Ada Waldron was a key character in the unraveling of the mystery, as no one of the same name has been documented as knowing the real Ned Kelly or being connected to his gang. She was an entirely new character to this now mythic story, suggesting her uniqueness to this specific retelling. During the late 1890s and early 1900s, the Kelly story was popular among theatrical troupes, with versions of the events recounted in theatres all over Australia. Yet none of these versions were known to have a character named Ada Waldron. She remained shrouded in mystery until now where we see her named in the fragment’s inter-titles.
Perth collector Daryl Binning donated the 35mm nitrate film fragment to the NFSA in 2008. Understood to be the original, Binning was given the footage in 1967, when a copy was made at the National Film Archive (then located within the National Library of Australia). It made an appearance in an ABC documentary in the 1970s and was also shown on Channel Seven Perth in 1979 where Sylvia Neave, one of Alfred’s nieces and performer in Wild Australia, saw it. She also had a copy of the film on 16mm amongst other information and photographs of the performance that have also emerged.
This breakthrough has lead to the unearthing of information on the festival and Wild Australia’s ‘Kelly’ performance, but little is known about why this film was made. In the performance’s program, only a few names have been attributed to the cast of characters in the live production – F.W. Trott as Ned Kelly, Dan Seymour as Aaron Sherritt, Miss Berrill as Mrs. Sherritt, and Little Elna or Miss Neave as Ada Waldron. The latter name, Miss Neave, either refers to Gladys Neave, another of Alfred’s nieces, or Sylvia. While it can be speculated that some of these performers also appear in the filmed version, there is still a question around exactly who played whom. What is certain is that the program also unveils the details of the plot that directly match the film’s events… further evidence of the film’s origins.
Reference to the film has been found in a copy of The Bioscope, a UK film trade magazine published between 1908 and 1932. Distributed by the Co-operative Cinematograph Company, the film Wild Australia and another called The Kelly Gang were released in December of 1911, on the 14th and 27th respectively. According to the brief Bioscope reviews, Wild Australia was a recording of the troupe’s entire program performed at Crystal Palace, implying the inclusion of ‘The Kelly Gang’ scenario. Although not explicitly stated, The Kelly Gang listing points to a release of the performance as a separate film.