Ned Kelly Photo Contributed
Ned Kelly Photo Contributed Contributed

Did Ned Kelly's lover and son live in Gympie?

EARLY last year, Victorian author Trevor Tucker published his debut novel, Ned Kelly's Son.

The book explores the possibility that the infamous bushranger fathered a child with a young Irish girl he met shortly before his last stand at Glenrowan in June, 1880.

It is based on conversations Mr Tucker had with an old man called Niall Kelly, who claimed to be Ned Kelly's son.

Mr Tucker told his local paper, The Gloucester Advocate, that he first met Niall when the man rescued him from a fast-flowing river in 1958.

Mr Tucker was 12 at the time.

In the years that followed he and his family grew close to the elderly gentleman.

The Advocate reported that not long before his death in the early 1960s, Niall told Mr Tucker's father the curious story of his parentage and life.

Born to an Irish migrant named Orla O'Meara, Niall claimed his mother had met and fallen in love with Ned Kelly six months before the outlaw was captured at Glenrowan in 1880.

HELP: Writer Eugenie Navarre is asking Gympie region residents to contact her if they have any information about Orla O’Meara.
HELP: Writer Eugenie Navarre is asking Gympie region residents to contact her if they have any information about Orla O’Meara. Nancy Evans / Dalby Herald

"It's often referred to as Ned Kelly's grey period where no-one really knew where he was or what he was up to," Mr Tucker told the Advocate.

"Orla had come to Australia to see the world and through friends at Wangaratta began working as a nanny. It was during this period while out riding her horse one day that she met Ned Kelly."

Mr Tucker said the pair became lovers and Orla fell pregnant.

While Mr Tucker calls his novel a "faction", he believes much of what Niall told his father was true.

Now another author, Eugenie Navarre, has taken up where Mr Tucker left off.

She is compiling a book of hidden stories surrounding Ned Kelly and wants to enlist the help of any Gympie region residents who may have heard about a time in the early 1890s, when Orla and Niall lived in Gympie.

A month after Ned Kelly was hung Orla gave birth to Niall, but because of the fear of persecution from authorities in Victoria, the baby's paternity was kept secret.

Orla and Niall left Victoria, bound for Queensland, taking with them a draught horse called Boss Boy.

Enroute to Gympie they met a man called "Owen", though nobody knows if this was his Christian name or surname.

He became her partner but it is uncertain if they wed.

"They were masters at hiding the facts and avoiding persecution," Ms Navarre says.

In 1890, they arrived in Gympie, more than likely to join the quest for gold.

But Orla and "Owen" instead started up a business in the cedar timber industry, milling the timber or carting it.

In 1894, possibly March 9, 1894, Orla and Boss Boy were at a Gympie mill when a stack of cedar logs collapsed on top of them, killing them both.

Niall was 14 years old.

He and "Owen" are eventually believed to have left Gympie, making their way back to Victoria.

According to Mr Tucker's book, there is evidence to suggest Niall went on to own property in the Gloucester area in the early 1900s.

Mr Tucker said he believed Niall left Gloucester in the 1930s and travelled to Tumut where he lived on another property he owned.

This is not Gympie's first link to Ned Kelly

GYMPIE resident Sean Ambrose uncovered some historical ties within his own ancestry recently: his great, great grandfather was known to Ned Kelly.

He had heard the stories as a boy but he never believed them.

"My grandfather used to tell me a story about his grandmother, who could recall as a child hearing her father talking with Ned Kelly in the stables. Her father said to Ned 'Please don't steal the horses'," Mr Ambrose said.

"I didn't take it seriously; I thought Pop was just trying to entertain."

He began his own research into his family's past in 2009.

"I came home from work and I put the ABC on and there was a program on about the Catalpa and the Fenians," he said.

"I was so intrigued because I'm fascinated by history so I started clicking over the story and I did some key word searches and I got a link."

That link took Mr Ambrose to a letter from Ned Kelly to Donald Cameron MLC.

"I went through the letter and I didn't sleep, it was like going down the rabbit's burrow.

"When I was reading through it, I came across my great, great, grandfather's name and I thought 'Pop's not telling stories'."

On the third page of the letter, Ned Kelly mentions William and James Ambrose.

Gympie Times

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