Ned Kelly: The Flight of the Legend


There were some who were saying Ned was dead. But now a Ned Kelly renaissance is in full flower. The experts are writing about him again in the journals, the sketch men are reviving his helmeted figure in the newspapers, the film men are planning to put him through the celluloid once more and we can buy the Stringybark Shooting of Sergeant Kennedy for $1.50 post free. In this revival his lowly origins have been forgotten, at least in Sydney, where he has even won his way into the very society he plagued so much when he was alive, for Ned's bold image was the decorative motif for this year's Town and Country Ball. The academics, too, have taken up his cause. At the Retrial of Ned Kelly held at Easter in his own country of Wangaratta, professors of History and Law met in public conference to consider the question 'Was Justice Done?' Undoubtedly they gave the famous outlaw a better hearing than he received in his own day but for many the question must have had a rather academic ring. After all, does a living folk hero depend on justice? Why now this return to the sources, since the legend itself has never been dependent on them? Kelly men might well feel uneasy as they watch Ned emerging from the legendary half-light into the brighter light of modern publicity, and the clear dry light of scholarship. Perhaps it is not his place in law, but in legend, that is the question. We might try, then, to follow the flight of the legend.

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Published 1 October 1967 in Volume 3 No. 2. Subjects: Australian culture, Folklore, Heroes, Kelly Gang.

Cite as: Ryan, John. ‘Ned Kelly: The Flight of the Legend.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, 1967, doi: 10.20314/als.cd9665301f.