The Hanging of Ned Kelly

Oh, Molly, my dear
Come lend me your ear
I’ve come back from yond Melbourne town
Let me tell you the news
Brought back from the noose
For they’ve dropped wild Ned Kelly down
Oh yes
They’ve dropped wild Ned Kelly down

As bold Ned was hanging
The trapdoor a-banging
And the hangman admired his work
The press men did scribble
Their journalists’ dribble
Regarding the corpse with a smirk
Oh yes
Regarding the corpse with a smirk

They tell me Ned’s mother,
His sisters and brother
Were listening in to the din
As the law carried out
It’s sentence without
A shred of remorse for their kin
Oh yes
No shred of remorse for their kin

They’ll be glad that Ned
Is buried and dead
And no longer out on the range
For the troopers need sleep
Though they don’t earn their keep
And the fear turns the bankers all strange
Oh yes
The fear turns the bankers all strange

But what will become
Of wild Ned’s mum
Who’s still stuck locked up in a cell
Her children now martyrs
for sons without fathers
And rebels that love to raise hell
Oh yes
For rebels that love to raise hell

He’s off now in heaven
With Dan, Joe and Stephen
His rebellious brothers in arms
So the traps need new gangsters
To bother the banksters
To chase through the cities and farms
Oh yes
To chase through the cities and farms

And what of the judge
Who Ned did begrudge
And threaten to take to his grave?
That dreaded heart-breaker
Has too met his maker
It’s just as the outlaw declared
Oh yes
It’s just as the outlaw declared

Ned Kelly was game
His friends just the same
Not even the noose made him fret
As he went to the gallows
He rallied his fellows
“They’ve not killed the last of us yet!”
Oh yes
“They’ve not killed the last of us yet!”

©2020 Aidan Phelan


This song was written to convey something of the attitude that some sections of society had in the wake of Ned Kelly’s execution, which was really the beginning of the myth making that created the legend of Ned Kelly.

It plays up the anti-authority sentiment that defines Ned’s supporters and the way they twist events to have either a greater poetry, such as Redmond Barry’s death, or to paint Ned as defiant even in the face of imminent death. As an example, it is well known by now that Ned’s last words were not “such is life,” but they seem so much more resonant and poetic to his sympathisers that it has taken hold and is accepted as true.

The lyrics also nod towards the “trial by media” that had a big impact on how Ned and his supporters were perceived even during his own lifetime. The press were very vocal in their dislike of Kelly and anyone that was on his side, and there was no hiding the joy some reporters felt at his death. No doubt this would have riled up many of Ned’s sympathisers just as we see those that champion Ned nowadays becoming impassioned by people in the media or online that speak disparagingly of Ned and his fans. Almost nothing has changed since 1880 in that regard.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s