It was a fresh Spring mornin’ with a chill in the air when I first stepped into the State Library of Victoria on Swanston Street. The kind of Spring morning that has the hairs on your arms standing on end. I’d moved from Sydney a few months earlier, looking for one more adventure before I kicked the bucket. (Yes I’ve started a bucket list and yes, I’m halfway through it already) It was November 2006, I took the tram from Docklands on my way to see Ned Kelly’s armour of course! For those that don’t know Kelly was a bushranger and outlaw, a legend in Australia convicted of three counts of willful murder and sentenced to death by hanging at Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880. He famously crafted a suit and helmet of armour to protect himself against the bullets of the law. There have been many stories written about Ned Kelly and several films too. Australia is credited with making the first feature film in 1906, nine years before America made Birth of a Nation, simply titled The Story of the Kelly Gang. Since that film a lot of actors have played Kelly. Mick Jagger of course played the bushranger on film in 1970 while Marianne Faithful (his girlfriend at the time) overdosed in a city hotel. Reg Livermore was another who thought he’d have a crack at the legendary hero with Ned Kelly the Rock Opera. It almost ended Reg’s musical career. In 2003 Heath Ledger donned the armour and did battle at Glenrowan with Geoffrey Rush in tow. So, with Ned Kelly mania swimming around in my mind, I quickly dressed and headed for the State Library which holds the famous armour, looking for adventure and looking for Kelly. The first person I noticed as I entered State Library was a guard in a uniform. Could he be related to Kelly I pondered? Probably not I decided and continued looking for Kelly. I was slightly hung over I recall so I asked him if there was a coffee shop in the building, hoping a coffee would ease my headache. At that stage there was no coffee shop so I pushed the thought of a hot coffee out of my mind and made my way up to the 5th floor on the hunt for Ned Kelly. I remember the sight of the La Trobe Reading Room stealing my breath clean away. I stood for a long time looking at the view and thinking about my journey from Sydney to Melbourne, and my journey in life from boy to manhood. I prayed under the great dome and hoped that I’d find a good job, somewhere, but where and what? I longed to find creative work. Get back into writing and directing after many years working on events and venue management. I finally found the armour shinning like a beacon as I turned a corner, Kelly’s death mask near by, eyes closed shut. I studied the mask carefully and wondered how much strength it took for Ned Kelly to fight off the law, fight for what he believed in. I wondered if he knew the outcome of that final fight in advance whether he’d have taken up the fight. Who knows…Such is life, I thought to myself.
I checked out the other exhibitions and had a coffee in Queen Victoria building when I’d finished. I remember thinking over coffee that everything about the State Library of Victoria was grand. Something I still believe today. Many month’s later, on Artshub I noticed an advertisement for a job which read… Staff Required – State Library of Victoria. Must be creative. So, I applied. Over 300 people applied for work at the State Library of Victoria, something that even today staggers me. And the rest, like Ned Kelly himself…is history.
About the author: Since first sighting Kelly’s armour, Noel Anderson works flexible hours at the State Library of Victoria. His play Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame will be performed in the raw at the Jewish Museum of Australia in May 2015. Noel recently co-wrote a musical called Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our Assets and is looking for financial angels. The musical is a six year labour of love and you can find the songs on YouTube and can like the musical on Facebook.