On This Day …

Saturday February 8th, 1879

Ned_kelly_day_before_execution_photographAustralians seem to celebrate our historical outlaws for some reason. Strangely, we think there is something exciting or even romantic about the bushranging lifestyle. But as I read about Ned Kelly, I almost shuddered. What took place on this day, and the following couple of days would have been quite frightening for those involved.

Imagine, the townsfolk of Jerilderie were sleeping this Saturday morning. While still in the middle of the night, Ned and his gang rode into town, their first stop, the local constabulary. There, they tricked the policemen, locked them in their own cell, took their uniforms and then proceeded to head about town posing as constables protecting the town from bushrangers.

The true constable’s wife was made to hand over all firearms, while dressed in her nightgown and with children to look after. What terror that poor woman must have gone through. On Sunday she had to prepare the courthouse for a church service, but had to be accompanied by one of the gang the whole time.

On Monday they robbed the bank, stealing over  2000 pounds, then proceeded to spend some of it in the pubs about town. The rest of the day they stole all sorts of things, including horses, then vandalised the telegraph office, before finally leaving town at about 7pm.

During his stay in Jerilerie, Ned Kelly dictated a letter complaining of his treatment by the police, part of which reads: ‘…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…’ Now, I don’t know if there was any truth to his claims of ill-treatment, but I do know that insulting people is not the way to get them on your side. I’d be surprised if anyone took his letter seriously, fifty-six pages long as it was.

How do you think you would have reacted if a gang of thieves rode into your town and held it hostage for the weekend?

Published in: on 8th February, 2013 at 10:58 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Probably faint with fear! I’m a big chicken, so if I didn’t faint right off, I’d probably hide under the feather quilt.

    And yes… what a letter! ‘Fat necked, big bellied and narrow hipped…’
    I want to lol but I keep thinking how terrified that poor wife must have been. Not to mention her children. Imagine their nightmares, years later.

    • Yeah, I tend to freeze up in a crisis, brain turns to jelly, all that. I think they would have been long gone before my fortitude kicked in. 🙂

  2. It depends on whether it happened in 1880 or 2013. If it were 1880, I might think that this was a sign things could get better in the future. At the time, the police were basically mercenaries for a corrupt ruling class and the majority of the public hated them. Times change, but it is important to view an event through the eyes of the time not the eyes of today.

    • Interesting way to look at it. I haven’t studied the police of the time in detail as yet. I was more focusing on the fear one would feel at having men come into town waving their guns around, stealing and destroying property.

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