Kelly’s descendants, who received the bushranger’s remains after they were exhumed from a mass prison grave, said they will hold a private church memorial service tomorrow before the burial in an unmarked grave on Sunday.
The homemade armour and helmet he wore during his last violent shootout with police and his reported final words before he was hanged at Melbourne Gaol on Nov 11, 1880 — “such is life” — helped make Kelly an iconic figure.
His family, the Kelly Gang, became a symbol for social tensions between poor Irish settlers and the wealthy establishment at the time. Kelly became a folk hero for standing up to the Anglo- Australian ruling class.
Kelly’s descendants said the private farewells were in keeping with the outlaw’s requests.
“The descendants of the Kelly family wish to give effect to Ned Kelly’s last wish and that he now be buried in consecrated ground with only his family in attendance in order to ensure a private, respectful and dignified funeral,” the family said in a statement.
One Australian media outlet reported that Kelly will be buried at Greta, near Glenrowan, north-east of Victoria, where his mother is buried.
Kelly’s remains were first buried in a mass grave at Melbourne Gaol. When that closed in 1929, his bones were exhumed and reburied in another mass grave at Pentridge Prison.
In 2009, all the bones buried in Pentridge yard were exhumed and Kelly’s skeleton was identified in 2011 by scientists after DNA tests against a descendant.
Kelly’s skull remains missing. It was believed to have been separated from his skeleton during the transfer.
His story inspired the novel True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey, which won the Booker Prize in 2001. The late Heath Ledger played him in a 2003 movie.