Benalla was the major town closest to Ned’s home in Greta. It was in Greta that Ned started to have his run ins with the police. On one occasion he and a mate decided to ‘borrow’ a horse, this was one of his Uncle Jim’s tricks of the trade. Once ‘borrowed’ the horse would be hidden out in the bush. The owner believing it had run off would offer a reward to anyone who tracked it down and return it. Ned and the mate went out and ‘found’ the horse, returned it and and claimed the reward. The owner caught on and Ned was charged with horse stealing, but nothing came of it. On another occasion a Chinese peddler claimed Ned had robbed him, which was not the case. The charges were fabricated and Ned was able to escape conviction. Members of the extended Kelly family made frequent appearances in the court during this time.
The bootmaker’s shop were Kelly had a fight with police still stands today opposite the old courthouse, now part of the Anglican Church complex. During the fight one of the police performed the famous ‘Christmas hold’ on Ned, this caused Ned some distress and he threatened that if he ever killed a policeman it would be him. In fact this was the case, the officer was shot by Kelly at the Stringybark Creek shoot out some months later in 1878 (but more of this is to come).
The local museum holds much memorabilia on the Kelly’s. Among them the portable cell in which Ned was held on one occasion. Pride of place is held by the green blood stained sash worn by Ned at the Glenrowan siege. Over at the Art Gallery is Sidney Nolan’s big tapestry depicting the siege of Glenrowan. In the cemetery is the grave of Joe Byrne one of the Kelly gang members, every so often flowers mysteriously appear on the grave. The cemetery also hosts the graves of Ned’s grandmother and his Uncle Jim along with other Kelly family members.
As we found on our travels every town has another favourite son. Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop the famous leader of the POWs on the infamous Burma Railway during WWII was born and lived here. There is a significant memorial and documentary to him in the museum, the Botanic Gardens also has a bronze statue recognising him and his service.
We next head off on the relatively new silo art trail to the north west of Benalla and a visit to the Winton Wet Lands.