Ned Kelly
Updated September 4, 2002

Ned Kelly It now seems impossible to keep track of every time Ned Kelly is in the news, but if it is important we will cover it here. Just as importantly we are interested in your views on the Kelly Outbreak so please have your say.

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Will the real Dan Kelly please stand up? (Press articles below)

Dan Kelly Was Dan hanged in 1880 in place of his brother Ned?

Did Dan escape at Glenrowan?
Dan Kelly's great-grandniece,
Ellen Hollow, has responded for NedKellyBushranger to the persistant rumours that Dan, and fellow gang member Steve Hart, escaped the Glenrowan siege...

The Dan and Steve 'Great Escape'. This unproven myth has been around for years and raises it's head every so often.
There are three claims to the identity of Daniel Kelly. Interestingly three of these people were located in Queensland and another alleged identification was in South Western NSW.

The book "Tales and Legends of the Canberra Pioneers" by Sam Shemuck, included an account of Dan Kelly's alleged escape but it does not identify the alleged Dan Kelly by alias, the persons who claimed they met Dan were two shearers Duncan Cameron and James Murty in South Western NSW in about 1880.

In Ipswich there was a vagrant James Ryan, from the channel country Jack Day and from the Towoomba area Charles Devine Tindall.

The escape story first appeared, I believe, in "The Melbourne Truth" in the 1930's, then in "People" magazine in the 1960's. These claims were later reprinted in "The Australian Pensioner" as fortnightly feature October - November 1983.In these articles the late Donald Hamlbeton Johnson claimed to be the descendant of Steve Hart and his friend known as Jack Day was alleged to be Dan Kelly.
"The Courier Mail" September 1996 revived the myth along with "The Boarder Mail", when Gary Dean edited and published the memoirs of the late Donald Hamlbeton Johnson, in a book titled "Horseman Bold". This was the story which until recently to have been given the most publicity. These memoirs lay claim to this gentleman being the grand nephew of Steve Hart. The story also claims that Steve Hart went by the name Fred Layton and that his associate and friend, a man known as Jack Day, was Daniel Kelly. Jack Day never had issue according to the story retold in both the book and the press articles above mentioned. However, in the memoirs of Donald Hamlbeton Johnson there was made claim to the knowledge of the location of the burial place. If this body was produced for DNA testing there are suitable donors in Victoria myself and two female descendants of Margaret Kelly and the great, great, grand daughter of Dan's father's sister.

Another story given publicity in Queensland over several years was the claim by another alleged Dan Kelly, a vagrant named James Ryan who lived in the Ipswich area. He sort out the press for publicity from time to time, beginning in the late 1920's until his death in 1948. This tale has been given further publicity in June 2002, both in the print and TV media, due to Cr Tully of Ipswich who has proposed memorial to be placed to honour Ryan. The latest publication launched September 2002 a book by Vince Allen "Burnt to a Cinder ,Was I?" would appear to be a rehash of the James Ryan yarn.

November 1999, the Herald Sun once again ran articles about the escape story, corresponding with the release of Barry McArthur's book, which alleges it was Ned who escaped and Dan who was hung.
On 27th September 2001 was the beginning of a further series of articles to appear in the press, due to Gary Dean and Tim Anson exhuming the body of Charles Devine Tindall for DNA testing in Toowoomba, Queensland. The results of any DNA match have not been released.

To put this rumour to bed once and for all, I have offered my DNA
for cross matching of Mitochondria DNA,
(Mitochondria DNA is only passed along the female line.)
Along with all the documentation to support my lineage, as has the
great, great grand daughter of Anne (nee Kelly) Ryan.
This offer has not been taken up.

It is not up to me to speak on behalf of the Hart descendants, there are several suitable female descendants of Steve Hart's sisters who's DNA could be matched against the DNA of Fred Layton, or his descendants.

Unable to be proven, but worthy of some consideration is my family oral history.
Over the years as this and other stories have appeared in the press or other publications, naturally the family have discussed and investigated the possibility of any truth in these theories and rumours.

Background: Ellen Kelly brought up Catherine's (Kate) three surviving children after her death, one of whom was my grand mother. My late Mother and her brother lived with their Mother Gertrude Cavanagh and Great Grandmother, Ellen Kelly, from 1917 until her death 1923. The family moved back to the original home for several reasons. Ellen was in poor physical health crippled with arthritis. Jim Kelly was ageing and he was the only family member left at home after the enlistment in the Armed Forces by both my grand uncle Frederick Foster, and my grandfather Douglas Cavanagh.

Both my mother and her brother dismissed the story and were insistent that the Dan Kelly and Steve Hart fleeing to Queensland story had no basis for truth.
Their reasons:
There would have been contact made with the family. This never occurred. My mother was sure they would have known.
Jim was never away from Greta for any length of time and certainly not long enough to visit Queensland as claimed in the memoirs of Donald Hamlbeton Johnson.

The bodies were very badly burned, there is a photograph in Keith McMenomy's book "Ned Kelly The Authentic Illustrated History". This is alleged to be the charred body of either Dan or Steve. When animal carcasses are burned they disintegrate more rapidly than if buried in a normal state, hence I am not surprised that the graves may appear to be empty when probed by steel spikes.
It is my belief that history is as it has been recorded. Daniel Kelly and Steven Hart lie in unmarked graves in Greta Cemetery in North Eastern Victoria.


29/06/02 'Will the real Dan Kelly start spinning in his grave please?'
According to F2 network's

And now, folks, for the latest episode in that great Australian drama, the Kelly Gang Show. Let's hear it for ... the DNA of Dan Kelly.
The Kelly Gang, variously seen as murderous thugs, misguided young men and Celtic saints, probably never entertained the notion of resting in peace. And they won't. The latest Kelly movie, featuring Heath Ledger as Ned, is well into production; the gang's armour was sorted out at the Old Melbourne Gaol on Thursday; celebrations were held yesterday to mark the 122nd anniversary of the siege at Glenrowan, Victoria, where the gang died - well, almost certainly died; and moves are afoot to exhume two bodies to prove that Dan Kelly escaped that shoot-out.

Gary Dean, of Glenrowan, said that he would ask Queensland's Attorney-General for permission to exhume a grave in Ipswich Cemetery, where Dan Kelly is believed by some to be buried. Mr Dean believes Kelly is buried near Mount Isa, but he wants to exhume a body in Ipswich to make sure.
The generally accepted view is that Dan Kelly, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne died in the siege. Ned was wounded in the legs, convicted and hanged. The search for the DNA follows the theory that Dan and Hart survived the fire, recovered and pursued new lives with fresh identities. The remains of two bodies, burnt beyond recognition, were never identified.
Mr Dean has already taken DNA samples from the body of Charles Tindall, who died in 1953 after having said he was Dan Kelly. The samples have not yet been matched with any from the Kelly family line. But Mr Dean believes Jack O'Day, buried on Headingley Station, 120km from Mount Isa, was the man most likely to have been Dan. He was said to be the spitting image.
An Ipswich councillor, Paul Tully, is sticking with James Ryan, a swagman buried in a pauper's grave at Ipswich. The Truth newspaper interviewed Ryan in 1948, when he said: "I am Dan, brother of Ned. I rode with Ned. For 53 years I have been a fugitive, with murder on my head." John Harris, a farmer and grazier in the Brisbane Valley, recalled yesterday how his parents had believed Ryan was Kelly. The swaggie had burns across his shoulders and "DK" branded on his buttocks, he said
For full story go to

23/06/02 'Search for the real Dan Kelly' (John Hay)
According to the Sunday Mail

Poor old Dan Kelly, younger brother of Australia's favourite folk hero Ned. History has it that Dan, 19, and fellow Kelly gang member Steve Hart, 20, died in the siege of the Glenrowan pub in 1880 and their bodies burned beyond recognition when the hotel was set on fire by troopers to force them out. Their remains were buried in Greta Cemetery in the heart of Kelly country in Victoria.
But 122 years later stories persist that they escaped and that Dan was seen in South Africa and several locations in Australia. Representatives of various Australian communities have claimed they have last resting place of Dan Kelly. Historians joke that Dan has more graves than Toowong Cemetery.

Now Victorian researcher Gary Dean intends to launch legal action to authorise exhumation of the body of a swagman, James Ryan, who was buried in a pauper's grave at Ipswich, to prove by DNA testing that he was Dan Kelly.
Ryan, who was 87 when decapitated by a train in 1948, claimed to be Dan Kelly. In 1933, he gave a long interview to Brisbane's Truth newspaper claiming he was Dan and detailing the alleged facts of the Glenrowan pub siege. He told the newspaper: "I am Dan, brother of Ned. I rode with Ned. For 53 years I have been a fugitive, with murder on my head. I am here now to prove that I didn't die in the fire at Glenrowan, and to tell the truth before it is too late." Ryan claimed that, racked by agonising burns, he crawled into the scrub and watched the armoured Ned Kelly's last stand against police and civilians. He was said to have massive burns on his back and had the initials DK branded on his buttocks. In 1934 he appeared at Brisbane's Sideshow Alley and no one ever disproved his intimate knowledge of the Kelly gang or his claim to be Ned's brother.
Note: According to Channel 9 interview (below) with Gary Dean last week, he does not believe James Ryan was Dan Kelly.

Dan Kelly was also reported to have been buried at Toowoomba and Mt Isa. The family of a Toowoomba man, Charles Devine Tindall, who died in 1953, claimed he had told relatives he was Dan Kelly. He had scars on his back and buttocks, which he claimed were caused by the Glenrowan pub fire. In 2001 his family gave permission for a sliver of bone to be taken from the grave for DNA testing, but no result was ever released.

A man was buried in 1943 under the name of Jack O'Day at Headingly Station, about 120km south-west of Mt Isa. O'Day worked around Dirranbandi and travelled throughout the Burnett region before moving further inland. He was said to be the spitting image of Dan Kelly.

Veteran author and columnist Lawrie Kavanagh made many trips around Queensland late last century with artist Hugh Sawrey, interviewing old characters of the Outback. He reckoned that Dan Kelly, 19, and Steve Hart, 20, were the Elvis Presleys of the early 20th century, with regular sightings all over Australia. He dubbed Dan Kelly the "Gadabout Ghost". Kavanagh was a non-believer and wrote that whenever the Kelly legend was discussed, his reputed grave was reported by older folk in different sites all over Australia. Kavanagh wrote that his own father had "sighted" Dan Kelly in an Emerald pub during the Depression. An old bloke came into the bar, showing drinkers burn scars, hinting in conspiratorial asides that he was Dan Kelly and recounting his miraculous escape from the 1880 Glenrowan battle for anyone prepared to buy him grog.

In the early 1990s, people in Murgon, west of Gympie, spoke of one of the district's horsebreakers, Billy Meade, who died in the 1930s. Old people in the district who knew him were convinced that he was Steve Hart.

In 1996, retired Townsville builder Reg Gard broke a 70-year silence to reveal his father fed and housed Dan in the 1920s. Mr Gard said he was seven years old when he met Dan Kelly at his father's house in Kilcoy in 1926, and knew him for seven years until the family left the bush town in 1933. He said he first met Kelly when he walked in on his father talking to a stranger in their home. His father said: "This is Dan Kelly. This is the bushranger." Mr Gard said he was made to swear he would never reveal Kelly's identity. He said: "He (Kelly) always used to sit facing the door. He always had a big long revolver. I think it was an old British army .44 service revolver. He'd sit there with it on his lap." Mr Gard said his father would get groceries and corned beef for Kelly, who lived off the Cobb & Co trail in an old timber-cutter's shed. He was badly burned on his face and back. "He said he was in the Glenrowan fire all right, but he was in the beer cellar which had iron grills on it." Mr Gard said he believed his father met the Kellys when he humped a swag around Victoria.

Then, believe it or not, there's the claim that Ned Kelly ran away from the siege, leaving his homosexual brother Dan to go to the gallows in his place. And why didn't the Victoria police detect the switch? Well, they probably did, but they realised their mistake and kept it quiet so they could collect the huge reward. That was the theory expressed in 1999 by Barry McArthur, a schoolteacher who researched the life of the Kelly gang. Mr McArthur said Dan Kelly had a homosexual affair with Steve Hart, who often dressed in women's clothes. Of small stature, Hart occasionally went to town dressed as a girl while the gang was on the run. But, said Mr McArthur, that may have been more than a casual disguise, pointing out that neither Hart nor Dan showed any interest in women. He theorised that when Ned escaped Glenrowan, Dan stayed loyal to his wounded partner and donned the Kelly armour to confront police. So many bullets struck the armour, his face swelled and he was unrecognisable. When police realised the truth, they kept it quiet when Dan went on trial in Ned's place. They would have had egg on their faces and reasoned that Ned would not come back to expose them. Mr McArthur said Ned probably went into hiding before starting a new life, possibly in Queensland.

One of the most sensational stories about Dan Kelly and Steve Hart was that they escaped at Glenrowan and found their way to South Africa, where they fought in the Boer War in the British army. William Bede Melville, a reporter for the Sydney newspaper, The Star, who was covering the war said two men, who identified themselves as Kelly and Hart, were brought to his hotel room in Pretoria one night in 1902.

20/06/02 'Kelly expert wants body tested' (added 11/06/02)
According to The Border Mail

Glenrowan historian Mr Gary Dean has backed calls for the body of a man buried in Queensland to be exhumed to clear up the mystery surrounding the Kelly Gang. The body is that of Mr James Ryan, who claimed before his death in 1948 that he was Dan Kelly, Ned's brother. Mr Ryan, who was buried at Ipswich, gave an interview in 1933 in which he said he had hidden under the Glenrowan Hotel while his brother was involved in the shoot-out with police.

Considered an authority on the history of the Kelly Gang, Mr Dean said he had viewed footage of the interview several times. Mr Dean said while he was extremely doubtful that Mr Ryan and Dan Kelly were the same person, there were many important claims made during the interview that needed investigation. Mr Dean said Mr Ryan's physical appearance was completely different to Dan's, particularly his ears. "By studying this footage, I think it would be fair to say that these claims by Ryan that he is Dan Kelly are wrong, but there does need to be more investigation about it,'' Mr Dean said.

The debate about Mr Ryan's identity followed claims by the family of Mr Charles Devine Tindall that he was Dan Kelly. Mr Tindall, who died in 1953 and is buried at Toowoomba, had told relatives that he had hidden in the Glenrowan Hotel's cellar during the siege. Mr Dean said that a sliver of bone had been taken from Mr Tindall's grave last year for DNA testing but no results were available. "I really think that Mr Tindall may have some truth in his story and perhaps may have even been in Glenrowan the night that Dan Kelly and Steve Hart, who was also a member of the Kelly Gang, escaped from police,'' he said. He said Mr Tindall might have helped Dan and Hart escape. "There is certainly a fair bit in what Mr Tindall said in the years leading up to his death which needs further investigation,'' Mr Dean said. He said that if Mr Tindall or Mr Ryan had been involved in the shoot-out, they would have kept it to themselves for many years because they would have been jailed for life.

19/06/02 A Current Affair Channel 9
Extract from the Dan Kelly report

Paul Tulley is an Ipswitch councilor who believes James Ryan's claim to be Dan Kelly was genuine. Ryan claimed to have survived the Glenrowan siege and escaped to Queensland.
Ipswitch farmer Paul Harris was James Ryan's next-door neighbour. He also believed the claim, and said Ryan was always referred to as 'Dan Kelly'. He said that as a boy he saw burns on Ryan's body, which were supposedly scars from the Glenrowan Inn fire.
James Ryan was 94 when he died after being decapitated by a coal train on the Ipswitch train line. Tulley says he sincerely believes that it is actually Dan Kelly buried in the gravesite marked 'James Ryan'. The Ipswitch council has even erected an enormous Kelly tribute at Ryan's gravesite.

Victorian Kelly gang historian Gary Dean however, is skeptical. He said the story Ryan told of his escape from Glenrowan was "nothing but a load of lies". In a bid to find the truth the Kelly buff is leading the charge to have the grave exhumed. Dean said, "I find it very difficult to go ahead and exhume these people cause I don't believe that we should be doing it, but I think that the story is so big, that we need to in this case".

Tulley explained that a 'probe' would go down into the ground at the gravesite to about a depth of about 6 ft. He said, "Even after 50 years there would probably be some residual material to once and for all to prove that a bushranger was buried on this spot." When asked what if he was wrong he replied, "It might be wrong, but it is a fascination that people have with the Kelly gang in Australia and we need to prove once and for all if our history books need to be rewritten!"

Ipswitch locals have another theory, it has been suggested that Dan Kelly actually assumed Ned's identity at the Glenrowan siege, in order to protect his older brother. Which to their minds, means that it was actually Ned who escaped the fire and fled to Queensland. Which in turn means that it was Dan hung at the OMG, and Ned buried at Ipswitch.
The claim that Dan assumed Ned's identity to "protect him" is quite simply fiction. Apart from the numerous eyewitness identifications made of Ned after his capture at Glenrowan, the Cliff Ogleby tests commissioned by The Age newspaper, verified that his death mask matched perfectly 4 authentic photos of Ned, (including his Kyneton and Pentridge prison photos). Putting to rest for good, the already tenuous theory, that Dan was hung at the OMG in November 1880.

14/06/02 DNA bid over Kelly gang mystery (Nadine Rofail) Source
According to the Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph and MX News

Kelly gang historians are planning legal action to exhume the body of a swagman buried in Queensland to prove he was Dan Kelly.
Ipswich City Councillor and historian Paul Tully said he backed plans by Victorian Kelly gang researcher Gary Dean to have the body of James Ryan exhumed for DNA testing. The swaggie was buried in a pauper's grave in the Ipswich General Cemetery in 1948 after being decapitated by a coal train.
Cr Tully said Mr Ryan, who was 87 when he was killed, had gone to the offices of the Sunday Truth newspaper in Brisbane in 1933 to reveal his involvement in the Kelly gang. He said he appeared at Brisbane's Sideshow Alley in 1934 and no one was ever able to refute his intimate knowledge of the Kelly family or his claim to be Ned's younger brother. "If our history books have to be rewritten then such is life," Cr Tully said. "I think James Ryan could well be Dan Kelly." Cr Tully, who has researched the Kelly legend for 20 years, said traditionally it was believed three of the four Kelly gang members died in a fire following a siege at Glenrowan Inn on June 28, 1880. However, he said the supposed remains of Dan Kelly and Steve Hart were reduced to charcoal and have never been positively identified, with many believing the pair escaped.
"People alive today remember the massive burns on (Mr Ryan's) back which he claimed he received in the fire at Glenrowan as well as the initials DK branded on his buttocks," Cr Tully said. "The planned legal action could well solve this 122-year-old mystery." Cr Tully said there were no known relatives of James Ryan to give permission for the tests and court approval would have to be given.
He said Mr Dean, who could not be contacted today, believes the grave of the Ipswich swagman is one of four, which could prove Dan Kelly escaped. Mr Dean is already awaiting findings from DNA tests on remains of a Toowoomba man who also claimed to be Dan Kelly.

14/06/02 Historian claims Kelly brother buried in north Qld
According to ABC Online

A noted Kelly gang historian claims an as yet undiscovered grave near Mount Isa, in north-western Queensland, will prove a theory which could change Australian folklore.

Gary Dean believes Dan Kelly, Ned's brother, escaped the 1880 siege at Glenrowan, in central Victoria, to live until the age of 82 in Queensland's north-west. He believes Dan Kelly was buried at Heddingly Station near Mount Isa in 1943.

Mr Dean says he attempted to find the grave several years ago and failed, but is planning another search. "We searched an enormous area...there's nobody alive that has actually seen the grave and the only thing we had to go on was the widow of a chap who actually had been there and seen the grave...we discovered that it was actually the junction of the Templeman and the Georgina rivers," he said.

My thanks to the various sources who brought to my attention some of the above articles and reports.


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