National Library of Australia

Jerilderie Letter

Ned Kelly (1855–1880)Letter, known as the Jerilderie Letter, in Joe Byrne’s hand, February 1879

manuscript; 20.3 x 12.5 cm

Australian Manuscripts Collection, MS 13361

Gift of Bronwyn Binns, 2000

State Library of Victoria
Letter, known as the Jerilderie Letter, in Joe Byrne’s hand, February 1879

On 8 February 1879, Ned Kelly (1855–1880) and his gang—Dan Kelly, Joe Byrne and Steve Hart—invaded the town of Jerilderie, north of the Murray River.

The gang cut telegraph lines, tied up the policeman, stole more than £2000 from the bank, and penned up the small population in the pub for several days. Kelly also delivered his 56-page Jerilderie Letter to local bank accountant, Edwin Living, demanding he give it to the newspaper editor, Samuel Gill.

One of only two original Kelly documents known to have survived, the Jerilderie Letter is the only document providing a direct link to the gang. (The other was a letter to Sergeant James Babington in July 1879.)

In it, Kelly justifies his actions, outlines his innocence, the injustices and indignities he and his family suffered at the hands of the police, as well as making a plea for justice for poor, vulnerable families.

Dictated to Joe Byrne (1857–1880), at one point, Kelly calls police officers ‘a parcel of big ugly fat-necked wombat headed big bellied magpie legged narrow hipped splaw-footed sons of Irish Bailiffs or english landlords’.

The letter was not published and was later used in Kelly’s trial.