ON THE NED KELLY TOURING ROUTE
Ned Kelly lived in Greta on Fifteen Mile Creek from the age of 12, when the family moved here after his father died.
The Kellys continued to live here after Ned was captured and hanged. Today the house site is privately owned by Kelly descendants and not open to the public. You won’t be able to see the house from the road and the large number of ‘no tresspassing’ signs should make things clear. We can only hope that one day there is money to pay for restoration and the place will be open to explore.
Greta is a rural district that has had four town centres over the years, all called Greta. The original township, now known as Greta West (not to be confused with the new Greta) was established in 1853 , on Fifteen Mile Creek. Greta West (pronounced ‘Greeta’, said to be named after the Greta River in Yorkshire, England) is 243 kilometres from Melbourne, 24 kilometres south of Wangaratta and 14 kilometres due south of Glenrowan. Its population is around 235.
The Old Sydney Road passed through Greta, so many travellers paused here on their way to the gold diggings at Beechworth and the Buckland Valley. Businesses sprang up to serve the diggers, including a coach horse changing station, blacksmiths, hotels and schools. Greta’s post office opened in 1863 (but has been closed since 1994). The industry included Ned’s mum Ellen’s sly grog shop. A widow with seven kids under 12 had to earn her living somehow – those slab walls must have seen and heard some things!
Greta was immortalised in the traditional bush ballad ‘Ned Kelly’s farewell to Greta’, which goes “Farewell to home in Greta, to my sister Kate farewell. It grieves my heart to leave you, but here I cannot dwell.”
The town also gave its name to of the ‘Greta mob’ – 30 to 40 ‘flash’ dressing youths who frequented dances and horseraces, liked to show off their horsemanship, draw attention with red sashes and fashionable clothes (including the boots with ‘larrikin heels’ and wearing their chin-strap of their hats under their noses ). Members of the Greta Mob became Kelly sympathisers and while they were in hiding would help them with food, keep them informed of police movements and so on.
Greta’s police station was established in 1865 due to concern about goings on in the area. It was from Greta station that Fitzpatrick, newly arrived, rode out to the Kelly house with a belly full of booze and glory on his mind – either from making a conquest with Kate or bringing in Dan, wanted on charges of horse stealing – the incident which kicked off the events that culminated in the standoff at Glenrowan.
However, that wasn’t Ned’s first brush with the law in Greta. He had been arrested at 14 and spent 10 days in lockup. Seven months later Ned was arrested with Harry Power and was locked up for 7 weeks. A couple of months later after an incident with a travelling salesman Ned went to gaol for 5 months. Three weeks after his release he was in trouble again for riding a stolen horse in town and the arrest attempt resulted in pistol whipping wounds on Kelly’s head and spur wounds in Constable Hall’s legs and backside! This time Ned served almost 3 years. He returned to Greta on his release in February 1874.
Greta was described in Royal Commission evidence in 1881 as “… always a bad district; it was a focus of crime “. Ned’s cousins Tom and Jack Lloyd had had run ins with the law and together with Ned were part of the Greta Mob.
After Ned’s execution, his family continued to live in Greta.