A letter written by an eyewitness to the Ned Kelly gang’s last stand at Glenrowan on June 18th, 1880, has been donated to the State Library of Victoria.
Donald Gray Sutherland had left Scotland for Australia four years earlier. He got a job as a clerk at the Bank of Victoria in the town of Oxley which was just eight miles from Glenrowan.
When news of the shootout between the outlaw Kellies and the police spread, Sutherland went to Glenrowan to witness the events.
He described what he saw in a letter to his family dated the 8th of July. It’s a fascinatingly detailed account of Ned, his famous homemade armour, the bullets he took, the grim fate of other gang members. (All creative spelling and grammar is original.)
On hearing of the affray I at once proceeded to Glenrowan to have a look at the desperados who caused me so many dreams and sleepless nights. I saw the lot of them. Ned the leader of the gang being the only one taken alive.
He was lying on a stretcher quite calm and collected notwithstanding the great pain he must have been suffering from his wounds. He was wounded in 5 or 6 places. Only on the arms and legs. His body and head being encased in armour made from the moule boards of a lot of ploughs.
Now the farmers about here have been getting their moule boards taken off their ploughs at night for a long time but who ever dreamed it was the Kellys and that they would be used for such a purpose.
Neds armour alone weighed 97 pounds. The police thought he was a fiend seeing their rifle bullets were sliding off him like hail. They were firing into him at about 10 yards in the grim light of the morning without the slightest effect.
The force of the rifle bullets made him stagger when hit but it was only when they got him on the legs and arms that he reluctantly fell exclaiming as he did so I am done. I am done. […]
Ned does not at all look like a murderer and Bushranger. He is a very powerful man aged about 27 black hair and beard with a soft mild looking face and eyes. His mouth being the only wicked portion of the face. After his capture he became very tame and conversed freely with those who knew him.
Not having the pleasure of his acquaintance I did not speak to him although I should have liked very much to ask why he never stuck up the Bank of Victoria at Oxley.
Well he had it down on his programme at one time but a Schoolmaster named Wallace and one who Banks with us put him off it – at least Wallace got the news conveyed through Byrne one of the Gang that he had some deeds and papers here which he did not wish destroyed as it would ruin him. Well Ned said I wont do it and he didnt do it and we were consequently saved from the presence of the Gang.
Poor Ned I was really sorry for him. To see him lying pierced by bullets and still showing no signs of pain. His 3 sisters were there also, Mrs Skillion Kate Kelly and a younger one. Kate was sitting at his head with her arms round his neck while the others were crying in a mournful strain at the state of one who but the night before was the terror of the whole Colony.
The night that Byrne and Kelly shot Sherriff at the Woolshed they rode through Oxley on their way to Glenrowan. Some of the people in the Township heard the horses go bye but I didnt being sound asleep.
Byrne was shot in the groin early in the morning as he was drinking a glass of whiskey at the Bar. Then there remained only Dan Kelly and Steve Hart. Whether they shot themselves or whether they were shot by the police will ever remain a mystery.
At about 2 PM a policeman named Johnstone whom I knew well at Murchison fired the house and it was only when no signs of life appeared that they rushed the place to find the charred remains of Dan and Steve Hart. They presented a horrible appearance being roasted to a skeleton. Black and grim reminding me of old Knick himself.
I’ve seen Otto Preminger’s “Laura” three or four times, but the identity of the murderer doesn’t spring quickly to mind. That’s not because the guilty person is forgettable but because the identity is so arbitrary: It is not necessary that the murderer be the murderer.
Three or four other characters would have done as well, and indeed if it were not for Walter Winchell we would have another ending altogether.
Film noir is known for its convoluted plots and arbitrary twists, but even in a genre that gave us “The Maltese Falcon,” this takes some kind of prize. “Laura” (1944) has a detective who never goes to the station; a suspect who is invited to tag along as other suspects are interrogated; a heroine who is dead for most of the film; a man insanely jealous of a woman even though he never for a moment seems heterosexual; a romantic lead who is a dull-witted Kentucky bumpkin moving in Manhattan penthouse society, and a murder weapon that is returned to its hiding place by the cop, who will “come by for it in the morning.”
The only nude scene involves the jealous man and the cop. That “Laura” continues to weave a spell — and it does — is a tribute to style over sanity. No doubt the famous musical theme by David Raksin has something to do with it: The music lends a haunted, nostalgic, regretful cast to everything it plays under, and it plays under a lot.
There is also Clifton Webb’s narration, measured, precise, a little mad: “I shall never forget the weekend Laura died. A silver sun burned through the sky like a huge magnifying glass.
It was the hottest Sunday in my recollection. I felt as if I were the only human being left in New York. For Laura’s horrible death, I was alone. I, Waldo Lydecker, was the only one who really knew her.
”It is Clifton Webb’s performance as Waldo Lydecker that stands at the heart of the film, with Vincent Price (see above), as Laura’s fiancee Shelby Carpenter, nibbling at the edges like an eager spaniel.
Both actors, and Judith Anderson as a neurotic friend, create characters who have no reality except their own, which is good enough for them.
The hero and heroine, on the other hand, are cardboard. Gene Tierney, as Laura, is gorgeous, has perfect features, looks great in the stills, but never seems emotionally involved; her work in “Leave Her to Heaven” (1945) is stronger, deeper, more convincing.
Dana Andrews, as Detective Mark McPherson, stands straight, chain-smokes, speaks in a monotone, and reminded the studio head Daryl F. Zanuck of “an agreeable schoolboy.” As actors, Tierney and Andrews basically play eyewitnesses to scene-stealing by Webb and Price.
As long as there is something worth stealing it is probably the case with the human race that what that something is won’t be, and will be stolen.
This has been the case forever, and as vigilant as an owner of property might be–whether that bit that stood for labor exchange units was a cow or land or gold or money itself–there will be someone else out there in the anti-vigilant world tempting fate and chance and skill at taking someone else’s belongings away.
We have a little window that has opened to reveal a piece of that world–an unusual one, for the 19th century, anyway.
That is what I saw when breezing through the memoirs of George Washington Wallace (1823-1891), Recollections of a Chief of Police, which was published in 1887.
Wallace was police chief of New York City, making him the police chief (sorry, Chicago), and he had some pretty good recollections to recollect.
(Which is a good thing he recorded this book when he did, because he would be dead four years later.
After a Petty Sessions hearing at Beechworth in August, Ned Kelly was taken to Melbourne, passing through streets thronged with gaping people.
He was deemed fit to stand trial for murder at Melbourne’s Supreme Court on 28 October, 1880.
The judge, Sir Redmond Barry, who had once made the grim promise that he would see Ned Kelly hang, wanted to dispose of the trial in a single day, in order to have it finished before the Melbourne Cup.
The inexperienced barrister defending Ned was no match for an expert prosecutor, a determined judge and a chief Crown witness — the constable who escaped at Stringybark Creek — and who committed perjury.
Barry also misdirected the jury on a vital point of law concerning self-defence.
Inevitably, a guilty verdict was announced. Barry sentenced Ned to hang, concluding with: ‘And may the Lord have mercy on your soul.’ Ned famously retorted: ‘I will see you there, where I go.’
Twelve days after Ned was executed, Judge Barry dropped dead in his chambers on 23 November, 1880.
Ned Kelly’s execution was scheduled for Thursday 11 November, 1880 — only thirteen days after his trial.
A massive movement was launched to save his life. There were huge public meetings, torch-lit marches, a deputation to the Governor, and a petition for Ned’s reprieve from execution.
Three days before the planned hanging, the petition was presented to the Governor with more than 32,000 signatures.
An hour later, the Executive Council announced that the execution would go ahead.
Image of Ned Kelly taken on November 10, 1880, the day before his execution.
At 9 am on the morning of 11 November, 1880, as a crowd of 5,000 gathered outside the Melbourne Gaol, Ned was transferred to the condemned cell.
Just before 10am, he was led out onto the scaffold.
As the hangman adjusted the hood to cover his face, Kelly’s last words were: ‘Arr well, I suppose it has to come to this. Such… (is life?)’.
At four minutes past ten, the executioner pulled the lever and Ned Kelly plunged into immortality.
His headless body was buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds of the Old Melbourne Gaol.
In the 1920s it was then removed to the Pentridge Prison cemetery.