Almanac Poetry: Fake Ned


Fake Ned – Concerning a photograph taken around 1875, at one time supposed to be of the bushranger



(In 2002, a photograph was auctioned at Christie’s in Melbourne as a previously unknown image of Ned Kelly. The picture had been authenticated for the auction house by a major Kelly expert who did much excellent work concerning Ned – but, in this instance, he was soon proved in error by a university specialist in forensic identification. To his credit, the Kelly expert admitted his error.)




James Bray of Beechworth, Victoria,
personal photographer
to the Kelly gang,
took the picture in question.
At some point in their lives,
each of its members
had his photo taken at Bray’s:
Ned in boxing attire, fists raised,
fresh from conquering Wild Wright;
Dan, an insecure teenage boy
in an older brother’s too-large clothes;
Joe Byrne, sans beard,
dapper and urbane,
the bush larrikin only revealed
by the flared riding pants and spurs;
Steve Hart, the sometime jockey,
beady-eyed and wary.
Even Aaron Sherritt, later shot by Byrne
for betrayal,
had his picture taken by Bray,
ironically the only Kelly
supporter to be photographed
as an official sympathizer,
wearing his hat strap under the nose
“Greta fashion” …
Then there’s the picture at issue,
purported to be Ned
in his “quiet man” sawmilling days,
but it’s clearly of some bushy
(bearded, yes,
that’s the only similarity)
at least a decade older
– I knew that at first glance.
But the noted Kelly specialist
was convinced the photo was of his man,
so keen was he
for something new about Ned.
Obviously, he couldn’t see for looking
– but wishing has never made anything so.



The ‘Fake Ned’ photo, taken around 1875. (Sourced with permission from the Iron Outlaw website.)




Read more from Kevin Densley HERE. Kevin’s latest poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, is available HERE


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Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His work has appeared in print in Australia, the UK and the USA, as well as on many online venues. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for films with a tertiary education purpose.


  1. I’m related to the Bray’s on my mother’s side.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Interesting, Dips.

    James Bray seems to have taken just about everyone’s picture in the North-Eastern Victoria of his era.

  3. I’ll check into it Kevin. I have a beautifully written and comprehensive family history written by my dear old uncle – RJW Selleck. The Brays feature in it.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Ah, now this is getting even more interesting, Dips!

    Ancestors of mine (surname Duance, from Cornwall) settled in the Clare Valley, South Australia, area in the 1850s, and lived among Brays and Sellecks at various times. Indeed, around 1940, the Main Street restaurant and grocery store in Clare was called Selleck & Duance.

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