Standing an impressive six metres above the town of Glenrowan in Victoria is a larger than life statue of the infamous outlaw, Ned Kelly. The Big Ned Kelly features in the series of statues known as the Big Things of Australia. Missing this statue is unheard of due to its huge stature and impressive design. Glenrowan was the place of the last siege pulled off by the Kelly gang and was also the sight where three of them, unfortunately, met their maker.
The Big Ned Kelly statue is situated in the main street of Glenrowan and is very much worth a look and a photo opportunity. Funnily enough, there is actually another Big Ned Kelly statue in Australia, however, due to the significance of the place that this one stands, it is far more well known. People say that this statue is a way of keeping him ‘immortalised’.
This statue depicts the exact way that Ned Kelly appeared when he was captured near Glenrowan in 1880. Featuring his signature heavy mask and his rifle in his hand, he now stands there forever, clearly marked in history. People also believe that the Big Ned Kelly stands guard over the great little town of Glenrowan and that his spirit never actually left, which leads us to wonder the who, what, when, where, and of course, why.
If you’re game enough to wander close enough, you will see the plaque that sits at the Big Ned Kelly. It reads “Ned Kelly- Hanged a murderer in Melbourne, November 11, 1880 – not 26 years old – described as a rebel, bushranger by necessity, a bush battler, underdog, sometimes gentleman, sometimes larrikin and a man with a strong sense of family.” The town is somewhat dedicated to all things Ned Kelly and even plays home to a museum to commemorate him. The town and its visitors usually refer to Ned Kelly as ‘Australia’s Greatest Outlaw’, and in a sense, I suppose he was
The Big Ned Kelly
No one remembers when the Big Ned Kelly was built, in fact, some peoples earliest memory of it was when it was stolen and dumped in the river. Owners of Kate’s Cottage, Chris and Rod Gerret, decided that they wanted something different for the town.
Chris said, “We wanted somewhere people could be photographed for free and big things seemed to be all the rage at the time, so we decided to build a Big Ned Kelly to keep up with the rest.” They then commissioned a man by the name of Kevin Thomas to build the Big Ned Kelly we know and love today.
The Big Ned Kelly is a whopping six metres tall, 1.5 tonnes, and cost about 12 000 dollars throughout the whole process. It then took eleven hours to truck it to the place it now stands so proudly.
Nowadays, he is portrayed as a gun-wielding bushranger set in stone (well, fibreglass), however, years ago that wasn’t the case when people lived in fear of the Kelly Gang. Ned Kelly is now immortalised in the ever so quaint town of Glenrowan.
Who was Ned Kelly?
If you don’t know who Ned Kelly was, there is a chance you’re not from Australia because he is a large part of the Australian school curriculum. Ned Kelly, born in 1855, was known for his many different personas. He was a bushranger, outlaw, gang leader, and even a convicted murderer.
Ned Kelly was one of the last bushrangers and he took place for the most famous. He is best known for his heavy bulletproof armour that he wore during his final shootout with the police. The Big Ned Kelly was depicted just as Ned appeared in his last shootout, so it is as authentic as possible.
Ned Kelly was the eldest son of eight children to John Kelly and Ellen Quinn. In his younger years, Ned Kelly saved a young boy from drowning and was rewarded for his bravery, perhaps that is where he reaped his need for attention, recognition, and his need for adrenaline from.
Perhaps you may not know much about Ned Kelly, or perhaps you have no idea who he is it all. However, you surely know of his last words which have been known worldwide without a direct link to Ned Kelly himself. Ned Kelly uttered the words ‘Such is life’ or ‘Ah well, I suppose it has come to this’, which one you hear depends on which version of the story you are told. These have become very well-known Ned Kelly quotes.
Ned’s life as a criminal began in 1869 when he was only 14 years of age when he was arrested for assaulting a Chinese man. Then, in 1870, he was arrested again. However, this time it was for being a suspected accomplice of Harry Power who was also a bushranger during that time. The charges were soon dismissed, but not before Ned Kelly caught the eye of the police. That is where it all went downhill.
Several years later, in 1878, Ned committed his first big crime (that we know of), and that is when his whole world changed. A police officer known as Fitzpatrick paid a visit to the home of the Kelly family in the hopes of arresting one of the sons (Dan Kelly) for horse theft, but Ned Kelly had other ideas. Ned proceeded to shoot Fitzpatrick in the wrist which ended in Ned’s mother, Ellen, being arrested for aiding and abetting in an attempted murder.
His mother was sentenced to three years in prison by Judge Redmond Barry, who later sentenced Ned Kelly to death by hanging. Ned and Dan went into hiding and later they were joined by some friends. These friends were Joe Byrne and Steve Hart.
Ned Kelly’s Armour
You may have known the great Ned Kelly for his very famous letterbox style headpiece and matching armour that Ned and his fellow gang members wore throughout their time together. This ‘uniform’ was used to protect the gang members from gunfire and allowed them to walk surprisingly close to gunfire with no resulting injury.
However, that is not the only reason the armour was worn. For all the gang members, and particularly Ned, they served as a way to make them appear larger, more intimidating, and scarier. The shock factor and appearance of the gang’s armour is said to have been one of the main reasons that they lasted so long during their last siege.
Ned Kelly’s armour weighed around 45kg, but it was his saving grace when he emerged from bushland in Glenrowan while he was being shot at. The Kelly Gang made their own armour but had various kinds of help from local blacksmiths. Their armour was made of consisted of several different kinds of material.
Leather, iron bolts, and steel from ploughs which then made up five pieces of armour with a separate helmet and visor. It is proven that Ned Kelly’s armour weighed half of his body weight and to this day remains an Australian icon. Once Ned was caught, his armour was removed and kept as a keepsake. Pieces of it were separated and some pieces even made their way into the hands of private owners. It took many years to understand and recognize what parts of the armour were Ned Kelly’s, but now the complete armour sits safely in the Library’s collection. It just acts as another way to keep him immortalised.
How did Ned Kelly die?
It all started at dawn on the 28th of June 1880. Ned Kelly emerged from rugged bushland wearing his signature bulletproof armour and began approaching police while shooting. After a small amount of time, plenty of bloodshed, and a large number of bullets, officers opted to shoot Ned Kelly in the legs, one of the only unprotected parts of his body.
Being badly injured, Ned was then captured and taken into town by the officers. Then, holding around 30 hostages, Dan and Steve continued the siege until the afternoon. After the last hostages were released in the afternoon, police lit the inn on fire to flush out any remaining outlaws. However, within the last hour of the siege, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart died.
It is said that it will forever remain a mystery of how they died. Some say they were shot by the police whereas others will tell you that they shot themselves to avoid surrendering or being burned alive. This was all a heavily publicised event; the destruction of the Kelly Gang was widely known, and a large number of people even celebrated.
After the death of the three members, police attached Joe Byrnes dead body to a door for all to see and even allowed photographs of his body to be taken. Reporters even took photos of Dan and Steve’s burnt remains which were later seen by everyone.
As for Ned, he was treated for his injuries and taken to Melbourne. Ned Kelly, being an outlaw, could have been executed without so much as a trial, however, due to his notoriety, Ned was tried in Melbourne in October of 1880. Police wanted to avoid any negativity on their behalf, so they allowed Ned the chance to defend himself against murder charges.
It was then proven that the Kelly Gang were not acting in self-defence but rather had the intent to shoot and kill officers. Ned Kelly was then found guilty of murder and was sentenced to death by hanging. He was executed at Melbourne Gaol on the 11th of November 1880, at 10 am. You can still visit the Gaol today and you will be shown how the men and women lived. You can also view the site of Ned Kelly’s execution.
If you enjoyed reading about the Big Ned Kelly, we recommend reading our post about the Big Bogan.
We also have a Big Things store featuring T-shirts on some of the most famous big things in Australia. These include The Big penguin, The Big Kangaroo, The Big Jumping Crocodile and The Giant Koala. They are available in baby sizes all the way up to adult sizes.