Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hill End artist Rebecca Wilson's exhibition KATE KELLY - Sister of an outlaw

"I see Kate as a strong female figure of skill, adventure, love and spirit. At the same time, like all of us, she was flawed, complicated and probably misunderstood". Rebecca Wilson, 2015 

Kate Kelly (1863 - 1898) was a younger sister of Ned Kelly, the notorious bushranger.
With support from campaigners for the abolition of capital punishment, she approached the Governor of Victoria to plead with him to spare Ned's life. As a folkloric icon, Kate Kelly has appeared as a character in films, novels and was the subject of a song by the pop group the Whitlams.

Kate's life was filled with tragedy, overtaken by exceptional events. She married William "Bricky" Foster in Forbes when she was pregnant with their first child. An excellent horsewoman, she rode as a decoy for the Kelly gang and was known for delivering supplies and ammunition when the gang was hiding - out. She even once took a bullet, according to "Bricky's relatives. She became a celebrity after her infamous brother Ned Kelly was hanged in Melbourne Gaol in 1880.

After the Kelly gang's demise, Kate tavelled widely with her older brother Jim, performing on horseback and exhibiting weapons and other Kelly memorabilia, until she moved to Cadow Station near Forbes to escape the limelight. Kate's life ended abruptly at the age of 36. She was found dead, possibly through suicide,  in Forbes Lake about a week after she had been reported missing. Kate's surviving brother Jim collected her three remaining children (three others had died) and "Ma Kelly" (Ellen) then raised her grandchildren at Eleven Mile Creek.

Artist Rebecca Wilson grew up in Forbes, where Kate Kelly spent the final years of her life and it was Rebecca's relatives who gave Kate Kelly, then known under the alias Ada Hennessey, her first job as a domestic servant at Cadow Station.

Ms Wilson is a famous descendant of the pioneering couple Pierce and Mary Collits, who founded the heritage listed Collits Inn at Hartley Vale at the western edge of the Blue Mountains. It is well known that Pierce collits, who had been transported to Port Jackson from London in 1801 for receiving stolen goods, had many connections with bushrangers in his days running the Inn. It is likely that the Collits' and their descendants had closer dealings with the Kelly gang than is fully recorded.

As part of a long-term project, Wilson has researched the life and times of Kate Kelly for many years. She has fond memories of late uncle telling her stories of how lovely Kate was, in tales that had been passed down to him by relatives. The local lore holds that Kate was an extraordinary woman who found herself in extraordinary circumstances. In her ongoing series of paintings, Wilson has felt compelled to provide a personal view of Kate's life and how it intertwines with her own family history.

To hear more on this extraordinary story of Kate Kelly, go to
 You Tube interview with Rebecca Wilson on Channel Studio 10
Hidden history of the Kelly Gang.

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