Erin’s Diaspora Desperadoes

Steven Are, a Dissenter Down Under, with the first in a series of pieces about the Irish In Oz. 

The Irish in Australia @ part one

Proof the Irish diaspora started the hipster fad many years ago…

An iconic image of Australia’s distrust of authority could not be better displayed than the bushy bearded image of the bushranger Ned Kelly. Kelly was the son of a Tipperary native who had the misfortune of being apprehended after liberating two pigs from their earthly confines. I’m not entirely sure this was the first ever recorded act of animal liberation and indeed it seems the British also felt it less altruistic. But this act set in motion (literally in this case) a judgement to send a one, John ‘Red’ Kelly. to what was then known as Van Diemen’s Land, better known today as Tasmania.

After what must have been arduous labour in the penal colony, ‘Red’ made his way north to the southern Mainland State of Victoria, where he found work as a carpenter on a farm. But old habits die hard and his clear love of animals shone through once again when he became renowned for liberating cattle in the district and selling them to the needy. 

In due course Red married the 18 year old daughter of the farm on which he worked and set about starting a family, not stopping until the lucky number 8 was reached, and Ned was the first of three sons though sadly one of his sisters died young as was the fate of many back in those days.

His father’s choice in earning an income had a profound effect on the young Ned in more ways than one. When Red had no explanation to offer the local colonial police as to why exactly he was in the possession of Bull Hide, the harsh justice system at the time sentenced him to 6 months of hard labour. This ultimately would speed his demise and he died shortly after being released from Kilmore jail, at the young age of 46.

Such an event in a young man’s life is often the catalyst that spurs the man on, and in this case it was no different. At the age of 14 he had his first brush with the law over an assault on the marvellously named Chinese immigrant ‘Ah Fook’, resulting in his first incarceration. This would be the start of a very colourful career in the scornful eyes of the local police and one that would speed legend throughout the fledgling colony and beyond.
The Sash Ned Kelly Wore..

This time it was a green and gold version bestowed upon him by grateful neighbours when he was 14 years old, for saving their son. Years later he was to wear it under his famous home-made armour.

Kelly quickly fell into association with the County Waterford born Bushranger Harry Power, with whom he learned his craft of armed robbery and other various shady dealings, but this was to end bitterly as Kelly was accused of betrayal, falsely, as it turned out. To address the slur on his character, Kelly had the novel idea of asking the local constable for help in the matter, an opportunity that perhaps inevitably the local bobbies turned down!

But it is Kelly’s innate sense of fairness that still strikes a chord with modern Australia, and its sense of a ‘Fair Go’ for all. The Kelly Gang’s respect for the poor folk of the Bush was renowned, and as they targeted mainly banks and the wealthy, much of the local populace looked the other way when they came near.

Kelly’s armour forged in a Bush forge is instantly recognisable globally

In the end treachery became the Kelly Gang’s undoing, and their location was identified to the police by a released hostage whom Ned agreed to release under the instruction to go home for a sleep!

Sir Redmond Barry, from Cork, was the Kelly Gang’s Judge

The trial of the Kelly Gang captivated the nation, and there was always only going to be one outcome in the eyes of the old colonial power and Ned was duly sentenced to Death by Hanging.

Popular myth has Ned’s last words as “Such is life” but according to the warden on the gallows his final words were inaudible. Regardless, it is his mother’s final word’s to him that invoke more emotion than a newspaper soundbite when she told him bluntly “Mind you die like a Kelly”.

This is perhaps a clue into the stoic mindset of Ireland’s diaspora when faced with colonial judgement, and one that is echoed throughout the history of the Irish in the Great Southern Land.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

5 comments to ''Erin’s Diaspora Desperadoes "

  1. Thanks for this very inspiring account of Ned Kelly!! Always enjoy,and love READING about anyone who puts him or her self out for those who have little,or nothing!! And,further ,when the opposition are those of arrogance,and ridiculous wealth! Good for Red Kelly as well for his son Ned!!☘☘☘❤❤🎵🎶🎵🎶

  2. Thanks to Steven for publishing here. It brought back memories of the Dark who always cited what he believed to be a Ned Kelly comment - such is life. Looking forward to follow ups

  3. AM,

    Thanks for publishing, wasn't 100% happy with the finished piece but will take a bit longer with part 2. Cheers.

  4. Really enjoyed that Steve. It's typical that they used a Gombeen to sentence him!

  5. Thanks Stephen,

    have some vague memories of the movie with Mickk Jagger playing the lead ... 'Think I'll steal a horse myself and blame it on the Kellys'.


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