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- A$50,000 - A$60,000
- ($25,355 - $30,426)
SPORT IN AUSTRALIA & HISTORICAL AND LITERARY PROPERTIES
31 July 2001
NED KELLY, JERILDERIE LETTER. THE ORIGINAL JOHN HANLON TRANSCRIPTION, 38 pages written on 3 types of paper stock, [20 x 12.5cm; 32.2 x 20.2 cm; 17.5 x 11.2 cm], written on Monday 10 February 1879.
THE ONLY PRIVATELY HELD CONTEMPORARY COPY OF THE ORIGINAL JERILDERIE LETTER DICTATED BY NED KELLY TO JOE BYRNE. THE ONLY UNPUBLISHED COPY, done within three days of the Byrne copy, now in the State Library of Victoria. This copy was made on the day of the Jerilderie bank hold-up.
The original Jerilderie letter dictated by Ned Kelly to Joe Byrne was anonymously donated to the State Library of Victoria in November 2000. It may be viewed in digitalised form on the Treasures of the State Library website, where it scored 80,000 'hits' in the first five days. It is a remarkable 7500 word documents which Ned Kelly planned to have printed during the Gang's hold-up of the Riverina town of Jerilderie. It was designed as a statement of Kelly's case. It is part confession, part autobiography, part manifesto, described by Max Brown as 'one of the most powerful and extraordinary of Australian Historical documents.' Its unique narrative idiom has been compared by some to Joyce and Beckett and was the inspiration for Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang.
The circumstances in which this copy was made are described by Elliott, the Jerilderie schoolteacher, in his The Kelly Raid on Jerilderie by 'one who was there', published as an appendix to the Rev. H. C. Lundy's History of Jerilderie, Jerilderie 1958. During the hold-up, the town's newspaper editor, Samuel Gill, evaded the gang. This was the man Ned Kelly had wanted to print his letter. The bank accountant, Edwin Living, promised Kelly that he would get the document printed. However, even before the Gang had ridden out of town, Living took the letter and galloped off towards Deniliquin, some 50 miles (83 km) to the west-south-west. Some time later he was followed by the bank's manager. When Ned Kelly learned that the two bank men had left town, he and the gang set off in pursuit. Luckily for Living and the manager, the bushrangers followed a false lead to the south-east. Meanwhile, after riding more than forty miles, Living and his horse were both exhausted. Unable to borrow a fresh mount, Living halted at John Hanlon's Eight-Mile Hotel, eight miles from Deniliquin, to have a meal and rest his horse, probably overnight. Schoolteacher Elliott takes up Living's story 'while the meal was being prepared he gave an account of what had happened in Jerilderie. He allowed Hanlon to read the papers Kelly had left with him to get printed and before he resumed his journey to Deliniquin, Hanlon took a copy of them. Living arrived at his destination and took the train next morning for Melbourne. It might be added here that on Mr Livings return on the following Thursday, he called at Hanlon's and managed somehow to get the copy of the papers back, under a promise that he would subsequently return them. But much to Mr Hanlon's disgust, he never saw the copy again; Lundy page 93. It is significant that Living put this copy in an envelope (accompanying the letter) inscribed in his handwriting 'Copy of Kelly's letter made by' with the last two words scored through.
Hanlon's copy begins on 20 pages of notepaper headed 'Copy of Kelly's Conffession (sic)', without watermark. It continues on 15 pages of blue foolscap watermarked A. Pirie & Sons and Brittania within a crowned oval. It concludes on three pages of notepaper with small blindstamp Victory and watermarked Busbridge. Kelly authority Ian Jones refers to the Hanlon copy in his article Ned Kelly's Jerilderie letter in the Latrobe Library journal No. 66, Spring 2000, p.33, also Note 2, p.37. He describes Hanlon as 'the second man ever to read the Jerilderie letter.'
This is the only significant copy of Kelly's letter in private ownership. The only other copy dating from Kelly's lifetime was made by a government clerk in July 1880, intended for use at Kelly's trial in October that year but not admitted as evidence. It is held by Victoria's Public Record Office. This was the basis for all published texts of the letter until November 2000. This police copy was first published as late as1930 by the Melbourne Herald on the 50th anniversary of Kelly's execution. The text was printed in 1948 in Max Brown's Australian Son, the first true biography of Ned Kelly.
The present Hanlon version pre-dates the government copy by seventeen months. It was made while bank accountant Living was still a fugitive from the Gang, and probably before the outlaws had abandoned their pursuit of him to ride back across the Murray River. It is highly probable that Living and Hanlon read Kelly's letter together before Hanlon had the idea of copying it. It is equally credible that Living let Hanlon make the copy because of the danger that the Kellys or some of their supporters could still intercept him before he reached Deniliquin. In an interview Living's daughter Sylvia gave Ian Jones in 1961, she said that her father had been a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club. He was an excellent cricketer who might have played Test cricket had he not been transferred to Jerilderie. Living always said he was at Jerilderie Bank when it was opened up, held up and closed up. When he died in 1936 the only mourner on horse-back was a Lloyd, a Kelly relative.
The Government copy of the letter was a routine product of the legal process in preparation for Ned Kelly's trial. The Hanlon copy is a unique primary document of the Kelly raid on Jerilderie, written in haste while the events of the day were still unfolding, its provenance established by a man who was intimately involved in those events.
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