Ned Kelly's last words: 'Ah, well, I suppose'

Stuart E Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


It has long been widely, even admiringly, held that Ned Kelly’s last words before
execution were “Such is life”. This is a key part of a prevalent Kelly mythology that has been subject to little serious critique. Yet the attribution of the phrase ‘Such is life’ to Kelly is pure fiction. Analysis of the reportage of the day reveals Kelly’s actual last words, and explains how they were transmuted by one journalist into the catchy expression quoted as fact by many historians. It shows that the image of Kelly standing tall and defiant, saying ‘Such is life’ as the rope was placed around his neck, is nothing but a highly romanticised myth. In fact, Kelly came to an ignominious, mumbling end on the scaffold, a far cry from popular legend.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-50
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Ned Kelly
  • Edward Kelly
  • Kelly Gang
  • Ned Kelly facts
  • Ned Kelly bushranger
  • Ned Kelly museum
  • Old Melbourne Gaol
  • famous last words

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