Joe Byrne was born around 1857. His father died when Joe was 12 years old. Byrne went to school with Aaron Sherritt, another member of the Kelly Gang, and they later served six months together for the unlawful possession of meat. Later Joe was fined for the illegal use of a horse. Byrne was a good shot and fine horseman. He practised riding down steep gullies for fun. He could speak fluent Cantonese having grown up amongst the Chinese diggers, which came in handy during his numerous visits to their opium dens.
Byrne became friends with Ned Kelly in 1876 and trusted him completely. He is remembered as Ned Kelly's lieutenant. Ned saw Joe as a wise, patient guy. Joe's high-heeled boots were his trademark, being referred to as larrikin heels during late nineteenth century Victoria. Byrne was seen as one of the most glamorous gang members with his handsome colonial boy charm and his strong opposition to police law and order. He was reputed to have a number of girlfriends in the towns of the Kelly country and, at the height of the hunt for the gang, he used to slip into Beechworth to drink in the back bars of hotels there. All this bravado however, did not prevent him from murdering his one time best friend Aaron Sherritt whom Joe believe rightly or wrongly to be a police informer.
Joe Byrne was shot in the groin while enjoying a final beer in a Victorian pub. Accounts say that, a moment before the bullet struck Joe Byrne dead, he offered the toast "Here's to the bold Kelly Gang!" Another report states that he said "Many more years in the bush for the Kelly Gang!" The police dragged the body of Byrne from the burning Inn moments before the entire building was engulfed in flames.
Byrne was just 23 years old when he was killed. Until recently, he was buried in the Benalla cemetery in an unmarked grave, however, today a grave stone marks his final resting spot.