Leslie Kelly was educated in Auckland and in 1926 began working for New Zealand Railways as a cleaner in Wellington. He later worked as a fireman and became an engine-driver in 1947. He worked for the rest of his life driving a locomotive between Frankton and Auckland. Although he had no formal academic training, he undertook many years of research into the history of his people, with a particular emphasis on tribal traditions and Māori pa sites of the early period of contact with Europeans. Kelly was a frequent contributor to the Journal of the Polynesian Society. On August 6 1959 at the age of 53, he was killed only a few weeks after receiving the Māori name of Te Putu and passing an advanced technical examination on railway engines.
- Te Ao Hou 29 (1959): 3.
- Tainui: The Story of Hotoroa and his Descendants. Wellington, N.Z.: The Polynesian Society (Inc), Memoir No. 25, 1949.
- "Leslie G. Kelly - Te Putu." Journal of the Polynesian Society 68 (1959): 59-60.
- "Matakitaki Pa, Pirongia." Journal of the Polynesian Society 40.157 (1931): 35-38.
- Kelly discusses the remains of Matakitaki Pa north of Pirongia, which he visited in April 1930. He notes that this pa was composed of three pa in one: Matakitaki, Taurakohia and Puketutu. In May 1822 Hongi Hika captured Matakitaki Pa.
- "Okuratope pa in 1932." Stored in manuscript form in Hocken Library. Rpt. in The Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden. 1765-1838. Ed. John Rawson Elder. Dunedin, N.Z.: Coulls Somerville Wilkie Ltd, and A. H. Reed for the Otago U Council, 1932. 98.
- In his account of Samuel Marsden’s letters and journals, John Elder notes that Marsden visited the now abandoned Okuratope pa in early 1815. He includes a brief description and illustration of the pa written by Kelly in 1932.
- "In the Footsteps of Marion Dufresne." Journal of the Polynesian Society 42.166 (1933): 83-96.
- Kelly writes that he knows of no other account ‘that has attempted to identify and describe the various spots mentioned by our French visitors.’ Drawing upon Lieut. Roux’ journal and Crozet’s map, Kelly collected the Māori place names mentioned by the French. He was assisted by Hamiora Maioha, Neha Hakaraia and Kiritapu. He discusses his explorations of Marion Island, Te Kuri Cove, Orokawa Bay, and Tangitu Pa. The article concludes with a series of photographs of the area. In his later publication Marion Dufresne at the Bay of Islands, Kelly writes of ‘a number of errors, [in this article] in the placing of the hospital camp site, the watering-place and the position of Te Kuri’s village on the mainland.’
- "Mangatoatoa Pa." Journal of the Polynesian Society 42.167 (1933): 167-170.
- Kelly writes of Mangatoatoa Pa, the headquarters of the great Ngāti Maniapoto chief, Pehi Tukorehu, which was occupied by the Ngāti Ngawaero, Ngāti Kahu and Ngāti Unu. It was situated on the Puniu River. Kelly quotes from Tukorehu te Ahipu, a direct descendent of Pehi Tukorehu in order to source information on the status of the pa in time of Pehi Tukorehu’s time. He recounts a story of a proposed attack by Te Rauparaha on the pa around the time of 1820. Kelly notes that today Mangatoatoa has become part of a European farm and the pa trenches have been filled in. Kelly describes the remains of the site. He provides a whakapapa of Pehi Tukorehu beginning with Te Kanawa and extending to Tukorehu Te Ahipu.
- "Ngakuraho Pa, Hangātiki." Journal of the Polynesian Society 43.170 (1934): 101-105.
- Kelly writes of Ngakuraho Pa at HaNgātiki in the upper King Country near the Waitomo Caves, where Chief Tuirirangi resided in the time of Maniapoto c.1625. Kelly draws from the accounts of Whare Hotu of Oparure and Newton Moerua of HaNgātiki; he writes of an attack on the pa by Pakira of the Whanganui tribes which was averted by Tuirirangi making peace by sending his sister Hinemoana to Pakira’s taua. Kelly visited the pa site in November 1932; describes the site as it appeared at that time. He provides a whakapapa from Hoturoa to Tuirirangi through to Whare Hotu.
- "Kororipo and Puketona: Two Pa at Bay of Islands." Journal of the Polynesian Society 43.171 (1934): 187-191.
- Kelly draws on the childhood reminiscences of Rev. George Clarke who grew up in Kerikeri near Hongi Hika’s Kororipo pa. He also describes his own visit to the pa site in April 1934 in order to provide a brief historical and archaeological account of Kororipo pa and Hongi’s whakapapa. In the second part of the article, Kelly writes of Puketona pa near Waimate, noting that Puketona was a volcanic cone. A fortified village was built on the summit of Puketona. Kelly writes of the different tribal accounts concerning the pa.
- "Kahuwera Pa, Bay of Islands, in 1937." Journal of the Polynesian Society 47.185 (1938): 20-26.
- Kelly discusses an illustration of the Kahuwera pa dating back to the 1827 visit of Dumont D’Urville and his French expedition and reproduced in Marsden’s Lieutenants. Kelly decided to try and locate the original village site with Te Maioha of Nga Puhi in October 1937. In this article Kelly recounts the visit to the Paroa Bay headland; he describes other fortifications in the area and the difficulties in finding the Kahuwera pa. He concludes that the pa visited by D’Urville in 1827 was not the original site of Kahuwera but was an open village near the former fortified pa. He describes the archaeological remains of the original pa site and whakapapa notes.
- "Orongokoekoea Pa." Journal of the Polynesian Society 47.188 (1938): 145-152.
- Kelly writes that Orongokoekoea was one of four ancient Ngāti Maniapoto fortified pa in the upper Mokau area close to key Māori tracks, including the ‘ancient highway to Taranaki’. Orongokoekoea was home to famous Maniapoto chiefs including Potatau Te Wherowhero; it was also the birth place of Tawhiao, the second Māori King. Kelly writes an account of his visit with Te Hurinui to the pa in December 1934, and comments on ‘the ingenuity of the builders in planning the defences of their fortification.’
- "Fragments of Ngapuhi History: The Conquest of the Ngare-Raumati." Journal of the Polynesian Society 47.188 (1938): 163-172.
- Kelly provides an account by Kiritapu and her son-in-law Hamiora Maioha of the warfare between Nga Puhi and Ngare Raumati. They related this account to him during his visit to Moturoa Island in September 1937. Kiritapu also tells of her grandfather Tareha, a matakite, who lived at Moturua and who converted to Christianity. She describes Titore Takiri’s visit to England. Kelly includes the text of an oriori by Kaiteke entitled "He Whakaoriori na Kaiteke Mo Tana Tamaiti" and its English translation "A Lullaby by Kaiteke for His Son". The article includes notes and references to names supplied by Hamiora Maioha and Kiritapu.
- "Fragments of Ngapuhi History: Moremu-nui. 1807." Journal of the Polynesian Society 47.188 (1938): 173-181.
- Kelly provides an account of the Nga Puhi defeat by Ngātiwhatua at the battle of Moremu-nui. He quotes from Percy Smith’s Māori Wars of the Nineteenth Century and Kiritapu. Kelly concludes with the Māori text and English translation of a song composed after the Battle of Te Ika-a-ranganui; this song contains many references to Moremu-nui entitled "He Kaioraora no Ngātiwhatua".
- "Paratui Pa." Journal of the Polynesian Society 48.190 (1939): 129-134.
- Kelly observes that although some regard the fall of Orakau pa in April 1864 as the ‘final conquest of the Waikato people’, the Māori were still constructing further fortifications at HaNgātiki and Paratui just south of Orakau. Kelly gives an account of the Ngāti Maniapoto inhabitants of the area who date back to Rereahu’s settlement in the district on account of the bird-snaring forests. Kelly visited Paratui pa several times and took notes and photographs during a visit in June 1931. He describes the remaining extant trenches of the pa. Kelly writes that ‘Paratui should be acquired as a national reserve, being, as it is, one of the few remaining examples of post-European pa, and which illustrates so well the manner in which the Māori, with an ingenuity which astounded the British army engineers, was able to adapt his fort-building methods to withstand the assault of both musketry and artillery.’
- "Taupiri Pa." Journal of the Polynesian Society 49.193 (1940): 148-159.
- Kelly writes a description of Taupiri Pa situated on Taupiri Mountain which was built by chief Te Putu, a descendant of Hekemaru. Taupiri Pa had great strategic value in terms of its geographical site: it had a commanding view and was the confluence of several highways. When Te Putu was killed by Ngāti Raukawa chief Ngatokowaru, the pa was abandoned and left tapu. Kelly provides a description of the pa along the Waikato River in 1820.
- "Some Problems in the Study of Māori Genealogies." Journal of the Polynesian Society 49.194 (1940): 235-242.
- Kelly examines different aspects which can influence whakapapa. He discusses how whakapapa can be a means of determining time and demonstrating missionary influence.
- " Maungakiekie" in "Notes and Queries." Journal of the Polynesian Society 50 (1941): 170-172.
- Kelly adds supplementary material to F.G. Fairfield’s article on Maungakiekie in the Journal of the Polynesian Society 50.198 (1941): 92-103. This material was provided by Te Hurinui [Jones]. Kelly writes that after the death of the Ngāti Maniapoto ancestor Te Kawa-iri-rangi, Maniapoto sought revenge for the killing. This led to Wahanui’s successful attack on the fortified Maungakiekie pa. Kelly provides notes and whakapapa of chiefs Maungatautari and Wahanui.
- "Tapuariki and Raupa: With Remarks on Marsden’s Visit to Hauraki." Journal of the Polynesian Society 54.4 (1945): 199-211.
- Kelly provides historical and archaeological notes of Tapuariki pa and Raupa village, quoting extensively from Samuel Marsden’s journal accounts of June and July 1820 when he visited the area. These accounts are published by J. R. Elder in Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden. Kelly visited Tapuariki Pa in February 1945, and the village of Raupa in July 1945. He gives a description of the sites and provides three whakapapa tables.
- "Whare-taewa pa, Mercury Bay, 1952." Journal of the Polynesian Society 62.4 (1953): 384-390.
- Kelly writes that Whare-taewa, a former stronghold of Ngāti Hei, ‘enjoys the distinction of being the first Māori fortification to be described by Europeans’. On November 12, 1769 Captain Cook, Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Solander visited the fortifications. Kelly quotes from their writings and provides a description of the remnants of the pa site. He also writes a brief history of the Ngāti Hei tribe who were descended from Hei, a brother of Tamatekapua who captained the Arawa canoe.
- "Cook Islands Origin of the Māori." Journal of the Polynesian Society 64.2 (1955): 180-196.
- Kelly writes of the Rarotongan ancestor, Tangihia, who lived in Tahiti in the 13th century A.D. and was reputed to be a great voyager. After conflict with his cousin Tutapu, Tangihia was advised to settle in Rarotonga. Kelly compares Rarotongan and Māori legends and whakapapa, and concludes that ‘the Māori and Rarotongan are indeed closely allied in history and origin, but it is very noticeable that the Cook Island people now pretend to a far greater knowledge of the New Zealand canoes than their early history disclosed.’ Kelly recounts an Aitutaki account of Tai and his voyage to New Zealand and compares it with Māori traditions. Kelly disputes Cook Island traditions which would suggest that the fleet started from the Cook Islands.
- Tamaki-Makau-Rau. Map of the Tamaki Isthmus with Māori place names. Comp. Leslie Kelly. Redrawn by Jan Kelly and Jonette Surridge. [Auckland, N.Z.]: Department of Geography, U of Auckland, 1990.
- Tainui: The Story of Hotoroa and His Descendants. Wellington, N.Z.: The Polynesian Society (Inc), Memoir No. 25, 1949.
- In this story he ‘traces the history of the Tainui Canoe and its people down to the selection of the first Māori King’ ["Two Maori Authors." Te Ao Hou 2 (1952): 58.]
- Marion Dufresne at the Bay of Islands. Wellington, N.Z.: Reed, 1951.
- Kelly writes a detailed history of Marion Dufresne’s expedition to New Zealand in 1772 and the subsequent murder at Te Hue in the Bay of Islands on 12 June 1772. Kelly writes that he began his study of Dufresne after ‘reading the journals of his officers, and later living for a time in the actual locality where Marion and his men spent two months in the winter of 1772.’ At the conclusion of the book, Kelly provides various accounts explaining why the local Māori killed Dufresne and other sailors. He also includes an appendix which contains ‘Moturua or Marion Island Place-Names’, ‘List of Place-Names Mentioned in the Narrative’, ‘Place-Names Given by Marion’s Expedition’, ‘Genealogy of the Chiefs Associated with the Attack on the French’ and a ‘List of Authorities’.
- "Two Māori Authors." Te Ao Hou 2 (1952): 58.
- "Leslie G. Kelly - Te Putu." Journal of the Polynesian Society 68.2 (1959): 59-60.
- Te Ao Hou 29 (1959): 3.
- "Leslie G. Kelly - Te Putu." Journal of the Polynesian Society 68 (1959): 59-60.
- A bibliography follows an obituary to Kelly.
- Taylor, C. R. H. A Bibliography of Publications on the New Zealand Māori and the Moriori of the Chatham Islands. Oxford: Clarendon, Oxford UP, 1972. 24, 32, 96, 101.