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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter, picaresque auto-apologia with a larrikin contempt for the mere comma, agent of bourgeoisification that it is:

Dear Sir,

I wish to acquaint you with some of the occurrences of the present past and future, In or about the spring of 1870 the ground was very soft a hawker named Mr Gould got his waggon bogged between Greta and my mother’s house on the eleven mile creek, the ground was that rotten it could bog a duck in places…

{Quotation ends}

Shortly before his Euroa bank heist in 1879, Kelly occupied a farm property in Jerilderie and dictated 8000 words to his comrade in arms Joe Byrne. He had russled some 200 horses in his time, but when this was put to him at his trial he indignantly countered, ‘Who proves that?’ ‘Non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare’, as Ovid might say. In the midst of the bank raid, Kelly tried to locate the editor of the Jerilderie Gazette, who he thought could be persuaded (perhaps with some of the drinks ‘on the house’ he provided for his hostages during the raid) to publish his tract, but Gill had absconded and the text remained buried until 1930.

The endless complaint of the badly used, the harried, despised Fenian:

[Captain Brooke] knows as much about commanding Police as Captain Standish does about mustering mosquitoes and boiling them down for their fat on the back blocks of the Lachlan for he has a head like a turnip a stiff neck as big as his shoulders narrow hipped and pointed towards the feet like a vine stake…

{Quotation ends}

Kelly killed three policemen, but claimed that ‘a man killing his enemies was not a murderer’. At the siege of Glenrowan he came out fighting in his home-made armour. His last words before execution, myth would have it, were ‘Such is life.’ His mother Ellen lived a further 43 years, until 1923.

I marvel at Sidney Nolan’s Kelly paintings, some of which he donated to the Hugh Lane gallery in Dublin.

‘I am a widows son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed.’

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