Albury author's story of a journalist meeting Ellen Kelly in her North East home

DECADES after the Kelly Gang's Glenrowan siege, an old woman is living at a Greta home when a man seeks cover from a storm.

The cottage's occupant is Ellen Kelly, mother of bushranger Ned, while the visitor is a journalist. What will be revealed? 

That is the scenario for Living Like a Kelly, the first adult novel of Albury author Dorothy Simmons.

She was keen to explore the Kelly story from a different direction.

“I think the whole villain-hero dichotomy really simplifies the thing,” Simmons said.

“For every larger-than-life, unforgettable person there are an awful lot of people who have been forgotten.

“Ned's story has been done to death, I didn't think I could add to that, but I thought a different perspective and a woman's perspective was worth looking at.”

A picture originally attracted Simmons to Ellen Kelly.

“I was visiting Beechworth Court House and there is a photograph of Ellen Kelly as an old, old woman with her grandchildren in front of her and there is something about her direct gaze," Simmons said.

“You wonder about all those things she had seen.”

Ellen Kelly died in 1923 in her 90s, more than 40 years after Ned Kelly was hanged in Melbourne for the murder of three policemen at Stringybark Creek.

Simmons believes oral tradition helped the Kelly legend survive in popular culture, despite the opprobrium from authorities for the bushranger and his gang.

She also thinks the positive dimension to a myth is stronger than its negative aspect.

“Why didn't he end up vilified like (fellow bushranger) Mad Dog Morgan, it was because there was a community telling his stories,” she said. 

Simmons first wrote of Ellen Kelly in The Notorious Mrs K., which appeared in The Best Australian Stories 2010 and told of her battles at Benalla police court.

“She was a remarkable woman and a hot-tempered woman,” Simmons said.

“She wasn't afraid to stand up for herself and those closest to her.

“I admire her courage, her spirit, her indomitably.”

Simmons, a native of Northern Ireland, moved to the Border in 1977 and has been an English teacher at schools in Albury and Wodonga.

She is tutoring English literature students at La Trobe University in Wodonga.

In the 1980s and 1990s she wrote four young adult novels.

Kelly historian Ian Jones helped Simmons research latest work.

She will be at Dymocks Albury book store from 11am Saturday signing copies of Living Like a Kelly.  

Branching out: Albury author Dorothy Simmons has focused on Ellen Kelly rather than her infamous son Ned. She says she admires Ellen as a remarkable woman who wasn't afraid to stand up for herself and those closest to her.

Branching out: Albury author Dorothy Simmons has focused on Ellen Kelly rather than her infamous son Ned. She says she admires Ellen as a remarkable woman who wasn't afraid to stand up for herself and those closest to her.