The Next BIG Thing! Glenrowan, Victoria

Last Updated on May 6, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ

Big Ned Kelly, Glenrowan, Victoria
Big Ned Kelly, Glenrowan, Victoria

Living in a landscape populated with giant fibreglass representations of fruit and animals is quite normal to many Aussies.

Irrespective of whether or not such objects are in good taste!

Commemorating criminals by building statues and devoting whole tourism campaigns to the bushrangers who dominated the early days of colonialism is also an intrinsic part of Aussie-dom.

Irrespective of whether or not such objects are in good taste!
But I’d never seen a tourist attraction combining BOTH these Australian obsessions. Until we passed through tiny Victorian town, Glenrowan!
The giant statue of Ned Kelly dominates the main street in a town devoted to the man who is arguably Australia’s most notorious bushranger.
And in the crowded tourist market capitalising on Australia’s favourite anti-hero, Glenrowan stands apart. For it was here that Ned Kelly’s career came to an end. His legendary capture in the epic police shoot-out that killed three of his gang members, including brother Dan, is known as the ‘Last Stand’.
Bread-tin Ned, Jerilderie, New South Wales
Bread-tin Ned, Jerilderie, New South Wales

The Kelly Gang’s only foray across the border was to Jerilderie, commemorated with stylish sculpture ‘Bread Tin Ned’ at the local bakery (how do you think I found it?). This resulted in the famous ‘Jerilderie Letter’ he wrote to defend his gang’s actions in the notorious Stringybark Creek shoot-out a few months earlier.

Ned was subsequently held and tried in nearby Beechworth Gaol before being taken to Melbourne for execution.  But it the Siege of Glenrowan and Last Stand that draw the crowds!
 Beechworth Gaol, where Ned Kelly was tried, Beechworth, Victoria

Beechworth Gaol, where Ned Kelly was tried, Beechworth, Victoria

Today, to be considered ‘as game as Ned Kelly’ – roughly translating as brave, determined and enterprising – is high praise for an Australian.  Even though it’s a little ironic.

He really IS big! RED and NED!!
He really IS big! RED and NED!!

His last words – ‘Such is Life’ – are part of Aussie folklore, and lingo.

Perhaps the first true Aussie larrikin, it may be why he’s the subject of many books, films, poems, songs and art. And also why his distinctive home-made body armour is instantly recognisable.

And why a larger-than-life Ned Kelly towers above the landscape.
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    1. I think it’s got universal appeal, Mallee – at least to those of us who appreciate pure kitsch and a peculiarly Aussie way of looking at history!! It gets even quirkier at Jerilderie, where there’s a Ned Kelly tribute made of bread tins 😀

  1. @Rose – Love ’em or loathe ’em – everyone’s got an opinion!! I think they’re hilarious!!
    @LONDONLULU – That’s us Aussies – larger than life!!
    @Andrew – No one ever thinks about the logistics of hosing down or repainting a giant fibreglass object when it’s first mooted! Maybe there’s a job out there for a contract ‘Big Thing’ cleaner??
    @Glen – Bread tin Ned is WAAAAY more appropriate than his massive counterpart who looks almost normal (for a bushranger, at least)!
    @Iris – Looks like I’ll have to take a detour to Rockhampton then!!!
    @Rohrerbot – Haha, interesting that you call it ‘art’!!!! There are many who would not use quite that word …

  2. @Ramakant Pradhan – HAha, now THAT’S taking things to extremes!
    @Hilda – I think Bread Tin Ned is a more appropriate cultural symbol for a violent criminal!!
    @Greg – I can’t pass opinion on Glenrowan’s drawcard status past the Ned statue – all I did there was photograph Ned & visit the amenities … after all, the Edeweiss bakery of Bright had a blackberry pie with my name on it …
    @Betty – Us Aussies are pretty good at the ‘anything goes’! But why take my word for it? You’ll just have to see for yourself!
    @Freya – Haha, please don’t judge the rest of OZ by the Big Things! Some of the other attractions we have are almost tasteful!

  3. I don’t mind big Ned, but generally, most of these sculptures look a bit tacky. Also, they really need to be well maintained.

  4. It’s so true Red, there’s a BIG something lurking around every corner in Oz.
    Some of them are quite scary! I’ve seen lots but don’t have any photos to share!

  5. Not sure about this Ned infatuation down here! I still think the armour is what makes him memorable. I can’t think of a similar ‘outfit’ by any outlaws in any other countries? I bet if he made his last stand in a pair of King Gee shorts and a singlet, no one would talk about him any more! Oh yeah, Sidney Nolan’s paintings have helped the armour image as well!

    I always wanted to go to Glenrowan. I told someone about this and they said, “What? The joint’s a dump!” There you go. Still haven’t got there and it’s only a few hours drive away!

  6. This is the first time I’ve heard about these Australian obsessions and I find it absolutely fascinating and bewildering at the same time. Not sure I like how “as game as Ned Kelly” has become a positive trait, but I do like the baking tin Ned!

  7. Wow! That’s a huge statue. I am not surprised to see a bushranger drawing in crowds. In the USA, even the earthquake fault lines are not spared. I recall the Hayward Fault being made a tourist attraction.

  8. bread tin ned? we live in a culture where almost anything goes.

    thanks so much for the education. i’ve never heard about these australian obsessions before. how interesting!

    wow, that’s a giant statue!

    have a great week ahead!

    big hugs

  9. Gigantic thing. I think I’ve seen a movie about Ned Kelly…anyway I’d heard of him somehow, but I didn’t know about the armor..that’s quite something. There are places dedicated to Billy the Kid and the James Gang and such other Old West “outlaws” over here….part of the lore of making a new country I guess. Or maybe we all harbor latent criminal tendencies…somehow people do seem to admire these guys!

    PS: I have figured out bushranger but I need a translation of “lariken”

  10. Isn’t it funny… or sad, I’m not sure which, That we know more about criminals (famous ones) than we do about our leaders. I think I know more about Jesse James then I do about any of the presidents.

  11. @AreWeThereYet – It’s both funny AND sad! Another ‘bushranger’ town I visited has a huge statue of ‘Captain Thunderbolt’ on a horse at the entrance to the town, and a tiny little plaque in a place not so noticeable commemorating the policeman who brought him to justice. Weird, huh?!
    @Mary – That’s a real chicken/egg question!! I think the statue gives the town a focus for its marketing campaign, so indirectly draws more people. Except for folks like me who would go there just for the Big Thing!!!
    @George – I think any Aussie worthy of that title would be able to recognise the armour at 100 paces!!
    @Fun60 – I’m still not sure whether the Bread tin thing is a serious tribute, or tongue in cheek!
    @SFlaGuy – That’s right up there with ‘To Boldly Go …’ (the most famous split infinitive of our time) as one of Sci-Fi’s greatest lines! Given their gravitas and importance to human survival, both of them could just as well apply to the Ned Kelly saga!
    @Sallie – Australia has a good claim to criminal tendencies given it’s early population with Mother England’s cast offs – ‘dangerous’ villains who’d stolen loaves of bread & the like – who then rebelled against the ruling class! Closest one word definition of ‘larrikin’ is ‘maverick’! Here’s a link to the Oxford definition if you’re interested!

  12. @Joan – I didn’t do anything else at Glenrowan except take the pic and use the amenities as we were en route to Bright! So for all I know, there MAY be a Royal Hotel there!!!! Or maybe not …
    @River – Bread Tin Ned comes with the added bonus of being in a pretty good bakery … although Jerilderie is a little bit off the beaten track!!
    @eileeninmd – Ned is one of the proportionately bigger Big Things – but maybe that represents his ‘larger than life’ status. I think a lot of the truth (both positive & negative) has been lost over time.
    @MJWC – HHHMMMmmm… I wonder if Ned was really the first person to say ‘Such is Life’ – or was it just the circumstances of when it was said that make us think he was first to say it?!
    @Saucy Kod – I believe that was Ned’s armour any time – he wasn’t trying to make a fashion statement!! But it must have worked – according to what I’ve read, he was shot 29 times in the last stand, so without the armour, he’d have been dead!! Yes, the wiki entry is pretty good – if you want more, there’s always OZ author Peter Carey’s ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’!
    @Filip – You are right. Even I have a conflict – he was a law-breaker, but his life was difficult. He was a violent man, but what circumstances drove him to that?? But it’s interesting that no one recalls the names of the policemen who were responsible for his downfall – they are on record, but they are not part of our common knowledge.

  13. Klaatu Barada Nikto – If you have no clue, then rent the movie. One of my all time favorites. I’m sure this will be The Day The Earth Stood Still till your response to this comment.

  14. There is something about outlaws that seems to capture our imaginations :-). Beats me what it is, but then what do I know? Do the statues actually draw tourists to the town or does the town just hope the statues will attract visitors? The pictures are wonderful. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  15. A brave article, you will have people against and pro Mr. Kelly. Whatever the opinion is, he must have had a hard life.


  16. HiYa Red: Your sure do have some gamely people with statues representing them, such as Ned Kelly and I believe I have read others on your past posts. I was wondering if he only dawned his home-made plate metal armour and helmet at the last stand off or if it was a regular outfit when resisting the Anglo-Australian ruling clas; however, I did my own research and found out the whole story, which I have to say was a fine read. Great Post Red and very, very interesting. Wikipedia also has a good run on the rest of Ned Kelly’s Life. Thanks 🙂

  17. Ned Kelly statue is HUGE!! So that is where the saying ” Such Is Life ” came from. Hmmmm I wonder where the saying, Life Goes On came from??

  18. That giant statue is almost as big as the stories they tell.
    I love the bread tin one.
    I’ll have to go and see that myself one day.
    Where’s my map…….

  19. I’ve been wanting to go to Glenrowan to get a photo of this Ned. I remember your post with Bread Tin Ned in Jerilderie.

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