Such is life

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April 10th 2010
Published: May 5th 2010
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Two extra bushrangers!Two extra bushrangers!Two extra bushrangers!

Beth (in pink) and Ken in the Kelly Gang armour!
Day 349 - Bridge Creek (Mansfield)

After our few days out bush we can’t deny it was nice to have a hot shower this morning! Everyone was having a bit of a lie in this morning, the last Saturday before the end of the school holidays. We wanted to find out a bit more about the animated theatre at Glenrowan which depicts ‘Ned Kelly’s last stand’. Ken and Beth have mentioned that they’d love to go and a quick phone call to the chap that runs it gave us the all clear that the place is open today and we’d easily be able to get on to any of the 40 minute ‘tours’. Perfect!

Zoe wasn’t being left out (it’s not that we don’t love her as much as the other two!) but she’s got a party to go to so wasn’t available to join us on the trip. Aswell as enjoying ourselves in Glenrowan, our second mission was to find something suitable to wear at a movie premiere this evening. It’s a bit of an unusual invitation but we’re very excited as we know one of the ‘stars’. All will be revealed!

The drive out to Glenrowan is about an hour and a half. Keeping the kids entertained is getting easier now we’ve introduced them to ‘The Boxer’ (Simon & Garfunkel) and the whip sound that can be made over and over again throughout. Both Ken and Beth grab coat hangers to use as whips for visual and sound effects! So long as they’re smiling we don’t mind what they do!

And so to the days first subject; Ned Kelly. Edward ‘Ned’ Kelly was born in Victoria to a convict father of Irish descent. In 1869 Ned was arrested and charged with assault against a pig farmer - Ah Fook (honestly!) - at the tender age of 14. From that point on he seemed to be high on the police hit list. Events took a serious turn when Ned and his gang overpowered and murdered three policemen from Mansfield at Stringybark Creek. This turned the gang into outlaws and made it possible for anyone to shoot them. The gang raided the National Bank at Euroa and came away with £2260 pounds, more than $100,000 in new money. Then came another bank robbery where the gang broke into the police station at Jerilderie and dressed in the officers uniforms to mix with the locals pretending they’d been sent over from Sydney as reinforcements! Here they robbed the bank of £2414 and burned the mortgage deeds for all the townspeople - was it acts like the later that brought the Kelly gang so many sympathisers.

Glenrowan became a major part of Kelly folklore when the gang took 70 hostages at the Glenrowan Inn as part of their plan to derail a passenger train carrying a police detachment. The plot was foiled by a released hostage, Thomas Curnow, who then went to stand on the railway line to stop the train before it would be derailed. The result was a dawn siege at the inn which went on for 2 days and the loss of life for all but one of the Kelly gang despite them wearing their trademark armour. Ned survived to stand trial but was hanged 11th November 1880 at Melbourne Gaol for the murder.

All of the above is the ‘official’ story and today we’ve come to the animated ‘Ned Kelly’s last stand’ theatre to see it brought to life. The theatre was put together by Bob and Margaret Hempel whom we meet on the way in. He’s a real character and we could just tell this was going to be a treat one way or another. Bob’s grandson Jessie is on tour guide duty today and he leads us into the first section of the theatre where we sit and wait for the ‘show’ to begin. The lighting is dull until there is a flicker from the candles above the fireplace and then a wizard starts to tell Ned’s story. Ken and Beth sat between me & Darryl on the front row bench and were clued to the hologram wizard. The only time they took their eyes off him was when the books on the table started to move, the hands on the wall clock began to whiz backwards and the spiders in the window scuttled up and down! Spooky!

From here we go through to the inside of a tavern to find Ned serving behind the bar. There’s a guy asleep & dribbling over a table, another swinging from the rafters and another peeing in a bucket! The story continues and builds up to the point the Kelly ‘gang’ arrive at Glenrowan and find themselves under siege from officers of the law.

As we walk outside to the open air we find ourselves in the middle of a shoot out with (statue) members of the Kelly gang and officers of the law all around us. The next bit takes us inside again and this depicts how the gang felt under siege in the Glenrowan Inn when their time was coming to an end. As we huddle together in the dark listening to the gun shots, the place fills with smoke and there’s a loud bang as the roof collapses! Even though I suspected something like that was going to happen I was still the one to scream. Darryl, Ken and Beth just had huge grins across their faces!

Then finally we are seated in a small room with a coffin in front of us. Its Ned’s coffin and the song ‘Such is life Ned Kelly, such is life’ is playing in the background. The final section of the story tells how Ned was the only member of the Kelly gang to survive the Glenrowan siege and when he was tried at the Melbourne Gaol he was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. Oddly the judge and Ned exchanged words after the sentencing when the judge told him ‘May God have mercy on your soul’ to which Ned replied ‘I will see you there when I go’. Ned was hanged on 11th November 1880 and 12 days later the judge died from an abscess in his neck. Folklore has it that Ned’s head was used as a paper weight following his hanging and remained in Melbourne Gaol for sometime, its whereabouts these days however are unknown! The last little fright attempt was the flinging open of a trap door above our heads and Ned’s legs hanging down. Poor Ned.

From here young Jessie leads us back to the main entrance but we have to go via ‘Pops’ theatre where all the grandchildren come on a Saturday night to watch movies. What Bob has created here is amazing and so well thought out. It really brings the story to life and we really enjoyed our visit here, the kids are almost immediately desperate to go round it all again it was that good! Bob says there are still areas that he wants to work on but our feedback is that it’s just great the way it is. A must do if you’re anywhere near high country Victoria.

We headed over to one of the many cafes in the town and indulged in a hot chicken roll. They had some kiddie sized versions of the Kelly Gang armour so Beth & Ken had a great time dressing up as the bush rangers before we took the walk around the town which takes in all the significant areas involved in the day of the Kelly Gang siege.

The last thing for us to do was raid the gift shops which, for once, we actually made a determined effort at! Beth melted all our hearts when she found a couple of little gifts for herself but also picked out a present for older sister Zoe. What a gorgeous attitude for a six year old to have. To be honest the gift shops here are the best we’ve seen for miles around as they’ve got large ranges of Australiana giftware rather than the usual ‘Made in China’ tat that you so often find.

With all the happy shoppers bundled back into the car we legged it off home. We can’t hang around because we need to get some new runners (trainers) for Beth on the way and we still have to find something really swish to where to the movie premiere tonight.

One out of two wasn’t bad. We found the exact runners that Beth needed but Op Shops in Benella and Mansfield were closed by the time we got to them so now we’re going to have to rely on Mark & Simone’s wardrobe.

Luckily they came up trumps and after a quick shower we were ready to mix it up with the stars at the ‘black tie’ event. Jake has offered to kid sit tonight so we leave them all to have what we suspect will be a complete riot and head off with Simone behind the wheel.

Missing Puzzle productions is the brain child of (among others) Christopher Leunig who’s partner Sarah is the daughter of Simone’s work colleague (and very close friend) Jenny and her husband Ross. The venue for the premiere is their rammed earth home which even in the dark is absolutely stunning both inside and out.

The star tonight is the beautiful Monnie, a valued colleague and friend of Simone and Jenny’s. She played the farmers wife in tonight’s feature short film ‘Shooting at Clouds’ and they’ve even prepared a red carpet for her to walk down. Lots of effort has been made to ensure tonight is a really swanky affair and one lady (Jane) even went to the trouble of bringing along her own pet lion named Leo! Luckily he was well behaved all night and didn’t even pull off his lead. Good on your Jane!

We met some fabulous people tonight, Jane & Jeff, Wendy, Sue & Marty with their daughter Megan and of course our hosts Jenny & Ross. The short films were really interesting to watch and included ‘Train Bound Track’ (focused on the dangers of trespassing on railway lines), ‘Shelf Life’ (depicts a man being driven mad by a bleep which he thought related to the smoke alarm battery being flat but it was the battery on his pace maker!) and ‘The trouble with bait and bubblegum’ (story of a young boy desperately trying to catch fish but he only seemed to attract rubber!). There were a couple of others we watched too but they were all building up to the main event and Monnie’s screen debut, 'Shooting at Clouds' which tells the story of the harsh reality when drought takes hold on a farm.

It was fabulous and there was much applause for her performance. Afterwards a short ‘academy awards’ presentation took place and Monnie was delighted to receive a ‘Golden Gnome’. Her speech was just terrific, infact she’d got her hands on the gnome before it had even been confirmed she’d won!

Food, wine, laughter and fine company saw to it that we had a terrific night and when the time came for us to climb back in the Landcruiser for home we realised just how good a night some of us had been having! Their secrets are safe with us!

Jake was still up and about when we got home but all we were fit to do was flop into bed and hope for a speedy recovery in the morning!

Dar and Sar

Additional photos below
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6th May 2010

I have not been to Glenrowan for about 20 years ... the museum looks like a lot of fun.
6th May 2010

It's great!
We had a ball there and the kids just loved it. Well worth a visit in our opinion!

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