10th November 1880, the day before Ned Kelly’s execution.
Ned had penned a letter to explain his reasonings and two photographs were taken of him on the grounds at the Old Melbourne Goal at the request of Ned as a keepsake token for his mother who was celled in the women’s block of the Old Melbourne.
Here is a snippet of Ned’s final letter.
NOVEMBER 10, 1880
His Excellency the Marquis of Normanby.
I have again taken the liberty of placing before you the remaining facts of my case which have never been placed in a true light before you. It has been represented that I took up arms in April, 1878 for the purpose of shooting police.
But as six months have elapsed between this alleged shooting of Constable Fitzpatrick on the 15th April and the Stringy Bark tragedy on the 26th October, 1878, and there neither was robbery or any other offense during that time reported of having been done by me or my companions and has also been stated that I was at the shooting of Constable Fitzpatrick, but as the Police knew I had witnesses to prove my whereabouts at the time, they did not put it in as evidence against me, therefore I could not call any witnesses.
Even Constable Fitzpatrick’s own evidence clears me of the first charge, as he swears that I neither murdered him nor had any intention of doing such. After my mother was convicted of aiding and abetting in shooting with intent to murder Constable Fitzpatrick, I came back with full intention of working a still to make whisky, as it was the greatest means to obtain money to procure a new trial for my mother.
Both for Kennedy’s and Scanlon’s deaths McIntyre is the man most accountable, because he told them a falsehood when he said they were surrounded and therefore placing them in a wrong position, which can be seen by referring them to the photo of the place and the positions of the men, also not telling them who they were surrounded by. But as they were not surrounded, what he should have said to his Sergeant was ‘ don’t move. You are covered by Ned Kelly and three other men and if you attempt to fight, you will be shot, but if you surrender your arms you won’t be shot.’ Then the men would have known their exact position.
The next thing I wish to mention is the Crown Prosecutor’s trying to point out my blood thirstiness in wearing steel armour. This is quite contrary, for without armour I could never have possibly robbed a guarded bank and disarmed Police without taking life, but with armour I had not occasion for taking life. I can solemnly swear now before God and man that it never was my intention to take life, and even at Glenrowan I was determined to capture Superintendent Hare, O’Connor and the blacks, for the purpose of exchange of prisoners. While I had them as hostages I would be safe. No police would follow me.
In lieu of taking them, I thought it might be as well to leave them surrounding their Police Barracks at Glenrowan and get possession of their train and horses without an encounter, and get a civilian to claim the reward so when the police obtained their horses they would have no enticement to follow me as the reward would have been obtained, so they would not interfere with me until such times as there was another reward issued, and if they did not give the reward to the man that claimed it, no person would inform against me again.
There is one wish, in conclusion, I would like you to grant me, that is the release of my mother before my execution as detaining her in prison could not make any difference to the Government now, for the day will come when all men will be judged by their mercy and deeds; and also if you would grant permission for my friends to have my body that they might bury it in consecrated ground.
11th November 1880.
Ned arose from his bed, he refused breakfast and just before 9 o’clock his legs irons were knocked off, and Kelly was conducted to the condemned cell, situated now in the only remaining cell building of the gaol.
Ned walked from his former cell, and had to pass through the governor’s garden, where he exclaimed,”Oh, what a pretty garden!” The last sight of beauty Ned would have seen.
Ned then remained in the cell in prayer with the priests. Just before 10 O’clock the governor of the gaol and sheriff went to the door, and the warder announced that the fatal moment had arrived.
The priests, one bearing a tall crucifix and intoning prayers, preceded the prisoner, who still at this moment remained somewhat calm, considering his fate in a few minutes time.
The gallows is situated opposite to the cell door, and the rope is adjusted to a beam in the gallery, the drop being seven feet and a half.
Ned was then walked from the cell to the gallows where upon Ned reportedly uttered his last words, Ah, well! it’s come to this…
Such is life”. Elijah Upton placed the noose around Ned neck and adjusted the knot to be just under his left ear, the white cap was then pulled over his face.
The lever was drawn and Ned Kelly fell with a heavy thud.
Death was instantaneous, only a few twitchings, due to muscular action, being perceptible, and there was no struggling whatever. The body was cut down at 10:30 and the face was found to be pale but not distorted.
The formal inquest was held at 12 o’clock, where Ned’s beard and hair were shaved and a plaster death mask mould was made of Ned’s head. An autopsy was carried out with Ned being dissected and his head cut off so that his brain could be studied.
Ned wishes to be buried with his family were denied and he was placed inside a wooden box formally used to house axes and placed to rest inside the ground of the Old Melbourne Goal.
“If my lips teach the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the police are taught that they may exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill treat, my life will not be entirely thrown away.”- Ned Kelly
On this day 144 years ago in 1878, three police officers were murdered by the Kelly Gang at Stringybark Creek.
Four police officers, Sergeant Michael Kennedy, Constable Thomas McIntyre, Constable Michael Scanlan and Thomas Lonigan had set up camp along the creek at Stringybark in their search for the Kelly Gang.
On Friday the 25th, Michael Kennedy, Michael Scanlan and Thomas Lonigan were murdered by the Kelly Gang, while Constable McIntyre was able to escape and notify the authorities which would then set in motion a chain reaction behind which the Kelly Gang could ever return.
R.I.P to the lives lost that day and the lives that changed forever.
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