Steve Hart

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Steve Hart
Steve Hart2.JPG
Steve Hart's armour
Born1860
DiedJune 28, 1880
Cause of deathUnknown, possible suicide

Steve Hart (1860 – June 28, 1880)[1] was an Australian bushranger and a member of the Kelly Gang. A close friend of Ned Kelly's brother, Dan Kelly, Hart was caught up in the murder of three policemen at Stringybark Creek. He was killed during the siege at Glenrowan, Victoria.

Early life[change | change source]

Hart was born at Three Mile Creek, near Wangaratta, Victoria, in 1859. His parents, Richard Hart and Bridget Young had come from Ireland. They had other children, Richard 'Dick' Hart (Jr.), Hugh Hart, Thomas Hart, Nicholas Hart, Esther 'Ettie' Hart, Jane Hart and Winifred Hart.[2]

Hart was a small man, and a very good horse rider. His brother Nicholas was a jockey.[2] One story says Steve worked as a jockey around Beechworth and Wangaratta, and won 'The Benalla Handicap' after a protest was upheld.[3] He did not open farm gates, and always jumped them with his horse.

Crime[change | change source]

In 1877, Hart was sent to Beechworth Gaol for 12 months for stealing 13 horses.[4]:100 He met Dan Kelly while in prison.[2] When he was let out of gaol he went to Bullock Creek to look for gold with Dan Kelly. He is reported to have said here's to "...a short life, and a merry one."[4]:100 He was at Bullock Creek while Dan and Ned Kelly were in hiding from the police. The gang, which on that day included Joe Byrne, heard gun shots and discovered a police search party camped nearby at Stringybark Creek. The next day the gang went to the camp to take the policemen's guns. Three policemen were killed and the gang were made outlaws, which meant that they could be captured dead or alive for a reward. At this time the police did not know Hart was a member of the gang. As a member of the Kelly Gang he often rode around in women's clothes to avoid being caught.[5] During the search for the Kelly Gang, the police were told to stop women riders to see if they were really women.[1] The stories of how Ned's sister, Kate Kelly, did things to help the gang, were probably really about Steve Hart.[6]

Bushranger[change | change source]

Hart took part in the bank robberies at Euroa and Jerilderie. At Euroa he met an old school friend of his, Francis 'Fanny' Shaw (sometimes known as Maggie Shaw) and through her, the police found out his name. Hart also stole a watch from Robert Scott, the bank manager. When a bank worker, Bob Booth, asked him for something to remember the visit by, Hart gave him a lead bullet carved with the letter 'H'.

At Jerilderie in 1879, the Kelly gang held many people hostage in the Royal Hotel before robbing the bank.[7] Hart stole a watch from Reverend Gribble, a parson at the Protestant church.[8]:369 Ned told Hart he was a common thief and made him give the watch back.[8]:369 After Jerilderie, Hart went into hiding with the gang for most of 1879, although Hart did go to a St.Kilda doctor to be treated for a foot problem.

Glenrowan[change | change source]

Greta Cemetery, where Steve Hart is buried in an unmarked grave

In June 1880 Ned Kelly came up with a plan to get his mother released from prison. Dan Kelly and Joe Byrne went to Beechworth and killed their friend Aaron Sherritt who they thought was a police spy. They knew this would bring many police by train to Beechworth to capture them. In the meantime Hart and Ned Kelly had gone to Glenrowan and forced railway workers to pull up the train tracks.[9] They hoped the police train would crash, and then wearing home made armour they would capture the surviving policemen.[4]:153 These would be held as hostages until Ellen Kelly was set free.

Hart and Kelly forced many people of the town into a small hotel owned by Ann Jones. They were joined by Dan Kelly and Byrne who had ridden quickly across country from Beechworth. They waited at the hotel for the police. The plan failed when news of the Sherritt murder took a long time to reach Melbourne. The people kept at the hotel were becoming difficult to keep under control. Ned Kelly let one man go free at 3.00am, the school teacher Thomas Curnow, who said he had to get home to his wife. Instead he went to the train line and was able to stop the police train safely.[4]:158 The police went to the hotel and began shooting.[9] It is estimated that 15,000 bullets were fired.[10] Joe Byrne was shot dead in the front room of the hotel. Ned Kelly left the hotel in the early morning, probably to meet with other men who were going to help him capture the train. He was captured by the police.

At 10.00am the police were forced to stop shooting to allow some of the hostages to escape. Several, including the hotel owner's son had been shot dead. Dan Kelly's sister, Maggie Skillion, and a Catholic priest Father Gibney tried to go to the hotel to tell Steve and Dan to give themselves up, but were stopped by the police. The police wanted a cannon to be sent from Nelbourne so they could blast the two men out.[4]:162 At 2.30pm the police set the hotel on fire, and Father Gibney rushed inside.[4]:162 Gibney saw the bodies of Hart and Dan Kelly lying side by side in a room at the back of the hotel, with their heads resting on blankets.[4]:162 They had removed the armour which was placed beside them. It is most likely they had killed themselves.[11]

Death[change | change source]

The bodies of Hart and Kelly were badly burned during the fire. People who saw the burned and blackened bodies were unable to tell which was Dan Kelly and which was Steve Hart.[12]:30 Hart's body, little more than a blackened stump, was taken by his brother, Dick Hart, and buried at Greta Cemetery the following day, June 29, 1880, in the same grave as Dan Kelly.[11] He was 21 years old. After the grave was filled in, the whole area was ploughed over to keep the site of the grave hidden.[12]:206 The family was worried that the police would still try to get the bodies. Hart's armour is now on display at the Victoria Police Museum in Melbourne.

Over the years there have been claims that Hart and Dan Kelly did not die at the hotel, but escaped and went to live in Queensland.[13] A man named Billy Meade, as he was dying in 1938, told a nurse he was really Hart.[13] Another story says Hart and Dan Kelly went to South Africa.[14] After serving in the Second Boer War; also called the South African War, they went to India, where Hart is said to have drowned himself in Calcutta in 1917.[15] There is no evidence to prove these stories.[11]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Hocking, Geoff (2002). Bail Up: A pictorial history of Australia's most notorious bushrangers. Noble Park, Victoria: The Five Mile Press. ISBN 978-1-86503-913-8.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Obituary - Stephen (Steve) Hart". Obituaries Australia. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. 2011. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
  3. "Steve Hart". ironoutlaw.com. 2011. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 McQuilton, John (1979). The Kelly Outbreak 1878-1880. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 0 522 84180 5.
  5. "The Mansfield Murders". Australian Newspapers, National Library of Australia. The Argus. January 4, 1879. p. 7. Retrieved March 8, 2010.
  6. "Steve Hart 1945". nla.gov.au. Retrieved March 8, 2009.
  7. "THE KELLY GANG OF BUSHRANGERS". The Western Australian Times. Perth, WA: National Library of Australia. March 7, 1879. p. 4. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Boxall, George (1908). "History of the Australian bushrangers". archive.org. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Glenrowan Heritage Precinct". Heritage Places and Objects. Heritage Council of Victoria. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
  10. "Bullets from Ned Kelly's shoot-out at Glenrowan found". heraldsun.com.au. May 5, 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2011.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 "Bailup.com - let the truth be known". www.bailup.com. Retrieved March 8, 2009.
  12. 12.0 12.1 McMenomy, Keith (1984). Ned Kelly — The authentic illustrated story. South Yarra, Victoria: Currey O'Neill Ross. ISBN 978-0-85902-122-7.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Green, Glennis (December 18, 2007). "DNA may solve Steve Hart mystery". Herald Sun. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
  14. "A Ridiculous Legend Revived". Sydney Morning Herald. July 19, 1902. p. 9. Retrieved March 4, 2010.
  15. "Memories of the Kelly Gang". Australian Newspapers, National Library of Australia. The Mercury. February 18, 1919. p. 4. Retrieved March 8, 2010.

Other websites[change | change source]