The Kelly brother who went to Hollywoodland

A single photograph from 1906 of a policeman on a horse is about to change Maylands author Norman Jorgensen’s life.

Mr Jorgensen was recently awarded a $30,000 grant from the WA arts department to write a book about the life of Jack Kelly, a WA policeman, international circus star and younger brother to the infamous Ned.

“I had been researching another book I had been working on about the Goldfields, and I came across this picture of a policeman on a horse,” Mr Jorgensen tells the Voice.

“It said ‘Jack Kelly, policeman, brother of Ned.’ And the more research I did, the more interesting he became.”

Jack was five when his brother took the long drop, growing up to tour the world as a stunt rider but returning when his children took sick. Despite Ned’s less than cordial relations with Victoria’s “traps” Jack happily donned the Royal blue.

Mr Jorgensen says Jack often played up his familial connections and portrayed Ned in re-enactments.

“To the working class Ned was a hero,” he says. “I think Jack played on it a fair bit.  He was obviously quite proud of him.”

When his wife died Jack’s wanderlust took hold again and he became a stuntman for Barnum and Bailey in the US. His horseman prowess reportedly led to him becoming a famous stuntman in nascient Hollywoodland, where he also taught stars of the day how to ride. He eventually ended up in Buenos Aires to teach horse-riding, where he died in 1956.

He eventually went to Buenos Aires to teach horse riding, and died there in 1956.

Mr Jorgensen’s grant will allow him to follow Jack’s globe-trotting footsteps, including to areas that back then would have been rough to say the least.

“He travelled the world in a time when many people didn’t,” Mr Jorgensen says. “I see him as a fascinating character, full of depth and contradictions.

“He makes the rest of us these days seem dull.”


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