Kelly Country the site for Australia's most notorious gun battles.
Edward (Ned) Kelly was born in Beveridge, Victoria in 1854 and had his first brush with the law when just 15. His short but colourful life saw him on both sides of the law, but the wrong side saw him and his gang hunted down and he was hanged in the Old Melbourne Gaol on November 11, 1880. Somehow he has achieved legend status and books and films about him keep on appearing.
Australian author Peter Carey won the prestigious 2001 Booker prize with The True History of the Kelly Gang and a film starring Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts and Geoffrey Rush, based on Robert Drewe's novel Ned Kelly will be released in 2003. So the appeal of one of the country's most notorious murderers continues.
Glenrowan is known as Kelly Country, not because he was born or died there, but because it was the site for Australia's most notorious gun battles. In 1880 the Kelly gang attempted to derail a train, successfully burnt the local inn, two hostages and three gang members lost their lives and Ned was arrested.
Bob Hempel from Glenrowan Tourist Centre will show visitors plaques at various sites, as the railway platform is the only thing left standing from the 1880s. Bob's great-uncle actually welded the Kelly gang's armour and Ned and his brother Dan worked for Bob's grandmother as drovers. They stole cattle for her and she sold them on to a butcher in the nearby town of Springhurst.
Kate's Cottage is a replica of the Kelly family home and contains bits and pieces which belonged to various aunts and uncles tin cups, dressers, a wooden chest. The land where the original home stood remains in the Kelly family and the name has been perpetuated, though by uncles, as neither Ned nor his brothers fathered children.
Kellyland is an animated theatre show with computerised robots which allows you to take part in the capture of Ned. You actually feel as though you are a hostage in the hotel, will see burning buildings, gunfights, shootouts and Ned's hanging at the Old Melbourne Gaol.
Half an hour from Glenrowan you reach Beechworth, a town also steeped in Kelly history.
Ned made several appearances before the Beechworth Court, as did many members of his immediate and extended family. You will see the original dock, holding cell, judge's chair, gavel and witness box. There is a great collection of memorabilia and history. As well as the notorious Kellys, there is information about the first Australian-born governor-general Sir Isaac Isaacs, who began his law career there, and Robert O'Hara Burke of Burke and Wills, who was Superintendent of Police.
Various members of the Kelly family were held at the Beechworth Gaol and his cell, Number 101, is occupied today by two prisoners as it continues to be a working gaol. The gallows, minus a noose, are on display.
Beechworth is a town of attractive granite buildings, wide tree-lined streets and many beautiful buildings on the National Trust register. It was a grazing town until gold was found in 1852 and people arrived in droves, hoping to strike it rich. Town administrators knew the gold would not last forever and had the foresight to build a gaol, asylum, general hospital and a hospice for the aged. These maintained the economic strength of Beechworth. These days it has a wide range of accommodation, from caravan parks to motels, hotels, cottages and fine guest houses.
Nature lovers go to Beechworth to enjoy its forests and trees and maybe fossick for precious stones or gold flakes. Some go for the vineyards for good conversation with wine makers.
The town offers great tasting experiences and you can enjoy a picnic in the gardens, by the lake, visit a café or pub or celebrate in an award-winning restaurant.
The three-storey Beechworth Gallery was built in 1857 and has been described as an Aladdin's cave. It is a treasure trove of jewellery, sculptures, home furnishings, paintings and glassware. It was built as a wine and spirit merchant's warehouse and its solid granite foundations and red gum timbers are period features.
The 1926 Dodge parked at the front of the gallery was owned by Truman Hargan, who invented the Hargan swing saw. Inside you can see works by Norman and Lionel Lindsay, Pro Hart, Vladimir Poznic who followed the Hans-Heysen style and some wonderful ceramic indoor fountains and wine barrels.
Hercules, Aphrodite, Zorg, Orbis and friends are there in full-size sculptures among Australian hand-blown and etched glassware.