[Editor: This article, regarding the hanging of Ned Kelly, was published in the “Latest telegrams” section of The Express & Telegraph (Adelaide, SA), 11 November 1880.]
(From our own Correspondent.]
Melbourne, November 11.
The execution of Ned Kelly, the bushranger, took place this morning at 10 o’clock, within the precincts of the Melbourne Gaol, in the presence of magistrates, medical men, and representatives of the press, about twenty in all.
The prisoner passed an uneasy and almost sleepless night. He was engaged up to a late hour in dictating statements to a fellow-prisoner, with the object apparently of preventing his thought of his approaching doom preying upon his mind. He had lost his defiant attitude and spoke respectfully to the attendant clergyman at an interview late in the evening, and conversed occasionally with the warders who remained on guard in the cell all night.
At half-past 1 o’clock in the morning he went to bed, but remained very restless and unable to sleep. At 2 o’clock he appeared to doze and slept uneasily till 5. He then rose, knelt down, and prayed. He subsequently returned to his bed, and remained there till the warders arrived to conduct him to the pressroom, beside the usual place of execution.
Mr. Castieau, the governor of the gaol, informed the condemned man that the hour of his execution was fixed for 10 o’clock. Kelly simply replied, “Such is life.” His leg irons were then struck off, and after a short time he was marched, accompanied by a number of warders from the condemned cell in the old wing of the prison to the central building.
He was very submissive, and on the way, passing through a portion of the gaol grounds, laid out in flower beds, he remarked, “What a nice little garden.” He said nothing further until reaching the press room, where he remained until the arrival of Dean Donahy, the chaplain of the gaol. Prior to his arrival Kelly was heard to sing snatches of songs in a low voice, as if to while away the time. On the arrival of the chaplain, who was subsequently joined by Dean O’Hay, prayers were said, and the last rites of the Church administered. Kelly partook of no breakfast on account of having to take the sacrament.
About 9 o’clock crowds began to assemble in front of the gaol, and at 10 o’clock there could not have been less than 5,000 present, composed of a heterogeneous mob of men, women, and children, mainly of the lowest class. Those provided with tickets of admission to the execution presented themselves shortly before 10 o’clock.
No stir was made until close upon that hour, when Mr. Sheriff Rede and Mr. Sub-sheriff Ellis emerged from the main building and entered the governor’s office. When the final arrangements had been made for the preliminaries at five minutes to 10 the Sheriff and the governor appeared in the courtyard, and followed by those privileged to be spectators, proceeded in the direction of the main building, where the gallows was situated. None but the sheriff, sub-sheriff, Dr. Barker, and the officials were allowed up on the upper platform near the drop. The spectators were assembled in the corridor below, and the reporters were in front, note-books in hand, anticipating a speech from the condemned man.
Precisely as the clock struck 10 Mr. Sheriff Rede marched to the door of the pressroom, and demanded from the governor the body of Edward Kelly, at the same time producing his warrant of execution. This formality having been complied with, the executioner, Upjohn, was summoned from the room opposite. Upjohn is an old man, looking about sixty years of age, and was dressed in prison attire, but in his shirt-sleeves, without any covering on his face. He advanced to the pressroom with a strong leather strap in his hand, with which he secured Kelly’s arms tightly at the elbows.
Kelly was then led on to the trap, proceeded by the clergyman and an attendant carrying a large cross. They took up their position in front of the guard iron surrounding the drop, and proceeded to read the prayers for the dead, Kelly reciting the responses as they proceeded.
The governor of the gaol then directed executioner to do his duty. Upjohn came forward and placed the noose of the rope pendant from a strong beam overhead round the neck of the condemned man, who looked calmly at the priests in front of him, without paying any apparent attention to anything else going on around him. Dr. Barker instructed the executioner how to adjust the noose, and this having been done by placing the knot close under the left ear of the condemned man, while the cap was drawn closely over his head, covering his entire face, but leaving his heavy beard exposed.
The executioner then stepped off the drop, and immediately the signal was given and the prisoner launched into eternity. The body fell about eight feet, and was brought up with a terrible jerk, Kelly being a large and heavy man. Death must have been instantaneous, as beyond a slight lifting of the shoulders and a spasmodic quiver of the lower limbs, no motion was visible after the drop fell. The clergyman continued reciting prayers for nearly five minutes.
Subsequently the body was closely inspected by those present, and having remained suspended for half an hour was cut down, placed in a roughly made coffin, and conveyed to the dead-house to await an inquest.
The Express & Telegraph (Adelaide, SA), 11 November 1880, p. 2 (Second Edition)
Also published in various other newspapers, including:
The Bunyip; Gawler Times Northern Advertiser and Gold Fields Reporter (Gawler, SA), 12 November 1880, p. 3 [gives source as the Advertiser, i.e. The South Australian Advertiser]
The Camperdown Chronicle (Camperdown, Vic.), 12 November 1880, p. 2
The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), 12 November 1880, p. 5
dead-house = a morgue, a mortuary (a building or place where dead bodies are temporarily kept, prior to burial or cremation) (also spelt: dead house, deadhouse; also known as: corpse house, mort house)
the drop = (in the context of a hanging) the section on a gallows or scaffold through which the condemned person is dropped, usually through a trapdoor, or through two trapdoors joined in the middle and released with a bolt (the latter has been recommended, as the opening of two trapdoors enables a direct drop down, to allow the condemned’s neck to break easily, whereas a single trapdoor is likely to result in the fall of the body on a bit of an angle or direction, which can diminish the effectiveness of the jerk of the rope on the neck)
gaol = an alternative spelling of “jail” (prison)
Melbourne Gaol = a gaol (jail) in Melbourne, opened in 1845 (closed 1924, now a museum)
press = the print-based media, especially newspapers (can be spelt with or without a capital letter: Press, press)
trap = trapdoor
[Editor: Changed “remained -less” to “remained very restless” (there was an extended blank space after the word “remained”; the missing text was inserted as per the text printed in other copies of the same article); “accompained by a number” to “accompanied by a number”; “On the arrival of the chaplain who was subsequently joined by Dean O’Hay. Prayers were said” to “On the arrival of the chaplain, who was subsequently joined by Dean O’Hay, prayers were said” (changed in line with grammar, and as per the text in The Camperdown Chronicle and The South Australian Advertiser); “hetereoganeous” to “heterogeneous”; “men, woman, and children” to “men, women, and children”; “None but the sheriff” to “None but the sheriff,” (added a comma); “near the drop” to “near the drop.” (added a full stop); “Kelly being being a large” to “Kelly being a large”; “and and a spasmodic quiver” to “and a spasmodic quiver”; “placed i a” to “placed in a”.]
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]