McWhirter, John

Journalist John McWhirter (1851-1917) was born in Scotland. At the age of two, he and his family migrated to Melbourne. McWhirter’s journalism career began with The Bendigo Advertiser. He later joined Melbourne’s Age and was one of the four journalists  recruited to cover Ned Kelly’s last stand at Glenrowan in June 1880. The others were George Allen (Melbourne Daily Telegraph); Thomas Carrington (Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil), and  JD Melvin (Argus).

McWhirter and the three other journalists joined the special train that took a contingent of police to Glenrowan following the killing of Aaron Sherritt. The eye-witness accounts of McWhirter and the other journalists, particularly Tom Carrington’s reminiscence, have provided the foundation for the Kelly legend and its portrayal over the last 150 years in books, films, television programs, articles and artworks.

According to his obituary, McWhirter also worked for the press in New Zealand and New South Wales. Like the other journalists who covered the Glenrowan siege, he was a man of action and was remembered for swimming a flooded river to file a story for an (unnamed) Sydney paper on which he was a reporter.

Representative Article:

McWhirter’s article on the Kelly’s last stand was published in the Age on 28 June, 1880. Because of damage to the original, it is not easily available on microfiche in any form that can be easily read. It was republished, however, and at least sections of it can be traced in other newspapers, e.g. in the Leader.


  • “Obituary”, Bendigo Advertiser, 6 January, 1917.
  • Jones I (1995 / 2003) Ned Kelly: A Short Life, Lothian, South Melbourne.
  • McMenomy, K (2001). Ned Kelly: The Authentic Illustrated History, Hardie Grant BooksSouth Yarra.
  • Shaw, I. W. (2012) Glenrowan: The Legend of Ned Kelly and the Siege that Shaped a Nation, Pan Macmillan Australia, Sydney.