Cookson, 13 09 1911 2

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13 September 1911

(full text transcription)


RELATED BY AN OLD GLENROWAN RESIDENT Unexampled as has been the interest taken throughout Australia in the special stories of the "Kellys from Within" published in "The Sun" it has naturally been more intense in the Kelly country itself than anywhere else. There the articles are being read with avidity, and much satisfaction, because even those who years ago thought hardly of the outlaws and their misdeeds are now willing to recognise that after all there is a good deal to be said in their favor.

This morning a very old resident of Glenrowan (Mr William Groveror) called at "The Sun" office to impart some interesting information which has never been published previously concerning the great trouble of 33 years ago.



Mr Grovener was able to settle definitely and beyond the question of how, where and by whom the heavy iron armor worn by the outlaws on desperate occasions was manufactured.

"Before he died," said Mr Grovenor, "Ned Kelly told his brother, Jim all about this armor. When they first took to the bush they realised that a chance shot or two might at any time and them in very much worse trouble than would have been their portion had they not sought to evade arrest. All sorts of schemes for their own protection were discussed, but most of these were found impracticable. It was the lack of material principally that stood in the way of their adoption.

All sorts of things were tried-iron tank material, circular saws, and the like. But none of them would keep lead out.

"It was Ned Kelly himself who first evicted the idea of making bullet-resisting armor out of plough mould boards. These were times when all ploughs were of the single-furrow kind, and in that country ploughs would last but very little time-perhaps only 10 days or a fortnight would see them too worn to be or further use. "From somewhere or other the Kelly's procured a small, portable forge, with a bellows. This they planted in well-concealed places in the then dense timber, about 300 yards at the back of the old homestead. The next thing was to get the iron. There was no trouble about this. They had plenty of friends, all farmers, and worn-out plough-shares were by no means scarce. Whilst the police were searching in all sorts of unlikely places for the outlaws the four of them - working under Ned's direction - were busy at their bush smithy manufacturing the heavy defences that stood them in such valuable stead later on in their desperate career.

"Ned himself was a first-class blacksmith. He had learned the business as a boy. He could shoe a horse with anyone. As a matter of fact, he used to shoe all the outlaws' horses. I may state here that Jim Kelly has the same skill in smith's work. He does all his own shoeing. The other three members of the gang proved apt pupils. And it was only a month or two before every man of the four was equipped with a complete suit of defensive armor, extending from above the crown of the head to below the knees, that no rifle bullet used in those times could penetrate. Indeed, it is pretty certain that the small bore nickel bullet of the modern military rifle would have been turned aside by this heavy metallic protection.

"Of course the Kellys did not take their armor out with them always: it was far too heavy for that. It was reserved for desperate emergencies, such as were always among the probabilities for men who lived as they did. They knew from the outset of their career that sooner or later they must find themselves in conflict with practically the whole of the police force of the State. In anticipation of a crisis of this nature they kept their ungainly defensive equipment in hiding.

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