Capture of the Kelly Gang

After years of successfully eluding the police, in June 1880 the Kelly Gang deliberately staged a final confrontation at Glenrowan in Victoria. Kelly had hoped this confrontation would stir up a rebellion of citizens against what he saw as an unjust legal system.

The gang took over the Glenrowan railway station, but Kelly was careful not to damage the telegraph, so the station master could alert the police.

The gang moved the railway staff to the Glenrowan Inn where they also took the guests hostages. Because many were Kelly sympathisers, the night was spent in song and merriment as they waited for police to arrive. Eventually, a local school teacher alerted police to the gang's whereabouts. Police and railway staff surrounded the inn, ready to fire at any of the gang members who left the building.

At around dawn, Ned Kelly appeared in his armour outside the hotel. Emerging like a ghostly apparition from the trees that surrounded the hotel, his appearance horrified the authorities. According to a railway station guard:

...I heard the thud of a bullet where I was on looking back I saw what seemed a tremendous black fellow with something like a blanket on him this would be about 6.45am and the morning being hazy or else the smoke from the guns hanging about made him look a deal bigger than he was... the strange figure still advanced on us... I saw Sergeant Steele run from a tree close behind Kelly, as he shot at me, and fired twice very low I saw Kelly fall ...

– Glenrowan Railway Station goods guard

Dowsett, J 1973, 'The capture of Ned Kelly' [manuscript ca. 1880], La Trobe Journal, No. 11 April.

Although photography was quite new in 1880, a number of photographers helped record the dramatic events at Glenrowan as they unfolded.

Police started a fire in the hotel to smoke out the remaining gang members. They shot Joe Byrne as he came out of the side of the burning hotel, while the two other gang members – Steve Hart and Dan Kelly – died in the fire. Ned Kelly himself was the only gang member to survive. He was tried by Judge Redmond Barry and sentenced to death.

The burnt body of one of the Kelly gang.
Photographers taking a photos of Joe Byrne's dead body.
The burned out Jones Hotel after the Kelly Gang was captured.
The burnt ruins of Jones Hotel after the fire.