The Early Years, continued
On 11 November 1870 Ned commenced a 3 month term of imprisonment on charges of assault and obscenity.
Three weeks after getting out, Ned lent his horse to his friend, Isaiah “Wild” Wright, who said that he had lost his horse.
Wright was married to Bridget Lloyd, a member of the local Lloyd family, and therefore had close links with the Kellys. He was also to become one of the Kelly Gang’s staunchest supporters.
Wright told Ned that if Ned happened to find the lost horse, they could exchange the horses when he was next nearby. Ned did find the lost horse and rode it to Greta. What Wild Wright had not told Ned was that the lost horse was stolen.
The local policeman, Senior Constable Hall, recognised the horse from a description as Kelly rode past the police station.
Senior Constable Hall
Hall had been placed in charge of the newly opened police station in Greta. He weighed over 100 kilos and the biggest problem was to continually find horses which would carry him with sufficient stamina for bush work.
The Police Magistrate at Wangaratta had recommended against Hall’s appointment on the basis that he was too hot tempered to deal with the class of persons he would neet in Greta. He had already been charged with assault and perjury in respect of a prisoner in his care.
Hall dragged Kelly off the horse but was unable to hold Kelly. He drew his pistol and aimed it at Kelly’s head. Three times he pulled the trigger and three times the pistol misfired. Kelly overpowered Hall and humiliated him by riding him like a horse, stating in the Jerilderie letter: “I found him helpless as a big goanna. . . I straddled him and rooted both spurs into his thighs.”
Hall, with the assistance of others, subdued Kelly and gave him a vicious pistolwhipping, leaving scars that would be visible for the rest of Kelly’s life.
Also from the Jerilderie Letter:
‘I dare not strike any of them as I was bound to keep the peace or I could have spread those curs like dung in a paddock. They got ropes, tied my hands and feet and Hall beat me over the head with his six chambered colts revolver. Nine stitches were put in some of the cuts by Dr Hastings. And, when Wild Wright and my mother came they could trace us across the street by the blood in the dust and which spoiled the lustre of the paint on the gate-post of the Barracks Hall...’
Hall said that he was acting in self defence in respect of the pistol whipping of Kelly.
It is significant that the police did not charge Ned with assault, given their past actions and willingness to charge Ned and the other Kellys with whatever charges might possibly stick. There may well have been aspects of Hall’s conduct that they did not want to have aired.
The doctor was sent for on 3 occasions to tend Ned’s wounds at a cost of 8 guineas, causing the Chief medical Officer Dr Mcrea to pass a memo to Commissioner of Police Standish: “If the Chief Commissioner concurs I shall feel obliged if he will caution Hall about recklessly causing medical expenditure the next time he breaks the head of an Irishman.”
Ned was charged with stealing the mare on which he had ridden into Greta. When it became clear that he could not have stolen the mare in that he was in gaol at the time of the theft, the charge was changed to one of receiving. Wild Wright was charged with theft and was convicted.
Ned was found guilty, achieved through police bribery of their only witness, James Murdock, who was at a later date hanged for murder. Kelly received a 3 year term of imprisonment for receiving, Wild Wright received 18 months for the theft.
Back in Greta, the police station had been downgraded to a one man station. Hall requested, and received, a transfer, fearing retribution from the Kellys, Quinns and Lloyds.
He was replaced by Constable Motgomery who, during his term, recorded no arrests and no prosecutions. As a result he was replaced by Constable Flood, an officer perceived to be of the sort that could keep the Kellys, Lloyds and Quinns “continually under pressure.”
Ned worked in chain gangs, made roads, lived on the prison hulks Scaramento and Battery and, on his release, declared “I’d rather face the gallows than go to gaol again.”
For a period he remained law abiding, working at a sawmill and prospecting for gold. He was an expert horseman, crack shot, bushman, timber cutter and shearer.
He was also the unofficial boxing champion of North Eastern Victoria, defeating Wild Wright in a 20 round bare-knuckle contest in 1874 in Beechworth. He was 19 at the time and a photograph was taken of him in fighter stance not long after that fight:
Ned in early 1874, prison portrait.
Also in 1874 Ned’s mother Ellen remarried, to a Californian by the name of George King:
She had three children by him but he disappeared off the scene in 1878. The marriage had not been a happy one and Ned thrashed him on one occasion for mistreating his mother.
When Ned was released from gaol he found that his horses that he had left behind had been stolen by the Constable Flood. During Ned’s incarceration Flood had arrested Ned’s brothers Jim and Dan, aged 12 and 10, for horse theft. They were released by the court because of their youth but, in 1873, Jim received 5 years for stealing cattle. He was aged 14. Upon his release he was again charged and sent to prison, which is why he was not part of the Ned;s gang during the outlaw years. After Ned’s trial in 1880 he returned to Greta where he supported their mother until her death in 1923. He died in Greta in 1946 aged 87.
At the age of 22 Ned, with King, began to engage in the organised theft of horses and cattle from the squatters, which he justified by declaring that the greedy squatters had taken the best land and so should assist the poorer members of society.
The next bout of trouble with the law did not occur because of theft but because of drunkenness.
In September 1877, as a result of a drunken spree in Benalla, Ned was charged with being drunk and with riding his horse on the footpath. (There is speculation as to Ned’s drinks being spiked by the police in that he was know to hardly ever drink). The next morning, whilst on the way to court, Ned dashed away. Four policemen went after him, including Constables Fitzpatrick and Lonigan.
In the struggle that ensued, Kelly’s trousers were ripped off. According to Kelly, Constable Lonigan grabbed his testicles and squeezed hard, dragging him acrosss the street by his private parts. Kelly cried out in pain and said “Lonigan, I never shot a man yet but if I do so help me God you will be the first.”
It was a prophecy that would come chillingly true and would be used against him at his later trial.
Kelly was fined £3/1/- for the drunkenness offences.