Cookson, 08 09 1911 4

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8 September 1911

(full text transcription)

FAMILY WITHOUT A FATHER John Kelly, the father of the outlaws died in 1865. Ned being then only 11 years old, and Dan only 4. The mother was left with a large family to look after. And the family lived in a district that is scarcely less desolate now than it was then. Strict adherence to the more sevre moral codes of cities was scarcely to be expected forfor youngsters born in such wilderness and allowed to run wild as they grew up. They were but little different from the other children of the region in most respects. But the police made the the terrible mistake of dealing more hashly than ? with them. Wild natured are not readily arnenable to strict measures. Ned Kelly found the police his foe, as a boy. His life with Power left him with sadly oblique views. He had learnt to hold the police in contempt, as the result of a long experience of successfuldefiance of them and their works. And if from the time of his leaving Power to his taking to bush young Kelly grew more and more irritable under the curb of the law - as en forced in those days - it was not, on the whole surprising.


Dan Kelly, his brother was born in 1861 and grew up in conditions distinctly unfavourable to the development of high moral instincts. He had before him the fascinating example of the dashing Power, whom he came to regard as a person to be worshipped. He was taught by environment and circumstance, to see in the law a useless set of hindrances to an easy existence, and in its administrators ? of men whose only purpose was to make trouble. The effect of that sort of teaching was inevitable. And while it is the fact that this boy did much that the law calls wrong, it has to be admitted that he did not really know wrong from right. In an ethical sense. He knew that to 'find' a horse that had not been lent, and to collect the reward, was not permitted by the law, and was discouraged by the police. But he had been taught from birth to hold both institutions in contempt. It was for alleged misdemeanour relating to a lost animal that Fitzpatrick made his unwarranted and ill advised attempt to drag the boy from the home-without, it is admitted, warrant or authority. That was the beginning of Australia's red page of history.

Steve Hart from Wangaratta where he was born in 1860. His two brothers live there now-respected, well-to-do citizens. Whilst still a young man, however he became very friendly with the Kellys, and when, having come to the conclusion that they might just as well earn the character for daring lawlessness with which they had been presented by the police, the Kellys started stock moving on an extensive scale and well-ordered system, young Hart found the excitement and interest of it altogether to his liking, and joined the other two.

The fourth member of the gang, Joe Byrne, was three years junior of Ned Kelly, having been born at a place known as the Woolshed, near Beechworth in 1857. He also was associated with the Kellys as a youth , and his up-bringing had been of a character that left him no qualms upon his adoption of the lawless career of his associates. He was only a lad when Detective-Sergeant Ward caught him and Aaron Sherritt skinning a sheep. The result was a sentence of six months in gaol for Byrne. He came out a sworn enemy to the society that had punished him so severely for a crime that, he declared, he never committed. And whilst he was in gaol he had learnt much from the old criminals whom he met with-it was actually what Byrne did learn in this way that formed the groundwork of the elaborate scheme of wholesale depredations that the gang subsequently prosecuted with such remarkable success.

It was in 1878 that the crisis occurred which drove the young men into outlawry- the attempt Fitzpatrick to arrest Dan .. Their mother, sent to gaol for a long term of imprisonment for what they declared was only the defence of their sister from interference on the part of the trooper, who was not sober, rewards of £100 offered for their own apprehension, the prospect of long terms in goal for themselves for something of which they both stouly declared they were quite interest the two Kellys had now to choose between the freedom of the bush, with what assistance they could secure from the friends and relations who were scattered all over the country, and the rigors of a long and tedious confinement. Their choice was soon made. They chose the bush, and for several months they defied the police, and made themselves so thoughly feared that no one could be prevailed uponto say or do anything against them.

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