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Fashioned from plough parts, heated in an improvised forge and beaten into shape over a green log, the primitive armour worn by Ned Kelly (1855–1880) and his gang at the siege of Glenrowan is as familiar today as the bushrangers’ exploits. The original armour was effective. The helmet alone stopped at least two bullets, thus saving Ned’s life. At trial, Ned claimed that he and his gang manufactured the armour for themselves; however, there was not a blacksmith amongst the gang so his statement was (at best) highly unlikely. Although the idea for bullet-proof armour was definitely Ned’s, he probably took credit for its manufacture to cover for the true maker, who would have faced prosecution for aiding the gang. Consequently, a certain degree of mystery surrounds the helmet. We will never know who made it and where it really came from. The two-day siege at Glenrowan, Victoria, in June 1880, began after Joe Byrne murdered Aaron Sherritt, a police informer, and the gang (Ned Kelly, his brother Dan, Byrne, and Steve Hart) then took the townsfolk hostage in a local hotel. Byrne was killed in the ensuing gunfight with the police, the bodies of Dan Kelly and Hart were later found in the ruins of the burned-out hotel. Ned Kelly was captured during an open shoot-out—his famous last stand. Kelly was sent to trial, found guilty and hanged. But even before his execution there were signs of the development of a folk hero: a massive public petition asked for a reprieve. His last words before the gallows were “such is life”.
AT LAST -- A NED KELLY HELMET THAT’S MADE TO BE WORN
To be (lidded) or not to be (lidded) that is the question… The original helmet (that we all know and love) displayed in Victoria, is incomplete. It is, by far, the main body of the helmet, but it’s not the entirety of Ned’s headgear. Parts are missing. It is fair to say that Ned Kelly’s original helmet definitely lacked a permanent metal top cover, but the gang must have possessed unspecified cloth, tin and/or leather fixtures to keep their helmets in place and comfortable. The steel parts of the original helmets were kept for prosperity, but their interiors were quickly lost or destroyed. It is not inconceivable that Ned’s helmet may have had a leather lid, or perhaps a detachable tin lid, affixed to the sets of holes visible on the upper portion of the helmet. These upper punch holes on the original have never been adequately explained, and the lid theory remains one of the more likely explanations. A simple lid would have helped balance, control and bear the weight of the helmet. It is logical that the requisite lid would not have been of the same thick steel, as this would have added to the already substantial weight but would have offered no additional bulletproofing. Rather than try to recreate a liner and fixing system which Ned might have used (an entirely speculative affair anyway) we have simply added a chinstrap which fits underneath a firm metal lid, made from the same steel as the rest of the helmet.
This lid can also facilitate a stand for easy display. With these features, this helmet can be comfortably worn - which makes it unique amongst Ned Kelly replicas. This lid is set one centimeter down below the rim of the helmet, so it is not highly visible. This helmet is designed to be worn for hours – not just for a couple of minutes. There is a fitted leather chinstrap to prevent wobble and it can be worn comfortably with a beanie. For maximum comfort we recommend that this helmet be worn with one of our arming caps (padded coifs). Please see our shoppe for further details. Sheepskin (or the like) can also be glued to the inside lid for further cosiness. These are excellent for re-enactors, and great for patriotic home decor, parties, commercial promotions, theatrical use, hotel & bar display, local museums and school education. This is a (properly) forged heavy steel helmet - some other helmets you may see on the market are merely "cut-outs", that is to say, the sections are cut from very thin sheets, then bent and hammered into shape - this makes them extremely light and tinny.
Attention to detail…. The original helmet has two bullet strike indentations left over from Ned’s last gun battle – the most likely culprit being the .45 cal Martini-Henry as used by the Victorian Police. These dents not only stand as tribute to Ned’s bravery, but also to the marksmanship of the Victorian police, who evidently scored two head shots on a distant moving target in conditions of near darkness. Both of these dents are faithfully reproduced, as are one regular circular hole and a part of a circular hole below eye slot (on the bevor). These holes belonged to the original plough share from which the helmet was made. They are the bolt holes which would have attached the plough share to its wooden frame. The smaller pairs of holes at the top of the helmet (also reproduced) were probably made to facilitate a lid or (some would contend) by the blacksmith to keep the helmet in place during its manufacture. The nuts holding the helmet together are not modern hexagonal nuts, but are the antiquated 19th century style square nuts as used on the original.