05 January 2007

Melbourne: The southernmost big city in the Southern Hemisphere

This headline comes from a claim Melbourne made at one time that a friend here told me about. I love the frequent use of the 'in the Southern Hemisphere' qualifier here.
For a 'Melbourne' vacation, we only spent two days in the city, but we packed quite a bit in. Our first stop was the State Library of Victoria to find Ned Kelly's armour. Just realised I haven't covered Ned here yet. Basically, he was a bushranger (outlaw) who was part Robin Hood, part Jesse James, and is
considered a folk hero in Australia today. The claim by genealogists is that he was a relative of Buffalo Bill. His armour is held at the library, although the helmet it on tour, so a replica was standing in. The armour was made out of spare parts from a plough and weighed nearly a hundred pounds. We learned an interesting story about this at the library. The police had heard a rumour that the Kelly Gang was assembling armour from plough parts, so they asked a local metalworker if it was possible to do. He
made some attempts before declaring it impossible. When Ned was captured, they found the metalworker's name stamped into the metal of Ned's armour--metal from his forge had been used in the construction. We also saw the dent in the breastplate from a test round fired by the gang. So how was Ned caught? The police shot his unprotected legs. Click here and scroll down to see 'Ned Kelly at Bay', the classic illustration by Thomas Carrington.
We also visited the Melbourne Gaol (say it aloud, the 'G' like a 'J' as in 'George'),
which also has an extensive Kelly exhibit, including his death mask. Actually, they had a lot of death masks, since 136 people were executed there. Most of the cells on the ground level contained a death mask and a plaque telling the story of a particular prisoner. The second level contained various exhibits on the gaol throughout it's history and the original gallows used to hang the condemned. The gaol also had a replica suit for the kids to 'dress up in Ned's armour', according to the sign, so I
immediately gave the camera to Heather and suited up. That's the folk hero himself looking over my shoulder.
There is a river that runs through Melbourne with restaurants, museums and galleries lining its banks. This gondola was photographed cruising the river. We have heard that Melbourne is
much more European than Sydney, but we felt it was much the same. The most noticeable difference, sadly, was that Melbourne was much cleaner than Sydney.
We also visited St Kilda, a suburb in south Melbourne on the beach. Good views, better pastries. Lots of sad soldiers in the Barmy Army, too--more on that next.


Karen said...

Am I the only one that thinks you resemble the death mask for Ned Kelly??

Chris said...

I didn't think that before, but now that you mention it, looking at the photo, I can see that. In person, it looks like the face of an old man, but he was only twenty-five. They shaved him before the execution. You can see in his his hair and wild beard in his picture behind me wearing the armour. That photo was taken the night before he was killed.

patrick said...

I saw the Ned Kelly movie starring Heath Ledger. I enjoyed the story more than the acting, but it was more good than bad. Do you know if that was an accurate portrayal?

michelle b. said...

glad he wised up and made armor to protect his junk. was the armor that you wore heavy (i.e. 100 pounds)?

Chris said...

I haven't seen the movie, but Heather has, so she would know better if it was accurate. I did read Ned Kelly by Robert Drewe, the book the movie was based on. I know the book is a fictional account of what Drewe thinks might have happened. I also know that it wasn't a great read.
As for the armour I wore, no, it was not heavy. It looks real enough, but it was plastic.

Anonymous said...

great pictures! and I love the history lessons. Keep it em coming. paul