NMA collection record

Ned Kelly's Jerilderie letter, 1879


This is a handwritten letter consisting of pages one, two, three and four of the Jerilderie letter, that is a copy of Ned Kelly's confession. The letter is inscribed on a double sided double page and is written in black ink on cream coloured paper. The first sentence on page 1 on the left hand side begins 'Dear Sir, I wish to acquaint you with some of the occurrences of the present, past...'. This resource is supported by a Flash interactive which shows all 40 pages of the letter along with a written transcription and audio reading.

Educational value

Ned Kelly is the only bushranger known to have left a detailed written justification of his actions and his 'manifesto' is regarded by many as an early call for a republican Australia. The 56-page document he tried to have published at Jerilderie in February 1879 appears to be the final working of one that was first circulated at Euroa in December 1878. It reflects the voice of a man who feels he has been deeply wronged. He admits to crimes but claims he was forced into them by a corrupt police force. He demands that squatters share their property with the poor. The document ends with a violent threat against all who oppose him: 'I am a Widow's Son, outlawed and my orders must be obeyed.' Copies of the document were made by the police and by publican John Hanlon.

Murderer and self-confessed stock thief, Ned Kelly is arguably Australia's best-known historical character. Born at Beveridge in about December 1854, he first came to public notice when, in 1865, he saved 7-year-old Richard Shelton from drowning in Hughes Creek at Avenel. By 1866, his widowed mother moved her family to north-eastern Victoria. Ned had become the family breadwinner. He took on general bush labouring work, timber-cutting and even served a brief apprenticeship with bushranger Harry Power. Kelly's trouble with the law quickly escalated through indecent behaviour, assault and stock theft to police killer.

Three police were shot dead at Stringybark Creek in October 1878. The Victorian Government responded by outlawing Ned and Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne. This meant they could be shot on sight by anybody at any time. For two years the gang roamed freely through north-eastern Victoria and the Riverina, robbing the banks at Euroa and Jerilderie in December 1878 and February 1879, respectively. Finally, at Glenrowan in June 1880, they donned suits of armour to make a dramatic but doomed stand against the Victorian police. Dan Kelly, Hart and Byrne were killed and Ned Kelly taken prisoner. Tried and found guilty for the murder of Constable Lonigan at Stringybark Creek, Ned Kelly was hanged at Melbourne Gaol on 11 November 1880.

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