A road trip of Australia’s fiberglass monuments
The Big Ned Kelly
The history books are wrong. They tell us that Ned Kelly’s legendary last stand in the sleepy Victorian town of Glenrowan occurred in June 1880. But this six metre high, 1.5 tonne fiberglass version of the outlaw begs to differ. He’s been boldly brandishing his rifle outside the Glenrowan post office since April 1992, and, barring anything short of an earthquake, tornado or stampede of wildebeest, will probably continue to stand there for a very long time.
We’ve crossed the NSW/Victorian border and ventured about 100kms down the Hume to Glenrowan, a charming little place deep in the heart of “Kelly Country”. This town would’ve almost certainly slipped through the floorboards of history had Ned Kelly not chosen it for the location of a two-day plundering and pillaging workshop in 1880 (meals included) that ended with his arrest. The town’s residents certainly can’t be accused of ignoring this brief but exciting piece of local history. You can buy anything from Ned Kelly burgers to Ned Kelly snow domes and almost every business in the town has the words ‘Ned’ or ‘Kelly’ somewhere in its name.
The current Big Ned Kelly is actually the third fiberglass version of the bushranger to take up residence in Glenrowan. Locals can’t remember exactly when the first one was built, but it was some time back in the 1970s and came to an unfortunate end when it was stolen and dumped in the river by a person or persons unknown. (Maybe some disgruntled visitor who’d specifically requested no pineapple in his Ned Burger.)
Big Ned number two appeared in 1980 to mark 100 years since the hanging of his flesh and blood counterpart in Melbourne Goal. This Ned’s career was far less exciting though, standing guard outside the cheesy new Kellyland Video Theatre and Museum. After about eight years of suffering this indignity he disappeared from public view when the Museum’s owner relocated him to a new spot inside the complex, leaving Glenrowan without a public Ned Kelly for tourism and photographic purposes.
Big Ned number three (the current one) was created in 1992 to fill this hole in the market. The owners of another Ned Kelly museum called Kate’s Cottage (named after Ned’s sister) commissioned a Sydney special effects technician to create the six metre high fiberglass likeness of Ned at a cost of $12,000.
And so it’s been for almost two decades, the infamous outlaw frozen in time outside Glenrowan’s post office, Ned Kelly’s real last stand. And such is Glenrowan’s idolatry of their fibreglass wild colonial boy that if he’s ever flattened by the aforementioned earthquake, tornado or wildebeest stampede, he won’t be kept down for long. The townsfolk will have another Big Ned erected faster than you can say “stand and deliver!”