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Eighteen-hundred and seventy-eight
Was the year I remember so well.
They put my father in an early grave
And slung my mother in gaol.
Now I don't know what's right or wrong
But they hung Christ on nails.
Six kids at home and two on the breast:
They wouldn't even give her bail.
Poor Ned, you're better off dead;
At least you'll get some peace of mind.
You're out on the track, they're right on your back -
Boy, they're gonna hang you high!
You know I wrote a letter 'bout Stringy Bark Creek
So they would understand
That I might be a bushranger
But I'm not a murdering man.
I didn't want to shoot Kennedy
Or that copper Lonigan.
He alone could have saved his life
By throwing down his gun.
I'd rather die like Donahoe,
That bushranger so brave,
Than be taken by the Government
And treated like a slave
I'd rather fight with all my might,
As long as I'd eyes to see;
I'd rather die ten thousand deaths,
Than die on the gallows tree. †
You know they took Ned Kelly
And they hung him in the Melbourne Gaol.
He fought so very bravely
Dressed in iron mail.
But no man single-handed
Can hope to break the bars.
It's a thousand like Ned Kelly
Who'll hoist the flag of stars. ‡
†: A light rewrite of stanza 7 (of 8) "Young Ned Kelly" (or "My Name is Edward Kelly") collected <1959 by the Moreton Bay Bushwhackers (Queensland Folklore Society) and published Queensland Centenary Pocket Songbook, 1959, p. 16.
‡: A minor reworking of the last verse of John Manifold's "The Death of Ned Kelly", published: The Death of Ned Kelly and Other Ballads, London 1941.
Mudcat was invaluable for this one with the tireless Bob Bolton's work evident in the above lyrics and notes.
First recorded by Fotheringay, and later covered by Redgum as a traditional song, this song by Trevor Lucas is a standard in the Australian bush-band repertoire.
Here's the original: