The new millennium saw a boom in the interest of Ned and his Gang. In Sydney, we had hundreds of Kellys running around the main arena at the Olympic Opening Ceremony. A few months later, world renowned author Peter Carey shot to number one here in Australia with his best selling fiction title True History of the Kelly Gang — notice I put the word fiction in bold letters because it is fiction, dear people. Fast forward three years and we saw Heath Ledger don the famous armour in a movie adaptation of the very ordinary book Our Sunshine. The movie may be factually flawed but its big name actors did manage to mask many of the books low points. And the legend of Ned Kelly continues to grow.
Ned and the boys may have departed this earth over one hundred and thirty-five years ago but on any given week, in any major newspaper, you’ll be able to read a story relating to the Kelly Gang. Now more than ever we are bombarded with new exhibitions, talk of new documentaries, movies, television shows, web sites, forums, novelty shops and auction houses flogging off anything — and nothing — to do with the Kelly legend. So you try to look for some guidance, but where do you start? Back in early 1995 when the Internet was still in it’s infancy I started searching for information on Ned Kelly. What I found was a poorly designed — even for back then — shambles. Then and there I decided to start my own site. Hundreds of hours, three URL changes (www.netspace.net.au/~bradwebb, then www.ncs.net.au/nedkelly, and finally www.ironoutlaw.com), and six total site rebuilds later, the end result is now sitting in front of you. At last count, this web site weighed in at over ninety megabyte with over 210 pages, 1000 asset files, 20000 links, and an average of over eight and a half million hits a year.
Ian Jones tells the story of how, as a boy of ten, he was first introduced to the legend of Ned through reading J.J. Kenneally’s The Inner History of the Kelly Gang. I was eight when I first went to Glenrowan but, unlike Ian, it took me a few more years to realise what impact Ned had made on the Australian psyche. I suppose Ian didn’t have television to distract him back in 1940… Still, I always had a fascination for all things Australian. When other kids were watching Mickey Mouse, I was reading Blinky Bill. My GI Joe was dressed in Kelly armour that I’d made out of toilet rolls, sewn together with black cotton and coloured in with gray texta. Today I run a graphic design studio and during my spare time, when I’m not sleeping, I’m building this website. Sure there have been countless books, reviews, films and discussions stemming from the infamous uprising but they have never been placed into one easy to access online reference. History has always fascinated me, particularly Australian history. This website compliments my thirst for knowledge, allowing me to share my passion with like minded souls. It also helps hone my writing skills as I labour away finishing a PhD, during my other spare time…
My Kelly Connection
Ask any Australian (or for that matter any Kelly buff the world over) and they will tell you a story about their great grandparents riding shot gun for the Kelly Gang or feeding their horses or hiding them in their cellar (take your pick, the lists can go on for pages!). Well, not to be outdone, I too have a tenuous link to the legends of home made armour. Yes, my father’s mother (ie. my grandmother) came from a small country town in Victoria called Violet Town, situated right there in the thick of things at Kelly Country.
Before packing up all their belongings (including the children) and embarking on the long journey to Melbourne (by horse and cart after the Great War), the Radbourne family had been store owners. It seems great-great-grandfather had supplied Ned and his fellow band of merry men various goods during their time on the run. However, I did get the impression he was none too happy with these customers, but he held the local constabulary in lower regard and seeing Ned did pay his way he continued to serve him. So there you have it, my Kelly connection. Although seeing all who were involved in this story are dead you will just have to take my word for it. At least my Kelly link has a bit more meat on it than that self styled historian Ken Oldis’ far flung claim!
Aims and Ideals
Start searching the net to find information on this icon of Australian history and you’ll discover a mismatch of poorly constructed and thought-out web sites and forums. All these sites seem to do is add to the confusion. It is Ironoutlaw.com’s aim to attempt to list every important event linked to the Kelly Gang, and in doing so hopefully open up some relevant topics for discussion in the feedback section. And if it is not here then you will at least find a link to it. And my reward? Well, aside from showcasing my company’s HTML talent, the hundreds of emails I receive from around the world is payment enough. You would be surprised at some of the countries where our Ned has been recognised!
Today it seems, Mr Edward Kelly can be seen everywhere. From tea towels and coffee mugs to port bottles and snow cones. Even the Simpsons couldn’t resist the temptation of dressing Homer up as our most famous outlaw. Booker prize winner Peter Carey has made a ‘zquillion’ dollars from selling a well worked piece of fiction called The True History of the Kelly Gang and yet even more dollars on selling the movie rights to Hollywood.
As far as a ‘true history’ is concerned Ned never had the time in his short life to settle down and spawn a child. Something that Carey chose to ignore because, after all, adding a few false characters is bound to enhance the story. That it did, to the detriment of historical fact. But this is a piece of fiction, and it has brought Ned to the attention of the world. So full marks on a public relations point of view, and I have to admit, for a work of fiction it is a bloody good read!
Half of writing history is hiding the truth.
Ned’s image has become one with Australia. The opening ceremony at the 2000 Sydney Olympic games was a case in point. While many people saw this as blatant consumerism we like to take a different approach. Surely Ned would get a big kick out of knowing his face is as recognisable now as it’s ever been. In stark contrast, the bronzed head of Sir Redmond Barry, the judge that sentenced him to death, has metal spikes inserted in the top to stop the pigeons from shitting on his skull. His statue stands ignominiously outside the State Library of Victoria. Such is life!
About the Author
In March 1995, Brad Webb launched the web site Ned Kelly: Australian Iron Outlaw which today has grown to be one of the largest history related web sites in the world. With over two hundred pages, the site receives over eight and a half million hits a year. It has become a valuable resource for both teacher and student, as well as a sounding board for many Kelly related themes and ideas. History, however, is just another hobby for Brad who was trained as a graphic designer and typographer. With over thirty years industry experience, Brad and his company Network Creative Services, have produced a range of advertising material from award winning annual reports to overseeing some of the country’s most successful web sites. Since 2001 his company has published books on behalf of authors and organisations including eight Kelly related titles (including Max Brown’s Australian Son, A.N. Baron’s Blood in the Dust and Noelene Allens’ Ellen: a woman of spirit). Complementing his industry experience, Brad taught at James Cook University in Townsville for four years, and as a sessional lecturer at the RMIT School of Advertising in Melbourne. He currently lecturers at Melbourne Polytechnic in their Bachelor of Writing and Publishing. In 2010 Brad completed a Master of Publishing and Editing at Monash University and he is currently writing his PhD for the University of the Sunshine Coast on digital publishing. On the corporate side, Brad coordinates an event management company, Triple A Events, with his business partner Brendan Pearse, coordinator of Ned: the Exhibition.
This web site is full of images and quotes borrowed from a variety of sources dating back to IronOutlaw.com’s inception in March 1995. I must thank a number of individuals and organisations who have loaned me the use of various items for display in this virtual museum. Most are probably not aware of their generosity but I feel they should be formally acknowledged for their contributions to the Ironoutlaw: Max Brown, Chester Eagle, Ian Jones, Browyn Binns, Keith McMenomy, Nicky Cowie, Angie Baron, The State Library of Victoria, The Public Records Office of Victoria, Ben Collins, Ellen Hollow, Dave Fagan, Matthew Deller, Brendan Pearse, Paul O’Keefe, Noeleen Lloyd, Lola Rowe, Noelene and Eric Allen, Michele Eve, Airi Repetti, Alan Crichton, Nick Hawtin, Judith and Eric Douthie, ‘Captain Jack Hoyle (retired)’ and the extended Kelly clan.
View Previous Version
Feeling nostalgic for the previous version of IronOutlaw.com? We’ve archived version 5.0 in all it’s former glory allowing you a chance to read through our massive feedback archive dating back to the mid 1990s. There’s also a wealth of documents, newspaper reports, stories, and articles which are all still very relevant to the Ned Kelly story (unfortunately the resolution of these images wasn’t high enough to port across to the new Wordpress version 6.0 reiteration).
Link: Ned Kelly: Australian Ironoutlaw (version 5.0)