As game as Ned Kelly

by Amanda Laugesen

November 11th marked the 132nd anniversary of the execution of famous Irish-Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly. He was hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880. The anniversary prompts us to consider the contributions that Ned Kelly has made to the Australian lexicon.

One of Sidney Nolan's famous depictions of Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly was born in 1855 in Victoria, and by the 1870s was notorious for being involved in criminal activities. He and his gang were responsible not only for a number of robberies, but also for killing several policemen. This led to a final confrontation at Glenrowan, Victoria, in 1880, his subsequent capture, and execution.

Ned Kelly has been an important figure in Australian folklore and mythology. Graham Seal argues in his book Tell ‘em I died game: the Legend of Ned Kelly (1980) that part of Kelly’s appeal is that he is seen to embody characteristics considered typically Australian. These characteristics include defiance towards authority, independence, and an affinity with the bush. Continue reading