After 133 years, a letter containing an eyewitness account of the dramatic capture of Ned Kelly during the 1880 siege at Glenrowan has been donated to the State Library of Victoria by the descendants of its author – Scotsman, Donald Gray Sutherland.

The letter addressed to Sutherland’s family on 8 July 1880 proclaims ‘… the Kelly’s are annihilated. The gang is completely destroyed…’. It continues describing Kelly’s famous armour and the gunshot wounds that finally brought him down.

‘He was wounded in 5 or 6 places, only in the arms and legs – His body and head being encased in armour made from the moule (sic) boards of a lot of ploughs. Now the farmers about here, have been getting their moule boards taken off their ploughs at night for a long time but who ever dreamed it was the Kellys and that they would be used for such a purpose. Ned’s armour alone weighed 97 pounds. The police thought he was a fiend seeing their rifle bullets mere sliding off him like hail. They were firing into him at about 10 yards in the grim light of the morning without the slightest effect. The force of the rifle bullets made him stagger when hit but it was only when they got him in the legs and arms that he reluctantly fell exclaiming as he did so I am done I am done.’

Sutherland enclosed a lock of hair from Kelly’s horse with the letter, noting in the postscript, ‘The hair enclosed is from the tail of Ned Kelly the famous murderer and bushranger’s mare. His favourite mare who followed him all around the trees during the firing. He said he wouldn’t care for himself if he thought his mare safe.’

Sue Roberts, CEO and State Librarian described the donation of the letter as extremely generous and a significant addition to the Kelly story.

‘This letter is a very personal account of events that have become part of Australia’s folklore. We are delighted that Mr Sutherland’s family chose the State Library of Victoria as caretaker for this remarkable document. It will join Ned’s armour, Jerilderie Letter and other important items in our Kelly collection – one of the largest and most significant in the world.’

The letter will be on display in the State Library’s Changing Face of Victoria exhibition from Monday. It is also available online with a full transcript via the State Library website.

A new Ned Kelly app developed by the State Library explores the compelling details of Kelly’s life. With more than 60 pages of content and images of fascinating historical items including his armour, photos, letters and more, the State Library’s unique collection of Kelly material comes to life. It is free to download from iTunes and Google Play now.

About Donald Sutherland

Sutherland sailed to Australia in 1876 when he was 24. He worked at the Bank of Victoria in Oxley, eight miles from Glenrowan.

He moved from Victoria to NSW and was married for a short time before his death at age 36. He is buried in the Waverly cemetery in Bronte, NSW.

Discover more about Ned Kelly online:

Donald Sutherland letter

Donald Sutherland letter


This article has 4 comments

  1. Could you please tell us how long will this Letter be on display in the library. As we are from South aust. My husband is very interested in ned Kelly. And would like to come over and visit the library. .
    Thankyou Sonya Boehm.

    • Hello Sonya. The letter will remain on display in our Changing Face of Victoria exhibition until mid-November. The letter will be taken off display as we add new items to the exhibition between 18-22 November. I hope you and you husband can visit us before then. If you would like to view the letter online you can do so here:

  2. I note that Donald Sutherland worked in the Bank of Victoria at Oxley,as a former officer of the State Savings Bank of Victoria(later known as State Bank Victoria) I wonder if this Bank was a forerunner of the SSB/SBV.

    • Hello Julian,

      Thank you for your question. Some research by our librarians suggests that the Bank of Victoria was a separate entity to the State Savings Bank of Victoria. The website ‘Guide to Australian Business Records” has an entry for the Bank of Victoria at:

      “Registered in Victoria in 1852 by an Act of the Legislative Council, the company commenced operations in January 1853 as the Bank of Victoria. In 1889 the business was registered under the Victorian Companies Act and became known as the Bank of Victoria Limited. 1927 saw the company merge with the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Ltd.”

      According to the same website at:

      The State Savings Bank of Victoria began as the Savings Bank of Port Phillip in 1842 and then merged with the Savings Bank to become the State savings Bank of Victoria, in 1912. There was a name change to the State Bank Victoria in 1980. In 1991, the bank was merged into the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

      I hope this information is helpful.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *