Ned Kelly’s shooting of George Metcalf, labourer

Stuart Edward Dawson

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A core component of the popular Ned Kelly myth is that he had never taken innocent life. Against this, there is a documented case in which he directly caused a quarryman’s death. George Metcalf was one of the persons made prisoner by Ned Kelly in Ann Jones’ Glenrowan Inn during the siege of 27-28 June 1880, and it has been widely held that he was injured, and later died, in consequence of a police bullet fired during the siege. Metcalf, who could not afford medical treatment, stated that his injury occurred while he was sheltering in a fireplace during the shooting, and his surgical and related costs were paid by the police. However, subsequent enquiries by a detective found that the injury was caused by Ned Kelly on the afternoon before the siege, when he accidentally shot Metcalf in the face while fiddling with a revolver he had taken from a gravel contractor that morning. The Metcalf story was effectively forgotten for a hundred years after Ned Kelly’s death. When it was rediscovered, following a series of Kelly histories critical of the police, evidence concerning Kelly’s responsibility for Metcalf’s injury was typically overlooked or disregarded by those who clung to a belief in Kelly as a heroic figure who was more victim than criminal. The case of Metcalf illustrates how ready pro-Kelly historians have been to blame the police for every misadventure in the Kelly saga. In fact, however, Metcalf’s death must be laid squarely on Ned Kelly’s hands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-93
Number of pages5
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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