19 May 2023

Hero or outlaw? Ned Kelly's Jerilderie rampage chronicled in virtual tours

| Oliver Jacques
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Local historian with Ned Kelly book

The launch of the Ned Kelly Heritage Project, with Heritage NSW Senior Projects Officer Maruschka Loupis, local historian Laurie Henery and Murrumbidgee Mayor Ruth McRae. Photo: Supplied.

The controversial story of legendary bushranger Ned Kelly and his gang’s exploits in the town of Jerilderie can now be shared around the world with a series of new virtual tours and guides on the town’s historic sites.

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The theme of the project is ‘Hero or Outlaw?’, playing on the polarising effect of the gang and their iconic place in Australian history.

Australia’s most well-known bushranger was born in 1854 as the son of poor Irish immigrants. He rose to notoriety in the 1870s after engaging in a series of armed robberies and helping to run a horse stealing operation. While some viewed him as a ruthless criminal, others praised him for standing up to police brutality and the exploitation of impoverished workers by wealthy landowners.

One of his most famous crime sprees occurred in 1879, when Kelly and his gang wreaked havoc in Jerilderie over a three-day period, which included robbing a bank of more than 2000 pounds, the equivalent of more than half a million dollars in today’s money.

Their pursuits also included a demand for publication of Kelly’s famous 8000-word Jerilderie letter, which made claims about police persecution.

Ned Kelly armoured suit statue

A Ned Kelly tribute at Jerilderie bakery. Photo: Red Nomad Oz.

Murrumbidgee Council Mayor Ruth McRae said it was an eventful time in the town’s history and these new 360-degree online tours allowed anyone across the globe to step back into the late 1800s and virtually walk in the gang’s shoes.

“The videos really do showcase how well preserved the sites are and our good fortune of having more authentic surviving sites than anywhere along the Ned Kelly Touring Route.

“The town is literally steeped in history as it was the only town in New South Wales visited by the Kelly Gang.”

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Cr McRae said with six of the buildings visited by the gang still standing, there was an incredible opportunity to explore the town’s turbulent history and learn more about the eventful few days when the gang ravaged the town.

Local historian Laurie Henery, who assisted with the project, said it was an absolute honour to be involved.

“The Kelly Gang’s exploits are known worldwide and projects such as this are vital in drawing visitors to our area and also ensuring knowledge of our past is kept alive,” he said.

After researching it for more than 50 years, Mr Henery has an in-depth knowledge of the gang and their association with Jerilderie.

Also part of the new online 360-degree tours is the Bolt Exhibition, featuring bushranging and convict memorabilia.

Visitors to the town can explore the exhibition in person at Jerilderie Library during library opening hours.

The 360-degree tours, as well as an informative new video, can be found on council’s website. Also available are all the details for the 16 sites along Jerilderie’s Ned Kelly Raid Trail and the Ned Kelly Touring Route, which explores sites touched by the Kelly saga between Melbourne and Jerilderie.

In Ned Kelly’s final battle with police, he was badly wounded in a manic gun fight while wearing an armoured suit. He was captured and sentenced to death, eventually hanged in the Old Melbourne Gaol on 11 November 1880.

The Ned Kelly Heritage Project was funded by the NSW Government through Heritage NSW.

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