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

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.”

About the author

Fear is found on a creaking glacier in the Caucasus mountains and joy is encapsulated in the perfect Shanghai dumpling. And while I love a $500-a-night hotel room (who doesn’t?), sometimes the best stories are found in a $20 guesthouse. With an eye always out for good markets and great street eats, I write the travel news and features for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age newspapers, and features for whoever else asks. I have a particular soft spot for the wilds of the Middle East, scarves and carpets. My articles and photographs have been published in a range of consumer magazines and newspapers in Australia and abroad.

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