Why is Ned Kelly famous?

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Edward “Ned” Kelly is a famous Irish Australian bushranger.  He is well known for his daring pursuits that lasted for over several years before he was finally caught and brought to justice. In Australia, he has become somewhat of a folklore figure because of his daring activities and his defiance of the police. He is viewed by some as a sort of Robin Hood.

Ned Kelly and his family were part of a group of Irish Catholics living on the poorer land in North Victoria. Ned Kelly’s father had been transported to Australia in 1842. By the time Kelly was born in 1855, times were hard, and the disputes over land meant that Irish Catholics were a disliked community.  Part of the reason why Kelly was driven to crime was the extreme poverty.  He was initially involved in several cattle and horse thefts.

Ned Kelly was arrested multiple times in his youth. Most of these were robbery charges, and he was either let off or suffered some punishments.  But he and his family often felt hounded by the police, and his mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement officials lead him to become very bitter. When a police officer named Fitzpatrick made several accusations of violence on the part of Ned and his family, his mother , her son in law and a neighbor were arrested and send to prison. Ned, who was not there at the time, wasn’t imprisoned but it was soon after that he formed the gang, along with his brother and two other men. Their first task was to take revenge on the police officers who had treated them badly.  

This gang was famous for long hold-ups and multiple bank robberies, for their daring and skill. They conducted heists over the two years they remained large, in Euroa and Jerilderie. They pulled off the spectacularly outrageous murder of an informant, Sherritt, who had betrayed them earlier. And finally, in their last heist at Glenrowan they were able to keep the police occupied for several hours. Kelly was taken alive in this final shootout, and was executed in 1880.

Kelly and his gang are also renowned for their use of iron-plated armor, which was a prototype of bullet proof armor and which allowed him and his comrades to withstand police bullets. This was unheard-of before. The armor has been preserved and continues to fascinate people today.

Before Kelly was finally arrested he wrote two accounts of his circumstances, the reason behind his crimes, and his feeling about the treatment of Irish Catholics in Australia. These two missives, one which was sent as a letter to an M.L.A. and one which was given to a clerk in the Jerilderie heist, have attracted attention because of their strong voice. They are used as evidence to point out that the man known as Ned Kelly was not a common criminal but a courageous, resolute and independent young man. They have gone a long way towards making Ned Kelly into an Australian folk-hero and legend.

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