This sword was presented to Sergeant Arthur Steele by grateful pastoralists following the capture of Australia's most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly.
Much more than a simple bushranger story, the Kelly outbreak was part of a land war between small landholders and squatters. One of the weapons used by Kelly and others was the theft of horses and cattle from large landholders.
Once Kelly was captured and executed the members of the Moyhu Stock Protection Society rewarded Steele by presenting him the sword. It is inscribed:
Presented to Sergeant Steele, Victoria Police by the Moyhu Stock Protection Society as a testimony of the high esteem they entertain of his public services during the recent outbreak. Wangaratta 1880.
Steele was seen as a hero by the squatters but others disagreed. During the siege at Ann Jones' Glenrowan Inn, Steele shot at innocent people caught inside the hotel, including Mrs Reardon and her son, Michael, who carried the bullet in his body until he died in his 80s.
History of the sword
The sword is of the type used in the colonies by officers of the Royal Artillery. It was decoratively etched by a leading Melbourne gunsmith, JW Rosier, whose name is on the sword. Rosier had supplied arms to the Victoria Police, including during the campaign against the Kellys.
Some time after Sergeant Steele's death in 1914, the sword was taken to England. It returned to Australia with a private collector in the 1970s and was displayed at the Old Melbourne Gaol in 2001–02 .
In our collection