SUCH IS LIFE

Long- time Glenrowan res­i­dent Lin­ton Briggs re­flects on his past, the Ned Kelly nar­ra­tive and Glenrowan’s colour­ful his­tory.

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Steve Kelly pho­tos Emma Hil­lier & Cheryl Browne

Long- time Glenrowan res­i­dent Lin­ton Briggs re­flects on his past, the Ned Kelly nar­ra­tive and Glenrowan’s colour­ful his­tory.

DON’T ask the man whose fam­ily owned the Ned Kelly siege site for 65 years, and is the son of a for­mer Glenrowan po­lice trooper, whether he sym­pa­thises with the gang that was killed or cap­tured on one of the most notable days in Aus­tralian his­tory.

For Lin­ton Briggs, an 87-year-old who grew up in the knock­about, but com­mu­nity-minded neigh­bour­hood of Glenrowan, got dirt un­der his fin­ger­nails hunt­ing, fish­ing and play­ing with the descen­dants and rel­a­tives of Ned Kelly’s fam­ily. He has an ex­pert view of the Kelly nar­ra­tive, and he will keep some of those cards, but not all of them, close to his chest.

Born in 1930, liv­ing at the lo­cal po­lice sta­tion with the kitchen just me­tres away from the po­lice in­take of­fice in his house, he was con­fronted with all sorts of “char­ac­ters” that his dad Jack had to deal with on a daily ba­sis. It was an up­bring­ing that Lin­ton of­ten thinks about, one that had a last­ing ef­fect on him and his four sib­lings, al­though they didn’t know any dif­fer­ent at the time. Dur­ing his life, he was sub­jected to “a daily cav­al­cade” of his dad deal­ing with crim­i­nals on the back doorstep of their home - an unimag­in­able sit­u­a­tion nowa­days.

“Look­ing back on it, it was a very dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment to bring chil­dren up in – not a very good one - and I think it’s left its mark on most of the five kids in our fam­ily,” he said.

“We thought it was nor­mal as kids, but look­ing back on it now, how ab­nor­mal was it. The po­lice sta­tion was a res­i­dence and the of­fice was about 10 by 14 foot in area and it wasn’t far from the kitchen door. All the good, bad, in­dif­fer­ent, the very grotty, nasty and the sub­lime took place at our kitchen door.”

It was a time when the sen­si­tiv­i­ties of the Kelly story were still very raw, and for many in the dis­trict, they still are.

The son of a po­lice­man, Lin­ton chose to de­vote his life to the bee­keep­ing in­dus­try and he has also spent decades with a re­served ad­mi­ra­tion for what the Kelly story is and how the Aus­tralian folk­lore and spirit has evolved from it. The shootout that en­sued at the Ann Jones’ Inn on June 28, 1880 and Ned Kelly’s sub­se­quent ex­e­cu­tion in ef­fect im­mor­talised the man as an Aus­tralian icon.

“You won’t draw me into whether Ned was a vil­lain or a hero, that’s for sure, there’s no way I would do that,” Lin­ton said.

“But I draw a lot of value from the mythol­ogy that has come up from it and the leg­end of that morn­ing when Ned dis­played that courage, and some peo­ple say loy­alty, to his mates. He wasn’t go­ing back to res­cue them. No, he was just go­ing back to fin­ish it off - with that courage, his arm smashed, his right foot opened up with a ‘45 Mar­tini’ and 90 pound of ar­mour on his head. He was strug­gling but want­ing to end it all - to go out with a real bang, ei­ther dead or alive. There was no ca­pac­ity to reload re­volvers so they fit­ted him up with this big over­coat with three re­volvers in the big pock­ets – he had 18 shots and when they were done, he was done. In the process he got the top blown off his bloody thumb… hope­less…poor bug­ger.

“No, the leg­end that’s grown out of that and the mythol­ogy with all the rest of the stuff, there are in­trin­sic val­ues there which are pre­cious. I of­ten say that those val­ues re­side at the core of the Aus­tralian soul; courage, loy­alty to your mates, a lack of def­er­ence to the tall poppy in the com­mu­nity – that’s a value we cher­ish. We have a healthy ir­rev­er­ence for au­thor­ity and pol­i­tics – that’s where I sit in this whole thing. I cher­ish those val­ues that have risen out of it all, but no you won’t get me to talk about whether he was a hero.” >>

HER­ITAGE / Lin­ton’s fa­ther Jack Briggs, pic­tured in 1923, was posted to Glenrowan by Vic­to­ria Po­lice in 1926 and was the last mounted trooper to serve the town.

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