Sharing the passion
CHRIS Gerrett has been ensconced in the world of Ned Kelly history for decades.
Operating Kate’s Cottage in Glenrowan, literally a stone’s throw from the town’s imposing statue of Ned Kelly, she has seen a range of Kellyrelated works come across her desk, from the rarest of antique volumes to more recent bestselling works.
Now on the verge of retiring after more than 40 years in the tourism business, the Wangaratta resident looks back on her decades interacting with Kelly enthusiasts with fondness.
Chris has always loved the area and its tourism potential, particularly with Wangaratta being a hub for so many nearby towns.
“Glenrowan draws business from all over the world,” she enthused.
A born and bred local, Chris has had a fascination with reading, and an interest in the Ned Kelly story and its surrounding history, ever since childhood.
She remembers her father telling many “tall tales” about Ned Kelly riding through her family’s paddocks and hiding “booty” there, which, although weren’t true, definitely drew her in. “I’ve grown up with this story,” Chris said. She said over the years people from all walks of life have visited her at Kate’s Cottage in Glenrowan to find a range of Ned Kelly related books, all sharing their passion for the subject.
“They have strong opinions about different publications,” Chris said. “It’s just amazing what you come across.” Over time, she has catalogued and written information about all the Ned Kelly related books that she has seen in her work, from the dates of editions to recording inaccurate information in some editions, changes between editions, and much more.
The result is a thick volume cataloguing a life’s work.
One such tidbit she enjoyed was Ned Kelly’s relationship to the classic book Lorna Doone, which she said was among one of the first cheaply produced “pulp fiction” titles available to readers of poor backgrounds.
She said this book, which describes a type of iron armour within its pages – as well as other influences such as a metal Chinese warlord armour at a parade in Beechworth at the time, and an iron clad warship called a Monitor docked in Port Phillip Bay, were quite possibly all among the inspirations for the Kelly gang’s iconic armour.
Many a rare or interesting book has come across her desk, but the 1881 Royal Commission investigating the behaviour of the Victorian police force, held in the wake of the Kelly saga, is by far the most sought after book she has seen.
The commission took place after much public outcry about the behaviour of police, including corruption.
Its aim was to try and understand the attitudes and lawlessness of some in the police force towards the selectors of the time.
“The ultimate book to have is the Royal Commission,” she said.
Chris said it was ultimately the complexity and drama of the Ned Kelly story that continues to divide public opinion and see stories created about him to this day. “Everyone’s got an opinion,” she said. Personally, she feels an affinity for Ned Kelly’s “larrikin” side and sympathised with the oppression and bad treatment people of Irish descent received at the time, but she said there are too many shades of grey to the story to paint Ned Kelly as entirely bad or good.
NED CONNECTION: Chris Gerrett has worked for many years at Kate’s Cottage in Glenrowan, only metres away from the famous and imposing statue of Ned Kelly. PHOTO: Kylie Wilson
WEALTH OF INFORMATION: Chris Gerrett with some of the Ned Kelly books she has come across over the years.