Friday, July 24, 2009

Who’ll hoist the Flag of Stars

Ned Kelly has become an Australian folk hero for his defiance of the colonial authorities. Born in Victoria to an Irish convict father, as a young man he clashed with the police. Following an incident at his home in 1878, police parties searched for him in the bush. After he murdered three policemen, the colony proclaimed Kelly and his gang wanted outlaws. A final violent confrontation with police took place at Glenrowan. Kelly, dressed in home-made plate metal armour and helmet, was captured and sent to jail where he was hanged for murder at Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880.
The Kelly gang had many active supporters and a wide following. It has been said Kelly was forced into bushranging by the police who were looking to shoot him. Kelly and his gang robbed banks rather than robbing common folk. The radical thoughts of the Australian bushranger Ned Kelly were evident in the hour of his capture when the police took from his pocket a declaration for a Republic of North Eastern Victoria!
It was Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter that showed elements of a manifesto and a foreshadowing of a rebellion. In 1879 the Kelly gang held up the town of Jerilderie, New South Wales. Months prior to arriving in Jerilderie, and with help from his mate Joe Byrne, Kelly had dictated a lengthy letter for publication describing his view of his activities and the treatment of his family and, more generally, the treatment of Irish Catholics by the police and the English and Irish Protestant squatters. The Jerilderie Letter contains language that is colourful, rough and full of metaphors and has become a famous piece of Australian literature.
In the time since his execution, Ned Kelly has been mythologised among some into a Robin Hood, a political revolutionary and a figure of Irish Catholic and working-class resistance to the establishment and British colonial ties. This can be summed up in the lyrics from 1980s folk rock band, Redgum

But no one single handed
Can hope to break the bars
It's a thousand like Ned Kelly
Who'll hoist the Flag of Stars

No comments:

Post a Comment