By Thuy Ong
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The remains of Australia’s most famous outlaw, Ned Kelly, are finally to be laid to rest, 132 years after he was hanged for murder.
Kelly’s descendants, who received the bushranger’s remains after they were exhumed from a mass prison grave, said on Wednesday they will hold a private church memorial service on Friday before the burial in an unmarked grave on Sunday.
The homemade armor and helmet Kelly wore during his last violent shootout with police and his reported final words before he was hanged at Melbourne Gaol on November 11, 1880 — “such is life” — helped make him an iconic figure in Australian history.
His family, the Kelly Gang, became a symbol for social tensions between poor Irish settlers and the wealthy establishment at the time, and Kelly himself became a folk hero to many for standing up to the Anglo-Australian ruling class.
Kelly’s descendants said the private farewells were in keeping with the outlaw’s requests.
“The descendants of the Kelly family wish to give effect to Ned Kelly’s last wish and that he now be buried in consecrated ground with only his family in attendance in order to ensure a private, respectful and dignified funeral,” the family said in a statement.
“The family wish for their privacy to be respected so that they may farewell a very much loved member of their family.”
One Australian media outlet reported that Kelly will be buried at Greta, near Glenrowan, north-east of Victoria, where his mother is buried in an unmarked grave.
Kelly’s remains have made a circuitous journey to their final resting place.
They were first buried in a mass grave at Melbourne Gaol. When that closed in 1929, Kelly’s bones were exhumed and reburied in another mass grave at the newer Pentridge Prison.
All the bones buried in Pentridge yard were exhumed in 2009 and Kelly’s skeleton was positively identified in 2011 by scientists after DNA tests against a descendant. The Victoria state government said in August it would return the skeleton to the family.
Kelly’s skull remains missing. It was believed to have been separated from his skeleton during the transfer.
His life story inspired the novel “True History of the Kelly Gang” by author Peter Carey, which won the 2001 Booker Prize, and the late actor Heath Ledger played him in a 2003 movie.
(Reporting By Thuy Ong, Editing by Jane Wardell and Elaine Lies)