Maggie Kelly


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MARGARET MILDRED KELLY
BETTER KNOWN AS "MAGGIE"
SISTER OF NED KELLY
(1857 = 1896)

Compiled and written by Gary Dean & Dagmar Balcarek

MARGARET MILDRED SKILLION - LLOYD nee KELLY.

This remarkable woman was the fourth child of John Kelly and his wife Ellen, nee Quinn. She was born at Wallan on 15.6.1857 and christened by Father O'Hea at St. Pauls Catholic Church in Coburg. Margaret started her schooling at the Catholic School at Beveridge, and later, when the Kelly family moved to Avenel, she attended the Richardson's Church of England School in Avenel. Her father died in Avenel in 1866, and her widowed mother moved to Greta. A year after that Mrs. Kelly selected at Eleven Mile Creek.

There the older Kelly children had to help their mother with work on the selection, and that also included young Margaret.

At sixteen she married William Skillion, who was eight years older. He came from Donnybrook and had known the Kellys from childhood. Their wedding took place at the Primitive Methodist Church in Benalla on the 17th of September, 1873. The young couple also selected on the Greta road, very close to Mrs. Kelly, in fact, there was only one selection between them, that which belonged to William Williamson. Margaret still helped her mother when Ellen later married her second husband, George King, and had three more children, Ellen, John and Alice. In fact, when John was born, Margaret was present and acted as a midwife for her mother.

The Skillions had two children: A daughter Ellen was born in 1874 and son James in 1877.

The Monday 15th of April 1878 was the fatal day for the whole Kelly family. It was the day of the Fitzpatrick's incident that became the beginning of the Kelly tragedy. Constable Fitzpatrick gave false evidence to his superiors, but nevertheless, was believed by the police. In consequence to this, Mrs. Kelly, William Skillion and William Williamson were charged with aiding and abeting Ned Kelly with shooting with intent to murder Constable Fitzpatrick, they were tried at the Beechworth Assizes and sentenced by Judge Barry to long terms of imprisonment with hard labour.

For Margaret it meant that she lost her husband, and the children their father - and as it turned out, this was to be forever. The children were only small, Ellen was four and James just twelve months old.

The Kelly brothers, Ned and Dan, by then also wanted by the police, fled and hid in the bush.

William Skillion was not even present at the Kelly homestead when the fracas with Fitzpatrick took place; he was the victim of mistaken identity, for Fitzpatrick was drunk and took Joe Byrne for Skillion.

As for Williamson, he was splitting logs on his selection just half a mile from the Kelly homestead on that fatal day. However, the perjury of a police constable with a bad reputation won over the innocent poor selectors.

After the Royal Commission in 1881, Williamson was granted a pardon and released. He wrote about it: "I had sent a written statement of facts to the Commission. Some time after that I was told that I was granted a pardon; that was worse than the sentence. I was granted a pardon for the thing I did not do. The judge never read the evidence; he got it all out of the papers before the trial. The papers had us already convicted."

Mrs. Kelly was released on 7th February 1881. William Skillion was released on 11th June 1883, after having served the full sentence, although the police correspondence to Chief Commissioner Standish revealed a report that Joe Byrne, not Skillion, was present during the incident with Fitzpatrick! An embittered man, Skillion never returned to his wife and children.

Margaret was only 21 when she already had to face numerous difficulties and problems. There were only women and children left at home. Her sister Kate was 15, young Grace 12, but they had to share the work with Margaret, who took the responsibility for both selections, hers and her mother's. There were three little kids of her mother's second marriage to be looked after, for their father, George King, disappeared from Eleven Mile Creek before little Alice was born. There were great financial difficulties and frequent harassments from the police. The latter got worse when after the Stringybark shooting the Kelly gang were outlawed. Margaret had to face many more problems, but she was prepared to do everything possible to help her outlawed brothers, and so were her young sisters, for they were all completely committed to their brothers and their cause. They supplied them with food and clothes, ammunition and news, that were very important for their survival and safety.

Margaret feared nothing. She rode frequently to their hiding places, be it day or night and with the skillness of a daring horsewoman she led her horse "Lightfoot" through the rough and difficult country to reach them. The police did not intend to arrest her just yet, because they believed that she could lead them to the hide-out of the Kelly gang, that couldn't be found otherwise. They watched the Kelly house constantly, and also tried to follow Margaret whenever she rode her horse, but she was too clever for them. She led them on many a wild goose chase till they were absolutely exhausted. Then Margaret would sit herself down on a log and wait till they came nearer, when all of a sudden she would thumb her nose at them, jump onto her horse, and spurr him away into the bush leaving the exasperated police in the wind.

Together with her sister Kate, Tom Lloyd and Mick Nolan she went to Melbourne, where at Rossier's gunshop they obtained the appropriate ammunition the Kelly gang needed. This was a risky business, but they all were so well organised that they fooled the police who followed them all the way there and back. By the time the detectives searched Kate Kelly's large luggage on the way back between Winton and Glenrowan, the smaller parcel with the ammunition was already safely on its way to the Kelly gang hide-out. It didn't help the police to frighten the small children, nor did it help to drop strychnine baits around the Kelly home in an attempt to poison the dogs. Margaret stood firm, she quieted the children, and she kept the dogs muzzled.

The police had to find another strategy and they did so in the person of a man named William Donnelly. Once a friend of Wild Wright and a reputed cattle thief, he was now planted as a spy at the Kelly homestead by orders of no one smaller than Capt. Standish himself. It didn't take long for Margaret to work it out, and when she confronted Donnelly, he blabbed out everything and then better was on his way.

She was as tough a woman as her mother was. She never gave up, though she must have known that she was fighting a lost battle. She was courageous and persistant; she was the one who held the family together, she even found the time to visit her mother in prison frequently - the two women tried to console and encourage one another in this desperate situation.

She had only little formal schooling, but she was intelligent and aware. After the Jerilderie raid, she knew that her brother Ned had written a long and important document that was to be printed by the editor of the Jerilderie Gazette. Almost half a year had elapsed, but nothing happened, so Margaret enquired about her brother's document. In June 1879 she wrote to the editor: "You will oblige me very much, if you would send me this statement of Ned Kelly. He is my brother, and I would like to see it, to see what he has to say of his life. I would be very thankful to you, if you would send me the letter of Ned Kelly." The editor didn't have the courtesy to reply, but Margaret rightly presumed anyway that Ned's "Jerilderie letter" was in possession of the police.

With some hard saved money she tried to get a lawyer, who would organise a new trial for her mother, but her effort was in vain. In July 1879 she was prepared to build a new home, but was refused the title - on whose recommendation, it is obvious! She had hardly time for herself, for her privacy, hobbies or interests. Still, she managed to win the second prize in a Ladies' Hack Race at Moyhu. She also won the heart of the new man in her life. His name was Thomas Peter Lloyd.

He was the son of John Lloyd and his wife, Catherine, nee Quinn. He was born in Wallan Wallan on the 5th of November, 1857, and three weeks later christened at St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church in Coburg. Later he moved with his family to Greta.

An excellent horseman, a tough and courageous man, he was above all a true and loyal friend and cousin of Ned, and an indispensible ally to the Kelly gang. He was their scout and protector. Without his help and support the Kelly gang wouldn't have enjoyed their freedom as long as they did. Many Kelly historians tell about Tom being imprisoned with many others as a Kelly sympathiser in 1879, and ascribe to him sending the telegram home from the Beechworth prison: "Turn the four bullocks out of the paddock." (Obviously a warning message that concerned the Kelly gang). In fact, Tom Lloyd was not arrested as a sympathiser until after the telegram was sent, being taken in to custody on 10-3-1879 and released on 22-4-1879. It was his uncle, Thomas Lloyd (senior) who had sent the telegram.

Margaret and Tom were in constant attendance at Ned's trial, and were in Melbourne right up to the end. They desperately tried to help obtain a reprieve for Ned after his sentence, but their efforts were to no avail and all they could do in the end was bid him a last farewell.

Margaret and Tom lived under common law marriage as their religion would not have recognised Maggie's divorce had she obtained one. The couple had a large family; eleven children were born to them.

They were: Anne (later Mrs. Cook), Edward (the famous Ned Lloyd), Catherine (unmarried), John (died in infancy), Thomas (died in infancy), Mary (later Mrs. Stalesworthy), Maude (later Mrs. Murphy), Lilian (later Mrs. Hayes), Rose (later Mrs. Grogan), Mildred (later Mrs. Galleger), and Albert (nicknamed "Sonny" or "Bert", unmarried).

As a well recognised Kelly sympathiser, Tom at first was refused five times to obtain selection. Later, when the tragedy was over and Constable Graham was in charge of the Greta police station, Tom obtained his selection at last. The two men became close friends; Tom Lloyd said to Constable Graham: "How can you expect a man to lead an honest life, when you deny him the only way he knows to earn a living?" Tom became a successful farmer and a reputed horseman till old age. As a rough rider he was undisputably one of the best ones in the whole of Australia. About 1900 he and his cousin, Jack Lloyd performed with the famous Lance Skuthorpe in a show in Victoria and insisted that the money they earned be used for the erection of a new church.

Margaret, the courageous sister of Ned Kelly, died of rheumatic gout in Greta on 22nd January 1896; she was only 39. Within three years, Tom Lloyd married Rachel Hart in Wangaratta. She was the second youngest sister of Steve Hart, the youngest member of the Kelly Gang. The couple had six children:

Bodellia Agnes (Mrs. Smith), Veronica Hyacinth (Mrs. Davis), Gladys (Mrs. Freeman), Dorothy (Mrs. O'Keeffe), Thomas Patrick, and Leo Richard.

True to the tradition of their father, Tom, his sons were also excellent horseman. Edward, known as Ned Lloyd, is still remembered as "the one who rode before the King". He performed with the Australian Buckjumpers at the Crystal Palace in London in 1911, where he was met by his relatives, the famous Jack and Vi Kelly. A poster from that time reads: "Wild Australia, Grapho Winter Gardens, Horse Breaking! Ned Lloyd of Wild Australia will ride a four year old black mare, the property of Mr. F. Burman of Northampton. This mare is described as being an "Outlaw", having been given up by local horse breakers as absolutely unrideable and unmanageable..."

During 1934-35, Ned performed in a rodeo with McConvilles Circus. According to sources he was registered as unmarried, but legend has it that he had married his colleague, an English performer named Birdie, but the marriage didn't last. So far no official documentation has been found to support this theory, although they did live together. Tom's son, Thomas Patrick, yet another outstanding horseman, together with his brother, Leo Richard, rode with Thorpe McConvilles rodeo in the period of 1932-33. Thomas Patrick then joined the Victorian Police Force in 1934, breaking in horses and running the Stud Depot, training the police horses.

At the age of 59 he was riding at the Royal Melbourne Show when he had a fall off a horse fracturing his neck leaving him a part quadraplegic. Thomas Peter Lloyd, a great horseman and devoted Kelly sympathiser, died at the age of 70 at Greta on the 29th of August, 1927. A fine headstone at the Greta cemetery marks the grave of the man, who was often referred to as the fifth member of the Kelly gang. In the background of the headstone there is an unmarked grave of Margaret and three of their children. This brave and loyal lady, remains - in comparison with her sister Kate - an unsung heroine in the folklore of the Kelly era, but she should indeed be remembered for her hard work and utter devotion as one of the strongest characters in the Kelly story.

 

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