Book with confidence
Our COVID-19 flexibility promise
We’ve Got Neds Head! - Thats Ned Kelly

Nothing fuels the flames of New Zealand and Australian ‘Trans Tasman Rivalry’ more than the Aussies taking claim to Kiwi icons. The Kiwi's gripe list is large and ranges from the pavlova (a desert), Phar Lap (a Horse), Split Enz (a Band) to the more recent icons of Russell Crowe and Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes. But now a great-granny from New Zealand may just have the ultimate bargaining chip to get them all back because she says she's in possession of one of Australia's most sought after relics: Ned Kelly's skull. 

The Wild Colonial Boy to the Iron Outlaw

The bushranger known as Ned Kelly is Australia's greatest folk hero. He has been memorialized by writers, painters, musicians, and filmmakers. More songs and books have been written about Ned and the Kelly Gang than any other group of Australian historical figures.

Ned Kelly

Edward "Ned" Kelly (June 1854 or 1855 – 11 November 1880)  

He was born in Victoria to an Irish convict, and as a young man, he clashed with the Police. Following an altercation near his home in 1878, police instigated a manhunt. After he allegedly killed three policemen, the colony proclaimed Kelly and his gang were wanted men - Dead or Alive! Kelly and his gang began robbing banks in small country towns to survive. Soon the bounty was increased to a  massive 8,000 pounds,  the largest reward that had ever been offered in the British Empire. Throughout his time as an outlaw, Kelly had become a people's champion. He was considered the modern-day Robin Hood, and his popularity was such that he thought no one would betray him - he was wrong. The final showdown took place at Glenrowan when an attempt to rob a train on 28 June 1880 went terribly wrong. Ned was dressed in his famous home-made plate metal amour and the iconic post box helmet. Ned was captured and sent to jail. He was convicted of three counts of capital murder and hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol in November 1880.

Ned Kelly's Armour

Ned Kelly's Death Mask

In the 19th century, it was common for plaster 'death masks' to be made of the face of executed criminals. If ever the police wanted to show off its ability to capture a notorious criminal, it was after the execution of Ned Kelly, who, with his gang, had eluded police for years. So when Ned was dead, several death masks were made of his skull. One was put on display in Bourke Street and was no doubt a source of fascination for the Victorian public. Another is now in the Library's collection.

Ned Kellies Death Mask

The Kiwi Connection

A New Zealand granny says she has Ned Kelly's skull, one of Australia's most sought-after relics.

Anna Hoffman, 74, was given the skull 30 years ago while on holiday in Melbourne by a security guard who told her it was "Ned's head". When she read recently that the famous outlaw's skull was missing, she was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. The discovery has raised the interest of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, which matched Kelly's remains to the DNA of a surviving relative. Ms. Hoffman, who courted notoriety as a witch in the 1960s and '70s, said she was given the skull by a mysterious uniformed man at a family dinner in 1980. "We got talking about skulls and the next day he turned up with this skull. He said it was Ned Kelly's skull, and told me to 'put it in the bottom of your bag and wrap it up'." Hoffman said she had cared for the remains - one of more than 20 skulls in her collection.

"I have treated it with respect, I haven't lit candles in it or drunk red wine out of it or anything bohemian like that."

Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine spokeswoman Deb Withers said on Sunday it was keen to learn more. "There is a chance that that is his head, although it is a long shot," she said. "That would be wonderful if it was." Descendants will bury his remains in private, but appealed for the skull that was stolen from an Old Melbourne Gaol display case in 1978. "That got me thinking, so I contacted my friend in Melbourne and next thing you know I have three pages of media people to call back," said Ms. Hoffman. "I'm going to see an archeologist and get a few clues about it and then I would give it back to the family, but no one else. I am just going to keep him safe until I find out anything more. He sits on the piano, but I might have to hide him after this." 

First Light Travel Australia is proud to be an Aussie Specialist - a designation awarded by Tourism Australia, and your guarantee that our travel consultants are experts in Australian Travel. If you are traveling to Australia then who better to give you the best advice than an Australian specialist travel agent...

Brent Narbey
Submitted by
Brent Narbey
: 26 Jun 2017 (Last updated: 13 Jun 2019)

Subscribe to our blog

Sign up to our blog newsletter to get the latest updates.

*We will not spam your email, this newletter is sent once a month or so.