109 days of cycling - Benalla to Wangaratta via Ned Kelly country.


Before leaving Benalla, a quick visit to the Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop memorial at the rose gardens was definitely on the agenda. Weary Dunlop (D Force) headed a revisit back to Singapore (Changi Prison) in 1991 which my Uncle, Jack Butt, was part of. I've since seen a photograph of the POW tour group and assume that my uncle, now deceased, knew Weary well. The monument shows Weary and another Doctor supporting another POW who looks like he is on his last legs and in serious need of medical attention. A rose garden surrounds the memorial statue with a rose dedicated to Weary Dunlop (The Sir Weary Rose) who saved hundred of lives in POW camps during the construction of the infamous Thai Burma Death Railway where my father William Sams and uncle Jack also suffered at the hands of their Japanese captors during their captivity.
May they rest in peace.
I was certainly getting deep into Ned Kelly country on route to Wangaratta today. On arriving in Glenrowan I sensed the real Ned Kelly looking over my shoulder as I stood with my mate Brian "Ned" Kelly (who served with me in the army) in the Main Street of town, knowing that a statue of the real Ned Kelly stood behind us.
Edward "Ned" Kelly (December 1854 - 11 November 1880) was an Australian bushranger of Irish descent.
Kelly was born in the British colony of Victoria as the third of eight children to an Irish convict from County Tipperary and an Australian mother with Irish parentage. His father died after serving a six-month prison sentence, leaving Kelly, then aged 12, as the eldest male of the household. The Kellys were a poor selector family who saw themselves as downtrodden by the Squattocracy and as victims of police persecution. Arrested in 1870 for associating with bushranger Harry Power, Kelly was first convicted of stealing horses and imprisoned for three years. He fled to the bush in 1878 after being indicted for the attempted murder of a police officer at the Kelly family's home. After he, his brother Dan, and two associates fatally shot three policemen, the Government of Victoria proclaimed them outlaws.
During the remainder of the Kelly Outbreak, Kelly and his associates committed armed bank robberies in Euroa and Jerilderie, and murdered Aaron Sherritt, a friend turned police informer. In a manifesto letter, Kelly—denouncing the police, the Victorian government and the British Empire—set down his own account of the events leading up to his outlawry. Threatening dire consequences against those who defied him, he ended with the words, "I am a widow's son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed."
When Kelly's attempt to derail and ambush a police train failed, he and his gang, dressed in homemade suits of metal armour, engaged in a final violent confrontation with the Victoria Police at Glenrowan on 28 June 1880. All were killed except Kelly, who was severely wounded by police fire and captured. Despite support for his reprieve, Kelly was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, which was carried out at the Old Melbourne Gaol. His final words are famously reported to have been, "such is life".
Even before his execution, Kelly had become a legendary figure in Australia. Historian Geoffrey Serle called Kelly and his gang "the last expression of the lawless frontier in what was becoming a highly organised and educated society, the last protest of the mighty bush now tethered with iron rails to Melbourne and the world." Despite the passage of more than a century, he remains a cultural icon, inspiring countless works in the arts, and is the subject of more biographies than any other Australian. Kelly continues to cause division in his homeland: some celebrate him as Australia's equivalent of Robin Hood, while others regard him as a murderous villain undeserving of his folk hero status. Journalist Martin Flanagan wrote: "What makes Ned a legend is not that everyone sees him the same—it's that everyone sees him. Like a bushfire on the horizon casting its red glow into the night."
Another fantastic welcome on reaching Wangaratta. Local folks, RSL members and veterans were waiting for me in front of what's to be the new Wangaratta RSL (2017). Lt. General (Rtd) Ash Power headed a welcoming committee at a local function as I arrived on one of the most beautiful sunny days of my whole journey since leaving Perth. A warm day and lots of warm welcomes from individuals during a organised sausage sizzler for the long ride home team. Well done Wangaratta RSL and thank you Ash Power for your outstanding welcome speech on arrival. We wish you the best with the plans for the new RSL which I believe will be ready in 2017, as mentioned, all planning going to schedule.
It is always appreciated by the long ride team passing through towns on route and when local folk come out in support of PTSD awareness. Most certainly that was no different in Wangaratta as Ash Power highlighted during his speech; in support of younger veterans who suffer from that most terrible disease as he embraced the long ride home cause for being a big success in raising awareness in support of them.
Warmest regards to those who are supporting the PTSD awareness cause and a big thank you to the latest donors who have kindly donated over the last couple of days, they are:
* Lt. General Ash Power AO, CSC ( retired ),
* Wangaratta RSL,
* Brian Vearing,
* Chris Amos, and
* Jeff Renkin
Wangaratta is a cathedral city in the northeast of Victoria, Australia, approximately 250 km (160 mi) from Melbourne along the Hume Highway. The city had an estimated urban population of 18,158 at June 2015. The original inhabitants of the area were the Pangerang Aborigines (Pallanganmiddang, WayWurru, Waveroo), who spoke a Gunai language. Many of the Pangerang were killed in the Gippsland massacres.
The first European explorers to pass through the Wangaratta area were Hume and Hovell (1824) who named the Oxley Plains immediately south of Wangaratta. Major Thomas Mitchell during his 1836 expedition he made a favourable report of its potential as grazing pasture. The first squatter to arrive was Thomas Rattray in 1838 who built a hut (on the site of the Sydney Hotel) founding a settlement known as "Ovens Crossing".
The name Wangaratta was given by colonial surveyor Thomas Wedge in 1848 after the "Wangaratta" cattle station, the name of which is believed to have been derived from an indigenous language and meaning "nesting place of cormorants" or "meeting of the waters". The first land sales occurred shortly afterward and the population at the time was around 200. The first school was established by William Bindall on Chisolm Street with 17 students.
Gold was found nearby at Beechworth in February 1852 and by the end of the year more than 8,000 prospectors rushed the fields of Ovens and Beechworth. Wangaratta became a major service centre to these goldfields. As a result, the first bridge over the Ovens was completed in early 1855.
The 1870s saw the settlement establish a number of key infrastructure and services including the first water supply. Wangaratta hospital was opened in 1871 and the fire brigade was established in 1872. The railway to Melbourne was opened on 28 October 1873.
On 28 June 1880 in the nearby small town of Glenrowan located some 10 km away the final shootout that led to the capture of Australia's most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly occurred.
The population at the turn of the century reached 2,500 and the centre had developed an imposing streetscape of hotels, commercial public and religious buildings.
Wangaratta was proclaimed a city on 15 April 1959 with a population of 12,000 people. New municipal offices were opened in 1980 which became the headquarters of the Rural City of Wangaratta after the amalgamation of municipalities in 1995.
Truck on the long ride home, getting closer to the border of the states of Victoria and New South Wales.