Excerpt from True History of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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True History of The Kelly Gang

by Peter Carey

True History of The Kelly Gang
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2001, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2001, 368 pages

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Print Excerpt

Parcel 1
His Life until the Age of 12

National Bank letterhead. Almost certainly taken from the Euroa Branch of the National Bank in December 1878. There are 45 sheets of medium stock (8" 3 10" approx.) with stabholes near the top where at one time they were crudely bound. Heavily soiled.

Contains accounts of his early relations with police including an accusation of transvestism. Some recollections of the Quinn family and the move to the township of Avenel. A claim that his father was wrongly arrested for the theft of Murray's heifer. A story explaining the origins of the sash presently held by the Benalla Historical Society. Death of John Kelly.

I lost my own father at 12 yr. of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences - my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false.

God willing I shall live to see you read these words, to witness your astonishment and see your dark eyes widen and your jaw drop when you finally comprehend the injustice we poor Irish suffered in this present age. How queer and foreign it must seem to you and all the coarse words and cruelty which I now relate are far away in ancient time.

Your grandfather were a quiet and secret man, he had been ripped from his home in Tipperary and transported to the prisons of Van Diemen's Land. I do not know what was done to him he never spoke of it. When they had finished with their tortures they set him free and he crossed the sea to the colony of Victoria. He were by this time 30 yr. of age, red headed and freckled with his eyes always slitted against the sun. My da had sworn an oath to evermore avoid the attentions of the law so when he saw the streets of Melbourne was crawling with policemen worse than flies he walked 28 mi. to the township of Donnybrook and then or soon thereafter he seen my mother. Ellen Quinn were 18 yr. old she were dark haired and slender - the prettiest figure on a horse he ever saw - but your grandma was like a snare laid out by God for Red Kelly. She were a Quinn and the police would never leave the Quinns alone.

My 1st memory is of Mother breaking eggs into a bowl and crying that Jimmy Quinn my 15 yr. old uncle were arrested by the traps. I don't know where my daddy were that day nor my older sister Annie. I were 3 yr. old. While my mother cried I scraped the sweet yellow batter onto a spoon and ate it - the roof were leaking above the camp oven, each drop hissing as it hit.

My mother tipped the cake onto the muslin cloth and knotted it. Your Aunt Maggie were a baby so my mother wrapped her also, then she carried both cake and baby out into the rain. I had no choice but follow up the hill how could I forget them puddles, the colour of mustard the rain like needles in my eyes.

We arrived at the Beveridge Police Camp drenched to the bone and doubtless stank of poverty - a strong odour about us like wet dogs - and for this or other reasons we was excluded from the Sergeant's room. I remember sitting with my chilblained hands wedged beneath the door. I could feel the lovely warmth of the fire on my fingertips. Yet when we was finally permitted entry all my attention were taken not by the blazing fire but by a huge red jowled creature - the Englishman who sat behind the desk. I knew not his name only that he were the most powerful man I ever saw and he might destroy my mother if he so desired.

'Approach' says he, as if he was an altar.

My mother approached and I hurried beside her. She told the Englishman she had baked a cake for his prisoner Quinn and would be most obliged to deliver it because her husband were absent and she had butter to churn and pigs to feed.

No cake shall go to the prisoner said the trap. I could smell his foreign spicy smell, he had a handlebar moustache and his scalp were shining through his hair.

Excerpted from True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey . Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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