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Gun stolen by Kellys up for auction

12 November 2007

A revolver believed stolen from a police constable in Victoria by the family of bushranger Ned Kelly will be auctioned in Melbourne on Tuesday night.

The .32 calibre revolver was found two years ago preserved in lard and wrapped in leather in a wall cavity at a house in Forbes, in central NSW, where Ned Kelly's sister Kate once lived.

Paul Sumner, of the Melbourne auction house Mossgreen Auctions, said the gun was believed to be the one taken from Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick, on April 15, 1878, two years before Ned Kelly's capture and execution.

Legend has it that Constable Fitzpatrick made lewd advances to then 15-year-old Kate when he went to the Kelly homestead at Glenrowan, in Victoria's north-east, to question Dan Kelly about a cattle duffing incident, Mr Sumner said.

Constable Fitzpatrick told his superiors he lost his revolver during a struggle with Kate's mother Ellen and her brothers.

Police searched the Kelly homestead several times for the missing gun, but never found it.

The revolver, made by A Henckell & Co, Solingen, was uncovered during the redevelopment of a house at Forbes where Kate lived the last 10 years of her life, from 1888 to 1898.

It has the initials "KK" inscribed on one side of the wooden stock and the insignia R*C on the crown, Mr Sumner said.

He said an examination by experts from the University of NSW had placed the revolver in the period 1870 to 1880.

"The gun was sent to the University of NSW for infra-red testing, where the signature has been proven to be prior to 1900, and most likely 1870s," Mr Sumner told AAP.

"So that means the KK on the stock is certainly of the period," he said.

"The gun was effectively stolen and hidden away, so there wouldn't be any photographs of it at the time.

"It's a little revolver with a big story behind it."

Auctioneers said the revolver was the same as those issued by the Royal Irish Constabulary, which provided officers to Victoria Police in the late 1800s and whose members hunted the Kelly gang in the period 1878-1880.

Mr Sumner said it was possible the gun may have been part of Kate Kelly's travelling roadshow of the Kelly Gang's relics in 1880.

Hounded by police after her brother Ned's hanging in Melbourne on November 11, 1880, Kate then assumed the aliases Ada Hennessy and Kate Ambrose, before marrying blacksmith William Foster at Forbes, on November 25, 1888.

Kate lived at the Forbes house until she drowned in a dam at the age of 35.

Mr Sumner said there had been interest from both private and public parties in purchasing the gun, which has a starting price of $100,000.

"We're not going to say who, but we have had inquiries from private and institutional groups," he said.

The State Library of Victoria, which already has Ned Kelly's armour and the original Jerilderie letter, has refused to say whether or not it would be bidding for the gun.

The gun will be auction at Mossgreen Auctions, in suburban South Yarra, at 6pm (AEDT).


This article can be found in the Sydney Morning Herald Online and Age Online - Monday, 12 November 2007.

© Copyright 2005 The Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria. All rights reserved.