Ned’s early days
Our remaining time around Seymour was spent checking out Ned’s early days. Seymour lies between between Beverage (to the south) and Avenel (to the north). Beverage is where Ned is thought to have been born in December 1854, some think he was born around mid 1855; some think he may have been born in nearby Wallan. What we do know is that he was living in Beverage in the late 1850’s. The family house is still there today in a dilapidated state. It was extended by subsequent owners from its original form by the addition of more rooms. But the original construction can be still clearly seen. The local hotel has a sketch of what it might have looked like in better condition!
One of the things that hits you early in the search for Ned Kelly is the enormous range of statues that are erected everywhere. Steel, stone, wood and plastics. All look a bit different and show him in different poses. The following 3 are in Beverage.
And .………………………………………..an enterprising lot have put him on a can. Whisky and cola, there are 3 alcohol strengths of whisky and cola available in cans. But the Kellys were Irish and would not have liked the way whisky was spelt!
Ned’s father John (“Red”) was an Irish convict settler, originally transported to Tasmania for 7 years, subsequently moved to Victoria where he married Ellen Quinn. They were battlers and settled on land in Beverage where they eeked out a living of sorts. Red was a bit of a scoundrel as were other members of the extended family. They engaged in what we would class as petty theft, horse stealing and cattle duffing, abusive behaviour and getting a bit worse for wear at happy hour. But in those days these were ‘major’ crimes and the authorities started a relentless pursuit of the Kellys and their associates, which ultimately saw them leave Beverage and move further north and settle Avenel.
We had a light lunch in Avenel at the Bank Street Wood Fired Pizza café. Rather nice pizza on a thin crust. Bit of a wait though as there was a big Hen’s party in progress. A bus load of ladies of all ages (the groom we were told was 53 and the bride
, a bit painted up so not quite sure) from Shepperton were on a cruise around the district. The bus driver was the groom’s brother and could have been a wealth of stories but apparently what happens on the tour stays on the tour he said!
Also dropped into a woollens/antique shop where the owner told us that Kelly’s were really ‘just Irish law breaking thugs’. He much preferred the recognition of one Arthur Bailey who had made the first gold discovery at Coolgardie in WA and later moved to Avenel to settle. He died aged 31 and there is an imposing head stone on his grave in the cemetery. These little towns always seem to have a famous person lurking away in the background!
In Avenel it was much the same for the Kellys. By this time the family had grown to 7 children. Times were tough and drought conditions prevailed. They operated a small dairy herd. Red was gaoled for 6 months for stealing a calf from a neighbouring property to help feed the family. He died at the age of 45 shortly after his release. He is buried in the Avenel cemetery. At 11 years of age Ned took his fathers place on the farm.
Earlier Ned had saved a younger boy from drowning in a creek and had been declared a town hero. He was awarded a green silk sash by the child’s parents who ran a local hotel, The Royal Mail. Ned wore this sash at the Glenrowan siege under his armour. The blood stained sash is on display in Benalla in a glass case (more about this later in the story).
After Red’s death Ellen started to become a bit cranky, abusing people and generally being ‘unfriendly’. She ended up in court twice, with fines. Ned’s family were not good role models for the young Ned and he too started to take a dislike to authority. He had been accused of stealing a horse, but nothing came of it.
So, the Kelly’s moved further north to Greta to escape the continuing police harassment. Greta was also where Ellen’s family, the Quinns had moved and she wanted to be closer to her married sisters.
Back in Seymour we spent some time down at the Vietnam veterans’ Memorial Wall. The wall has 106 panels, 53 back to back stretching along a walk way. The names of every veteran from each of the services is listed on the panels which are backgrounded with scenes from the conflict. Separate panels remember those who died whilst on service and also those who were awarded VCs. Very impressive memorial.
We are now also moving north, not to Greta, but to Benalla.