Tough Guy in Tapanui

Today I’m sharing a little bit of Australia with you in the form of this letterbox sculpture in Tapanui (Otago, New Zealand). We walked past it the other day and Nigel referred to it as ‘Ned Kelly’. Now, I know the name ‘Ned Kelly’ from a saying I’ve long been familiar with where one person might say of another that he “has the cheek of Ned Kelly”. But I knew nothing about the character. I’ve since found out that he was an Australian bushranger and outlaw who had a rather tragic life, a few run-ins with the authorities and eventually was captured and hung. Life was harsh and he was probably treated very unfairly; when he was young he’d saved a boy from drowning. When captured, he was wearing a suit of armour made of steel from plough shares. When I found photos of this armour, I realised that Nigel was absolutely right and that this sculpture is indeed Ned Kelly in his armour.


NED KELLY

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Here are photos of Ned Kelly’s armour from the State Library of Victoria, Australia.


Further Reading

Short introduction to Ned Kelly from Culture Victoria

Biography of Ned Kelly from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Very comprehensive information available at Ned Kelly: Australian Iron Outlaw

Ned Kelly’s father was transported from Ireland, an ex-convict who’d served seven years for stealing two pigs. I’ve previously reviewed The Tin Ticket a book about the experiences of women who were transported to Australia as convicts from the UK. Its a real eye-opener into the attitudes and corruption in society at that time.


Text and Photos by Liz; Exploring Colour (2018)

18 thoughts on “Tough Guy in Tapanui

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  1. What a wonderful piece of folk art. I love it. Now here’s an interesting (though completely useless) fact for you: Did you know that Mick Jagger (old Big Lips himself, lead singer with the Rolling Stones) played the lead in a 1970 movie about Ned Kelly. I’ve never seen it, but checking it out just now with Professor Google I’ve learned that it was poorly received, so much so that both Jagger and the director disowned it, to the extent that neither attended the movie’s London premiere.

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  2. Benjamin loves the “orange soldier”, but he thinks it is “a funny mail box”! I was telling my oldest daughter about this post yesterday. Imagine my surprise, she knew all about Ned Kelly and remembers a movie that she saw too! She is planning on reading your post this evening. I enjoyed all of your links and now must check the one provided in a comment to you. Thank-you again!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always enjoy receiving your response Ellen, thank you very much. Something I regret not putting in my post is that Ned Kelly was only 25 when he died. So young. When he saved a younger boy from being drowned in a flooded river he was only 10.

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      1. How kind of you, I tend to a propensity for loquacity and at times ramble too much! Poor Ned Kelly’s life was a short tragic story. I found it interesting that depending upon the source, he is viewed as a villain or a folk hero.

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        1. Yes, I found that interesting too. To my way of thinking it goes back to what I read in ‘The Tin Ticket’. The UK didn’t want the hordes of poor people they’d created with their class system and shipped them to Australia. They treated them abominably, many ‘convicts’ died, effectively a death sentence for what was often some trivial ‘crime’. But the rich and influential (supported by the judiciary and police) oppressed the poor there too. Hence the different views – positive or negative. That’s my take on it anyway, from what I’ve read of that era!

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  3. Funny sculpture! Do you enjoy the beginning autumn in NZ? Today we have in Germany wonderful spring weather and I am very happy about the awakening nature. It was a long period of winter. Too long! Warm wishes Simone

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    1. If its a nice autumn I enjoy it but we’re getting lots of rain and cold winds and its horrible. Weather forecast is for cold and wet weather this week. I’m really glad for you but its horrid here. Glad to have your warm wishes Simone! Make the most of your lovely weather. Hugs, Liz xx

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  4. Benjamin will be positively ecstatic when he sees these photos on Monday! This is a fantabulous letterbox! I am off to read the links that you so kindly included. You always provide so much interesting and educational information with your exceptionally lovely photos. Thank-you x 2!!

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