Getting back on the Kelly trail today. Heading south as we make our way back to Melbourne from Beechworth, we popped into the Greta cemetery where Ned, Ellen (his mother) and other members of the Kelly family are laid to rest. There graves are unmarked but just as you walk in there is a headstone to acknowledged they have been buried here. The visit book reveals its a popular stop even thought there is nothing much to see.
What you do get, is a sense of the harsh and vast land that the pioneers tried to tame. There is no town to look at, just a few old houses and the ground is very hard and dry. You can only imagine how tough this place must have been to try and eek out a living of the land.
From here we drove west to Glenrowan the location of the final siege that saw the downfall of the Kelly Gang. Ned had an elaborate plan to derail the police train he knew was coming from Melbourne before having a shoot out with any remaining police in his new armour. There are also theories of a small band of sympathizer awaiting near by to engaging in a rebellious uprising.
Neds well laid plans didn’t play out as he had intended. While they succeeded in the braking of the railway line, the police train was waved down and stopped by a local school teacher. With the police at full force and knowing exactly where to find the Kelly gang they had little chance of victory or escape.
The armour was effective at deflecting bullets and stunned the police, it was extremely heavy, encumbering and visibility out the helmet limited. Three hostages lost there lives and the stand off lasted all night. It wasn’t until day break that Ned finally fell. Somehow he managed to get behind the police line and in the mist and haze of dawn he fired off a few more shots before being felled. His wounds were treated at the railway station and he was transported to Beechworth prison.
The law of the time stipulated that Ned should have been tried for his crimes in Beechworth but knowing they would not get a favorable verdict the authorities transferred him to Melbourne where he was tried and hung at age 25 in 1880. Australias first and only outlaw.
It is indeed and epic tale and one in which still has folk in these parts divided. For police and families of police he is a criminal and cold blooded murder and nothing more but for other he is a rebel, ragbag and legend.
While in Glenrowan we enjoyed a fabulous lunch at the Vintage Hall Cafe, before attempting to see the local attraction of a reconstruction of the siege. Unfortunately we had missed the fine print about it being ‘frightening and loud, the young and those with heart conditions be warned, non refunds will be given’. And they weren’t wrong. We finally left with the kids in tears, confused and well and truly freaked out!
From there we crossed the train tracks to the siege sites and fortunately a lovely friendly horse was able to help settled the kids nerves before we followed the trail laid out with all the key information and locations of the siege. It was quiet something to be standing on the ground surrounded by the trees that would have witnessed such a well known legend in Australian history.
Following this a final walk through town and a play at the playground we decided to spend the night in Glenrowan before returning to Melbourne and for some much anticipated time with Grandma and Papa.