bosses used to be our jailers, and often spurious ones at that. The conditions in England during the period of transportation, especially in the cities for the poor, meant that is was often worth the gamble to commit a crime serious enough to warrant punishment on the chance they'd send you to Australia. The work there was still hard but considerably less harsh than the prisons in Britain.

The Kelly boys, regardless of their criminality, struck a chord with the large Irish working class, a couple of good Irish boys sticking it to the Man, basically. The armour at Glenrowan was basically a big "Fuck you all, I'm going home" kind of gesture, showing some fairly solid contempt for the police by suggesting a bit of iron from the shed was enough to stop them.

Add to that the soap opera aspects - the familial saga that peacay mentions - and the fact you could get the story from one end of the country to the other with ease, and of course he's going to start building a bit of a legend. It helps that Ned was very savy when it came to dealing with the public, and was a keen letter writer, with the Jerilderie Letter being a fairly concise list of greivances and outlines why the Kellys took to crime. It's worth a read, if you're trying to work out why Kelly is such an icon.

TL;DR: Basically, given we're a nation who like to stick it to authority, the Kelly gang stuck it to authority with panache.
posted by Jilder at 8:40 PM on August 31, 2011 [21 favorites]


Is the outlaw mythology aspect heightened because of Australia's history of being a convict colony?

The Fatal Shore is seriously one of the five best history books I've ever read, and I read a ton of history. I don't recall how thoroughly it goes into Ned Kelly, but it spends some time on the bushrangers, and man, what a hard-core bunch of dudes. Great stuff.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:43 PM on August 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


How was she interesting?

She performed a requisite number of miracles.
posted by the noob at 8:45 PM on August 31, 2011


I rolled a lot of natural 20s in my life but that didn't wind me up on no dollar coin.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:50 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's hard to make a coin look tumid.
posted by Jilder at 8:52 PM on August 31, 2011


I rolled a lot of natural 20s in my life but that didn't wind me up on no dollar coin.

yeah, but you called the pope popey-pants, so you got no chance now
posted by the noob at 8:52 PM on August 31, 2011


Popey-pants is a term of endearment!
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:53 PM on August 31, 2011


She performed a requisite number of miracles.

Pfff. Boring miracles. "Oh, she cured my cancer". "Oh, she appeared to me in a dream".

Call me when she conjures everyone a jetpack that plays Van Halen when you turn it on.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:53 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Call me when she conjures everyone a jetpack that plays Van Halen when you turn it on.

That's no miracle, that's SCIENCE!
posted by KingEdRa at 8:55 PM on August 31, 2011


That's no miracle, that's SCIENCE!

That why she must conjure them. Perhaps some card tricks too. For a bit of flash.

Anyway, given how long people have been trying to make a jetpack, getting one out at this stage would be a miracle.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:00 PM on August 31, 2011


I think it's mainly because it's like the only interesting thing that ever happened here.

Billy Thorpe at Sunbury
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:03 PM on August 31, 2011


Pfff. Boring miracles. "Oh, she cured my cancer". "Oh, she appeared to me in a dream".

Well. all I can say is that when she was cannonised the drought broke and Beyoncé won the most awards at the grammys.
posted by the noob at 9:05 PM on August 31, 2011


Tim Freedman from the Whitlams sings about Ned's sister. or my grade school girlfriend, I'm not sure which

I get most of my old Aussie ballads from listening to The Handsome Young Strangers
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:07 PM on August 31, 2011


I'm not sure why he's such a huge hero/figure, and I'd love to know more.

Ned Kelly was a hammer-headed, gun-toting unicorn. At least that's what I understood from my visit to NGA in Canberra.
posted by vidur at 9:14 PM on August 31, 2011


all I can say is that when she was cannonised the drought broke and Beyoncé won the most awards at the grammys.

Facts:
- Oct 2010: Mary MacKilop is canonized.
- Dec 2010: Major flooding in Queensland.
posted by vidur at 9:17 PM on August 31, 2011


Bloke was a crook, a crim, a bully, a thug and a baddie. Why he is revered to any extent is completely beyond me. It wasn't "Irish rebelliousness", it was just drunkenness and ill-temper. "Aye, the world's out tay get me, innae?" Suck it up, beardy.

He's cooler than Chopper Read, though.
posted by Hoopo at 9:32 PM on August 31, 2011


all I can say is that when she was cannonised the drought broke and Beyoncé won the most awards at the grammys.

Since she was cannonised, approximately 117,000 people have died in Australia.

Monster!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:34 PM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


We Americans do that kind of thing, too. Consider the fascination with Jesse James or Butch Cassidy.

I remember seeing an episode of Nova which was about a guy trying to locate the corpses of Butch Cassidy and Harry Longabaugh. He traced down a rumor about two Americans who had been killed violently in a small town in Bolivia, who supposedly had been buried in a mass grave there, and got permission to do some digging.

And eventually found some bones he thought might be right, but genetic testing against a descendant showed they weren't.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:41 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Though his skull is not for rent,
Don't put him down as 5 ft 10.
Platemale, a quiet defense,
Hanging out the day's events.
The wombat.

And what you say about his family
Is what you say about notoriety.
Catch the killer, catch the git
Catch Sherritt, catch the drift.

Melbourne is, Melbourne is,
axebox and strife replete,
Maybe as his eyes went wide.
posted by clavdivs at 9:44 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ken Hall got a better song out of it though.
posted by sneebler at 9:45 PM on August 31, 2011


Rats. I knew it was Ben and I hit post anyway.
posted by sneebler at 9:46 PM on August 31, 2011


Has someone linked ironoutlaw.com? Great site.
posted by Ahab at 9:53 PM on August 31, 2011


There is some speculation that Kelly's scull might actually be Fredrick Deeming's

Deeming is fascinating - and theories exist as to why me might be the ripper.

interestingly Deeming's defence council was Alfred Deakin, Australia's second PM
posted by the noob at 9:55 PM on August 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a funny TV ad jingle that suggested the Kelly gang getting their comeuppance in the town Glenrowan was due to a broken TV at the local pub.

in the pub at Glenrowan
the TV had blown
so the Kelly gang started a riot...

posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:42 PM on August 31, 2011


Having read "In A Sunburned Country" by Bill Bryson, my main takeaways about Kelly are that a) he killed a cop by shooting him in the balls and leaving him to die in the bush and b) somewhere in Australia is a museum with crappy automatons of Kelly and gang with hair that looks like "windblown pubis."
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:55 PM on August 31, 2011


Alfred Deakin, Australia's second PM

Interestingly, for a thread about missing heads that mentions Alfred Deakin, I was just standing next to his head.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:58 PM on August 31, 2011


Popey-pants is a term of endearment!

I never knew you were a Catholic school boy.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:24 PM on August 31, 2011


Such is life.
posted by unliteral at 11:25 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kelly killed three policemen, drjimmy11. Sergeant Kennedy and Constables Lonigan and Scanlon. There's a memorial to them in Mansfield in Victoria, in whose cemetery they were buried.
posted by joannemullen at 1:10 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Don't forget Yahoo Serious's Ned Kelly movie.

I did not know this existed and may have to watch it if I can find it.


Do you have a fondness for really bad movies? Not "so bad it's good", just kind of crappy and pointless stuff? If so, you'll love Reckless Kelly.
posted by harriet vane at 1:19 AM on September 1, 2011


Yahoo Serious

fuck you internet for remembering
posted by the noob at 1:31 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why did they do this? Is there really a reason why identifying his corpse is of any use?

So that he can be buried in a marked grave that will attract tourists.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 2:21 AM on September 1, 2011


I'm not sure why he's such a huge hero/figure, and I'd love to know more.

I've got no idea. We're one of the most law-abiding nations in the world, yet this guy has virtually become a brand.
posted by Ritchie at 3:02 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Kelly boys, regardless of their criminality, struck a chord with the large Irish working class, a couple of good Irish boys sticking it to the Man, basically.
Eric Hobsbawm famously looked at this in his classic Bandits (link is to a PDF of a critical review that turned up on a search; ages since I read it, but includes Kelly as I recall), and he addressed the point that the individual mythologised doesn't necessarily have to be a pure Robin Hood to be accorded a hero role in the folk narrative.
posted by Abiezer at 3:05 AM on September 1, 2011


My favorite part of Autralia is that underground town one with the subterranean salt lake that looks like a mirror and the iron trees on the surface because nothing will grow there.

There might be some confabulation here but I hope not.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:15 AM on September 1, 2011


I really don't find Australia to be particularly anti-authoritarian. I know it's part of our national mythology and one is not meant to question such things, but really, it's mostly bullshit. Another part of our mythology the "fair go" is much more a part of contemporary culture here and it seems most people are content for authority to legislate and regulate to ensure a fair go for all. Or at least the perception of one. So much for our anti-authority tendencies.
posted by deadwax at 4:26 AM on September 1, 2011


And really, steampunk? What? You might as well throw in hipster as well, after all, he had a beard.
posted by deadwax at 4:28 AM on September 1, 2011


Such is life death.
posted by No-sword at 4:45 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chocolate Pickle: "We Americans do that kind of thing, too. Consider the fascination with Jesse James or Butch Cassidy."

Not quite to this extent. You've never had a conservative prime minister voting to change the national anthem to an American song about a sheep thief.
posted by vanar sena at 5:30 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


deadwax: "So much for our anti-authority tendencies."

I think it's more about underdogs than rebels. I agree it's mostly bunk, but politicians wouldn't be talking about Aussie Battlers if it didn't strike a chord.
posted by vanar sena at 5:44 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Kelly boys, regardless of their criminality, struck a chord with the large Irish working class, a couple of good Irish boys sticking it to the Man, basically.

But sadly lacking a 1969 Dodge Charger, unfortunately.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:10 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


next to the 'Fuck Off We're Full' sticker, above the RM mudflaps, carefully lined up with the Ettamogah Pub and Bundy rum stickers

But sadly lacking a 1969 Dodge Charger, unfortunately.


I just want to say I love this thread and it suggests what I've always expected: there's a good portion of Australia that is very much like northern New England. The sticker would be a Terrorist Hunting Permit and the mudflaps, if they haven't long-since torn away, feature chromed naked ladies, but we're all brothers and sisters in Christ. Or Xenu. Whatever religion features cheap beer and lots of it in their services. I can't remember.
posted by yerfatma at 6:14 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had heard of Ned Kelly before, but this post inspired a little more reading. I found this site about him which seems pretty in depth, and has a section devoted to his armor armour, which was apparently made from plows.

...there's a good portion of Australia that is very much like northern New England...
Which is apparently like the South.
posted by TedW at 7:25 AM on September 1, 2011


Sidney Nolan's large series of Kelly paintings (over 50 years) is arguably the most important mediator of the Kelly ethos or mythos in the 20th c. Although I'm not closely familiar with the series, I would guess that art criticisms about Nolan's work would offer some interesting insight into how the iconography came about, what it represents and how it resonates with the general public -- this is a very important body of artistic work and probably contributes greatly to the visceral imprinting (if such a term exists) in the national conciousness of the Kelly figure, that's not so well documented in the straight history or even the legend. See this, for eg.
posted by peacay at 7:34 AM on September 1, 2011


So what was the dress thing about?
posted by ODiV at 8:16 AM on September 1, 2011


Which is apparently like the South.

Yeah, but don't tell anyone that we're all pretty much the same. It will screw up the election.
posted by yerfatma at 8:53 AM on September 1, 2011


I think it's mainly because it's like the only interesting thing that ever happened here.
I happened, then I left.
posted by firstdrop at 8:55 AM on September 1, 2011


Don't forget Yahoo Serious's Ned Kelly movie.

I have dim, fond, memories of watching this on VHS. Doesn't he pull an island with a motorcycle at one point?
posted by nomisxid at 10:08 AM on September 1, 2011


Don't forget Yahoo Serious's Ned Kelly movie.

I did not know this existed and may have to watch it if I can find it.


Does it make me a terrible person that I just assumed that the 'celebrated in films' link in the post was to Yahoo's film, and didn't even cilck it? I think I've somehow seen this film like three times.. because each time I flipped the channel, saw a brief bit and thought to myself 'oh sweet, Young Einstein lolz! I want to see that guy put all the kittens in the pie that is solid gold' and it takes me like 15 minutes to figure out it's a different film and by then the Yahoo neurotoxins have rendered me paralyzed until the movie is over.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:39 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The text of the Jerilderie letter is well worth reading—the man has a style, however ramshackle:

so I came back to Victoria knew I would get no justice if I gave myself up I enquired after my brother Dan and found him digging on Bullock Creek heard how the Police used to be blowing that they would not ask me to stand they would shoot me first and then cry surrender and how they used to rush into the house upset all the milk dishes break tins of eggs empty the flour out of the bags on to the ground and even the meat out of the cask and destroy all the provisions and shove the girls in front of them into the rooms like dogs so as if anyone was there they would shoot the girls first but they knew well I was not there or I would have scattered their blood and brains like rain I would manure the Eleven mile with their bloated carcasses and yet remember there is not one drop of murderous blood in my Veins
posted by felix grundy at 3:08 PM on September 1, 2011



I'm not sure why he's such a huge hero/figure, and I'd love to know more.

I've got no idea. We're one of the most law-abiding nations in the world, yet this guy has virtually become a brand.


Its common everywhere, though. I was going to make a snarky comment about Australian criminality, and then I realized I'm really invested in Sons of Anarchy. The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Robin Hood, vampires... we love our rebels and criminals
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:29 PM on September 1, 2011


I'm glad that someone mentioned another Yahoo Serious film by the name of Young Einstein, as I was about to point out that part of Reckless Kelly was filmed at my home town's Fort Scratchley, but of course I've gotten my Yahoo Serious films mixed up. Happens to the best of us I'm sure.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:07 AM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh and also, it would be foolish to play down the sectarian split in Australia at the time, given that it was still somewhat important during the political battles over conscription during World War One, or even a bit later on given that apparently Bradman would barely talk to his Catholic team mates. Hell, for a long time (i.e until the last ten years or so) my family didn't know we had Irish ancestry, as one of my grandmother's forebears decided to tell people that they were Scottish protestants.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:18 AM on September 2, 2011


A lot of immigrants to Australia, starting with the convicts and going on from there, have a history of not trusting the police in their native country because the police were used to enforce unjust laws. I think that's why Kelly has such resonance. Even simplified versions of the story include Kelly's anti-cop attitude, and that's something a lot of people can identify with whether they were born here or moved here. I don't think it's anti-authority so much as an unwillingness to let someone abuse power.
posted by harriet vane at 3:29 AM on September 5, 2011


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