The Jerilderie Letter brings Ned Kelly's distinctive voice to life, and offers readers a unique insight into the man behind the legend. One of only two original documents by Ned Kelly that are known to have survived, it was dictated by Ned Kelly to Joe Byrne in February 1879 and is the only document providing a direct link to the Kelly gang and the events with which they were associated.
Approximately 8000 words long, this letter has been described as Ned Kelly’s ‘manifesto’. It passionately articulates his pleas of innocence and desire for justice for both his family and the poor Irish selectors of Victoria's north-east. The intensity of Kelly’s antagonism towards the police is clearly discernible.
It outlines Ned Kelly's troubled relations with the police and offers his version of the events at Stringybark Creek, where three policemen were killed in October 1878. Written before the Kellys’ raid on the Riverina town of Jerilderie in February 1879, Kelly intended to have it published as a pamphlet. After stealing over 2000 pounds from the Bank of New South Wales, the gang took over the town for several days. During that time Kelly sought out the town’s newspaper editor, who was nowhere to be found. The bank's accountant, Edwin Living, offered to accept the letter and pass it on to Gill. Kelly gave it to him saying, 'Mind you get it printed, or you'll have me to reckon with next time we meet.' Undeterred, Living ignored the order.
Living and the Bank’s manager delivered the letter to the Melbourne office of the Bank of New South Wales. It was returned to Living after Kelly’s trial and execution. The letter remained in private hands until it was generously donated to the Library in 2000.