TOP SECRET FILE: KELLY GANG TRANSLATOR
Updated: Mar 19, 2021
NAME: JOE BYRNE
Scale of Notoriety:
While the Kelly Gang is infamous, not much is known about Joe Byrne’s past or personal life aside from his relationship to Ned Kelly. Joe Byrne was a Cantonese speaker! Growing up he regularly interacted with the local Chinese immigrant community and learnt the language from them by ear and became a pivotal part of the Gang's translator.
Scale of Influence:
While not as well-known in comparison to Ned Kelly, Joe Bryne’s contributions to the Kelly Gang did a lot to cement the Gang’s name into history. In addition to his letters and poems, Joe Byrne also designed the Kelly Gang’s iconic armour, and legend has it that Ned Kelly stint to start an independent republic in northeast Victoria was in large part propelled by the public support they gathered through Bryne’s letters.
Deceased. RIP in Benalla, Victoria, Australia.
Joe Byrne was born the eldest son of eight children. Throughout his schooling years, he did very well in school and had an aptitude for language, a trait which helped him in his later bushranging years. However, despite his academic talents, he spent much of his youth dedicated to helping his family out of poverty, even leaving school when his father died to become the main provider for the family.
Over time, his relationship with his family soured as he took up a life of crime. His criminal activity soon led him to become acquainted with the Kelly brothers and was inaugurated as a part of the Kelly Gang on 26 October 1878. By the following month, the Kelly Gang were made out to be outlaws, with a reward of £2000 offered for them dead or alive.
The Kelly Gang eventually met their end at the siege at Glenrowan. Bryne was killed by gunshot and was afterwards buried in an unmarked grave on the edge of the Benalla cemetery.
Joe Byrne’s parents were Irish immigrants. His father, born in County Carlow, was the son of an Australian ex-convict, while his mother was from County Clare and had travelled to Australia due to the Great Famine.
Outlaw Skills - The man was Ned Kelly’s right-hand man – and for good reason. Joe Byrne was a good shot, good horseman and good at living in the bush, which made him hard to catch by the police.
Writing Talent - Another skill which made Joe Byrne such an asset to the gang. Joe Bynre helped Ned Kelly craft many of the letters and bush ballads famously associated with the Kelly Gang today, including the the famous Jerilderie letter.
Loyality - Joe Byrne was present at all of the Kelly Gang’s major scuffles, and had a major hand in planning all their schemes.
“Good” Times - Joe Byrne was hopelessly addicted to sex, drugs and alcohol, which hindered him greatly later in life.
Fierce Temper - Joe Byrne could get riled up easy, and had a hard time backing down.
Joe Byrne can speak Cantonese! Growing up he regularly interacted with the local Chinese immigrant community and learnt the language from them by ear.
Nadya Labiba is an Indonesian-Australian currently in her fourth year of Journalism and Languages and Cultures at University of Technology Sydney. Aside from interning at Captain Bagrat, Nadya is an avid community volunteer and a published contributor at Central News.
Bevin Liu is an ABC (Australian-born Chinese) in every sense of the word. Thinking that her life was set on a law degree, she is now going into the third year of her undergraduate degree in Journalism and International Studies (Majoring in China). On top of occasionally dropping into Captain Bagrats, she is working as a journalist for a regional newspaper, as the planning editor for Central News and trying to balance it with her new responsibilities as a member of UTS’s Academic Board. She would dabble in her love for animals and strange things through the university’s Cat Society and StartUp Link in her spare time.