I do not pretend that I have led a blameless life

Ned Kelly

It’s always interested me that Ned Kelly was executed on this day, just an hour before the official time of remembrance for all those who died or suffered in war. As Remembrance Day marks the end of World War I (which came 38 years after Kelly was hung) it could be coincidence; it probably is. We have come to believe that the last words Kelly said were ‘such is life’ but apparently as he was walked to the gallows, he commented on “what a nice little garden” they were passing, and then once at the final place, even though he’d intended to make a speech all he said was “Ah well, I suppose it has come to this” as they put the rope around his neck.

Earlier, in an interview in Beechworth just over a week before his execution, Kelly said the following:

“I do not pretend that I have led a blameless life, or that one fault justified another, but the public judging a case like mine should remember, that the darkest life may have a bright side, and that after the worst has been said against a man, he may, if he is heard, tell a story in his own rough way, that will perhaps lead them to intimate the harshness of their thoughts against him, and find as many excuses for him as he would plead for himself.

For my own part, I do not care one straw about my life now or for the result of the trial. I know very well from the stories I have been told of how I am spoken of, that the public at large execrate my name; the newspapers cannot speak of me with that patient toleration, generally extended to men awaiting trial, and who are assumed, according to the boast of British justice, to be innocent until they are proven to be guilty; but I don’t mind, for I have outlived the care that curries public favour or dreads the public frown.

Let the hand of the law strike me down if it will, but I ask that my story be heard and considered; not that I wish to avert any decree the law may deem necessary to vindicate justice, or win a word of pity from anyone.

If my lips teach the public that men are made mad by bad treatment, and if the police are taught that they may not exasperate to madness men they persecute and ill-treat, my life will not entirely be thrown away. People who live in large towns have no idea of the tyrannical conduct of the police in their country places, far removed from court; they have no idea of the harsh and overbearing manner, in which they execute their duty, or how they neglect their duty and abuse their powers.”

Ned Kelly
Condemned Cell Correspondence
November 1, 1880

There are lots of Ned Kelly webpages around, and Facebook groups. This is one I really like: Ned Kelly: Australian Outlaw

5 thoughts on “I do not pretend that I have led a blameless life

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