WAS JAMES RYAN – DAN KELLY ?
It is widely speculated that Ipswich General Cemetery is the final resting place for a member of perhaps the most infamous and notorious Australian family – the Ned Kelly gang.
Records show that in 1933 an elderly man known in the Ipswich area as James Ryan claimed to Brisbane’s Sunday Truth newspaper that he was, in fact Dan Kelly, the brother of Ned Kelly. An article which appeared on the front page of Sunday Truth dated 13thAugust, 1933, bore the headline: “I am Dan Kelly, Declares Aged Bushman – Thrilling Confession of days When Hold Up Terror Reigned”. The article recounted in graphic detail the adventures of the Kelly gang as told by James Ryan, or Dan Kelly.
According to this and other articles which appeared in the newspaper, James Ryan, or Dan Kelly, escaped from the siege at Glenrowan and headed to Queensland with nothing but a new identity. The newspaper reports that hundreds of historians from all over the country and even those who had associations with the Kellys could not disprove that James Ryan was truly Dan Kelly. Once in Queensland, the alleged Dan Kelly settled in a hut at Fairney View between Ipswich and Esk, 40 kilometres north-west of Brisbane.
On July 29, 1948 the 94 year old Dan Kelly aka James Ryan, was released from Royal Brisbane Hospital after a short illness and made his way to Ipswich that afternoon. At 9pm, he was walking along the main Ipswich-Brisbane railway line at the end of Wharf Street in Ipswich when he was struck by a coal train and decapitated. He was buried in this pauper’s grave on Jul 31, 1948, under the name J.Ryan. There is another twist to this intriguing tale, however. New evidence unearthed in a recent book suggests that Dan Kelly assumed Ned’s identity at the Glenrowan siege in order to protect his brother. Reputedly, it was Ned who managed to escape from Glenrowan and flee to Queensland. This would mean that on November 11, 1880, was Dan Kelly. If this is the case, the Ipswich General Cemetery could be the eternal resting place for the roving spirit of feared bushranger Ned Kelly.
We may never know who the character known in Ipswich as “James Ryan” really was, but one thing is certain. In the end, the deaths of James Ryan, aka Dan Kelly, and Ned Kelly, were met head-on. “SUCH IS LIFE”
Ipswich City Council