Ben Hall


This section is a work in progress, which may alter with new research ...

"Ben Hall! Stockman, Squatter, Bushranger, from these personas his character has remained an enigma. From a man held in high regard by all who knew him to a man through his own actions became one of the most hunted in colonial history, and who would ultimately die a violent and bloody death at the hands of his pursuers..."- Mark Matthews

The aim of this website is to endeavour to provide a comprehensive, chronological account of the calamitous life of Australian bushranger Ben Hall. Gathered through the accounts of eyewitnesses, former gang members, government documents, as well as the reproduction of historical newspaper, and N.S.W. Police Gazette records of Ben Hall and his associates' bushranging activities. (All related articles incorporated into the narrative are coloured.)


BEN HALL
("A good-looking young man")
Originally held by William Hall.
Ben Hall was born in the British penal colony of New South Wales in May 1837 at Maitland in the Hunter Valley. Both parents originated from the United Kingdom where they had been convicted for stealing goods exceeding the value of one shilling. Their convictions resulted in their transportation of penal servitude for seven years. His father, Benjamin Hall was born in 1805 in Bristol England, and transported in 1827 aboard the convict ship 'Midas', whereas Ben’s mother, Eliza Somers was born in Dublin Ireland in 1807 and transported in 1830 aboard the convict ship 'Asia 1'.

Within twelve months of Ben Hall's birth, his parents commenced preparations for relocation whereby in late 1838 the family pulled up stakes and departed Maitland for greener pastures. The destination would see them migrate north some 90 miles to a remote area in the vicinity of the Barnard River near Barry NSW, situated at the foot of the present day Ben Halls Gap National Park. Moreover, this out of the way destination had most probably been earmarked by Ben's father when he happened upon the secluded area during his servitude while an assigned convict for Mr Alexander Spark in the late 1820's. Having departed Maitland, the journey would take the family some two to three weeks. For the expedition, they travelled by bullock dray laden with their chattels as well as driving their stock which consisted of a few cattle and horses. The journey would be another step for a family accustomed to frequent location changes, and no doubt became an adventure in which the five children all under 10 Yrs of age departed excited and in high spirits at the prospect of a farm of their own. Upon arrival, the Hall's would establish a modest station on the banks of a creek that flowed into the Barnard River. Furthermore, the stream on which the home was situated would historically become known as Ben Hall's Creek. The surrounding landscape of Hall's Creek was recorded as very wild and inhospitable experiencing extreme cold in winter and often coated in snow, followed by oppressive summers. Years later it was recalled that the station "was in a very mountainous country."¹ Ben's father constructed a sturdy bark hut and commenced supplementing his stock from amongst the wild cattle and brumbies roaming the surrounding valleys. (Old remnants of the home were still visible, and the house was still habitable into the nineteen thirties’, where some bricker brack can still be seen.) Author A. A. McLellan’s Hall biography, titled ‘Benjamin Hall and Family’, McLellan surmises that the trip followed a road carved out by the Australian Agricultural Company some years earlier and passed through Arden Hall, Belltrees to Ellerston diverting to the Walcha Track towards Glenrock finally arriving at the junction of the Barnard River and Ben Hall's Creek.  (Ben Hall's old squatterage is accessible today via the Scone/Nundle Rd.)

Remains of the Ben
Halls Creek home.
c. 1932.
Unfortunately, before long the primitive conditions of Hall's Creek purportedly did not suit Ben's mother, Eliza. Therefore, after enduring a couple of years of isolation and extremes, the family again upped stakes and relocated to a new residence within the recently established private village of Haydonton adjacent the settlement of Murrurundi arriving in late 1840. (This move is evidenced by an advertisement placed by Hall Snr., in March 1841 referencing December 1840.) The move to Haydonton would be a marked improvement for the family in rejoining civilisation and once again enjoyed town facilities unheard of in the remoteness of Hall's Creek, much to the relief of Eliza. Over time the name Haydonton fell into disuse and merged into Murrurundi.


'Bridge House'
Author's Note: There is a long-held belief perpetuated through the sands of the time that Ben Hall was born on a property named Breeza, situated on the Liverpool Plains, NSW, (the name of the current town) this is not the case. However, Ben’s older brother Edward was born at Breeza in early 1836. Ben Hall came into the world reputedly at the residence of Samuel Clift, named ‘Bridge House’, Toll Bridge Lane, East Maitland. Furthermore, Samuel Clift would pass away at ‘Bridge House’ in 1862 aged 71. Moreover, evidence indicates that the Hall family never actually resided there. However, Eliza was employed by Samuel Clift as a servant as was her husband Benjamin although in another capacity that being a stock keeper at Clift’s Wallis Creek 44-acre property. In a coincidence, Eliza's sister Catherine (also transported for seven years) was as well a resident at East Maitland and was married to Mr John Wynn. (See Hall's page) The two sisters were close and may have been neighbours or lived together, and for whom one of Eliza's children is named after. Undoubtedly, Catherine would have attended to her sister during the labour and birth of Benjamin Hall. Furthermore, Ben Hall's Great Grandson, Ben Hall, has stated that Ben was born in February and not May.

Haydon land grant, 1839.
The village of Haydonton was the brainchild of two gentlemen by the names of Thomas and Peter Haydon. The men had established the settlement through a government land grant issued in 1839 of 1000 acres. The river Pages cuts through the estate offering ample water. Benjamin Hall senior shortly after arrival purchased from the Haydon's two and a half acres of land situated along the banks of the river. The property also had direct access to the Great Northern and Southern road, today's New England Highway. The sale of the land proceeded reputedly for £150. The higher than average cost may have been a reflection that the property already included an established house. Ben Hall senior, then set about improving the house into a substantial home constructed of wooden slabs, a bark roof with three bedrooms, and subsequently added some outbuildings such as a butcher's shop as well as a blacksmith shop. Within a short time, the family had established a self-sufficient home and conducted the business of butchering. (New research had attested that Ben's father before his transportation to NSW was a butcher or Skinner by trade.) In 1854 during a marital scuffle between Benjamin and Eliza, an advertisement was placed in the newspapers describing their well-established home for sale; "In the flourishing town of Haydonton, and bounded on the north by Main-street on the east by Adelaide-street on the south by Liverpool street to the River Page on the west by that river on which are erected a sling Cottage, three rooms, Butcher's Shop, Kitchen, Blacksmith's Shop; a splendid Well of Water, communing from 10 to 15 feet of water in dry seasons; a small Orchard, Garden, Three Stock Yards, Two Gallows; and the whole is enclosed by a four-railed fence..."² Furthermore this was also noted regarding the access from the property "the properties situation is eligible, having an extensive frontage, and commands the main thoroughfare to all the Northern Diggings..."

Ben Hall’s boyhood home of Haydonton/Murrurundi was illustrated in traveller and adventurer Joseph Phipps Townsend's book titled; 'Rambles and Observations in New South Wales' 1848; "Murrurundi affords a fair specimen of an inland town. We were greeted with the sight of something green, for the rain, probably attracted by the hills, often drives through the deep valleys as through so many open tunnels. We have two inns both well built; and one is kept by a widow of real, homely, English aspect, and as kind and attentive as neat and respectable. Her nicely plaited widow's cap and her fine countenance tell a long and touching tale. There is a slab built Roman Catholic chapel, with broken windows and otherwise much out of repair; and, behind it, is an open graveyard, with some neat monuments and headstones. There are two or three brick cottages, and a tolerable sprinkling of bark huts; and, at a little distance in the bush, is the courthouse. Here divine service is performed once a month by a clergyman of the Church of England who travels twenty-five miles for the purpose; and the magistrate's clerk gives the responses. A Roman Catholic priest comes from Maitland four times a year to shrive his flock at the slab built chapel. He also catches every stray drunkard, of whatever denomination, on whom he can lay his hands, and insists on his becoming a tee-totaller. There is a large store, where everything that can possibly be required in the bush is to be bought. In one of the bark huts, you would find a good-natured, intelligent, and comfortable looking medical man, who came out in charge of emigrants, and has not exactly made up his mind when he shall return, but will probably think about it some day or other. In the meantime, he turns his skill to account, and is gradually accumulating cattle and horses; and, for the love he bears them, may perhaps become a fixture. He reads 'Blackwood,' and is fond of talking of 'that fine old fellow, Christopher North,' whom he follows through all his fishing excursions. In the climate of NSW, a bark hut is as substantial a dwelling as a man needs; such abodes are often very comfortable; but they do not, unless double roofed, afford sufficient protection from the sun. The river Page runs, or rather lingers, in the rear of the town. The people seem happy and contented; and as all of them have cattle running on the wasteland, they are at no loss either for meat, or a matter of constant interest." (For full text see Links page.)

However, for a young Ben, during the early years of 1843 to 1850 his boyhood experiences and adventures encompassed roaming and camping rough throughout the many nooks and crannies of the rugged hills canvassing Murrurrundi in the company of his older brothers Thomas Wade, William and Edward. Here the boys mustered the wild cattle and horses cloistered throughout the valleys bringing the valuable commodities home to augment their father's numbers. These exploits enabled Ben to develop his bushman and stockman skills. Accordingly, the statement ‘born in the saddle’ fitted Ben Hall to a tee. The lessons in Bushcraft and animal husbandry would stand him in good stead in the future and on some occasions, save his life. Furthermore, Murrurrundi had limited facilities and amenities; however, there was a school administered by Mr James Gowan the former town lockup keeper. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that Ben Hall attended this or any other school at any time and remained unable to read and write his entire life, and would accordingly place an X for his signature.  

Reputed home of the
Hall family, 
Murrurundi.
c. 1900.
Ben's family were indicative of the small settlers eking out a living in the remote towns and villages; therefore, horses and cattle were their lifeblood and represented not only income but also wealth and sustenance. However, in 1845, the procurement of some of this wealth would be brought into question when the authorities sought Ben's father, who had already gained a widespread reputation as a suspected cattle and horse duffer (thief). The deep suspicion was enacted upon when a warrant was drawn up for his arrest for horse theft. Subsequently, James Gowan the Murrurundi lock-up keeper and mate of Hall's had tipped him off that the police were about to arrest him. Unsurprisingly, for Gowan his assistance would cost him his job; "was dismissed from the lockup in consequence of it having been supposed that he had given or permitted an intimation to Benjamin Hall to keep out of the way..."³ However, with this forewarning Hall without hesitation sought out his wife Eliza and their elder son William whereby their helping hands enabled old Ben to bolt quick smart from Haydonton. Moreover, Hall’s reputation had been so objectionable that it contributed to the formation of several societies in the surrounding districts hell-bent on the abolishment of stock theft. A number of these associations were made up of prominent district landholders who combined in their efforts by offering rewards for the apprehension of the blaggards responsible, in this case, Ben’s father. These associations included the Upper Hunter District and Scone District Associations for the Suppression of Horse, Cattle and Sheep stealing.

Wanted.
As a result of Ben's father's disappearance rewards were subsequently promulgated and widely advertised in the newspapers instigated by those societies, as well as being Gazetted by the colonial government for his apprehension. The reward was for £15. However, the long arm of the law was patient and Benjamin Hall, snr., would eventually be arrested in October 1848 two hundred miles south at the Lachlan River, hold up at the station of Hugh Hamilton near Forbes following an absence of over two years. Furthermore, during his absence, Eliza and the children had been left the responsibility of the stock and store earning income through selling their farm-grown vegetables, fruit, and butchered livestock, muddling through in their father's absence. Accordingly, with Benjamin Hall’s fleeing the police cast their eyes upon his eldest son William. William was arrested for horse theft at the tender age of eleven as an accomplice to his father. William Hall was charged with; "the killing of two mares for their Unbranded foals by slitting the mare's throats and letting them bleed to death..."⁴ The stealing and killing of the horses included some other associates of their father that formed part of a ring of thieves. William's arrest and the events surrounding it however, created a fracture between him and his mother that lasted for the rest of his life. It was recorded that Eliza had abandoned him while he was in custody after he failed in the old convict adage of  'Keeping Mum' about what he knew; "the boy was kept by himself for three or four days, and was then put beside Taylor; after the boy gave information his mother utterly refused to send him anything, although she had sent him food previously; food and clothes were then given him by witness..." On 4th of October 1845, William was removed from Murrurundi to Parramatta Gaol; “William Hall, twelve or thirteen years of age, was taught his prayers in Parramatta Gaol by the Ladies of Charity, and understood the consequences of false swearing...” ⁶(See below.)
William Hall aged eleven, Parramatta Gaol Entrance Book, 4th October 1845.
William Hall
c. 1910.
When William's trial commenced at Maitland the young boy valiantly attempted to protect his father. However, this effort elicited a rebuke from the Judge; "is the son of Benjamin Hall, of Murrurundi, lives close to the lock-up; knew Abbott's run, and went there with prisoner and another man, but did not think proper to tell that man's name. The witness was here reprimanded by the Judge, and informed that what he should say would not incriminate that person, and then said the name of the man was Benjamin Hall, his father..."⁷ William appearing naive also professed that; "he had once been engaged in horse stealing himself, when he did not "quite help" to kill the mares. William Butler (co-accused) and witness's father helped to kill the mares..."⁸ For this Hall child his father’s lessons in crime and deviousness had been thorough; "but that of Hall, a boy, although young in years, evidently old in crime, and well versed in dissimulation..."  Furthermore, William’s older sister Mary also appeared as a witness, whereby she gave a different version of events, even to the point of contradicting her brother's evidence. In her testimony, Mary gave the impression that she had been coached by her mother Eliza, a sentiment Mary denied; “no one told her to say so here. She told her mother what she had heard from her brother. Her brother used to ride about after the cattle; her father had 60 or 70 head, and 8 or 10 head of horses..."¹⁰ 

Mary Hall
c. 1905.
Moreover, it came to light that the only Hall child who had been attending school was Mary. The school teacher, Mr James Gowan as mentioned earlier, stated that; "he had a daughter of Benjamin Hall's at his school, but was not aware of her coming to the Court to contradict her brother; his school was within eighty yards of the lockup and was patronized by the most respectable people in Murrurundi. Considerable laughter was excited by this witness's off-hand manner of giving his evidence..."¹¹ (The word respectable regarding Gowan appears by the observers as tongue-in-cheek.) On the conclusion of the case, one of the co-accused was found guilty and sentenced to five years. Whereas William upon discharged faced an Admonishment from the Judge. However, how the other siblings perceived the treatment of Ben Hall's older brother by their mother is unknown.  Suffice to say that when the time came for Thomas Wade, Mary, William and Ben Hall to leave home and accompany their father to the Lachlan, in what may well have been a pre-emptive move for the whole of the family which, in turn, failed to materialise as Eliza was recorded as refusing to depart Murrurundi therefore, the children accompanying their father did so, and never took a backward glance. (In an admonition an accused is found guilty but is neither imprisoned nor fined. They receive a verbal warning, and the conviction would be made part of the record.)
(This link is the 1846 newspaper report of the court proceedings of William's trial at Maitland Court.)https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/680056?browse=ndp%3Abrowse%2Ftitle%2FM%2Ftitle%2F8%2F1846%2F03%2F18%2Fpage%2F124640%2Farticle%2F680056#
Benjamin Hall arrested
30th October 1848 at

Hugh Hamilton's.
Therefore, in late 1850, 13-year-old Ben Hall bid adieu to his family home at Haydonton saddling up with his father and older siblings, Thomas Wade (half-brother), William and Mary. Together they headed south for the Lachlan district herding a small amount of stock for sale upon arrival. They first travelled to Singleton then via Whittingham, Jerrys Plains, Cassilis, through Dubbo arriving in the Lachlan district near Forbes. Upon their arrival, the three boys obtained employment stock keeping on property owned by Mr Hugh Hamilton. Hamilton was previously acquainted with young Ben Hall's father, during the earlier period of 1846-48, when Hall sen., was on the run and had been lying low under an assumed name, reputed to be Jack Binding. Although for Mr Hamilton, Hall’s father’s offence was then unknown before his arrest in October 1848 by Constable Hoy of the old NSW mounted police. Hall was, consequently, returned to Murrurundi. Fortuitously, Hall escaped prosecution as his accuser Mr Abbott had passed away, and other witnesses had disappeared. In another stroke of good fortune for Ben's father, resulted in the Attorney-General advising the local magistrate that young William's previous evidence against his father could not be used. Therefore, the case against Hall fell over. However, for his son's sakes', no doubt, Ben Hall Snr., upon his return to Hamilton's, explained his earlier difficulties as a misunderstanding. Nevertheless, it appears this confession created no obstacle for Hamilton in employing Thomas, Ben, and William for even as young boys they were extremely skilful in the saddle.

Hugh Hamilton's lease's.
Hamilton held the lease for two Lachlan stations they were Tommanbil which covered 17,520 acres situated on the Lachlan River and Boyd Station 26,500 acres positioned at the junction of Boyd and Pinnacle Creeks. Furthermore, following some severe droughts circa 1851 and then massive floods in 1852 in which many graziers including Hugh Hamilton had suffered substantial stock losses which had caused some squatters to be driven from their stations or were forced to sell out cheaply. However, for Hugh Hamilton failure bypassed him due to his having managed to supplement his reduced income through securing government positions as Assistant Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Gold District of Ophir followed closely by the post of Magistrate of the territory and its dependencies, both very lucrative with a combined income of £500 per yr. In due course these positions enabled Hamilton to re-stock. Therefore, in this capacity, Hamilton not only saved his stations but was often absent leaving the running of the stations to the head stockman William Jones. Including one of his assistants, none other than young Ben Hall, as well as James Newell who had married Ben's close friend Daniel Charters' older sister Agnes in 1850, they also resided at Tommanbill (Interestingly in August 1865, Agness gave birth to a son whom she named Benjamin). However, for Jones his time as overseer and boss of Ben Hall abruptly came to an end when he was out mustering near Speck's Gap and came off his horse, breaking his thigh and where he lay in agony for sometime before being discovered by the stockmen including Ben Hall. Subsequently, Jones went to Bathurst where he recuperated and then became a publican of the 'Lachlan Inn', Bathurst. This accident would produce the nickname of 'Hoppy' Jones. Jones would maintain a friendship with his young former stockman for many years to come. In late 1851, Hamilton himself appeared in the newspaper as coming to grief near Ophir. 'The Sydney Morning Herald' Thursday, 30th October 1851; "Mr Hugh Hamilton, one of the Assistant Commissioners, was thrown from his horse a few days ago, and seriously hurt. He was able to ride, in a weak state, to Ophir, and under the medical care of Dr Reed, late of the Glebe, has so far recovered that he left for Bathurst to day."

During these early years, Hall was also engaged in mustering on other station’s at various times, namely 'Omah' adjacent to Tommanbil, owned by a local horse racing identity Mr John Tait as well as Green’s 'Uar' station. Hamilton, as Ben's employer, was noted as "the first man to bring pedigreed Short-horn cattle to the district. The man in charge of the cattle was Ben Hall, after bringing out Mr Hamilton's cattle, Hall was for years on the station as a stockman..."¹² Both of Hamilton's stations were situated within 25 miles of Forbes. Once settled with work, Hall's older sister Mary married a local stockman William Wright. (A much older ex-convict) Furthermore, with the boys now in full employment Ben's father by the end of 1851 had returned to Eliza and the remaining children, Edward, Catherine, Robert, Henry and Ellen at Murrurundi.

Authors Note:However, there has been some conjecture that in the 1850 move to the Lachlan that the whole of the Hall family had uprooted again, as Ben Hall's youngest sister Ellen's birth was registered during the journey south at Whittingham Post Office at the old junction of the New England Hwy and Bulga Trail. (Putty Rd) However, this is not the case, Ellen's father was responsible for registering her birth and it would appear he did so, as per the law at the first opportunity when transiting through Whittingham with the four children, therein giving the misapprehension of Ellen's birth there, or of the Hall's of ever settling in the Lachlan district as a family. “Ellen E Hall: Birth Date: 1850 Birth Place: New South Wales Registration Year: 1850 Registration Place: Whittingham, New South Wales, Australia Father: Benjamin Hall Mother: Elizabeth- Volume Number: V18501899 71” (From my ongoing research leads one to believe that Ben Hall's father would have needed dynamite to shift Eliza Hall from her comfortable home at Murrurundi, as will be seen on the Hall's page.)


Ernest Bowler.
c. 1870's.
Having commenced a stockman's life as a thirteen-year-old Ben took on the tasks that encompassed a diverse and often laborious occupation. However, Ben had demonstrated from an early age that he had all the attributes for the work and a real gift in the ways and habits of cattle as well as establishing a lifelong passion for quality thoroughbred horses. He had a keen eye. Furthermore, Ben displayed, as is often noted, a quiet and reserved demeanour which enabled him to handle Hamilton's stock with patience and confidence. Exhibiting that he had the skills especially during the hectic mustering time to make accurate observations regarding livestock and was able to judge an animal's age and condition through one of the ancient techniques by examining only the animals teeth. Subsequently, in the coming years through his experiences, Ben mastered the ability and requirements involved in stock care. Highly respected Lachlan squatter Ernest Bowler who had numerous dealing with Ben Hall both as a grazier and country squire noted Hall's work during mustering time, shining a light on his integrity as well as Ben's uncanny ability when it came to the reading of the cattle's condition and his competence in the saddle. 'The Moleskin Gentry' by Frederick Howard: "Ben Hall had a cattle station at Wheogo, and he used to attend all the musters round.  He was one of the smart, devil-may-care bushmen, knew the whole country well, always had a good horse and knew how to ride.  He was a good mate at mustering cattle or running wild horses.  He could "mother" calves; that means, after a day's mustering, he could tell you, which calf belonged to which cow - even if there were a hundred different brands...Such qualities would have been admired and respected throughout the Central West. Ernest's wife, Elizabeth Bowler nee Farand had arrived in Forbes in 1857 with her father, Mr Farrand. A magistrate and founding newspaper editor of the local ‘Lachlan Miner’ had noted in her remembrance of Ben Hall's early life, where even after as a young girl she had been held captive by Hall, and where Hall had threatened her father with a beating recalled fondly 'the good-looking young man'"when cattle were mustered in those days (there were no sheep), they were held in some chosen spot overnight. Next morning squatters who had an interest in the herd came with their riders and the job of cutting-out began. Among the stockmen of those days was one who gained a modicum of fame as being the best of them all. Mrs. Bowler describes him as being a well-built, good looking young man with a pleasant disposition which gained him the friendship of all with whom he came in contact, A splendid rider and a good stockman, his services were frequently in demand..."

Adding to Ernests' recollections of Ben as a "young man with a pleasant disposition." The 'Freeman's Journal', recounted in 'The Last of the Bushrangers', 25th September 1930, that; “he was a popular man in the district, and the circle of his acquaintances was large from Bathurst to Euabalong, and from the Belabula to the Weddin Mountains, where old Walsh, his father-in-law, lived in easy affluence...” As well as a view that Hall appeared characterised by a 'certain detachment and shyness,' whereas others such as Mr Thomas Bates would recall in the 'Bathurst Times' of the 13th December 1924, that Ben, "could spin a good yarn and sing a song in the rough, boisterous fashion of the day..." It was also remarked that; "he had an amiable sincerity of soul, a generosity of spirit, and an honesty in all his dealings with his fellow-settlers that won their friendliest esteem. He was steady, industrious, temperate, keenly intelligent, and, above all, always ready to give a helping hand to a neighbour..."¹³


Station Cattle Branding,
by S.T. Gill. 1862.
The long days of work on Hamilton's for a developing young boy entailed the fundamentals of station work, i.e. feeding, watering, mustering, droving, branding, castrating and preventing wildlife from damaging the herd, all from sun-up to sundown. Apart from livestock duties, Ben was also required as part of a stockman's function to inspect, maintain and repair gates and yards damaged by severe weather, ride amongst livestock to keep them quiet. However, station life, not only for Hall but the stockmen, in general, continued with little seasonal deviation, until the annual break in routine that encompassed horse-breaking, which amongst the men often developed into a test of horsemanship and courage, as well as mustering, cutting out heifers and calves, and branding. Additionally, all station hands not engaged in boundary riding or outstation work assemble at the homestead while their ranks swelled with the arrival of stock riders from neighbouring stations. Riding in for the great musters out on the vast plains and would encompass long days spent in the saddle as well as building makeshift stockyards and camping out in isolated areas sleeping in a swag.(bedroll)

Furthermore, his peers and employers such as Hamilton began to see a young man of much promise. Jack Bradshaw's 1920's narrative titled 'Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall & Gang', describes Ben's standing in the eyes of Mr Hamilton; "Mr Hamilton grew very fond of young Ben, finding out he possessed great ability as a stockman. Mr Hamilton gave Ben permission to graze horses and cattle on his station, which young Ben did, and purchased out of his salary in about three years a small station. He became full manager for Mr Hamilton. The seasons were good and the grass plentiful, so that young Ben became fairly rich..."

However, in circa 1853 as a 16-year-old tragedy struck Ben Hall while he was working in the stockyard, he attempted to mount a racehorse of some renown from around the bush racetracks of the Western Districts. Consequently, he suffered a severely broken leg. The perpetrator of the bad break was a racehorse named 'Slasher', a reputed fiery animal agisting at Boyd Station. Slasher's reputation was as an outlaw horse and was very tough to handle. Unfortunately for Ben, the bad break would ultimately leave him noticeably lame in one leg for the rest of his life. John Maguire, a future brother-in-law, wrote an account of Ben's accident in his narrative, 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native(written by P.H. Pinkstone, owner of the 'Hawkesbury Herald' and first published in the said newspaper after many in-depth interviews and fireside talks, c. 1906)"whilst mounting him one morning 'Slasher' let out a lasher and poor Ben's leg and hoof met, resulting in a bad smasher for the former...”

Mary Coneley nee
Strickland.

c. 1862.
Accordingly, the severely injured young stockman was transported by wagon to the nearby Bundaburra cattle station. Here the owner, Mrs Mary Strickland with the aid of her brother Tom Higgins (future owner of the Dog and Duck Hotel, and long-time friend and harbourer of Ben Hall) attended to the severely broken leg. Maguire in his memoirs states that Tom Higgins was one;op.cit. "who had a reputation as a bush surgeon, set the fracture, making a good job of it. In nine or ten weeks Ben was able to get about on crutches, and after that was as lively as ever..." During his convalescence, Ben Hall developed a close friendship and teenage romance with the niece of Mary Strickland, and her namesake, Mary Strickland. (Believed heartbroken when Ben Hall began courting Bridget Walsh) Mary helped to tend to young Ben during his recovery. Furthermore, young Mary would become the future wife of one Michael Coneley who would play a traitor’s role later in Ben’s life. Nevertheless, long after Ben Hall's demise, this was noted in respect to the tendering of his grave over many years.'The Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer', Saturday 5th August 1911; "In the Forbes cemetery today rest the mortal remains of Ben Hall, and the mound which covers his dust is still tenderly cared for by a female hand—one who, though long years have drifted by since Hall's unfortunate body was riddled with policemen's bullets, still cherishes a kindly regard for a man who, but for a certain set of circumstances, might have earned renown in a different walk of life." This female hand was Mary Strickland who would pass away in 1913 at Redfern. Furthermore, on the day of Hall's death close to Mary's home at Billabong Creek, a distressed Mary cut off a piece of Ben's hair as a keepsake. Moreover, Mary was also an accomplished horse-woman and would often race at meetings at Forbes in which large wagers were placed on Mary's results;[sic] "Mrs Newell, whose husband, John Newell, kept the Western Hotel, which stood on the site now occupied by the Metropolitan Hotel. Dora was ridden by Miss Strickland, daughter of Mr Pearce Strickland. There was always great rivalry between those two well-known horse-women, and the match caused much excitement and considerable wagering. After a desperate race, Virginia won." (John Newell is not related to James Newell who married Agnes Charters.)

Mary Strickland nee
Higgins.

c. 1890's
Furthermore, it was reported in the 'The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate', Wednesday 16th October 1918, that the care and bush doctoring of Mrs Strickland, Tom Higgins and young Mary was a kindness Ben Hall never forgot when he subsequently took to the road: Death of a Forbes Pioneer. Oldest White Woman on Lachlan.- "The death of Mrs M. A. Strickland, which occurred at Bundaburra Station, Forbes, during the week, has removed one of the real Lachlan pioneers, the deceased lady was 93 years of age, on one occasion Ben Hall was severely kicked by a horse he was breaking in, and Mrs Strickland set the broken leg and nursed Ben back to health. He never forgot Mrs Strickland's kindness, and it is on record that he refused to allow his gang to raid Bundaburra. On several occasions, when hard pressed, his lawless band took valuable horses from the station, but they were always returned within a month or so."

Daniel Charters. This
photo was most
 probably taken at
Mrs Reed’s photographic
gallery Forbes in 1862,
on the same day
as the Ben Hall
portrait. 
In the mid-1850's Ben commenced a friendship with another local grazier named Daniel Charters who had property at Humbug Creek beyond Lake Cowal as well as Daroubalgie Station outside Forbes. Charters had arrived in the colony aged three years old from Ireland with his extended family and who settled in the Carcoar district where the family would build up extensive property interests between Carcoar and Forbes. Daniel Charters was 6 ft. Tall, of stout build, a fresh complexion, light brown hair, blue eyes and could read and write. A beneficial attribute for helping his new friend Ben Hall, who could do neither. Furthermore, both men had similar qualities, amiable, excellent horsemen and bushmen. Charters remarked in 1863;[sic] "I have known Ben Hall for six or seven years; I used to be at his place when I was gathering cattle for myself and for my sister..." However, Daniel Charters also had a reputation as a lady’s man. As in 1863, he was thought to have been in a relationship with Ellen Maguire while her husband John was standing trial for the escort robbery as well as in the same year he faced a paternity suit from another relationship with a Miss Charlotte Brandon which had resulted in the birth of a son. (See In Company Page) Charters also owned cattle held at several properties in the vicinity of Forbes including beasts on Hall's Sandy Creek station, constituting some 500 head. Charters also managed his recently widowed sister's large lease of the Pinnacle Station twelve miles east from Ben's home. Furthermore, Charters' two sisters operated local public-houses. One hotel was on the 'Pinnacle Station', 26,880 acres operated by his older sister Margaret as well as one owned by another sister Agnes Newell at Bandon close to the small town of Eugowra, NSW. Furthermore, due to the Pinnacle and Bandon's public-houses' notorious reputations and due to increased villainy in the area the police would establish a station at the Pinnacle, a short distance from the homestead. Both notorious hotels were frequent watering holes for Ben Hall and the Pinnacle a regular hang out of the bushranger Frank Gardiner.

St Michael's Catholic
Church, Bathurst.
c. 1850's.
By 1855 after four years of working for Hugh Hamilton, Ben Hall transferred his swag and commenced stock work at 'Weeogo Station', (also known as Uoka) a 16,000-acre run owned by an emancipated squatter named John Walsh. However, there was more to this move than just stock work as it enabled Ben to court a lass who had caught his eye, the middle daughter of John Walsh, 15yr old Bridget Walsh. Ben was eighteen. It was said of John Walsh's daughter Bridget and her two sisters Ellen and Catherine that they were true creatures of the Weddin—tough, wild, and untameable. A stark contrast to the quiet easy going, Ben Hall. However, the relocation to Weeogo (Wheogo) Station was a move towards independence and opportunity not only for Ben Hall to solidify his romance with one of the wild Walsh girls, which would mature into matrimony but true independence, through the possibility of a station of his own. Therefore, on the 29th February, 1856, (a leap year) at the age of 19 Ben Hall married 15yr old Bridget Walsh (1841–1923)[sic] "a pert and lively woman", (Her father John Walsh would pass away in 1858), at St Michael's Catholic Church, Bathurst with John and Ellen Maguire, her sister, as witnesses. In the 'Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser', February 1917 a pioneer reminisced about his memory regarding the happy occasion when Ben and Bridget made the trip to get married; I saw Ben Hall and his Bridget Walsh when they were going to Burrowa, or Yass, to get married. I think it was about the year 1857, or it might have been 1856. They stayed at our house on their return trip. They were both, young — Ben about 20 years of age, and I think she was under 20. I fancy I see her slender, little white fingers peeling, with a sharp knife, apples for us youngsters...”
John Walsh's Uoka (Weeoga) Station, registered under The Squatters Act-1846-47.
Note; John Tait's station Oma.
The very same Alter at
St Michael's Catholic
Church, Bathurst where
Ben and Biddy
exchanged their vows
in 1856.
Preceding Ben’s marriage to 15yr old Bridget there had been a rumour that Ben Hall's father disapproved of the union, although, whether in 1856 Ben Hall communicated his intentions with his father is a matter of conjecture, as his father had departed the Lachlan District by the end of 1851 for Murrurundi. Reputedly the two men were never to communicate with each other again. However, in 1856, marriages between couples under the age of 21 had required parental approval, and rumoured had it that Ben raised his age to 21 to overcome this legal hurdle. Furthermore, after three years of marriage the couples only child, a son Henry was born on 7th August 1859, at the home of Ben Hall's close friend Daniel Charters' mother's residence at Carcoar. (In later years there was speculation that the couple had another child that passed away either as an infant or possibly stillborn, although there is no direct evidence as yet.) 

The Charters' former home,
 now  Fern Hill. c. 1970's.
 Reputed birth place
 of Henry Hall.

Courtesy, Carcoar Historical Society.
However, the now married and new father Ben Hall often mixed with those of a less reputable character. These suspect associations in the company of Daniel Charters would see both men tapped on the shoulder by the law. The occasion was over the matter of payment for a horse, and together they were summoned to appear at the local Burrowa Court in 1860. The charge instigated by a known lowlife of the district John Healy, and most surprisingly he was an acquaintance of both Charters and Hall's. However, Ben's summons in this instance was to appear only as a witness on behalf of Charters but was not called to give evidence in court. However, to alleviate any blame towards Hall over the matter Charters stated to the court that Ben Hall was not implicated in the affair although he was a witness when Charters obtained the horse in question.[sic]  "I was brought up with Ben Hall at the court at Burrowa; I was not brought up there on any charge; I was summoned there about a horse; I had a horse from a man on trial, and he summoned me for payment for the use of it; I swear it was no charge of criminality at all; it is about two years and a half years ago; Ben Hall was present when I borrowed the horse; he was implicated in the matter in no other way, I was summoned by John Healy; the charge was made against me; I was not in custody; I went in and spoke a few words; the verdict was against me, and I paid £2." (John Healy would eventually be sent down to Cockatoo Island for larceny, and for the robbery of a dray with firearms at the O'Meally's Inn at the Weddin Mountains, and sentenced to 15 yrs the first year in Irons in early 1863.) However, the presence at court does demonstrate that within Ben's circle of friendships he was mixing with the criminal element. Furthermore, Charters was also a good mate of bushranger Frank Gardiner and where Charters would often be seen in his company and often referred to as 'Flash Dan' due to his flamboyant dress and bearing, a style Ben Hall also appropriated. Furthermore, through Charters, Hall no doubt had been introduced to Frank Gardiner.
Bridget Hall from the Penzig collection.©
In 1859, the advertisement above demonstrates that Ben Hall was a person of good standing in the community in support of Law and Order. Note the commitment of some of the Lachlan's esteemed citizens marked by a #.
Ben Hall's Marriage Certificate 1856 (above)
Note:  Ben Hall signed his name with an "X" (his mark) demonstrating he was illiterate
Bridget also signed her name with an "X"(her mark)
Bridget's sister, Elen signed her name as a witness as did John Maguire.
It is interesting how one sister was literate and not the other.
Henry Hall's (Ben Hall's Son) Birth Certificate 1859 (above)
Note:  Again Hall signed his name with an "X" as his mark further demonstration of his illiteracy. The certificate also names Dr Rowland (1) in attendance during Henry's birth assisted by Mrs Charters (2).
Nevertheless, for Ben Hall a young man, married and desiring a future in the evolving and progressive society of Australia which presented an opportunity for the adventurous to have ago and to build a solid foundation for their future without the social judgements that had long handicapped those of limited means or the so-called predetermined order of things. Moreover, in 1800's Australian society, there were still in place some sections that retained the structured aristocratic style of old England where inherited wealth and title determined a path of an assured future either in government or industry for those that were termed privileged, this, of course, excluded Ben Hall. However, it was for those in Australia, including Ben Hall who with courage and determination that for them the land could offer that same fighting chance of diversity and position in the newly founded aristocracy of the colony. An aristocracy being forged out by the ex-criminals of England who had once been bound down by iron chains, and for whom the land alone presented a new opportunity, wealth and position for men long ago marked as outcasts and transported to the far-off English penal colony of NSW. Transported for crimes that were so petty that ordinarily in a modern Australia or England of today they would not even see the inside of a courthouse. Let alone those perpetrators receiving seven to fourteen years, or worse, a life of incarceration with severe physical punishment and a voyage of unimaginable horror, why the civil libertarians today would have an apoplectic fit. Therefore, with the vast open tracts of land available in NSW stocked with volumes of cattle and sheep was enabling the birth of a new emerging Australian gentility. Men who had endured true hardship and who were more at ease in the company of themselves, less pretentious, more tolerant of others and where over time even they would blur the origins of their arrival in the old penal colony. Furthermore, many of these old lags would go on to establish a more prestigious aristocrat with wealth more copious than some landed gentry in England. Accordingly, Ben Hall had grown up in a family of ex-convicts as parents, remembering that Ben Hall was nine years old when his mother, Eliza finally obtained her 'Ticket of Leave' in 1846, even so, his parents established for themselves a respectable farm with a few acres at Murrurundi and prospered to become a self-sufficient entity of moderate means. For Ben Hall in those early days of working for Mr Hamilton, who showed enormous interest in Ben's abilities, followed by his work for the Walsh's enabled Ben Hall to hone his skill's for stock work. In turn, this empowered an ambition to arise for a station of his own and to search for that opportunity to be his own master. This opportunity was presented in 1860 when at the age of 23, Ben Hall, after discussions with his brother-in-law John Maguire, took the plunge.

NSW Government Gazette
27th March 1860.
Courtesy NLA
Therefore, in March 1860 Ben Hall tendered for the Runs of Crown Lands (see article right) and was granted the lease and occupancy of Sandy Creek Station in partnership with his brother-in-law John Maguire who had married Ben Hall's wife's older sister Ellen in 1852. The venture was a bold move for the two experienced stockmen, furthermore, John Maguire, as well as Ben Hall, suffered a disability, that being, Maguire was blind in his right eye suffered when a boy whilst making a gun out of a bullock's leg bone where he had rammed it with powder, then fired it. That injury put him in bed for three months. Ben Hall's disability was from the earlier accident in his youth, lame in one leg. Furthermore, neither affliction restrained the two men from the tough work in establishing Sandy Creek cattle station. Sandy Creek covered an area of over 10,000 acres with a carrying capacity of 640 head of cattle. At the time the station was uncleared, and fed by a well-watered creek running through the property. This extract in the newspaper recounts the standing of Sandy Creek; "shortly after his marriage, he, in company with Mr John Maguire, obtained a lease of a run adjoining Wheogo, called Sandy Creek, which they stocked with cattle and horses. Sandy Creek, Wheogo, and Bundaburra are estimated to be among the very best runs in the Lachlan district..."¹⁴ This was also said of Ben Hall's personal standing as a recently established Grazier; "Hall became the owner of Sandy Creek Station, adjoining Wheogo. He had it on lease, running cattle and horses, and managed it in a businesslike way, thereby adding further to his reputation as a young man of fine promise..."¹⁵

Author's Note: There have been many accounts written about Ben Hall's tenure at Sandy Creek station. Some stating that it is in a marginal area for farming. However, for me, this is pure poppycock. Sandy Creek Station was and currently is land with enormous potential. Having walked the property from the old hut ruins across to the hill on the far side of the creek scattered with gum trees. (see video) Then looking back over where the dam sits today. Observing the place Hall picked out for his hut, which appeared smart and built on a slight rise out of any flooding problem. And well sheltered I'd say by trees in that time as well as a good view of his surrounds. With easy access to the station's yards and beef markets of the goldfields, as well as Hall's ability to build his stock with unbranded cattle and wild horses roaming the vast plains and local mountain gullies to add to those Hall had built up through his stock employment. Then later as I was cruising around the district from Gooloogong to Forbes and many side roads where the farms all look very prosperous. One could imagine the tough work in ring barking and clearing that was required by Hall and Maguire, the building of stockyards, houses etc. If you look hard enough and scrape the soil you can still find fired nails and old oven bricks that once warmed a meal at the old home site, to me it is a beautiful property now used for crop growing, Marginal, not on your Nelly!
My Video of Sandy Creek taken from the old Hut site.
Cattle prices at the market were very solid for the two new producers of Sandy Creek, as demonstrated in the following stock report of cattle prices in mid-1861; LIVE STOCK; -MESSRS. DALMAHOY CAMPBELLS and Co.’s REPORT 24th July 1861. FAT CATTLE. -This week the supply of good, quality was small and prices advanced about 20s per head no improvement for second and inferior qualities which were abundantly supplied. Prime heavy weights, bullocks brought from £9 to £11.- ditto, ordinary weights from £7 to £8 10s second quality ditto from £4 15s to £5 10s; inferior from £2; Prime cows (ordinary weights) from £5 to £6; second quality ditto from £3 to £4 inferior from 35s upwards. FAT CARVES. — Supply small and the demand good best quality from 40s to 50s. Prior to his successful tender for Sandy Creek, Ben Hall and his wife Bridget and their young son Henry resided at the Wheogo homestead. The adjacent Wheogo property was now owned by Bridget’s stepmother, Sarah, after Bridget's father's death in 1858. (Sarah Walsh nee Harpur nee Chidley was the mother of well-known Poet, Charles Harpur and Josiah J Harpur, NSW Parliamentarian and member for Patrick Plains, 1861-1864 and future provocateur to Sir Frederick Pottinger.)

John Maguire.
c. 1880's.
As far as the joint ownership of Sandy Creek went Ben Hall and John Maguire may have divided the property and operated independently of each other. John Maguire in his narrative, 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native', states that Ben Hall reputedly named his portion of Sandy Creek, 'Cubbine Bin'. Running his cattle and horses, and when required the two men worked together in clearing and forming stockyards close to their water supply, this would have been a prudent way to operate a new farming enterprise in the 1860’s, and thus the two squatters shared the yearly rent to the government. As for the acquiring of stock for their new enterprise, John Maguire states that himself and Ben Hall had done a bit of duffing of unbranded and wild 'Mickie’s and 'Warrigals.';op.cit. "Ben had always done a bit of duffing. But, for the matter of that, we all duffed, with very few exceptions, it was not considered a great crime - simply a matter of business. The man who could muster and secure unbranded calves was considered a fool if he did not stick his own brand on..." Cattle duffing in many quarters was as Maguire states 'not a great crime' and was widely practised even amongst the largest of graziers as the value of those unbranded animals contributed to supplementing their wealth; "Cattle duffing, in those early days, it may be remarked, was not considered a criminal offence. If one settler took a beast of a neighbour's, the latter simply bided his time until he found an animal belonging to his predatory fellow settler worthy of appropriation. Under such retaliatory system recourse to law proceedings was avoided, because the sinner and sinned against then came on an equal footing. In the days referred to the holdings of Crown leases were unfenced, nothing but ill-defined lines denoting their boundaries. As a result, there was frequently a general mingling of herds, separations only being effected during the periodical musters..."¹⁶ When Ben Hall attended those district musters it was a time in which he excelled with his animal husbandry knowledge.
Maguire and Hall's Sandy Creek Station, Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer, 1866.
William and Ann Hall.
c. 1910.
Ben's new endeavour at Sandy Creek station required the construction of stockyards as well as a home for himself, Bridget and their baby son Henry. During the Hut's construction Ben Hall no doubt employed the help of older brother's Thomas Wade and William Hall. Furthermore, William and his wife Ann were residing with Ben and Bridget during this period. John Maguire constructed his own home some five hundred yards from Ben's; undoubtedly all the men worked together. However, whether under the circumstances and arrangments some friction prevailed between William, his wife Anne and Bridget are speculative, suffice to say that a great deal of agitation between William and Bridget would emerge in the future. However, this agitation could also point to the beginning of marital issues between Benjamin and Bridget, as Ben Hall's loyalty to his older brother was strong, whereas Bridget may have wished to be sole mistress of the house. With William residing there, it enabled a disgruntled Bridget to take leave and accompany her married sister Catherine in her secret rendezvous with her new lover the bushranger, Frank Gardiner. Nevertheless, during these absences, Ann Hall would have accordingly cared for young Henry. (It should also be noted that John Maguire also used the spelling of McGuire with an A i.e.: MaGuire, Maguire as demonstrated on Ben Hall's marriage certificate. However, for the purposes of this bio I have used Maguire.)

Edward Hall, 1879
prison addmission
portrait.
Meanwhile while Ben was in the process of establishing Sandy Creek, at his former childhood home of Murrurundi, his father and brothers were often being reported in the colonies newspapers. These articles summarised at various times accounts of quarrelling as well as the families connections to many thefts throughout the late 1850's and subsequently well into the turn of the century. Furthermore, as a result, Ben's brothers often appeared before a magistrate, even facing periods of incarceration at several gaols. However, in 1860, one incident, in particular, was reported where Ben's brother Edward Hall had thrashed his father; 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser' 1860; MURRURUNDI. [FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT] POLICE OFFICE, July 24th. -Before P. W. Wright, A. Brodi, and R. G. Higgins, Esqrs. - "Benjamin Hall was charged by Honora Hall with using abusive language towards her. Case dismissed. -Edward Hall was charged with assaulting his father, Benjamin Hall, on the 11th instant. The evidence of the complainant and several witnesses went to shew, that on the day above named Hall senior went to take possession of a bullock, which was also claimed by the defendant. The father and son met in the bed of the river, near the house of the latter, when an altercation arose, which was ended by the son laying his stock-whip pretty smartly across the shoulders of his father. Defendant was ordered to pay a fine of £4 15s., or in default to be imprisoned for two months."

Ben Hall's reaction or knowledge of those internal and troubling events surrounding his father and brothers are unrecorded. Nevertheless, life for the young cattleman and horse fancier was about to become very lucrative with the discovery of Gold. Gold a treasure that bewitched thousands from all over the world and encouraged them to throw there lives into turmoil as they descended from all points of the compass to the NSW goldfields. First at Burrangong (Lambing Flat) and then as rumours spread an avalanche slid into the Lachlan district and consequently turned the backwater town of Forbes into a thriving new Gold township. Forbes proliferated out of the drive of the modern gold-diggers. Followed by the cavalcade of merchants, hoteliers, carpenters and butchers etc. However, the much sort after treasure also drew into the township such men who desired its riches through less reputable means, those being criminals and opportunists who would range about the town and countryside waylaying travellers left and right. Nonetheless, some of these culprits were miners soon down on their luck, whereas others colloquially were referred to as the bushrangers. This title once addressed the old convict who broke free of the oppression of the chain gang and to survive robbed the remote settlers during the foundation period of Australia with many once recaptured dropped unceremoniously through the Gallows floor. However, as the goldfields swelled this title no longer referred to the escaped convict but dedicated men hell-bent on evil with a cry of "money or your life." This nexus of humanity in all its forms appeared as Ben Hall was in the throes of establishing an excellent and prosperous cattle station positioned beautifully in proximity to two goldfields with thousands hungry for beef. Forbes' overnight invasion appeared at the feet of Ben Hall, its explosion expressed in a newspaper in late 1861; THE TOWN OF "FORBES". — "We never saw a place of the same age in such a state of forwardness as this. Several good streets give an appearance of regularity to the rows of calico and bark; and the existence of an unlimited supply of excellent pine timber close at hand has led to the erection of buildings much more substantial, and sightly than those we have been accustomed to see in other new townships. A bi-weekly Court of Petty Sessions has already been established; of amusements, we have no lack of music and dancing, while billiard tables, a rifle gallery, and ten pins seem as popular as ever. The banking and gold buying business, of the "Oriental", and also of the post office are transacted at the stores of Mr. Greig. Mrs Reed has a photographic gallery. Coaches ply frequently during the day between the crossing place at Fenn’s. (Wowingragong) and also these diggings a distance of nearly five miles. The Cowra coaches and mails from Sydney and the Flat run three times a week. Thus it will be seen that Forbes is not a place to be lightly esteemed.”¹⁷ Another article on the life and times in the frontier town of Forbes as it appeared during Ben Hall's time; "this important town is situated on the north bank of the Lachlan River, at a point almost midway in between Cowra and Condobolin. It is 82 miles from Orange, and 245 miles from Sydney, Tens of thousands of miners went out to their work at sunrise, and returned at 6 in the evening. Then, many thousands of fires were lighted, and the diggers prepared their evening meal. Comparative quiet reigned while they were partaking of it; but, that over, all is bustle again, for, with few exceptions, the diggers betook themselves to the theatres, concert halls, dancing Saloons, or public-houses, and many did not return to their tents until dawn. Scores of shoeblacks took up positions in the streets, and did a wonderful trade; hurdy-gurdy girls and other itinerant musicians played and sang, and reaped a rich harvest; mounted troopers and policemen (under Sir F. Pottinger) moved to and from among the masses; coaches were running at all hours, and in all directions, as well as actors and singers, sawyers, doctors, clergy, tradespeople, menagerie-men, and men of almost every nation, rank, and condition were on the field in incongruous medley..."¹⁸

Francis Christie,
alias
Frank Gardiner.
c. 1862.
However, before long a dark shadow emerged over the Wheogo district that would change the dynamics of the serene farming district when the well-known bushranger, Frank Gardiner, also known as 'The Darkie', commenced adopting the district as a hideaway. Gardiner was the latest scourge of the NSW police and claimed as the man singularly responsible for the ruination of many a young colonial boy. Frank Gardiner was a pseudonym of Francis Christie, born in Scotland in 1829 and arrived in the colony as a five-year-old with his parents in 1834. His family settling in pre-statehood Victoria. By the time he was twenty, Christie had fallen foul of the law. Consequently, after a brush with the justice system in Victoria and a guilty verdict, Christie was sentenced to five years at the Pentridge Stockade, Coburg, Melbourne from where after one year he escaped to NSW in 1851. (See Gardiner page.) Furthermore, in the ensuing escape with some others, an aboriginal mounted policeman named 'Jack' on sentry duty was fired at reputedly by the ringleader of the breakout John Rich; 'Geelong Advertiser', Friday 11th April 1851. PENTRIDGE STOCKADE.—"Of the three prisoners retaken out of the seven, who escaped from the Pentridge Stockade last month, one of them, John Rich, the ringleader of the whole, has been committed to take his trial at the next criminal sessions, on the charge of attempted murder, by firing at the native mounted policeman whilst in the execution of his duty. Another of the three has been summarily dealt with by having six months additional sentence affixed to his former one on the roads of the colony, in irons; the third has undergone the punishment of fifty lashes." However, Rich would eventually be found Not Guilty of the charges.


Home of  Catherine &
John Browne,
frequented by Kitty's

lover Frank Gardiner.
c. 1920's.
 
Consequently, when Christie appeared in NSW, he was now using the pseudonym's of Gardiner as well as Clarke and as a leopard never changes its spots Christie was soon apprehended once more for horse theft which constituted a sentence of fourteen years at the harsh Cockatoo Island prison at Sydney and lagged under the name of Clarke. However, after being granted a 'Ticket of Leave' from Cockatoo Island after serving six years, Christie was required to remain in the Carcoar district. However, Christie abused his release conditions and faced a warrant after fleeing the Carcoar region and failing to report to police. Shortly after with a close friend named Fogg the pair set up a butcher business at Lambing Flat. Sprung by the police over suspected cattle theft Christie suddenly appeared at Wheogo. Furthermore, in mid-1861 and now colloquially known as Frank Gardiner he had in the course of his arrest had severely wounded two police officers in a gunfight at the Fish River. The attack placed pressure on the police to round him up after he had under suspicious circumstances escaped their custody following the affray. Moreover, Frank's emergence at Wheogo was from the fact that Gardiner had formed an intimate and steamy relationship with a strikingly attractive married woman Catherine Browne (Brown) nee Walsh. Bridget Hall's younger sister, 18yrs of age who resided with her husband John Browne in a hut a short distance from the Wheogo homestead and neighbouring Ben Hall's Sandy Creek station. Gardiner was, 14 yrs. Catherine's senior.

Sir Frederick
Pottinger.
c. 1864.
As Gardiner commenced his reign, the police of the Lachlan district came under the command of a newly appointed police inspector, the indefatigable Sir Frederick Pottinger who had arrived in the colony in 1859 under mysterious circumstances. However, after failing at the Victorian gold-fields Pottinger came to NSW and took a position with the NSW police as a trooper on the southern gold escort under an assumed name until his Baronet status was inadvertently exposed. Having been uncovered Pottinger soon rose rapidly thru the government's employ. Pottinger's first position was Clerk of Petty Sessions at Dubbo, then as a sitting Magistrate during the Lambing Flat riots 1861 to finally police Inspector in charge of the Lachlan District headquartered at Forbes under the new Police Act of 1862. Pottinger was, however, one whose top priority was to apprehend the newly arrived and elusive bushranger, Gardiner. Pottinger was to spend many weeks searching the bush in the Wheogo and nearby Bland districts for the phantom fugitive who was being aided and abetted by many public house and station owners, such as Mrs Feehiley, owner of the notorious 'Pinnacle Station.' However, many other stations of the district also came under Pottinger's scrutiny and suspicion including the station of Ben Hall and John Maguire.Maguire op.cit. "I knew Sir Frederick well. He used to stay at Sandy Creek whenever he was making round my way..." Pottinger in his investigations demonstrated little respect or patience towards anyone he perceived right or wrong to have any connection with Gardiner. Pottinger's position was that as far as he was concerned those locals on his radar were all guilty of something. Therefore, Gardiner's known relationship with 'Kitty' Browne drew Sandy Creek station into the realms of Pottinger's suspicion whereby the police often arrived unannounced or stealthily in the hope of capturing Gardiner or uncover some other nefarious activity. This constant and punitive measure invariably drove a wedge between co-operation and support for the police into outright hostility in many quarters, however, Ben Hall himself over time would come to see Pottinger purely as an enemy.

In the years of 1861/62, to help apprehend the notorious Gardiner, the NSW Police created a detailed map of the bushrangers known and suspected haunts. The plan detailed an area covering over eighty miles squared. It listed many people long suspected of secreting the bushranger. (In the future, many of these same inhabitants would also extend their assistance to Ben Hall.) However, for the police, this detailed map became the 'key' for tracking Gardiner, although evidently without much success. (For more on Pottinger see Traps page.) Moreover, throughout the map, the police furnish an insight and opinion about the character of those people they considered criminal or just plain reprehensible who were the known protectors of 'The Darkie'. However, two names which figured prominently on the highly confidential map are surprising, the young wife of Ben Hall and her sister Mrs Catherine Browne, both noted as 'bad', and at one station on the map states; "Harbourer, Yorkshire Jack, good man bad women, the retreat of Mrs Hall and Brown." (See map below) An 1861 article in a newspaper notes Yorkshire Jack as;[sic] "a person familiarly known in the neighbourhood by the appellation of 'Yorkshire Jack.' He is the proprietor of a small sheep and cattle station, and appears, from his many good qualities, to merit well the respect and esteem of those who know him..." Gardiner was known to attend here as it also doubled as an infamous sly-grog shop. The map gives a clear insight into the close ties both married 'wild Weddin girls' had with many of the shady characters earmarked by the police. Furthermore, the comprehensive map was forwarded to the Inspector-General of police in Sydney under the strictest of confidences, for if it leaked out, it could spook those who aided and abetted Gardiner as well as unwittingly setting the police intelligence effort backwards through possible reprisals against those citizens seen as supportive of the NSW police. 
The Map drawn by NSW police c 1861, showing the Routs and Harbourer's of Frank Gardiner living in the western districts and notes Mrs Ben Hall and her sister Mrs Catherine Brown as Women of Interest. ( I have edited the map to make it more legible.)
Ben Hall's son
Henry, aged 56.
c. 1915.
Courtesy Noel Thurgood
Collection.
Nevertheless, the naming of the two married sisters on a highly confidential document openly reveals that Bridget Hall in company with her sister Catherine had been mixing with riffraff many of whom were close family friends. It also indicates that Bridget's frequent absences from 'Sandy Creek' may be an indication that her marriage of nearly five years may have already been on rocky ground with Bridget's vexation over William Hall's presence. Therefore, as a result, Bridget spent many weeks absent stopping over at those cattle stations of the many known harbourers of the 'Darkie' minus her young son Henry. Moreover, there is no doubt that Ben Hall himself had a friendship with Gardiner, where at first Hall possibly kept the association at arm's length, although his cattle station partner John Maguire was on very close terms with the bushranger. Furthermore, Hall had also been linked to two of Gardiner's close companions the younger and notorious bushrangers John Gilbert and the O'Meally brothers who hailed from the nearby Weddin Mountains. A long-time resident of the Lachlan wrote in 1863 addressing Ben Hall's friendship circa 1859 with Gilbert and more specifically John O'Meally; "about four years since, whilst taking some cattle overland from my station on the Lachlan, I fell in with young Hall, who was then stock-keeping for his brother near Bundaburra. He, O'Meally, Gilbert, and some others had all just returned from their usual trip after cattle, and on my asking them what luck they had met with, they replied "they had camped out for three nights at a place called Humbug Creek, but had met with little or no cattle, only in one mob there were a few duffers." The term "duffer" is too well known to need description here; it simply means clean-skinned animals, which are appropriated by whoever can get them into a yard..."¹⁹ Some years later the friendship between Hall and the young tearaway's Gilbert and O'Meally, which by 1862 was long-standing was recorded by a Pulpiteer of the cloth while on his ministrations in the salvation of his flock passed close to Sandy Creek Station. Here the churchman came across Ben Hall and John Gilbert together fencing and reportedly admonished the pair for working on the Sabbath; “on one occasion the same preacher was travelling near the residence of Hall, on a Sunday, when he discovered Ben, Gilbert and others doing some fencing. Reminding them of the sacred character of the day, the preacher was surprised to learn that they did not know it was the Sabbath. They referred the point to a lady who happened to live in a homestead near, and on the statement of the preacher being confirmed they, immediately ceased their work for the day. Facilus descensus averni.”²⁰ (Descent to hell is easy.) These observations illustrate a long-held mateship between Ben Hall, Johnny Gilbert and John O'Meally which has previously been only theorised as a very distant friendship. For Ben Hall, however, the quiet farming world he resided in was about to turn on its head.

Bridget
c. 1919.
Accordingly, Bridget Hall's frequent absences from her home while in the company of her younger sister Catherine, as well as the freedom from the mundane life of a station wife, Bridget enjoyed those absences in the boisterous company and entertainment of Gardiner's satellites while her sister's love affair with the celebrated bushranger sizzled. However, during one of her absences, Bridget became re-acquainted with a long-time family friend James Taylor who was regarded as a somewhat flashy effervescent stockman and a mate of Gardiner's. Taylor was ten years older than the young wife of Ben Hall and appeared to infatuate and woo the flighty 20 yr old. There has long been a thought that Taylor was unknown to the young wife of Ben Hall. However, evidence suggests otherwise as before Bridget’s marriage to Ben Hall, a quietly spoken somewhat shy natural going man and in some reports quoted as even dull when compared to Bridget's pre-marriage wild reputation. However, in her earlier friendship with the much older Jim Taylor, Bridget may have caught his eye as a teenager, and as young girls do she had flirted with the genial stockman as there is no doubt that opportunities for interaction amongst the settlers out on the socially deprived isolated stations existed. Therefore, Taylor's knowledge of the pretty Bridget Hall had consequently been established much earlier through the long association of Taylor's ex-wife Emma whom he had recently deserted and her sister Mary Jamieson's family. (nee Dower) The Jamieson's held property at Back Creek, The Bland some miles from Bridget's father's station, ‘Wheogo'. Consequently, including Ben's Sandy Creek. Taylor's own family held property situated near the Weddin Mountains at Bimbi relatively close to the O'Meally's vast Arramagong Station as well as property at Reid's Flat on the Fish River. Documentation indicates that the majority of all these squatting families in and around the Weddin Mountains and Bland district had intimate knowledge of each other and in a lot of cases were interwoven through marriage. Furthermore, James Taylor's own family had a long connection with the bushranger Frank Gardiner as Taylor's older sister Mary was married to Gardiner's close friend the wily old fox, William Fogg. The Fogg family were also well-known as thieves and scoundrels, but surprisingly they were well off with extensive land holdings including stock at The Bland as well as a farm close to Bigga on the Fish River. Taylor's family through their association with the Fogg's were also widely suspected by the police and often linked to cattle and horse theft. (James Taylor himself would be arrested for this crime by Sir Frederick Pottinger in the future, but due to lack of evidence would be released.) However, at the time of re-acquainting with Mrs Hall, Taylor was still a married man who had wed Miss Emma Dower in 1849 in a temporary church on The Bland. Although when Bridget Hall began her affair with Taylor, he had only recently deserted his alcoholic wife at Narrawa, Bennet Springs near Reids Flat, NSW leaving his wife Emma with a newborn babe in arms as well as deserting his oldest daughter Sophie, born in 1851 as well as three other children Mary b. 1858, John b. 1859, and lastly and most interestingly the babe in arms, Jameison, born 14th April 1861. Moreover, it corroborates that Taylor's relationship with Bridget commenced in the latter part of 1861 when Taylor had returned to the Lachlan district. Furthermore, Taylor himself suffered from the affliction, alcoholism, which would eventually be the cause of Taylor's death in 1877. History has also linked Taylor with the NSW police but this is inaccurate and often confused with his transported father who on release held a constabulary position at Penrith.

Nevertheless, Taylor's hovering near Sandy Creek enabled him to become a frequent visitor to Ben Hall's station. Where before long it would be revealed that Taylor's visits were not for Ben's friendship, but for Bridget Hall's affection. Taylor was the complete antithesis of Ben Hall.

Accordingly, for Ben Hall, his good nature was about to be abused by Taylor as well as exposed by his brother-in-law John Maguire. 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native', Maguire wrote that he informed Benjamin of Bridget's questionable association with Taylor. Maguire disclosed that Taylor was; "a pretend friend of Ben, but, as the after events showed, his visits were more on account of Ben's wife, who was a fine-looking woman..." Maguire ventured on that, "I suspected his little game myself, and had dropped hints to Ben..." Furthermore, after those hints Maguire revealed Ben's reaction; "Ben cautioned his wife, in very threatening language, what would happen if he ever discovered anything between her and Taylor. Later on, Ben actually came across some of Taylor’s letters, and there was such a row that the latter kept a civil distance..." Bridget's infidelity and propensity for a good time was the beginning of the end for the young couple and would throw the once steady, respectable, hard-working, loving father Ben Hall into becoming the most feared man in New South Wales.

Consequently, treachery lay in wait as at the beginning of the spring of 1861, Ben Hall had prepared to depart Sandy Creek for the task of mustering and had taken "a most affectionate leave of his wife" and after ruffling his young son Henry's hair bid farewell unknowingly for the last time. With a last look at his cara sposa, Hall rode off for the annual mustering of branded and unbranded cattle and wild horses out on the vast plains of the Lachlan and The Bland. A time when the mornings were still chilly and the days lengthening. Here all the squatters of the districts regardless of their stature or station participated in these great round-ups. Described here by Clarence Paget Bayly; "wire fences were unknown, and wild horses and cattle roamed the bush at will, and you would see from 20 to 30 men saddle up in the morning to take part at these great musters, and the stockwhips would sound like thunder coming home to the yards at nightfall. Up would go the slip-rails. Off would come the saddles, when supper would be partaken of, and then you would see as jolly a lot of fellows as ever smoked a pipe...”²¹ These great stock musters were an environment where the very likeable easygoing Ben Hall excelled. Hall's fine horsemanship admired as the men were also mustering one of the great prizes for any stockman, wild horses (warrigals) ridden down with a skill that would confound most city folk. Ben Hall was in the thick of it;[sic] "the mosquitoes and flies were the most effective agents in driving the warrigals out of the scrub on to the open plain, where they gathered in mobs for self-protection, standing whisking each other with their tails. This gave the stockmen and others a chance for some sport. The stockman was usually an active, game fellow, and a first-class horseman, with the "bump of locality" exceptionally well developed. He could steer a course through the bush like a blackfellow, confused neither by frequent twist nor turning. Running wild horses was a fascinating but hazardous and exciting part of his work, undertaken for the purpose of recovering a broken-in horse or mare that had joined the mob; to run the warrigals off the station, where they had become a pest, or for the mere love of the sport. And sport it was when the mob could be found in the open as stated above. Driving a bunch of quiet horses to act as "trailers" (frequently with a stallion amongst them, for such was a grand auxiliary equal to half-a-dozen stockmen in rounding up and keeping together the warrigals), the stockman often succeeded in yarding a mob. But it meant several miles of hard riding through scrub and over broken country..." However, on Hall's return to his home at Sandy Creek, a homecoming which should have been joyous had consequently, turned sour at the discovery of his wife's sordid actions and the loss of his son to great to bear. Anger then flared, followed by a darkness which soon enveloped a broken Ben Hall; "when Hall returned to Sandy Creek a few weeks later. He found the homestead hut deserted and learned from neighbours that the wife he had so greatly loved and so entirely trusted, had gone off..."²² Unfortunately, Ben Hall had learned for himself that Taylor was indeed doubly traitorous. For a while pretending to be a good friend. Taylor had been encouraging the infidelity of Ben Hall's wife.

Subsequently, Jim Taylor finally swept young Bridget away. By Christmas 1861 the pair had eloped and in doing so carried off Ben Hall's young son Henry with them to Bigga some 80 miles out of the way of Hall's station. Bigga was where Taylor’s older sister Mary Fogg and her husband William Fogg resided. Maguire wrote Ben was;op.cit. "cut up terribly, for he had been fond of his wife, and the little boy was the sunshine of his home..." In a look back at the circumstances The 'Adelong and Tumut Express and Tumbarumba Post', of Friday 22nd August 1924, offered an insight from an old friend into the effect the desertion had on Hall after learning of his wife's faithless actions; "Ben was dumbfounded, and on recovering from his shock, said, "For God's sake, don't say that." It was abundantly clear that Hall was a changed man, and that he had received a wound that no skilled surgeon could heal. He raved and acted like a madman. The agitated father inquired eagerly after his child, only to be told that they had taken it with them. That night he saddled his horse, then procured a loaded revolver, and within a short space of time was on his way to search for the despoiler of his home and happiness. For a whole week he continued the search, and then returned to Wheogo a completely changed man. Instead of being the industrious, hardworking grazier, he became sullen, restless and ill-tempered. He said it was useless working as he had no home nor anything to which was worthwhile living for. He had no wife, no child to cheer him at the end of the day's toil. As time wore on he became more reconciled to his lot, and began to enjoy the company of others. He made frequent excursions to Lambing Flat, then a prosperous gold-digging field..."

William Fogg and Mary Fogg,
nee Taylor.
c. 1870's
However, Ben's frustration soon developed into full-blown bitterness as he conducted a fruitless search for the lovers;Maguire op.cit. "for three or four days Ben raced about, but could not get a clue as to the direction taken by the pair. He abandoned the search in despair..." Furthermore, Taylor's sister and her husband had earlier been instrumental in facilitating close friend Frank Gardiner's escape from the clutches of the police during an ensuing gunfight and arrest at their Bigga farm in mid-1861. Accordingly, after Gardiner had wounded the two police officers and was captured, Fogg allegedly bribed one of the arresting Constable's, Constable Hosie £50 for Gardiner's freedom. However, from that encounter, Mrs Fogg would hold dear the symbol of victory over authority in the form of Gardiner's shirt. 'Empire', Saturday, 14 March 1863; "Mrs Fogg is in the habit of showing the shirt that the desperado wore in that encounter, or rather the shreds of it that were picked up after his escape. I am given to understand that it is prized as a relic, and when shown to the rising generation, it in conjunction with the embellished narrative, will, I've no doubt, exercise a beneficial influence over that portion of the particular community in question, viz., The Abercrombie Ranges." Following a short period out of the way of a murderous Ben Hall, Bridget and Taylor returned to The Bland and a property situated between Humbug Creek and Lake Cowal (today the small town of Ungarie, NSW home of the Daniher's of Essendon fame.) roughly some 25 miles from Sandy Creek Station.


Nevertheless, with the desertion, John Maguire in his memoirs believed that Bridget Hall's betrayal was a factor if not the critical factor in his brother-in-law’s tumultuous path to bushranging. Furthermore, Jack Bradshaw a former (bungling) bushranger himself wrote in 'Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall & Gang', largely recounted from the recollections of Ben's older brother William Hall. (even plagiarized in some sections from John Maguire's narrative.) William Hall claimed that Bridget supposedly left Ben Hall a letter of apology for her faithlessness: "Ben, my boy, try and forget me; I do not think it is in the power of God to forgive. I love a scoundrel—that is, if it be love at all, which I know the world will say it was not. Call it what you wish. ‘The hellish promptings of the devil,’ Taylor destroyed my duty to you as a wife, and I have destroyed your happiness for life. Something was in me that I had not fortitude to resist, however, hope that you will possess sufficient manliness to bear up against the conduct of a runaway strumpet. If you have not, I can't help it. Follow not. You have always been too good a man for me. Two villains are more suitable, possessing no love nor yet even the fear of God or the eternal flames of hell. Poor Ben, good-bye.” The above letter, whose authenticity is questionable, but if true would, therefore, most probably have been written on her behalf by her older sister Ellen Maguire. (who would maintain a close relationship with Ben Hall until his death) Who could write whereas Bridget was illiterate (see marriage certificate above) as was Ben as both she and Ben signed their names with an "X" (cross). However, Ellen Maguire was aware of Taylor's affection for her sister, for it was she that ultimately informed her husband Maguire of the affair. Subsequently, with the elopement of Bridget and a futile search, Ben Hall had been released from the bonds of responsibility. All reports indicate that Ben was clearly devastated at being deprived of his son Henry, 'the sunshine of his home', thereby, the tragic circumstances left Hall to deal with the treachery of his wife and the sympathy of his neighbours. Furthermore, the thought of Taylor’s duplicity, however, saw Ben reputedly turn to the gun for the first time filled with rage as well as a thought of bloody revenge against the usurper of his home;Maguire op.cit. “I witnessed Ben’s first essay at pulling the trigger. It was a revolver that he had picked up on the road one day while we were out riding together-a six-chambered weapon that had evidently fallen from someone’s belt. Getting a supply of ammunition, Ben used to pass his lonely moments at home practising at a target.” To listen to Bridget's letter to Ben Hall see link below.
Jack Bradshaw,
1846-1937.
Bradshaw corroborates John Maguire's conviction that Hall's life was becoming a "reckless one". Bradshaw states that one might imagine the state of Ben's mind after receiving the heartbreaking letter;Bradshaw op.cit. "for 15 days, he rode about the country like a madman, hardly knowing what he was doing, and mixed up with all kinds of company." John Maguire also alluded to the loss of Ben's interest in his share of Sandy Creek and its day-to-day operations;op.cit."Ben soon lost interest in his station, and started roaming about, so often that I missed him for days together." Now whatever savings Hall may have had were being frittered away in the grog shops, and seedy haunts of the drunkards, the hooligans and the lazy of the district. This layabout class were exposed in 'The Yass Courier', 22nd April, 1862; "it behoves our protectors, the police, to have a keen eye upon all those young men who appear to have plenty of idle time to own and ride flash horses, and knock about public-houses, with apparently plenty of spare cash, and no ostensible means of earning or replacing the same; also, they are generally surrounded by old "loafers" of a shabby appearance, which fact ought to be enough to a sharp policeman for noscitur a sciios."(it is known by the company it keeps) Furthermore, the well-known and fiery Presbyterian minister and M.P., Rev. John Dunmore Lang on a visit through the Western Districts noted in an article in 1862, titled 'Notes of a trip to the Westward and Southward, by the Rev Dr. Lang, M.P.' of those miscreants who frequented the many seedy haunts surrounding Burrangong/Lachlan goldfields and those citizens inclined to turn a blind eye to that dubious element of villain entrenched in the area. Villains who Ben Hall was not only drawn to but often seen cavorting with; "all along these routes there are these places of accommodation, shanties, sly grog shops, etc., of the most questionable character and it is in these places that our modern bushrangers obtain occasional shelter and general information..." Ben Hall under these incautious circumstances was moving one step closer to the prophesied 'reckless life'. However, with the upheaval in Hall's home in these early stages, it is quite possible that based on the evidence following Hall’s wife’s desertion that Hall suffered a nervous breakdown. A colloquial term for an acute psychiatric disorder that manifests primarily as severe depression, anxiety or dissociation in a previously functional individual to the extent that they are no longer able to function on a day-to-day basis i.e.: the neglect of Sandy Creek after Bridget's desertion, loss of his son, the sense of betrayal, all apparent until the disorder is resolved. This nervous breakdown, however, is defined by its 'temporary nature'(For Bradshaw's full narrative of Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall and Gang. However, the content should be viewed with caution. see Links page.)

MacAlister's former
 Great Eastern Hotel,
 Forbes, frequented by
Ben Hall. c. 1862.
As 1862 dawned those long lonely days at Sandy Creek where Ben's will to improve his station had soon evaporated without 'the sunshine of his home' to brighten the end of his day, Hall subsequently threw off his hard-won reputation. Therefore, swamped by his heartache, he throws caution to the wind and embarks upon associations that will lead him into his flight into high jinks and lawlessness. Consequently, Ben began to roam unfettered through the surrounding districts. Accordingly, time and time again Hall made appearances at the local shanties and public houses neighbouring Sandy Creek, i.e. Forbes, Lambing Flat, the Pinnacle and the O'Meally's Inn in the Weddin Mountains. These visitations were predominantly in the company of old friends of a growing notorious character John O’Meally, Daniel Charters, John Gilbert and of course Frank Gardiner, as well as others of an even less reputable character such as John MaGuinnes, John Davis and John 'Paddy' Connolly, the last three colloquially referred to as the 'Three Jack's'! Instigated through these associations Ben leapt from a precipice of no return. Moreover, according to eyewitnesses in the short term Hall had fully abandoned the hard work and effort invested in the cattle station, a situation confirmed by John Maguire. Furthermore, in early 1862 a former Forbes publican and confidant of Frank Gardiner, Mr Charles MacAlister recounted in his memoirs titled 'Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South,' of Ben's devil may care associations with those men no longer considered on the fringe of bushranging but in the thick of it even to the point of holding center stage. Subsequently, MacAlister's comments give insight as well as, highlight just how far Ben Hall had fallen. Therefore, he was no longer just suspected but widely believed by the leading citizens of Forbes and other local prominent Graziers to have thrown his hat into the ring with the bushrangers, namely those as mentioned above. However, to disguise this association during robberies, it may also have been that in those first forays with 'the boy's' in sticking-up Hall may have at first availed himself of the popular practice of blackening his face or wearing a Crape or Calico mask as a disguise. Accordingly, Ben's current path and new found reputation and associations would bring him into eye contact with the head of the Lachlan police, Sir Frederick Pottinger. Furthermore, most historians dispute Hall's early connections and participation in bushranging activities. However, Hall's collusion with Gardiner and Company when adequately researched is evident otherwise why would prominent men such as MacAlister and others of the period make such remarks that are beyond doubt and whose comments are surely not flights of fancy?;;op.cit. “news was brought in on the sticking up of Mr. Horsington, the Lambing Flat storekeeper, at Big Wombat, by Gardiner and his gang, Horsington having to part with £500 odd in money and over 200 ozs. in gold dust. Up to that time, this was the biggest coup the Darkie (Gardiner) had made. Ben Hall, Gilbert, Fordyce, Charters, and others of the bushrangers had drinks on many occasions at the Great Eastern Hotel in Forbes, and in broad daylight, too. This was prior to the Eugowra affair, and up to that event, Ben Hall and Gilbert were only suspected of a bushranging kinship with Gardiner. For though several of them had been before the Forbes Bench on suspicion (Ben Hall and O’Malley were repeatedly brought up), the law had failed to sheet the guilt home to them to the satisfaction of the local J.P.” Furthermore, in 1863, Hall himself corroberated MacAlister's assessment of his presence before magistrates, when Hall captured, in a deed of brazen aggression, a police inspector, and complained of being harrassed. However, when put into context those arrests appeared fully warranted;[sic] "Ben Hall referred to the trouble Sir Frederick Pottinger had given him in having him taken into Forbes so many times before the magistrates for nothing..." (MacAlister had built and was the former owner of the Great Eastern Hotel in Forbes a regular drinking hole for Ben Hall, Gilbert etc. MacAlister's book may be accessed on the Links page.)

Illustration of hotel
festivities on the
Gold Fields.

c. 1860's.
Image courtesy NLA.
Consequently, Hall's loss of interest in his station and witnessed presence in the thriving township of Forbes in the company of Gardiner's known disciples which through MacAlister's memoirs reveal drinking and carousing in the many hotels and dance-hall establishments of the Gold town. Furthermore, these distractions may have helped soothe the bitterness of Hall's domestic life. At the core of these distractions were the dancing Hurdy-Gurdy Girls. Moreover, these much-admired ladies danced with the stockmen and miners for a shilling a dance some took advantage of the free-flowing gold nuggets and the inebriated men to charge as much as five pounds for a whirl to the desperate male inhabitants starved of those sweet feminine charms. The men danced to the rhythms and beat made by the musicians, whom reportedly sang and played very loudly so the music could rise above the noise of the stamping feet of those excited men. Charles MacAlister recalls rugged fistfights breaking out amongst revelers, and the shenanigans of the cashed-up bushrangers such as Gilbert, as well as the so not uncommon sight of the police often bamboozled in attempting to secure the instigators during those raucous festivities. Activities where even barmaids were fair game;op.cit.“The barmaid was shying empty bottles and, pewters at the head of a young fellow who, she said, had insulted her, and the air was full of smash and frenzy. The great Sir F. Pottinger (then head of the police) was riding by at the time with one of his troopers, and he and his subordinate rushed into the bar, leaving their horses tethered to a tree nearby. While the police were inside quelling the row, someone made off with their horses, and we doubt if they were ever recovered. Johnny Gilbert, it was said, had a hand in the business; but whoever took them reduced the awful Pottinger to the level of an old vituperative fish-fag and he threatened several bystanders with summary punishment if the prads were not returned.” For Ben Hall reputedly flushed with cash, roamed from one hotel or dance hall to the other. Where it was noted of the wide range of indulgences, including the limited types of liquor readily at hand and the most popular to those on the spree. Recounted by long time resident Ted Plunkett;"There was no such thing as whisky in the hotels. Whisky is a comparatively late drink. Pale and dark brandy was sold, then, and it was quite effective, too." Plunkett likewise gave an insight into the revelry of life in the gold town whilst one was on those binge's; "everybody played practical jokes taking wheels off buggies, or removing signs from one shop and placing them elsewhere. Blazing tar balls were rolled up and down the streets, and everywhere there was skylarking going on. There was a crowd we called the Donegallers, and they were always looking for fight. You might see one fight start away in the distance, and before you could reach it there would be half a dozen more." In addition another former old-hand recalled life in the new sin city; 'Western Herald', October 1908; "It was a motley crowd one saw in Forbes along in '62 and '63, pressmen, lawyers, magistrates, surveyors, actors, demireps, unfrocked parsons, gamblers, pugilists, golden hole men, "all sorts and conditions of men," cheek by jowl. Vice and villainy were rampant, needy adventurers on the make, bushrangers in faint—very faint, disguise; bars and dancing saloons full to o'er flowing, cafe chantants better patronised than churches. Money was flung about anyhow; it seemed as if Sheol itself was let loose. Fast and fair women danced, or drank for wagers, and boasted that they could hold-up the police—or any other body in fact. One woman backed herself to waltz "either man or woman blind for £50," and declined to dance with any ordinary mortal for less than a fiver." (Sheol is ancient Greek for Hades.) Furthermore, Dan Mayne a well-known scribe during Hall's reign and close friend of Sir Frederick Pottinger recounted in the ‘Freemans Journal’, 10th November, 1906, the ease with which men dispatched or flung gold nuggets along with the excitement and wild nights of singing, dancing and boozing as well as the Forbes ladies' charms as an unfettered Ben Hall jostled through the crowded streets; “when Maggie Oliver and Joey Gogenheim were playing with old Bill Holloway's company the diggers were so delighted with the sight of those ladies' fair forms and the sound of their sweet voices that (as bouquets were unknown) they threw valuable nuggets of gold on the stage to them instead. It was the liveliest place I was ever in, and many a jolly night I spent with M'Guire's friend, Ted Barry, who kept the hotel where old John Toohey drove the mail coach to, and Ted's pretty sister sweetened the sherry with her sunny smiles. Money was thrown about in the most reckless fashion...” Every entrepreneur was vying for the patronage of the cashed-up prospectors as exampled in this Forbes theatre advertisement 1862: "Wigram's Exhibition Concert, legitimate amusement, light, laughable, and agreeable. Every evening 7.30 to 11, by an unrivalled company of vocalists, musicians, and dancers. Reserved seats 1/-: Cushioned seats 2/-." Many of these establishments were well patronized and for those less lucky free theatre shows were available but would include a small sitpend; "also there were several free theatres—but everyone who went in was expected to buy a drink; and whether they wanted it or not, they had to pay sixpence for it..." Not only were people pouring in to town looking for their fast fortune, there were others, however, cashing in on the towns burgeoning population as soon as possible as portrayed in this hotel for sale early 1862; "For Sale.— A Public House on the South Lead, 4 bedrooms, kitchen and oven. 50 boarders now in residence. Price £150." Furthermore, as the hotels swelled with patrons the prevalence of weapons and their variety was very common, carried by most of those diggers mixing throughout the Forbes festive houses; "it was a curious crowd to look at. Nearly, all the men had revolvers or pistols in their belts, few wore coats, nearly all had flannels, some red ones, and moleskin trousers; some wore riding pants, and these could easily be picked out as stock dealers or stockmen, bringing stock for sale to the diggings..." 

"Gold man gold! said he have I died and gone to heaven." Forbes was flying as men and women from all walks of life continuously converged on the timber and canvas tent city seeking their fortune and before long;op.cit.“there were fully 50,000 people on the field. The Warden Captain Brown, himself informed me that up to that date over 25,000 miner’s licenses had been issued and scores were applied for every day, and truly the Forbes rush at its height was a pandemonium...” However, Hall took to the spree like a duck to water running with Gilbert, O'Meally and others, putting up at the various public house's filled with wine, women and song. Inn's such as the Great Eastern, Cohen’s Inn, and 50 others sprawled on every corner, including sojourns at the Harp of Erin Inn, and Maguire's mate John Wilson's, The White Hart Inn. It was said that at one time Hall took to shacking-up with a woman named Betsy;[sic]“knew Hall to be staying in the same house as Betsy...” However, Betsy only lasted a week and cleared off with another. Accordingly, for Ben Hall and his associates, Forbes also spawned the Sly Grog shops (An unlicensed hotel or liquor-store selling poor-quality liquor) filled with shady characters with one operated by John Gilbert and John O'Meally on the road from Lambing Flat to Forbes, the Gold highway. These establishments were an excellent information reservoir for prospective highway deeds and a cheap booze alternative to the more expensive and often overcrowded dance halls and hotels. Presiding at these cheaper hotels included gangs of dissolute characters who were in the habit of frequenting the many sparring saloons (bare-knuckle boxing for a wager) of the goldfields and who wished to stay off the police radar. These shady hotels were as well often blitzed by the law, where surprisingly women operated many of them; The 'Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday', 7th January 1862; Forbes- "The police have commenced prosecutions against the sly grog sellers. Five were summoned to appear before the court yesterday-Captain Browne and Commissioner Grenfell on the bench. Samuel Richards, James Pattison, and Margaret Scully were severally fined £30. The case against one Elizabeth Marshall was remanded for a week. A warrant was issued for one Helen Berriman, she not appearing to the summons." Long after the gold rush had faded, and recounting the heady days of life in Forbes, an old resident mused over the throngs of people parading the streets circa 1862; 'The Forbes Advocate', Wednesday 4th April 1928; "I have not as yet given you any idea of the diggings. Well, It opened my eyes. I never saw anything approaching it; it was simply impossible for you to get down Rankin Street with a mate without losing him. The people were like sardines in a tin, it was simply wonderful. The hotels were packed, you had to wait your turn to get into them as well as other places of business. I do not think there was a country on the face of the earth which was not represented..." Ben Hall had thrown off the reputation 'as a young man of fine promise.'

Before Hall's marriage breakdown, he and Bridget were known to visit Bathurst in a trip which broke the monotony of station life and allowed the young couple to let their hair down. However, in 1858 while staying at the Australian Hotel on Bentick Street, Bridget was embroiled in a verbal altercation with another woman Mrs Fitkins which was referred to as a 'casus belli' (an act or situation that provokes or justifies a war.) and landed both women in court. Moreover, as one of the wild Weddin Girl's, language for Bridget was as good a weapon as any pistol which evidently Bridget levelled and fired at a Mrs Fitkin. The language raised the hair of those within earshot. The barman of the hotel Mr Murray was so offended at the verbal abuse thrown between the two that he was placed in contempt of court for failing to appear as a witness and was eventually escorted into court under the charge of a policeman. Asked of his reluctance, Murray told the judge; “because he did not wish to mix himself up with anything so filthy and disgusting as the case in question...” and “I am disgusted, your Worships beyond measure, at being in any way connected with the transaction. I am an unwilling witness, and will say no more than I am compelled...” The reporter in court also appeared to take a civil view and refrained to layout the vitriol except to write; “it appeared that Mrs. Bridget Hall had made certain references to Mrs Fitkins', chastity, in language which could scarcely be equalled by either the celebrated Mrs. Moriarty or the great Daniel O'Connell, and which is therefore hardly fit for print. A portion of the language was given by Mr. Murray, but as he had not taken notes of the belligerent interview he could not undertake to give the whole...” Ben Hall had been married to a hellcat! Conversely, in 1921, an old-stager reminisced in the 'National Advocate', Friday 30th, September, of another evening in Bathurst, when Ben Hall in company with his brother Bill, attended a dance at a local hotel; "talking of dances did it. Alec declared that he had danced with Ben Hall. "Ben Hall wasn't a bushranger, then," protested Alec. "That was before he broke out. A lot of young fellows came into a hotel in William Street, and made themselves known. I was only 17 or 18 then, (around 1860) and I didn't know them. One was Ben Hall, and another was his brother Bill. Ben looked a fine young fellow. They said, "Let's have a buck set." That meant all men. And we had a buck set. I took "tops" with Ben. And the only woman in the set was the publican's daughter..."

Bridget Taylor,
Cobargo NSW.
c. 1919.
Author's Note: March 1876 Taylor's first wife, Emma died near Crookwell "from acutely drinking spirits". When Taylor heard the news, he immediately married Bridget Hall at Forbes on 1st June 1876. Bridget bore two sons and a daughter to Taylor; John, 1st January 1869, James, 14th April 1871 and Catherine Ellen, 20th July 1873. Over time there had been reports that Taylor was an ex-constable but this is untrue. When his father Adam Taylor arrived in the colony his occupation was recorded as a former constable and was convicted at Derby near Nottingham England and was sentenced to seven years arriving on the 'Baring' in 1819. In 1825 Taylor's father was granted a 'Certificate of Freedom' and was once more reinstated as a constable at Penrith in 1827. Furthermore, Jim Taylor was nine years older than Bridget and died 13 months after their marriage on 21st July 1877, at Cadalgulee near Forbes "from the effects of drink" aged 46 years. The twice-widowed Bridget was 37 years of age. After Taylor's death, Bridget moved to Bourke, NSW, to start a new life with her sister Ellen and her younger sister Kitty's husband, John Browne. Whilst in Bourke, Bridget appeared in court for failing to send her children to school under the new 'Public Instruction Act' and where Henry Hall, Ben's son, appeared on her behalf;[sic] "...Bridget Taylor (for whom her son appeared) was also fined 2s 6d and 4s 10d in costs for an infringement of the Public Instruction Act." She later moved to Cobargo where she died on 9th July 1923 and buried there in an unmarked grave. The relationship between Ben Hall's son Henry and his mother Bridget may have been a tenuous one as Henry left Bourke and resided in Condobolin. In 1884, Henry married Ellen Barnes and had one son Arthur, but as with his father, Ben Hall, Henry would suffer the same fate and his wife Ellen would run off with another man, Charles Keightley and they wed in 1892. Henry Hall then married Kate Fullbrook and English immigrant in 1899.

In the face of Ben Hall's domestic upheaval once again his family erupted in malice and the feud between father and son Edward and his wife appeared unabated when Ben's 56-year-old father was once more in the news of December 1861. On this occasion, Hall's father was attacked and suffered a brutal physical assault by a person believed 'known' to him while on his trek home after a well! Quiet night out; 'The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News', Wednesday 8th January 1862; BRUTAL CONDUCT.— "On Friday last, as poor old Ben Hall, of Blandford, was on his road home, a "little the worse for beer," and as Benjamin resided a distance of half-a-mile from the public house where he had been spending the evening, and felt tired, he sat down to rest awhile, and unfortunately fell into a sound sleep, when some villain poured over his head and face a quantity of hot water, scalding poor Hall in a fearful manner. The police have a clue to the monster who committed this atrocious act." However, the nature of the attack on Ben Hall's father indicates that the use of boiling water was the modus operandi of a woman. Perchance thrown over the sleeping man by the wife of Edward Hall, Honora, of which there was no love lost. Once more there is no record of Ben Hall's reaction to his older brother's ongoing disputes and dealings with his father.

Ben Hall.
c. 1862.
Accordingly, with a melancholy outlook and "no child to cheer him at the end of the day's toil," Ben was fashioning a new reputation embracing the fast and loose behaviour of his new companions. Therefore, Bridget's desertion and the manner of its deceitfulness which "no skilled surgeon could heal," metamorphosed Hall from the quiet, amiable man into a swashbuckling Gardiner archetype. A proclamation to Bridget perhaps that he too could throw caution to the wind and raise Cain with the best of them, after all, Taylor was a drunk, and he was a "good-looking man."

Therefore, those early weeks of 1862 Ben persisted in a closer relationship with Frank Gardiner, 'Prince of Tobymen'. Gardiner became the one person who would wield the most influence over Ben and who is also widely claimed to be the father of the modern bushranger;Maguire op.cit. "things got from bad to worse, till Frank Gardiner, the bushranger came. He capped the lot. Now under 'The King of the Road's' influence Ben started on his notorious career..." Gardiner was irrepressible and appeared characterised in the mould of the famous 17th-century highwayman Claude Du val (b.1643-d.1670);[sic] "a gallant and courteous rogue, probably the most dashing highwayman ever to haunt the roads of England. He was known as a “true gentleman of the road...” Gardiner embraced this beau ideal and would continually scan the papers for positive reviews of his robberies whereby when misrepresented he would take umbrage by writing to the editor of newspapers, such as the Burrangong Star refuting any fake news and false assumptions. Furthermore, Gardiner was the first bushranger to embrace the power of public perception and celebrity status through the press. In utilising this power, Gardiner would always take care during hold-ups to be egalitarian with those held under his revolver and displayed great panache in his manners, dress and appearance, knowing full well that his every action would be soaked up by the correspondants;[sic] "Gardiner wore breeches and high boots, cabbage-tree hat with black band, and black poncho spotted on the inside of like the skin of a leopard..." This standard was to be embraced by accomplice John Gilbert who also styled himself as a flash cove as would in due course more conservative Ben Hall. Therefore, in the majority of their later robberies the Lachlan bushrangers Gilbert, O'Meally and Hall were often noted as appearing clean, smartly dressed and dignified;[sic] "Hall had a quiet and respectable air—by wearing nicely- shaped high boots and a well-fitting pair of brown cord pants, with fashionably cut cloth coat and vest of the same colour, and only one gold chain, and not much of that to be seen..." Gilbert was also recorded as taking much pride in how he dressed;[sic] "Gilbert wore corduroy breeches, a blue embroidered vest and a large red sash instead of a belt. His long fair hair curled over his collar and he wore a wide hat with a velvet band..." Nevertheless, Gardiner in his dealings with all those held-up at the point of his revolver treated the unfortunates most courteously, especially women who in some instances swooned in his presence, and were more than happy to have their corsets searched;[sic] “Gardiner himself stuck up 32 people at a station, took all their money, and—their being a fiddler among the crowd proposed a dance, selecting a lady well known on the Indigo for his partner; the company amused themselves for some time, when he took round the hat for the fiddler, but on being reminded that he had all their money, he made him a handsome donation. Of course, before leaving, he kissed his partner. From what we hear of his dashing appearance, his noble steed, and splendid horsemanship, we should not be surprised to hear ere long of people — ladies especially — going out of their road for the pleasure of being robbed by him the same as they used to do in the days of Gardiner's great prototype — Claude Du val.”

Accordingly, Gardiner was also very well aware that the settlers both rich and poor alike were his most significant assets for protection, and when confronted by an infringement that would place a mark against him in their eyes he would speedily rectify it;[sic] “the bushranger, Gardiner, had gone to Mr Chisholm's station at Bland, and demanded and obtained possession of a fine grey mare, which he supposed belonged to Mr Watt. The other day the bushranger met a man on the road, who told him it was a shame for him to take a lady's horse, mentioning the name of the lady to whom the animal belonged. Gardiner immediately borrowed the horse ridden by the man, giving him the mare to take to its lady proprietor, and promising to send in the borrowed horse by a messenger on the following day. Punctual to engagement the horse was left next day at the stable of its owner.” Furthermore, even those stripped of their valuables and cash were never left without a silver shilling to get by on. Silver was a coin Gardiner never made off with and which Hall and Company only stole when hard pressed. All these actions enhanced Gardiner's prestige; "there have been few instances where violence has been used by these modern highwaymen, they will often leave a few shillings with their victims, so that they may not be on the road quite destitute...” However, for the new breed of bushranger the robbing of old friends was commonplace, conducted without any malice or vindictiveness, after all, it was just business; "as Gordon's coach on its down trip from the Lachlan was being tooled along a good road by Fred Newman, about twenty-five miles from the diggings, two horsemen suddenly appeared on the road with an imperative "stop" to the driver. Twigging a 14-inch Dean and Adams' in the hands of the speaker, Fred, received orders to drive into the bush. They stopped at about half a mile and demanded the money of the passengers — £2 from one, and £30 with a watch and ring from the other, being luckily their only booty. It is almost unnecessary to state that Gardiner and his mate were these very polite highwaymen. The man robbed of the £30, &c., now a mate of Tom Watson's, of "jeweller's shop" notoriety, was formerly a mate of this very Gardiner's in some other walk of life. The following is -the colloquy that ensued between them: — J. M’Auley. "I did not expect this from you, Frank." — Gardiner: "I expected to get £1000, or at least £400 or £500, from you, Jim." — J. M'Auley: "Well, give me back my watch and ring." — "Not now— I will return them another time." The gentlemen of the road then shook hands with them and departed..." These standards were to become the blueprint for both John Gilbert and Ben Hall's activities. Gardiner, unlike Ben Hall, was a highly educated complicated fellow. Who not only had a passion for another man's wife but the dark arts as well. It was noted of his continual consulting of fortune-telling books for a sign on the success or failure of an impending hold-up and retained great faith in the mechanisms of the Oracle;[sic] “Gardiner was reading a book-a fortune telling book. It would appear, in fact, that Gardiner was consulting the oracle as to the future; calculating the chances of the undertaking in hand.”  ("jeweller's shop" was a colloquial term for Goldmine claim.)

Through the influence of Gardiner, Ben Hall would come to embrace the bushranging ideals of 'The Darkie'. Furthermore, Ben Hall's friendship with not only Frank Gardiner but Hall's long-standing friendships with John O'Meally and John Gilbert and their free-spirited gun-toting lifestyle drew out Hall's new found devil may care attitude. Luring him further and further into a collision course with destiny. However, these associations with 'The Darkie', and his allegiant companions had consequently drawn a bead on Ben by the police and in particular Sir Frederick Pottinger. As a result, several highway robberies between March and April 1862 perpetrated within a few miles of Sandy Creek including one robbery in particular, would have Ben Hall identified as an accomplice, arrested and dragged off a racecourse to the Forbes lock-up by Sir Frederick. Furthermore, in the eyes of the public Gardiner was the undisputed 'King of the Road' where it was said that;[sic] "it asserted that the bushranger Gardiner is supplied with information by numberless accomplices both in the township and along the roads; a journalist has had it said of him that he can secure any friend from Gardiner by giving "passes." Therefore, many of the reprobates Ben was mixing with were often lounging about like dingos in the numerous sly grog shops and shanties. Here these underlings gravitated too Gardiner's undeniable charisma waiting for the chance of obtaining easy loot by latching on to Gardiner's coattails. These irredeemable men included the likes of the previously mentioned John Davis, John McGuinness, 'Paddy' Connolly, 15yr old Johnny Walsh (Bridget's Hall's brother) and 15yr old John Jameison (Taylor's nephew) all well known to Ben Hall. However, apart from these men a myriad of others often became a part of 'The Darkies' ever-changing brigade of bushrangers. Furthermore, many robberies during this early period circa 1862 were summarised in the NSW 'Parliamentary Hansard', and re-documented in the 'Sydney Morning Herald', 19th August 1863. The review covers the early period from March 1862 - April 1862, as Gardiner ruled the Lachlan road; "March 25th, 1862.-Telegram, Forbes. Gardiner stuck-up and robbed two drays (between this and Lambing Flat) of provisions, spirits, and winter clothing; April 12th, Gardiner went to Mrs Chisholm station, at Bland, and stole a horse; 17th, telegram, from Forbes, sticking-up is still the order of the day between here and Lambing Flat, 20th, Gardiner stuck-up about twenty-five men on the Lachlan Road a few days ago, and several drays. 23rd, Gardiner and four armed men dashed in front of Greig's coach, on the road from the Lachlan to Burrangong and turned into the bush again; on the same day, they stuck up and robbed a dray, belonging to Moses and Son and the other day, they stuck up and robbed Mr Greig's dray on the Lachlan road." There can be no doubt that Hall's current alliances and forays into sticking up would link him to many of the above incidents, notably the last three.(Robbery dates and the reporting of them could often differ by days.)


Ben Hall description
NSW Police Gazette,
for 8th April 1862,

2nd villian. Others
no doubt 1. Gardiner, 3. Gilbert
and 4. O'Meally.
Ben Hall’s recklessness now rose up to bit him and bit him hard as in the company of Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert, Ben Hall gambled all and participated in one of his first published incident and involvement in 'highway robbery'. Robberies had become a dime a dozen since the rush of the Burrangong, (Lambing Flat) and Forbes goldfields. Therefore, Ben Hall had assuredly participated in earlier holdups, but as luck would have it, none were able to be pinned to him as attested to by Charles MacAlister. Moreover, NSW Police Gazettes of early 1862 reported robberies with descriptions strongly attributed to Ben Hall, described as; "rather above the medium height, 5ft 6-8in tall and rather stoutly built, lame in one leg and weighed 13 st 7 lbs...", alternatively, around 86kg, which for the men of the 1860's, in today's terms, would be considered overweight. (according to today's standard B.M.I.) During a later robbery in 1864, noted Ben Hall’s appearance; "Hall is the only one of the three who cultivates any mustache or whiskers, and he is getting fat..."²³

It is 14th April 1862; Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert approach the transport dray of William Bacon drawing their revolvers. Edward Horsenail an employee of Bacon's later attested; "I noticed two men ride out of the bush, and cried out to Bacon, "Look out, Bill, here are the boys!" they came up and presented their revolvers, and ordered us into the bush..."²⁴ Gardiner order's Bacon to turn his wagons into the scrub where Ben Hall and another man, John Youngman, reputedly an employee of Ben Hall are waiting. Hall is holding the reigns of a pack-horse to load their ill-gotten gains from the stuck-up drays. Two passing travellers spotted on the road from the scrub and Gardiner orders Ben Hall and Gilbert to fetch them. They bail them up, steal a saddle and hold the men as prisoners. On completion, the four bushrangers depart. It was at the time reported in the newspapers of Gardiner's command of the Queen's highway and that his current actions could only end in misery; "Gardiner is a bold rogue and a very great fool, because, he not only braves the police and levies toll along the whole line of road from Burrangong to the Lachlan, but he risks his liberty or neck for the paltry equivalent of a few months defiance of the law. A pity it is that so bold a spirit should be occupied in so bad a cause, and should have to look forward to so contemptible an end..."²⁵

Forbes Annual Horse
Racing results,
April 22,23 and
24, 1862.
With the Easter holidays of 1862 concluded Forbes held a race meeting covering three days at Wowingragong from the 22nd-24th April 1862 which Hall attended. The three-day meeting was held in a carnival atmosphere and drew the upper echelon of Forbes society as well as all types of other shady characters;[sic] "the attendance was reputed to be large, but the gathering was not altogether free from the presence of notorious "sovereign-sellers," "urgers," "teardowns," "pluguglies," "pea and thimble" tricksters, and "go-getters?' of that day..."  However, on the second day of the meeting 23rd April 1862 Ben Hall was arrested by Sir Frederick Pottinger; "Benjamin Hall, described as a settler in the Wheogo district, was brought before the Court charged with highway robbery under arms..," his arrest was on information received from the earlier dray robbery victim William Bacon. (Benkin) Pottinger slapped Hall with handcuffs and presented him in court where Pottinger stated to the magistrate; “from information received I apprehended prisoner (Hall) on Wednesday last on the racecourse, charged with highway robbery, in company with others, on the road between the Lachlan and Lambing Flat”;  It was noted that; "Ben Hall denied the charge."²⁶ (see article right) On the day of the arrest and old timer later noted that; [sic]"It was at these races that Ben Hall, who was at that time looked upon as being in a fair way well to do, was first arrested for horse-stealing or something of the kind. I remember he was dressed in knee-breeches and boots, and wore a cabbage-tree hat, which were generally used at that time." With Hall locked-up it was reported regarding Ben's connection to Gardiner;[sic]"one of Gardner's band was arrested, mounted on a fine powerful brown horse, superior to anything belonging to the mounted force..." (At the Forbes race meeting one horse entered was called 'Don't You Know' a beautiful brown bay trained by Tom Higgins and reputedly owned by Frank Gardiner.)

Now the thing was, the victim of the robbery, William Bacon, had known Ben Hall personally and where in his statement at Hall’s subsequent remand hearing he positively identifies Ben Hall as one of the robbers; “prisoners (Hall) opened a case of tobacco; the man supposed to be Gardner told prisoner (Hall) to strap the tobacco and bottles of gin on the pack-horse, which he did; I was requested to help him, which I did; in doing so prisoner (Hall) said to me, "You never saw me before," to which I replied that I had, and drank with him; they then ordered us to pack up, and left us, prisoner (Hall) leading the pack-horse away; I swear positively that the prisoner (Hall) is the man; I cannot be mistaken - when he robbed the drays some chaff passed between us with respect to a woman I knew he was acquainted with..."²⁷ 

William Bacon had nothing to gain or lose by his evidence and knew Ben Hall well, well enough to positively identify him. Another eyewitness, Edward Horsenail, corroborated Bacon’s evidence, and also claimed to have known Ben Hall on sight from many previous social occasions;"I am driving for the last witness, I have been in his employ fully fifteen months; I know the prisoner-have seen him on several occasions; on Monday week last, as far as I can judge about ten o'clock, when about two or three miles from Green's, I noticed two men ride out of the bush, and cried out to Bacon, "Look out, Bill, here are the boys!" they came up and presented their revolvers, and ordered us into the bush, one kept near the dray I was driving, the other by the side of Bacon's dray; when a short distance off the road, two other men rode up, one the prisoner, leading a pack-horse on which there were two or three saddles; I can positively swear to the prisoner; the man we supposed to be Gardner then commenced to open the cases on the dray; prisoner stood by with a revolver in his hand; a case of gin was opened, and a bottle passed round for all hands to drink; prisoner and another left by order of the man supposed to be Gardner, and brought two other men from the road; prisoner, by order of the same man, searched my dray; he broke a case of tobacco open, and packed two bags containing tobacco and other things on a horse; they soon after left; I know prisoner; the last two trips we have made, on both occasions I saw him at the Pinacle Station (Mrs. Feehiely's public house); I can positively swear to him; I cannot be mistaken." "Prisoner, who declined saying anything, was remanded until Saturday (this day), when he was again brought before the Court and committed for trial: bail refused..."²⁸.......of all the drays in all the districts to rob, Ben Hall had to pick the one where they all knew him, and knew him well
Clerk of the Peace, Forbes, Depositions recieved entry book for Ben Hall, 1862.
With the damning evidence presented, Ben Hall was remanded in custody for several weeks awaiting transfer to the provincial town of Orange for trial, due to Forbes' lack of a Sessions Court. The grievous crime of 'Robbery Under Arms' had severe ramifications for Ben Hall in that if found guilty it could result in a death penalty judgement. Forbes, a town packed with thousands and with substantial crime a constant, the lack of a higher court was much lamented; 'Empire', 23rd May 1862; "amongst our many wants perhaps none is more imperatively felt than that of a session court somewhere in the district. At present, we have to go to Orange, a distance of eighty miles..." Understandably, Ben Hall had denied any involvement and claimed that he and Youngman happened upon the robbery and that the revolver in Hall's possession had been found earlier in the bush. Furthermore, Hall claimed that Frank had ridden over and told the two to remain where they were! So, Hall then states he and Youngman sat on their mounts and did just that, nothing! Why not rob them too? As had happened to some others under Gardiner's orders who were passing at the time; "prisoner (Hall) and another left by order of the man supposed to be Gardner, and brought two other men from the road..." The spectacle of Ben Hall watching men at the point of a revolver being forced to hand over the valuable loading no matter what century is offensive to anyone. Then for Hall and Youngman to ride off offering no assistance or failing to provide evidence as a witnesses to the crime is also troublesome even when the parties were known to each other. The fact is, Hall was working with Gardiner! There was no ulterior motive or vindictiveness to fabricate evidence in implicating Hall and Youngman by the poor sitting ducks of the drays, as they were all friends. Therefore, Hall's culpability is self-evident as exhibited through Hall's inability to achieve bail. This fact more than substantiates the strength of the evidence provided by those bailed-up and had witnessed against him. The lock-up holding Hall was in itself a very small, cold, depressing gaol and primitive in structure. As well as effortless to flee. For Forbes a town with thousands on the goldfield, the lock-up was indescribably inadequate; 'Empire', Monday 28th April, 1862; "in mentioning our Government buildings in my last, I forgot to mention our lock-up; it is a log hut, about twenty by twelve feet, anything but secure..." The scant arrangements in the lockup created an environment for an easy escape, which occurred during the time of Hall's incarceration;[sic] "for a few nights ago, nine prisoners escaped by burrowing a hole under the logs with their knives; in the morning it was discovered that the birds had flown, and no one to go after them, our inspector and posse being on a wild goose chase after Gardiner, the bushranger." Those who shot through were named as "Richard Eady, John Lewis, James M'Grain, John Donovan, Sydney Reece,  James Taylor, and David Fraser, and they had all been committed and sentenced for various offences. There must be some neglect somewhere." However, Hall surprisingly, never apprised the opportunity to join in the mass escape.


NSW Police Gazette,
14th May 1862.
While brooding in gaol the many friends that had previously stood by him began to wane in their support, no doubt due to his widely acknowledged familiarity with Gardiner, John Gilbert and O'Meally. His April 1862 arrest was overriding any past loyalties or sympathy. Furthermore, Sir Frederick Pottinger had been a regular visitor to Sandy Creek while trekking through the scrub in search of Gardiner and others. The visits from Pottinger appeared based on suspicions regarding who was harbouring bushrangers. Therefore, Hall's notoriety as someone who was known to be consorting with bushrangers brought the inspector to Hall and Maguire's door. Sandy Creek's reputation had become as bad as Arramagong (O'Meally's) or the Pinnacle (Feehiely/Charters) for attracting the criminal element. Pottinger's instincts dictated that Hall and Maguire were bent. Therefore the prevailing view of the inspector was that no one was above the law. For Pottinger based on Bacon's convincing deposition in court, he finally had one of Gardiner's men locked-up with the belief that Hall was a shoe-in for a guilty verdict. However, Ben saw things differently and had witnessed first hand Pottinger's heavy-handed actions in the manner of his arrest. Therefore, as Ben sat in the Forbes lock-up, Pottinger became central to his anger. Nonetheless, Pottinger to further implicate Ben as a bushranger placed a notice in the NSW Police Gazette deliberately, no doubt, linking him to bushranging in the eyes of his neighbours; 'Ben Hall, a bushranger'; NSW Police Gazette, 14th May 1862; “found in the possession of Benjamin Hall a bushranger, a light chestnut horse, 16½ hands high, BB near shoulder, small star; also, a saddle and double reined bridle; Colonial made; the seat and knee pads are hogskin. The above are now in possession of the police at Forbes." However, what it is mystifying with the notice is that if Pottinger had thought the horse stolen why did he not add this to Hall's robbery charge. Horse stealing was very serious and on par with Robbery Under Arms. It may have also been that Pottinger had had enough of the stonewalling of those he knew where protecting Gardiner or in cahoots with, therefore, this move was a sly way to discredit Ben Hall in the eyes of his neighbours and to force information from them. (See article above.)


Orange Courthouse  c. 1860's
where Hall's trial would
take place on
19th May 1862. Hall was
transported to Orange under
escort by Sgt Condell.

Image courtesy NLA.
Subsequently, a manacled Ben Hall was transported under guard to Orange, NSW for trial in conjunction with co-accused John Youngman; ‘Lachlan Observer’ of the 25th April 1863; HIGHWAY ROBBERY “at the Lachlan police-court, John Thomas Youngman, was charged with having, in company with three other men (one of them supposed to have been the bushranger, Gardiner) robbed the dray of William Benkin on the road between Lambing flat and the Lachlan. From the evidence of the prosecutor and his assistant it appeared that on the 14th April, they were on the road to Lambing Flat with the dray, when they were met by the prisoner, and three other men, one of whom they believed was Gardiner. The prisoner was riding a brown horse, and leading a grey one. The man supposed to be Gardiner handed fire-arms to the prisoner, who stood with them until Gardiner and his mates commenced to break open the goods on the dray. The robbers took clothing, tobacco, spirits, and other goods, and then went away. The prisoner was subsequently arrested by order of Sir F. Pottinger. The prisoner reserved his defence, and was committed to take his trial at the ensuing quarter-sessions to be held at Orange, on Monday, the 19th May..."

View overlooking the street
from the Orange Courthouse.

Image courtesy NLA.
The trip to Orange was under the watchful eye of Sgt Condell who was to weave in and out of Ben Hall’s life from this moment on and ultimately Ben Hall's dramatic end. However, before Hall's removal to Orange NSW and while languishing in the Forbes lock-up, at the Bathurst Gaol, Gardiner's good mate John Peisley convicted of murder, along with an aboriginal also convicted of murder named Jackey Bullfrog, were hanged side by side on the morning of the 28th April 1862. This outcome was a reality for Ben Hall, for if convicted for 'Highway Robbery under Arms' Hall too may well follow in the same steps as those above. Therefore, a strategy for Hall's release transpired with the help of John Maguire. The execution of Peisley and Jackey were summerised and reported Jackey Bullfrog's demeanour and Peisley's last words, as they prepared for the next world;  'Empire', Tuesday 29th April, 1862; "during the last two or three days, Jackey Bullfrog became more resigned and attentive, The Rev. Thomas Sharps had also very frequently attended him, and notwithstanding the difficulties of the case, succeeded at length in convincing him of the existence of a Supreme Being, the certainty of a future state, and the necessary of seeking salvation through the redeemer; and being satisfied that he so far understood the leading doctrine of Christianity, the rite of baptism was administered yesterday morning. Exactly at nine o’clock the criminals, having been previously pinioned, were led forth from their cells, and conducted towards the scaffold, accompanied by the Revs. Messrs. Sharpe and Hillyer, who read a portion of the funeral service as they proceeded. On reaching the foot of the gallows, the clergymen and the prisoners knelt dawn, and after prayer, in which Piesley appeared to engage very devoutly, the men ascended the scaffold. He (Piesley) concluded, by saying, "Goodbye gentlemen, and God bless you." The fatal rope was then adjusted, and the white caps being drawn over the faces of the culprits, at a signal from the acting sheriff the drop fell, and the two unfortunates were launched into eternity. Piesley did not appear to suffer much for long; but the poor blackfellow was for several minutes frightfully convulsed. After hanging the usual time, the bodies were cut down, and, being placed in coffins, were conveyed to their last resting place..." 


George Colquhoun.
c. 1890.
As Hall sat in the cells at the Orange courthouse John Maguire duly arrived to assist Hall. Maguire engaged solicitor Mr George Colquhoun, who instructed Mr Edward Lee a well-respected barrister to defend Hall. John Youngman, Ben Hall’s co-accused was also to face the Orange Court on the conclusion of Ben’s trial. Luckily though for Youngman, the Crown Prosecutor was doubtful regarding the evidence against him, and so he was bound over on bail. However, having insufficient funds for his release, Youngman turned to Maguire and another friend Peter Murray who went bondsman for Youngman with sureties of £40 each. Youngman used this opportunity to 'abscond' and faded from the pages of bushranging history. Maguire did his dough.


Mr Mitchell's
letter.
Furthermore, with Youngman's absconding Hall's guilt appeared assured as the bolting of Youngman could only be construed as an admission of guilt in the minds of the prosecutors. Accordingly, Hall's trial commenced on the 19th May 1862. Hall stood in the dock reportedly indifferent to the proceedings as Bill Bacon (Benkin) again testified regrding Hall's involvement in the robbery. Bacon was asked if the person involved was present whereby Bacon once more pointed out Hall as the man in company with Gardiner at the time. However, in a shock to the court another of Bacon's employee's, Mr Ferguson a driver inexplicably altered his testimony. Ferguson as well had positively identified Ben Hall as one of the offenders at the Forbes court in April 1862, however, at Orange, Ferguson stated that he was now not positive that Ben Hall was the same person he saw during the wagon robbery. This revelation horror-struck the Court officials; as a result, the jury retired for deliberation regarding the now tainted evidence. Following a short deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of 'Not Guilty by Reasonable Doubt'. Moreover, following Ferguson's sudden change it became widely believed by members of the NSW police, and NSW Court officials that the witness had been tampered with and had accepted an inducement to alter his original testimony through the behest of Maguire. Hall rode his luck and the Judge dismissed Hall who was a relieved and jubilant man. Happy at his restoration of freedom Hall and his half-brother Tom Wade and Maguire enjoyed the fruits of their subterfuge with a night of revelry and departed Orange in a joyous mood. Along the road home, the trio came into contact with Bacon and Ferguson;op.cit. “about three miles along the road we overtook Bacon and Ferguson. As we bore them no malice, we entered into conversation with them, and we all rode together for 40 miles...” The verdict however incensed a court official, Mr R. B. Mitchell (son of explorer and Surveyor General of NSW, Sir Thomas Mitchell, 1792-1855) who consequently after the court case wrote a scathing letter about the terrible miscarriage of justice over Hall’s trial and his acquittal on 19th May 1862. At the time of Hall’s death, R. B. Mitchell once more reiterated those facts. (See article right, a must read.)

Author's Note; There has been a concerted effort over the years by writers from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries to deflect the involvement of Ben Hall from criminal activities by claiming in some instances coincidence in Ben Hall's appearance and presence at or near places where hold-up's occurred. This select group of sympathisers rewriting the events of known eyewitness accounts and recorded history of Ben Hall's criminal activities is demonstrated by a piece written in the 'Scone Advocate', in 1934, and claims that Hall's arrest for the Bacon robbery appeared instigated out of the fear felt by James Taylor and Bridget Hall. The article is consistent with many published since Ben Hall's death that has attempted to portray Ben Hall as a tortured soul, haunted by his past, haunted by what? The ghost of Mrs Hall. The parable that "if you lay with dogs, you get fleas", suffices to say that many of the accounts of those who knew the;[sic] "amiable man with a generosity of spirit, and an honesty in all his dealings with his fellow-settlers," need dramatic sympathy to justify the unjustifiable, as the 'Scone Advocate' attempts to portray;[sic] "but the wrong which Taylor had done did not rest there. Whether on his own initiative or at the instigation of the fly-by-night wife, is not known. Possibly it was a mutual, conspiracy born of fear, to get the outraged husband out of the way lest he might follow the traitorous pair and be avenged. In any case, Taylor supplied spurious information to the police at Forbes, implicating Ben Hall, in a recent bushranging exploit. Soon after came the Easter meeting at the Wowingragong racecourse, out from Forbes, and it was here that Sir Frederick Pottinger, Bart., head of the police district centred on Forbes, decided to act on the false information secretly supplied by the traitorous Taylor, and in the full publicity of the race assemblage he arrested Ben Hall on a charge of highway robbery under arms. The meeting was amazed, left breathless, as the news raced about the course. It was impossible — that decent, likable, well-respected young fellow charged with bushranging. This amazement was one of the surest indications of his innocence Bushranging was so woven into the social fabric of the district and the period, and its practitioners had so many sympathisers, assistants, bush telegraphs, and such, while so many, others not actually concerned were passively acquiescent of these activities, that it would have been impossible for Ben Hall to take any part without the fact being generally known. His arrest created much indignation and served to deepen the conspiracy of silence which constituted such a barrier between the police on one side and the bushrangers and citizenry on the other. It served also to increase the contempt in which the police were then held." Furthermore, inducements paid to have witnesses alter their testimonies appeared a common practice amongst the lowly paid workers and carters. £50 could go a long way. As in the case of John Maguire's payment to Ferguson; unfortunately, the transcript of the Orange court appearance no longer exists, from all accounts William Bacon, who also gave evidence was a well-respected businessman who had nothing to gain only to lose, as he stated at the first hearing;[sic]"I swear positively that the prisoner (Hall) is the man; I cannot be mistaken-when he robbed the drays some chaff passed between us with respect to a woman I knew he was acquainted with; my loading was for Mr. Greig, storekeeper on these diggings, for whom I have carried, almost exclusively, more than fourteen months; I have not yet been paid for the loading." Ben Hall had choices, and he chose poorly! Recently I was at a premier of the film Legend of Ben Hall, where someone asked the question, "What is Ben Hall's legacy". Well! his legacy substantiates that murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, assault, arson, flogging and crime in general, does not pay!

R.B. Mitchell c. 1882
In the eyes of the law Maguire had done himself no favours. He knowingly had cast suspicion over the evidence of one of the witnesses;Maguire op.cit. in assisting Ben in his trouble, I did so believing him innocent of any crime. It cost me a tidy sum; and, moreover, was a bad day for me, as I left the impression with the police that I had tampered with witnesses... However, the diabolical plan of corrupting a witness with a financial incentive had succeeded. Following Hall's acquittal Maguire stated that he overheard the Judge, Mr Casey, cast his thoughts on Hall's circumstances to their defence counsel Mr Lee and in the Judge's opinion Hall was indeed guilty.;op.cit. "after the court was cleared the judge and our counsel, Mr. Lee, were walking to the hotel to dinner. I was just behind them. I heard the judge say that he believed Hall was guilty. Mr. Lee said, "I was paid well to defend him, and I did so, by getting him off." "The judge replied, "Mr. Lee, it was not you that did it — it was done outside." "Next morning our party rode home jubilant—all but Ben Hall, who had celebrated the victory by getting immovably drunk. Ben Hall, and Tom Wade (Ben's half-brother) left for Forbes." Departing Orange for the return trip to Sandy Creek, Hall came into contact with a long-time acquaintance Ernest Bowler at Toogong near Eugowra. Ernest stated that a disgruntled Ben Hall had confided to him his frustration regarding Pottinger and the police whereby during his conversation Hall foretold Bowler his future. 'The Moleskin Gentry' by Frederick Howard; “I met him when he was coming back from Bathurst by Cobb’s coach. It was at Toogong where the coach used to change horses, that I had a talk with him about his trial. He told me that the next time the police should want him he would give them a “jant”, that is, they would have a lot of trouble to take him. I little thought that his words would come true.”


Sydney Telegraph Office
c. 1862.
Image courtesy NLA.
Having returned from Orange following the May 1862 trial and their success in hoodwinking the judicial system, Ben Hall's life resumed normalcy in the interim at Sandy Creek. However, fate is the hunter and Ben Hall would once more test its virtue. Furthermore, following an earlier run down to Lambing Flat on a spree, Hall had in February/March 1862 returned home with a young woman who struck his fancy and had commenced residing at the Sandy Creek home. The young woman was Susan Prior aged 17 years, originally from Tasmania. Moreover, following some romantic affection, Susan had become pregnant. Ben's homestead was also cohabited with his brother Bill Hall and his wife Ann and included frequent stopovers by Frank Gardiner and his brigade. Now back mustering his stock Ben's partner Maguire infers in his memoirs that 'The Darkie' upon hearing the news of Ben's acquittal, relayed by none other than Dan Charters, Gardiner appears at Sandy Creek and offers Hall some form of apology for his lagging on Gardiner's account;Maguire op.cit. "next day Gardiner called Ben, and expressed regret that Ben had got into trouble through him." Hall shrugged it off stating;op.cit. "next time they take me they'll have something to take me for." Following their meeting, Maguire noted that; "from that out Ben and Gardiner were often together." The inference by Maguire that Hall was innocent and Gardiner palled up with an 'I'm sorry' runs counter to the known facts of Hall's complicity in the Bacon Robbery and other matters! Well! For Ben Hall, the 'next time' the law was to lag him was rapidly approaching. Furthermore, as Ben Hall continued aligning himself closer to Gardiner, the reporting of hold-ups and general news, as well as the gossip of the colony from all its sections of society, was beginning to reach out rapidly into every nook and cranny, all brought about by a new and expeditious means of communication. How? Through the unveiling of the newfangled electric telegraph. (the 1860's internet) This advanced technology would see a larger variety and number of crime reported at a moment’s notice. Furthermore, this rapid system of communication would launch Frank Gardiner's and others' depredations into the forefront of the public's mind and turn them into 1860's celebrities, as citizens soaked up the news of their brazen and defying exploits and children ranged the streets in their image. As a result, the bushranger's wildness began thrusting a spear into the corridors of power who had to grapple with a tsunami of unparalleled lawlessness; "there is scarcely a nook of the colony which has any population that does not possess its press. The wires make us acquainted with every outrage committed on the great lines of communication almost as soon as it has happened. The various stages of prosecution cause a repetition of the same facts in different phraseology; and thus, a single crime becomes multiplied to the imagination of the reader, who loses the clue of identity, and takes every repetition as a now incident.” ³¹ 

Although Ben had resumed his enterprise at Sandy Creek in the short term and a new love at his side, the ordeal at the Forbes lock-up and the subsequent close call at the Orange court had appeared to not make Ben cognizant of the fatality of lawlessness. Accordingly, within weeks Ben Hall would rub his hands together and participate in the planning and execution of one of the most spectacular heists in Australian colonial history. The attack on the 'Forbes Gold Escort'.


A NSW mounted gold
escort preparing
to depart.
Image courtesy NLA.
Gold! some say is the 'root of all evil'. Since the days of the Egyptian Pharaoh's some 5,000 years ago gold has represented power and prestige. It has created Kings and Queens and where even the poorest could change their lives instantly with a strike of the precious metal. Consequently, for the colony of NSW, this precious metal would change not only the status quo but would turn many stockmen and cockatoo farmers of the remote interior into overnight millionaires. However, the obtaining of gold was hard yakka and required the exploring of remote rivers and creeks searching for the signs. There was also the reef gold which required deep shafts excavated out and where men would drop from 100 to 300 ft. into the earth to obtain the highly prized treasure, and for some, the process would cost them their lives. Subsequently, for others, there was another way to obtain gold. That course of action was the Frank Gardiner method where the riches accumulated at the end of a revolver. As many innocent victims were to discover, the revolver was Gardiner’s preferred method for procuring such treasure. However, by late 1861 Frank Gardiner was in love and therefore a desire to quit bushranging was starting to play on his mind. However, the daily robberies of cash, jewellery and gold he extracted from the unfortunates who fell under those revolvers was inadequate to his needs, and the constant requirement of living rough became more and more uncomfortable if not humdrum. Gardiner's continual sticking up including his press coverage also broadened his celebrity which was enabling the police to gather valuable information for his possible apprehension although at times his ability to encounter them undetected was mindboggling. Gardiner even wrote to the newspaper of the ease in which he moved amongst the police;[sic] "Three of your troopers were at a house the other night, and got drinking and gambling till all hours. I came there towards morning, when all was silent. The first room that I went into I found revolvers and carbines to any amount, but seeing none as good as my own, left them. I then went out, and in the verandah found the troopers sound asleep. Satisfying my self that neither Battye nor Pottinger were there, I left them as I found them, in the arms of Morpheus." The mundane pursuit of rewardless robbery after the payoffs to his harbourers resulted in Gardiner setting forth a plan to obtain in a flash the gold riches he needed for a new life with his lover Catherine Browne far from the haunts of the Lachlan.


S.M.H. 8th May, 1862.
Subsequently, Frank commenced organising an audacious and bold robbery of gold from a Royal Mail escort. Frank had been following the gold escort movements both in and around the goldfields of Forbes and Lambing Flat over a period of months recording their routes and departure times as well as the number of ounces of gold on-board each coach. What made it easier for the King of the Road was that the details he needed frequently appeared in the columns of local newspapers. Moreover, Gardiner's inspiration for success may well have sprung from his recall of a daring and widely publicised robbery in Victoria in 1853. Then a private gold escort under strong guard by the Victorian police were travelling from the McIvor diggings to Bendigo to connect with the Melbourne escort and was attacked and robbed by a gang of six men who split into two groups with one section firing on the police while the others snatched the gold. The gang-affected their escape after wounding four police officers in the process. At the time, it was a sensation. The banditos cleared out with over 2,300 ounces of gold and £800 in cash. Nevertheless, while Gardiner was reconnoitring for the robbery serious concerns were being raised by the very newspapers Gardiner had been perusing regarding the escorts lack of sufficient police protection.  The 'Western Examiner' expressed this concern on 30th January 1862; "Lachlan escort has, for some time, past, formed a subject of comment here. It consists of four men only, and as if to facilitate their destruction by any gang of ruffians that may take it in their heads to "stick them up," they are cooped up, two in a row, in the vehicle containing the gold. It is pretty generally admitted that our whole escort system is faulty. The men should be mounted in order to be effective in an emergency. Under the present system what would be easier than for half a dozen determined fellows-of which there are numbers on the Lachlan-to fell a tree, and when the coach had pulled up, to fire into the escort, the robbers all the time under cover. Such things have ocourred in these colonies since the discovery of gold, and may occur again. It certainly shows a want of prudence on the part of the authorities to do things in this half-and-half way. What possible effective resistance could four armed men, cooped up in a coach, and placed in a row to be shot at, offer to the same number, under cover none whatever. On full consideration, it appears little short of recklessly jeopardising the lives of public servants, and indirectly holding out a premium to the gang of marauders who have so long infested these districts, to continue the present system." Frank Gardiner was also cognizant of that very sentiment and would amazingly almost follow the above paper's analysis to the letter. Therefore, gratified in the knowledge that the small number of police guards could be overcome, Gardiner set about finalising the logistics for robbery. John Maguire, a long-time acquaintance of Frank Gardiner, wrote of Frank's desire;op.cit. "it was with Gardiner that the idea of taking the escort originated and took a fortnight to prepare for the attack. For some months before Gilbert and O'Meally were Gardiner's constant companions, and they had been talking about it together. They were getting full of the petty bailing-up business, and wanted to make a grand haul and then quit the country..." All 'The Darkie' needed was a perfect place to ambush a gold escort, and Ben Hall revealed that place following the discussions of various locations with Frank Gardiner. The area required that it not be well patronised such as the main road between Lambing Flat and Forbes; therefore, Ben proposed Eugowra Rocks an area of large granite rocks and boulders shouldering the road the escort would travel over between Forbes and Orange. Ben Hall's knowledge of that particular area came from his many journeys to the area with his close friend Daniel Charters. Next Gardiner set about recruiting willing participants. Accordingly, Gardiner had found no trouble in recruiting his accomplices once the sweet riches the recruits would receive were revealed. Gardiner recruited seven men with himself in command they were; John Gilbert, John O’Meally, Daniel Charters, Alex Fordyce, John Bow, Henry Manns and Ben Hall. Final preparations for the bold attack now began in earnest. The planning arose over many weeks, with the gang rendezvousing at both John Maguire and Ben Hall's homes at Sandy Creek station with some members camping in the home paddocks of the station;[sic] "...evidence which went to show that Maguire's house was the rendezvous of Gardiner and his gang, where the attack on the escort was planned." 


William Hall.
c. 1910.
Bill Hall, Ben's older brother, recounted to Jack Bradshaw during their 1912 interviews for 'Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall & Gang' the whole picture including the pre-planning activities and subsequent departure for the Eugowra Rocks. Bill Hall did not shy away in his revealing all his knowledge regarding the events and frankly destroys any notion that Ben Hall was not an active and willing participant or that Hall was somehow coerced into the robbery by Gardiner. No! Hall was per his brother's memory well and truly bushranging;op.cit. "Ben Hall knew the place well and had a good knowledge of the surrounding country. He was also appointed pilot. Ben Hall was likewise chosen to go into Forbes and inquire particulars as to the escort. Hall found out that the escort would be leaving Forbes on Sunday. Word was passed around for another meeting on the Friday before. True to their promise, the lot turned up on that day. After receiving instructions how to act, they rode away, and camped that night near Mrs. Feeley’s pub..."


Daniel Charters.
c. 1862.
The armed robbery was to take place 3 miles to the northeast of the hamlet of Eugowra 25 miles from Forbes late on the afternoon of Sunday, 15th June 1862. The Rocks at Eugowra was an area Gardiner knew of but was unfamiliar with, however, Ben Hall had earlier related to Gardiner that their close friend Daniel Charters had an intimate knowledge of the area. Gardiner set about seeking out Charters. Moreover, the closeness of the friendship between Dan Charters and Ben appeared to draw Charters into the daring once in a lifetime get rich quick scheme. Moreover, information was required and equipment needed, again Bill Hall recounted Charters' willingness to take part and how Bill's brother Ben in company with Daniel Charters went into Forbes to purchase the required supplies;Bradshaw op.cit. "when spoken to about it Charters said, “I am your Moses. A really good thing. To miss such a buss as this would cause me a shock in the stuffing of life.” “We knew this, old hoss, and that is why we called on you. Come over to us to-night. You and Ben Hall are required to go for the necessary equipment.” “I will do anything, lads, for my share of such a beautiful haul." Charters came to the camp and willingly agreed to do everything proposed to him. He and Hall started out next morning for everything required and returned with six double-barrelled muzzle-loading guns, and moulds for making bullets. They also brought back with them black crape for making masks and other articles for disguise. After having dinner Hall and Charters went over to Jack Healey’s, where lived a young lad of 19 Henry Manns, and Charters persuaded him to join them also. At about 3 o’clock in the afternoon Ben Hall, Charters, and Manns joined the rest of the band," next Gardiner then; " spoke to Charters and said: "Now, go and lead us through the bush to Eugowra and keep off the roads; if there are any fences we will chop them down, Charters knew every inch of the country and had never been away from it for a day, and took the party to a creek near Mr. Clements station at Eugowra rocks. On Sunday morning, the gang crossed the creek and reached the Eugowra mountain, where the attack on the escort was to be made."

Front view of Escort Rock
site, 2013.

My photo.
Meanwhile, as the bushrangers rode to Eugowra, in Forbes on Sunday morning 15th June 1862, the Escort coach was preparing to depart for its fateful journey. The Escort would have generally been under the charge of sergeant McClure, but on this occasion, Sergeant Condell had temporary command of the coach; "the escort left Forbes on Sunday morning, under the immediate charge of sergeant Condell, seated on the box alongside the driver, Mr Fagan; the remainder of the escort, three men, were seated in the body of the coach; their names, were senior constable Moran, constable Haviland, and another constable, Rafferty a stranger on the escort. The treasure consisted of 2719 ounces of gold, and £3700 in cash; there were also the usual mails, which were heavy. The escort proceeded on its way without any unusual occurrence to warn them of impending danger; at about half past 4 o'clock, on arriving at Coobong, a distance of 27 miles from Forbes, and immediately in the vicinity of Mr Clement's station, two teams were observed in the road way, no uncommon circumstance. As the coach drew near, it became evident there was but one passage, and that between the obstructing teams, and a mass of broken, perpendicular rocks, overhanging the narrow passage; the peculiarity of the situation never for a moment excited suspicion, but the driver brought his horses in to a walk, in order to steer between the drays and the rocks."³²

View from behind
Eugowra Rock
as the coach
approached the hidden
bushrangers, 2013.
My photo.
Furthermore, prior to the coach's arrival on that fateful Sunday afternoon, it was reported that "Gardiner hid his men behind some large rocks by the roadside, having first forced a number of carriers to block up the road with their wagons. The long-expected coach came in sight. "Make way for the Royal mail," cried the driver John Fagan, as he noticed the teams on the road. There was no answer, and again he repeated the order. There was no answer but the echo of his voice.” ³³ As the echo of Fagan's voice faded the crack of gunfire suddenly followed a barrage of bullets splintering the gold escort coach wounding some unsuspecting police officers, including Sergeant Condell. The rapid-fire startled the horses which bolted, flipping over the coach. The escorting troopers outgunned and under intense fire managed to retreat into the nearby scrub where they covered the short distance to Mr Hanerbry Clement’s farm. Clement's had heard the commotion and gunfire and was in the process of investigating as the armed robbers Gardiner, Hall and company quickly descended on and ransacked the coach, clearing out with over £14,000 worth of gold and cash. Roughly $1,162,500 in today’s value.


Sgt James Condell.
The result of the successful attack and raking gunfire, Sgt Condell was shot in the ribs;[sic] "when the first volley came, I felt I was hit in the side; I put my hand to my side, and found a hole in my coat and blood coming from it; when I got to Mr, Clements' I examined my side, and found there were two holes in it; about 2½ inches apart; the holes were of the same size; they were in a position so that a bullet going in at one would go out at the other. both holes bled; Sir Frederick Pottinger saw the wound four or five hours after..." Snr. Constable Henry Moran was wounded in the groin;[sic] "I turned, and to the right, on the rocks, I saw four men in front and two behind them; they had guns pointed down at us; I heard the word "fire," and a volley was fired; I was wounded, and I called out to my mates,"look out, I'm wounded;" we fired in return, and the horses took fright and ran up a shelving rock, and I was flung wounded out of the coach; constable Haveland assisted me to get out of the way, and I afterwards got to Clements' station. I was wounded in the testicle..." However, for the Condell and Moran, the wounds were not considered life-threatening. Constables Havilland and Rafferty who providentially both appeared unhurt including the coach driver, Mr Fagan, who in turn was very lucky, as many bullets passed through his hat and coat. The coach whip/driver John Fagan describes his close encounter: "I was mail-driver of the escort on the 15th; I had four horses in my coach; I lost some of the horses in the attack; they were the property of Ford and Co,; Phil. Mylecharane was one of the owners; I was in the coach when it was attacked; I than lost all four horses; next morning saw two of them at Clements', where they went after getting away; about a week after saw a black horse, one of the leaders, and afterwards at Forbes the other; it was at the Camp; a dark brown horse with a switch tail; I received it from Sanderson; I was not wounded, but a ball went through my hat and another through my coat; there were eight or ten bullets in the coach; the gold boxes were gone when we came back to the coach; the mail-bags were opened, and the contents scattered about; I lost two coats from the coach belonging to myself." The men made their way to nearby Hanbury Clements' station.

Jack Fagan.
c. 1900's.
Authors Note; John Fagan died in 1912, and it was noted that he drove the coach when the memorable robbery of the escort occurred near the rocks at Eugowra. On that occasion, he was almost shot, a bullet perforating his hat as he ran for shelter from the flying bullets of Gardiner, Ben Hall and Co., fired at the police escort, and himself. ³⁴ (That hat is now in the possession of his family, upon his death Mr Fagan left an estate valued at £257, 970 = $21,400,000 today.

In coming into contact with Hanbury Clements who had heard the gunfire and was making his way towards the scene when the Grazier came upon the men as they trickled out of the bush and accompanied them to his home where he provided first aid to the injured police. Shortly after he was dispatched to Forbes 25 miles away to “carry intelligence of the affair”. When news broke the whole colony was stunned; 'Sydney Morning Herald', Saturday 21st June 1862; “our citizens are awaiting with some impatience the result of the efforts that are being made to get upon the trail of the villains implicated. The Escort consisted of 2067 oz. 18 dwts. of gold, and £700 in cash belonging to the Oriental Bank; 521 oz. 13 dwts and 6 grs. to the bank of New South Wales; and 129 oz. and upwards of gold, £3000 in cash, to the Commercial Bank...”

Sub Commissioner for
Lachlan 
Goldfield
J.G. Grenfell.

 Newspaper Image c. 1867. 
However, in a little-known incident regarding the day of the robbery, it had been revealed that some hours before the fateful Gold coach departing Forbes for Orange there were to be two other passengers as well as the police troopers on-board. Those travellers were Police Magistrate for Forbes, Captain Brown a long-time friend of Captain M’Lerie, Inspector-General of NSW police, and the Gold Commissioner for Forbes, Mr Grenfell who had in the previous May sent Ben Hall to Orange for trial over the Bacon (Benkin) Dray Robbery. Before the departure, the two men had decided to leave Forbes by horseback instead of the coach; 'The Courier' Tuesday 8th July 1862; Captain Brown and Mr. Commissioner Grenfell were to have come down by the escort, but owing to special instructions from Inspector General M'Lerie, they came on horseback, and were some miles in advance of the escort when the attack was made." Whether as the gang waited for the approaching coach, and prior to the blocking of the road the robbers watched the two men pass by is unknown.
My video of the 1862 Eugowra hold up site.
Hanbury Clements.
c. 1880's. 
On word reaching Forbes, a stunned Sir Frederick Pottinger duly arrived at Clement’s home at 6 o’clock on Monday morning accompanied by eleven troopers, 20 settlers and two black trackers. On receiving a briefing of the events and checking on the injuries of the troopers, Pottinger put his trackers to the scent and commenced the task of hunting down the bushrangers; “about six o'clock yesterday morning Sir F. Pottinger, with eleven troopers, twenty settlers, and two trackers got on the track of the bushrangers. About three miles from the coach they found, near a camp fire, the gold boxes, which had been opened...³⁵ Sir Frederick after discovering the remnants of the robbery divided his force to cover a more comprehensive area, meanwhile, at the site of the attack the overturned and bullet-riddled coach was righted and by late Monday afternoon with the wounded escort troopers onboard continued the journey to the town of Orange, NSW. However, as news raced through the colony the police swung into action and troopers were quickly brought in to supplement those already searching; "early on Tuesday morning, Mr. Superintendent Morrisset, with a detachment of six troopers, passed through this town en route for the scene of attack; and on Wednesday morning a couple of troopers from Stoney Creek also set out for the same destination. On the arrival of the Forbes mail in Orange, on Wednesday, we were informed that two troopers belonging to Sir Frederick Pottinger's party had returned to Forbes to obtain fresh horses, theirs being knocked up. These men report that they had tracked the bushrangers to within a short distance of Finn's public-house on the Lachlan, and within ten miles of Forbes. The rain had, however, set in, and destroyed the tracks. The black trackers could only discover the tracks of six horsemen...” 

Authors Note; Mr Hanbury Clements died in January 1912; "The death occurred at "Kilmessan," Freeman's Beach, near Sydney, on January 11, 1912, of Mr Hanbury Clements, at the ripe old age of 84 years. Deceased was the third son of the late Lieut. Hanbury Clements, R.N., and at one time owned Eugowra station, and at the time of the robbery of the gold escort, he, with Mr C. W. Cropper, the owner of Yamma station, took an active part in the pursuit of the bushrangers. Eugowra station, a few years after, was cut up, and the owner left these parts, being a single man at that time."³⁶

NSW Police Gazette,
August 1862.
Influential citizens of the surrounding area volunteered their assistance in the search. They included Mr Suttor, Mr Clements and Mr Cropper who was the owner of Yamma Station. Mr Cropper who was a long time advocate for the destruction of the bushranging scourge described their efforts in the hunt for the perpetrators as Ben Hall, Charters and Gardiner rewound their way to the seclusion of Wheogo Hill. Mr Cropper; "I live about fifteen miles from the Eugowra rocks. I recollect hearing of the escort robbery, and on the night of the 15th I went in search of the robbers, with Mr. Clements, and my stockman. We went first to Mr. Clements' station. On the following morning, we set out to Eugowra rocks. From Eugowra rocks to the junction of the creek with the Lachlan River is about ten miles; the crossing place is near Newell's. At the back of the rocks, and on the bank of the river, were the only two places where we saw that horses had been tied; the rocks lie to the east of the road; there is a mountain between the road and where the horses had been tied at the rocks. The escort in coming from Forbes would have the rocks on the right hand. We saw traces there of the coach, and of men. We next went over the range, and saw tracks up a path. We found tracks for about a quarter of a mile, when we came on some boxes and red comforters; there were four iron boxes broken open; there was the remains of a fire, and portion of burnt comforters; we then got on the tracks of horses; there were shod horses among them; we crossed a creek and got to a pine scrub; the tracks then went to the Canowindra road, and on by the side of a fence to the Eugowra Creek again; I was running the right hand track which led down the creek to a place where the horse had evidently slipped; I went down from my horse, and in the bed of the creek found a bottle of Old Tom; we followed on and joined the other persons tracking, and further on we crossed a creek, and on to a fence, where the rails were cut down; the mortice-holes were cut; we passed through, and followed the tracks till we got on to the Orange road; the tracks ran down the road a little way, and then went off to the right, as if in the direction of Forbes or my own place; after going some distance, the tracks bore in towards the river again, and kept along the bank; we saw no teams there; when we got on to the Forbes Road, we saw some teams; the tracks went near the teams, passing through two paddocks; the tracks went in a zigzag sort of way, and it was after passing the slip panels that we saw the teams; we saw where the tracks crossed the river, and on the other side we saw the remains of a small fire and where horses had been tied; this was in Newell's paddock; the fire was close to the river bank; we found here some beef on a bone and some envelopes; we followed the tracks across Newell's paddock and into another paddock through slip rails; the tracks went crooked, and led away to the left of Mr. Suttor's; the tracks turned off from where the dray was camped; we followed them down nearly parallel with the road; we ran them down that night to within five miles of Fenn's public-house; we followed them up till dark when we could no longer see; in the morning we resumed the track; it led in the direction of what I believe to be the Wheogo Mountain; after this, two or three days after, I noticed that my fence was cut in the way the other fence was; there was a track through my fence which led in the direction of Eugowra; the other tracks that I now speak of led from Eugowra; the track came near Newell's; they led past a sawyer's hut. We tracked a distance of about forty miles; We ran them down that night to within five miles of Fenn's public-house; Fenn's from Eugowra rocks to the junction of the creek with the Lachlan River is about ten miles; the crossing place it near Newell's, the first day we tracked a distance of about forty miles. In a straight line, the course we tracked would be about 20 or 25 miles. Near the Eugowra rocks, when starting, I found a spur and a coat; I saw where horses had been tied; the spot was about a quarter of a mile behind the rocks."³⁷

Following the affray, the battered and bullet-riddled escort coach the next day resumed its journey finally entering the town of Orange travelling up Byng Street and turned right at the corner of the Commercial Bank into Sale Street heading for the Post Office, where they deposited the untouched mail. The coach then headed for Dalton's Inn. However, as the coach departed and was proceeding to Dalton's Inn their was the report of a gunshot and Constable Haviland seated inside the coach was killed instantly by a single shot from Constable Moran’s revolver which had in the melee with the bushrangers fallen to the floor and had gone unnoticed under Haviland's seat.

Constable Moran, at Haviland’s inquest into his death described the tragedy: we left Mr. Clement’s yesterday morning; the sergeant was on the box with Haviland, and a passenger in the coach; deceased said during the day he would not come on the escort any more unless there was a mounted party along with us; deceased had no spirits or wine that I know of; he was perfectly sober; yesterday evening between six and seven o’clock we arrived at Orange; we had taken up a lady passenger, with her servant and child; I and a lady and the other male passenger were sitting with our backs towards the driver; the female passenger was sitting in the middle; we heard the report of a revolver after leaving the Orange Post-office; the female passenger exclaimed “My God the man is shot!” Haviland was sitting at the back of the coach opposite me; I said “No! It can’t be!” I saw the flash from the revolver in a line with deceased’s chest; the female put her hand over first; I then put out my hand and felt the blood pouring down quite warm; I said, “he is shot in the stomach”; the coach was going on all the time; I said it might be from the sergeant’s rifle; he said “no it could not be”’ in reply to a question from the sergeant I said deceased was shot; in the coach there was my revolver, and a revolver case empty...³⁸

Mrs Haviland's gratuity.
The verdict at the inquest found that Haviland; "died from a wound by a bullet, whether by intent or accident not known..."³⁹ Consequently, William Haviland's death would be the first by a member of the newly formed and restructured NSW Police Force whilst on duty. In a twist to his untimely death it was noted; "Amongst other observations made by the deceased prior to the tragic event, was one to the effect that so soon as he arrived at Orange, he would telegraph to his wife in Sydney, to allay any alarm she might entertain for his safety." The unfortunate Haviland left behind a widow and two children. Evidence suggests that Ben Hall's actions indirectly contributed to William Haviland’s death. However, in 1890 aged 63 Henry Moran who had survived the Eugowra onslaught in 1862 died tragically after falling from a cart at Mt Lambie, NSW.

"Make way for
the Royal Mail"

Scetch by Percy Lindsay. c. 1935.
Furthermore, following the robbery the whips (drivers) of the Bullock drays which had been placed by Gardiner to block the road and hinder the gold coach's progress duly arrived in Forbes to great excitement and rumour as to the dramatic events. Consequently, one of the drivers gave a first-hand account of the astonishing calamity to a correspondent; “…since our last we have little to communicate in reference to the robbery of the Escort which can enlighten the public mind, On Wednesday one of the bullock drivers who was stopped by the robbers arrived in Forbes, and reported that his own team and another was stopped and drawn across the road two hours before the Escort arrived, when the bandits made free with two bottles of spirits, and placed the drivers some distance from the rest, compelling them to lie faces downwards.”⁴⁰ Amazingly, at the future trial of the captured escort robbers conducted in February 1863, the dray operators were never called as witnesses, either by the defence or prosecution. Their testimony may well have saved Henry Manns' life.

George Burgess.
c. 1930's
However, one of those direct witnesses was George Burgess then a thirteen-year-old. Burgess is the only other person outside of the police involved to relate a detailed account of the events of that day at Eugowra in June 1862. Although a boy at the time George was as well was never called to give evidence; George Burgess; "My father had four horses and dray, and wished to take advantage of the great prices. In June, 1862, he loaded up with one ton of hay, half ton potatoes and five cwt. bacon, engaged Dick Bloomfield as driver, and I was sent as offsider or, as called in those days, his billy boiler; On the fifth day out, at about 11 o'clock; I went into a pine scrub about two miles, from Eugowra to cut a whip handle when I came out I saw the driver in conversation with a man wearing white moles and Wellington boots, with a red comforter round his head and his face blackened, who I afterwards heard was the notorious Frank Gardiner. He was leaning on a double-barrelled gun, and he said, "I want you fellows, come along". We then turned a corner in the road, and came in sight of two bullock teams right across the road, ours was put in the same position and made a barricade. Our hats were pulled over our faces and tied in that position with handkerchiefs. My hat, which was an old cabbage tree one, had a hole in the   crown, and I could see what was going on. We were placed behind a small rock and threatened, under pain of death, not to look up or remove our hats.

Mr. Penzig's re-drawn Map from the 
original sketched by NSW Police
at the time of the Robbery.©
There were about seven of us in all, including a swagman. In about 20 minutes’ time along came the gold escort of four horses, and manned by four police. A strange thing, two mounted troopers were a few miles ahead of the escort, and never knew, that it was stuck up until they reached Orange. When the escort came up against the barricaded road, about seven bushrangers, who were concealed behind the rocks, rushed out and fired a volley at the coach, saying "bail up". The shots frightened the horses, and they became frantic. Jack Fagan, the driver, jumped off his seat and tried to steady them, but they did not go 20 yards before the coach was upset, and all was confusion in a few minutes, all the occupants scampering through the scrub in the direction of Eugowra station, then owned by a Mr. Clemens, who, after attending to the wounds of his visitors, galloped to Forbes to inform the police. In very quick time the coach was, rifled, the gold: — about 5000 ounces was packed on the coach horses, and when everything was in readiness one of the bushrangers came over to us, took our blindfolds off, broke open a case of grog from one of the teams, and gave us a drink and £1 each. With my £1 I ate lollies continuously for about two weeks. As we pushed our way on towards Eugowra we saw the bushrangers pass over the mountains, in the direction of the Weddin Ranges. In due course we reached Forbes, a huge canvas town of nearly 30,000- people."⁴¹

Authors Note: George Burgess died on 12th June, 1945; GEO. BURGESS PASSES AT 96. WITNESSED FAMOUS GOLD HOLD-UP; -"Molong 's oldest identity in the person of Mr. George Burgess, of Hospital Hill, passed away on Tuesday night, at the grand old- age of 96 years and 4 months. Born at Bathurst in 1849, he came to Molong in the year 1860 and has resided here almost continuously for 85 years. The late Mr. Burgess worked for years at shearing and other bush work. When the late John Black opened his flour mill in 1876, he was engine driver there for over 25 years. He then conducted a bakery business in Bank Street for many years until he retired. His wife predeceased him some years ago and he is survived by two sons, George (Wellington), Alfred (Sydney), and one daughter, Miss Annie, who nursed him to the end with the fortitude and patience of a saint. The other daughter Jessie (Mrs. Rodgers) is deceased. Three brothers survive — Harry (Manildra, 85), Frank (Manildra, 82), James (Parkes, 80). Unlike most old-people Mr. Burgess' mind was as vivid and as clear as any man of 30 years of age. George Burgess was the only living individual, who witnessed the greatest gold robbery in Australia—the Eugowra Escort Robbery in June 1862."⁴²

Subsequently, in light of all that had occurred with the successful theft of the coach's treasure the colony was horrified and the press were outraged and cast their criticism at the Cowper Government over their poor efforts in curbing the outbreak of lawlessness infesting greater NSW, and more specifically the Western Districts. Therefore, enormous scrutiny and pressure on the NSW Police mounted for arrests. Fortuitously, within days of the robbery, a valuable victory was achieved by the police led by Sgt Charles Sanderson with the discovery of the gang’s hideout on Wheogo Hill, 32 miles from Forbes and 60 miles from Eugowra and a very short distance from Ben Hall's hut. Maguire states;op.cit. "Sanderson had his suspicions, made straight for Ben Hall's house, which he reached about 10 or 11 on Tuesday morning. Bill Hall and his wife lived at Ben's house..." However, Ben Hall was absent, but only a short distance away atop of Wheogo Hill. In turn, it indicates that Ben Hall was without a doubt under police suspicion and their crosshairs regarding his links to bushranging activity.

While the gang had safely been secreted at Wheogo the 'Bathurst Free Press, and Mining Journal' from the 28th June 1862 gave an account of the police pursuit of the escort robbers from Eugowra to Wheogo Hill via Ben Hall's house and a startling turn of events which had the bushrangers scatter in all directions; “starting from the scene of the outrage, the track was taken up and continued with various turnings and windings down the Lachlan, till they found themselves near Finn's public house, not far from the diggings. Here the track turned off to the left, and made for the Pinnacle, near which the track was lost; the party however searched round and round about, and as night had set in by this time, they had to give up the search, camping where the track was last seen. Next morning they started, still in company with the black-fellow Charlie, taking the direction of a mountain named Wheogo; when near the place of a person named Ben Hall, the party came upon very recent tracks, apparently of a horse at full speed, well shod, and well ridden, (a thing rather unusual in that out of the way part of the country) they kept this trail for some time, till they came in sight of a man on horseback, who on getting a sight of the pursuing party, went off at the top speed on his horse followed by the troopers also at full gallop. Our men continued the chase for two miles when the man they were pursuing appeared to have vanished into the side of a creek, the tracks suddenly ceased, on this deep creek both up and down, the pursuers came to a stand thinking the man might have jumped into the creek. On close search, however, he appeared to have leaped the creek at a bound, as his tracks were observable on the other side, the party crossed over, and took up the trail, which was followed up to the top of Wheogo mount, when at the back of Mr Walsh's station.”

"..me see him"
The newspaper continues, “in this camp were found various articles of bedding, bread and beef, and some tea ready-made and nicely warm, also the envelope of a letter bearing the Burrowa post mark. There were marks where several horses had been tied up to some trees. Circling round this camp, the troopers came upon the tracks of what appeared to be 5 horses, and these tracks were making for the dense pine scrubs surrounding the west point or entrance to the Weddin mountains. The broad trail was followed for a long time, when on the party entering one of the densest scrubs of pine in that region, the black-fellow called out “me see him”. The pursuers charged after, but the fellows ahead were too quick for them, and making a short turn through the pines, were lost to the sight. Following on, however, a, horse was observed without a rider, and thinking this might be some ruse, the pursuing party separated, and taking what cover they could find, and in expectation of a shot every moment, they bore down upon the horse, which turned out to be the pack horse of the flying bushrangers, and laden with a costly treasure; as when it was caught, a large amount of gold was found on it, supposed at the time to be some 1200 or 1500 ounces; the gold was in 4 bags and were lashed to a trooper's saddle, there were also 2 carbines strapped to the saddle; From this point the tracks of only 4 horses were found, and these were followed all-round the Weddin, till it got dark, and then the party made the best of their way to Forbes, and gave up the recovered treasure, to the authorities...”

View of Wheogo Hill
from Deaths Lane. 2013.
The pursuit and discovery by the troopers had perchance finally secured some good luck and had enabled the police to recaptured almost half of the stolen gold which had been strapped onto a pack-horse then abandoned by Gardiner while fleeing from Wheogo Hill. Upon the troopers return to Forbes with the stolen gold it was reported in the newspaper expressing the jubilation felt by the crowd who eagerly awaited the news and who watched the merriment of the Tracker Charlie who had led Sgt Sanderson on the successful recovery; "on the arrival of the little band with the treasure-viz., a pack horse carrying about 1600 z° of gold, two rifles and a trooper's coat, they were loudly cheered, and surrounded by some 3000 people, eager to learn the news and see how affairs stood. The horses and men appeared knocked-up, the black fellow who had served as tracker appearing the least fatigued, to judge by his self-satisfied and merry countenance..."⁴³

Luckily for Ben Hall by the time of the police arrival at Sandy Creek, Maguire stated that Ben Hall had been in the process of heading home with his share of the spoils and therefore missed the arrival of Sanderson. Ben's share of the haul was;op.cit. “he had 22lb. of gold strapped to his saddle and £460 in notes in his pockets, he galloped down the other side of the hill until he found a nice, convenient hollow log. Into this, he thrust the whole of his share of the spoils. Then he coolly cantered away home as if nothing had happened. And he always pretended, even to myself and his other relatives and friends, that he knew nothing of the robbery..." 22lbs of gold equates to 325 oz and is worth today $390,000 and £460 = $38,600 for a total of $428,600.

However, Sanderson's success was not as forthcoming for Sir Frederick Pottinger who after splitting his tracking parties had headed south and arrived as far as Hay without crossing the tracks of the suspected bushrangers. However, Pottinger was of the belief that the robbers hailed from Victoria and although he saw signs of riders making for the Victorian border they were not his quarry. Arriving at Hay without a hint of the bushrangers Pottinger decided to return to Forbes. The despondent Pottinger in company with Detective Lyons and a civilian court official Mr Mitchell, refreshed they commenced heading back to Forbes. However, during the ride with Mitchell some distance ahead he came into contact with three riders at Merool near Temora. The riders were unknown to Mitchell, but surprisingly one turned out to be John Gilbert in company with Henry Manns and Gilbert's older brother Charles. Pottinger rode up and also unaware that the man was John Gilbert began to question Gilbert regarding the quality horse he rode, however, quick as a flash Gilbert spurred his horse and escaped into the scrub. Pandemonium now ensured, the police drawing their revolvers captured his two companions. His brother captured Gilbert commenced his much-heralded 120-mile round trip to the Weddin Mountains to gather men to help in the rescue. The men sought out by Gilbert are suspected of being Frank Gardiner, John O'Meally, Patsy Daley and Ben Hall. Furthermore, in the melee that ensued which released Manns and Charles, Ben Hall, whose hatred of Pottinger was well known and undisguised is thought to have exchanged words with Pottinger during the attack; 'Sydney Mail' Saturday 26th July 1862; “One of them, apparently, addressed himself principally to Sir Frederick Pottinger, saying, "I know you, you bl---y ba---rd, Pottinger: "I'll put a pill through you, you ba---rd," &c. Sir Frederick fired at this fellow three times, Mr Mitchell, at his side, being also fully occupied with their assailants, and discharging shot for shot.” Ultimately those involved in the attack on Pottinger retreated to the Weddin Mountains, and Gilbert with his brother made tracks for Victoria and then New Zealand. Manns headed back to his old haunt near Burrowa. However, within a week of the melee at Merool, Pottinger confronted Hall at Sandy Creek and clapped him in irons.

Arrest of Ben Hall, William Hall,
and Dan Charters,
by Sir Frederick Pottinger
depicted by Monty Wedd,
from Bold Ben Hall.

c. 1970's ©
Following Gilbert's fight and flight, Sir Frederick Pottinger maintained his deep suspicions regarding those involved not only with his attempted murder at Merool but the Eugowra affair. Pottinger correlated his information and with Gardiner sprung at Wheogo Hill very close to Hall and Maguire's place Pottinger put two and two together. Undaunted, Pottinger closed in and in rapid succession started making carte blanche arrests of those persons he knew to be associates of Frank Gardiner. Therefore, Ben Hall was the first in Pottinger's sights not only as a result of the fiasco of the Bacon dray affair but Hall's earlier association and antics in Forbes and including the abuse during the gunfight at Merool.

Therefore, as a result on the 27th July 1862, Ben Hall was arrested with his brother William Hall and his two brothers-in-law John Browne, (husband of Catherine Browne) John Maguire and Hall's best friend Daniel Charters at Sandy Creek. Sir Frederick Pottinger had received reliable information of the men's knowledge and participation in the events at Eugowra. The informant was Maguire's friend Tom Richards who became a voluntary crown witness at the Escort Trial and who had been present at Maguire's during the planning stage for the Eugowra robbery and where a £1000 reward was an excellent incentive to spill the beans and cover his arse;[sic] "hearing afterwards of the robbery, he (Richards) was forced to combine the one set of facts with the other, and on this, before any charge was brought against him, he gave information to the police." After their arrest Charters explained his presence with Ben Hall; "Hall was gathering cattle; getting fat cattle for market, and I was there to get mine and my sister's cattle that might be brought in."⁴⁴ Unfortunately, these arrests and the long incarcerations to follow would be a death knell for Sandy Creek station. The five manacled suspects appeared at Forbes court where Sir Frederick Pottinger charged them before a magistrate; THE ESCORT ROBBERY. -"On Tuesday, last, at the Lachlan police-court, four men, named Benjamin Hall, William Hall, John Maguire, John Brown, and Daniel Charters, were brought up charged with being concerned in the late escort robbery. The only evidence taken was that of Sir Frederick Pottinger, who deposed to having received information to the effect that prisoners were concerned in the robbery; he prayed for a remand, for the purpose of obtaining further evidence. The prisoners were remanded accordingly." ⁴⁵

Sir Frederick
Pottinger.
c. 1863.
John Maguire (who was blind in his right eye), described in his memoirs, 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native', the day of their arrest;op.cit. Sir Frederick turned to the men and ordered them to put the handcuffs on me, two of the men (police) were then sent off to Browns, a similar mission was made to Ben Hall’s house, where Ben and Charters were secured, about 4 o’clock the police decided to stay for the night, so my wife proceeded to get supper for the crowd. When bedtime came round Hall, Charters, Brown and I were handcuffed together, and had to doss (sleep) in our clothes on a rough shakedown, whilst Sir Frederick took possession of the sofa, in the morning we were roused up and paired off again, after breakfast Sir Frederick gave orders to start for Forbes,” Maguire continued;op.cit. “each of us was now handcuffed singly, and bidden to mount our horses. Our hands were then strapped to the pommel of the saddle, and with a trooper each holding our reins, Sir Frederick giving orders that should anyone appear on the road suspected of having intentions to rescue us, each trooper was to shoot his man dead...

Ben Hall & others court
appearance August 1862.
Under the threat of execution, the five manacled men were incarcerated in the Forbes lock-up where they were arraigned and remanded for seven days. (See article right) As they languished in gaol, Maguire saw Ben Hall and Daniel Charters constantly in deep conversation together;op.cit. I often noticed Hall and Charters whispering together apart from the rest of the prisoners; and I began to suspect that they knew something about the robbery.”  Maguire also stated that he overheard Ben Hall tell Charters; they haven’t found anything on us, and they can do nothing to us." Maguire continues; we noticed Sir Frederick in conversation with James Newland, a brother in law to Charters, Sir Frederick then came and took Charters away. On his return Charters told us he was going to get bail whilst we could not, I watched Ben’s countenance, and noticed that he looked a bit upset when Charters got his freedom. Daniel Charters was admitted to bail with two sureties of £250 each, and his own recognizance of £500, to appear when called upon. Whilst held on remand Maguire threw a spotlight on Hall confessing to him of his involvement at Eugowra;op.cit. "Ben and I were now left alone together, and next morning he confided to me a full account of the robbery and the names of the men who took part, they were himself, Gardiner, young O'Meally, Gilbert, Charters, Bow, Fordyce and the only man I was not acquainted with-Henry Manns. This I declare, was the first time I really knew who the culprits were, although as I said before, I had my suspicions as to some of the gang, at any rate." Maguire continues; "I remonstrated with Ben, as there had been no occasion for him to take that game on, but he said he had been run on to it by Gardiner..."

Daniel Charters.
c. 1862.
Interestingly, Charters later denied any contact or conversation with Hall in the Forbes Lock-up when cross-examined at the second escort trial February 1863 but did state that he had had conversations with Maguire;op.cit. “I have had conversations with Maguire in regard to this matter while in the lock-up; but I had none with Hall whilst there. It was nothing particular, only about what a job it was to be kept in the lock-up on this account.”⁴⁶ Charters also denied that he had been offered an inducement to leave Ben Hall and John O'Meally out of it; I was not confined in the same cell as Ben Hall.  I was under the same roof, but not in the same apartment.  I was confined for about eight days at the same time as Hall.  I had no communication with Hall at that time; nor had I any with him on this matter after my release, neither directly nor indirectly have I had any communication with O’Mealy or Hall relative to this matter.  I will swear that I have not been offered a sum of money to leave their names out of the information I have given in regard to this robbery.⁴⁷ This contradicted Maguire’s statement regarding their arrest in his memoirs transcribed many years later.

Author's Note; Even 40 years after the Escort Robbery, MaGuire attempted in his memoirs to be totally ignorant of the planning of the escort robbery.  In fact, MaGuire knew full well who the participants were in the robbery, as the whole affair was planned at his and Ben's residence. Even after the robbery, he was supplying the gang with food and equipment. Maguire after having been charged for his part in the robbery was transported to Sydney for one of the most sensational trials in the history of the young colony and appeared before the special commission established for the escort trial and bushranging. The first escort trial took place in February 1863 with a result of a hung jury. The government immediately placed the defendants back in the dock for a second trial. After all the evidence was heard again, Bow, Fordyce and Manns were however, this time found guilty and sentenced to death. John Maguire was found not guilty by his peers (he was rearrested over the bond still outstanding for Youngman which was paid by a benefactor). Manns would be the only bushranger from the escort robbery (see “In Company” page) to be executed and died a long and horrible death at the hands of the bungling hangman. Bow and Fordyce’s sentences were commuted to life where they served 12 years and ironically enough were released from prison with the man who had led them there…, Frank Gardiner. This sentiment was also noted after the convictions and Maguire's acquittal, from; 'The Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser', Friday 6th March 1863"the Escort Robbers have been sentenced to death, except for Maguire, who is acquitted. I have no doubt he is the biggest scoundrel of the three. The evidence showed clearly enough, in my opinion, that he was an accomplice of the gang from the beginning to end: at any rate, that he was cognisant of the intended robbery. The prisoners will, I am afraid, be strung up without mercy." 
John McGuire's Darlinghurst Gaol entry log February 1863,
note that John McGuire was blind in his right eye until now this information was unknown.
Subsequently, Charters under pressure from his devoted sisters turned Queen’s evidence for the benefit of the full pardon offered. He informed on all the participants of the heist but failed to implicate his close friend Ben Hall and the wild John O’Meally. However, it would come to light that Charters had indeed perjured himself over Ben and Jack O'Meally's involvement at Eugowra;[sic] "but Charters' evidence was false, and consequently would not bear the production of those men; it was a lie from beginning to end. That perjured villain had not only made up his mind as to what men should be condemned, but he had also received money to swear that certain individuals who did take part in the robbery were not present. Charters swore that Ben Hall and O'Meally were not present at the escort robbery; but those men were present; and Charters knew well..." (O’Meally would no doubt have harmed/killed Charters had he been implicated or most probably paid Charters to keep him out of it.) Ben Hall was granted bail at the end of August 1862 for £500 and two sureties of £250, his bail conditions were to 'appear when called upon'. He never would see the inside of a court or gaol cell again. However, it was noted when Hall was released that words had reputedly passed between Hall and Pottinger; On the last occasion, that Sir Frederick had Ben Hall brought up in Forbes, as Ben was leaving the Courthouse, Pottinger remarked, "Well, Hall, you have escaped again." ''Yes," replied Ben," and the next time you bring me here it will be for something, and don't you forget it.  And if all be true that I hear, when I get home you'll get cause to remember me."⁴⁸ (£1,000 in 1862 is worth today around $83,000, and demonstrates that Ben Hall appeared to be in a very good financial position or at least asset rich to raise that amount of money. However, with the bush Hall's new home Sandy Creek would pass to John Wilson thus providing funding or Hall may have fenced off his proceeds from Eugowra.)
Robert Hall, Maitland Gaol 1862, released 1863.
As Ben Hall was released on bail from Forbes, his younger brother Robert was sentenced to six months gaol at Maitland for 'Illegally working two Bullocks'.

Robert Hall.
c. 1870.
Of interest is that in the months following Hall's release a 'Special Criminal Commission' into not only the Escort Robbery of June 1862 but bushranging per se was established in February 1863 at the Sydney Criminal Court. During the trial of the four accused Escort robbers Bow, Fordyce, Manns and Maguire, Sgt Sanderson the hero of Wheogo was called upon to give evidence in regard to his sterling efforts in the recapture of half of the proceeds of the escort robbery. Sanderson recounted the scene of Gardiner's camp on Wheogo Hill which rose to a height of 430 meters with a marvellous all-around view and was situated within a miles ride of Ben Hall and Maguire’s homes at Sandy Creek station. In his own words Sanderson described the spectacle at the bushrangers camp following his departure from Hall's home in pursuit of Daniel Charters whom they galloped after to the summit of Wheogo Hill; “on the Thursday morning following the robbery I was near the Wheogo Mountains, on my search; I was near to the house of a man named Hall; McGuire’s house was about 300 or 400 yards from Hall's house; I went to Hall's house; I wanted to see one of the Hall's; he was not in; I went on towards McGuire’s house; as I went I saw a horseman coming towards me from the Wheoga Mountains, in the direction of Hall's or McGuire’s house; when he caught sight of me he turned round and bolted into the mountains; I followed him with my party; by the aid of our black tracker we got on the tracks; we followed him by roundabout course up to the top of the Wheogo Mountain; the top of the mountain was about a mile and a half from McGuire’s place; at the top of the mountain I found the remnants of a camp; there were sixteen empty bottles; some contained remnants of port wine, some of gin, some of rum, some of ale; there were biscuits about and tea with milk in it; I did not see how the robbers could have got milk on the spot without going to the stations round about; there were remnants of beef, bits of bread! pieces of green hide tied to bushes, and bits of red tape; I found the top of the hill very stoney, and consequently very difficult to keep the track; we lost it for a time; in about a quarter of an hour it was found by the black tracker, and we proceeded on it a distance of about twenty or twenty-six miles, through a dense scrub; the black tracker rode a white horse; as far as I could judge the man who evaded me at the foot of the Wheogo Mountain rode a bright bay horse; we found the track of several horses; I could not say how many; one of them was shod; we followed in these tracks about twenty-five miles; when we came upon a shod horse with a pack on his back; the pack contained a bag with 1239 ounces of gold, a bag similar to that which I saw put into the escort which started on Sunday, 15th June, from Forbes...”

Report of hold-up of  Sale of
Sandy Creek in 1865,
for £3000.
Meanwhile, while Ben remained in custody at Forbes events were developing that would continue to transform and affect the course of Hall's life. Subsequently, Ben's neighbours and friends had considered the grazier an honourable friend and first-class fellow. The perception regarding his character through mid-1862 had nevertheless, in turn, appeared to become somewhat shattered due to Hall's two recent arrests and public link to Gardiner in the eyes of his peers. Moreover, in light of the severe situation of both Maguire's and Ben's legal position a publican John Wilson, who owned the White Hart Inn, Forbes was a good friend of John Maguire's. Wilson as well knew Hall. The publican, however, would provide monies to Maguire (who was too face a lengthy, expensive trial at Sydney) and where it is most probable that Ben Hall received funding as well for his bail, after all, £1000 Hall required did not grow on trees! Furthermore, John Wilson at the time of Hall and Maguire's incarceration went about raising capital through selling some of his assets in gold mining in order, no doubt, to supplement the costs associated for his purchase of Sandy Creek station through default;[sic]“John Wilson, of the White Hart Inn, Rankin-street, has for sale a full share in the Britannia Prospecting Claim and a sleeping half share in the same claim, including share in 200 tons’ quartz now ready for crushing as soon as machinery is ready.” Accordingly, Maguire reveals that while in custody he and Hall ultimately sell Sandy Creek station to Wilson. Consequently, after Maguire's incarceration in Sydney and Hall's inability to work at the station, it ultimately saw the whole of the property come under Wilson's ownership. Maguire states;op.cit. "my wife and children were living at the White Hart Inn kept by a man named Wilson, to whom I had transferred the Sandy Creek Station whilst in gaol, in order to raise the wind..." However, upon Maguire’s return, he stated; "I made over to Wilson's to see my wife and two children; Next day I arranged with Wilson to take over his hotel, as he wished to go out and work the station..." However, although Wilson would commence working the station, he also commenced residing in Maguire's old home, and the process removed Ellen Maguire, while Hall's kin continued to squat in Hall's former home. Wilson also had a similar debt situation with Sarah Walsh, Bridget's step-mother over Uoka (Wheogo) Station regarding young 'Warrigal' Walsh, Bridget's younger brother, a known horse and cattle thief and reputed groom to 'The Darkie'. Wilson also eventually took control of Uoka (Wheogo) but sold it in 1866. There is no doubt that the actual market value of Sandy Creek ranged from £2,560/£3000, which included dwellings, stock and improvements. In 1864, John Maguire and Ben Hall still had an outstanding debt of rent to the NSW government over Sandy Creek from 1862, in the amount of £3 15s, which indicated that one of them paid some monies on the lease.
Uoka Station, Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer, 1866.
NSW Government Gazette
31st December, 1866.

Courtesy NLA.
However, this debt is mystifying when one considers that the total yearly rent was £5 10s, with a twenty-pound assessment. All indications are that the two proprietors had enough stock for sale to cover any costs, even duffed stock, and although in late 1861 early 1862 there had been a drought, a not uncommon event, there is no indication of this affecting Hall and Maguire's cash flow. A cash flow, which could easily be supplemented by the sale of beef to the new Goldfields both at Forbes and Lambing Flat. Even Charters commented on the fact that he and Hall were gathering in cattle for the market when Pottinger swooped in August 1862 and William Hall had over £60 in his possession at the time of their arrest in July 1862. Furthermore, Maguire had the services of a cook and housekeeper named Mrs Shanahan which indicates nil money worries. However, in Hall's current reckless way of life it, just maybe that Ben succumbed to the lure of fast money, thereby no longer encumbered with responsibility, no home, no family, and despite the new beginning of fatherhood, Hall still abandons all he had worked for, for a fast horse and a six-gun.

Authors Note on Maguire; I have utilized Maguire's memoirs, and in doing so note that much of his narrative is out of context to the facts regarding times and places during his friendship with Ben Hall. Maguire recounted his memories near the end of his life and as such, I have tirelessly cross referenced much of and disregarded the erroneous information. However, the bulk of his reminiscence is solid and most useful.

Nevertheless, although Wilson had in effect became the lessee of Sandy Creek, his tenure over the station became Gazetted at the end of 1867, some 18 months after Ben Hall's death. Moreover, it would appear beforehand that for any transfer to take place it required Ben Hall's signature to be signed before a Magistrate. However, his signature was something that Ben Hall was incapable of providing due to his having taken to the bush instead of copping it sweet with a probable long gaol term. Nevertheless, Ben plunges deeper into lawlessness. Subsequently, on Ben Hall and Maguire's departure from Sandy Creek, there was a dramatic increase in the lease value from the original rent of £5 10s per annum increased to £40 per annum which demonstrated the solid work in upgrading the station from rough scrubland to an excellent property with stockyards and dwelling's. Therefore, by any standard is a significant increase over a brief period, which exemplifies that the two men had developed a beautiful run. However, through misadventure, they lost everything. (See article above right.)

Maguire stated in 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native', that the sale of Sandy Creek was to be split four ways between the Hall's, Maguire's wife Ellen and himself; “my wife was entitled to 640 pounds as a fourth part of the proceeds, but by some manner of means the executor never handed over a copper of it...” Maguire and his wife Ellen had separated at the time which led to divorce as a result of an alleged indiscretion on the part of Ellen, believed to have been with Daniel Charters while Maguire was held in remand at Sydney for the Escort robbery. Therefore, it would seem that any monies owed to Ellen, John Maguire no doubt kept for himself as a form of retribution. (See article above right.)

The 'Peak Hill Express' newspaper of 1907 also gives credence to Maguire and Hall receiving money for the sale of Sandy Creek. (See article right.) However, to compound Ben Hall's current situation of late 1862, Ben once again faced fatherhood. Ben Hall's new live-in love Susan Prior who had met Hall at Lambing Flat shortly after Bridget's desertion with James Taylor, had moved with her family into Hall's old station hut and was soon pregnant. Susan Prior fell pregnant in early March of 1862. Consequently, this new relationship for Ben as he commenced his deeper involvement with Gardiner including both the April 1862 Bacon dray robbery and the June 1862 Escort robbery may have indicated that for a brief moment of time preceding his criminal participation Ben may have been straightening up and attempting to fly right? However, this does appear somewhat fleeting.

Susan Prior.
c. 1880's
'The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser', 26th August 1924 gave an interesting account of the newly established relationship between Ben and Susan Prior and that Bridget's family appeared indifferent to the relationship; "during one of these weekend visits he met a handsome young girl of 16 summers named Susan Pryor, whom he induced to go and live with him at his home at Wheogo. This action, or mode of life, provoked no resentment on the part, of the Walsh family. Ben now resumed his former energies and appeared as much enamoured of his mistress as he was of his wife..."(Little else is recorded of Susan Prior after 1863. Susan gave birth to their child, a daughter named Mary born in January 1863. Mary died in Newton, Sydney in 1922. Although it has been noted that in old age Susan was a very bitter woman. See Gallery page.) However, with the transfer of ownership decided, Wilson had taken up residency at the station and had acquired Maguire's former home ejecting Ellen who had returned to the station following her break-up with Maguire, who became manager of Wilson's White Hart Inn in Forbes. Therefore, Ben Hall, after his release from Forbes in late August 1862 also returned to his ex-homestead only to find Ellen Maguire in residence as well. Furthermore, it was a full house as another person of interest and a friend of John Gilbert’s, Henry Gibson also well known to the police was living at the homestead(Henry Gibson arrived in the colony via Victoria as a nineteen-year-old free settler in 1853, from Middlesex, England) as well as Ben's older brother William and wife Ann Hall;op.cit. "Bill Hall never turned out on the road, though he remained in the district whilst his notorious brother went through all his exciting experiences; in fact, he lived in Ben's house until it was burnt down by the Police..." William Hall would eventually move to the Pinnacle station and commenced gold mining on the Pinnacle Reef a place where no doubt Ben Hall would utilise in the future when laying low at times became too hot. However, apart from William and Ann, Ellen Maguire would before long return to her stepmother’s home at Wheogo Station, leaving Susan Prior her mother Mary her sister Charlotte and brother William at Hall's former home. Furthermore, Susan gave birth to a daughter named Mary born at Sandy Creek in January 1863, and to where from time to time the new father Ben Hall himself returned to when not in Pottinger's gun-sight.

Mary's Baptisim
Certificate.
Therefore, even at this juncture in Ben Hall's life, following his dispossession of Sandy Creek. Culminating in Hall's recent incarceration's, fatherhood, conjoined with a self-inflicted sense of persecution by police inspector Sir Frederick Pottinger which undoubtedly prompted Hall's continuous and reckless friendships including the two very near-misses with the judicial system all of which inevitably kept Hall under the spotlight of police suspicion and surveillance. Furthermore, all these correlated facts indicate that Ben did not after his release from Orange and Forbes, prevent himself from taking a temerarious path, one that asserted his associations and collaboration with the bushrangers Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert, John O'Meally and another young tearaway Patrick 'Patsy' Daley, a first cousin of John O'Meally.

Author's Note; Historically there has been a long-held belief that during Ben Hall's incarceration at Forbes over the Escort Robbery. That while in custody Ben Hall's property, Sandy Creek station, was abandoned and livestock supposedly yarded at the time of his arrest by Sir Frederick Pottinger in August 1862 had been left to die a painful and horrible death through starvation and thirst. However! it is entirely untrue, and the long years after Hall's death, the folktale appears as fact. In turn, the tale rears-up as a form of excuse, and dare I say even misguided sympathy for a man who was at one time considered by many of his friends of that period a fine fellow. A judgement that quickly dissipated upon his arrests. Subsequently, as a consequence, this yarn became characterised to ameliorate Ben Hall's complicity in bushranging. How? By deflecting Hall's factual route to his criminal activities through forming an opinion that the NSW police were to blame over their perceived persecution of Ben Hall, complete nonsense! Furthermore, and this is fact! The situation at Sandy Creek was that William Hall, his wife Ann, the then-pregnant Susan Prior and another ruffian Henry Gibson all resided at Hall's homestead. Furthermore, Hall's ex-in-laws, the Walsh's including John Browne also lived close. Therefore, to state that these people would have sat idly by and allowed livestock to perish so horribly would and could never have transpired when one considers the value, the importance and need for these animals for income and survival in a remote and lonely area. At the second escort trial of 1863, Sir Frederick Pottinger answered questioned about the arrests of Ben and William Hall and Dan Charters. Under oath, Sir Frederick stated the following in regards to the three men's demeanour at Pottinger's arrival and the situation of the livestock, as well as, some suspicious cash found on Ben Hall at the time;[sic] “nothing was said beyond the expression of surprise. I took them to Maguire's, where I had arrested Maguire and Brown, and took them all into town. I did not notice any cattle in Hall's stockyard. They might have been mustering, but I saw nothing of it. I found £50 or £60 in notes on Hall. A great deal was said about them, and a long investigation was had into the matter, about there being notes that had been taken from the escort, I took some notes from the house of Ben Hall, and they were claimed by William Hall, to whom they were returned. There was an investigation before the Bench, and then they were returned. I took possession of them and produced them before the Bench with a view to show that they were taken from the escort. They were placed before several witnesses; Mr. Weakes, and a clerk of the Commercial Bank who is not here."By the Judge:[sic] "an investigation took place; the notes were examined by witnesses, and the magistrates dismissed the case and returned the notes to William Hall." It must also be noted that £1 in 1862 is equal today to around $83.04.

Sir Frederick Pottinger could not shake off his suspicions and remained convinced that 'Sandy Creek' was a haven for bushrangers. Furthermore, through police intelligence Pottinger stepped up police patrols around there and Wheogo Station including the Pinnacle as well as the nearby Weddin Mountains..., O'Meally territory! In these assumptions, the Baronet was not alone.

Consequently, Sir Frederick's viewpoint was also expressed by the more law-abiding citizen residing out in the troubled districts. Here the bushrangers tended to utilise their long-standing friendships and in some cases to those less receptive by the use of intimidation. Accordingly, a letter was published in the newspapers by a resident of the Lachlan depicting those friendly inhabitants who were both harbourers and telegraphs who had invoked the 16th century saying in their assistance of the bushrangers that 'a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse'"on the Billibong and Bland Plains are several stations; many of the residents there, to my certain knowledge, having been at one time hut mates and companions of the now noted bushrangers, whilst after cattle in bye-gone days; consequently, though these residents may not go out and stop persons on the roads still there is little doubt they do wink at the evil practice of their former companions, and, when they see them, give them food and shelter. It is impossible the police can take the bushrangers whilst they have such means afforded them of escape with scouts in all directions — "bush telegrams" as they are called. They may be within an hour's ride of the police, and still escape them. They will never take these bushrangers openly, or in uniform; it will be done simply by stratagem, Humbug Creek, and Weddin Mountains used to be their haunts when they were stockkeepers; consequently, they know the ground well now — every bush and tree is familiar to them."⁴⁹


The Empire. 16th August,
1862.
However, Sir Frederick Pottinger in light of his limited success against the bushrangers was more and more determined to bring the law to the wild west. Especially concerning those residing at the stations mentioned above which Sir Frederick saw as the centre of flagrant anarchical activities. Therefore, Pottinger was extremely frustrated that people associated with the Escort Robbery (and there were many) had so far managed to escape justice. Furthermore, to rub salt into the wound, Sir Frederick was still smarting from the humiliation of failing to capture his nemesis Frank Gardiner on Saturday the 9th August 1862. Pottinger had staked out Gardiner's paramour Catherine Browne's home at Wheogo with eight officers after the Inspector had received reliable information that 'The Darkie' would appear or be present for a romantic liaison with Mrs Browne. Pottinger's information proved correct when in the dead of night Gardiner after an evening spent with Mrs Browne mounted on his horse and departed her home. Pottinger with complete surprise on his side rose abruptly to fire point blank at Gardiner who was completely startled, however, due to a failure of Pottinger's carbine in firing it allowed Gardiner to escape from Pottinger's eight carefully positioned troopers, two of which also discharged their weapons and missed Gardiner who vanished into the night. Furthermore, as they say, there are two sides to every story as another version of that evening stated that;[sic] "there is indeed, as will be seen, another version of the story, which is that Gardiner was actually in the house, and in bed when, the police surrounded it and yet he slipped through their fingers. As this, however, is positively contradictory of Sir Frederick Pottinger's affidavit, of course it cannot be accepted on more hearsay..." Moreover, it was reported that Gardiner having bolted reined his horse some five hundred yards away;[sic] "Gardiner, cantered away into the bush on his white horse, and seems to have felt quite secure that nobody would follow him, for he dismounted and sat down at his ease when he got about five hundred yards away. The Battle of Wheogo was over, and the nine men remained masters of a barren field..." Unrepentant at his failure, Pottinger proceeded to Kitty's hut where;[sic] "rather than go home empty-handed, it seems they took a little boy out of bed, where they found him asleep, and carried him off to Forbes, on suspicion of having held Gardiner's horse..." An action which unfortunately brought much ridicule from the NSW press towards Sir Frederick Pottinger as he carted Catherine's young brother, 'Warrigal' Walsh away.

However, the draw of the bushrangers exploits and their extensive coverage in newspapers, as well as being the topic of conversation around the dinner table, brought comment regarding the children playing bushranger. However, the draw of the bushrangers exploits and their extensive coverage in newspapers, as well as being the topic of conversation around the dinner table, brought this comment regarding the playing of bushranger amongst children. It also raised the alarm at their idol worship of Gardiner which had 'The Goulburn Chronicle' of October 24, 1862 state that it was deeply worried by the number of town children who were playing bushrangers. It warned its readers: "The amusement of playing bushrangers and sticking up one another may prove very exciting to the juvenile mind, but such amusements must necessarily tend to loss of moral principles and disregard of right and wrong..."

NSW Police Gazette, 1863.
Furthermore, from 1862, and into the early weeks of 1863 the Inspector-General of Police Captain McLeire who had the final approval on all criminal reports published in the NSW Police Gazette, which had been chronicling robberies and hold-ups that Ben Hall in consequence of his current villainous associations had undoubtedly participated in. McLerie ensured that those gazettes were disseminated widely to his district officers. Moreover, within the NSW Police Gazette, they provided descriptions of perpetrators who closely resembled the known physical attributes of Gardiner, Gilbert, O'Meally and Hall as well as other known acquaintances such as the three Jack's, Patsy Daley and young John Jameison. (See above)


NSW Police Gazette,
14th January 1863.
Therefore, Ben Hall's description as published fitted closely to a robbery conducted against one Henry Theobald a resident of Young. The hold-up took place on the Marengo road on the 13th January 1863. However, this incident also incorporates the presence of John Gilbert who had recently resurfaced in the district and had resumed bushranging with Hall and O'Meally. The three also included another new member Patrick Daley, O'Meally's first cousin as well as John Jameison. Daley had on and off participated with Jack O'Meally early on in various criminal activities and was mixed up in a reported rape case against the two of them at the beginning of 1862. However, on the following day 14th January, 1863 the bushrangers again appeared and robbed Mr David M'Veigh 10 miles outside of Forbes on the busy road to Lambing Flat; "On the 14th instant, Mr. David M'Veigh of Forbes was stuck up on the road about 10 miles from Forbes, by three mounted men, armed with revolvers and robbed of 13s. in silver. 1st described as being young, fair, no hair on face; dressed in flash stripped trousers and cabbage tree hat; The other two men had their faces covered with crape and cannot be described." Jameison and Daley would later be found guilty over this particular robbery, the third person being Ben Hall; "John Jamieson was also committed for trial, at the same court, on a charge of having, in company with Patsey Daley and another, committed a robbery on the persons of David M'Veigh and David Pollon, on the Lachlan road, about six months ago (the day of the fire at Forbes). He was also charged with an attempt at robbing (being armed) John Large and William John White, on the Lachlan road."- Yass Courier, July 29th, 1863.

Mrs Brown,
NSW Police Gazette.
There were also reports, however, that on occasions Gardiner's lover Catherine Browne had earlier been participating in robberies alongside 'The Darkie' disguised in men's apparel. Consequently, all Gazette reports continued to state that the bushrangers 'Can be Identified'. Moreover, many of the correspondents stationed in the country areas where the latest bushranging offences had occurred either knew of or had figured out who the perpetrators were. However, the correspondents appeared reluctant to name those suspect criminals in the newspapers either as a way of self-preservation or an unjust incrimination of innocent people. Their knowledge may well have assisted the police, however, by not doing so often alerted the criminals or their friends as to the polices' information. A comparison would be today when the press wants to destroy someone's character for sensational motives the word attached is 'alleged', such as so and so was 'alleged' to do this or do that, therefore, the association of guilt is permanently attached to whomever forever regardless of guilt or innocence. There is no coming back from that! Consequently, as a result of vagueness over the bushrangers identity, the correspondents were protecting themselves against possible reprisals. Therefore, in most instances, the NSW police gazettes descriptions of the assailants, such as Ben Hall, were only printed in newspapers by correspondents as they had received them from the authorities. However, in some cases, these descriptions would lead to an arrest by the police who had a sound knowledge of those fiends committing crimes in specific areas as the bushrangers rarely strayed from their favorite haunts. However, and frustratingly for the police, the court often failed the hard work of the officers and bailed the offenders. In other circumstances, the police would suffer the embarrassment through criticism by the press after pursuing a fruitless chase. However, for Ben Hall noticeably lame in one leg, and stout (rather fat or of heavy build) his impediment would often not be mentioned in any report or description, example below right.

NSW Police Gazette 1863.
Note age.
Moreover, with John Gilbert's appearance in the Lachlan District in January 1863 after an absence of some months following the Escort robbery, as well as a lucky escape from Inspector Pottinger in July 1862 that had Gilbert spend a short stint in New Zealand's South Island in company with his two brothers. His return to NSW had Gilbert back in the saddle roaming his former haunts of the Weddin Mountains and its surrounding districts including his pre-bushranging home of Marengo. Upon return Gilbert quickly re-established this homecoming by banding together with O'Meally, Hall and made his presence felt as 'The Boy's' swept through many local establishments plundering at will;"Sydney Morning Herald" 7th February 1863- "There are many rumours afloat as to the number of bushrangers in this affair, and the number of stations "stuck up," but I know for certain of two places being ransacked by them, viz , the Bentick-Morrell station (Mr George Tout's), and a roadside accommodation house (G Harcombe's) At the latter place they only got £7. The house was entered by three robbers, but six others were counted waiting at a short distance within call as a reserve if necessary within call as a reserve if necessary, apparently with the plunder from the Bentick-Morrell station strapped upon them. The rascals were under the leadership of one Johnny Gilbert, a henchman of Gardiner's. This is an undoubted fact, because a sister-in-law of George Harcombe's was present, and distinctly recognised him, she is a native of Marengo, near which place John Gilbert was stock-keeper for some time. None of the desperadoes took the trouble to mask themselves..." Gilbert rejoicing in a return to his familiar stomping ground sought out its ladies fair, as reported on 11th March 1863 which as well confirmed the bushranger as operating in the districts in January 1863 as he sought-after not only sweet peaches but even sweeter peach-blossomed girls; "Writing on the 23rd ultimo, 'Johnny Gilbert,' who is known to have a great 'penchant' for Marengo and its peaches. The last time our patrol were absent Gilbert came and got some peaches from another party; it seems pretty certain that either the peaches, or the peach-blossom cheeks of some of the girls about here, seem to act as a magnet to the youthful desperado. I know for a fact that not a month ago he got a handkerchief full from a contiguous settler, with whom he was a stockkeeper for some time." Gilbert's return also noted the continued large reward still on his head;[sic]“the notorious Johnny Gilbert, for whose apprehension a reward of £500 is offered, and who is known to be in the neighbourhood of the Weddin Mountains." The latest news of Gilbert's whereabouts also included the ease in which Johnny moved about the area;[sic]"Mr. John, alias Johhny Gilbert, again visited this neighbourhood, and was seen by several, and actually had the effrontery to call at a respectable farmer's (Mr. Batkin's) and ask how they all were, and solicit a light. It is lucky for him that the male members of the family were absent, or the young freebooter (notwithstanding his revolvers) might have found himself in awkward clutches... However, with the bush and certain stations as their lairs, a new wave of determined sticking-up quickly resumed. Furthermore, there were also conflicting newspaper reports and general gossip as to the whereabouts of Frank Gardiner, the banditos' leader, with even speculation by correspondents in some quarters, although humorous, of Gardiner's reputed death from a broken heart at the Abercrombie, this assumption, however, was quickly rebuked by another writer who saw their folly;  "did you ever see Gardiner? If so, I'm sure you will coincide with me in thinking that a man of his vigour of life, stalwart physique, and determined physiognomy would almost be the last man in the universe to expire from that malady, peculiar to hopeless sighing swains and lovelorn forsaken damsels,"⁵⁰ the scribe goes on to say "this freebooter would have been taken long ago, but for the false sympathy and shelter granted him by some of those petty vitiated settlers of the Abercrombie Ranges..."⁵¹ Moreover, by September 1862, Gardiner had shot through from Wheogo and headed for Rockhampton, Queensland. Arriving at Appis Creek situated on the road to the Peak Downs goldfield. In company with his lover Catherine Browne. Even so, a plethora of crimes attributed to 'The Darkie' continued and whose departure from the Lachlan would leave John Gilbert upon his return from New Zealand to claim in the short term the mantle of leader and instigator of, "Outrages against Citizens". In quick succession many robberies where Gazetted by police fitting Ben Hall's description; Sticking up- "A man named John Grandylar, who left Goulburn for the Lachlan some time back, was stuck-up by two armed bushrangers on Monday last, about sixteen miles on this side of Burrowa, on his return hither, and was robbed of whatever money he had on his person A cheque for a considerable amount that he had sown inside the band of his trousers escaped observation. They, however, took a good pair of boots off his feet, but gave him an old pair in exchange, and also robbed him of his coat. The man's swag with a revolver in it, where of course it was utterly useless, was appropriated by the bushrangers to their own use.”⁵² Throughout January 1863 Ben Hall's transformation to full-time bushranger had now appeared complete as Hall became identified by victims who were acquainted with him. Although historically there are those who today who dispute the evidence. Nevertheless, in all cases, without any sense of honour or civility, Ben Hall puts a gun to their heads and places terror in their hearts, then rips from them their hard-earned possessions.

NSW Police Gazette
February 1863.
Note; Hall's description- 5ft 6in.
Hall's height would
vary in future police
Gazette's from 5ft 6in-5ft 8in.
However, Ben's shift into criminal prominence and notoriety amongst a great variety of people became public when on the 27th January 1863 a robbery was committed against two gentlemen Mr Pollock and Mr Evans, both residents of Forbes. The robbery occurred on the Lambing Flat road. The two men were bailed-up by a positively identified Ben Hall who was in company with who was at first believed to be Patrick O'Meally but was, in fact, young John Jameison and another most probably John O'Meally as the bushrangers responsible. (see article above right.) Mrs Green who operated Green's Inn on 'Uar' station on the Lambing Flat road witnessed the attempt and had known Ben over many years. It was reported in the 'Goulburn Herald' later of an exchange of words between the men; "Mr David Pollock accompanied by Mr Reed's traveller was returning from Green's at Uah. He was bailed up by three mounted and armed men; "What have you got in your pocket"? said the leading robber, "D-- — l a halfpence," was the reply, after which the lord of the road said, "what are you driving about the country, for, without money"? To this. Mr Pollock answered that he had been looking for a mule, and if his interrogator would find it and bring it to Forbes, he would give him a note. "Now Pollock," said the bushranger, "never go on the road again without money"; and the three rode away..." 


NSW Police Gazette,
February 1863.
The action of the 27th was repeated the next day 28th January 1863, again with Ben Hall, Patsy Daley and John Jameison. This time the three villains held-up and robbed Mr Green of 'Uar' station and a former employer of Hall at their public house on the Lambing Flat road and whose wife had earlier witnessed the previous day's robbery of Pollock and Evan's. On this occasion, the three made off with bottles of Gin and kegs of Brandy. (see article below right) Again Ben Hall is positively identified. However, the Police Gazette again named John O'Meally's younger brother Patrick as one of the bushrangers. Luckily for Patrick, this proved an error as Captain Zouch upon examination exonerated the young villain following his subsequent arrest by police in connection with the two robberies. 

NSW Police Gazette,
February 1863.
John (Happy Jack) Gilbert was back raiding with his mates O'Meally and Ben Hall and Patsy Daley. On the 2nd February 1863, the re-joined bushrangers descended on the store of Mr George Dickson's, followed by ransacking an Inn at Spring Creek owned by a Mr Dalton. However, during the robbery a police trooper, Constable Stewart happened to pass as the robbery in progress. Unfortunately for Stewart, he as well was bailed up robbed of his horse and saddle, the animal his own and not the polices. However, Stewart indignant, offered some resistance to the gang's orders to concede. Consequently, for Stewart the result ended with one of the villains, reputed to be John O'Meally, severely beating the police officer. 'The Empire', 13th February 1863; DARING ATTACK OF BUSHRANGERS IN BROAD DAYLIGHT; - “On Monday evening last, (2nd Feb) about half-past eight o'clock, five men called at the store of Mr. George Dickenson. He was behind the counter, serving a customer. One of the robbers said to him, in a half drunken manner, "Bail up, we want what you have got." Mr, Dickenson hearing this, made a dart for his bed-room, where he kept his revolver, but he was immediately stopped and ordered to go outside the store, where he was placed under the charge of an armed man with his customer, Mr, Mead with one of the bushranger's in police uniform. The robbers searched them. From Mr. Mead, they took £5 in notes, and searched and no less than eleven other persons who were passing along the high road outside the store. They then went inside, stole a revolver, a bag containing five pounds in silver, between ten and eleven pounds’ worth of gold dust, and sundry articles of clothing. After stealing what they required, they helped themselves to brandy, gin, &c., and in fact everything they fancied. While the premises were being ransacked, a policeman happened to pass. He was stuck up also, and his horse, saddle and bridle, were taken away. The horse was the constable's private property. He consequently offered resistance, when one of the villains struck him a severe blow on the hand and wrist, quite disabling the limb; they kept him in durance vile until their unlawful work was accomplished; they then allowed him to proceed. He made his way with all possible speed to the camp, and Captain Battye mustered all hands, and started immediately in pursuit. The men also stuck-up the adjoining inn, Mr. Dalton's, known by the name of the Golden Fleece. They are supposed to have obtained about £60 in cash, and several guns and pistols. The latter were taken from Dalton's. The robbers are supposed to be the same who stuck-up the Bendick Morrell station on the 29th ultimo." It was reveled that the five bushrangers were John Gilbert, John O'Meally, Patsy Daley, Patrick O'Meally and Ben Hall.

NSW Police Gazette,
Frank Gardiner &
John Glibert.
However, earlier in March 1862 the NSW Government led by Mr Cowper instigated a restructuring of the whole of the NSW police force which from the previous diverse sections amalgamated into one entity with an Inspector-General in overall command. This honour fell to a highly experienced and politically savvy former army officer Captain John McLerie, once a nominee for the Victoria Cross for service in New Zealand's Maori war. However, following the wave after wave of people flooding into the state from all over the colony and the globe to the new El Dorado of the NSW west and the associated teething problems faced by a vast restructure which at times overwhelmed the revamped police force adjusting to its new structures. From outward appearances, the state appeared lawless, with robberies, beatings, and murder often commonplace in the new isolated towns under full swing with gold fever as inhabitants who without luck resorted to the revolver for a few shillings to get by on or to assist them in fleeing. Reports were rampant and into this mix came not only the opportunist bushranger but the dedicated bushranger who boldly snubbed their nose at law and order. Ben Hall fell into the category of the dedicated bushranger. At the time of Ben's breakout the Colonial Secretary, Mr Charles Cowper, often referred to as 'Slippery Charley' due to his political adroitness and whose tenure as Colonial Secretary faced many challenges by the new and audacious wave of lawlessness. In turn, the government not only battled bushrangers but also the socialist 'Empire' and conservative 'Sydney Morning Herald' newspapers. Moreover, twelve months had elapsed whereby the new police act continued suffering from organisational teething and substantial, unabashed criticism over the government and police's handling of the new 'Wild West of NSW'. Furthermore, Mr Cowper held the belief that large rewards for the capture of these out of control bushrangers and their leaders was an appropriate inducement for the harbourers and those amiable to their marauding. Therefore, Mr Cowper directly offered large rewards for putting the cuffs on his main protagonists Gardiner as well as the recently returned John Gilbert. £500 was a massive inducement which for even the poorest of the cockatoo squatters would have been quite a windfall to 'Feast One's Eyes On', just to dob in bushrangers; 'The Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser', on the 13th February 1863; "Cowper is getting quite convinced of the inclemency of the 'Grande idee' about the New Police: for he has just offered a reward of £500 for the apprehension (without conviction) of Gardiner, and another £500 for his mate Johnny Gilbert. The only chance of capturing these ruffians seems to be by offering a large reward." (See reward notice above right.)

Yet still! Gardiner, was the cry in many reported robberies, but as nothing concrete had been heard of the former leader for some time, left one correspondent to note; "but after every enquiry could hear of no confirmation of the report, nor of any stranger having visited that quarter bearing any resemblance to the redoubted bushranger. Verily, there are as many Gardiners in the colony as there were Richmond’s at Bosworth field..."⁵³

Author's Note: The Police Regulation Act was passed by the NSW Colonial Parliament and as of the 1st March 1862, all existing police forces amalgamated to establish the NSW Police Force under former Army Captain John McLerie as Inspector General.


Ernest Bowler
Ernest Bowler a long-time acquaintance of Ben Hall again relates an exciting account of Ben Hall's activities in early 1863, in 'The Moleskin Gentry'. On this occasion, however, Ernest had been out mustering cattle on the Charters' Pinnacle station, when near sunset his party rode up a mountainside where two hobbled horses had been discovered. Upon identification, Bowler believed the horses belonged to himself and a friend and he believed purloined by Gardiner. One horse a fine bay and the other a grey. Ernest approached cautiously removed the hobbles from the animals and at full gallop headed to the Pinnacle stockyard. Subsequently, that evening Bowler had returned to the stations public-house and was dinning in the kitchen when word passed that 'The Boys' (the local's term for bushrangers) were lurking. Ernest describes an exciting meeting after the recovery of the horses whereby Hall not Gardiner appeared to be the culprit;op.cit. “Ben Hall appeared at the back door. Nothing was said for a while. Hall, Ernest noted was wearing a cabbage tree hat that seemed new. He stood somewhat menacingly, a hand on each doorpost. It was perhaps, Hall's silent warning to a man he respected that it is unwise to liberate hobbled horses. When at last Ernest said, “Good evening,” Hall nodded curtly and moved away.” Furthermore, fearing that 'The Boys' may bail them all up and steal their cash and horses two messengers set out for the Pinnacle police station three-quarters of a mile away and persuaded the sole constable in charge, constable Knox to accompany them back to the public-house for protection. Reputedly, Knox was the lover of the widow Mrs Feehiley, Dan Charters' sister. Unfortunately, constable Knox had made a fateful mistake, for the Pinnacle station's public house was not the quarry.

NSW Police Gazette,
February 1863.
That morning on the 7th February 1863, while Knox was absent Ben Hall in the company of Patsy Daley avoided the station's public-house and raided the Pinnacle's Police station situated about eight miles from Hall's Sandy Creek station and stole some police items including weapons, saddles, ammunition and clothing; Breaking into a Police Station; — "The most impudent of robberies it has ever been our lot to record, was perpetrated on Saturday last, at the Police Station, at the Pinnacle, between Forbes and Lambing Flat. It appears that the station has been usually occupied by three troopers. Last week, however, two of these, including the officer in charge, had occasion to come to Forbes; the third was accordingly left behind, with instructions not to leave his post. On Saturday morning, when the men were returning, from Forbes, they were met by the trooper from the station, who reported that the place had been broken into during his temporary absence, and robbed of firearms, a pair of saddle-bags, and other property. Suspicion rested upon two men who had been seen about the neighbourhood, namely, Benjamin Hall and John Daley. Pursuit was immediately commenced, and Hall and Daley were soon within view. On the tracker approaching them, one of the fugitives turned and fired at him, but happily missed his aim., The tracker attempted to return the compliment, but his revolver missed fire. It is to be hoped the desperadoes are by this time in safe custody.” ⁵⁴

Pinnacle Station with Weddin
Mountains in the background.
Shortly after as Ben Hall and Patsy Daley were riding away from the police station they were tracked by Constable Knox. However, before long the two bushrangers were spotted departing a known hangout of undesirables, Allports Inn on the Forbes road by trooper William Hollister (Hollister an American by birth and a former world travelling sailor who worked as a Trimmer on sailing ships, resigned as crew to try the NSW goldfields and soon after joined the NSW Police force early 1862. Coincidental he was crewman onboard the 'City of Sydney' arriving in Sydney with a passenger named F. Pottinger in 1860), not far from the Pinnacle Station. Without delay, Hollister and his two trackers give chase exchanging shots with the two fleeing men. Later tracker Billy Dargin gave this account of those events; “followed them at that time with Prince Charlie and Trooper Hollister. Chased them for three miles and a half, and should have taken them but for Hollister getting thrown from his horse through running against a tree; saw Daley snap his revolver three times at Charlie..."⁵⁵ 

NSW Police Gazette,
March 1863.
Hollister, was an efficient constable and during his service had maintained a diary. In one entry he described the chase and attempted apprehension of Hall and Daley; Diary entry for Saturday 7th February 1863; "On Saturday 7th instant the Pinnacle barracks were broken into and robbed of one rifle one carbine 10 rounds of rifle ammunition one pouch and bridle one pair of saddle bags belt one gunnysack one flask of powder two pair of handcuffs two Crimean shirts.LC Ben Hall was tracked from the barracks to Uar by constable Knox." Diary entry Sunday 8th February 1863;"With Dargin (Tracker) from this station to Uar from Uar to Pinnacle reefs from reefs to this station. Myself and Dargin from Forbes met constable Knox at Uar and took up the tracks and ran them for about 12 miles and came upon Ben Hall and Patsy Daly within about 3 miles of the Pinnacle reefs and chased them about one mile when my horse ran me against a tree Daly tried to shoot one of the Black Trackers McFenns black fellow was with me through me getting the fall Hall and Daly escaped came to Pinnacle Police Station. When I met Knox, I sent him back to this station." Ultimately Constable Knox would be dismissed from the NSW police after the Pinnacle robbery. (see above right)

By the end of February 1863 Hall was noted as armed and dangerous. Historically, there is a belief that Ben Hall's complicity in criminal activities before the Pinnacle robbery is suspect. Lets put the kibosh on that presumption right here! The evidence of Hall's villainy when thoroughly reviewed is overwhelming. Even though Ben Hall had himself stressed his innocence. However, the reported and eyewitnessed crime of the April 1862 Bacon Dray robbery conducted in company with Gardiner and Gilbert as well as the Gold Escort attack in June 1862 again in company with Gardiner and Gilbert tells a very different story. In turn, the subsequent Pinnacle hold-up of February 1863, as mentioned above, in company with Patrick Daley includes eyewitness identification of Hall's participation and can not be dismissed. Furthermore, Hall had claimed, as in the case of the Pinnacle hold-up, that he just happened to be at Allports' pub, and that amazingly he ran into his identified accomplice Daley. Where together had innocently departed when trooper Hollister subsequently pursued the men based on constable Knox's' information after Knox tracked the pair there, and scarper the pair did! Well! There can be no doubt that evidence speaks for itself. Moreover for a supposedly innocent man to flee and in the process brazenly exchange gunfire with the troopers is certainly confounding at the least and harbours a foundation of guilt. Unfortunately, for Hall, however, Hollister knew him well, how? Most assuredly from Hall's long criminal associations and recent activities as well as the widespread district knowledge that;[sic]"Ben Hall, Daley, and O'Maley, three well-known bushrangers." Furthermore, the earlier Bacon robbery of April 1862 was another case of self-denial by Hall. In this instance, Hall stated that he and John Youngman happened upon it as Gardiner conducted the Bailing-Up! However, upon arrest Hall managed to forge a tainted not guilty verdict. Really! Can one man have so much rotten luck or was Hall indeed just the unluckiest bystander in history. No! It's all too obvious to be just coincidence. Ben Hall was in it, and in it up to his eyes. Even William Hall corroborates his brother's participation in criminality. Moreover, as far as newspaper references and NSW Police Gazette reports, including well-respected citizens such as Ernest Bowler and Charles MacAlister along with many others recollections, all provide a reliable attestation of what the police had long suspected, and the local populace of the Lachlan already knew! Ben Hall had long been bushranging.


NSW Police Gazette,
13th February 1863.
The NSW Police Gazette published on the 13th February 1863, provides a graphic account of an attack upon a woman who was at home alone, Mrs Finnigan. It reports that two men fitting the descriptions of Ben Hall and either Patsy Daley or John Gilbert entered the house which doubled as a sly grog shop and the pair conduct a most heinous act against the defenseless woman..., I will let the account speak for itself. Read the article right. (O'Meally's described by police as having reddish-brown hair not light or fair, both of which fitted Gilbert and Daley.) Daley's family lived at Arramagong station with the O'Meally's, and Gilbert resided at the O'Meally's shanty?

Furthermore, the Pinnacle attack, the flogging of Mrs Finnigan, demonstrated, however, that Ben Hall was at last beginning to reveal himself as a right cur. Ben Hall had now embarked on an indiscriminate course where his choice of compatriots and actions against society could only provide a future featuring lengthy incarceration in a gaol cell chained in leg-irons, or an ignoble death, swinging from the gallows.

Gardiner & Gilbert.
c. 1862.
For those who had known Ben Hall over the many years as he had plied his trade of stockman including the achievement of ownership of his station, watched with dismay his long fall from civility and in the process lost the respect of those peers. Moreover, in continuing his presence in the company of Gardiner, John Gilbert and O'Meally, Hall's bushranging was no longer just a rumour but had become widely acknowledged by all. Furthermore, as Hall embarked on his lawless path the NSW police become his all-powerful hunters led by Inspector Pottinger, who, as with Gardiner, desired to see Hall first re-arrested after his escaping trial over Eugowra, and then to finally swing. Moreover, the people Ben Hall had combined with were inherently from a comparable background to his own. Whereby, as a child of convict parents, well-known as cattle and horse thieves, and who like dingos purloined stock whenever the opportunity presented itself. This new breed of bushrangers contingent to likes of O’Meally, Fred Lowry, etc. were all bent and entwined by a common generational link of lawlessness. Hall's current associates appeared drawn into crime through family affiliations or close friendships. Some of the bushrangers became influenced by the older generation's convict yarns of past adventures as well as their long-held distrust and attitude to authority mixed with prolonged idleness. The 'Empire', Thursday 12th March 1863, succinctly expressed the current injury of bushranging;"but if once detected in cattle stealing, they become depredators on a large scale, bushrangers of a more dangerous kind than the colony has yet known, having resourced in themselves and their surroundings of which the poor outlaws under the old penal system were utterly devoid. Horses they have the pick of the country and friends and brothers wherever they go. Hence the class of bushrangers who have, within, the last few years spread terror throughout the country districts. PEISLEY, GARDINER, GILBERT, are each and all "bush natives;" at first stockmen, drovers, or horse breakers, suspected or found guilty of cattle stealing, and taking to the bush to avoid as long as possible apprehension and punishment, and so entering upon a career of crime that has conducted PEISLEY, and is likely to conduct the others, to the gallows. But the ignominy and distress which these men have brought down upon their own heads is not confined to them. The influence they have exercised over their young countrymen has been of the most pernicious kind, and disastrous consequences. Already some who have been misled by GARDINER, are doomed to expiate their complicity with his criminal designs and doings, by an ignominious death on the scaffold..." The article continues "a given number of GARDINERS and GILBERTS, obtaining the ascendancy, must soon transform Australia into a howling wilderness, where men more savage and unreasoning than wild beasts could only anticipate starvation by mutual slaughter. But the class we are speaking of are not generally capable of reflecting upon the effects of a certain course of action upon the general interests of society, or upon their own individual welfare as bound up therewith. They have never been taught to think, and scarcely to read. They are not, therefore, readers of newspapers, and have no turn for politics. And, as might naturally have been expected, whatever smatterings of speculative politics the more intelligent amongst them possess are decidedly obstructive. For "bush natives," as a general role, are the rankest of colonial Tories..." (Tories-a dispossessed Irishman who resorted to banditry)

J.H.M. Abbott.
c. 1919.
J.H.M. Abbott wrote in the 'Truth', March 1935, this poignant and accurate view regarding the foundations of bushranging and its seducement to impressionable native-born youths; “A great many ex-convicts — 'oldhands' was the generic term— were scattered about the bush on small holdings, and a large proportion of them were hard-working, honest people who were doing well in the development of the country they had been compelled to adopt. But nearly always, deeply ingrained in their characters, was an antagonism to the laws that had made them exiles and to those who administered them. Their sympathies were wholly with anyone who made war on society, and their offspring very naturally inherited these views. Besides these people there were innumerable wanderers about the countryside—shepherds, bullock-drivers, axe men, shearers and drovers—and when they were working together their principal intellectual recreation was spinning yarns, or listening to them, about the convict days. Men like Jack Donohoe, Brady, William Westwood (Jacky Jacky), or Martin Cash had songs made about their more conspicuous exploits, or about their inherent nobility of nature.”

Outrages conducted by the bushrangers of the western districts of NSW and their successes were achieved by an ability to be consistently one step ahead of the often flummoxed NSW police. Successes enabled by good intelligence, the wide selection of top class thoroughbred horses, and variety of firearms held on many of the larger stations easily acquired by the bushrangers. A further disadvantage for the NSW police was the quality of their mounts and standard of their equipment, all inferior to the bushrangers. The troopers also had to contend with battling many settlers in cahoots with the desperadoes. Nevertheless, an article written in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on 17th February 1863, conveyed a hope that the NSW Government via the instrument of the police and the courts would shortly rid all the troubled districts of bushrangers including their wide circle of supporters; LAWLESS STATE OF THE COUNTRY; - "Acting under the direct instructions of the Executive Council through the Chief Secretary, the Inspector-General is adopting stringent measures to put an end to those acts of bushranging which have been so frequent during the last eighteen months or two years. It is understood that a considerable amount of information is in the hands of the Government which is likely to lead, not only to the apprehension of the parties actively engaged in these lawless deeds but also of persons in various stations of life who have afforded them harbour and succour. Should success attend the exertions of the police with regard to the latter class of offenders, the public will be surprised to find that Gardiner and Co have been sheltered and supplied with provisions if not with the munitions of war, by individuals who carry their heads somewhat high amongst their fellow colonists. The outrooting of what a witness at the late trials designated "a public-house, but which had no license," and the cancelling of the squatting licenses of those parties whom the Government have good reason to suspect are, or who have been, harbouring bushrangers, will, it is generally expected, be resorted to without delay. A considerable number of picked men, detective and other police, have been already dispatched to the lawless district. Captain Battye is engaged in scouring the country about Murrumburrah, Burrowa, Marengo, and the diggings, and he will now be ably supported in his movements by some of the pick of the detectives. All accounts that have recently reached us of acts of "sticking up"' state that the robbers chiefly sought for firearms, although well-armed, themselves. This would lead to the supposition that the outlaws had increased in number, and that guns and revolvers were required for the recruits. The police station at Bogolong (Pinnacle) was attacked for that purpose, and it may, therefore, be expected that unless the police are successful in breaking up the gang, some desperate work will be done, before the winter sets in."

Accordingly, the townsfolk of Forbes following the ease in which the Pinnacle police station was raided and other outrages being perpetrated on a daily basis created great concern. The citizens of the country towns were tense with anxiety over the lack of police protection. There were many instances where the town's police were drawn continuously out on wild goose chases based on misinformation regarding  Ben Hall, as well as Gardiner. The 'Lachlan Observer', February 18th, 1863 noted the police disposition for various Western NSW towns as no less than 47 troopers stationed at Forbes, remembering that Forbes alone had a population ebbing and flowing of some 20,000 inhabitants. 22 police stationed at Young with an itinerate population of 10,000, and 17 police at Bathurst with a population of 5000. In some cases local residents filled the role of self-styled constables where they meted out summary punishments to miscreants; "a few nights ago, a man was bailed up by a fellow opposite Dave White's establishment in Rankin street, and, on his calling out lustily, the pugilist-to his credit be it spoken-rushed to the rescue, and administered a sound thrashing to the would be robber, The town is now almost destitute of police protection, the whole of the detectives being employed elsewhere, and the police generally being either at Orange, Bathurst, or some other distant locality attending to their various duties. Seeing that the Pinnacle police station has recently been taken possession of by the bushrangers, in order to secure the firearms, and ammunition, we would advise sergeant Rush to "keep his powder dry," and make ready for a similar, visitation..." (Sgt Rush was the Forbes lock-up keeper) As Ben Hall was setting alight the western plains other long past criminal events about the Hall family emerged still fresh in the memory of many people, 'The Empire' newspaper in 1863 recounted Ben Hall's fathers' long past criminal activities, recalled and commented on by Mr Josiah Harpur in the NSW Parliament. Harpur was the member for the seat of Patrick Plains, NSW, in the Hunter Valley and who it must be remembered is the son of Sarah Walsh, stepmother of Bridget Hall and stepmother-in-law to Ben Hall. Harpur was acutely aware of all the goings-on in the bushranger fraternity, after all, three of his mothers step-daughters and therefore Harpur's step-sisters were in relationships with those at the centre of criminal activity: "remember when old Ben Hall robbed one Brown of a splendid horse, which he almost worshipped. A gentleman gave information to Brown about the robbers, but charged him to make no use of the information, because if it were suspected that he had given the information, he would not be safe for a moment. The man Brown came to him (Mr. Harpur), who was then young and daring. He went with the owner of the horses, in pursuit of the robbers, and was near losing his life. Such was the state of things on the Hunter in the time of old Ben Hall, the father of the present Ben Hall, who had always been bad. They were connected with a gang of cattle stealers."⁵⁶ No doubt Harpur's intimate knowledge of the happenings of the Lachlan bushrangers was relayed to him through his mother. Harpur became somewhat tainted in the NSW Parliament regarding this knowledge for he appeared lenient often not supporting the rigid motions of the Government in bushranger matters. In July 1863 this support was exposed; "no one would suppose that the hon. member (Mr. Harpur) would put before the House a statement he did not himself believe, or that he would advocate the cause of robbers and murderers—no, not even were some of them his own blood relatives..." Sir Frederick Pottinger as the officer in charge of the Lachlan district had many hatreds formed against him none more so than Harpur's mother Sarah, as her young stepson John Walsh fell under Pottinger's heavy hand as a suspect and widely believed groom of Frank Gardiner. Therefore, Harpur had been prejudiced in regards to Sir Frederick and would under parliamentary privilege call out Pottinger as a coward over his tactics and perceived harassment of his mother.[sic] "In the course of the debate it transpired that Sir Frederick Pottinger had sent a friend to demand satisfaction from Mr. Harpur, the member for Patrick's Plains, who had sometime since stigmatised Sir Frederick as a coward." 

NSW Police Gazette
February 1863.
Murder! On the 15th February 1863, two bushrangers long suspected of being John O’Meally and John Gilbert reputedly arrived between six and seven o'clock in the evening at a Stoney Creek hotel in Lambing Flat known as the 'Miners Home Inn'. The Inn was owned by a German immigrant Mr Cirkel and intent on robbery but would flee following the debacle that resulted in the murder of poor Cirkel. However, the sad events that transpired that night shocked the town and the witnesses reactions were reported in the 'Empire' newspaper on 26th February 1863 and gave explicit details of the robbery and the subsequent shooting death of Mr Cirkel. Furthermore, the assailants on that night were never identified, and even today it is only an educated guess as to the two culprits' identity. Therefore, on the night in question witnesses described the two assailants as one short and stout, the other tall. It was evidenced that the pair on arrival entered via the rear entrance and bailed up all those present. A short time later the proprietor of the ‘Miners Home Inn’, Mr Cirkel entered via the front door when he was suddenly grabbed by one of the robbers, stated as the tall one. In the ensuing struggle a defiant Mr Cirkel, a powerful man at first held his own against the taller robber when a panicked cry of the tall man's short and stout accomplice yelled words to the effect "shoot the bugger" or "shoot the bastard." Consequently, the tall man immediately fired, the result being Cirkel was shot in the head at point-blank range. Subsequently, an eyewitness Mr James Fisher gave evidence at the inquest into poor Cirkel’s death and was the first person greeted by the two robbers; “I am a labourer, and live at Stoney Creek; I knew the deceased well; I was employed by him as ostler and gardener; yesterday evening, about six or seven o'clock, a person, a stranger to me, came to the back of the house and said he would hang his horse to the paling for a few minutes; I asked if I might put it in the stable, but be replied "no'; another person soon after came and hung his horse up at the fence also, and said to me "Came and have a nobbler, old fellow;" on going inside I did not get a nobbler, for he ordered me to go and sit down in the corner with the storekeeper and cook; there was a short man and a tall one; the former had no beard or hair on his face; he seemed about thirty years of age; the short man went behind the bar and put all the money in his pocket from off the shelf; then Mr. Cirkel came in at the front door, he had been at the bakery; the tall man laid hold of him by the collar, and a scuffle ensued; Mr. Cirkel endeavoured to get round the corner of the bar, but was pulled back by the tall man; the short man then shouted to his companion, "Shoot the bar---d," and immediately a shot was fired, and Mr. Cirkel fell, and never moved again, nor spoke; he was shot by the tall man; both men were strangers to me; they immediately fled, got on their horses, and were off by the back of the house into the bush, as if going to Mr. James's slaughter yard.” Accordingly, shortly after the murder of Cirkel a well known criminal and mate of John O'Meally's named John Clarke was arrested by Captain Battye and faced court charged with Cirkel's murder. However, for Clarke, he was found not guilty as the eyewitnesses could not clearly identify Clarke as one of the culprits in the hotel. Nevertheless, Clarke would be sent down for two years over an earlier robbery at Demondrille station, as when he was arrested over Cirkel's murder he was in possession of various items of stolen property.

"Shoot the bug--r"
Furthermore, upon interrogation by Captain Baytte, Clarke categorically named John O'Meally as the person who fired the fatal shot which does place Clarke as the probable accomplice contrary to the eyewitnesses statements and their failure to identify Clarke. However, through this accusation, it demonstrates that the other person linked to this murder is unlikely to be John Gilbert and no doubt, if Gilbert were present Clarke, would have lagged him quick smart to save his own neck. However, speculation also points to the possibility that Clarke's brother William was O'Meally's companion on that fateful night as John Clarke may have named O'Meally to protect his brother as the two men had been arrested a few days earlier loitering close to Cirkel's suspected of canvassing the hotel;[sic] "another curious circumstance is, that Clarke was apprehended about ten days ago, with a man said to be his brother. The trooper who arrested the prisoners, found them under very suspicious circumstances lurking about the bush at Stoney Creek, not far from the late Mr. Cirkel's premises. No charge could be proved against them, and they were discharged; but the police considered them both of them very bad characters..." The Clarke brothers hailed initially from Tasmania and arrived free to NSW, John was described as b. 1842, 5ft 6½in, 21 years old, stout build, fresh complexion, brown hair and grey eyes. William Clarke was described as b. 1839, 24 years old, 5ft 8-9in, stout build-13 stone, dark complexion, dark hair and whiskers. However, another person of interest and who may well have been O'Meally's companion on that fateful night may in all probability have been Ben Hall? As both the Clarke's and Hall's appearances and police descriptions were uncannily similar. The eyewitnesses descriptions of the shorter man in many of the reports state that the companion of the shooter was of stout build and thirty years old, around 13 stone which based on police reports describes Ben Hall (26yrs old) as well, and where Hall was stood between 5ft 6-7 inches, some 4 inches shorter than O'Meally who stood almost 6ft. Gilbert, however, was always described as of slight build and around 10 stone, and taller than Ben Hall between 5ft 8in-10in with blonde hair. It must also be remembered that in the early stages of their 1863 crimes, O'Meally, Ben Hall and Daley had not the notoriety of Gardiner or Gilbert, and although the trio was well known to many in the districts their link to bushranging was just beginning to emerge. Either way, Cirkel's murder would draw them well and truly into the public light. Moreover, Patrick Daley, a relative newcomer during this period was always in the company of Hall and O'Meally and may well have been one of those men reported as waiting outside. Furthermore, John Gilbert had only just recently returned from New Zealand and was recorded with Hall, O'Meally and Daley at the Solomon Store robbery a week after Mr Cirkel was killed and where O'Meally told Solomon that unless he co-operated, he would suffer as Cirkel did;[sic]"told Solomon not to be too flash or they would serve him like they did the man at Stoney Creek (meaning poor Cirkel), who was too flash, and blow his bl---y brains out, as they did his..." Surprisingly, Gilbert was not a participant in the future capture of Inspector Norton. Therefore, Gilbert's presence at Cirkel's is questionable, if not misleading, as Ben Hall was in the constant company of O'Meally and Daley and therefore fall's under suspicion. 

Patrick O'Meally bore a
striking resembalance
to his older brother John.
c. 1880's.
However, as a result of the death of Mr Cirkel, a group of fellow German Diggers went on the hunt for the killers. The German's had strong suspicions that an O'Meally was one of the culprits and therefore headed straight for the O'Meally's public house at the Weddin Mountains. Here they would seize Patrick O'Meally as well as Gardiner's mate Patrick MaGuiness and a youth named Brown, 16yrs old. Thinking they had captured the right men they dragged them unceremoniously back to the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, after hauling Patrick O'Meally back to Lambing Flat to face court, the eyewitnesses to the murder of Mr Cirkel again could not identify Patrick O'Meally as one of the killers. Consequently, he was released. The 'Burrangong Star' reported that Patrick; "left the court laughing...”⁵⁷ It may also be that the eyewitnesses may have felt highly intimidated and fearful of reprisals over identifying those responsible. At Cirkel's inquest the verdict stated;[sic]"that the deceased man came to his death by a wound from a pistol, fired by the taller man of the two men, and find a verdict of Wilful Murder against both parties, names unknown..."

The recent spate of robberies culminating in the murder of poor Mr Cirkel's had the folk of the Burrangong on edge;[sic]"as for some days the whole town has been in consternation, and several rumours of Gardiner intending to make a general attack on the town having been afloat..." Cirkel gunned down and Ben Hall and Daley's earlier success at the Pinnacle Police Station as well as their narrow escape from Constable Hollister brought this comment from 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' 21st February 1863 where the correspondant noted and appeared most interested in is what had been stolen by Hall including its possible future use; "the robbery itself must astonish every one;- to attack a police station is certainly one of the most daring acts probably ever heard of. The motive, however, is the next consideration. The stealing of the police clothing is rather a mysterious affair; bushrangers would scarcely carry about property of this description, for sale, neither would they wear it except to accomplish some daring outrage in the disguise of mounted troopers; what that will be time will tell, but it would not surprise us if the escort or some of the banks were stuck-up. This at first sight may appear an imaginary conclusion, but when it is borne in mind that a 'number of bushrangers (we believe a large one) are infesting the roads of this district, we do not consider it at all imaginary. Look at the late robberies at Macnash's station, Mr Tout's, Herbert’s, at the West Lead, and last, not least, Mr Dickinson's; consider the property taken in almost all instances;-firearms of all descriptions-ammunition, even to the wadding, clothing, saddles, and bridles! What does all this mean but that the force is to be well armed and mounted. We are fully aware the horses are a secondary consideration, as these ruffians can very easily help them self to horses at the various stations, which are no doubt as well known to them as the wild bush itself..." With a murderer now amongst the gang, Ben Hall next to entered the small town of Wombat close to Lambing Flat and stuck-up the general-store of Mr Meyers Solomon. In this instance, a number of the gang were dressed as feared by the correspondent's article above, as police troopers. The bushrangers arrived at 4pm with pack-horses to carry away their prospective booty and upon arrival reputedly face some resistance from the proprietor. The robbery is graphically reported in 'The Goulburn Herald', 25th February 1863. From the evidence related in the newspaper article, it is revealed that Jack O'Meally was indeed the one who had earlier fired the fatal shot that took the life of Mr Cirkel; - STICKING-UP AND ROBBERY OF MR. MYER SOLOMONS STORE, NEAR WOMBAT.-'The Burrangong Star'of Saturday last, gives the following further particulars of this outrage:-"On Saturday afternoon, about 4 o'clock, four men accoutred as troopers, rode up to this store with three pack-horses. Upon entering they bailed up the inmates. Mr. Solomon fired at one of them and grazed his neck-he suspects, and states, that they were Gardiner, Gilbert, John O’Meally, and his cousin. A young lad in Mr. Solomon’s' employ, presented a revolver at one of the bushrangers and was about to fire, when the bushranger, supposed to be Gardiner, placed a revolver at the head of Mrs. Solomon, and threatened to blow her brains out if he did. Whilst this was going on the bushrangers coolly commenced to sort and pack up such goods in the store as they fancied-selecting some prints and female clothing, which they remarked would suit the women. Taking up some tins of lollies, they began to eat them, remarking that they would do for the children. Some gin was in a bottle, which they took, but before drinking they compelled Mrs. Solomon to swallow a portion of it, fearing, perhaps, it was poisoned. The time they were in the store was about two hours and a half, and whilst they were there, they made use of the most flash, disgusting language-cracked their ribald jests, and whilst plundering their unfortunate victim, coolly drank his gin and consumed his lollies. The ruffian, supposed to be Gardiner, ordered and directed everything that was to be done, pushing and swearing, at the others if they did not obey his orders quick enough. Some remarks having been made by Mr. Solomon about the police at Wombat Camp, one of them said-" What do we care about the bl----y police? We will muster a force, go into Lambing Flat, and stick-up the bl----y camp there." They also told Solomon not to be too flash or they would serve him like they did the man at Stoney Creek (meaning poor Cirkel), who was too flash, and blow his bl---y brains out, as they did his." The goods stolen and carried away were clothing of all descriptions, both for men and women; amongst the rest fifty pairs of Bedford cord trousers, rations and firearms of all kinds, with ammunition, they did not leave even one for Mr. S, to protect himself with. Saddles, bridles, and jewellery, fortunately, they took only the plated, not of much value; the valuable jewellery was in a case which they could not easily open, and therefore left it behind. Two horses, one of which they fancied for a saddle horse, being a very fine animal; the other they used as a pack-horse. Solomon estimates his loss at about £250. There is a police station not far from the store, at Wombat, but only one trooper, who had charge of it, was at home; the others were away escorting some party’s to Lambing Flat with their gold. It is very evident the bushrangers must have been aware of this, or they never would have remained such a length of time in the store. It is certainly one of the coolest and most daring robberies we have ever heard of, and clearly proves the gang of desperadoes who are now roaming the bush have spies who give them quick and correct information of everything that is going on.  The bush-telegraph always close at hand had no doubt kept tab's on the troopers movements allowing "one of the coolest and most daring robberies" appear as a bed of roses. After the robbery, this appeared in the 'Sydney News'; Affray at Wombat -"Intelligence has reached the town of the robbery of Mr Solomon's store at Wombat near Lambing Flat on Saturday last. It appears that the robbery was perpetrated by four men dressed in police uniform, and hence supposed to be the same parties who lately robbed the police station at the Pinnacle. They took away two pack-horses loaded with the property. Mr. Solomon reports having fired at and wounded one of the robbers in the neck, and that he can identify him."


Typical country store.
c. 1860's.

Image courtesy NLA.
Furthermore, on the 6th March 1863, two weeks after the Solomon store robbery a reporter from the 'Goulburn Chronicle', arrived in town and published a first-hand account from the victim of the theft himself Mr Solomon, who recounted his ordeal at the hands of the villains. This newspaper article sheds light in more detail on the events associated with this brazen and vicious armed robbery; "A most daring wholesale robbery on Burrangong, at which shots were exchanged between the robbers and the robbed, but for fortunately the latter escaped unkilled. Although happily unattended with the same fearful atrocity perpetrated only a few days previously at Stoney Creek when poor Mr Cirkel lost his life in an attempt to protect his property, yet this affair is a more extensive robbery than the murderers accomplished at Stoney Creek. The victim this instance was Mr Solomon storekeeper at Big Wombat and also at Little Wombat and the robbery was committed at the latter place about fifteen miles from Young, and about five miles from Big Wombat. The particulars as I have learned from Mr Solomon are these:- About four o'clock in the afternoon of Saturday, four men mounted, and equipped with firearms something approaching the style of police in private clothes, were observed by Mrs Solomon riding towards the store, when she immediately gave the alarm to Mr Solomon who, having plenty of firearms at hand ready for action, instantly seized a musket, and ordered the door to be closed, but instead of obeying the order, the lad went outside to have a look at the men, and discarding the repeated order to come in and shut the door, he cried out 'Troopers!" Troopers!" under the impression that the robbers were mounted constables. Immediately on coming up to the door two of the fellows presented carbines (similar to those used by the police) at Mr Solomon who at the same instant levelled his musket at them and fired the ball grazing the neck of one of the fellows and tearing the collar of his coat: Two shots were fired in return, and the bullets lodged in some shirts on a shelf nearly behind Mr Solomon. By this time two of the ruffians had entered the store and seized the lad, so that they could not be fired at without placing the boy’s life in danger. Mr Solomon then rushed out at the back, and made for a Chinaman's tent for help and in so doing fell headlong into the muddy bed of a creek which he had to cross. He was closely pursued by two of the robbers, who captured him in the mud, and assuring him they had no intention of injuring his person, ultimately conducted him back to the store, and placed him under guard alongside of Mrs Solomon and the lad. During the chase after Mr Solomon all the four bushrangers left the store for a second, and with admirable courage and presence of mind the lad jumped over the counter, got hold of a revolver, presented it at one of the fellows who had returned to the store, and was about to pull the trigger, when the robber held a similar instrument of death close to Mrs Solomon's head, and said, ' If you fire I'll blow her brains out. "The counteracting threat stayed the hand, and immediately the return of another of the robbers compelled him to surrender, but with undaunted courage he said, "Had it not been for Mrs Solomon, I would have stopped your run;" and for this noble exhibition of spirit one of the villains knocked him down and said, "If you want a pistol, get up and I'll give you one, and let me see if you are game to use it."

The lad instantly sprang on to his feet, and boldly held out his hand for the pistol saying, "Give it to me, and you'll see what I'll do" The coward who had given the challenge refused to give the pistol, and obliged the lad to sit done The other two having returned with Mr Solomon, who was also placed under guard the robbers, after taking all the cash and gold they could find, amounting in all to only about £6-besides about one ounce and a half of spurious gold which they also took, then began deliberately to select goods of all descriptions.-blankets, men and women's wearing apparel and boots, ribbons of various patterns, silk and cambric handkerchiefs, Neva candles, blacking and blacking brushes, all the firearms they could find, several pounds' weight of gunpowder, besides a quantity of jewellery, which they said was for the ladies on the mountains. They also took a supply of groceries, raisins, currants, &c, and helped themselves freely to fancy biscuits and lollies. Some idea of the extent of this robbery and of the cool, deliberate manner in which it was perpetrated, may be formed from the fact that it was commenced about four o clock in the afternoon, and the robbers did not leave the premises until nearly seven o'clock in the evening, when they departed in peace having four horses, two of which they also stole from Mr Solomon, heavily laden with booty to the value of about £200. Of course, they could only travel very slowly, and thus even opportunity was afforded for pursuing them, but no pursuit was made."

NSW Police Gazette,
11th March 1863.
The article of the 6th March 1863 also illustrated the polices' effort when informed of the robbery, including their arrival and investigation, as well as their lacklustre effort in finally commencing to track the bushrangers, including the outcome; "one policeman only was on duty at Little Wombat, and of course he could not leave the station, or rather the apology for one, for fear it too should be robbed of perhaps an old corroded pistol or two. At any rate, two Chinamen volunteered to ride into town to give information at the police camp at Young, and the affair was known in town about eight o'clock in the evening, yet strange to say, the troopers did not arrive at Mr Solomon’s place until about two o'clock am on Sunday, when detective Wolf, the sub inspector of police, with his gloves on, and two troopers arrived, expressed their surprise, but from the darkness of the night, could not trace the bushrangers. At day light, they succeeded in tracing them; for upwards of ten miles, in the direction of the Weddin Mountains, where, from the want of a tracker, and exhaustion, as most of the police had just returned from Yass, they were obliged to discontinue the pursuit..." The bushrangers involved were Ben Hall, John Gilbert, John O'Meally and Patsy Daley and most probably Patrick O'Meally.

Although witnesses at the time claimed to have recognised Gardiner as one of the robbers an observer, however, doubted Gardiner's involvement in the current bushranger deeds as any reported robbery no matter how insignificant was being continually attributed to 'The Darkie';[sic] "we cannot look upon Gardiner us a myth, though we might almost consider him ubiquitous. Not a highway robbery takes place, not, a store or station is stuck-up, but the cry immediately is "Gardiner,"-" Gardiner!" Why, he; would want a railroad, with a carriage, to carry him sixty miles an hour, to be often in the different places people accuse him of being in..." Furthermore, evidence strongly points to the fact that Gardiner and his lover Catherine Browne had long departed the Lachlan following Gardiner's near capture by Sir Frederick Pottinger earlier in August 1862. Whereby September 1862 or thereabouts the pair had commenced the long and arduous trek north to the Peak Downs goldfield via Rockhampton finally arriving at Apis Creek in Queensland a distance as the crow flies of 740 miles in a spring cart through rough and at times inhospitable country. Nevertheless, a frustrated press had many reports flooding in as to Gardiner's perceived whereabouts even that he had gone to South Australia disguised as a priest or to Portland, Victoria where his mother resided. Furthermore, some even wrongly believed that young Gilbert's family lived in S.A. as noted in the 'Launceston Examiner', Tuesday 30th September 1862;[sic]"the following as the latest respecting Gardiner: "Gardiner, the supposed leader of N.S.W. escort robbery, is reported as either at Adelaide or Portland Bay accompanied by a woman named Brown, in boy's clothes. The family of John Gilbert, who is charged with being one of the same gang, resides in Adelaide. Gilbert is supposed to be either there or in Melbourne..." Just where were they! Well, Gilbert had resurfaced in the Weddin in January 1863, but 'The Darkie' was long gone. For Gardiner, the trip North was made even longer as Gardiner would have avoided any major settlements or remote stations arriving at Apis Creek at the end of June 1863. However, in mid-1864 Gardiner would be captured in a sting operation by police from NSW in company with a contingent of Queensland Native Police at his new general store at Apis Creek. In later evidence, Catherine Browne detailed the pair's trip and stated that she was the lawful wife of Frank Gardiner/Christie and they had travelled directly to Queensland from NSW;[sic] "I am the wife of Francis Christie; I was lawfully married to him. It was sometime in June last that I came to Queensland; I came overland in company with my husband: we came from New South Wales direct to Apis Creek, we met the Craig's a few miles on the other side of Yaamba, the only reason why we travelled together was, we were all of us going the same road; There was no house then built at Apis Creek, but one was being put up by Craig; I am aware that my husband had a half share in that house; I think it was paid for between them; I do know that the store alongside of the public house belonged to my husband. My husband and myself resided there when the house was finished, and lived as friends with the Craig’s." (See Gardiner Page.) Listen below to Catherine in her own words recount their trip to Queensland.
"..next time you bring me here
it will be for something,
and don't you forget it."
Nevertheless, for Ben Hall, the leap from a formerly respected squatter to acknowledged bushranger had commenced through his own earlier prophesied: "jant" told to Ernest Bowler. Ben had now genuinely fallen off the pedestal of respectability forever. All that he had achieved and gained was now lost forever. In the following extract, this was said of Ben Hall's character as he lit the flame of malevolence across the western districts of NSW by his sympathetic former defence counsel at Forbes over the Eugowra affair and a member of Parliament, Mr Redman who attempts in parliament to soften Hall's new bushranger status;[sic]"some of the bushrangers were the creatures of circumstances. He remembered the imprisonment of Ben Hall and young O'Meally, who was incarcerated with his father. Month after month they were kept confined without any charge against them, and against his (Mr R.'s) repeated remonstrance. The family and antecedents of Ben Hall were credible, but after he came out of prison there was no incentive to virtue; he knew he was watched by the police, and he felt disgraced by being imprisoned, and not being a man of great mind, he took to the bush..."⁵⁸ Mr Redman's statement does not justify nor excuse the course of action that Ben Hall had embarking on. Although as stated by Mr Redman, Hall was 'not being a man of great mind', as well as being unable to read or write had Hall depend on others, such as Gilbert, a well-educated man to keep him appraised of newspaper articles concerning their bushranging exploits. However, for Ben Hall, this educational handicap was compensated by Hall's expert knowledge in bushcraft. These skills would lead the police a merry dance. Furthermore, the once well-liked Squatter would become associated with as well as perpetrate, murders, attempted murder, kidnapping, whipping, theft, arson, intimidation, assault, robbing mail coaches and pillaging country Homesteads and Inns, in numbers not seen before in the colonies of Australia, all conducted on the end of a gun without any compunction.

Furthermore, to reiterate Ben Hall’s current contumacious actions, which fly in the face of any tendentious notions of a fellow somehow driven or hounded to take up Robbery under Arms against his fellow citizens, are entirely misguided. The idea of Hall as a victim is farcical, including the oft utilised comment that Ben Hall was a ‘gentleman bushranger’. That statement is disastrous even ludicrous and is totally shattered based on the indisputable evidence hitherto presented. Moreover, what makes the evidence mentioned earlier overwhelming are the many recorded instances of Hall's criminality from 1861/2 and an educated guess of before 1861.  Yet still! 150yrs on, there is maintained a perception, and widely advocated that Ben Hall was some unfortunate soul wrongfully badgered by police, in conjunction with being emotionally tortured and forsaken through the actions of an unfaithful spouse! Poppycock. Remember! It was Ben Hall who engaged in those lawless activities and voluntarily pulled those triggers. However, the one thing Hall fully understood was that he required protection. In consequence of that need, at various times Hall portrayed the beau ideal of a bushranger as his mentor Gardiner had done, i.e. polite to women and magnanimous to travellers who of course loved to have a revolver shoved in their face.  Accordingly, Ben Hall’s depredations continued with vigour. In turn, when next in company with John O’Meally and Patsy Daley, Ben Hall would participate in another daring violent exploit and with guns blazing and bullets flying Hall and his two companions would capture and attempt to gun down a police inspector and hunt a tracker.

Inspector Norton.
c. 1880's.
On the 1st of March 1863, Police Inspector Norton and the police tracker Billy Dargin were patrolling through the Wheogo area very close to Sandy Creek Station and the adjacent Wheogo Station, when they were approached at first by two men on horseback, followed then by a third armed villain. Inspector Norton provides an account of the encounter with the trio in his own words;[sic] “I was proceeding through the neighbourhood of Wheogo, accompanied by a black tracker, each of us leading a horse; about 9 o'clock I saw two men riding, about 500 yards before us, one of whom had a led horse, and the other a gun on his thigh; I beckoned to the tracker, who was on the hill opposite, and he came down; on nearing the men, they made off; we followed them for some distance into the scrub, and got off, and then fired on them; we then returned to our horses, to pick up our led horses, and, on preparing to start, saw them again watching us; we followed them again, and fired on them, when, finding our horses unable to overtake them, we returned to some huts, and remained there for twenty minutes or half an hour; seeing no more of them, I thought it advisable to go to the police station to get some men, who were to have met us in the neighbourhood, to follow them; about three or four miles from those huts, the black fellow called out that there were three men coming up behind us; they were so near that I could hear them; I could hear them shouting, "Bail-up," evidently with the intention of stopping us; the black fellow passed me and left his led horse; I dropped mine also. and turned round, and, on seeing me do so, the tracker stood at about fifty yards distance; The three men were scattered at about 100 yards apart, one on each side of the road, and one near the road; the man on the left side advanced within eighty yards of me, and then commenced firing; the man on the left charged and fired a double-barrelled gun; I cannot swear to the man on the right firing his rifle, but he fired a revolver; the man I supposed to be O'Maley took up his position about eighty yards from me; Hall and the prisoner a little farther off; O'Meally cried out, "Throw up your arms, repeatedly; they then commenced firing with revolvers; we fired several return shots; they might have fired fifteen or eighteen shots; my ammunition was then expended, and O'Meally with Hall rode up to me; the latter presented a revolver at me, while O'Meally and Daley ran after the black-fellow, and fired after him; after a few minutes, Hall rode up to me, and said that they had nothing against, me, and that I might go; Hall spoke of a trooper named Hollister, who had threatened to shoot him, and that he would return the compliment when he got hold of him; Hall returned me a revolver which he said was no good to him; he spoke of Sir Frederick Pottinger; how Sir Frederick had brought him (Hall) several times into Forbes, and had him remanded from time to time, until really the magistrates were inclined to believe that there was some charge against him, and those, with him; that it was his opinion that Sir Frederick detained them till he could make up a case; Hall referred also to the case of young Walsh who was then suffering in the lock-up, as he (Hall) had suffered before; I asked for my horse, and he said that I could take them; but he inquired if there was anything particular in the swag on one of them; I told him there was nothing of any consequence; the three detained a Government revolver, a Government carbine which the black-fellow had dropped, a Government saddle and bridle,, and the horse on which the black-fellow rode, remarking that they would shoot the horse, and so teach people not to lend horses to policemen ; the man who I supposed to be O'Meally, said to me, "you had better not give our description when you return to town"; they then rode round, and picked up their discharged arms, and cleared off; I cannot swear positively that the prisoner is one of the men; I never saw O'Meally but once before, and the prisoner never but on that occasion; I could not have been close to the prisoner more than three or four minutes; Hall was the one who was in conversation with me, and whom I would swear positively to; the names were given to me by the black-fellow as Hall, Daley, and O'Meally; O'Meally was dressed differently to the prisoner, the hat is exactly like what I have seen Daley wear; have seen the prisoner twice since he was apprehended, and I identify him so far as that to the best of my belief he is the man; I will not swear positively to him; while the others were away Hall fed his horse at a distance from me; I was unarmed, and he had a revolver in his belt and a gun in his hand; I did not care to go near him; he looked as if keeping guard."  (Why would Ben Hall want to kill Hollister for, if he was innocent of a hand in the Pinnacle robbery?)

However, with his commander captured Billy Dargin had managed to escape the affray on foot and was lucky to get away in one piece. Billy after some exchanges with the pursuing bushrangers made it to the Pinnacle police station. The newspaper covered the events and Billy's actions in saving his leader; "Billy, the black, being the only person with him at the time, escaped, and had arrived without his horse."⁵⁹ Dargin reported to "Constable Hogan who immediately telegraphed the particulars to Captain M'Lerie. Six mounted constables were immediately despatched from Forbes to the assistance of Mr. Norton and on Monday afternoon twenty mounted troopers and twelve foot police left Sydney by the five o'clock train for the Wedden Mountains with the same object in view. A further detachment followed in the course of yesterday."⁶⁰ Years later, Mr George Boyd then a new recruit to the NSW police force reminisced over the capture of Norton, and the scramble in Sydney to send troopers ASAP into the field to capture the trio. 'The Sun', Monday 19th August 1912; “and very short space had passed when the new recruit found himself actively involved in the general excitement resulting from a long succession of bold and successful outrages. "We had only been at the depot a few weeks," said the ex-sergeant, during a chat at his pleasant home at Windsor, "when we were called to the front. To speak exactly, we had been in training just seven weeks when the startling news arrived of the capture of Superintendent Norton by Ben Hall. That news threw the barracks into a tumult. With it came an urgent appeal for reinforcements. There were all the available police engaged in the hunt of the outlaws already, but they were not nearly enough. And there were very few men at the depot, even including the recruits. But Superintendent Black got together a company of 22 of us, nearly all raw recruits, and we started for the scene of war. We got off the mark very promptly. I believe we were all in the train with our horses and equipment, inside an hour. "The railway at that time went only as far as Penrith. It took us three days to get to Bathurst and we were all in the highest spirits possible, at the near prospect of excitement. But disappointment awaited us at the new headquarters. We learnt with satisfaction that the bushrangers had released Norton, unharmed. But it did not sort well with our desires to distinguish ourselves to hear that the outlaws had absolutely disappeared, no one knowing within a few hundred miles where they were working..."

Ben Hall's capture of Inspector Norton and his attempted murder created widespread consternation and embarrassment for the NSW Police in the eyes of the colonies citizens. Once more their actions demonstrated the bushrangers ability when equipped with superior horses and weapons in conjunction with their local knowledge of the landscape were providing an insight into what was to come for the local inhabitants in the future when even more brazen acts and threats to life and liberty would become an everyday occurrence. However, in this postscript from 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' after the release of Inspector Norton revealed that if Norton had been Sir Frederick Pottinger, then the outcome may have been Pottinger's spilt blood; "Sir Fred. Pottinger has just arrived. I forgot that Mr Norton was told that had he been Pottinger, they would have "shot him dead as a crow." There's a consolation for Sir Fred. Pottinger."⁶¹


Ben Hall's pursuers
promotions March 1863.
Furthermore, when news reached the townsfolk of Forbes, they were stunned by the audacious actions of the bushrangers and Norton's predicament. Therefore, the leading citizens promptly resolved to attempt a rescue of Inspector Norton; On the 7th March 1863 a 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle', article advocates that the citizens were becoming fed up with the freebooters and their ongoing and indescriminate atrocities. It also comments that only through atrocious shooting by Ben Hall or great luck on the Inspector's side that Ben Hall did not shoot dead the captured and unarmed police inspector, regardless of who Ben Hall thought the Inspector was. This demonstrates that Ben Hall was not only willing to pulled the trigger but was willing to kill in cold blood; "the town was in a very excited state, many being anxious to be going, not only to release Mr. Norton, but to use every exertion to get rid of this lawless banditti, and in a few minutes there were nearly 100 names down, and all were to meet the next morning, each bringing what arms he best could. At the appointed time crowds of determined storekeepers, miners, and others were in attendance, each one ready and willing to enter with spirit and resolution upon the enterprise, when, to the astonishment of the multitude, up rode Mr Norton safe and sound; he stated that they kept him for about three hours, during which time some of them wanted to shoot him, and one more determined than the rest, of the name of Ben Hall, did while he was a prisoner actually fire at him several shots, but still he came off free; but he was cautioned by the band of ruffians that if he showed himself any more in that quarter, he would not come off in a like manner. They took his horse and arms, but LENT him another to ride into Forbes with. Directly after the return of Inspector Norton, it was announced outside the Court House that the Volunteers would not be required. The J. P. was thankful for the spirit and loyalty displayed by the people. The gallant Captain Browne was to lead the volunteers, who felt every confidence in their leader; but after that announcement of course the matter was dropped..." As the town were preparing for the rescue Norton unharmed returned and quickly fired off a telegram to the Inspector-General telling of his situation and safe return;"Forbes, 3rd March, 5 10 p.m. I am just returned here in safety, and have not been wounded. I was detained about three hours on Sunday morning. I surrendered to the bushrangers after having expended all my ammunition; having been surrounded by them, with their revolvers presented at me. The men I took with me, did not meet me at the place appointed, according to agreement the previous evening, consequently I had only the blacktracker with me."⁶²

Sir Frederick Pottinger was out for blood after the capture of Inspector Norton and while on patrol was riding in proximity to the scene of the Norton encounter when Billy Dargin brought to the attention of Sir Frederick the spot where Ben Hall had attempted to shoot and kill Norton. On dismounting, the Inspector examined the tree where the bullets had struck which had narrowly missed Inspector Norton head; "on Wednesday morning last, whilst Sir Frederick Pottinger with Billy, the black tracker, and some of the mounted police were out in the neighbourhood of the suspected bushrangers, near the Wedden Mountains, the tracker detected fresh footprints of a horse crossing the path Sir Frederick and his party were pursuing and directing the master's attention to the circumstances Sir Frederick turned his course in the direction of the tracks. Billy soon pointed out the identical spot which had afforded such friendly protection to J. O. Norton, the sub-inspector of police. Frederick Pottinger descended from his horse and minutely examined the tree, and found the imprint of two large bullets, one of which must have strayed just over the head of Mr. Norton, as he was described to have stood by the tree, and the other nearly at the level with his chest..."⁶³ Meantime with Norton’s return the convicted Escort robbers Manns and Bow awaited their fate. The good citizens of Sydney where appealing through petitions for the commuting of their death sentences to life, the newspapers were still doubtful of the evidence of Daniel Charters and now for the first time came out and named Ben Hall and John O'Meally as being a part of the gang involved in the Eugowra Gold robbery of 1862, as reported in 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser', 17th March, 1863; THE CONDEMNED ESCORT ROBBERS;-"Considerable exertion is being made to save the lives of the culprits, Bow and Manns, now lying under sentence of death in Darlinghurst gaol. It appears pretty certain, that when Chartres, the approver, was first taken into custody, with Ben Hall and O'Meally, they were all three charged with the escort robbery. Chartres, however, in taking advantage of turning approver, declared that neither Hall nor O'Meally had anything to do with the robbery, it is now pretty clear that these two were present and took part in the robbery, and that Chartres obtained their release by declaring that they were not concerned in it; but gave evidence against Bow, Fordyce, Manns, and Maguire, who were then at large. These facts, it is understood, will be brought before the Executive.”


Horse Theft.
With 'The Boys' now plundering at will through the goldfield districts of Burrangong and Forbes the sensational Eugowra Escort trial and 'Special Commission' into bushranging concluded in Sydney. However, it was rumoured that a message purportedly to have been relayed through Dargin by the three bushrangers to the government which politely informed them that Norton would hang if any execution were forthcoming for their mates; "Inspector Norton was taken yesterday (Sunday) by fourteen bushrangers, between Lambing Flat and Forbes. It is supposed that his captors are Gardiner and his gang. A black tracker has forwarded to the telegraph station a statement informing the authorities that if the men sentenced in Sydney were executed Norton would be hanged. He is planted in the bush. A meeting has been called to consider the matter in the camp reserve this evening..."⁶⁴ Luckily for the townsfolk of Forbes and Norton, Hall, O’Meally and Daley failed to carry out this dire threat..., however, they hung Manns.

A few day's later the threat regarding the hanging of Norton was put into perspective in the ‘Goulburn Herald’, Saturday 7th March, 1863, and laced with a hint of ridicule of the police; “then poor Norton was to be hung as high as Haman or as Gilderoy, if the executive dared to send the escort robbers to the scaffold. The government, as is usual, were fairly frightened out of their wits, and as if capturing a policeman was any worse than capturing anyone else, they sent off no less than thirty-five head of police for the scene of action, leaving Sydney, where, after all is said and done, there is far more crime than in the interior, comparatively unprotected. Of course the whole affair is a gross exaggeration, and the real facts were of the very tamest. There was no theatrical combat, no broadswords, no Long Tom Coffin, no harpoon, no toasting-fork, no eucalyptus, no seeking of shades below. The fact simply was that the acting-sub was out with only a black-boy, when he fell in with some bushrangers--or they fell in with him-and as they were superior in number, he was taken prisoner, kept for three hours, and then let go. He certainly says he used all his ammunition; if he did he must be a doosid bad shot not to kill or maim some of his foes, and they must have had more forbearance than they ever yet have got credit for not to have retaliated. There is a report here that he was well treated by the bushrangers. It will be seen that on hearing of his capture the government at once promoted Mr. Norton, who is now a full-instead of an acting- sub-inspector. Rather a curious inducement to hold out to Sir Pottinger and other police men, eh?"

Fred Lowry.
Meanwhile, at this juncture, a man who was to become the newest member of the gang first appeared in the Lachlan area where on the 8th March 1863, it was reported in the 'Burrangong Star' that Frederick Lowry had arrived. Lowry had known the gang's former leader Frank Gardiner at Cockatoo Island and had arrived after recently breaking out of Bathurst gaol in February 1863. Lowry was being held over the recent wounding by him of a Mr Foran in a scuffle at a race meeting at the Brisbane Valley situated near the head of the Fish River, where some 100 persons had been in attendance. Following his newly acquired freedom Lowry was seeking out his former convict mate, but on learning of Gardiner's departure, seconded himself to the gang. SICKING-UP ON THE MARENGO ROAD;- "on Tuesday a man was stuck-up and robbed of 12s 6d on the Marengo Road, by a bushranger dressed in a poncho, supposed by his height, (about 6 ft. 2 in), to be Frederick Lowry, who escaped out of the Bathurst gaol on the 15th of last month, for whose apprehension the Government have offered a reward of £100. On reference to the Government Gazette we perceive by his description that he is 6 feet 1 or 2 inches high."

The following letter was sent to the 'Sydney Morning Herald' early 1863 and describes an encounter of a coach passenger who observed Ben Hall, Gilbert, and O'Meally at a public-house near Forbes. "there were four men on horseback, two standing, seemingly stable men or roustabouts, and a woman, who I heard was the landlady. I did not know them but heard after we started that the four men were Ben Hall and his mates. The reason for their visitation at the time was the following.– The landlady, who was a widow, a week or so before gone to Forbes to settle some business affairs, and was away for two or three days, during which period it appears that the man she left in charge of the bar had started drinking. With the result that the yardman and groom and neighbours, and in fact all hands who came along, had joined in the spree, and the quantity of liquor consumed as well as provisions were something enormous, especially as there was very little money to show that any had been paid for. So, at their wits' end for an excuse, the two principals agreed to swear to the landlady on her return that it was the bushrangers who had come and helped themselves. She, who was always friendly to them, happened to tell this to one who informed Ben Hall, who came over and made the real culprits confess their guilt. At that time, they stuck up no one on the coach nor anyone in the house. But it was a well-known fact that they never did stick up many of the places on this line of road, and it was the general opinion that they were afforded valuable information as to the movements of the police by a very large proportion of the residents in these localities in consequence. As I looked at them over the gate, I noticed that the spokesman was a rather tall, robust-looking man, with a fine frank-looking face, and wore a high felt hat and cord breeches and top boots—that was Ben Hall. A slight, fair man, looking like a horse trainer, had a slight, fair moustache and cabbage tree hat, breeches and boots, and had one leg crossed over the pommel of the saddle, listening to what was said—that was Gilbert. A flash, rowdy-looking young fellow, with keen flashing eyes, who was looking at the two men standing with no pleasant countenance, was O'Meally..."


Captain Henry Zouch.
c. 1880's.
Shortly after the capture of Inspector Norton, the NSW government moved to acquire the former hotel which doubled as a home for the family of John O'Meally's, as well as a notorious meeting place of the Weddin criminals. The O'Meally's had sold Arramagong earlier and were illegal squatters. However, the O'Meally's had continued to live at Arramagong. The goal of the police was to create a police station in the heart of the Weddin Mountains with easy access to the haunts of the bushrangers and their harbourers. There was widespread approval for the governments move and 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser' on the 11th March 1863, supported the action; BUSHRANGING; -"The government appear to be vigorously carrying out their plans for the suppression of bushranging in the south-western district. We hear that O'Mealy's farm has been taken possession of for a police-station. If a few more of these resorts of bushrangers were served in a similar manner the roads about Lambing Flat and Forbes would again assume a state of order, and once the criminal population were dispersed they would find it difficult to gather themselves together in any other part of the colony." Captain Zouch, proceeded to instil his troopers there, although the house was reportedly in some disrepair. Therefore, the Captain requested £20 to have some work carried out repairing the building’s roof; The 'Burrangong Star', 11th March 1863 wrote the following; BUSHRANGING; POLICE CAPTAIN ZOUCH, J.P.- "We understand that Captain Zouch intended on his journey to form a police station at O'Mealy's station (at the Weddin Mountain), ejecting by orders of the government, him and his family, thus breaking up that rendezvous for bushrangers and their accomplices. The Captain returned yesterday afternoon to the camp..."


O'Meally's holdings Weddin
Mountains. c. 1863.
The altercation with Inspector Norton and the increased efforts of the police patrols brought another but rare positive comment from the 'Lachlan Miner'; BUSHRANGERS AND POLICE;- “it is very satisfactory to know that we are really receiving some benefits, in exchange for the money expended by the government in sending up extra police to look after us. The Lambing Flat road is well patrolled; the neighbourhood of Wheogo, and Weddin Mountain is rendered safe to travellers and dangerous to bushrangers...”⁶⁵ However, the advocated quiet period for the police was short term. During the lull, Hall appeared to have retreated to the area of his former haunts out in the backcountry of the Bland Plains, and earlier Stockman camps around Lake Cowal and Humbug Creek. Areas which Hall knew intimately. In this wild country, Hall had maintained many friends. Furthermore, the place was also the current residence of his former wife, Bridget and her lover James Taylor, and best of all his three and a half-year-old son Henry. If Hall had seen his young son there is no evidence, suffice to say as a father, and the opportunity arose no doubt Hall would have apprised the chance. Assumably a fearful time for Taylor. Furthermore, as well as the Bland, it came to light that Hall appeared at his former home of Sandy Creek where his newest child, Mary and her mother, Susan Prior continued to live. However, events would shortly alter to disastrous, culminating in a confrontation with police. As Hall and the gang had dropped off the radar, elements in the press had attempted to paint Sir Frederick Pottinger and his men out in the remote districts as being a law unto themselves. Much criticism from many quarters of the region being directed at Pottinger, who dismissed any notion of unfairness and wreaked havoc against anyone suspected of sympathy toward the bushranging fraternity. Therefore, the press ran stories in the newspapers of widespread evictions and brutality! This, of course, was exaggerated, although Pottinger could be heavy-handed in his dealings with the cockatoo squatters. Doings, whose effects were to reach the corridors of power in Sydney. However, Pottinger's defence to the criticism was to show a position of strength by employing the law to the fullest and was therefore not an advocate nor a fan of leniency or compassion. In turn, Pottinger's hard-line stance was demonstrated when a subordinate, one Constable Hassen was charged with killing a man while held in custody. Sir Frederick was called as a character witness for the constable; 'Goulburn Herald', January 1863; "Boyd never the less put himself in an attitude as if about to strike; on which Hassen fired, and Boyd fell mortally wounded. He died about noon. The jury by a majority of 7 to 9, returned a verdict of justifiable homicide. Sir Frederick Pottinger gave Hassen a good character, and said that there had been only one charge against him since he had been in the police force, and that was for excessive leniency."⁶⁶

Some newspaper had an editorial flair that appeared to garner support in regards to the sympathisers and harbourers of bushrangers. They often censured the police over this perceived brutality towards the smaller less well to do settlers who were in fact providing a helping hand for a stipend from the hunted. Those persons were noted as;  his parents, his brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts and cousins for all sorts of assistance. It was from amongst his innumerable relations and their close friends that the 'bush telegraphs,' who kept him aware of the movements of the police, were recruited, and the system of intelligence that served such gangs as those of Frank Gardiner and Ben Hall was highly organised and tremendously effective, even though, as has been said, the bushrangers were expected to pay for it 'through the nose.'⁶⁷ On the other hand some more conservative newspapers viewed the troubles and difficulties faced by Sir Frederick Pottinger more sympathetically. As some of Pottinger's difficulties were due to a 'Cone of Silence' employed many inhabitants, and therefore those papers judged the inspector far more reasonably; 'The Courier' Brisbane; “there is nothing in the fact that he wears a title which places his official acts beyond the pale of honest and impartial criticism, but we have yet to learn that it constitutes him a butt for every bilious, ill-natured scribbler, who loves to shine in print. Fiat justitia ruet coelum ("Let justice be done though the heavens fall."). Let Sir Frederick Pottinger, like every other public man, be dealt with upon his merits. Above all, let the truth be spoken of him, and when the occasion is one of sufficient gravity, by all means employ the language of censure and condemnation, as unreservedly in his as in any other case. Persecution we detest, and have small respect for that class of scribblers who hound a man down for fashion's sake...”⁶⁸ Under the spotlight of numerous failures in checking the crimes of the bushrangers, in particular, Frank Gardiner, Sir Frederick Pottinger was hungry for success, just one victory would do, and for a brief moment, Pottinger’s luck crossed his threshold. The inspector's instinct's regarding the Weddin Mountains area as a haven for the bushrangers, along with Ben Hall's previous run at Wheogo and the nearby Pinnacle Station with its outlying huts and heavily wooded scrubland paid off. On Wednesday 11th March 1863, Sir Frederick in company with some troopers and the tracker Billy Dargin were out in the neighbourhood of the suspected bushrangers between Wheogo Range and the Weddin Mountains. Here the tracker detected fresh hoof prints of a horse crossing their path.  Billy Dargin directed Sir Frederick's attention to them; 'Sydney Morning Herald' dated the 17th March 1863; “Sir Frederick turned his course in the direction of the tracks. Billy soon pointed out the identical tree which had afforded such friendly protection to Mr, J. O. Norton, the sub-inspector of police. Sir Frederick Pottinger was directing his course again, when he espied in the distance, through the foliage of the trees in the bush, a mounted horseman, and at once gave orders for pursuit. The party were now in the vicinity of the Pinnacle reef, and, first of all ordering two of his troopers to make round the hill, on which the reef is situated, in order to intercept the flight of the horseman, Sir Frederick, with the black tracker and the two remaining troopers, continued the chase. All this was done in less time than it takes to write, and very shortly afterward, Sir Frederick pulled up before some deserted-looking huts and found a horse, with a saddle on it, tied up to one of the huts. He at once recognised the horse to be one he had seen the night before in Ben Hall's paddock, "all in a sweat." to use the baronet's own language. The black-fellow also recognised a pair of girths on the horse as being a portion of the property stolen from the Police Barracks, at the Pinnacle station, on the occasion of that place being stuck up and robbed during the temporary absence of the police, shortly before. Entering the huts, Sir Frederick saw two or three men inside, and finding them unwilling to answer his questions, he threatened them, where upon he was informed that the rider of the horse was down a shaft on the reef above named. Proceeding to the place indicated, Sir Frederick found that the shaft was about sixty feet deep, and that a permanent kind of ladder was fixed to the side, for ascent and descent. Sir Frederick called to the man (presuming him to be there) to surrender, but received no answer. Again, after an interval, the same request was repeated, but met with no response. After several minutes, the supposed bushranger was again summoned to appear, without eliciting any reply. At length, finding mild exhortations insufficient, Sir Frederick threatened that he would at once proceed to burn and smoke him out like an opossum. The man not liking the latter alternative, surrendered at discretion, and was immediately taken into custody. It is obvious that if the notorious Gardiner selects such innocent looking striplings to execute the deeds generally left to men of sterner stuff, it must be for some new arrangement in bush tactics, such as the human telegram hinted at by a contemporary. Patrick Daley, who forms the subject of this sketch, is a mild, youthful whiskerless looking person, with light-blue eyes and fair complexion. There is nothing in his physiognomical expression outwardly, to denote the degraded villain. He certainly, during the examination, kept his head down, glancing furtively round. His eyes move quickly and, with a sinister expression, as if were in the habit of looking under his eyebrow and "taking stock" of those around him. Sir Frederick Pottinger undoubtedly deserves great credit for his prompt action and discernment in this matter; and doubtless, he is willing to accord is portion of the merit to the acute sight of his black tracker." [prisoner was brought before the Forbes bench on the 12th instant, and remanded for a week."]


Patrick Daley's,
prison photo

1873.
A chuffed Sir Frederick presented his catch in the Police Court at Forbes on the 24th March 1863. Here the loyal and brave tracker Billy Dargin gave evidence about Daley's involvement with Hall and O'Meally in the kidnapping of Inspector Norton. However, being Aboriginal Billy's grasp of the legalities and proceedings of the court was questioned. Yet, after some deliberation by the magistrate, Mr D. W. Irving, J.P. regarding Billy Dargin's understanding of an Oath, the police tracker was then asked about his own knowledge of the oath procedure and replied; "that he believed in another world, and that he would be punished if he told a lie..."⁶⁹ Moreover in answer to another question on the proceedure Dargin stated; "he could not exactly describe the meaning of an oath, although he had heard of the Testament and believed in telling the truth, Billy answered all the questions put to him with an amount of intelligence quite surprising."⁷⁰ The Bench satisfied decided on hearing his statement without however, swearing him in. Dargin was then called to give his testimony and stated; "he was employed in the police force; He was twenty -years of age, and was baptised twelve years ago, at Windsor, by the Rev. Mr Styles. Knew the prisoner before the Court. By the Bench Some called him "Jonny” and some "Patsy Daley," Dargin then deposed; "...was with Mr Norton on the Sunday morning, about a month ago, when near Wheogo, or about three miles from there, they were stuck up by three men. The prisoner was one of them; Ben Hall and John O’Meally were the two others. On the morning, we started from Wheogo, we passed Mr Walsh's along the road, close to M'Guire's home. We saw two men riding along—one leading a horse. The two men had a gun on each thigh. They did not seem to be troopers. Mr Norton told them to come along and follow him. The prisoner was one of them, and John O’Meally was the other; Ben Hall was not there then, coming back met Ben Hall between the house and the paddock. Made a charge at him, pursuing him to the corner of the paddock. Fired once at him. Mr Norton then said we must go for more troopers. Rode on about three miles, and then told Mr Norton that the three men were coming to bail them up. The men did come up, and sang out, "Bail up." The prisoner Daley was over to the left, Ben Hall was behind, and John, O’Meally was to the right, behind a little. Mr Norton was in the middle, and witness was in a clear space about twenty yards from Mr Norton. Mr Norton fired all his charges, and then gave himself up; Did not like to stop and be killed, so prepared to gallop away. John O’Meally then fired, a double-barrelled gun, one barrel was discharged at Mr. Norton, and the other at witness." Mr Norton was on foot, standing alongside a tree; witness was, also off his horse at the time, twenty yards from Mr Norton. About thirty shots were fired altogether. Saw the prisoner Daley fire at Mr Norton. Mr Norton gave himself up to John O'Meally. The other two then followed witness; and chased him for a mile and a half; Ben Hall fired at Mr. Norton as he passed by."

"Ben Hall then charged witness, and ordered him to bail up against a tree; said—he would see them d--d first. Witness then jumped off his horse, and taking up a pistol he had thrown upon the ground, threw it at Ben Hall, hitting him on the jaw; Ben Hall then called out to Daley to come on with his revolvers. By the Bench: The pistol struck Ben Hall on the right ear. Prisoner Daley; was engaged loading two revolvers. Ben Hall called out, come on with the revolvers. Young O’Meally then came up, and gave one of his revolvers to Ben Hall. Witness then took off his boots, leggings, and coat, and run off, throwing sticks at his pursuers the whole time. They, chased him in this manner for eight-miles, firing all the way, till they got near the Pinnacle Mountain. They told him they would "whollop" him to death with sticks; witness replied, he would like to have a chance with him; he would forgive them if they killed him with sticks. They then went under the Pinnacle, and picked up some small pebble stones and fired them at witness. The prisoner Daley said, "I like you, you white livered scoundrel. “Witness in reply told Daley, "He would like him better if he would get off his horse. Afterwards asked them if they would go to the Pinnacle, and he would shout for them. Ben Hall said "Well, old man, you're a plucky one, and we'll let you off, but we'll stick up your barracks to-night." They then went off to the Pinnacle—To the Bench "Am certain the prisoner is the same man who was with Ben Hall when the police barracks were stuck up. Followed them at that time, with Prince Charlie and trooper Hollister. Chased them for three miles and a half, and should have taken them but for Hollister getting thrown from his horse through running against a tree. Saw the prisoner Daley snap his revolver three times at Charlie. —To Sir Frederick Pottinger: Can swear that prisoner is one of the three men who stuck up Mr Norton, and likewise to being the same we chased with the trooper Hollister. —To the Bench. Identified the prisoner directly when he was taken into custody by Sir Frederick Pottinger."⁷¹ (This account although slightly embellished confuses Ben Hall with O'Meally, as Norton stated under oath that Ben Hall guarded him whilst Daley and O'Meally conducted the short chase of the Blacktracker Dargin.) (For Dargin's story see The Traps page at http://www.benhallaustralianbushranger.com/p/police.html


John Wilson mate of
Sir Frederick and
John Maguire.
Daley captured, Ben Hall would now avoid the reach of Pottinger's extended arm. Moreover, current events were continuing to spiral from disastrous to catastrophic for Ben Hall. John Wilson, the new leaseholder of the Sandy Creek station, was, however, extremely frustrated over Ben Hall's former home being inhabited by Susan Prior’s family. The residence held, including Susan Prior, her siblings and mother, Mary Prior, Ben’s older brother William and wife Ann. Consequently, Wilson sought to have them all evicted through any means. Accordingly, moves had been afoot in the NSW Legislature as early as 1861 to remove rent defaulters and undesirables from leased Crown Lands. During 1861, Ben Hall held legal tenure over Sandy Creek, but following the passing of the Crown Lands Occupation Act of 1861, which came into effect in a short space of time and acted upon. The Act covered Ben Hall's lease of Sandy Creek, forfeited in late 1862. This forfeiture had been created by the inability of Hall to sign the lease transfer to Wilson as well as pay the arrears to the government. However, by the commencement of 1863, Ben Hall had finally left the warm embrace of the society that at one time had so respected and included him, only to find himself on a path of self-destruction through his own actions. In early March 1863, instructions were provided to a Mr Crosby of the Lands office to prefer information against certain persons to the police at Forbes for unlawfully occupying Crown Land. This list would see Ben Hall’s homestead be one of the first to suffer the forthcoming arbitrary ejections in the Lachlan District as set out under section 32 of the Act, which stated in part;[sic] "on being satisfied of the truth thereof, either by the admission of the person informed against or on other sufficient evidence such Justices shall issue their warrant addressed to the Commissioner of Crown Lands or to any Chief or District Constable or other proper officer requiring him forthwith to dispossess and remove such person from such land and to take possession of the same..." This section of the Act was seized upon by John Wilson as a legality to conduct the eviction of those living in Hall's former home. Sir Frederick Pottinger became Wilson's conduit.


Therefore, the final straw in the breaking of Ben Hall appears to have been played out when Sir Frederick Pottinger, instructed by John Wilson protected under the Crown Lands Act, incinerated Ben Hall's ex-home. Thereby leaving the woman and the mother of Hall's new baby daughter, Mary, homeless. Hall's latest child Mary was born at Sandy Creek in January 1863. Nevertheless, this incineration of the home saw a mother and baby cast out into the rain, an action that caused much angst among some of Hall's closest friends and large landholders, such as William Jameison of Back Creek. Furthermore, Sir Frederick Pottinger had for some time realised that Ben Hall's ex-home was still a light on the hill as a place of safety and respite for Hall and others for whom the inspector had so long hoped to nab and where aid and comfort were being provided to the elusive bushranger. Pottinger had a particular if not prejudiced view of those reportedly trespassing on an acquaintances' land and of those people he was damned sure were involved in criminal activity and where from his lofty view of Baronet were people who Pottinger considered of 'low character'. The destruction of Ben Hall's ex-hut could be seen as the message Pottinger intended to send to those he had termed as of 'low character' or that 'Class of People'. People who have incorporated a 'Cone of Silence' in their dealings with the inspector. Therefore Pottinger's message was, that the police were to be obeyed and not impeded by. Following the destruction of Hall's hut Pottinger sent a memorandum regarding the justification of his actions to the Inspector-General of police Captain McLerie in June 1863, and of his thoughts in regards to that 'Class of People', an extract follows; "I accordingly deemed it my duty to at once summarily interfere and conclusively show Hall and those of his class in the district that at any rate, as yet, they could not have everything exactly as they thought fit."⁷² Furthermore, illegal occupancy of Crown Land was one of the most pressing matters facing the government regarding crimes perpetrated by the bushrangers and where in many cases, these illegals fully supported them and often became a lifeline for the likes of Ben Hall. These vitiated settlers provided food and comfort to the gangs, not for love, but for a hefty stipend. In turn, this sympathy and sentiment caused great angst to the NSW Police who were pressuring the NSW Parliament for more stringent powers to act against those found to be harbouring and suspected of harbouring, such as those marked on the police map of Gardiner's haunts. However, the destruction of Ben Hall's home would be a first step by the government to address the subject of illegals. However, the government's actions for dealing with those squatters without a relevant lease created horror in some sections of the press over the government and polices behaviour, who sought to quell harbouring by any means; 'Sydney Morning Herald', April 28th, 1863; Dispossession of Illegal Squatters; -"The success and impunity with which Gardiner and his gang and other bushrangers have, during many months, carried on their depredations, have been to a considerable extent owing to the assistance and shelter that have been afforded them by a class of unauthorised occupants of Crown lands, known in the provincial slang as "Cockatoo squatters." It is satisfactory to learn that, in connection with other efforts that are being made by the police to drive out of their haunts the desperadoes whose doings have caused so much alarm in the Western districts, steps are being taken at the instigation of the Secretary for Lands for the dispossession of the harbourers of these rascals from the lands of which they have for a longtime held illegal possession. The officers in charge of the police at Bathurst, Young, and Forbes have been furnished from the Lands Department with lists of licensed holders of runs in the country between those three divisions, and all persons found in occupation not included in those lists, will be proceeded with under the 32nd Clause of the Crown Lands Occupation Act, which provides for the removal of trespassers on public lands. The country comprehended in the above districts extends from the Fish River down as far as the levels near the Murrumbidgee, and reaches westward as far as the Billybong, and northward to the Lachlan. The police having received the lists, are preparing to put the law into operation, and we may expect shortly to hear if the enforced dispossession of some of these unlawful occupants (many of whom have accumulated considerable wealth), unless in the meantime they should anticipate their expulsion by clearing out." 

Constable John Bohan
who would assist
Constable Hollister
at the burning of Hall's
home, and later
act in Hall's death.
However, it was not always plain sailing for the bushrangers who had their opponents. A friend of Wilson's who went by the pseudonym of 'Veracity' wrote to the editors of the Sydney newspapers expressing his wholehearted support for the actions of Sir Frederick Pottinger in finally ridding the Wheogo area of the bushrangers rendezvous, as well as removing Ben Hall's female supporters who had been ensconced at Sandy Creek; "this formidable individual, a considerable portion of whose business and pastime consists in threatening honest wayfarers' bodies and brains, is notorious in these regions as a bushranger and outlaw. His hut has long been known to the police as a rendezvous of Gardiner and his infamous gang, and therefore, socially speaking, as a pestilence and plague-spot in the community. He, however, held no property in the land which he occupied, not even as a lessee; and as it was wisely judged that the presence of such a man, even if occasional, and the existence of such an establishment were a constant menace to the peaceable and well-disposed who sojourned in those parts, in obedience to an expressed wish of the lessee himself, who was desirous of being ridded of such a neighbour, the place was finally burned down..."⁷³ The legality and morality of this action are still 150 yrs later, questionable? However, in the lead up to the burning of the home Susan Pryor and her mother, Mary Prior had been reportedly given seven days notice by Wilson thru his proxy Pottinger to vacate the property. This demand by Wilson came in the first week of March of 1863, but not through a court order of eviction, but of a summary action by Inspector Pottinger with the Hut's final destruction under government sanction conducted on 14th March 1863.


Hollister's actual diary entry,
March 1863.

Courtesy R.A.H.S.
Interestingly, and without any ambiguity, the date and conduct of the police are confirmed by one of the police Constables in attendance, and most probably placed the firestick to the dwelling. His name was Constable William Hollister (American by birth) who noted in his police diary the events of that day under the command of Sir Frederick Pottinger. Hollister had been the Constable who earlier in February 1863, some five weeks beforehand, had pursed Hall and Patsy Daley after they raided the Pinnacle police station. Constable Hollister was the trooper Hall wished to murder when conversing with Insp Norton during his capture. Hollister diary entry of the incineration follows; Saturday 14th March 1863- "At Wheogo burnt Ben Halls house down and myself and constables Bohan and Hamilton went to Pinnacle station Hamilton to proceed to Gooloogong to take charge of the Gooloogong station."⁷⁴ Note: Newspapers and Government records show two types of spelling of Susan's surname Pryor/Prior, I have at times used both versions. The photo on this page of William Hollister, has never been published before.


Susan Prior.
c. 1880's.
Furthermore, a letter adressed to the editor of the 'Sydney Morning Herald', referres to Ben Hall's girlfriend Susan Prior's standing as “the lady pro-proprietress of Ben Hall's household is a single female, who nevertheless luxuriates in the blessings of maternity, having, it is said, usurped that place in the outlaw's affections which properly belonged to the married Mrs. Hall..."⁷⁵ In the leadup to the destruction Ben Hall became furious on hearing of the verbal eviction order against his folk and “had threatened to scatter a considerable quantity of brains, to whomsoever belonging, if his mansion were in any way interfered with...”⁷⁶ Even Hall's threat of scattering brains failed to deter Sir Frederick Pottinger from enforcing Wilson's will. Whereby the inspector ordered his constables to remove all the belongings of the occupants, which were unceremoniously dumped out into the inclement weather. (The full transcript from Veracity can be accessed on the Gallery page.) Furthermore, in the same letter from 'Veracity' to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald,’ confirms that indeed the occupants had been given ample notice to vacate contrary to historical belief; “this hot-bed of rascality was not destroyed until after frequent notice was given to the occupants to clear out, but instead of doing so they pertinaciously held on, and when at length it became necessary to eject them and destroy their den, the furniture and other valuables were first removed, and left at the disposal of their owners..."⁷⁷ Susan Prior nursing Ben Hall's child could only watch as the police burnt down the dwelling. (With a little digging the remnants of the incineration can still be seen today.) The residence destroyed, Susan would return to Lambing Flat and reside there for some time. Before long their romance would falter. In due course, Susan formed a relationship with one Alfred Stonham circa 1864. The pair remained together until Alfred's death at Tangmangaroo near Yass in 1907. In the interim Ben Hall would utilise her home over the coming months as he roamed the Lambing Flat district.


Rare portrait of
William Jameison father
of bushranger 

John Jameison.
c. 1860.
Nevertheless, the ousting of the women created widespread outrage amongst settlers, especially with children involved. Some landowners had a personal connection to the women. One of those close to the victims was Mr Jameison, a longtime friend of Ben Hall. Jamieson penned a very compassionate letter regarding Susan Prior's sad fate to a member of Parliament Mr Harpur. Mailed no doubt due to Jameison’s friendship with Harpur's mother, Sarah Walsh. Jamieson provides a first-hand account surrounding the events of the day whereby he states that at the time of the rough handling Ben appeared on the scene attempting to draw the police away, however, without success. Conversely, Jameison is not very favourable in his comments over the conduct of Sir Frederick Pottinger. (contrary to the earlier message above)  Sir-"I must tell you about burning of houses and turning women and a baby out in the cold to get shelter under the trees in wet. One of the women is now under the doctor's care, from being out with only a small bit of calico to keep the night air and cold from her and a baby of two months old. That was after Sir Frederick burnt the house and all that was in it.  The two woman and baby had to stop out in the wet.  Sir Frederick and two men were, at Hall's house. He burnt the house down and turned the women out. The man (Hall) was only a hundred yards from them on a knocked-up horse. He only galloped a quarter of a mile, and then his horse gave in, and he jumped off and let the horse go. They got the horse but not the man. Still Sir Frederick was riding as good a horse as was in the district; but he acted in his usual way, disputing with the women, instead of going after the bushrangers. That is the way he has always acted, for he has not yet taken a man that tried to get away; and then his excuse is to the Government that the squatters harbour them."⁷⁸ Mr Jameison was the father of John Jameison who had been nabbed a couple of times by the police in company with John 'Warrigal' Walsh and was often in the company of Ben Hall having participated in some hold-ups.

Shortly after Mr. Jamieson's letter appeared on the matter, he died in a fall from his horse near Goulburn under suspicious circumstances. Finally, Jamieson's comments on the conduct of the police namely Pottinger whom he both admired and censured, are extracted from a further letter sent the editor of 'The Sydney Morning Herald' by John A. Hux; "some short time before the unfortunate man Jamieson died, he visited this township. I had a conversation with him, during which the conduct of the police was very warmly discussed—Jamieson being particularly severe on Sir F. Pottinger for turning out the woman and burning down Hall's house, concluding with the following words, as near as I can possibly recollect:—"I admit he (Sir F. P.) is the most courageous and plucky policeman that ever I knew, and had he been here some few years since he would have played hell with the cattle racket, but he is a damn wretch to turn women out of house and shelter..."⁷⁹

Colonial Secretary
Mr Charles Cowper.
c. 1870's.
Jameison's account of the incineration of Hall's home and the immediate destitution of the female occupants created much consternation in the NSW Parliament. Criticism swelled which compelled Mr Cowper to demand the Inspector-General McLerie to present a memorandum for parliament outlining the present conduct of his officers. The officer tasked was Sir Frederick Pottinger whose district was on the front lines in the raging battle with bushrangers. Consequently, the highly anticipated memo was forwarded to the NSW Legislative Assembly. It intended to satisfy the concerns of the members by providing an in-depth account of the difficulties in policing in a vast, mainly uninhabited desolate portion of the state. The memo not only outlined Pottinger's conduct but highlighted the challenges faced by other commanders in a wild country where the police activities were misunderstood as well as ridiculed by naive parliamentarians who rarely ventured past Macquarie Street. Of interest is a section of the memorandum concerning Ben Hall's homes destruction to which Pottinger addresses only in an offhanded manner naming John Wilson's as requesting the destruction; "...but one ejectment has been enforced by Lachlan police. Ben Hall's house was alone burnt down, and that at the request of the then (by mortgage) actual proprietor. The house was at the time occupied by Henry Gibson (notorious villain since committed), also illegally at large from Victoria, Mrs. McGuire, and Susan Pryor, and Hall's mother, and was daily frequented by bushrangers, a week's notice was given and nothing destroyed—no woman or child frightened or molested."⁸⁰ Surprisingly Pottinger mistook Mrs Mary Prior for Ben Hall's mother. (The full memorandum can be read on the Traps Page.)

Author's Note: The death of William Jamieson at the time was considered a mystery;[sic] "...it was a three day's trip to Goulburn, Mr. Jamieson making the trip from there, removing his money from the Commercial Bank, Goulburn, intending same to be placed at Young. He was found on the road four miles out of Goulburn by a man named Broffie; he had no pocket book and the valise was gone, being taken off his saddle; he was insensible and taken into Goulburn where he died at 3 o'clock next morning. He was a very fine horseman; his horse Merrylegs was found feeding 100 yards from where he was lying, but his mare, Lauristina, whom he was leading back to the station, was gone. £50 reward was offered for the recovery of Lauristina, as by finding her same might lead to the cause of death, but she was never heard of again. William Jamieson's death was a mystery never unravelled. He was a very abstemious man, a perfect gentleman, very smart all round, a good runner, and made quite a name for himself in performing a feat, while at a place between Burrowa and Walla Walla, which has been called Jamieson's Flat."

There are, as they say, two sides to every story. The article below somewhat puts paid to the idea that Pottinger's and his men's actions presented some form of chivalrous co-operation with Susan Prior regarding the burning of Hall's home which had forced instant poverty for the women and children. However, the presence of Ben Hall on the day of the police action had Pottinger severely ridiculed by none other than Mr Harpur who stated in the Hansard of Ben Hall's valiant attempt to lure the police away for a showdown, this, however, was not enough to deter the gallant Sir Frederick; "when the police came to the house of Ben Hall, he (Hall) ran away, mounted his horse. Sir Frederick Pottinger sent two policemen after him. They chased him, and Ben Hall with two revolvers jumped from his horse and faced them. The policemen brought back the jaded horse to the house. At that time, Sir Frederick Pottinger was riding one of the best horses in the district, but when these men came back, instead of going after the robber, he ordered them to set fire to the house. They burnt it down, the women not being allowed to bring out their clothes. It was raining at the time, and the women and children took shelter under a gum tree. However bad Ben Hall was, it was not right to punish these poor women and children..."⁸¹ Amidst the razing of Hall's home to the ground, Ben Hall had failed to, as threatened, to “scatter a considerable quantity of brains”. Although was not through a lack of effort. However, the destruction of the house Hall had built by hand would be the final nail in the coffin of Ben Hall. As a result, Ben's hatred of Pottinger became all-consuming. Now there would be no possibility of Hall seeking redemption. Instead, Ben Hall launched himself wholeheartedly into the arms of 'Hades'. As time rolled by the remains of Ben Hall's home stood for many years, a charcoaled ruin. As described by R. Fitzgerald, Wamboyne, who saw them in 1876, and recorded the memory when writing for the 'Wyalong Advocate' in 1919; "that was the month of May, and we used to get a load of shearing supplies to take out to Caragabal station. We went through by Wheogo, and there I saw the remains of Ben Hall's Hut, it had been burnt down, and there were only the burnt stumps remaining..."⁸²


John Wilson's claim
on Wheogo Station.
Author's Note: Ben Hall and McGuire were not the only people who owed monies to John Wilson, Mrs Sarah Walsh, Ben Hall's mother- in- law also borrowed money from Wilson for legal representation associated with her stepson's arrest after Pottinger's failure to capture Frank Gardiner at Kitty Browns home and he took the boy instead, (young John 'Warrigal' Walsh would die in the Forbes lock-up from Gaol fever in 1863) John Wilson would take legal action against the Walsh’s and would also become eventual owner of Wheogo Station.(See article left.)

Pottinger, following his recent and successful capture of Patsy Daley and flushed with renewed enthusiasm for the chase. The inspector was quickly back in the saddle remaining on patrol in the Wheogo area ready to clobber Ben Hall. Consequently, Pottinger’s wish came true as once more he came into close contact with Ben Hall and another recognised as John O'Meally near his charred home. Hall had been camped nearby the smouldering ruins of his hut and sighted in close contact with the ejected women now reduced to living in a calico tent who continued supplying Hall with information, victuals and other comforts. Accordingly, Sir Frederick and his troopers with Hall in sight burst into gallop hoping to cut off and capture the elusive quarry, but as dusk fell, Hall and his companion O'Meally escaped. However, in the rush and unexpected surprise, the bushrangers had abandoned their equipment, re-gathered by the police. In the aftermath Sir Frederick Pottinger sent a telegram regarding his pursuit of both Hall and John O'Meally to the Inspector General of Police in Sydney, dated the 18th March 1863. However, this sighting of O’Meally in Hall’s company not long after the publican Cirkel's death at Stoney Creek in late February 1863 gives merit to Hall's probable participation in 'The Miners Home Inn' murder. Furthermore, Susan's younger brother William was nabbed the next day and heavily questioned as to Hall's whereabouts;op.cit. "camped about Wheogo till Sunday, when, just after sundown, came with two of my troopers on Ben Hall and John O’Meally, standing about six hundred yards off, talking to Mrs. McGuire and Susan Pryor the female aforesaid. The woman at once gave the word, and the men bolted into the brush. We, however, pressed them so hard that Hall had to give us the slip-on foot, leaving his horse and swag, containing ammunition and firearms-magnificent Tranter revolver and Government pistol, taken from the Pinnacle. It being by this time quite dark, and the scrub being dense, we could do nothing more, and returned to camp. Next morning, we took up the tracks for some twenty-six miles, till, about three miles hence, we apprehended William Pryor, a lad of about seventeen, whom I hope to make very useful. I start again in an hour, till last night none of us had slept in a bed, and none of the horses had a feed since we left Forbes..." (William Pryor is the younger brother of Susan Pryor. Also, Hall's possession of the weapons stolen from the Pinnacle police station demonstrate his complicity in the February robbery.)


William Hollister.
c. 1870's.

Courtesy of R.A.H.S.
The arbitary actions of Sir Frederick were recorded in Hollister diary and corroborate the information contained in Pottinger's telegram of the 18th March; Hollister Diary Entry-Sunday 15th March 1863- "With Const Bohan from this station to Pinnacle reefs and met Sir Frederick Pottinger Constables Garlin Day and Dargin Brechs from Pinnacle reefs to Wheogo myself with Sir Frederick Pottinger and Constable Day went up to Ben Halls place got within 500 yard and saw two men who on seeing us bolted encounted gave chase but being dusk they got away in coming back found a horse saddle and bridle on a swag another saddle a government horse pistol on the swag and a quantity of ammunition bottle of port wine Poncho and Mrs. MaGuire said the two men were Ben Hall and young Prior Found one Tranters revolver." (Extract from William Hollisters Diary below, held at the Royal Australian Historical Society, Sydney. Portrait of William Hollister, never been published before.)


Hollister's diary March 1863.
The rapid instances and increases of lawlessness around the Western Districts and the impunity with which Ben Hall, Gilbert and Co had been operating continually raised the ire of the NSW Parliament and thru criticsim of the sitting government constantly brought into question the effectiveness of the new police force which had been in operations just twelve months. Sir Frederick Pottinger his in his memorandum to the parliament which had earlier been demanded by the Colonial Secretary (part of which is mentioned above) gave included an account of his conduct as officer in charge of the Lachlan District and description of his territory, as well as the plight of policing a vast area in an attempt to enlighten the honourable members of the difficulties being faced; "The Lachlan police district comprises an area of about 600 miles by 200, but does not include the Wedden. "Forbes is ninety-five miles from Young, the point of junction between the two districts (the Lachlan and Captain Zouch's), being just half-way."2. The Lachlan police do duty in the bush invariably in plain clothes, saddles, &c., without swords, disguised in fact as far as possible like bushrangers. "Their 'orders' are to 'bush out,' avoiding roads, public-houses, stations, &c., in short, to in every way conceal themselves and their movements, which orders are generally duly obeyed. "I have myself 'bushed out' with parties for fifteen and twenty days consecutively, the men subsisting solely on the 'rations' with them, and the horses on grass feed. "From the 15th of June to the 1st of December, 1862, I slept out in the bush ninety-three nights, and I am prepared to show that I have (by the universal admission of all my men), done more bush duty than any officer or constable in the colony."⁸³


Sir Frederick Pottinger
in the uniform
of Inspector.
c. 1864.
Therefore, even as a result through these early stages of Hall's bushranging, Hall's tentacles of crime were reaching into the heart of power whereby local district members of parliament were in a dither as they soothed their constituents suffering at the hands of the bushrangers that the government was on the job. For the settlers, steps need to be taken and taken urgently. Furthermore, the NSW Police Gazette's entries in the early months of 1863 continued to be rampant with crime reports from 'the interior' so much so that it was overwhelming for the police of those troubled districts to resolve. As such, many holdups and robberies went unreported mainly through victim apathy and the view of a reluctant police force. The earlier mentioned Ernest Bowler highlighted that apathy and described a personal experience of being held-up by Ben Hall's men. An incident in which Ernest resolved not to report; 'The Moleskin Gentry'; by Frederick Howard. Ernest explains; "I was surrounded by four revolvers at my head, so close I could see the bullets in the chambers. One of the boys called me to jump off, as he wanted my horse. Then Ben Hall rode up asking what all the noise was about, Hall said "It’s Mr Bowler. It’s alright let him go..." Earnest then rode on to the town of Orange and the mornings experience had left him depressed rather than angry and he reflected that the police were;op.cit. "always away on some other route when the boys were close at hand..." That evening Ernest attended a dance after the days gun-toting experience, he stated;op.cit. "I didn't take much persuading to go to the ball", as the evening progressed, the police heard of Bowler's holdup and called him away from the dance to explain why he had not reported the incident to the police, Bowler's reply was;op.cit. "because, I thought it was useless; the police always told where they got their information, so I had made up my mind to tell no more..." However, this attitude angered the police but it was becoming the general code for survival among people living on isolated properties and hamlets in the Western Districts.

Note on Earnest Bowler;[sic] FORBES, Monday, 7th September 1896.- "This morning news was brought to town of the death of Mr. Ernest Ulysses Bowler, managing partner for Messrs. Suttor and Co, of Boyd station, about 20 miles from Forbes. The deceased gentleman had been suffering from a weak heart for some years and as he was 67 years of age, his demise was not altogether unexpected. He was judging at the Grenfell show that week, and returned home on Saturday. On Sunday night he retired to bed in his usual health but awoke at about 2 o'clock and died in less than half an hour. His remains will be brought into Forbes to-morrow for interment. Mr. Bowler was the son of Major Bowler a well-known colonist of the early days. Mr. Earnest Bowler was one of the earliest pioneers of the Lachlan country, and has been a resident of this part of the country for about fifty years. He was greatly respected in this district and great sympathy is expressed with his family. He leaves a widow, one son, and one daughter."


Electric Telegraph.
Image courtesy NLA.
Another pressing issue involving the reporting of the crimes related to Ben Hall and therefore, offences in general in the early 1860's was the tyranny of distance. Subsequently, the method of communication employed had formerly been by the long, arduous trek of the mail coach or by the newly introduced cutting-edge technology still in its infancy in Australia and in the process of being rolled out, the 'Telegraph line' or more succinctly the use of 'Morse Code' to relay information between country town and city. The first telegraph line in NSW had been constructed only between Sydney and Liverpool a distance of 20 miles. This telegraph line opened on 30th December 1857, and by 1858 the Liverpool line was extended to Albury on the NSW/Victorian border a distance of over 300 miles, but more importantly, it weaved through the Southern and Western police districts of NSW. In 1861, Sydney was linked by telegraph to Brisbane.


Inspector-General of
NSW Police, Captain
John M'lerie.
c. 1863.
The adjudication of entries for the police gazette fell to the Officer in Charge of the NSW Police, Inspector General John McLerie. McLerie oversaw and controlled all aspects of policing in NSW. Accordingly, the Telegraph line became McLerie's umbilical cord to his far-flung officers. Consequently, all reports of crime passed through his office before their publication in the NSW Police Gazette, and printed in Sydney and dispatched to the Officers in Charge of the various police districts. Here they were then disseminated to all the remote police stations scattered about. Therefore as an example, crime committed in one particular police district on one specific day along with the relevant information and the description of the suspected offender were telegraphed to Sydney. However, the report may take as much as two weeks to be evaluated and relayed via the Police Gazette before it comes to the attention of neighbouring police districts from where the offence originated. However, that is not to say that the officers at the scene did not grasp the initiative and commence pursuing the perpetrators. Perpetrators who regularly crossed from one police district to another such as Sir Frederick Pottinger's who's Lachlan district boarded that of Captain Zouch. Here they invariably worked together or overlapped in pursuit into each other’s neighbourhood when hot on the trail of Ben Hall and his confederates.

"..to late there goes the
telegraph."

Image courtesy NLA.
Moreover, the rewards offered by the government for the apprehension of Ben Hall, Gilbert, O'Meally, Gardiner and others involved in bushranging were substantial. However, these inducements were not enough for the locals of the districts to 'rat out' any of the gang. Furthermore, there was in place a system of communication the bushrangers relayed upon colloquially known as the 'Bush Telegraph'. These people or 'telegraphs' were in a position to have their fingers on the pulse of police's activities and were able to pass the word swiftly for a return bounty. These messages would convey police movements, persons travelling with large sums of cash, mail coaches with valuables onboard plus a myriad of other pertinent intelligence.; "a perfect system of 'bush telegraphy' had been established in every locality where their friends resided; and as they invariably moved with a given object from their hiding places, and either returned direct to the place from which they had started or made for some other friendly shelter in another direction, they were always in touch with their 'telegraphs,' and were thus kept posted in every movement made by the police force. Upon these 'telegraphs' the bushrangers depended as absolutely as do the officers of an army upon their scouts when in the territory of an enemy. Flitting on fast-footed horses from station to station in the disturbed districts, or mixing with the people in the nearest town, generally, the headquarters of the police, the 'telegraphs' would pick up every scrap of information likely to be of interest to the hunted men, sometimes coming into contact with the police, and learning directly all they desired to know, and, having satisfied themselves concerning police, intentions, they would suddenly disappear and convey or send their news to the camp where the bushrangers were located. Occasionally one of these 'telegraphs' would be arrested, but as nothing could be proved against him, a few days' confinement between the time of his arrest and his discharge by the magistrate formed the worst of his sufferings. And should a suspected 'telegraph' find himself too closely watched or be arrested, others were always ready to take up the work. They were invariably young men, some of them mere boys, intimately acquainted with the bush, who could cover miles of the roughest country more speedily than the badly mounted troopers could ride along good roads. Ben Hall, Gilbert, and O'Meally had hosts of such friends in the Lachlan district..."⁸⁴ Not only was Ben Hall apprised of sound information from the Telegraphs, Hall was also at the outbreak of his bushranging exploits still highly regarded by those who had had dealings with him in the past during his tenure at Sandy Creek and often offered a safe harbour for not only for Hall, however, but his partners as well. This was the view expressed of the Weddin gang's ability to remain off the police radar;[sic] "bushrangers are harboured and assisted, the fact that they have belonged so distinctly to definite localities would demonstrate it. The Western gang had its headquarters in the Weddin district, to which it could always retire for concealment, and out of the range of which it was always more exposed; and the associations and relationships its members held with persons resident in the locality quite explain the security it enjoyed and the way in which the police were baffled. But the police knew too well how much the bushrangers were harboured and helped by a set of the residents, some of whom were their relatives, and many of whom were their chums. As long as bushrangers are harboured, and sheltered, and warned, so long the police will hunt for them blindfold. But wherever the police can rely on the co-operation of the inhabitants, they show that they are not deficient in skill or courage. But it is not merely for the armed brigands themselves that diligent search should be made. Such men as Gardner have, doubtless, like their English prototypes, their spies, their harbourers, their "fences." Which way goes their most promiscuous plunder? Where do they brew their punch when they have not a pillaged householder to mix for them? Who are the judicious friends that inform them where they will find an easy booty, and where they will not find a policeman? Till these questions are fully answered, even the apprehension of the most notorious ringleaders will scarcely put an end to the system. The half-hearted scoundrels who keep ostensibly within the shadow of the law, merely that they may share the prey, jackal-like, with the bolder ruffians who defy law-these are the worst traitors to civilisation-the worst enemies to order and security." Furthermore, there many persons of good standing who were often intimidated and threatened with summary punishment for not attending to Ben Hall's needs;[sic] "but other people, under the influence of fear, were compelled to supply them with food and arms."

Sir Frederick Pottinger continued to search the Wheogo and staked out Hall's former home in the hope of taking the bushranger. Stakingout the smoking riuns of Sandy Creek was incorporated with the inspector stopping over at stations keen for information regarding Hall's whereabouts. Pottinger had gleaned through one of his friends and new proprietor of Hall's old station, John Wilson, that Hall had departed Sandy Creek in the company of a woman, believed to be Ellen Maguire. Based on this information, Pottinger relayed a telegraph to the Inspector-General with the updated intelligence of Hall's movements and haunts, dated the 23rd March 1863: "returned here last night, without any further definite results. On Monday last Mrs. Maguire and Ben Hall cleared out via Weddin Mountains for the Fish River. Received information to that effect, and accordingly tracked them till foiled, some twenty miles from Wheogo, by inundated Plain. Heard of Hall at the Weddin, so pushed on to Gaps, in my district, leading to Fish River, but coming across no tracks, returned home via Cowra, men and horses having for twelve days and nights bushed out. Ben Hall and party must have crossed on to the Fish River via Marengo or Burrawang in the Southern district. Discovered several camps about Wheogo, and recovered sundry saddles, bridles. &c., &c., stolen property. Please telegraph touching the limits of my district towards the Weddin. The O’Mealy’s and others ought to be at once cleared out, I but I cannot act at present..." Moves regarding the O'Meally's removal were commencing.


'inundated Plain'
Image courtesy NLA.
Furthermore, not only were Ben Hall and company making it very difficult for Sir Frederick Pottinger and his contingent of troopers in hunting them but the local weather was playing its part as well as alluded to in the above telegram where Pottinger had been blocked by 'inundated Plain'. Much of the Lachlan District had been for some time as of 1862 into early 1863 suffering from drought, therefore, when the heavens finally opened and brought the much-needed downfalls of rain across the western plains once more filling the Lachlan River, her creeks and waterholes, and as luck would have it for the bushrangers wiping away much of the sought after horse tracks. The weather was as well making life for the police in the saddle cold, wet and homesick. No doubt Ben Hall and Co were protected from the weather whilst holed up in some warm shepard or harbourers hut, 'The Sydney Morning Herald', 16th March 1863; FLOOD ON THE LACHLAN; -"For some months during the past summer, the bed of the Lachlan, through-out very many miles of its course, has been dry with the exception of waterholes at a few places, far distant from each other. During the past week, however, an extensive fresh has come down, by which the channel of the river has been completely filled, and the water is now commencing to flood the flat and to run out into the numerous creeks, which are to be found on the Lower Lachlan, this flood will prove of very great service to the settler, as it will not only ensure plentiful supply of water for the stock, but will also, by swamping the flats, cause a luxuriant crop of grass to spring up on land which otherwise would remain barren and unprofitable."


Bushrangers in Australia 
By: Joseph Ratcliffe Skelton.
c. 1910.
The sporadic robberies of late 1862 and early 1863 involving Ben Hall and his neophytes upon her Majesty's mail coaches, as well as the many lonely traveller's on the Queens roads contributed to the introduction of a new system for the transfer of cash - 'The Money Order' - this new enterprise brought about by the expansion of the telegraph system was in the process of being incorporated and administered through the Postal service was presided over by a Mr Hunt of the General Post Office. The fledgeling system, although limited in access had commenced as early as June 1860 and continued rolling out to all the major settlements throughout country NSW and the rest of the colony of Australia in due course. This dynamic new wonder was espoused in the 'Moreton Bay Courier', Thursday 26th July 1860; "the plan, which is very simple, may be briefly explained as follows: -a working man who presented himself at a Money Order Office with a sum-say £4-for the Savings' Bank would obtain a money order to that amount, and enclose it in a printed form to the Savings Bank Manager, who would in course of post return to him the usual voucher, and the transaction would be complete. In withdrawing the money, he would have to transmit by post this voucher to the Savings Bank, and he would receive in return a Post Office money order to that amount, minus the commission..." By the beginning of March 1863, Money Orders were being emphasised in journals and newspapers across the colony as being essential for country people to take advantage of for the safe movement of their cash in an effort to discourage the highwayman; 'The Sydney Morning Herald', 27th January 1863; "THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL, complains of money and other valuable articles being sent in unregistered letters. In France, he observes, it is treated as a penal offence to do this; and in the United Kingdom, letters obviously containing money are not only treated as registered letters, but charged with a double registration fee. The introduction of the money-order system, which after too long delay has at length been established (though from want of accommodation in the cramped Post Office buildings, the office is on the opposite side of the street) will tend to diminish the practice of sending money in letters. As the system becomes known, and the people become familiarised to its use, it will be availed of more fully. There is also another cause in operation which will have the effect desired by the POSTMASTER of diminishing the quantity of money, sent up and down the country in letters, though that cause is one that he could hardly have recommended, or speak of with approval the singular success and impunity with which her MAJESTY'S mail now stopped mid ransacked on the highroad acts as a strong inducement to all cautious people not to send money by that means. GARDINER and his colleagues are certainly helping to increase the business of the Money Order Office, by making it so unsafe to enclose notes in letters.

We hope that the Money Order Office will be brought into extensive use for the suppression of highway robbery. While the policeman is exerting himself to affect a cure, for that evil, the money order may facilitate the still more desirable process of prevention. A few days ago, the newspaper reports informed us of a disgusted bushranger, who bitterly complained that there was no use in robbing the particular mail that he was then rifling, since it never contained anything worth carrying away. The fellow seemed to consider himself hardly used, and probably a continuance of such fruitless results to his enterprises would induce him to direct his genius to some other sphere of action possibly an honest one. We may fairly conclude that the days of gold escort robberies are at an end. Large bank bills, which are mostly payable to well-known firms in town, are not of much value to highwaymen; and in future they must rest their hopes upon the registered letters containing small sums in bank notes, which may amount to something handsome in the aggregate. But if the Post-office money order be generally substituted for the bank note, as a means of remittance, even this source of revenue will be lost to the thief, who will hardly be likely to risk his life or liberty for the pleasure of seizing a few documents which are utterly worthless to him. Even if, in the extremity of his disappointment, he should destroy the orders, the money will not be lost, but will still be the property of the remitter. When a sum of ten pounds can thus be safely insured from all the perils of the road by the payment of a shilling, the person who neglects so simple and reasonable a precaution will hardly deserve pity for any loss that he may sustain. A traveller called upon to stand and deliver might complacently baffle his assailant by presenting him with a Post-office order. The business of the road would be done, and the professional highwayman would become an extinct animal.


The previously mentioned associate of Ben Hall and John Gilbert, Henry Gibson who also used the alias of Parker had been one of those residing noted by Pottinger at Ben Hall's home until it's incineration. Gibson was a close friend of John Gilbert's and had known Gilbert in the 1850's at the Ovens River Goldfields in Victoria (see article right) where he was wanted by the Victorian Police and had fled over to NSW once more linking up with Gilbert. Gibson, who in the days following the destruction of Ben Hall's hut had recently been pursued and captured whilst in company with Hall, Gilbert and either O'Meally or Lowry in what was a thrilling chase and was finally taken by NSW troopers Coward, Zahn and Townly on the 1st April 1863. When Gibson and the others were spotted fugitive spured his horse to full gallop at which point the troopers also dug the spurs into their mounts and gave chase, dodging the bushrangers bullets; "Gibson was found in the bush, in company with Gilbert, Ben Hall, and others, and when he saw the police, he, with the others, galloped off, and was pursued. After going a considerable distance, the police succeeded in capturing him. He was armed, and could not give any satisfactory account of himself..."⁸⁵ However, the frantic chase soon had the police's inferiour mounts knocked up but not before they had achieved success and cornered Gibson who had trapped himself along a fence line whilst the others escaped into the scrub. Consequently, the arrested Gibson led the troopers back to the bushrangers camp. On returning to the Police Camp in town the thrilling chase was recounted by Trooper Townly in detail to 'The Empire' 15th April, 1863; "I am a mounted constable in the police stationed at Bathurst; on last Tuesday or Wednesday, was in company with detectives Coward and Zahn, near Kangee station; we were galloping down the ranges, and saw the prisoner and three others riding towards the station; when they saw me they put spurs to their horses, and went off at full gallop; we chased them, and detective Coward took the prisoner near the fence; I kept a little to the right, and went on after the other three; I am positive one of the men was Lowry, and I think one was Gilbert; I had seen Gilbert once or twice; the man whom I supposed to be Gilbert, after having crossed the creek, threw back his poncho, raised his carbine, and fired over his shoulder at me; I then heard Zahn say "Gilbert, you wretch, you wouldn't hit a hay stack;" I then saw Zahn on my right; we followed them to the top of the range, where my horse was knocked up; I dismounted and fired; was about 130 or 140 yards distant from them when I did so; I then mounted the blackfellow's horse, but could not overtake them; I heard Gilbert say something about "You're goose is cooked," to Zahn; Zahn kept taunting them, trying to cause them to stop; but they would not; we followed them about half a mile, and then gave up the chase; we examined a camp, and saw foot marks corresponding with the prisoner's feet; on returning, we escorted the prisoner to Breakfast Creek station; I noticed nail prints similar to the nails in the prisoner's boots, now produced; the ground at the camp was soft and black, the blackfellow I speak of is stockkeeper at Ryan's."


"..your goose is cooked."
At the time of his arrest Gibson was questioned by Detective Coward who asked him where he was going and who the other three riders were, not surprisingly, Gibson claimed he did not know them and that; "he was going home to the Weddin Mountains, said he had recently been hunted from there by Sir Frederick Pottinger..."⁸⁶ Gibson's hunting from Wheogo was as a result of the burning of Hall's home. In fact, Gibson would later state[sic] that he had been managing overseer to Ben Hall when the latter was an honest man...” 


NSW Police Gazette, 1862.
Author's Note: The reason Zahn knew Gilbert and Co so well is that he was a friend and cohort in crime of John Peisley and Frank Gardiner from the Abercrombie - Fish River area and was actualy in custody in Bathurst when, due to his intimate knowledge of the Bushrangers was recruited into the NSW police force. Not long after he was kicked out of the force for stealing a pistol from Captain Battye.

The news of the encounter generated great excitement in Yass and word quickly spread throughout of Gibson's apprehension. With a public jumpy and constantly in fear of being stuck-up whenever they ventured out the thought of a notorious bushranger being escorted into their midst set the tongues wagging as people scrambled for a look. Bushranger fever rode high and the local correspondent when hearing the news prematurely jumped to the conclusion that the captured man was none other than the now thought of as notorious Ben Hall who was the one evidently captured by the gallant troopers. The writer without ascertaining all the facts hurriedly fired off his account for the 'Yass Courier'; "Capture of another Bushranger”-"The Marengo correspondent of the Yass Courier furnishes an account to that journal of the capture in that locality of a bushranger who is believed to be the notorious Ben Hall. The facts of the capture are these. The patrol belonging to Marengo, in conjunction with a black tracker, had been out in search of Gilbert and his party, but were unsuccessful in finding any traces of the robbers. Another party from a contiguous station were then dispatched to scour the country around Breakfast Creek. Their aboriginal tracker soon found some fresh tracks, which led them within sight of four or five mounted men, supposed to be Gilbert's party. Then commenced an exciting chase. The bushrangers, as usual, had the best horseflesh, and they gradually increased the intervening distance between themselves and their pursuers, until the chase seemed almost hopeless the heavy rifles of the troopers proving a great encumbrance. The pursed highwaymen were nearly out of sight, when the most rearward, in trying to take a shorter out, suddenly found himself "brought to grief" by a very strong line of fencing, which the officer in pursuit and his men perceiving, they, by a flank movement, one to the right and left, and three up the centre, completely hemmed in the rascal, who after trying ineffectually to make his horse take the fence, turned at bay, and seemed inclined to show fight, but seeing he was outnumbered, he returned his revolver to his belt, and surrendered at discretion. He was taken, pinioned, into Marengo the same day; and a fine young fellow he is, apparently about twenty-five years of age. The name the prisoner gave is not considered bona fide, and corresponding with that of a very respectable family on the Levels, is withheld. It is thought in Young that he is the celebrated "Ben Hall," but as no person here knows him, it is merely conjecture."⁸⁷

However, Gibson was brought pinioned into Marengo where his arrival and capture as well as his appearence was noted by another correspondant;[sic] "The pursued robbers were nearly out of sight when the most rearward in trying to take a shorter cut suddenly found himself "brought to grief" by a very strong line of fencing, which the officer and his men perceiving, they by flank movement of one to the right and left and three up the centre completely hemmed in the rascal, and he, after ineffectually trying to make his horse take tee fence, turned at bay, and seemed inclined to show fight; but, I suppose, seeing he was outnumbered, and thinking that if he shot a trooper it was murder, and if they shot him it was only justifiable homicide, he chose the wiser part by returning his revolver to his belt and surrendering at discretion. He was brought pinioned into Marengo this afternoon; and a fine upstanding young fellow he is, about twenty-five years of age, having well cut but rather ''noisy" clothes, his general appearance being that of a good-looking well-to-do but very fast young squatter; when they put him on a fresh horse it began to rear and plunge, to see him, handcuffed as he wes, by the simple pressure of his knee preserve his seat so admirably could not but cause great regret to think that one whom natural favoured had so vilely prostituted his advantages..." Ben Hall, they had not! Gibson was the man however finally identified. Gibson was once more arraigned before the court this time to hear from a new crown witness Mr Percy Scarr. The evidence presented by Mr Scarr is compelling, as it throws light over the movements of Ben Hall between the period of the 14th to 28th March 1863. This evidence correlated with a series of telegrams sent by Sir Frederick Pottinger to the Inspector-General of Ben Hall's movements. Pottinger, through information he had received most probably through the earlier interrogation of Susan Prior's brother William was of the opinion that Ellen Maguire was the lady in company with Ben Hall and others as alluded to earlier. However, Mr Scarr's evidence relates to Ben Hall being in the company of a woman and child. The woman is no doubt Susan Prior and the child is their daughter Mary, as at this time Ellen Maguire was the mother of two children aged five and two. The other men were John Gilbert, John O'Meally thought to be Lowry and Gibson. However, coinciding with Gibson's court appearance there was a tragedy unfolding in Forbes which would have drawn Ellen Maguire there along with her stepmother Sarah Walsh and not as thought by Pottinger in the company of Ben Hall. The unfolding tragedy was Ellen's Maguire's younger brother 'The Warrigal', John Walsh long believed to be the groom of Gardiner, lay dying in a Forbes hotel 'The White Hart Inn', owned by none other than John Wilson and at the time managed by John Maguire, Ellen's husband. The tragedy unfolding was that the young 'Warrigal' had contracted Gaol Fever (There are several forms of Gaol Fever caused by infectious disease such as rickettsia, transmitted by fleas, lice, or mites, and characterized generally by severe headache, sustained high fever, depression, delirium, and the eruption of red rashes on the skin and death.) whilst being held in custody over his associations with Frank Gardiner and another tearaway John Jameison. An old timer who knew 'The Warrigal' in their youth recounted in a look back in the 'Freeman's Journal', 10th November 1906, of the young 'Warrigal' and his skill as a hoseman and general demeanor as a happy go lucky lad; “little Jack Walsh was such a mischievous, dare-devil young lad that he was known to all as 'The Warrigal’, and I can picture him now as clearly as in our school days. Rather short, with sharp features on a freckled face, and when he smiled, which was nearly always, he showed a large mouthful of good teeth when not stained by tobacco, and he simply did not know what fear was. He was generally with Gardiner, in fact he was known as 'Gardiner's Boy.' While flying from the police with Gardiner on one occasion the pair separated, and little Jacky got caught in the pocket of a creek. To turn back meant capture, so 'The Warrigal' being mounted on a splendid bay pony called 'Little John,' dug in his spurs, sent the brave little horse flying over the creek, and got clear away, for none of the police would risk the jump. And no wonder, for when afterwards measured, it was found to be 20 feet wide. The police had to go round a quarter of a mile, and by that time 'The Warrigal' was 'over the hills and far away.' But poor little Jack was caught at last, and died of fever soon after...” Alas his painful and sad death was reported in the 'Lachlan Observer' on 23rd March 1863. For Ben Hall it was another blow; MAGISTERIAL INQUIRY.- "An inquiry was held on Monday afternoon, at two o'clock, at the White Hart Inn, Rankin street, touching the death of John Walsh, late prisoner in the gaol. There were present Commissioner Grenfell, Esq., J. P., Dr. J. J. Connell. Drs. Flatan and Nutt, and senior sergeant Rush. Senior sergeant Rush explained that the lad Walsh was lately a prisoner under his charge, and that in consequence of having been taken ill, Dr. J. J. Connell had been called in to attend him, which he did for about a week at the gaol, and that he treated him for colonial fever. The lad got worse, and senior sergeant Rush then had him removed by his mother, Mrs, Walsh, to the White Hart Inn, when Dr. Flatan and Nutt were called in, and these gentlemen pronounced the lad to have been suffering from gaol fever in the first instance, which at the time they were called had resolved itself into a violent congestion of the brain. Vigorous and prompt measures were at once adopted, and it was found necessary to open both temporal arteries, and the jugular vein, in order to relieve the congestion. In spite of every care, however, the boy gradually sank under the disease, till death put an end to his sufferings. The result of the inquiry was the finding that "the said John Walsh had died of the effects of gaol fever." John 'Warrigal' Walsh was 16 yrs. old. (On the Warrigal's death certificate his mother is stated as Julia Walsh, his step-mother was Sarah Walsh who was previously married to Joseph Harpur in 1814, who passed away. Sarah married John Walsh in 1847. She was also the mother of NSW poet Charles Harpur and NSW Parliamentarian, Josiah Harpur who was the member for Patrick Plains, and Sir Frederick Pottinger's antagonist. The nickname of Warrigal stands for 'wild or untamed horse' or 'Dingo.')


However, the demise of young Walsh was recounted by an inmate also held at the Forbes lockup during the time of the young lads incarceration and  recounted the 'Warrigal's' rapid demise; The 'Empire' on the 31st March 1863; "when our informant first saw Walsh, he was able to walk about, but complained of pains in his head and chest, and said that he had then been in confinement for eight weeks, during which time he had only left the lock-up for the purpose of being taken to the police court, to procure a remand, every seven days, and once when he was taken to Orange, where he remained five days. With these exceptions, he had been a close prisoner. The cell in which he was placed, is the one used as a general lock-up, measuring about twelve feet by twelve, and was occupied by four or five others. It is very dark, there being no light whatever, except that admitted through the chinks in the logs with which the building is constructed, and a small trap in the door, leaving an aperture about ten inches broad by eight deep. This, it seems, was closed at dusk every night, and accordingly there were no other means of ventilation except that afforded by the chinks. There was no exercise save that of walking up and down the cell.

Walsh asked for a doctor for two days before any apparent notice was taken. Our informant also spoke to the keeper of the lad's illness, and was told, "He's right enough, he only wants fresh air." One night the boy said he felt very ill, and asked Mr. Rush to let him see a doctor; it was late, about ten o'clock. Mr. Rush said, "Johnny, a doctor can do you no good tonight, you'll be all right in the morning." Walsh said "I should like to have him tonight; I feel very ill." Mr. Rush called a constable, and sent him to fetch Dr. Connell. The doctor came, and gave him some medicine. Next day Sir Frederick Pottinger gave orders that Walsh should be taken into the fresh air for two hours every day. Though ill, it appears no extra provision was made for the youth, as he had no bed to lie on, being, like the others, only allowed blankets to wrap himself in of a night. He was kept in the lock-up three days after the doctor first saw him, and grew so rapidly worse that he could not raise himself without help. One night the trap-door was opened, and the keeper called Walsh to come and take some medicine from a spoon which he held in his hand, but he had almost to be carried there by the other prisoners before he could take the physic. He was then taken to the women's cell, where he was heard raving deliriously, starting up from his bed, and knocking himself against the logs. The hospital to which the boy was conveyed is a bark construction, about 10 feet by 8, with walls about six feet high. From this he was allowed eventually to be taken to the White Hart Inn, under the care of his mother, who called in Dr. Flatau and Nutt, who, it appears, were not more successful than Dr. Connell in the treatment of their patient, for he rapidly sank, and died on Sunday last."

Woodcut image of
Ben Hall.
c. 1865
As a consequence of the boy's death, Ben Hall would have been deeply saddened at the news. In effect, it appeared that Walsh's removal was an attempt by the police to avoid responsibility for his death. Consequently, it played a further hand in Hall's resolve to wreak vengeance against those he judged responsible as law sanctioned victimisation. However, Ben Hall was not the only one to question the actions of the law into young Walsh's death. The NSW Parliament required a full account of the incident, and the newspapers on gleaning the story ran this article on 1st April 1863; "most people will remember the occasion on which Sir Frederick Pottinger, with some nine or ten policemen, attempted to take Gardiner, but failed, and carried off instead a little boy, whom they took out of bed, on the charge, so far as we can understand it, of having held Gardiner's horse. This lad, John Walsh, it now appears had been kept in gaol ever since, in the custody of a police-sergeant. He was not brought to trial for any offence, but immured for months in the miserable lock-up used for a prison, until at last he suffered capital punishment, having died of gaol fever. When the police authorities found that he was slipping through their fingers by the agency of death, they then handed him over to the care of his friends; but it was too late. " In spite of every care," says the report which we quote elsewhere, "the boy gradually sank under the disease, till death put an end to his sufferings." What followed is worthy of record. The commissioner held an inquiry, and arrived at the conclusion that "the said John Walsh had died of the effects of gaol fever." We are not aware whether there is any coroner at Forbes, or whether that office has also merged into the police administration. But, unless we are to surrender every impulse of humanity with every vestige of constitutional liberty, we ought to insist upon knowing how it was that John Walsh caught the gaol fever of which he died, whether he was in lawful custody, or whether those who held him in unwarrantable durance have subjected themselves to an indictment for manslaughter or murder."⁸⁸


The next day this note appeared in the newspaper; "a lad named John Walsh, who was apprehended at the time of an unsuccessful attempt to catch Gardiner, has lately died in the gaol at Forbes under rather peculiar circumstances. The verdict returned-"Died of gaol fever"-does not give public satisfaction. Application for a special commission of inquiry is talked of..."⁸⁹ Unfortunately, there was no record of any enquiry taking place and as the saying goes, today's media outrage is tomorrows 'Kitty Litter', and young Walsh's death in the interim faded from public consciousness. John Walsh was buried at Forbes Cemetery in an unmarked grave. Thanks to the Forbes Historical Society and others there is today a plaque bearing his name at the Forbes Cemetery.


Mr Percy Scarr.
c. 1905.
Henry Gibson's hearing took place on the 17th of April 1863. Mr Percy Scarr, then manager of a station belonging to Mr Broughton gave the following evidence into Gibson's charge of highway robbery with arms and more importantly refers to the movements of Ben Hall after the Sandy Creek home was destroyed by fire. The evidence is as follows, including a statement about being held up by John Gilbert and John O'Meally on the 14th March 1863, the day of the Sandy Creek fire. Percy Scarr being sworn, deposed: "I am an assistant 'Superintendent for Mr. Broughton; I know the prisoner now before the court; I pointed him out this morning from amongst three other men in the lock-up; on the 26th March last, I had occasion to go to one of my employer's sheep stations near Marengo; I counted the sheep and left; I had forgotten something and returned to the sheep station; On arriving there the second time I saw the prisoner and three others; two of these men were armed I did not see any firearms on the prisoner; I was on horseback ; I spoke to one of the four men; I said "Good morning;" I saw the shepherd's wife; I asked her if the men were sticking up the place; she replied, "No, that they had told her to get them breakfast at once; "I saw them take breakfast; I was on horseback then; the prisoner (Gibson) came and took hold of my horse by the bridle and told me to get off; I did so; prisoner then took my horse and tied him to the stirrup iron of his own; he ordered me to go inside; I did not at first; prisoner told me to go in again;  I then went in; I saw three revolvers on the person of one of the men in company with the prisoner; I was detained about an hour and a half against my will; the prisoner asked me if I was a good cook; I said "no" he then said, " Can you track ?" I said I was not used to the bush; the prisoner told the shepherd's wife that if she mentioned anything about their being there they would return and burn the place; prisoner said to me, "If you say anything about this to the police, I'll visit you at Marengo for it; “on the 14th of March last, I was stuck up; I was riding a chestnut horse, the property of my brother this was on the road leading to Burrowa, and about nine miles from Marengo; the horse was of the value of £20; two men stuck me up; one rode in front of me, took hold of the bridle of my horse, and said, " Bail-up! get off!" I got off, and the men took the horse; I have not seen the horse since; the prisoner is not one of the two men who stuck me up on the 14th March, but he was in company with these two men on the 26th March, at the sheep station; there was a woman and child in company with the prisoner and the other men at the station I saw all the men leave the station; the woman went away also." The woman mentioned above is, without a doubt, Susan Prior and Hall's baby daughter Mary.

However, after all the evidence against Henry Gibson and his well-known association's with Ben Hall, Gilbert and others, amazingly the case against Gibson was dropped by the NSW Attorney General and Gibson was discharged on the 17th May 1863. However, an explanation by the Attorney General referred to the lack of a possible Guilty verdict. (see article below.) Although Gibson's did not go free as on release he would be quickly re-arrested by Sir Frederick Pottinger and forwarded to Forbes on other matters; ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, Tuesday 2nd June 1863; YOUNG. [FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.] MAY 29th 1863.- The supposed notorious bushranger, Henry Gibson, alias "Parker," against whom a charge of "suspicion of highway robbery" had been preferred by detective Coward on the 8th of April, and also a further charge of attacking (in company with others) a station near Marengo on the 26th March last, belonging to a Mr. Broughton, on which latter occasion it appeared by the evidence that the supposed bushranging party in question had simply demanded breakfast, which had been accordingly prepared for them by the inmates at the hut, when they left, bidding each other "good day" - and who had been committed from this place for trial at the next Goulburn Circuit Court on both of the supposed serious offences, the full particulars of which appeared in your several issues of the 17th and 27th April - suddenly made his appearance in the town in propria persona, to the no small astonishment of many persons. I have been given to understand that the Attorney-General had directed his discharge, not, however, without good grounds for so doing, as on reading over the depositions there was nothing upon which he could file a bill either this step or an acquittal could alone have been anticipated, and no doubt a very proper course had been taken by the Attorney-General in adopting the former alternative. However unfortunately for Gibson, the presence of Sir Frederick Pottinger here had no very great advantage in his favour, in as much as he was speedily deprived of the sweets of liberty before he had enjoyed many hours of fresh air, having been arrested on a warrant issued by the police magistrate, and brought before him on Tuesday, charged with "having on or about the month of March, and divers other occasions, harboured, aided and assisted certain notorious bushrangers, to wit, Johnny Gilbert, Johnny O'Meally, and Ben Hall, contrary to the statute." Sir Frederick Pottinger, who sat on the bench, and not only acted in the capacity of a prosecutor, but appeared in the witness-box against the prisoner, to prove that he knew the prisoner before the court, had frequently seen him at Ben Hall's house, and had tracked him to a place where he was in company with Mrs. MaGuire (supposed to be the wife of another notorious bushranger), urged that he might be remanded to Forbes, where there was a witness who would prove that he was actually in company with the before mentioned notorious characters. Mr. Prendergast, who appeared for the prisoner, vainly endeavoured to show that there was no ground for the prisoner's arrest, that the warrant was informal, because no specific charge was laid against the prisoner, and neither time or place alluded to. As a matter of course the prisoner was remanded to Forbes in order that there might be a charge with a specific offence proved against him.

Furthermore, Inspector Pottinger continued patrolling out in the troubled districts hungry for information on the whereabouts of Ben Hall, John O'Meally and Gilbert, last seen travelling with Susan Pryor and Ben Hall's baby daughter Mary. However, through various sources, Pottinger learned of information and resolved that the group's destination appeared to be the Fish River. Although subsequent evidence points to this being more than likely a faint. In consequence, Pottinger dispatched a telegram the Inspector General of Police on the 4th April 1863, outlining his troopers continuing search in the bush, as well Pottinger states for the first time his belief that Gardiner has fled NSW: - "Start tomorrow morning via Cowra for the Fish River to co-operate with the southern police, both Captain Zouch and myself having been informed from distinct sources that Gardiner, Gilbert, John O'Mealy, and Ben Hall are there abouts: the three latter are, I believe, in that district, the former I still think is out of the colony. My movements will of course depend upon circumstances; I cannot therefore report thereon now; expect to be absent some fourteen (14) days. Have also sent four (4) troopers and trackers to scour Wheogo, &c Patrol detachments and other stations still in status quo. Sanderson returned yesterday. By-the-bye I hear Captain Zouch has applied for Sanderson to be transferred to Young; I hope you will not consent, as Sanderson a presence here till matters are quite settled is indispensable, Sergeant Rush still very ill, also detective M'Glone, our only detective. Swainson much wanted back."⁹⁰(for more on Gibson see part 3.)

Suprisingly, the Fish River was not their destination and Hall soon re-settled Susan at lambing Flat, which after more new gold strikes had once more became a vibrant and lucrative town as men renewed the rushed and once more sought their fortune, only to, in some instances to have it ripped from them at the end of Hall's pistol;[sic] YOUNG. [FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT]-April 1863; "The cloud of dullness which had hung over this gold-field for some months past, has within the last few weeks, given place to a far more lively state of things. The new rush, twelve miles from Young, ls likely to turn out a large and remunerative one, if the crowd of miners and traders be any criterion to judge by. Pubilc houses and dancing saloons have sprang up like mushrooms, and appear to do a brisk trade. Gold has been traced more than a mlle down the main gully, and appears to be trending towards deep ground. Gold has also been struck in a gully between the Ten and Twelve, mile rush; also beyond the ten mile, in the direction of Chew's station. The country around these rushes has every appearance of being auriferous; but appearances are very poor guides to find gold, sinking being the only true test-all the bunkum of a Hargraves as to appear, ances notwithstanding. To sum up, mining prospects have not been so cheering the last twelve months as they are now, and Burrangong yet maintains its claim to the title of being the largest and best paying gold field ever opened in New South Wales. There are many parties gone out prospecting since the new by-laws of the local court have come into foroe, but sufficient time has not elapsed for the result of their labours to be known." To compound matters for the large mining population at Young, the government and Police hierarchy transferred the most diligent of officers Captain Battye from Burrangong to Bathurst, leaving the citizens dumbfounded;[sic] "Captain Battye was entertained at a public dinner last Thursday evening, and presented with an address signed by all the principal residents of the district. His removal has caused much regret and dissatisfaction. No officer in the force knows the haunts of Gardiner's gang better, and now when proper force is sent here, the very man who should command them is removed. If he had the force now stationed here six months ago, poor Cirkel would not have fallen a victim to the bullet of the robber, nor the colony have been disgraced by the deplorable revelations made at each circuit court. The necessity for a "special commission " would never have arisen; humanity would not have been shocked by the drivellings of a judge; nor the venomous spawn of a "Constant Reader" would never have been spewed forth through the columns of a mercenary newspaper; many a once happy home would not now be in mourning and affliction for the child who had brought down his parents grey hairs with sorrow to the grave."

With Hall and Co narrowly escaping in the exchange with troopers at the time of Gibson's capture the press reported;[sic] "Bushranging is quiet just now, the spasmodic efforts made by the police to capture the members of the firm of Gardiner and Co. making it necessary for those pests to keep close to their haunts. Why could not all this great parade of force have been made any time within the last eighteen months, when this ruffian roamed at will throughout the distrlct? Now, when he has ruined many young men by his vicious example, robbed and murdered people in their homes-captured an Inspector of police, after an encounter a la Pottinger-and stuck up police stations, our paternal, or rather "maternal Government," sends up the "hero of the colonial Bull Run," and a Sydney detective to try to capture him. Well may he laugh at their efforts. He can now rest easy for the remainder of his days, and while comfortably doing his "pipe," cogitate over the magistrate's "Advice to a Bushranger." I would suggest that Mr. Cowper send our worthy P.M. and "The Hero of Bull Bun" to negotiate terms of capitulation, or offer him the Inspector Generalship of police-vice McLerie, appointed to the "Fort Bourke Noodles." However, this lull was temporary.


Continued on Ben Hall 2

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