Dig for his­tory ex­humes more Kelly ghosts

Herald Sun - Switched On - - News - DAR­REN DEVLYN

WHEN Tony Robin­son came from the UK to Vic­to­ria to front the ABC doc­u­men­tary Ned Kelly Un­cov­ered, he was con­cerned the show would re­veal, well, noth­ing at all.

Robin­son (right), who played dimwit­ted Baldrick in the clas­sic Bri­tish com­edy Black­ad­der and hosts Worst Jobs in His­tory and Time Team, says there was a risk the first sci­en­tific arche­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tion of the site of Kelly’s last stand would tell us lit­tle we didn’t al­ready know about the hanged out­law.

But the doco de­liv­ers more in­for­ma­tion about the Kelly gang and the in­fa­mous siege in 1880 than Robin­son dared imag­ine. There’s fresh in­sight into the de­bate about whether Kelly was a hero or vil­lain, but the most stag­ger­ing rev­e­la­tions emerge from the soil where Glen­rowan Inn— site of the last stand — once stood.

Bul­lets found at the site have been matched to a gun that was long thought to be­long to Ned, but the great­est find was hu­man re­mains.

Asked what she can tell from burnt bone at the site, an arche­ol­o­gist in the doco says: ‘‘Given it’s in the known lo­ca­tion where Dan (Kelly) and Steve (Hart) were last ob­served be­fore the fire took over (the inn) and that it’s (bone) in the burnt de­posit in the siege ma­te­rial, I think this could be the phys­i­cal re­mains of (gang mem­bers) Dan or Steve.’’

Ned was badly wounded, de­spite his ar­mour. As he was taken to the po­lice sta­tion, Dan and Steve re­mained hid­ing in the inn. The po­lice then set fire to the build­ing be­fore re­port­edly pulling their smoul­der­ing re­mains from the ashes.

There had been ru­mours that Dan and Steve es­caped the fire by hid­ing in a cel­lar which led to a tun­nel through which they fled.

Alex West, whose Rene­gade Films pro­duced the doco, says the bone frag­ments re­main with the In­sti­tute of Foren­sic Medicine. The in­sti­tute’s in­volve­ment in Vic­to­ria’s bush­fire tragedy has de­layed anal­y­sis.

Robin­son says he was left ‘‘bloody ex­hausted’’ by the shoot.

‘‘I came here for this think­ing there was a good chance we’d find noth­ing, be­cause it’s a cor­ner site and it’s been built on twice in the 20th cen­tury,’’ Robin­son says.

‘‘Nor­mally what hap­pens when you build on a site is that you just take all the soil away and you re­move all the ev­i­dence. Your only hope is if the ev­i­dence is suf­fi­ciently low down in the foot­ing and, in this case, it was.

‘‘Looking at Ned, it’s like the Jesse James story, isn’t it? You look at it and think the guy was a dys­func­tional nutter. If he were busted in Mel­bourne to­day no­body would have a good word to say about him, yet he’d have been on the front page of the pa­pers along with the griev­ing gang­land mother.’’

On Novem­ber 11, 1880, five months af­ter his ar­rest, Ned Kelly was ex­e­cuted.

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