In a dusty country cemetery, Ned Kelly finally granted his dying wish
A man pours beer on the mounds of dirt where Ned Kelly was buried on Sunday at the Greta cemetery. Photo: Joe Armao JAA
THEY gathered on the cracked earth of a small country cemetery to grant Australia's most notorious bushranger his dying wish.
Ned Kelly's descendants finally got their chance to bury the outlaw's remains in the cemetery at Greta, a short drive from his famous last stand at Glenrowan in Victoria's north-east.
The family had arranged a white marquee where they interred the coffin near the unmarked grave of Kelly's mother, Ellen. It was buried deep in the ground and surrounded by concrete to prevent looting.
Ned Kelly - finally laid to rest
A service at St Patrick's Church in Wangaratta is held for Ned Kelly who will be buried at Greta after he was hanged in 1880. The coffin in taken into the church. Photo: Angela Wylie
A statement released recently by the family had said the burial was Kelly's last request before he was executed in 1880.
Kelly's brother Dan and fellow Kelly gang member Steve Hart are also buried in the cemetery.
It drew a steady stream of visitors throughout the day. Afterwards, Kelly buffs took pictures and shared theories about the bushranger's exploits around five dirt mound graves left behind after the marquee came down. It's believed the extra mounds were created, side by side, to deter grave robbers.
The burial of Ned Kelly at Greta cemetery. Photo: Joe Armao
One tattooed bloke tipped beer on one of the mounds, presumably a gesture to the outlaw's legendary rebellious spirit. Others might have thought it disrespectful.
The Greta graveyard, surrounded by yellow paddocks, baked in the mid-morning sun during the burial. Joanne Griffiths, Kelly's great-grandniece, said it was a ''fantastic achievement'' to grant Kelly his final wish. ''The day's not about judgment, it's about burying a family member,'' she said.
She recalled that her grandparents' eyes had welled with tears when the subject of Ned Kelly's death was raised.
A light green hearse carried the coffin laden with flowers to the cemetery's gates where hundreds of people were waiting.
More bunches of flowers with cards written to Kelly leaned against the cemetery's fence posts.
The hot, dry gravel crunched underfoot as a bagpiper led the crowd to the grave site.
The family asked that the public stay outside the marquee so they could complete the service in private. The burial attracted Ned Kelly folklore tragics, bikers and curious onlookers.
A piece of Kelly's skull was buried with his remains but the rest of it is yet to be found.
''He had a price on his head even in death,'' Ms Griffiths said.
But more chapters have yet to be written in the Ned Kelly story. After the service the legal representative for some of Kelly's descendants, John Suta, said the family could lodge an appeal for an official pardon. ''I'm going to recommend to the family they consider instructing me to seek a pardon,'' he said.
Mr Suta said they could argue Kelly had not received a fair trial.
Ms Griffiths said she was aware of the possibility of seeking a pardon ''but it's just not the day to be talking about it''.
She hoped the grave site would not become a shrine. ''The idea is just to put him to rest.''