by Michael Adams
When it came time to hang Ned Kelly, the job fell to crap-carrier-turned-quack-doctor-turned-drunken-chicken-thief Elijah Upjohn. Such is life indeed.
Hanging Ned Kelly looks at the life and times, crimes and demise of Australia’s most famous antihero from a new perspective: that of the ‘rogue and vagabond’ who finally put the noose around his neck. Elijah Upjohn was the latest in a long line of flogging hangmen allowed to run amok because they’d do the dirty work that let officials keep their hands clean. Despite being duly appointed ‘finishers of the law’, Upjohn and his fellow boozing bunglers were so hated they were hunted by angry mobs. As one writer asked: ‘Who shall hang the hangman?’
In Hanging Ned Kelly, Elijah Upjohn’s tale becomes the rusty scalpel that slices open the underbelly of colonial Victoria. Written by Michael Adams, creator of the acclaimed podcast Forgotten Australia, this is an odyssey into an infernal underworld seething with serial killers, clueless cops, larrikin vigilantes, renegade reporters, racist settlers, furious fallen women and cunning waxworks showmen. Looming over them all: the depraved hangmen paid to execute convicted men and women – some of them innocent or unfairly condemned – in Melbourne before it was marvellous.