The major in his red coat, overseeing his men muster their cargo of convicts, lifted his sight momentarily to admire the fine new Bull Wall at the Dublin port. It was surveyed years earlier by Captain Bligh, the same man who had been governor of the colony where this ship was bound.
Major Peter Cheape and a contingent of his 96th Regiment was escorting 182 convicts to Van Diemen’s Land. Cheape was destined to end his service in India and a member of his family to become England’s greatest polo player. In contrast, one of the convicts was Red Kelly, and he was fated to father Australia’s most infamous bushranger.
This year is the 175th anniversary of John ‘Red’ Kelly’s transportation from Ireland in 1841, and the 150th anniversary of his death in Australia 25 years later.
Compared to the vastness of Australia, Ireland is a small country. There’s an even smaller triangular region in the south which claims the best known presidents of the United States of modern times.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s ancestral homes are in Dunganstown, County Wexford, and Bruff, County Limerick. The neighbouring county of Tipperary boasts Barack O’Bama (sic) Plaza, a roadside stop just outside Moneygall, County Offaly, the current president’s ancestral home. Also in Tipperary is Ballyporeen, the ancestral home of Ronald Reagan. The locals once packaged dried mud and sold it to Americans as part of his presidential homestead.
In the middle of them all is Moyglass, County Tipperary, the ancestral home of Ned Kelly. Go there and you’ll see the gaol where Ned’s father Red was locked up for stealing cows, the police station where the pig stealing incident was first reported, and the site where Red was born.
“There’s a small engineering company up there with a picture of Ned on the side of their van, so I went off for a look,” an avid reader of History Out There, Owen from Waterford said this week.
When asked about a great landmark for the Australian outlaw, Owen replied somewhat laconically, “There’s no monument, just a pub.” Hoards of summer tourists and tour guides? “No, it’s a ghost village,” he said referring to the fact that he didn’t see even a solitary living soul there.
There’s a stone wall outside the pub. On the wall, overgrown with ivy, is a picture of Ned and his Kelly family tree. They’re all ghosts now in the sleepy Irish village, an eternal tribute by the folk of Moyglass to their son Red, his notorious offspring, and the people of Australia. Major Cheape is long forgotten.
Click here to see the original 1988 Irish television story on the discovery of Ned Kelly’s links to Moyglass