MRS KELLY

 Grantlee Kieza ABC Books

While we know Ned Kelly intimately, his mother Ellen Kelly has been largely overlooked by Australian writers and historians – until this vivid and compelling portrait. When Ellen arrived in Melbourne in 1841 aged nine, British convict ships were still dumping their unhappy cargo in what was then the colony of New South Wales. By the time she died aged ninety-one in 1923, having outlived 7 of her 12 children, motor cars plied the highway near her bush home north of Melbourne, and Australia was a modern, sovereign nation. Like so many pioneering women, Ellen, the wife of a convict, led a life of great hardship. Born in Ireland during a time of entrenched poverty and sectarian violence, she was a mother of 7 when her husband died in a police lock-up. She survived famine and drought, watched her babies die, listened through the prison wall while her eldest son was hanged and saw the charred remains of another who’d died in a shoot-out with police. One son became Australia’s most infamous (and ultimately most celebrated) outlaw; another became a highly decorated policeman, an honorary member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a worldwide star on the rodeo circuit.