Poor Ned, it’s hard to get a head


Death mask of Ned Kelly.
 Police killer or a true, blue Aussie? Bushranger Ned Kelly is back in the news, 130 years after he was hung till dead in Old Melbourne Gaol.

For the foreigners in the crowd, Our Ned had a penchant for holding up banks, but was forced to go on the run after killing one or three police officers during raids. 

Ned, whose dad, Red Kelly, came from Moyglass in Co Tipperary, was hanged in Melbourne in 1880, but his remains, along with those of 134 other prisoners, were later moved to Pentridge Prison, in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg. Prison officers had poured lime over the remains, unintentionally preserving them so that 130 years later, the DNA from Ned’s sister’s great-grandson could identify that the bones were, in fact, the infamous bushranger’s.
Mick Jagger does Ned.

Ned’s skull was stolen in 1978, but when it was returned, recent comparisons between the skull and his death mask, modelled on his face while his dead body was cooling, have showed it’s not Kelly’s cranium, but is possibly the skull of notorious British murderer Fred Deeming.

It’s a rough trot for a bloke, to have his bones carted around in the public gaze nearly a century and a half later. And now, the Kelly family and government bodies are beginning the wrangle over where those bones, it will be a while till he’s finally laid to rest. But where? In a tacky tourist trap or displayed tastefully in a museum, alongside his death mask? Either way, his skull is still missing. To use Ned’s last words, “Such is life.”


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