John Murphy as Ned Kelly. Photo: Ken Irwin
A hold-up was held in a bank in Beechworth on Saturday, and the manager and staff knew all about it.
But they weren't aiding and abetting a group of criminals. By entertaining tourists as part of Ned Kelly weekend - including the pretend police firing off a few blanks from antique guns at the pretend criminals in the main street - they were filling the coffers of the north-east Victorian town.
Gareth Kay, manager of the Bendigo Bank, whose staff dressed in 1870s period costume, agreed it was unusual for a bank to participate and reckoned more mainstream banks would not agree to it.
Some of the ladies at the Ned Kelly re-enactments at Beechworth. Photo: Ken Irwin
''It's about participating in our community so if there's a festival we get involved in it.''
Among events held for Ned Kelly Weekend was a re-enactment of the 1880 committal trial of Kelly in the town's courthouse after the siege of Glenrowan, 60 kilometres away; and the burning down of Annie Jones' pub during the siege. The latter didn't actually happen in Beechworth, but this is the heart of Kelly country, organisers say. And the re-enactment didn't actually involve burning down a pub; due to Occupational Health and Safety, gas flames were ignited next to a timber replica of a grog shop on Saturday night in the town's police paddock. But you got the drift.
Ned Kelly Weekend co-ordinator Ian Sinclair said the 19th century Kellys came to Beechworth quite often, albeit usually under arrest, but also to watch parades and run errands.
Mr Sinclair, who plays Ned's defence lawyer, David Gaunson, and a policeman at various re-enactments, says the Kellyphiles - ardent members of the public who follow all things Kelly - and the volunteers who dress up to re-enact Kelly story scenes, have a ball, not to mention fattening the tourist industry coffers. Keeping a close eye on Saturday's events, including Kelly's ''arrival'' at Beechworth's now disused railway station and his committal hearing at the town's perfectly preserved courthouse, was Kelly's great-great-grandniece Joanne Griffiths. Ms Griffiths said she was keen to see how her family's story was being portrayed, and to be on hand to challenge misinformation about the Kellys.
The Kellys of old would have been pleased to learn that Ned was played by a real Irishman, John Murphy, a fitter and turner of Nagambie who is fully supportive of Ned as hero.
He said he answered an advertisement 18 months ago. They were looking for someone with an Irish accent and a beard. Mr Murphy is so convincing that last year a Kellyphile followed him around. ''He seemed to believe I was Ned.''
Paul Hayes, 51, who came down from Brisbane for the two-day event, said he'd been enthralled by the drama of the Kelly story since age six.