Cookson, 06 09 1911 3

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6 September 1911

(full text transcription)


There is a popular belief that the name of the maker of the Kellys' armor is unknown to any save one or two intimate associates of the outlaws, and that the secret is so well guarded that it will never be permitted to leak out, even at their death. This is only one of the many superstitions that have been woven around the story of the ironclad bushrangers.

There is nothing easier than to find out who made this armor-and why, and under what circumstances. Everybody in the district knows, and, moreover, everybody who knows is ever anxious to circulate the information. During the course of a few casual inquiries it was ascertained that the armor was made, solely and individually, by each eleven blacksmith, living in all parts of the territory; that the man who really made it was dead; that this man had never existed, but that it was his brother who fashioned the plates; that the armor was made by a Government farrier what time the outlaws stood over him with pistols and threats; that an agent of the Kellys got the metal clothing manufactured in (1) Melbourne, (2) Wangaratta, (3) Bendigo, (4) Albury, (5) Japan, (6) Sydney- and various other places.

This armor business is a popular subject for discussion locally. It is a sort of eternal guessing competition, without prizes. And when the people with reliable information on the point have about covered the ground of reasonable possibility-and wandered far afield there from-certain old stagers will look wise, and wink provokingly and say that they know, but are under an oath of dreadful and impoing proportions forbidding them to tell. One of these wiseacres was heard to declare, under the influences of about three quarts of spirits, that the Kellys stuck up the Melbourne Museum and took the armour out of there. He remembered, he said, having seen exactly similar armor there, when he went to Melbourne. As doubtless he did.

But the actual maker of the ploughshare armor is a modest, unassuming man, who is not eager for notoriety. Satisfied with the testimonial given to his handicraft by the fact that none of the outlaws ever got hurt in a place that it covered, he is content to let virtue be its own reward, and to let the people go on guessing, and speculating, and lying and drinking about the solution to the problem. Maybe he does not wish to deprive these people of their innocent recreations. There would be some dull evenings in Glenrowan in the winter time-and it can be dull there at that period-if everybody really did know, beyond the possibility of question, who actually made that quaint, ponderous, but serviceable armor that turned death aside for the outlaws so often.

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the previous day / next day . . . BW Cookson in the Sydney Sun index