Story of the KellyGang
JJ Kenneally's book
The Complete Inner History of the Kelly Gang and their Pursuers
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The "Kelly country" is that portion of north-eastern Victoria which extends from Mansfield in the south to Yarrawonga in the north, and from Euroa in the south-west of the Kelly country to Tallangatta in the north-east. Included in this area are the well-known centres of Benalla, Wangaratta, Yarrawonga, Euroa, Beechworth, Mansfield, Violet Town, Wodonga, Yackandandah, Greta, Lakerowan, Glenrowan, Moyhu, Edi, Whitfield, Myrtleford, Chiltern and Srathbogie.
In the days of the Kellys there was but one railway route in the north-east - from Melbourne to Albury - with a branch line from Wangaratta to Beechworth. Communication between railway townships and those beyond was by road or bush track, and sometimes through country exceedingly hilly and rough. The scattered settlers selected land for cultivation on the river flats and between the ranges and the plains and flat timbered country, while the hilly country provided grazing areas for their horses, sheep and cattle. From Strathbogie to Beechworth was a series of heavily timbered ranges intercepted by rivers and creeks. To-day, along these rivers - the Goulburn, Broken River, King, Ovens, Buckland, and Kiewa - the country is closely settled by a prosperous farming community.
The original settlers were hardy folk - the pick of their respective homelands - and were mainly immigrants from England and Ireland who sought the freedom of a country unhampered by oppressive land and industrial laws. Many of them were obsessed by a sense of the injustice of the laws and of the conditions applicable to rural workers in. their homeland, and were determined that in this new home these conditions should not become established. It was not remarkable, therefore, that they regarded with suspicion any attempts to assert "authority," and were quick to resent any interference with what they considered their liberty in a free land. While the majority of these settlers were undoubtedly honourable and reliable, there was, nevertheless, a leaven of dishonest men who refused to live entirely within the law, and who, by their practices as horse, sheep and cattle thieves, became a source of continuous annoyance and loss to their neighbours, and anxiety to the administrators of the law. Many of them, indeed, acted with such remarkable cunning and discretion that they succeeded in convincing the authorities of their integrity. Their protestations of unswerving loyalty to the Crown and to the maintenance of law and order enabled many of them to attain positions of responsibility, and, as they prospered, they came actually to be regarded as dependable allies of the Administration, while the Kellys were blamed for their crimes.
Billy and Jimmy were two very enterprising and ambitious young men whose parents had come from the well-known island "Great Britain." They worked together as horse, cattle and sheep thieves, and were very successful, not only in getting away with the stolen stock, but also in escaping from the slightest suspicion as to the actual nature of their calling.
They were expert horsemen and operated in the Mansfield,
Benalla and King Valley districts. They were well acquainted with the various
districts, and were first-class bushmen. At first they lived in the Mansfield
district, but after becoming somewhat regenerated, and, in fact, quite respectable,
they acquired interests in the Benalla district, where Jimmy also succeeded
in securing the confidence of a section of the ratepayers. Although they had
had a serious quarrel over the division of the proceeds of stolen stock, neither
of them gave his accomplice away, until, in quite recent years, when Jimmy's
health failed and his end was near. Billy happened to be on a periodical spree,
and calling at his favourite hotel, was informed by the landlord that his
old mate Jimmy was pretty bad. Billy replied: "I'll go and see the old -."
On arriving at Jimmy's home. Billy entered without knocking and walked into
the sick-room, where he met Rev A C McConan, a Presbyterian minister, and
a prominent business man, Hugh Moodie. Billy nodded very respectfully to the
sick visitors, and then turning to his former partner in crime said.-
"So it is here you are, you old b-, you had better make your peace with God while the parson is here. You remember that mob of bullocks WE stole from - You remember that mob of sheep WE stole from -? You remember that lot of cattle WE stole from - You remember the time WE were sledging hides down the hill to get them out of the way of the police?"
Billy was just getting into his stride when the attendants in the sick- room said that Jimmy could not stand so much excitement, and Billy was rudely bustled out of the house.
The Billy-Jimmy confession spread like wildfire, and the few people who still believed all the accusations against the Kellys now freely admitted that they had wronged innocent people. And it is now generally admitted that the quickest way to get to the Wangaratta Hospital is to say something offensive about the Kellys in the Kelly Country, where stock-thieves are now called Billy-Jimmies.
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This document gives you the text of this book about the KellyGang. The text has been retyped from a copy of the original. We have taken care to reproduce this document but areas of the original text may been damaged. We also apologise for any typographical errors. JJ Kenneally was one of the first authors to tell this story from the KellyGang's point of view