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Australian Son the story of Ned Kelly by Max Brown
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Martini Henry roundsMartini Henry rounds as used by the police at Glenrowan.
Photo Matt Deller

When Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick fired his police issued Webley revolver inside the Kelly homestead during the botched attempt to arrest Dan Kelly for horse stealing, it signalled the start of the Kelly outbreak. For the next 20 months, rifles and revolvers would be used on both sides of the law to devastating effect.

Weapons played a vital role in the shaping of the Kelly Legend even though the police and the Kelly Gang exchanged shots only twice, at Stringybark Bark Creek and the siege of Glenrowan. On that fateful day of Sunday 28 June 1880, it would be a 16-pellet cartridge fired from a police shot gun by the murderous Sergeant Arthur Steele that would usher in the final chapter to one of the most talked about periods in Australian history.

Made for the 1980 mini-series “The Last Outlaw” was this replica of Ned Kelly’s sawn-off carbine which he shot Constable Lonigan. Reportedly only a lock-plate survives from the original after the weapon was thrown out in the 1950s.
Photo Matt Deller

A Kelly replica

Up until Euroa, Ned’s weapon of choice was an ancient carbine of .577 calibre, sawn off at the butt and barrel and held together with waxed string. It’s total length was only 60 centimetres. It was probably given to him around the age of fourteen during Ned’s brief “apprenticeship” with the cantankerous bushranger Harry Power. Ten years later this gun would be used with deadly effect against a party of police at Stringybark Creek.

Sergeant Kennedy borrowed a Spencer repeating carbine specifically for the Kelly expedition. After Stringybark Creek the rifle became a key weapon in the Kelly Gang’s arsenal.
Photo Matt Deller

Spencer Repeating Rifle

After the shootings the Gang found themselves with an impressive array of weapons. On this hunting trip the police had intended to kill both Ned and Dan. This is evident in the body straps and pack horse brought on the expedition in order to bring the bodies of the Kelly's back to Mansfield. When the Gang rode out of the bloodied police camp they took with them four Webly revolvers, Scanlon’s .500 calibre seven shot Spencer Carbine (borrowed from the Woods Point gold escort), and Kennedy’s double-barrelled shot gun (borrowed from Reverend Sanderford, the Mansfield Vicar).

Some of Ned's ammunitionThese two .56 calibre bullets and ball from Ned’s Colt revolving carbine were taken from his ammunition pouch after capture.
Photo Matt Deller

Their collection grew when the Gang held up the National Bank in Euroa. They rode away with two rifles, two double-barrelled shot guns, eight revolvers and a Snider-Enfield .577 calibre rifle which, nicknamed “Betty”, quickly became Ned’s favourite. He even engraved a K onto the rifles butt. When the gang moved on to Jerilderie they relieved from their police prisoners a six-shot .36 calibre Colt Navy revolver, another revolver, and the station’s two .539 calibre Callisher and Terry Carbines. They also collected two revolvers from the Bank of New South Wales.

Taken from Englishman Henry Dudley during the hold-up of Faithfull’s Creek homestead near Euroa in December 1878, this .577 calibre Snider-Enfield became known as ‘Betty’, Ned Kelly’s favourite rifle. He even carved a ‘K’ into the fore-end wood.
Photo Matt Deller

Ned Kelly’s favourite rifle, ‘Betty’
Leading up to the battle at Glenrowan the Gang amassed an arsenal of unknown size. What is known is that they bought additional firearms including some Winchester rifles and a treacherous Colt revolving rifle, which had the unpleasant knack of firing all six chambers at once and removing the shooters fingers. When a mounted trooper dropped his Martini-Henry rifle near the Kelly homestead that too was added to the stock pile. It was this Martini-Henry that was used by the Gang to test the strength of their armour.

.31 calibre pocket Colt revolverA .31 calibre pocket Colt revolver like one used by Ned at the beginning of the siege at Glenrowan.
Photo Matt Deller

Most of the best guns, including the Spencer and “Betty”, were distributed to the Kelly sympathisers on the lead up to the Glenrowan showdown. The Gang figured they would not need such weapons as their armour would reduce the effect of range and firepower. Ned reverted back to his original carbine given to him by Power. He also carried the finger removing Colt and two cap-and-ball revolvers, one of which was the Navy Colt courtesy of the Jerilderie police.

.36 calibre Colt Navy revolverWrenched from his hand by railway guard, Jesse Dowsett, Ned originally took the .36 calibre Colt Navy revolver from Senior Constable Devine during the Jerilderie hold-up.
Photo Matt Deller

When the plan to derail the special police train went airy the sympathisers and their weapons melted back into the bush. Today, many of the guns still exist and are jealously guarded by the descendants of the men who were keen to declare a republic of North East Victoria.

.45 calibre Martini Henry rifle
While not everyone wants to read about Ned Kelly or the ANZACs or even The Great Depression, we hope they want to learn something about Australian History. From the ex-Prime Minister John Howard to a confused ex-NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt (see the ex-pattern here?) a number of politicians have jumped on the teaching history bandwagon. But at what cost? From Right Wing Liberals to the multitude of State Governments, seems everyone has an agenda. We'd like to let the readers decide what is worth learning. Here at we present the facts, the fiction and everything in between. It all adds to the experience and hopefully makes History an exciting place to be while also proving it needn't always have to be written by the victors.
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Ned Kelly: A Pictorial History available on the iPad App Store
If you're looking for that perfect gift then head over to our shop where we are featuring Max Brown's 312 page hardcover limited edition novel Australian Son: the story of Ned Kelly for $34.95 with free Australia wide postage (or $14.95 international postage). All of Max's books come with a bonus Australian Son bookmark. These books are only available for purchase online (and not through book shops). Of course the money we raise goes back in to building the world's greatest Ned Kelly web site.

Australian Son by Max Brown

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Ellen: a woman of spirit
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Ned: the Exhibition
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