Bushranger Ned Kelly once passed through Shepparton but was nice enough to spare the bank.By Karen Parker
Ask anyone with ancestors in Kelly country and they will have a story about when the Kelly gang came through.
Ned Kelly, the 19th century bushranger, holds a strong place in the Australian story and Shepparton is part of the story.
He did not hold up our bank or stage a shootout here, but there are numerous stories about when Ned came to town.
The story intrigued people then and it still does now.
Shepparton Heritage Centre secretary Peter Ford is certain the Kelly gang did come to town.
He said in response to earlier Kelly gang robberies, the Victorian Garrison Artillery was sent to Shepparton in 1879 to guard Shepparton banks.
Troopers were stationed at A. F. Rowe’s Drapery Store, now the site of the Commonwealth Bank, on the corner of Wyndham and High Sts.
Mr Ford said a hole cut in the side of Rowe’s store was used as a lookout by the Artillery.
He referred to a 1938 Shepparton centenary issue of The News, which quoted long-time local Mrs A. Scott.
‘‘Ned Kelly came to Shepparton. He pulled up in a dray at Rowe’s, got his groceries, and went off,’’ Mrs Scott was reported as saying.
Local history enthusiast John Gribben yesterday told how the Kellys came to town after the Jerilderie bank robbery. He said according to folklore they tacked a notice up addressed to John White, manager of the Bank of Victoria, now the site of Bullion Bar.
‘‘John White, the Kellys won’t harm you,’’ the notice said.
Apparently, Mr White had once helped Kelly over a cheque transaction and this favour was not forgotten by the infamous outlaw.
There are many more stories surrounding the Kelly gang in our area.
Contemporary newspapers reported the whole district was in a state of alarm, but also intrigued.
False alarms were a regular occurrence.
One was reported by The News on May 22 1879.
Local policeman Sergeant Harding rode with a group of concerned citizens ‘‘with high hopes and wildly pulsating hearts’’ to the location where the Kelly gang was thought to be camped.
On arrival, the men were ordered to ‘‘throw up their arms and surrender in the name of Her Majesty’’.
But the men were not the Kelly gang and gave satisfactory explanations.
The News report continued: ‘‘While the police may regard the affair as a ludicrous mistake to have made, it has, however, called forth an exhibition of tact and bravery.’’
Mr Ford and Mr Gribben told local stories of the Kelly gang passing through the area.
Mr Ford recounted a story of the Kelly gang visiting a local farmhouse where the wife was baking a cake.
She was so afraid of being robbed she placed her jewellery in the cake mix.
Mr Gribben’s stories were of the Kelly gang camping on the Goulburn River at Arcadia, Ned visiting his aunt at Ardmona after the Jerilderie robbery and the Ryan relatives at Dookie supplying horses to the gang.
It seems every town in Kelly country wants to be part of the Kelly folklore.
Shepparton definitely has a place in that folklore.
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