Death of Edward Kelly

COLONEL REDE, the Sheriff for Central Bailiwick, was attended by Mr Ellis, the Under-Sheriff, and presented himself at the door of the condemned cell punctually at 10 o’clock to demand the body of Edward Kelly in order to carry out the awful sentence of death. Mr Castieau, the Governor of Melbourne Gaol, had some little time previously visited the prisoner, and seen his irons knocked off; and the necessary warrant being presented by the Sheriff, he tapped at the door, and the prisoner was made acquainted with the fearful fact that his last hour had arrived. At this time Upjohn, the hangman, who was officiating in this horrible capacity for the first time, had remained unseen; but upon the door of Kelly’s cell being opened, the signal was given and he emerged from the condemned cell opposite, now occupied by his first victim. He stepped across the scaffold quietly and, as he did so, quietly turned his head and looked down upon the spectators, revealing a fearfully repulsive countenance.

The hangman is an old man of about 70 years of age, but broad-shouldered and burly. As he was serving a sentence when he volunteered for this dreadful office, and as that sentence is still unexpired, he is closely shaved and cropped, and wears the prison dress. Thick bristles of a pure white stick up all over his crown and provide him with a ghastly appearance. He has heavy features altogether, the nose perhaps being the most striking and ugly.

As this was Upjohn’s first attempt at hanging, Dr Barker was present alongside the drop, to see that the knot was placed in the right position. Upjohn disappeared into the condemned cell, and proceeded to pinion Kelly with a strong broad leather belt. The prisoner, however, remarked, “You need not pinion me,” but was of course told that it was indispensable.

Preceded by the crucifix, which was held up before him by the officiating priests, Kelly was then led onto the platform. He had not been shaved or cropped, but was in prison clothes. He seemed calm and collected, but paler than usual, though this effect might have been produced by the white cap placed over his head, but not yet drawn down over his face. As he stepped on the drop, he remarked in a low tone, “Such is life.”

The hangman then proceeded to adjust the rope, the Deans in the meantime reading the prayers proper to the Catholic Church on such occasions. The prisoner winced slightly at the first touch of the rope, but quickly recovered himself and moved his head in order to facilitate the work of Upjohn in fixing the knot properly. No sooner was the knot fixed than, without the prisoner being afforded a chance of saying anything more, the signal was given; and the hangman pulled down the cap, stepped back and, withdrawing the bolt, had done his work.

At the same instant, the mortal remains of Ned Kelly were swinging some eight feet below where he had been previously standing. At first it appeared as if death had been instantaneous, for the was a second or two only the usual shudder that passes through the frame of hanged men; but then the legs were drawn up for some distance, and then fell suddenly again. This movement was repeated several times, but finally all motion ceased, and at the end of four minutes all was over, and Edward Kelly had gone to a higher tribunal to answer for his faults and crimes. The body was allowed to remain hanging the usual time, and the formal inquest
was afterwards held. The outlaw had requested that his mother might be released from Melbourne Gaol and his body handed over for burial in consecrated ground. Neither of these requests were granted, and the remains were buried within the precincts of the gaol.

BOOK - True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey p 351 & 352.

Today he is viewed as an Aussi folk hero who challenged the system at that time.