Dan Kelly (1861 – 28 June 1880) was an Australian bushranger and outlaw. The son of an Irish convict, he was the youngest brother of the bushranger, Ned Kelly. Dan and his brother killed three policemen. With two friends, they formed the Kelly Gang. Dan Kelly died during the famous siege of Glenrowan.
More books have been written about the Kelly Gang than any other subject in Australian history. The Kelly Gang were the subject of the world's first full length feature movie, The Story of the Kelly Gang, made in 1906. They robbed banks, took over whole towns, kept the people in Victoria and New South Wales frightened. For two years the Victorian police searched for them, locked up their friends and families, but could not find them.
Despite his body being identified by police and a priest before being burnt, there have been many stories about what might have happened during the Glenrowan siege. It is possible they may have killed themselves. This was the story that was used in the first Kelly film, The Story of the Kelly Gang in 1906, and in the 2003 Ned Kelly movie. There have also been stories that both survived the fire. There is little evidence to support these claims. One man, James Ryan, said he was Dan Kelly. In 1934 he went on stage at the Brisbane Exhibition and told stories about the Kelly Gang. He died on 29 July 1948, after being struck by a train. The Ipswich City Council have put a memorial on his grave. In 2001, scientists took a small piece of bone from the grave of Charles Devine Tindall at Toowoomba, Queensland, to see if they could find DNA to prove he was Dan Kelly. Devine, who had burn scars on his body, told his family he was really Dan. He said he had hidden under the floor of the Glenrowan hotel and escaped after the fire. In October 1902, a Melbourne newspaper printed a story that Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were living in South Africa. The men had fought in the Boer War. Another man, Jim Davis from Darra (a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland), said in 1938 that he was Dan Kelly. He claimed that he, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne had escaped from the hotel. He also said he was born at the Eureka Stockade in 1854, which makes him too old to have really been Dan.
Dan Kelly's father, John "Red" Kelly, was an Irishman, a convict who had been sent to Van Diemen's Land in 1842.He would have been kept in the convict gaol at Port Arthur.
In 1848, after his time in gaol, Red Kelly moved to Victoria, and began working as a farmer around Beveridge. There he built a simple wooden house. The house in Kelly Street is still standing. The original three rooms have been added to over the years, and the house now has 11 rooms.
Red married an Irish girl, Ellen Quinn, in Melbourne in 1850.They had seven children, Annie (1853), Edward "Ned" (1854), Maggie (1856), Jim (1859), Dan (1861), Kate (1862) and Grace (1863).
In 1864, Dan Kelly's family moved north to a farm at Avenel. Red Kelly stole a calf and was sent to gaol for six months. Dan was in trouble with the police when he was five years old because they believed he had stolen a horse. Dan's father died in 1866, and in 1867, his mother, Ellen Kelly, moved the family to a small farm near Greta in north east Victoria. Ellen Kelly's two sisters, Catherine and Jane Lloyd, were living at Greta, and her two brothers, John and James Quinn, had moved to the area in 1864. The Quinn family were well known to the police. Dan Kelly was again in trouble with the law when he was only 10 years old. He and his brother Jim, aged 12, were arrested by Constable Flood for riding a horse that did not belong to them. Jim was working for a local farmer and had taken the horse to ride home on. Flood did not believe them, and the boys were forced to spend two nights in a prison cell. In 1875, like many other young men in north east Victoria, Dan Kelly and his cousins, the Lloyds, went to New South Wales to look for seasonal farm work in the Riverina area and on the Monaro High Plains. His group of friends were known as "the Greta mob". They went out together to hotels, dances and horse races. By 1876, they were well known for their visits to nearby towns such as Wangaratta, Beechworth and Benalla.
On one visit to Benalla in 1876, Dan was arrested for stealing a saddle. The police let him go when they could not get enough evidence. Dan and his cousins got into trouble with the police in October 1877. They had gone to a shop to pick up food and other supplies, but the shop was shut. When the owner refused to open the shop, Dan Kelly broke down the door. They were charged with violent assault, damage to property (the door), breaking into houses and stealing things worth £113. The boys went into hiding, and the police spent three weeks looking for them. Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick told Ned Kelly to get them to give themselves up. In court, the police were not able to prove most of the charges, but Dan went to prison for one month for damaging property worth £10.
On 15 April 1878, Constable Fitzpatrick, went to the Kelly's house to arrest Dan Kelly for stealing horses. Dan had been seen in Chiltern riding a stolen horse. What happened at the house is now called the "Fitzpatrick incident". There was a fight with Fitzpatrick, and he said the Kelly family had tried to kill him. Dan and Ned went into the bush to hide. Ellen Kelly was sent to gaol for three years for attempted murder. Maggie's husband, William Skillion, and a neighbour, William Williamson, were sent to gaol for six years.
Ned and Dan Kelly went into the bush to a place in the Wombat Ranges. Dan Kelly had built a small hut some time earlier on Bullock Creek, where he had cleared an area of about 20 acres (8 ha) to keep horses. He had also built a small still for making alcohol. The brothers spent their time searching for gold in the creek.
During the months they were hiding at Bullock Creek, they were often visited by their friends including Steve Hart, Joe Byrne, Aaron Sherritt and the Lloyds. The police took the charge of attempted murder very seriously. A reward of £100 was offered for the capture of the two Kelly boys. The police thought the brothers were hiding in the Wombat Ranges. In October 1878, they sent two search groups out to find them. One group travelled south from Greta, and the other started from Mansfield and travelled north.
The Mansfield group was led by Sergeant Michael Kennedy, with three policemen; Constables Thomas McIntyre,
Thomas Lonigan, and Michael Scanlan. They set up a camp at an abandoned diggings at Stringybark Creek in a thick forest area. Kennedy and Scanlon went searching for the Kellys, while Lonigan and McIntyre remained at the camp. The Kellys were living in a hut close by at Bullock Creek. They heard gunfire and discovered the police camp. They decided to capture the policemen and take their guns and horses. Ned and Dan, and friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart, went to the police camp and told them to surrender.
Constable McIntyre put his arms up, but Lonigan got out his gun. Ned Kelly shot him dead. When the other two police came back to camp, McIntyre told them to surrender. Scanlon went for his gun but Ned shot him dead. Kennedy ran shooting from tree to tree with Ned chasing him. During the shooting, Kennedy was shot and was badly wounded. Ned shot him in the chest to end his suffering. McIntyre was able to escape during the confusion. It was later reported in the newspapers that it was Dan who had shot Kennedy. Dan was wounded during the shooting.
he Victorian government passed a law on 30 October 1878, making the Kelly Gang outlaws; they no longer had any legal rights. They could be shot by anyone, at any time, without warning. Anyone who could capture one of the Gang, alive or dead, would be paid a reward of £500, or £2,000 for the four men. The bushrangers were seen at several places around north east Victoria. They had tried to cross the Murray River into New South Wales, but the water was too deep. The police had several large groups hunting for them. On 10 December, the Kelly Gang robbed the bank at Euroa. In February 1879, they went to Jerilderie, New South Wales. They locked the town's policemen in the police station cells, and kept many people prisoner in the Royal Mail Hotel for three days. Dan Kelly and Steve Hart kept the people in the hotel, while Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne robbed the bank. After the bank robberies, the reward was increased to £2,000 for each man, or the larger amount of £8,000 for the Gang.
Over the next 18 months many policemen were sent to north-east Victoria to search for the Kelly Gang. The police could not find the bushrangers because they were badly led and they did not know how to live in the bush. However the Kellys were experts in living in the bush and they had the support of the local people.
In October 1880, the Kelly Gang came out of hiding. They knew that Joe Byrne's friend, Aaron Sherritt, had been giving information to the police. Four policemen were living at Sherritt's house, near Beechworth, to protect him. Dan Kelly and Byrne went to Sherritt's house late at night and knocked on the door. When Sherritt opened the door, Byrne shot him dead. The policemen were hiding under the bed. Kelly and Byrne rode quickly back to Glenrowan where Ned Kelly and Hart had forced many of the town people into a hotel, the Glenrowan Inn. They also had forced railway workers to pull up the train tracks. They knew that more police would be sent by train to Beechworth to find them. They wanted the train to crash when it reached the place where tracks had been removed near Glenrowan. The bushrangers, wearing homemade armour, would then capture any of the policemen that were alive after the crash. With the police out of the way, the Kelly Gang would then go into Benalla and rob the bank. The captured police would be released when Ellen Kelly, William Williamson, and William Skillion, were let out of gaol.
The plan did not work because the four policemen did not come out of Sherritt's house until the next morning.This meant that the news of the murder did not reach Melbourne as quickly as the Kelly Gang had hoped. The people held prisoner in the hotel became restless. Ned organised music and Dan joined in dancing to keep the people in the hotel entertained. Dan also organised some sporting games including long jump and hop, step and jump. Dan wanted to leave Glenrowan when they knew the plan was not going to work because the train was late. Ned Kelly let Thomas Curnow, the school teacher, go home to his wife. Dan told his brother not to trust Curnow, and to keep him at the hotel. Instead of going home, Curnow went to the railway and about 3.00am he was able to stop the train before it reached the broken rails. The police quickly left the train and placed themselves around the hotel so that the Kelly Gang was trapped inside.
When the bushrangers heard the train pull into the station, they knew their plan to destroy the train had failed. They put on their suits of armour and went on to the verandah of the hotel to wait for the police. In the first few shots, police Superintendent Hare, Ned Kelly and Joe Byrne were wounded, and Jack Jones, son of the hotel owner was fatally wounded. Ned Kelly, who was dressed in his armour, was able to leave the hotel and kept shooting at the police. The police fired their guns into the hotel building for seven hours. It is estimated that 15,000 bullets were fired during the shooting. Byrne died after being shot in the groin. Ned Kelly went back to hotel but could not find Dan or Steve Hart who were hiding in a back room. He again left and tried to find his horse. Ned Kelly was shot in the legs as he searched outside for his brother. The police were then easily able to capture him.
At 10.00am there was a large crowd of people watching the action. Police Inspector Sadleir was forced to stop the shooting to allow many of the hostages to escape. He would not let Dan's sister Maggie, or a Catholic priest Father Gibney, go into the hotel to tell the men to give themselves up. Instead, he ordered that a cannon be sent from Melbourne so that they could destroy the hotel.
At 2.30pm, the police set fire to the building to try to make the rest of the Kelly Gang leave the building. Father Gibney ignored the police and went into the burning building. He found Dan Kelly and Steve Hart dead in a back room of the hotel. He said their bodies were lying side by side, their heads resting on blankets. Byrne's body was dragged out of the hotel, but the bodies of Hart and Kelly were badly burned during the fire. People who saw the burned and blackened bodies were only able to tell which was Dan Kelly and which was Steve Hart by their size. They were placed on sheets of bark from a tree and photographed. Three Glenrowan people held prisoner inside the hotel died during the siege.
Family members, including his sisters, Kate and Maggie, and friends took the bodies back to Greta. The police tried to get the bodies back, and sent a group of 16 policemen to Greta, but they became worried that this would start another fight and they went back to Benalla. Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were buried in unmarked graves at Greta, on 30 June 1880. About 100 people were at the funeral, with Dan's cousin, Tom Lloyd, as the undertaker, and a Greta farmer, Daniel O'Keefe, acting as a preacher. After the graves were filled in, the whole area was ploughed over to keep the site of the graves hidden. The family was worried that the police would still try to get the bodies.
After Glenrowan, Dan Kelly and Steve Hart's armour was taken by the police and kept at Benalla. Ned Kelly's armour was sent to Melbourne to be used at his trial. Joe Byrne's armour was sent to the police depot in Richmond. At the end of 1880, all the pieces were in Melbourne. One set of armour was given to Sir William Clarke. Over the years the pieces became mixed up. In 2002, the State Library of Victoria and the police exchanged some pieces to try to get the sets complete. The State Library has Ned's armour, Joe's is still owned by the Clarke family, and the police have Dan and Steve's armour which can be seen at the Victoria Police Museum in Melbourne.
Despite his body being identified by police and a priest before being burnt, there have been many stories about what might have happened. It is possible they may have killed themselves. This was the story that was used in the first Kelly film, The Story of the Kelly Gang in 1906, and in the 2003 Ned Kelly movie. There have also been stories that both survived the fire. There is little evidence to support these claims. One man, James Ryan, said he was Dan Kelly. In 1934 he went on stage at the Brisbane Exhibition and told stories about the Kelly Gang. He died on 29 July 1948, after being struck by a train. The Ipswich City Council have put a memorial on his grave. In 2001, scientists took a small piece of bone from the grave of Charles Devine Tindall at Toowoomba, Queensland, to see if they could find DNA to prove he was Dan Kelly. Devine, who had burn scars on his body, told his family he was really Dan. He said he had hidden under the floor of the Glenrowan hotel and escaped after the fire. In October 1902, a Melbourne newspaper printed a story that Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were living in South Africa. The men had fought in the Boer War. Another man, Jim Davis from Darra (a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland), said in 1938 that he was Dan Kelly. He claimed that he, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne had escaped from the hotel. He also said he was born at the Eureka Stockade in 1854, which makes him too old to have really been Dan.
The story of the Dan and Ned Kelly has been told many times. There have been more books written about the Kelly Gang than any other event in Australian history. The very first full length movie in the world, made in 1906, was The Story of the Kelly Gang. In the 2003 Ned Kelly movie starring Heath Ledger as Ned Kelly, the part of Dan Kelly was played by Laurence Kinlan. Orlando Bloom played the part of Joe Byrne.
Stringybark Creek is a small creek in the Wombat Ranges, Victoria, Australia. It is famous as the place where bushranger Ned Kelly, his brother Dan Kelly, and friends Joe Byrne and Steve Hart killed three policemen on 26 October 1878. The policemen, Sergeant Michael Kennedy, Constable Thomas Lonigan, and Constable Michael Scanlan were searching the forest for the Kelly brothers. They were wanted for the attempted murder of another policeman, Constable Fitzpatrick.
The creek is in the Toombullup State Forest, 50km from Benalla and 36km from Mansfield. The area has been developed for visitors and includes picnic area, camping, toilets and walking tracks. A memorial stone has been put in the picnic area, and a tree at the site of the shootings, the Kelly Tree, has a small copy of Ned Kelly's helmet attached to it.
A group of four policemen from Mansfield set out to search for the Kelly brothers who they thought were hiding in the bush near Mansfield. They set up camp at Stringbark Creek on 25 October 1878, not knowing that the Kellys were living in a small hut on Bullock Creek, less than 1km away. The next day Kennedy and Scanlan went to search the nearby forest, while Lonigan and Constable Thomas McIntyre stayed at the campsite. The Kellys heard noises from the police camp and went to investigate. Ned Kelly decided to try and capture the policemen and take their guns, horses and food. He called on the two policemen to give themselves up. McIntyre raised his hands, but Lonigan hid behind a log and attempted to shoot his gun. Ned Kelly shot him in the head.
The bushrangers then waited for Kennedy and Scanlan to return. When they rode into the camp, McIntyre warned them that the Kelly brothers were there, and to give themselves up. Scanlan reached for his gun and was shot dead immediately. Kennedy jumped off his horse, and while shooting at the Kellys ran into the bush. Ned Kelly chased after him, shooting him twice. As Kennedy lay on the ground, Kelly walked up to him and shot him again in the chest and killed him. During the shooting, McIntrye was able to get onto Kennedy's horse and escaped. He reached Mansfield the next day to report the deaths.
Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart were made outlaws, and a large reward was offered for their capture, either dead or alive. The three murdered policemen were taken to Mansfield and buried in the cemetery. A large memorial was built in the main street of Mansfield.
In 1879, G. Wilson Hall printed a book in Mansfield called The Kelly Gang, Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges. It included a song called "Stringybark Creek" which is believed to have been written by Joe Byrne. It described in verse the story of what had happened. The first verse is:
A sergeant and three constables
Rode Out from Mansfield town,
Near the end of last October
For to hunt the Kellys down.
So they travelled to the Wombat
And they thought it quite a lark,
And they camped upon the borders
Of a creek called Stringbark.
The song has been recorded many times, including the Australian folk-rock band the Bushwackers on their 1979 album, Bushfire.
Video - Australia still divided over Ned Kelly