Part 2

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")
Bushrangers in camp.
Courtesy NLA
The capture of Daley as well as the torching of Hall's home at Sandy Creek the bushrangers whereabouts continued to frustrate Sir Frederick Pottinger. Pottinger was pulling out all stops in seeking out Ben Hall. This encompassed searching his known haunts in conjunction with staking out his large circle of known harbourers in an attempt to glean information. Furthermore, the last reliable report Pottinger had received regarding Hall was that he was seen travelling in the company of his lover Susan Pryor and their baby Mary in late March. Accordingly, the intrepid inspector fired off another telegram to his superiors relating the latest intelligence. The telegram informed the Inspector-General M'Lerie that Hall and Co had shifted their depredations further south from Lambing Flat and were working in the area around Cootamundra; Inspector-General of Police April 1863; "On the 14th instant I received information from two men that I met between Gundagai and Jugiong that Ben Hall and Johnny Mealy were in the bush between the latter place and Murrumburrah, I started next morning and scoured the bush through to here. After consulting with Superintendent Zouch, I determined to push on to the Weddin Mountain and scour the country thence to and through the Levels. I arrived at Cootamundra on the 25th, and "found that Barnes' store had been, stuck up on the 21st, by three men supposed to be Gardiner, Gilbert, and Mealy. My horses were very tired, so I wrote to the Flat for assistance. I received two men. My horses being a little fresher next morning I scoured the bush for two days without success and arrived here last night. I have received certain information which I believe will be the means of finding out how the gang got rid of the goods. I am also certain that they have a camp in the scrub between Berthong and the Merool Creek. Tomorrow being the end of the month, I would like to have your permission to remain in the bush for a fortnight longer. (Reply quick by telegraph.)⁹¹ However, following this telegram Pottinger had finally come to realise that Frank Gardiner had since long departed the Lachlan and that Ben Hall was evidently being mistaken as Gardiner. The bush camp attested to at 'Berthong' is in today's 'Jindalee State Forrest'.

However, the bushrangers presence had been based on information from a gentleman Pottinger had met earlier and proved sound as the bushrangers suddenly appeared at the station of Mr Ryan where they held-up the occupants and acquired new mounts and weapons including a shotgun; STICKING UP A STATION. – “On Saturday last Mr Ryan's station, Berthong, in the Lachlan district, was stuck up and robbed by an armed party of bushrangers. They took three horses, two saddles, one of the former being the property of the Rev. Mr Bermingham, a double-barrelled gun, all the clothes belonging to the men, and a cheque for £10, No 1009, dated March 9th 1863, drawn by Edward Ryan in favour of Edward Michael Ryan on the Commercial Bank, Yass. It is supposed that the robbers are Johnny Gilbert's party.” ⁹²

Moreover, following the bushrangers' descent on Mr Ryan's station a Mr J E Richter after a long day travelling in the saddle had set up camp for a quiet evening when four men poked their head in for a chinwag. Richter in his twilight years described his brush with, as he later discovered, Ben Hall, Gilbert and Co. In the subsequent article of reminiscence, it also incorporates an acrimonious encounter with Hall's nemesis, Sir Frederick Pottinger. The evocation appeared in the 'Sydney Mail' in 1913 titled 'Random Recollections VIII'. Mr Richter describes his evening with the bushrangers who at the time were unknown, and passed themselves off as drovers. Richter comments that the bushrangers were pleasant in their habits; “while seeking a place to make camp, I found water over half a mile from the road. On the bank above the waterhole was a small fire, and four saddles and other outfit, no horses or men being in sight. The horses having been unsaddled and hobbled, preparation was made for the evening meal, when four men made their appearance with the explanation that they had put their horses on some good grass further down the creek — that they were drovers and were returning to the Bogan River country to bring forward another lot of fat cattle. They seemed jolly fellows, and nothing about their habit, language or belongings indicated anything other than that they were drovers. The evening was spent in congenial conversation and story-telling they taking me for a shearer or gold-digger as I was at that time. If they were in possession of firearms their presence was concealed from view. They were all smart horsemen apparently and their build and habits indicated that they were natives of the colony. Next morning, they were bestirring early, had saddled up and left at a few minutes after sunrise, a hasty action for which no positive necessity was apparent. After they had gone a faint suspicion arose in my mind that, though they were drovers they might also be horse-stealers; but my horse was found undisturbed. Two hours later I was on the road again making toward Burrowa, when I was accosted and questioned by an overseer on Nagle Ryan's run who suspected me of being a horse’s stealer. His insinuations annoyed me and had he stayed any longer there might have been a fight. As the overseer disappeared seven mounted policemen hove in sight coming at a canter. Sir Frederick Pottinger was the commandant. On meeting me they pulled up short and questioned me rigorously. I told them that I was bound for the Tuena goldfield, and that I had been camped the night before with four drovers whom I had casually met at the river. These drover’s I was asked to describe minutely. I was then informed that it was the Gilbert gang of bushrangers I had camped with! I was ordered to unroll my blanket swag to show if I carried firearms or other articles that might incriminate me as a spy or abettor of the gang. Finding no clue they allowed me to proceed on my way, with apologies for the detention. Then they started, on again at a gallop in pursuit of the gang, with the usual result of no capture — the very name of Pottinger having become synonymous with non-arrest...” There is an indication here that Fred Lowry had joined and was most probably an active part of the gang or another local was present, as often occurred due to their local knowledge.

Next 'The Goulburn Herald' reported the robbery of Thomas Barnes' store near Cootamundra 21st April 1863;"we understand that these notorious bushrangers, in company with John O'Meally and Lowry, stuck-up, on Tuesday, 21st ultimo, a store belonging to a Mr Barnes, at a small village about forty miles from this township on the Wagga Wagga road, and robbed it of about £100 worth of goods. They had pack-horses with them, which they loaded with stolen property. All of them were well armed and mounted, Gardiner especially, who had a splendid horse. Gilbert gave one of two pieces of stolen print to a woman he knew, and who begged it from him, but returned it immediately afterwards to the storekeeper. Some hats were found on the road belonging to Mr Barnes, supposed to have been thrown away by the ruffians, which were brought back to the store. The bushrangers got away unmolested with their booty. There is no doubt that Gardiner was one of the robbers, as more than one recognised him..."⁹³ The continuing claims of Gardiner in attendance plays on the likelyhood that Ben Hall was misidentified. There are even occasions while bailing up homesteads that the gang played on Gardiner's notoriety stating he was watching from a hill or close by observing, no doubt ventured as a threat for compliance. However, in the aftermath of the attack on the store of Thomas Barnes, his father John wrote a letter to the editor of the 'Yass Courier' in disgust over the lack-lustre police effort and henceforth expressed his low esteem of those purveyors of law and order; BUSHRANGING NEAR COOTAMUNDRY;- Mr John Barnes has forwarded to us the following letter - "Sir, Bushranging and sticking-up seems to be the order of the day in this district. On Tuesday morning last, at sunrise, my son's store at Cootamundry was stuck up by four armed and mounted men and the property valued at about £100 stolen and taken away on pack horses. I believe the same four men were on the road between Wallenbeen and Cootamundry on Saturday last, apparently courting the appearance of the police, who of course could be seen going the other way, the usual course being to put in an appearance about a week after the commission of a robbery.”⁹⁴ Mr Barnes' letter was all too frequently the standard view of the locals whose respect for the police diminished daily. (Not Gardiner, but Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John O'Meally and the evidence indicates the presence of their newest member Fred Lowry.)

Not done with the area, the bushrangers on the 2nd May 1863, subsequently appeared and robbed another store belonging to a Mr Hurley. However, as the gang confronted the shopkeeper, an employee fled only to have some shots fired at the lad which luckily missed and he survived to tell the tale. Here was another demonstration that Ben Hall was a willing participant in attempting to shoot to kill anybody in the gangs, way including an innocent shop hand. Accordingly, having succeeded with their hold-up the robbers on departing came across a bullock dray and with a yell of 'bail-up' held-up the travelling carrier; BUSHRANGING; - "On Wednesday night Mr Hurley's store, at Cootamundry, was stuck up by four armed men and robbed of a quantity of provisions and clothing. On their entrance, the storeman, alarmed at their formidable appearance and number, rushed from the hut, and, although fired on by the robbers, effected his escape. Shortly afterwards, Mr Basil Bennett, of North Wagga Wagga, who was travelling with his bullock team from the Lachlan, and had with him a saddle horse, was accosted by a man, believed to be one of the robbers of the store, who demanded his money. Mr Bennett replied that he had no money, and had been so unfortunate as to lose one of his bullocks that morning the bushranger then said that "he would not search him as one misfortune was enough in one day" but that he must take the horse which he required for a pack-horse; and that if Mr Bennett was travelling in that neighbourhood again it would very likely be returned to him. In addition to the pack-horse stolen from Mr. Basil Bennett, they had also appropriated another animal, and, the two horses being laden with about £120 worth of property, started with their booty in the direction of the Weddin. They were tracked by the police for many miles, and owing to their plunder having probably been badly packed, a number of articles stolen had fallen from the horses and were recovered."⁹⁵ Following the gangs flurry at Cootamundry a local reporter questioned what steps the troopers were implementing to curb bushrangers as the writers perception was they were fat dumb and happy;[sic] State of the Levels.A correspondent writing from Cootamundry, under date April 21st, says: — "Would you inform me what does Captain Battye do with his troopers in this district, as there is bushranging daily going on? Not later than yesterday there were several parties stuck-up at Cootamundry, and the bushrangers had even packhorses with them. Why could not the troopers track them? The fact is they are too well housed and clothed to stand bush work..."Yass Courier. Later the 'Sydney Mail' of the 23rd May 1863 reported a follow-up of the lack luster police search for Hall after hitting Hurley's store and Mr Bennett's dray; The Cootamundry Robbery.Mr. Superintendent M'Lerie and Sub-Inspector Morrow, having made fruitless search for Gardiner and Co., have, we understand, been visiting Lambing Flat, and have also been devoting their energies and those of their troopers to the discovery of the perpetrators of the late robbery near Hurley's station, on the Levels. It appears that the robbers, in addition to the pack-horse stolen from Mr Basil Bennett, had also appropriated another animal, and, the two horses being laden with about £120 worth of property, started with their booty in the direction of the Weddin. They were tracked by the police for many miles, and owing to their plunder having probably been badly packed, a number of articles stolen had fallen from the horses and were recovered. The whereabouts and identity of the bushrangers are still uncertain. 

However, as alluded to above, the returning of horses such as Mr Bennett's was a common practice for Ben Hall who was well known to place an animal previously stolen in a position to be returned to its rightful owner, of course, well after it was knocked up. Furthermore, the volume of holdups in and around the two goldfields of Forbes and Lambing Flat created opportunities for others to lay blame at the bushrangers feet. Incidents such as losing money belonging to their employers or injuries they may have suffered often self-inflicted through alcohol. However, all suffering rogues reported to their masters that their unfortunate circumstances were perpetrated by the bushrangers. Where infact it was merely as a result of their own foolhardiness. However, the reported activities of the bushrangers resulted in the lions share of remarks in newspapers, as well as Police Gazette reports were often inaccurate or even manufactured by those who reportedly were attacked. In some instances probably for the notoriety or as a means of laying a false trail surrounding their own culpability. A case in point of misinformation and false blame or fake news having been attributed to bushrangers was by a Mr John Keogh who attempted to deflect his own suspicious behaviour in such a manner. However, for Keogh, his supposed brush with the Rangers would be reported to the police by his employer and investigated over an incident which happened near Chew's Station, Marengo, a well known and favourite haunt of Gilbert and Ben Hall; BUSHRANGER HUNTING.- Sticking-Up at Warrego, near Marengo -The correspondent of the Yass Courier, at Marengo, relates the following audacious case of sticking-up:-"As an elderly man by the name of John Keogh, or Kew, was travelling from Yass to Mr George Campbell's station at Warrego, in a covered cart, when crossing the creek, within gun-shot of Mr John Chew's head station, he was set upon by three armed and mounted men, who ordered him immediately to "shell out;" he thought to make himself heard at the Gap station (for the roof of the house was to be seen) proceeded to shout lustily for assistance, whereupon one of the ruffians seized him by the collar, dragged him out of the cart, and the others made him insensible by striking him on the head with the butts of their pistols Some hour or so afterwards he recovered consciousness, and found his pockets ransacked and £6 gone. He managed to crawl as far as Mr Chew's, where he received every possible attention by having his wounds washed and dressed and being put to bed. Mr Chew instantly caused two horses to be saddled, sending his son off to the Warrego station with one, and himself riding the other into Marengo, for the purpose above stated, and as Messrs. Swan, Foley, and McGill have not returned, of course, the result of the search is yet unknown. It is thought by the residents in the district that only for fear the report of firearms might be heard at the Gap station, the ruffians would have shot their victim dead upon the spot."⁹⁶

Accordingly, for the supposedly abused John Keogh the Empire’ of Wednesday 22nd April 1863 exposed the true facts of the reputedly attacked, robbed and beaten Mr Keogh. It came to light that the police after investigating the sorry saga, debunked the yarn; MARENGO - "Our patrol have returned from the search after the bushrangers who stuck up the man near the Gap on the 7th instant. Their leader, Swan, says that they were unsuccessful, simply because it was a case of "no stick up" at all, but that the man spent his money, got drunk, tumbled out of his cart, cut his forehead, and subsequently hatched up the yarn. Certainly, the man was seen drinking with one or two of the Marengo "roughs" the day before; but, on the other hand, the man positively swore to Mr Swan that he was robbed by three mounted and armed men, and previous to the stated robbery Mr Chew's men saw three suspicious looking horsemen pass the station, and they did not pass Marengo or any of the intermediate stations, as they ought to have done; so, the affair still remains a mystery. Mr Woodbridge's man is very much bruised and sick, and if he was "stuck-up," he deserves to be pitied, and if not, he deserves to be horsewhipped when convalescent.Furthermore, newspaper correspondents diligent in their reporting of the exploits of Ben Hall and Co, were as well finding themselves in the firing line by local sympathisers. It resulted in attempts to not only threaten but to intimidate them against reporting the gang’s or their associates activities. These local supporters and friends of the bushrangers often were acting as spies and telegraphs for the gang, as well as helping to fence the gang's stolen plunder or were themselves recipients of the pinched goods as payment for harbouring. These shysters were somewhat shy of publicity. Therefore, the possibility of being implicated in the press and subsequently drawn to the police's attention brought unkown written threats forwarded to the correspondents; 'The Empire' newspaper, 22nd April 1863, in this instance the correspondent is unknown; "last mail but one I received an anonymous scrawl of a threatening nature, purporting to be from some of the bushranging fraternity, though at the same time I don't believe it, as I think those anti-respectable individuals have got enough to do just now to hold their own; but if any of them did write it, I have the honour to inform them that I have an excellent revolver at their service; and, if necessary, I will not hesitate a moment in repeating the dose so effectually administered by that worthy magistrate, Robert Lowe, Esq., to the Mudgee bushranger. But I believe in my heart that the vile scrawl in question was in reality written by a still viler inhabitant of this district, simply to annoy me, who may thank his extreme caution, and not his scoundrelism, for being out of the strong grasp of the law so long as he has been..." 

Author's Note: Robert Lowe, J.P. shot dead a bushranger near Barney's Reef, Mudgee in April 1863 after he and his servant were bailed up. Lowe shot one of the two bushrangers with a shotgun in the throat and after riding a short distance the offender fell from his horse and died. Lowe was declared a hero and in 1875 was presented with a gold medal for his bravery.

However, on the other hand the police contrary to some reports were not exactly idle in their determination for a fight and at times were frustrated by the continuing Cone of Silence preventing their efforts to trace Ben Hall. Innumerable forays into the scrub were conducted by the mounted troopers, exiting from towns such as Yass, Young, Forbes and Cowra. Furthermore, the police had begun adopting Sir Frederick Pottinger's instructions of wearing disguises in the form of bushman's or stockman's clothing. Pottinger's instigation of this form of dress was based on his thought that if you wish to seek the enemy, you must dress like the enemy so that the bushrangers would face a dilemma in deciphering friend from foe. (A folly seen even today.) Moreover, another factor in exchange for success was the very real thought by the troopers of the possible life-changing monetary rewards incumbent on the heads of the gang members. Such as John Gilbert, whose value was £500 if captured. Dead or Alive. There was no moral ambiguity in 1863 and killing a bushranger was just as good as taking one alive; 'The Empire', 22nd April 1863; "a portion of our patrol, consisting of Messrs. Swan, Hughes, Foley, and M'Gill, started early this morning well disguised and strongly armed, upon a secret expedition, consequently further particulars are unknown at present; but good luck attend them, and may they capture one, if not both of the £500 prizes. A subdivision of this nice little sum would help considerably to soften their hard life of late; for, without exaggeration, I can safely assert that for some weeks past almost their whole time has been spent in the bush and saddle, and I'm sure I need not inform the contented and comparatively luxurious citizens of Sydney that eight or ten consecutive nights in the wilder and colder parts of the Weddin and Abercrombie Mountains, with nothing but a saddle for a pillow, and the stars and sky for a quilt or counterpane, is not so very pleasant after all..." Informants! In every walk of life there are those who for one reason or another appraise opportunities for easy money by informing on others. The bounty hunters of America in the late 1800's made this their main source of income often seeking information in a brutal way, however, Australia over this same period never saw the formation of bounty hunters, here, the apprehension of criminals fell directly at the constabulary's feet. Nevertheless, the police occasionally held a suspect of, or an acquaintance of bushrangers and with the right pressure they became a turn coat for a large portion of an existing reward. Therefore, police had on a number of occasions attempted to place people, often fringe characters, in a position for the gathering of information regarding the movements or camps utilised by Ben Hall, or even affect a capture. Unfortunately, it had not been widely successfull. However, as mentioned above in some horse trading with persons facing lengthy prison terms or in receipt of stolen goods, the police saw an opportunity to offer blood money and some willingly accepted, such as Daniel Charters. If only these mens participation could be kept confidential? In 'The Empire' of 26th April 1863, this confidentiality, unfortunately, failed as the newspaper had information it claimed was from a sound source that an informer of sorts had been incorporated into a mounted police patrol. As bad as this error in judgement was, it would not be the first time a delinquent attempted to score a reprieve from the chain gang and line his pockets!;[sic] GARDINER AND HIS COMPANIONS;-"we understand the police authorities are confident that an expedition now out searching the haunts of these ruffians will return with some of them in safe custody. A person familiar with Gardiner and his mates in criminal acts as a guide, and the police are commanded by one of the most efficient officers in the force..."

In this case, the informer that the reporter alluded to earlier was no doubt a newly recruited Trooper, Charles Zahn who had been under arrest at Bathurst Gaol for fraud. Zahn was a noted career criminal and a known cohort of the recently hung John Peisley, and close friend of Frank Gardiner. Zahn was also known to use the alias' of Burgess and Herring. Furthermore, Trooper Charles Burgess/Herring/Zahn's friendship with Frank Gardiner/Christie dated as far back as to March 1851 when both men had escaped together from the Pentridge Stockade in Victoria. Zahn was born Charles Herring in Egypt as per his escape notice from Victoria referring to his being Egyptian.
Escape 1851

Moreover, the police regarded Zahn as a worthy cause to assist in their effort to curb the Lachlan bushrangers. History records that Charles Zahn had arrived in Australia as a 3 yr old in 1824, on board the ship 'Sir George Seymour' with his parents, arriving at Point Henry, Geelong Victoria. Moreover, before Zahn's eleventh-hour enlistment into the NSW police force, the career criminal had been brought up before the courts on umpteen occasions covering charges varying from giving false information, highway robbery, theft, obtaining money under false pretences. However, on the 28th November 1862, Zahn who had for an Egyptian the luck of the Irish had not provoked suspicion regarding his connection to being wanted as an escaped convict from Victoria. Subsequently, while Zahn was held in custody for fraud, he had brought to the attention of the police his close acquaintance with Gardiner, Gilbert and others, whereby, Zahn virtually bragged that he could get them quickly. Therefore, Zahn was able to sweet talk his way into the NSW police on those very grounds, that being that he could give the authorities Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert on a platter. Suddenly, Zahn was a police trooper, and his first foray was in the success of capturing Henry Gibson and almost John Gilbert, Ben Hall and John O'Meally in April 1863. (Zahn would be eventually dismissed from the police for stealing a valuable pistol from Capt. Battye, the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree).

"Roll up Roll up"
Nevertheless, as bushrangers of opportunity, the need for funds for payoffs was always paramount. These payoffs constituted monies for food and shelter, even amongst family. Therefore, Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John O'Meally stuck-up targets known to be less prone to resistance. As such the Chinese were singled out and were reviled by the majority of European's whereby they were considered fair game. The arrival of the Chinese hoards created widespread unrest in the gold diggings. The disorder had developed into riots, the result of which had the government introduce a £10 Chinese arrival Tax in Victoria and NSW. This was instigated to stem the flow of thousands embarking from China. However, wiley sea captains usurped the charge through disembarking those masses in South Australia predominately at Robe, whereby the miners on shank's pony trekked overland to the principal goldfields of both Victoria and NSW. As a result, the Chinese laboured in the more remote and hazardous areas of of Hall's territory and Burrangong's disused gold mines and claims. More often than not with no nearby law and order as the Chinese had a reputation for not offering any resistance to attack as such they became a piece of cake for the bushrangers and other ruffians to rob and were even killing them didn't raise an eyebrow;; 'The Empire' newspaper 7th April 1863;

YOUNG. [FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.] April 7th 1863.-"Sticking-up continues to a very alarming extent, notwithstanding the steps taken by the Government to check it, and the presence of Captain Zouch does not seem to have had any effect, apparently, on the lawless depredator. My telegram on Saturday informed you of that sticking-up, at Little Wombat, of about fifty Chinamen; the attack upon them was made at about nine o'clock on Friday morning, but at present little is known of the affair, as the Chinese are averse to speak of the matter; but it is believed they were robbed to a very large extent. The Chinese are little prepared to act on the offensive against armed men, and it is a matter for the serious consideration of the Government as to whether steps should not be taken to procure them better protection from attack from the lawless class of men now infesting the district; for the camp of the Chinese is away from European dwellings, and some miles from any town or police station, and therefore, in the event of any resistance being shown, the probability is that many lives might be sacrificed by the plunderers in order to secure booty."

Following sparodic robberies surrounding Cootamundra the press reported that there appeared to be little activity or upto date news of Ben Hall and Co.’s activities and that they once again kept a low profile; 'The Empire' 2nd May 1863; "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..." However, another reporter wrote regarding a spate of recent robberies in the gold district of the Burrangong having been perpetrated by person’s unknown. Who, unlike Ben Hall, Gilbert, O'Meally and Fred Lowry were in the habit of employing face coverings as a means of non-identification. Whereas those mentioned above refrained from the custom of wearing disguises at all; "the older members of this abominable corps, such as Gilbert, J. O'Meally, Hall, Lowry, &c., have so many certain convictions hanging over them as to prompt them to dispense with all facial disguise, as being in their case perfectly useless..."⁹⁷

NSW Police Gazette,
April 1863.
As Ben Hall desisted from bailing up locals the 'Goulburn Herald' reported an arrest of none other than Bridget Hall's paramour, the man for whom she had deserted Hall for, James Taylor. Taylor was nabbed near the Fish River. Here his sister Mary Fogg and some extended family resided. In a case of police pursuing every lead Inspector Pottinger out on another patrol spied Taylor droving a draft of cattle, Pottinger considered suspicious. Upon investigation, Taylor's explanation was insufficient. Therefore the inspector detained him on suspicion of cattle duffing. Pottinger had continued to maintained the belief that people such as the Taylor's were of 'low character'. As such his frustration even fury over the failure to apprehend Hall & Co was on a knife-edge; as a result, it was enough for Pottinger to apprehend one of those he considered that 'class of people'; HIGHWAY ROBBERY. -"At the police office, Forbes, on May 5th, James Taylor, who had been captured by Sir F. Pottinger and the police at the Fish River, was again brought up on remand. The depositions taken at Cowra were put in and read. Several charges of cattle-stealing and highway-robbery were therein alleged to have been committed by him, but the proofs were not forthcoming. Sir Frederick Pottinger applied for a remand of seven days, which was granted. Mr. Redman and Mr. James appeared for the prisoner."⁹⁸ Once more Pottinger was unhappy with the bench and was vigorously attempting to gather the proof needed, unfortunately, James Taylor would be released for lack of evidence. Over the next fifteen years, members of Taylor's family would be brought before the court on various charges, along with the Fogg's. The charge against Taylor was ultimately dismissed.

A representation of
ladies traveling by buggy.
c. 1860's.
On the 9th May 1863, after a short recess, Ben Hall remounted his stead in company with John O'Meally and another John Jameison and bailed up one more gallant police inspector robbing him of all his valuables. The incident was reported in 'The Sydney Morning Herald' the following week; ROBBERY OF SUB. INSPECTOR SHADFORTH;-"On Saturday, Sub-Inspector Shadforth, stationed at Bogolong, in the Lachlan district, with a stockman, offered to show two ladies who were making their way in a buggy to Forbes, a short distance on the road; after proceeding a mile Shadforth's horse bolted a short distance into the bush, when he came upon three men who leveled their guns and revolvers at him and ordered him to dismount. They were Ben Hall, John O’Meally, and another not known. (John Jameison) Hall held a revolver at Shadforth's head while one searched him, taking his money, watch, rug, saddle, bridle, and horse, telling him to proceed with the ladies. He returned to camp today somewhat chagrined."⁹⁹ At the time of the robbery Inspector Shadforth was in charge of the Pinnacle Police station. A postscript of the gallant inspector's ordeal appeared in 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' on the 16th May 1863; "it seems strange that the gallant sub-inspector should have selected a bodyguard of Amazons to protect him in his pursuit of the enemy; and still stranger that his charger should have bolted with him straightway into the hostile camp. It must have been a very knowing kind of horse, possibly one trained for the exploit, and subsequently disposed of to the gallant officer with a view to this little adventure. Verily our bush commanders are being played with like children by the joke-loving desperadoes..." The ridicule of Inspector Shadforth over his encounter with Ben Hall prompted the following clarification in the press, in what could only be construed as a case of spin to prevent any loss of respect by the general public for the Inspector; 'Lachlan Miner' 3rd June 1863; THE LATE STICKING UP OF SUB-INSPECTOR SHADFORTH;- "In our account of this rather funny case of bushranging, we unintentionally committed some blunders, which are quite as well corrected, now that we know the truth; Mr. Shadforth was not escorting the ladles; but, while exercising his horse, had merely accidentally joined them, Mr Charles Mylecharane, with a stockman, was showing Mrs Rawsthorne and Miss Morris a shortcut through the bush; but Mr Ben Hall and his mates molested no one except the police officer, though the leader inquired who the ladies were...”

Author's Note: John Jamieson, son of the aforementioned late Mr William Jamieson, who was critical of Sir Frederick Pottinger when he penned the letter over the burning of Ben Hall's home, would later be identified as the 'not known' bushranger in the holdup of Shadforth. Jameison would eventually be tried in September 1863 during the same court appearance as O'Meally's first cousin Patrick Daley where both faced sentences of fifteen years hard labour on the roads. Unfortunately for Jamieson, the fall from grace had harsh ramifications; 'Otago Daily Times';[sic] "...Jamieson and Daley, bushrangers, had been convicted at Goulburn. It is not often that the old adage "Honesty the best policy" receives so forcible an illustration as is supplied by the following item of news contained in the telegrams - "John Jamieson, the bushranger who has been sentenced to fifteen years on the roads is heir to £22,000 by the recent death of his father. The money will pass to the Crown." That is equal in today's terms, to $1.9 million. However, interestingly is the fact that young Jamieson's mother was the older sister of James Taylor's lawful wife, Emma Downer whom he deserted for Bridget Hall. The Jamieson's family property at Back Creek was a day's ride from Ben Hall's station. Moreover, the issue surrounding the inheritance is erroneous in the extreme as Jamieson had some younger siblings, he being the eldest. Therefore, any inheritance would naturally be divided according to Mr Jameison's Will. The act of primogeniture where the first born inherits all was not relevant to Australian law. (See Gang page)

S.M.H. 21st May 1863.
Time and time again Inspector Pottinger demonstrated his indefatigable zeal in the bush while hard on the trail of Ben Hall, whereby, the inspector fired off another series of telegrams to the Inspector General; 16th May 1863“This minute received message subjoined from acting sub-inspector, Messrs. Young. Yesterday evening, 15th, three bushrangers, supposed to be O'Mealy, Gilbert and Hall, robbed the store of Mr Barnes, of Cootamundra. This confirms the report of my last telegram of this morning that the bushrangers had doubled back out of this district towards the levels, and shows the extraordinary rapidity of their movements. Sub-inspector Morrow and party are out in that vicinity." This was quickly followed by another telegram which showed the speed and distance that Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally were travelling in their avoidance of the troopers, and the preparedness of the bushrangers by planting fresh horses along with their well-known escape routes. The current series of communications and information being transmitted also confirms the previous evidence that 'The Darkie' had long since relinquished his command and had bolted from the haunts frequented by the gang. Consequently, the majority of offences were being perpetrated by Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John O'Meally. The mention of Jameison below is interesting as he is the son of the deceased Mr Jameison who wrote in protest of the police setting a match to Hall's home and was one who Hall had known since he was a small boy due to Ben's friendship with his father William Jameison.(See note above); "tracked Hall, O’Meally, and Gilbert to Strickland's stockyard and recovered Mr. Shadforth's horse and two others; the fugitives pushed on, taking three fresh horses; but, tracks being spoiled by muster of horses at station, relinquished pursuit to parties out in immediate vicinity, and returned to Forbes by Wheogo, picking up at latter place Sanderson and party, and Mr. Superintendent M'Lerie, (son of the Inspector General) who that morning, with Superintendent Zouch's approval, left Bogolong with Sanderson and men. The police of the district tracked the bushrangers sixty miles in twenty-four hours, recovering two relays of stolen horses besides other property; one of the horses was stolen from Mr Roberts's training stable, near Burrangong, £50 being offered for his recovery. The accounts in the papers false; neither Gardiner or Lowry are, or have been for months in this district. Hall, O’Meally, Gilbert (with perhaps Jamieson) are the only three who are still actively at large and have been doing all the robberies lately about Young, Yass, Wagga Wagga, &c., &c. They are probably making back by the Levels, towards the Flat and the Fish River. Permanent police stations absolutely wanted on the Fish River, and towards the Levels. Spell here for two or three days, and then return with Superintendent M'Lerie (with your sanction) to Young, to their personal concert measures with Superintendent Zouch..."¹⁰⁰

NSW Police Gazette
The description fits
Fred Lowry
 & Ben Hall.
Editors of newspaper relied on information telegraphed through their correspondents. However, the vast array of those correspondents were local residents with their finger on the pulse of their district who reported a whole slew of local happenings or locals of distinction or interesting events. They covered the weather, gold strikes, unrest and in its present state of lawlessness the frequent cases of bushranging. With so many acts being perpetrated the correspondents were struggling first with the volume, then with verifying the pieces of information and its authenticity regarding the people accosted and the identity or description or name of those carrying out the audacious acts. As a result, many robberies being attributed to Gardiner were in fact conducted by Ben Hall, John Gilbert, John O'Meally and Fred Lowry. In some instances the bushrangers worked alone or in pairs, or as a threesome or all together. The draw of Gardiner's reputation throughout NSW limited many reporter's understanding that 'The Darkie' had long fled NSW. Furthermore, any exciting information regarding bushrangers inevitably incorporated Gardiner's presence. The lack of physical conformation didn't help the reporters in their ability in disseminating fact from fiction. Subsequently, travellers were giving descriptions beyond all doubt as to Gardiner's presence during hold-ups at townships and stores and along roadways in the Lambing Flat-Lachlan region, where citizens were convinced of Gardiner's presence even though time, distance and place meant his ability to cover the ground claimed must have been superhuman, as noted in the press; "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..,”¹⁰¹ or possibly the reporters of the bushranger’s crimes enjoyed the notoriety that these supposed Gardiner sightings brought. (an affliction which is seen even today with everyone wanting celebrity status with Facebook, Twitter and the like!) Sir Frederick Pottinger even realised that Gardiner was not involved in the current spat of depredations as noted in Pottinger's previous telegrams, as well as in this example of Gardiner's presence from the 'Empire' (below), where sightings of Gardiner where almost always reported as fact;

The Shamrock & Thistle Inn
Bowning, built 1840. 

One of the many Hotels
in the Gang's area. 
GARDINER AND HIS GANG NEAR YASS. - "Very little authentic information has recently been current respecting the movements of Gardiner and the more notorious characters with whom he is associated. Almost the last scrap of news apprised us that the "General," and Johnny Gilbert were scouring the bush near Jugiong, after having stuck up Mr Barnes' store, an account of which outrage appeared on the 29th April in our columns. On Wednesday last, Gardiner, in company with Lowry, Johnny Gilbert, and O'Meally, again appeared upon the scene, and, as far as it is prudent to enter into particulars, the following are the circumstances connected with their appearance:- It would seem that a little before daylight on the morning we have mentioned, while the Gundagai mail was near Bowning, four men, well mounted, and equally well armed, passed through the township at a leisure pace, and owing to their appearance those who saw them considered that they were a party of police on patrol. The same horsemen subsequently passed the Binalong mail before it reached Bowning on its upward journey, and in the vehicle there happened to be a passenger who well knew the four equestrians, whom he at once recognised as Frank Gardiner, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Lowry. The horsemen passed on without interrupting the progress of the mail but were sufficiently near to enable the passenger, who had upon a previous occasion been stuck-up by Gardiner and Gilbert, and who knew the other two equally well by sight, to recognise and identify the four men beyond all doubt. On the arrival of the mail at Binalong, information was given to the police, and word was passed on to Murrumburrah and Lambing Flat for troopers. Senior-sergeant Brennan, with constables O'Mara and Costoley, of the police stationed at Yass, on receiving intelligence of the circumstance, started off for the purpose of scouring the bush. Since then many rumours have been afloat, to most of which we should be sorry to give currency. It is, however, generally believed that the four horsemen were seen near Yass, subsequent to meeting the Binalong mail. All the men are described as being mounted on fine upstanding horses, admirably fit for speed and endurance. At the off side saddle-bow of each a double barrelled gun was slung with the muzzle resting in a leather bucket, and in each man's belt was a brace of Colt's revolvers. Gardiner is described as being dressed in a drab coat, the same coloured hat, and Napoleon boots.”¹⁰²

Fred Lowry
As had been well established earlier, by May 1863, Frank Gardiner had well and truly departed the Western Districts of NSW, and had entered the state of Queensland. However, reports of his being apart of the gang were continuing to be circulated by contrast to Ben Hall’s participation. as recounted in this article of the gang’s movements when being pursued by Snr. Sgt. Brennan through the Yass district after the robbery of Inspector Shadforth on the 9th May 1863. This report also highlights the fatigue and relentlessness and hardships of the police, from the ‘Empire’, Tuesday 19th May 1863, and recounts the police tracking of the gang from the 12th May 1863;- RETURN OF SENIOR-SERGEANT BRENNAN AND HIS PARTY.- On last Wednesday afternoon, says Saturday's Yass Courier, "Senior-sergeant Brennan, accompanied by constables Mara and Hale, returned to Yass after a week's search for Gardiner, Lowery, Gilbert, and O'Mealey, whom we reported as having been seen early on the morning of the previous Wednesday on the Port Phillip Road, near Bowning Hill, The police at Yass first received information late in the evening of the last mentioned day, and early next morning started in the direction of the place where the marauders had been seen. The bush in the direction of Wargiela and the neighbourhood was well scoured but without any trace of the wanted parties. A clue, however, was at last obtained, and there remained then no doubt that the four bushrangers had after meeting with the Binalong mail turned off under Bowning Hill, passed at the back of Mr Cusack's, Belle Vale, made the Yass River and crossed not far from its junction with the Murrumbidgee.

The police after making some necessary arrangements for the pursuit, took the course which had been disclosed by the information received, crossed the Murrumbidgee, touched on the Coorradigbee and well searched the country towards Tumut. From thence they in part retraced their steps, crossed the river near Taemas, and obtained a clue that the fugitives had been seen twenty miles ahead of them, making towards Queanbeyan. To that direction, the sergeant and his party directed their chase and followed it to the borders of Jingery, where the trace was lost. Unfortunately, Mr Brennan had by this time become almost perfectly blind from exposure to the humid night atmosphere in the ranges but luckily met with Captain Battye with a party of police and two black trackers who were prepared to follow the scent. After the second time that the Murrumbidgee was crossed, Mr Brennan could learn at various stages confirmatory statements of the passage of the bushrangers, although acting with great caution they avoided calling at any places for refreshment. They were provided with hobbles, quart pots, and provisions, travelling by night, and camping in some secluded spot by day. At several places, the police came upon their camps and found the remains of a repast, with tracks of four horses having been turned out in hobbles. As the pursuit was taken up and will be followed in earnest, it is probable that it will not turn out fruitless. Considering the great difficulties encountered and the scant information which kept up the thread of the tracking, Sergeant Brennan and his party are entitled to much praise for their perseverance and ingenuity. They returned to Yass by the way of Bungendore, Brookes' Diggings, and Bungonia." Sadly for Brennan the trail tracked was well wide of the mark as the bushrangers had doubled back and again appeared in the vacinity of Cootamundra.

As Brennan continued battling the elements on the 16th May 1863, Mr Thomas Barnes of Cootamundra, once more suffered the unfortunate fate of being called on again by Ben Hall, Gilbert and John O'Meally who without delay helped themselves to over £200 of goods and equipment. The 'Sydney Morning Herald', report of the robbery also confirmed that Gardiner, as had previously been reported in the press, had not been present at the earlier robbery of Barnes on the 21st April 1863; "Barnes' store, at Cootamundra, was stuck up yesterday evening by three armed men, supposed to have been Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Hall. They took away with them £200 worth of property. This store was stuck up by the same party very recently when £8 worth of property was stolen..." After Brennan's unsuccessful pursuit and shortly after the raid on Barnes' store the gang held up a Mr Frank near Yass on 17th May 1863. It is interesting to note here that the insitgation of the 'Money Order System' was starting to be widely employed; "Mr Frank, of Yass, had recently a rencontre with bushrangers near Sharpening Stone Creek, about five miles from Yass. Finding he had not more than thirty shillings about him in cash they did not think it worthwhile to rob him. The increased action of the Money Order Office in the interior is already telling against the trade of highwaymen. People travelling on the roads do not carry so much money with them in cash as they used to do..."

Sub Insp Brennan
c. 1870's
The police's continuing efforts in apprehending bushrangers, however, constituted a two-pronged strategy. The first was to bring the freebooters to justice. The second was the reaping of rewards offered to the troopers for their efforts. These rewards, some of which were of a considerable sum, would be paid to police troopers who had the good fortune to apprehend or even shoot dead any bushrangers with such a bounty on their heads. Such as John Gilbert who had £500 for his capture. These rewards were paid in addition to their officer's annual salary as reported of Senior Sgt Patrick Brennan's good fortune on 21st May 1863. Sgt Patrick Brennan was stationed at Yass and had earlier shot dead a bushranger in February 1863; Yass, February 28th, 1863"Saturday, evening. — two bushrangers went to a public-house a few miles from this town, last evening; with a view of rifling it. Sergeant Brennan happened to be at the house. The bushrangers recognised him, and attempted to get away. Brennan fired on them, and shot one dead. Subsequently, he captured the other and brought him to the lock-up today."¹⁰³ However, Brennan was not a policeman to be trifled with, as shortly before the incident that saw the shooting death of the bushranger in question the Sergeant had settled a difference with a chap named Coady for wasting his time outside the 'Telegraph Inn' at Yass; “Coady began to talk big about his prowess, delicately apprising the police that on two occasions, while at home, he had despatched a "peeler" to his long home; and afterwards expressed a desire to give Sergeant Brennan "a throw for a pound." Brennan, happening to be in the humour, accepted the challenge. Mr Coady found that he had pitched on the wrong man, the sergeant doubling him up "like a cod in a pot" in the course of a couple of minutes. Thus ended a case of misleading the police and its consequences..."¹⁰⁴ Brennan would soon after be promoted to Sub Inspector for his successes and tireless and courageous efforts. "Senior Sergeant Brenan, of Yass, who has recently displayed great activity in apprehending a number of desperate characters, has been presented by the Government with the sum of £20 ($1680 today) from the Police Reward Fund, in acknowledgment of his services."¹⁰⁵ An article appearing in the 'Sydney Morning Herald', 2nd May 1863, is interesting, as it states that in the district of Yass alone, which, Ben Hall was plundering at will, provides a good insight of the bushrangers wide and varied potential victims. Victims from which Ben Hall was able to resupply knocked up horses or the need for additional clothing, food and firearms; In the entire police district of Yass there are 472 owners of land exceeding one acre. The population numbers 4425 persons, thus it follows that nearly every ninth person in that district is possessed of a freehold.
Painting Yass township c. 1854, 
St Clements Anglican church foreground
Note, no spire, added in 1857. Rossi St looking SW.
Ben Hall and John O'Meally were being seen and reported everywhere by nervous troopers, who although in the majority of situations when confronted by bushrangers showed exemplary courage, some troopers though were more prone to exaggeration in their efforts, as in this jolly report from the 'The Sydney Morning Herald', 25th May 1863, regarding an incident of a most humorous nature, as follows; Emu Hunting: The Police at Fault. - The other day, according to the Lachlan Miner, Neilson and Chambers, both troopers, were brought up at the Police Office, Forbes, by Sir Frederick Pottinger, on a charge of misdemeanour, and laying a wrong information to the police. Sir Frederick Pottinger deposed that the prisoners started from the Forbes barracks on Friday last for Eugowra, a distance of twenty-six miles, to meet the escort; and on Friday night, between half-past nine and ten, prisoner Chambers rode up to his (Sir Frederick Pottinger's)   quarters, and informed him that, as he and prisoner Neilson were riding between Roger's public-house and Eugowra, Neilson being about 100 yards ahead, he heard from fifteen to twenty shots; he rode up as quickly as he could, but his horse being fagged, he could not get him beyond a walk; he saw no bushranger, but Neilson's horse was bleeding from wounds on the neck; Neilson told him that five armed bushrangers had asked him for his jacket, and he (Neilson) had, of course, refused; one of the bushrangers then said, " I'm ------ if you take that horse into town," and fired; Neilson then exchanged shots with them. Chambers further reported to Sir Frederick that he had found traces of blood close up to the Southern Cross, and prisoner stated that he believed two of the men to be John O'Meally and Ben Hall, and concluded by expressing a hope that he would be kept in the district, as he would like to have a go-in at the rascals. Prisoner had evidently been drinking, and he was told to hold himself in readiness to accompany the police out when the moon got up. About one o'clock Mr. Sanderson, two troopers, the tracker, and the prisoner Chambers were sent in quest. Mr. Sanderson returned the same night with the prisoners, but without any information about bushrangers. On the information of Chambers, Sir F. Pottinger deposed to despatching orders to Bogobogolong, the Pinnacle, and other police stations, which orders, on the return of Mr. Sanderson, had been cancelled. Prisoner Neilson here stated that he was drunk at the time, and he did not know what he was doing. Prisoners were at this stage remanded for three days. Bail allowed themselves in £80 each, and two sureties in £40 each. This case (adds the Miner) appears to have arisen out of a love of nobblers and the chase. Mr. Neilson, who rode a good horse, saw an emu, and feeling in himself equal to anything, he turned and fired at the bird. An unsteady hand, however, caused the bird to escape, and the charger to suffer. We hardly know which most deserves trouncing- the emu-shooter or his mate, who came to Forbes and told the lies for him.

This article appeared in the 'Bathurst Free Press' on the 16th May 1863, soon after the above episode and tells a more enlightening story of the events with the daring bushranger Emu, as follows; "A CASE" VERY NEARLY GOT UP BY TWO MOUNTED POLICEMEN.-"The following is on extract (kindly handed to us for publication) from a letter received by a gentleman in Bathurst. It is a fine illustration of the fitness for duty of the officials to whom the protection of our lives and property has been committed. The incidents related are amusing; but there is something in the concoction about the bushrangers which indisposes us to treat it with ridicule. Had the affair ended with an escape from the attack of their long-legged visitor, we might have looked at it in the light of a good joke, and have spoken of it accordingly; but when well mounted troopers, armed at every point, convert a pet emu into eight bushrangers, and a journey of fifty miles is undertaken for the purpose of depriving honest men of their liberty, it goes beyond a joke, and ought to draw the attention of the authorities for the purpose of investigation. "Joe," the hero of the tale, we ought to remark, is a large pet emu belonging to the brother of the gentleman who has favoured us with the extract, which is as follows: -" Joe (the Emu) has had a great lark and tremendous battle, in which he has come off victorious. He followed the bullock driver when out looking for bullocks; when they got to Marara Plains they saw two policemen, whose white caps and shining accoutrements attracted Joe's attention, so that he made up to them for inspection. The police charged him, when the bullock driver called to them not to hurt him as he was my pet emu; it they heard, they did not heed, and one of them fired, Joe did not mind the report, as he is well use to the cracking of stockwhips, he kept on running close to their horse’s heads; - two other shots were fired, with same effect, so far as Joe was concerned, not so the constable's horse, the last ball having taken effect in his neck. The two policemen came to their barracks much excited, saying that they had been attacked by eight bushrangers, who had shot the horse, one of them galloped to Forbes (nearly 36 miles), and reported the attack. Four troopers came out, but the yarn was too lame, added to which the bullock driver and Billy Lambert saw the whole fun. When he heard the story he went to inquire the truth of the matter, and saw the mark of the powder on the horse's mane and neck. The men were both arrested and taken to Forbes. No doubt they would have sworn to the tale of the bushrangers if it had not been proved to the contrary.  "Joe" came home this morning as well as ever."

Sanderson c. 1896
With the police chasing Emu's and other troopers seeing Ben Hall, O'Meally and Gilbert almost behind every tree, another case of police frustration over Ben Hall reared its head when none other than the well-respected Sgt Sanderson was charged for attacking the house of one Margaret Allport at Forbes which was printed in 'The Lachlan Miner' 24th June 1863 as follows; "The Lachlan Miner of June 24 gives us a rather amusing account of the freaks of inspector Sanderson, of the police force. It appears the gallant inspector was charged before the Police Magistrate with going to the house of one Margaret Allport, drunk and threatening to burn it down. He first said, he was a bushranger, Ben Hall, then O’Meally; he broke in the door, smashed some crockery and then made a tour of inspection through the sleeping rooms, dragged one man out of bed by the hair, &c. The bench however, did not believe that Mr. Sanderson intended to burn the house, and decided that the action was stale from effluxion of time, three weeks having elapsed, and concluded by this remarkable observation—"The police had a very onerous duty to perform, and, in carrying out their instructions, did no doubt at times bring about some in convenience. The defendant paid for the crockery..." If the onerous duty of the police consists in following Sanderson's example, we think the sooner they are relieved of it the better".

NSW Police Gazette of
M'Connell's hold-up June 1863.
Nevertheless, the NSW police were now under constant pressure to achieve the arrests of the bushranger's, and were continually faced with trials and tribulations following the NSW Government being severely castigated over the lack of success coming on the back of the recent murders of Cirkel and McBride as well as being continually ridiculed by the press which created the perception in the public's mind of inaction and to a degree cowardice. Consequently, with the police flooding the Western districts the authorities would now endure the full force of the gang's rampage. The Lachlan bushrangers had now settled down to four main members, Ben Hall, John Gilbert, John O'Meally and Fred Lowry, however, at different times the gang would have unknown youths looking to lend a hand with a quick taste of the fast life. The burst of activity from Ben Hall, saw the gang opening fire and abusing the innocent citizens and businesses of the Burrangong Goldfields, and its wider area of Lambing Flat. Consequently, On the 9th June 1863, the gang would be reported attacking several stores at the Burrangong Goldfields, an event which had several unknowns reported in their company. Ben Hall and Co. on this occasion drew their revolver's and blazed away peppering a business with shot after shot at the sleeping occupants inside; 'The Sydney Morning Herald', Tuesday 9th June 1863; Young, Monday 8th June 6pm. "Last night there was a general attack made by bushrangers on several stores situated on the Main Creek. O'Brien's and McCarthy’s stores were stuck up. M'Connell's was also broken into, but before they succeeded in obtaining an entrance, the bushrangers actually fired sixteen bullets through the galvanized iron with which the store is built. A considerable sum of money and stores were taken. Heffernan’s public-house, distant about five miles, and Regan's, about twelve miles, were afterwards visited. Gilbert and O’Meally were recognised amongst the mob, which consisted of six or seven men." A correspondent arrived and then reported;[sic] "bushranging has again broken out in all its former audacity-in fact,-eclipsing any previous performances. M'CONNELL'S store, which bore the brunt of the attack, is perfectly riddled. I counted twenty-one bullet holes through the bedroom...” For the O'Connell's it was truly a close call and only through a miracle noone was killed, even a sleeping child! 'Courier' 24 June 1863; "O'Connells having shut up their store, and not feeling over desirous in coming in contact with armed bushrangers at that time of night. O'Connell, in spite of their threats to blow the place down, positively refused to let them in, and thereupon they fired upon the premises no less than twenty-one shots, all of which perforated through the walls, the material of which is of zinc manufacture, and passed into the premises, one of the bullets which was handed to me having passed through no less than four sheets of that material, and afterwards into adjoining premises over the head of a child, who miraculously escaped any injury, although the ball passed within a few inches of where it was sleeping. Failing in gaining admission after firing at the store, the party set to work to break in the front door, which was easily accomplished, and as resistance was now useless, and no police were at hand, one of the O'Connells, in reply to the demand of "Your money or your life," handed over the contents of tee cash-box (about £15). It is only surprising that some lives had not been sacrificed to the daring villainy of this gang - many bullets must have passed within a few feet and probably inches, of where the O'Connells were located in the store, two of them being there at the time, as they might reasonably have expected every minute to meet their death. A coat which belonged to one of them, and which was hanging up at the time, was entirely riddled with bullet holes, and how they escaped injury is a miracle..."

Typical Colt Cylinder
with percussion
cap nipples.
Furthermore, Ben Hall, as demonstrated above, was only too willing to pepper the premises of those who showed stubborn resistence to surrendering their valuables. A so-called 'Turkey Shoot'! Consequently, in firing his revolvers and only through providence was it that the recipients of those shots were not seriously wounded or killed. However, one of the greatest problem faced by the bushrangers and the NSW police for that matter was in their weapons misfiring. Weapon misfires were not uncommon and occurred for several reasons. The .36 calibre Colt 1851 Navy Revolver (.375–.380 inch), was the most commonly accessible pistol used by the bushrangers and police in NSW and was made easily available with the flood of American miners to the Australian goldfields from the mid-1850's. The Navy Colt 1851 required a round lead ball which weighed up to 80 grammes with a load of 30 grains of black powder, the bullet travelled when fired at a velocity of 1,000 feet per second. Revolver ammunition loads consisted of loose powder and a lead ball or bullet, mouldered in a lead bullet mould and then rammed home into the revolver's cylinder with the bullet round being ignited by a fulminate percussion cap applied to the nipples at the rear of the chamber. (see video link below)
This short video is a great illustration of how the bushrangers loaded their revolvers.

Reputed revolver of Ben Hall,
five shot, .31 calibre, 5" barrel
1849 Pocket Colt revolver.
Sighting of the revolver by the likes of Ben Hall consisted of viewing a tapered brass cone at the front of the barrel which acted as a sight and pressed into the muzzle end at the top of the barrel flat with a V notch at the back of the top of the hammer. In spite of the relative crudity of the sighting arrangement, these revolvers are generally quite accurate and damaging. Accordingly, the misfire of revolvers was quite common and was due to a number of factors such as; percussion caps not crimped to the nipple correctly, under loading of black powder, wet or damp chambers, the main lack of success in the firing of weapons does point to the under loading of the grains of black powder, which on the other hand, if the cylinder was overloaded could cause a cylinder explosion, or just plain percussion cap malfunction, this accounts for the many failures when fired. The safety catch for these weapons was to place the hammer between the nipples of the cylinder. It is also noted that Ben Hall and others carried multiple cylinders fully loaded and interchangeable. The Colt revolver was one of many types utilised by Ben Hall, who also sought the prized English Tranter double triggered and Adams revolvers. (For various types of weapons see link

NSW Police Gazette
 3 June 1863.
With Ben Hall holding sway around Lambing Flat once more at Ben's former childhood home another of his siblings, Edward Hall was arrested at Murrurundi for 'Compounding A Felony'.  (A criminal offence consisting of the acceptance of a reward or other consideration in exchange for an agreement not to prosecute or reveal a felony committed by another. Compounding a felony is encompassed in statutes that make compounding offences a crime.)

NSW Police Gazette
 11th June 1863.
However, after the robbery at M'Connel's, Ben Hall boasted that"they did not fear the police" who they said, "were afraid of them" and declared "that they would never be taken alive," in their own words, "that, as they knew they would have to swing - when taken, they would sell their lives as dearly as possible..."¹⁰⁶ Furthermore, the article also confirms the number in attendance at the earlier robberies to four, John Gilbert, John O'Meally, Ben Hall and Fred Lowry. However, what is most interesting about the time of these attacks is the fact that Ben Hall's younger brother Robert Hall had arrived in the Young area from Murrurundi and was reported on the 11th June 1863, of stealing a horse from Holkham near Young and then departed the area heading back in the direction of Murrurundi. Along with Robert Hall, Ben Hall also had at this time his older brothers, William Hall and Ben's half-brother Thomas Wade residing at the Pinnacle reef, gold mining. For the Police Gazette to name Robert Hall for theft at Young leads to the conclusion of contact between the brothers and possibly collusion in crime? Robert had only just been released from Maitland Gaol after serving a six months’ sentence for "Illegally using 2 bullocks the property of Alexander Brodie J.P. and Fred White J.P." It may also be that Robert had arrived from Murrurundi to possibly join his older brother Ben, but was dissuaded from bushranging or Robert had arrived on behalf of Ben's mother and father to possibly talk Ben Hall into returning home or surrendering?
Robert Hall Maitland Gaol Entrance Book December 1862
Police Gazette, the horse stolen by Robert Hall.
John Gilbert c. 1861.
Coloured by me.
This article appeared in the 'EMPIRE' covering the latest in bushranger atrocities in the Young District, June 9th, 1863; -Bushranging has again appeared in all its pristine vigour, and reckless audacity. Gardiner is being eclipsed by his more youthful lieutenant, Gilbert, who bids fair to obtain that great prize for which all the bush natives of this district are vying, namely, "the blue ribbon of the road," which confers the title of "Prince of Bushrangers." On Sunday night, about ten p.m., the stores on the lower part of the Main Creek in the vicinity of Possum Flat, were stuck up by Gilbert, and three others. The residents of this famed locality were about retiring to rest, when the quiet of the night was disturbed by a volley of firearms, discharged by these four ruffian. Now that "rolls up" are no longer the amusement of our population, revolvers are rather scarce. Consequently, that once great feature of a mining township - the continual report of firearms creates surprise. Henry's store first received the patronage of these ruffians, from whom they look a half chest of tea, and a lot of dress prints, no doubt, for their fair Marians; they next proceeded to O'Brien's store, and took £37; next visited a Mrs M'Carby, a poor widow who keeps a small store, whom they robbed of her wedding ring, and fifteen shillings. A man, who was in the store, had to "stump up four ounces sixteen dwte of gold, which he had on his person. But the great event of the evening was a brilliant affair, being nothing less than the bombardment of a galvanised iron store belonging to M'Connell and Co, containing a large stock, and from, which these systematic scoundrels expected a heavy haul. Having summoned the two men who sleep on the premises to surrender and open the door, which they refused to do, they opened their artillery on the sleeping room of these two unfortunates literally riddling it. No less then twenty-one shots having entered this room, how the besieged escaped death is a miracle. At length, fearing that the miners would be on them, they broke open the door, struck a light, ransacked the store, made up a select load of goods for their pack horses, took fifteen pounds that were in the till, and leisurely retired in good order, unmolested, proceeding down the Main Creek to Heffernan's public house, where they had drinks, taking with them a revolver, a silver watch, and seven bottles of brandy. They then visited Regan's Hotel, near White's station singing as they approached the house, the very appropriate song of "O'er the hills and far away." (See Gallery page for song or click the link below, a fun ditty.)
Such is a true and correct account of this said, of which I was, as far as the Flat is concerned, an eye witness. The camp being less than one mile from the scene of this outrage, a body of police arrived about midnight, being nearly an hour and a half after the robbers had decamped, (a strong proof of their alacrity and usefulness,) expressed their wonder at the bullet holes through the store. Looked for foot-prints, asked a lot of stupid questions, accompanying them with a sapient nod or a cunning look, but never attempted to move one step in pursuit of the ruffians.

Goldfield miners meeting.
c. 1863.
Courtesy NLA.
Why in heaven's name are the people of the colony taxed heavily to support such a useless, stupid, herd of fellows. On the Monday previous, Gilbert and Co., as I informed you, stuck up two stores, not one quarter of a mile from the camp, now they plunder four stores, and several men, less than one mile, and ride off with their booty without the slightest attempt being made to pursue them. That clever detective, Inspector Singleton asked why did not the miners keep fire-arms, and use them on the bushranger’s when they paid a visit, but never attempted to do what a man would do, follow them. We have been promised for some time back great performances by the police, well laid traps were being laid for the various gangs who infest the district; the police were gradually but surely "hemming them in," and in a few weeks would show what a plover fellow Superintendent Zouch was; when the word bushranger was used in the presence of the police, it was sure to evoke an expressive wink, or a sapient nod. But this pitiful humbugging has been rudely exposed, and the glorying incompetency of the present police force to repress this species of crime by the outrages committed by the gang of ruffians under the leadership of Johnny Gilbert.  Does it require more lives to be sacrificed ere the people of this district obtain that security for life and property which should be characteristic of every British community. I tremble for the consequences of another murder such as Cirkel’s. A retribution will follow that will strike terror to the heart if every ruffian who has outraged law and society, for the last eighteen months with impunity. The pent-up indignation of an outraged population will rush forth in such a stream as will carry before it the feeble barrier now existing between constituted authority and Judge Lynch. I will say no more, but utter a solemn warning to the Government, to be warned in time to take proper measures for the repression for this tide of crime before it is too late. A very cheap offer to capture Gardiner, Gilbert, and the other less distinguished members of this firm, was made by a goldfields official, whose plethora of pluck led him to accompany that brave body of police who visited the scene of action. The following is the offer verbatim-"I am a 72 inch native. If the Government will give me £1000, I will resign my gold commissionership, and guarantee to hand Gardiner over to them in one month, the others to soon follow."

I recommend this cheap offer to the earnest consideration of Mr. Cowper, as an easy way of ridding himself and us of so great an annoyance. I can give no guarantee, but I hope his native youth will not be like a Pottinger, a Norton, or Shadforth, great in words but contemptible in deed's. At all events as his energies appear to be misdirected, why not transfer him to the police force station, at the Weddin Mountains, and let him try his hand at thief catching.¹⁰⁷

NSW Colonial Secretary
Charles Cowper.
The Cowper Government, who were already facing a no-confidence motion in the NSW Parliament over the struggling reforms of the Police Act of 1862, and accusations over financial mismanagement faced the new June Parliamentary Sessions under the close scrutiny of the press, who brought the question of settler safety to the forefront as the likes of Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally with Gilbert reported to be leading the trio according to the press and where the gang were robbing stores and travellers at will by day and night the holding up at the many friends offering a safe harbour; THE approaching session of Parliament is no doubt looked forward to with great interest by an important section of the community the gentlemen with grievances. Prominent among these stand the people of Burrangong. For many months past they have almost enjoyed a monopoly of the terror and panic created by the bushrangers. The place seems to have become the headquarters of all the ruffians in the district. Making every reasonable allowance for exaggeration in the reports which have poured in upon us, there remains no room to doubt that life and property are utterly insecure. The most audacious outrages are still committed with impunity. There is hardly a store which has not been plundered. None of the ruffians who have gained so much vile celebrity have yet been brought to justice. The promise of their bright career remains as fresh and cloudless as ever. A short time ago, we were told that Government was in motion at last and that the fate of these scoundrels was decreed. Troops of police were to be despatched at once, and the whole district was to be effectually cleared. Days and weeks, however, have rolled away, and things remain just as they were. The police are as powerless, the bushrangers as bold and daring as ever. The local paper informs us of a series of outrages which, after all that has been said, may fairly be considered startling.

This is a frightful state of things; We appear to be surrounded by these desperadoes; the roads, in all directions, are infested with them; safe travelling is almost impossible; life and property are insecure; business of all kinds will, ere long, be completely paralysed; and what is done will have to be confined to the township alone. If this is to be the result of the famous New Police Act, the sooner it is repealed the better, for it appears to be a curse instead of a blessing to the colony. The ridiculous, military parade attached to it is looked upon with contempt. We do not attach the blame to the police. They are obliged to obey the orders they receive and do their duty. Even supposing they captured any of these noted robbers, the reward does not go to the individuals, but to the police fund. The heavy expense of the prosecution in attending the Criminal Courts, either in Goulburn or Sydney, fall upon them, for out of their small pay they must disburse it. The time has now arrived when some alteration in the police system must be effected. It is scarcely, necessary to add any comments of our own to this. At the outset, we prophesied the failure of the New Police Act. Every incident in connection with it has conspired to expose its fallacy. Eighteen months have now elapsed. We were told that the new system required time in order to develop the full bloom of its beauty. It has had time enough. There is nothing which can be urged in its favour, we trust, for the credit of the colony, that the approaching session will witness a radical alteration in its provisions."¹⁰⁸

This following article also appeared in the 'Empire', 13th June 1863, referring to Sir Frederick Pottinger's arrival at Young for a three-day race meeting at the same time as the bushrangers were looting the local town stores. It should be noted that Sir Frederick loved the races and in the future this passion would cost him dearly; "the three days races passed off very quietly, although the sport was very fair, and the attendance pretty numerous; yet the scarcity of money throw a damper on that hilarious spirit so necessary to enjoy a race meeting. Sir Frederick Pottinger, as usual, created much amusement by appearing on the race course with blankets, strapped on before him on the saddle; a quart pot, a pair of hobbles; and a pair of handcuffs, being artistically arranged around other parts of his saddle. His man Friday, (Dargin) in the shape of a black tracker, followed him. The who o, to use a much hackneyed phrase "forming a unique sight which must be seen to be fully appreciated..."

To the uninitiated the Australian bush was an unforgiving environment but for the Australian native-born bushranger the landscape was hearth and home however for the police many of whom were new recruits having immigrated from Ireland and England and even from America were virgins to the Australian landscape, this new chum naivety was true as well to other immigrants who often travelled alone whilst traversing the bush, and who were struck down by Australia's open vastness and limited settlements. A newspaper observed of the new police of NSW; "the troopers are, for the most part, unacquainted with the country, as a rule, the men were not good bushmen, nor were they good Bush riders, in fact, unless men were trained to bush riding they would never be good at it, for it was a very different thing from riding in the streets of Sydney..."¹⁰⁹ Their inexperience could be life threatening as was reported of a new immigrant miner crossing from one digging to another from a faraway land who lost his way. From the 'Pastoral Times' 9th June 1863; DEATH IN THE BUSH- "One of those too frequent cases, being lost in the bush, occurred some short time since beyond Booligal, on the plain between the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee rivers. A few days ago, the police at Booligal received information that the remains of a man were found on the plain, on preceding to the spot the bones of a human being were found, with a Passport in the German language, and a slip of paper, on which was written in pencil, "Died want of water" It is supposed the unfortunate deceased attempted to cross from river to river, and perished in the effort for want of water, This sad result should be a caution to others not to venture beyond a certain distance on dry plains.”

Ryan's Currawang Station
 stables. c. 1863.

Courtesy Young Witness.
On the 18th June 1863, Ben Hall with John O'Meally stole the racehorses Mickey Hunter and Chinaman from Mr Roberts Currawang station, who over the next few months would receive numerous raids for horses by the gang; "the last exploit that has occurred, or rather that we have heard of, is the entrance of the gang, well-armed, upon the premises of Mr. James Roberts, at Currawang, near Murrumburrah, on last Thursday evening, at seven o'clock. They forced an entrance into the stables, and rode off with two racehorses, Mickey Hunter and Chinaman. It is only a short time since the latter animal was stolen, and subsequently recovered by Inspector Shadforth..."¹¹⁰

NSW Police Gazette.
On the 21st June 1863, Ben Hall's associate, John Gilbert was reported as being involved in a murder. This time John Gilbert was named along with another of the gang, Fred Lowry. Gilbert and Lowry were the perpetrators of the murder of a miner named M'Bride, who was reportedly shot by Lowry when M'Bride was mistaken for a police trooper, it was stated due to his dress of Kneehigh boots and smart coats. O'Meally was not present. This was reported of Gilbert soon after the mortal wounding and death of Mr M'Bride; “I am credibly informed that the day after poor McBride's murder, Gilbert was carousing at an hotel, a few miles from Young, and there he showed a handsome revolver, which he said he would not take £50 for, as he had taken it from a bl--dy trap in fair fight. It seems that the unfortunate McBride always adopted the style and costume of a trooper out of uniform i.e., with revolver in belt, Bedford cord pants, and long polished boots, &c, hence the villain Gilbert's error is supposing him to be a policeman. A few days ago the Young patrol sighted Gilbert and another close to Regan's hotel (by-the-bye a station ought to be formed at or near this place); a chase ensued, but the robbers seemed to be so confident in their cattle that they were seen, Gilbert particularly, to reign up and mock the police, calling them traps, crawlers, &c. &c., which remarks were interspersed with the usual string of explicit but inelegant adjectives peculiar to the bushranging fraternity. Some hours after the Young patrol were seen returning, apparently quite knocked up, and, of course, without their prey...”¹¹¹

Croaker's Inn, NSW Police
Gazette, 8 July 1863.
A few days after Gilbert and Lowry had shot Mr M'Bride, who died after suffering many hours from the wounds inflicted upon him. O'Meally was reported at this time participating in a coach holdup in company with Ben Hall on Sunday, 28th June 1863. Here the pair robbed Gordon’s coach at Croaker's Inn; "a storekeeper's assistant was stopped while crossing the Main Creek, about half a mile from the town, about noon to-day by two armed men, well mounted. He was ordered to get off his horse and deliver up his cash..."¹¹²

NSW Police Gazette
8 July 1863.
On the 29th June, it was reported in the NSW Police Gazette of a perpetrator closely fitting Ben Hall's description, who was alone and riding the recently stolen racehorse 'Mickey Hunter' of robbing an employee of Young storekeeper Miles Murphy of 11½ dwt of gold, a £1 note and 27s in silver. (see article left)

The newspapers were now running hot with report after report of hold ups, consequently, it was also revealed that for the first time the bushrangers were taking an active part in limiting the new power of information regarding their exploits reaching authorities by destroying telegraphic lines; 'Sydney Mail', 4th July, 1863; "another precaution taken by the desperadoes on Sunday morning was that of cutting the telegraph wires which communicate with this district and the metropolis by way of Forbes, at a place about eighteen miles from Bogolong, and carrying away some portion of it, which accounts for my not getting my telegram through on Sunday; and there is no doubt that if the present state of things exists much longer telegraphic communication will be entirely stopped..." Soon the bushrangers were once more observed and chased by troopers;"about four days ago a certain Lambing Flat storekeeper went to Wombat to purchase gold; having been rather successful, he, under the existing state of the highway, naturally became anxious about his precious charge, consequently looked around for protection, when he fortunately espied trooper Murphy and three others proceeding towards Young. When near the Stony Creek, one of the police exclaimed: "By Jove there they are," looking in the direction pointed out, where, sure enough, were seen to be four bushrangers, viz., Gilbert, J. O'Meally, Lowry, and Hall. The rascals were on the side of a rather thickly timbered range, and were lying flat on their horse’s backs, gazing at their wished for prey (the storekeeper) and, I've no doubt, licking their lips and cursing their bad luck and the escort. However, Murphy and his mates dashed at them helter-skelter, over hill and dale, the troopers occasionally taking a snap shot with their carbines. The police, being pretty well mounted, for the first mile and a-half held their ground bravely, but ultimately got distanced and had to pull up with their cattle completely blown. An eye-witness informs me that the pace of the bushrangers' horses was tremendous, particularly Gilbert's Jacky Morgan, which went like the wind..."¹¹³

'The Darkey'
The Sydney newspaper 'Illawarra Mercury' reported the following tongue-in-cheek comment regarding the transfer of bushranging responsibilities from Frank Gardiner to John Gilbert in the South Western districts in July 1863. Gilbert in those first few months of teaming up with Ben Hall and John O'Meally, Gilbert would often be referred to in the press as the groups heir apparent and leader; DISSOLUTION OF PARTNERSHIP. "It appears that the famous bushranger, Gardiner, has somehow backed out of his bushranging business, and retired from public life, leaving his associate Gilbert at the head of the concern. "Bell's Life" in Sydney, not unhappily hits off this change in the following notice:- "The public is respectfully informed that, the partnership hitherto existing between Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert, and John O’Meally, 'Road Contractors,' trading in the South-Western districts under the style of 'Gardiner, Gilbert, and Co' was this day dissolved by mutual consent; and that the business will in future be carried on by the said John Gilbert and John O’Meally, as 'Gilbert and Company,' who will pay all debts of gratitude due by the late firm, and collect all outstanding accounts. In retiring from business, Mr Frank Gardiner begs respectfully to tender his acknowledgements to the Government for the 'liberal' measure of support (the new Police Act) accorded to him since he has been in business. Mr Gardiner has also to express his sincere thanks to his friends, the 'gentlemen' of the police, for patronage they have ('unwittingly') bestowed upon him, and solicits a continuance of that support for his successors, in whom he has every confidence that the business will be conducted by them with the same promptitude and energy that distinguished the late firm. "In reference to the above, Messrs. Gilbert and Company beg to assure their friends and the public generally that no exertion shall be wanting on their parts to merit a continuance of the confidence placed in the late firm of Gardiner, Gilbert, and Co. Messrs. Gilbert and Company respectfully announce that whilst diligently attending to the Mails, it will be their constant study to treat the females with every courtesy and gentlemanly consideration. "** Racehorses purchased or exchanged on liberal terms." N.B.-Gin, of the finest quality, supplied to travellers gratis. "Weddin Mountain, 6th July, 1863."¹¹⁴

Mrs Hammond.
 c. 1860.
However, following M'Bride's death, Ben Hall was reportedly unhappy with the circumstances surrounding this incident, which created friction in the gang. This callus action appeared to cause Ben Hall to suddenly separate from Gilbert, O'Meally and Fred Lowry and was alone for several weeks, most probably spending time with his brothers Robert, William and Thomas Wade near William's Pinnacle Reef gold mine, or visiting his sister Mary who resided in the Carcoar district, leaving the other three bushrangers to continue to conduct operations, where it was reported of Gilbert and O’Meally venturing south to Junee. Their raid was exposed on the 7th July 1863;[sic]“Gilbert and O'Mealley stuck up a store and public-house at Junee on Wednesday last. They got away with their plunder. The police are now in pursuit...” It was also during the same period that a new player unknown to the gang Daniel Morgan was commencing his appearances in the Wagga Wagga region. This report in the form of a letter from Mr. Hammond to the 'Sydney Morning Herald', regarding the Junee robbery dated 13th July 1863; MORE BUSHRANGING. -"On Saturday, last Mr. Gwyne, of the firm of Gwyne and Hammond, received from the latter gentleman a letter, in which he gave some particulars of the sticking up of a store at Junee, about twenty miles from Wagga Wagga, by Messrs. Gilbert and O’Meally. The letter is dated Junee, 7th July, and the passage referred to is as follows: -"It is but two hours ago, that the public-house store at Junee was stuck up by Gilbert and O’Meally, who robbed the place of goods and money to the amount of £50 or more. Mr. Howell was also bailed up, and Albert just went to the store while they were there, and got bailed up too He, however, went outside and gave the robbers the slip, running down here as fast as he could. (Albert is the brother of John Hammond) We got a horse and started. I got two men, each armed with a gun, and we went up to see if we could take them; but we were too late, as, when they missed Albert, they galloped away. It being quite dark, they could not be followed till morning, when expect the police will be too late. I got Arden to stop with Mrs. H., while I was away, but she would, however, rather have gone with me.

NSW Police Gazette.
2 September 1863.
I do not think they will visit us; but we are on the alert. These are the men who are supposed to have shot a digger a few days since at Lambing Flat. They are well mounted, and do not seem to stick at anything. I hope they will be taken, as no one is safe in this neighbourhood. They searched Albert, but got nothing; and it was fortunate they did not see him escape, or they would probably have shot at him." - John Hammond.

'Bail Up'
Moreover, with the death of M'Bride, saw one of Ben Hall's gang members, Fred Lowry depart the Lachlan and bolt back to familiar territory, the Abercrombie District, from there Lowry re-joined his old Abercrombie comrades Foley and Cummings who after re-joining they made their way to the foot of the Blue Mountains and on the 13th July 1863, the trio robbed the Mudgee Mail coach and made off with £5000 ($420,000) in cash, an eyewitness caught up in the robbery, Mrs Smith stated; "the coach was proceeding at a slow pace up a steep hill at the Dividing Range, near Coppertree River. She was riding, and Mr. Kater was walking about fifty or sixty yards behind the vehicle, when two horsemen made their appearance, and ordered the driver to stop. One of the men dismounted and placed a pistol at Mr. Kater's head, and ordered him to give up his money, watch, and revolvers", Mrs Smith continues, "... the coach was then driven about a quarter of a mile off the road into the bush. The bushrangers told Mrs. Smith not to be afraid, as they did not intend to molest her, and she remained seated in the vehicle during the whole time of the occurrence. She had about £50 in cash in her possession which the robbers did not interfere with, she does not think they were aware when they stopped the coach that the large packages of bank notes were in the boot, for after taking all his money and valuables from Mr. Kater, they commenced searching the mail bags; and at last coming to the banker's parcel, on cutting it open one of them took out some notes and counted six or seven, exclaiming "I have it." The other man, who had not dismounted, did not appear to notice this, or show that he understood what was referred to, the third man it appears was not seen by the driver or passengers until after the robbery had been effected, and they were leaving the place..."¹¹⁵ When Fred Lowry separated from Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally it was the last they would ever see of their compatriot, as within a few weeks after the Mudgee robbery, Fred Lowry would be shot dead by Senior Sergeant Stevenson on 29th August 1863 at Vardy's Inn, the Cook's Vale Creek, where Lowry's immortal last words were spoken "Tell 'em, I died Game". (see Gang page.)
Lambing Flat Goldfield.
Courtesy Young Historical Society.

The murder of M'Bride may have been behind the sudden split as there were reports of disagreements between Hall and Gilbert as to the conduct of operations or leadership, either way, Ben Hall bid adieu and Gilbert re-joined O'Meally. However, the area around Young was now too hot for Gilbert & O'Meally so the two wild colonial boys shifted their swag 60 miles to the Carcoar area where they were less known but soon made their presence felt. Where Ben Hall went and who Hall stayed with is a matter of conjecture, however, Hall may have stopped for a time at Wheogo or the Pinnacle where his older brother William was gold mining then returned to Young, as what can be derived through piecing together various information is that Ben Hall was reported in the press as operating in the area of Lambing Flat/Young during July 1863. John Vane, not yet introduced to Ben Hall refers to their joining Hall close to Young at a place called Mimmegong Station and that after their meeting Hall had Vane accompany him to retrieve some washing which was held at a lady's home. Vane stated;op.cit. "Ben Hall asked me to accompany him to a place some miles distant, where he had left some shirts there to be washed, we rode there together and returned early afternoon..." Suffice to say Ben Hall's former girlfriend Susan Prior and the mother of his daughter Mary, now almost five months old, had by this time returned to the Young area with her mother Mary and younger sister Charlotte, who had unfortunately  been  previously sexually molested by her mother's partner at the tender age of eleven in 1862. The man, George Pentroe had been arrested on the 23rd of January 1863 regarding the rape of the very young Charlotte. As a consequence Pentroe was found Guilty and had been sentenced at the end of March 1863 to five years hard labour on the roads. The judge commenting; "upon the scandalous behaviour of the prisoner, and observed that, if he was not misinformed, he had been formerly convicted in Tasmania, and had obtained some remission of his sentence. He was a person not fit to be at large, and it was necessary he should be secluded from society for some considerable time. The sentence of the court was that he be kept to hard labour on the roads or other public works of the colony for the term of five years..."¹¹⁶

Whilst Susan Prior was residing at Sandy Creek her mother Mary arrived and was also staying at the home along with her unfortunate daughter Charlotte after the harrowing episode with Pentlow and including Susan's young brother William. There were reports at the time of the police, believing that Ben's mother was living at Sandy Creek as Pottinger attested to after the incineration of the home which left the women destitute; "the house was at the time occupied by Henry Gibson (notorious villain since committed), also illegally at large from Victoria, Mrs. McGuire, and Hall's mother, and was daily frequented by bushrangers..,"¹¹⁷ unfortunately Pottinger was wide of the mark as the evidence points to it being Susan's mother Mary Prior residing at Sandy Creek no doubt to support Susan during the forthcoming birth of Ben's daughter Mary in January 1863, as during the trial of Pentlow, Mary Prior was questioned on her knowledge of certain criminals and stated that while living at Wheogo, she knew the O'Meally's and other's associated with Bushranging.

Australian Goldfield.
c. 1861
Courtesy NLA.
Lambing Flat was still a thriving gold field with thousands of diggers working the dirt for the elusive gold, therefore for Ben Hall although well known by reputation Hall was not as well known by sight whereby no doubt he blended in easily amongst the large mining populace. The following was printed on the state of the goldfield and of the easiness for Hall to conduct highway robbery against the multitude of miners; "the total population numbers between four and five thousand, sufficient to support a large township if they were in anyway centered or habituated within a reasonable distance of each other; but such is not the case. The population is scattered over a great extent of country, reaching (east and west) from Wombat to Blackguard Gully, a distance of fourteen miles, and from Back Creek to the last new rush (north and south) a distance of eighteen miles. This includes the whole of the Burrangong diggings. The diggings north of the Main Creek-consisting of Back Creek, Wombat, Little Wombat, Stoney Creek, Spring Creek, Victoria Gully, and Petticoat Flat were the first worked, and may now be said to be deserted; the European population generally working on the south side of the creek, - either on the Main Creek, Chance Gully, Three-mile Bathurst Hood Rush, Five-mile Bathurst Road Rush, Tipperary Gully, Duffer Gully, Hurricane Gully, or the last rush, named the Twelve-mile Rush..."¹¹⁸

Diggers at work c. 1862.
(Colored by Me) 

Courtesy NLA.
Furthermore, the miners were acutely aware of the presence of Ben Hall and were at 'their wit's end' following the recent murderous actions of the bushrangers Gilbert O'Meally and Lowry as well as the impunity with which the bushrangers wielded their six guns. The indignation at the presence of these freebooters robbing the hard working mining community, however, is easily understood, as for men to exert the sweat of one's brow in the dust dirt and mud for hours days and weeks on end for a few specks of gold, or the anticipative possibility of a Eureka strike. It was backbreaking work moreover, to be at that moment following all their strenuous effort to be suddenly accosted with the end of a revolver barrel brandished by the likes of Ben Hall, who absolutely cared not a fig for their hard earned toil and if need be, would have shot them as dead as a crow. For there is no honour in a man who through the vehicle of fear and abuse strips away the diggers hard-won reward, earned with their blood, sweat and tears it would be enough to cause anyone's blood to boil and not just the miners. As a result of the recent bushranger depredations a general meeting of miners was called at the Burrangong Gold Field on the 4th of July 1863, at 3 pm, to petition the Colonial Secretary Cowper's NSW Government to take stronger action in defence of their lives and property;[sic]  “the present position of this gold-field demands the instant attention of every inhabitant. An appeal to the Executive would be, no doubt, answered, and new dandies and new horse marines be sent, but these are not wanted. It depends upon the people to organize what is needed, they at least, in their selection will not abuse patronage, or count on prostituted votes. To meet this emergency, and exterminate these murderous Ishmaelite’s, we doubt not that good men and true will be found in our midst, who by this last outrage will be simulated to provide, at their own cost, a remedy, and leave us not even the opportunity of thanking the present administration...”  This subtle message demonstrates that the citizens of the Lambing Flat goldfields had lost faith in the NSW Legislature and a new vigilance and determination to quell the depredations of Ben Hall were rising, with the miners implying that they will take matters into their own hands if their demand for punitive action and a better effort from the NSW police was not brought about, the petition was finally tabled in the NSW Parliament on the 22nd July, 1863. Ben Hall, regardless of the miner's agitation, was still working the roads and three days after the miners meeting on the 7th of July, 1863, Captain Zouch arrested two men who were in Ben Hall's company during a recent robbery.; "Captain Zouch returned this afternoon, after being several days in the bush. He brought with him two men, who, in company with Ben Hall, had stuck up and robbed some teams on the Lachlan Road on Saturday last, 4th July 1863. Tuesday, July, 7th. — Chambers and M'Carthy, the bushrangers, were charged with sticking up, near Yass, were, brought up by the Police office, and remanded until tomorrow for further, evidence."¹¹⁹

Captain John McLerie
 of Police.

c. 1862
By July 15th, whilst bailing-up travellers around Burrangong, Ben Hall learnt that his archenemy, Sir Frederick Pottinger, had arrived at Young in time for a local race meeting; "Sir F. Pottinger arrived here this evening from the Lachlan. It is reported that two Chinese were stuck-up near Back Creek, but there are no other particulars about the robbery..."¹²⁰ On arrival at Young, Sir Frederick Pottinger sent the following telegram to the Inspector General’s office covering his arrival and of the impending miners petition; "Arrived here last night at half-past six. Mr. Zouch and Mr. Singleton out with party since Thursday last, and not yet returned. I am unable as yet; and until Mr. Zouch's return, to report fully to the Government on the state of the district. No report of any outrage has been received since my arrival; and Saturday and Sunday have hitherto been favourite days for sticking up. A meeting was held yesterday at the Twelve Mile Rush-about 120 present-at which it was resolved to draw up a petition for signature by the miners, to be forwarded to the Government, relative to the prevalence of crime in the district.¹²¹ Consequently, with Pottinger’s presence Ben Hall in all likelihood would have quick smartly taken his leave from the safety of Susan Prior's dwelling where she had relocated to with their daughter Mary after fleeing the flames of Sandy Creek had Hall headed into the bush to another haunt at Memagong station, to await the pending rendezvous with Gilbert and O'Meally, which had no doubt been bush telegraphed to Hall, unknowing that Gilbert and O'Meally had recruited two new members John Vane and Michael 'Micky' Burke to their merry band. (see the Gang page). Furthermore, how desperate life was becoming for Ben Hall in the middle of 1863 was summarised in the 'Sydney Mail' and gives a fantastic insight into his new life outside the warm embrace of society which not only he but his contemporaries were now enduring; "bushranging seems to be as rife as ever, at least so far as Gardiner and Gilbert and their followers are concerned. These scoundrels move from place to place, helping themselves wherever they go, and always successfully eluding pursuit. They are a great nuisance to the country as well as a great disgrace. Yet they are not to be envied even by those who are dazzled by a display of mock heroism. To be hunted about—never able to stay long in the same place—to be always in fear of treachery—to know none of the enjoyments of civilised life, none of the comforts of home—to be alarmed at the sound of every unexpected tread— to have no livelihood except what comes from fresh robbery, and to be always in danger of a struggle which may end in murder—this can hardly be a very jolly life. No doubt they are pretty well conscience hardened and try to cheat themselves as men in their circumstances will do. But in the bottom of their hearts, if the past could be all wiped out, they would be glad enough to be in a position to get honest wages by honest labour—to return to that enjoyment of society from which by their crimes, they have cut themselves off..."¹²² Unfortunately a reversal of fortune was now out of reach and with the onset of winter the bitterly cold nights would have made the outdoors most uncomfortable for the gang, therefore a remote Sheppard’s hut or cave would have been most welcome; "winter is now fairly upon us, and during the last week we have had the first instalment of snow, accompanied by a bitingly cold wind, and all the catarrhal afflictions such a state of weather usually induces..."¹²³ The following report appeared in the newspaper of a robbery at Possum Flat, Young on Monday 13th July which after the recent taking of two of Hall's mates the bushranger is reported as acting alone and in a desparate state; "MESSRS. Throsby and Murphy were stuck-up this afternoon, on Possum Flat, near this township, by a man supposed to be Ben Hall. Fortunately, they had no money with them. The bushranger only exchanged his saddle for Mr. Murphy's, and complained of the hard times, stating that he was very hard up, from the fact that no one now-a-days carried any money with them."¹²⁴ However, Pottinger’s presence had now become a hazard for the sticking up trade. The above statement also alludes to the success of the new 'Money Order' system, a system for the transfer of cash throughout the colony which was starting to bite. This lack of cash being born by travellers was now impeding Ben Hall, after all, his need to pay his harbourers was ongoing.

Captain Zouch.
c. 1860
The men captured earlier by Captain Zouch on the 6th July were subsequently named, including a court appearance of Ben Hall's earlier accomplice, young Jameison; "Jamison, Smith, and Simpson - the latter two apprehended by Captain Zouch for sticking up drays in company with Ben Hall have been brought before the police court and remanded..,"¹²⁵ furthermore, speculation was raised as to the whereabouts of Frank Gardiner and indicates the reporter had good sources, and states finally what was now widely believed, that Gardiner had departed NSW; "this letter would not be perfect were I not to make mention of Gardiner. It has been the rule for many months to head paragraphs in the various country newspapers with "Gardiner and his gang", without any wish to shield Gardiner or the vagabonds who have committed these robberies, I think, if the fact is ever proved as to the whereabouts of Gardiner, it will be found that for at least the last nine months Gardiner has never been in New South Wales. This statement may astonish many, and without wishing to appear particularly knowing in these affairs, such I believe to be the case..."¹²⁶ This also appeared; "it is said that Frank Gardiner is in California. As we hear nothing of his exploits now I suppose he has left the colony; but I don't believe anyone knows where he is..."¹²⁷ Gardiner's fame knew no bounds when this was reported from the 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser'; Drunkenness. -An aboriginal, who gave his name to the police as Frank Gardiner, but who, on being brought before the bench at West Maitland, on Tuesday, changed his name to Frank Edwards, was cautioned against drinking to excess, and discharged.¹²⁸ Once more the bush telegraphs for Ben Hall were still as pivotal as ever, following this statement in Parliament regarding the use of those telegraphs and harbourers, which is most interesting; "their own community supplied the machinery by which these depredations could be planned and executed, property disposed of, and felons concealed. Their command of horses presented no ground for suspicion, and their familiarity with all the byways of the country gave them an advantage over any strange constabulary however active or skilful they might be. They were enabled to establish a bush telegraph which, by signals known only to the initiated, could secure the more active members of the commonwealth of thieves from pressing danger. We have heard of one contrivance which will remind our readers of signals of the most ancient times. A boy upon a horse is dispatched to a certain place for some trifling object. He is not trusted with the secret of which he is really the bearer, but as he passes in a certain way, or upon a particular horse, the bushrangers understand that the road is or not clear for their operations that the constables are present, or that they are gone. Thus, by various signs and tokens, the people who were entitled to be unsuspected are really the most effective abettors of robbery and pillage..."¹²⁹ However, their were many in the upper echelons of society who conceived wide spread complicity in bushranger activities coming from Squatters, Journalists as well as Parliamentarians; "the highwaymen who act with the coolness of leisure and authority, when they gather together a penful of travellers as if they were a flock of sheep, know that their scouts have ascertained that the "enemy," the constabulary, is at a distance, and that the communications with the road are kept open. The Thiefdom has its correspondents, its journals, and its representatives. We have received several letters from its scribes, giving us false news about the movements of distinguished robbers, evidently calculating on our simplicity. The telegraphic intelligence which has appeared in some quarters has evidently been circulated by the agents of Thiefdom. They fancy, too, that speeches delivered in the Assembly have been inspired by agents of the same origin. There is good reason to believe that persons of property are in league with the thieves, so far as to permit the use of the various retreats found on their land, and even to supply the robbers with necessaries. We are not to believe that this is altogether voluntary..."¹³⁰ In light of the suspicion generated by the above article one such member of parliament Joseph Jehoshaphat Harpur (1810-1878) who was the son of Bridget Hall's stepmother and who gave much grief to the sitting government over the police force and who also had a personal feud with Sir Fredrick Pottinger whom he had slurred as a coward. Harpur was often defending Hall and others in parliament obviously based on his intimate knowledge. However, Ben Hall, not eager to engage Sir Frederick Pottinger, remained quiet at Memagong and waited for news of Gilbert and O'Meally. On the 22nd July, Pottinger sent the following telegram to Captain McLerie; "Take on M'Fadden as a detective, the man arrested for embezzlement, who reported having been stuck up, has been committed for trial. Rain all night and to-day. Everything quiet. No appearance of our friends in neighbourhood, and no reports from absent patrols." (I have used John Vane's spelling of 'Mimmegong' from John Vane, Bushranger,-Memagong-which is about 9 miles West of Young and spelt Memagong today.)

Mimmegong Station

c. 1889.
Courtesy NLA.
On the 20th July 1863, a report appeared regarding Ben Hall being observed in the area of Mimmegong station in the company of two bushrangers thought to be Gilbert and O'Meally, however, this is incorrect as by mid-July Gilbert and O'Meally were raiding in the Carcoar district. The two unknown bushrangers in company with Ben Hall at the time were Chambers and M'Canty, recently captured by Captain Zouch, which was ironic as Chambers had recently been dismissed from the police over the earlier reported Emu Hunt. Whilst awaiting the return of Gilbert and O'Meally, Hall had recently stolen the racehorse 'Mickey Hunter' from Roberts' Currawang Station; PURSUIT OF BUSHRANGERS;-"On last Monday evening 20th July, two of the Lambing Flat troopers espied a party of three bushrangers near Memagong Station, about twelve miles from Lambing Flat, beyond Stony Creek. The bushrangers, two of whom are supposed to be Gilbert and O'Meally, immediately fled, closely pursued by the constables for some distance, when one of the robbers, whose horse was knocked up, threw himself out of the saddle and escaped into the scrub; his two companions were equally fortunate, although fired at several times; but the increasing darkness of the evening favoured them and baffled the troopers. The abandoned horse proved to be Mickey Hunter, Mr. Robert's racer, some time since stolen from his stable at Currawong. The poor animal is in a most deplorable condition, nothing but skin and bones, with scarcely a leg fit to stand on. He has been restored to his owner."¹³¹ Ben Hall in the close encounter abandoned the horse which was taken in hand by the pursuing troopers in as stated a deplorable condition; RECOVERY OF MICKY HUNTER;-"The capture of the racer "Mickey Hunter", took place about nine miles from the township near Mimmegong station. The three mounted troopers found the horse hobbled in the charge of a bushranger. They fired at him, but he escaped amongst the rocks, leaving his horse and another one, saddle, bridle and poncho behind. The police secured the horses and brought them to camp. It was nearly dusk when the troopers came upon the horses, &c."¹³² Later that evening Ben Hall, alone and remounted came in contact with a lone trooper who called on the bushranger to 'Stand in the Queen's Name', with Hall's hesitation the trooper then challenged Ben Hall to a fist fight for his freedom..., Brave Ben Hall declined and in 'boastful defiance', bolted as the trooper fired; "on the same evening, and about the same time (sundown) a trooper stationed at Wombat fell in with Ben Hall, and told him to surrender; but as the latter kept edging away, the trooper called on him as a man to be as good as his word in his boastful defiance of the police, and to come to a fair singlehanded combat; but Hall made a bolt for the bush, when the trooper fired, and on following up discovered the bushranger's horse (a grey one, with switch tail, a Roman nose, and long back) without his rider, and also the hat and poncho worn by Hall when first seen. In this case, too, the darkness favoured escape; but so confident was the constable that he must have wounded Hall, that a party went out next morning to search the bush, but without success. The hat, poncho, and horse referred to, are now in the possession of the police, at the Camp, Young..."¹³³ 

Native Police Force,
Rockhampton Qld.
c. 1864.
Courtesy NLA.
This was reported on the 20th July at Young; "there is nothing new in robberies this week since that of Murphy's..." Bushranging was still the subject of Parliament and the Colonial Secretary stated on 18th July 1863 that; "the only three or four bushrangers at present giving all the trouble about Young are John O'Mealy, John Gilbert, Ben Hall, and perhaps Lowry..." A letter to the editor of the 'Sydney Morning Herald' in July 1863, the writer subscribed to the idea of the use of the old 'Native Police Force' to bring a halt to Ben Hall, John Gilbert and O'Meally's rampant depredations. The aboriginal 'Native Police Force' which had been founded in NSW under the leadership of Frederick Walker, who had arrived in Australia in 1844 and held the position of Clerk of Petty Sessions at Tumut and was also linked to the celebrated explorer William Wentworth by way of Superintendent of Wentworth's Murrumbidgee River station 'Tala'. Under Walker's leadership, however, the Native Police Force gained a fearsome reputation for a shoot first, ask questions later philosophy. Furthermore, Frederick Walker went about engaging the local Aborigines, understanding their culture, learning to speak their language and to use this knowledge to help secure peaceful harmony between Aboriginal's and the European settlers of the Murrumbidgee. The original Native force consisted of a dozen or more 15 to 25-year-old Aboriginal locals, who then became troopers, the Aboriginal's were employed from four different Murrumbidgee tribes, the force was well drilled and highly disciplined and would be utilised mainly in the newly established state of Queensland and Northern NSW from 1848 to 1905 to quell disturbances. The letter of advice is as follows; HOW TO CATCH BUSHRANGERS; To the Editor of the Herald.Sir,- A letter in your paper of this morning signed 'Bosun's Mate,' reminds me that the following is the way "to catch bushrangers" shortly. Set Walker and his native police on their tracks, or of course a man like Walker, they'll do the work in their own unscrupulous way; and "terrible evils" require as "terrible remedies." What can your police that have to learn the country first, do against native lads, able to ride from their cradle, and now mounted on good race horses? A good black tracker with mates-not without-will run the tracks day after day when once fairly on it, then, when it comes to the close, there's little about taking alive, I dare say; they'll be taken dead, only a question of time-a few days, more or less. Do this, and do it effectually, Gilbert and the others will not very long trouble us. Mind I tell you now how this business is to be done, and, this is my fair share of it, as I have before told you, and, through you, the people in other matters.

I am, Sir, yours obediently,
W. B.¹³⁴

The government, however, chose another path. Ben Hall after the capture of a few of his part-time helper's, including his most frequent helper and long-time friend young Jamieson, who Hall had known since the boy's childhood when Ben was a neighbour and good friend of Jamieson's late father. However, a friendship for which Jameison would pay dearly for in the months to come. Accordingly, following a number of close shaves which had included Ben Hall's near capture, the bushranger would lay low in the backwoods of Young. During this time a peculiar comment of a disparaging nature of the police effort was reported on the 31st July 1863, of a close encounter, but not with Ben Hall but with the police; [TELEGRAPH EXTRAORDINARY.] Lambing Flat, Friday, July 31st.- NARROW ESCAPE OF THE POLICE!!!"Last evening three bushrangers espied a large body of troopers, and immediately gave chase. The darkness of the evening favoured the escape of the troopers, and baffled the bushrangers. The appetites of Captain M'Lerie and Sir F. Pottinger continue in undiminished vigour."¹³⁵ It was also reported at Young on the 3rd of August of Ben Hall's retreat; -"I cannot, as usual, commence with the details of a murder or robbery, for strange to say, no robbery of any note had been committed here for more than a fortnight, a blessing that has not been vouchsafe to the people of this district for the last eighteen months. Having been rather hard worked lately, the scoundrels are, now taking "a spell", dissipating the fruits of their labour, and enjoying themselves until the Inspector-General returns to Sydney."¹³⁶ The reason for the lack of effort in sticking up by Ben Hall was reported as; "during the past fortnight we have had heavy rains and gales of wind- Business dull..."¹³⁷

"Have you seen the Traps?"
Courtesy NLA.
Ben Hall had retired to his haunt at Mimmegong station about 9 miles west of Young, the area surrounding Mimmegong consisted of granite littered hills and rises with open box-tree country, made up of Yellow Box, Yellow Ironbark, Black Cypress Pine, Red Ironbark, with a number of well-watered creeks and water holes and in 1863 remote Shepherd huts, sometimes referred to as Watchboxes, these could be found in those areas far from the Head Station. These Watchbox's could and were on occasion also the target of robberies as shepherds kept food and other items for the necessities of a remote existence at hand, all of which a desperate bushranger such as Hall would come to depend on. 'Yass Courier', August 1863; STICKING-UP NEAR JERRIWA CREEK- "On Friday last, about nine pm, three men on horseback, wearing ponchos, and armed with revolvers and a gun stuck up the people in a hut and watchbox on Mrs. Best's station on Buntons Creek, between Jerriwa and Blakeney Creeks. From a person named Michael Caffrey, they took a pair of blankets and five figs of tobacco; from John Jones a bag, containing sundries and a hat; from George Froy, who occupied the watchbox, they took a pair of blankets and a saddle and bridle. This is the third time, within the last fifteen days that the hut has been visited by bushrangers."¹³⁸

Henry Hickles, 
NSW Police Gazette.
7 September 1863.
Furthermore, these Shepherd huts and outstations were utilized by Ben Hall and company as rendezvous points and layup destinations due to their remoteness where in due course Ben Hall would be re-joined by Gilbert and O'Meally, who were currently still front and centre of various press reports around the Carcoar/Bathurst region of NSW. On the 1st August 1863, the pair had appeared in a newspaper report stating that they had attempted to hold up the Commercial Bank at Carcoar on the 30th of July 1863. As the pair were proceeding to the town the two 'bailed-up' and tied Mr Henry Hickles to a tree so as to prevent the misfortunate man from raising the alarm at Carcoar. However, the Carcoar bank attempt fell well short of success, therefore, to compensate the failure the two bushrangers followed up with the robbery of Mr Hosie's store at nearby Caloola.; "yesterday two men rode up to the Commercial Bank in Carcoar, and went inside. They presented a cheque to the teller, and while he was looking at it they suddenly presented a revolver and ordered him to remain quiet. The manager, who had been out, was coming into the bank at the time, and seeing what was going on, turned, and ran for the police. The teller, Mr. Parker, by a sudden movement, dropped behind the counter where a revolver was concealed, and, to give the alarm, fired two shots. The bushrangers, being thus frustrated, rushed to their horses, and, though followed soon after by the police, escaped. The two men are supposed to be the same who stuck-up Mr. Hosie's store at Caloola, whence they took to the value of £300 in money, and goods consisting of silk dresses, boots, shoes, and two horses on which to carry their booty. Throughout these two proceedings the bushrangers were quite self-possessed, and rode away leisurely. Police men are dispatched hence in pursuit..."¹³⁹ The Caloola robbery was reported thus; "Mr. Hosie, a storekeeper at Caloolah, to the effect that his store had been stuck-up that afternoon by two bushrangers, who rode up leisurely and committed the robbery with the greatest coolness. It seems that Mr. Hosie was behind the counter when the bushrangers entered, and that there were four or five persons on the premises at the time. The robbers were armed with four revolvers each, and talked in a free and easy manner with all present. To Mr. Stephens, who was in the store, and who it will be remembered was the victim of a murderous attack some time back, they said "We know you; there were two men hanged through you, but we don't intend to shoot anybody unless there is any resistance. (the Ross' were hanged) They then emptied the till of its contents (about £25), and proceeded to ransack the store, packing up a lot of silk dresses, boots, shoes, and miscellaneous articles, which they said they wanted for "their people." Mr. Hosie, not liking to part with his goods to easily, challenged either one of them to lay down his arms, and decide the right of possession by a fair fight. At this they smiled, and one of them said "No, mate, we don't do business in that way." After selecting what they required, they took two horses from the stable, and packed the goods on them. They then mounted their horses, and one of the bushrangers said to Mr. Hosie, as they were leaving-"Ah, if you had as much money as is offered for me, you'd be well in. (Gilbert had a £500 reward) With all haste, Mr. Hosie rode into Bathurst, and gave information of the robbery, when a detachment of police were dispatched in pursuit, but, as so many hours must have elapsed before the police could arrive even at the scene of the robbery, it is very improbable that they have been able to come up with the robbers. From the description given of the two men, it is imagined they are Gilbert and O'Meally, and that they were concerned in both of the cases related above."¹⁴⁰

Micky Burke & John Vane.

The two new chums to the gang, Vane and Burke set about to impress their seasoned veterans, and robbed 'Combing Park' stables of the top quality racehorse 'Comus II' and the fine horse of the visiting police inspector Mr James Henry Davidson, (once again in Vane's narrative 'John Vane, Bushranger' as told to and transcribed and edited by Charles White. Here Vane denies involvement in the robbery, but historical evidence directly involves Vane.) during the nabbing of the horses a stable hand known as 'German Charley' surprised the two, and Burke fired shooting the stable hand in the head; 'Bathurst Times', of 6th of August 1863; DARING ROBBERY AND ATTEMPTED MURDER AT COOMBING;- "Information has reached us of a most daring robbery and cold-blooded attempt at murder, committed on Sunday night last, at Coombing, near Carcoar, the residence of T. R. Icely, Esq., J.P. It appears that, during the night, a noise was heard in the stables by an old man, who at once proceeded to ascertain the cause. Arrived at the stable door, in which Mr. Icely's horse, a very valuable animal, and a charger, (also a splendid horse) belonging to Inspector Davidson, who had left it there in place of a fresh horse, whilst in pursuit of the villains who attempted to rob the Carcoar Bank, the old man saw two men busily engaged in saddling the horses above mentioned. He hailed the men, and asked them what they were doing there, when one of the scoundrels deliberately fired a pistol at him. The ball took effect in the old man's mouth, and laid him prostrate. The robbers quickly concluded their preparations, and rode away on the stolen horses. We learn that a number of settlers and townsmen of Carcoar have been sworn in as special constables, and are now scouring the country in pursuit of the robbers. The above facts have come to us indirectly; but we have no reason to doubt their authenticity. With reference to the wounded man, we have the satisfaction to add, that the bullet had been extracted from the wound, and that he is progressing favourably, though his advanced age renders his ultimate recovery extremely uncertain."

NSW Police Gazette,
 August 1863.
Gilbert and O'Meally with the two new recruits Vane and Burke in tow, remembering it was Burke who fired the shot that nearly ended the life of the groom known as 'German Charley' at Mr Icely's stables, had the boys laid low for a number of days. Vane in his memoirs 'John Vane, Bushranger' transcribed by Charles White states that they 'kept quiet for a time';op.cit. "winter had set in, and as rain and snow were frequent, we made a good camp and kept quiet for a time..." After breaking camp the next event saw Gilbert, O'Meally and John Vane attack the Carcoar-Bathurst coach (once again in Vane's memoirs he claims not to be present, but at his future court case was identified as one of the gang) which happened to be carrying prisoners one of whom was Micky Burke's cousin along with a number of police both in the coach and on horseback, the high number of police attached to the coach was a surprise to the three bushrangers. The bushranger's, minus Burke, attacked and a gunfight erupted where Constable Sutton on horseback was shot and severely wounded during the gunfight by John O'Meally. An extract of the event is as follows;"about midday on the 6th instant a young man named M'George was out with his team gathering wood alongside of the road, between, three and four miles from this town, three well-armed men, mounted on first-class horses, rode up to him and enquired if the mail had passed, to which question he replied that he did not know. After exchanging a few more words with them the mail came in sight, when they compelled him to draw his team across the road, and as the coach came forward they fired into it. In the coach were three prisoners and two armed troopers, and alongside of the coachman was Mr. Morrissett, the inspector of police; there was also a mounted trooper following the mail. As soon as the bushrangers fired the police returned the fire, which seemed to astonish them, for they did not expect to find any police with the coach. However, nothing daunted, they kept their ground, each party exchanging shots several times. A mounted trooper named Sutton followed them and fired five shots of his revolver at them, and was just bringing his revolver down to fire at one of the bushranger's heads, when a bullet from the piece of another of the gang went through his arm and entered his side, when he rode back to the coach, followed by one of the gang who could not control his horse, and as he passed the coach he fired at the passengers, and shouted "Fire, you b-----d, fire; and although the police repeatedly fired, the bushrangers got off without being wounded. Mr. Inspector Morrissett’s escape was most miraculous, as one of the wretches rode up alongside of him and tired two shots deliberately at him. Throughout the attack, O'Meally is described as giving vent to the most frightful oaths and imprecations. A shot at last took effect upon Gilbert's horse, the animal, it is thought, being struck between the saddle and the hip. They of a sudden ceased firing, and Gilbert, whose horse was getting unmanageable, rode down upon the coach, and said that but for their ammunition getting short they would follow "them to h-ll and fight it out." However, foiled in their enterprise, they rode off, when attention was directed to the lady, who had fainted, hut happily suffered no other injury..."¹⁴¹ However, out of ammunition and without success the bushrangers retreated continuing with shouts and curses towards the police, who held firm and Morrissett jumping from the coach had threatened to shoot the three prisoners as follows; as Mr. Morrissett jumped from his seat, O'Meally, who had levelled a piece at him, fired, and the bullet passed through the coach, making its entry at a point which the moment before had been covered by that gentleman's body. The prisoners inside jumped from their seats, and attempted to leap out of the coach, when Mr. Morrissett turned upon them, and ordered them to remain quiet, at the same time threatening to shoot the first man that stirred. A regular battle now ensued between the police and the bushrangers, who were armed with carbines..."¹⁴² That evening after the gunfight with the troopers, the bushrangers arrived at Chesher's, 'Sir Fitzroy Inn' at Teasdale Park a well-known haunt of John Vane, as reported; "about seven, o'clock the same evening, Chesher Inn at Teasdale Park, was bailed up by armed men, and about £40 worth in money and property taken away. Amongst the property the was taken away there was a good deal of spirits, on which, it is supposed the bushrangers intend to regale themselves for a few days. Before leaving Chesher's they insisted upon having some hot rum and water made, and compelled landlord to partake of it before they touched it themselves. It is supposed that they are the same parties that attacked the bank and the mail. The man that was wounded at Coombing is now considered out of danger Dr. Rowland extracted the ball yesterday..."¹⁴³ Postscript to the attack on Superintendent Morrissett from the 'Bathurst Free Press', 29th September 1863 and of the three prisoners; "at the Quarter Sessions to-day, William Vane, Burke and George Cheshire were tried for sticking-up several people, and acquitted. Lawrence Cummins, John Jamison, and Patrick Daley were each sentenced to fifteen years, the first year in irons. George Slater, for firing at constable Houghey, sentenced to five years on the roads..."
A short video of Teasdale Park, filmed by Craig Bratby, author of 
John Vane, Biography of a Bushranger.
Constable Sutton.
c. 1865.
Courtesy Craig Bratby.
Later a letter appeared describing the actions of the bushrangers and who rode who; "O'Meally rode Comus, John Vane Davidson's grey, and Gilbert a racehorse called Matheroo, stolen some ten days since from Grant—three first-rate horses, and Edric says all in splendid condition. Comus seemed to have been taken great care of and he said looked as well as he ever saw him, but became unmanageable, and almost brought his rider to grief. The attack doubtless was daring, but I don't think the bushrangers showed much pluck. They each had a double-barrelled gun and a brace of revolvers, but they seem only to have used their guns—the only shot fired from a pistol was the one that wounded Sutton..." 

The bushrangers returned to camp (with the spirits) and O'Meally and Gilbert who were at times not the friendliest toward each other, once more had a quarrel about bravery as described by Vane;op.cit."Gilbert told us later that O'Meally had called him a coward for running away up the ridge, and he replied that if he had not done so he would not of got the 'Bobbies' revolver..." Vane continues,op.cit. "at this O'Meally growled and said to Gilbert, "if I hadn't followed you the 'trap' would of shot you in the back, and that is the way you will be shot yet..." Vane goes on to say that, "more than once Burke and I had to act as peacemakers for the two often used to have little growls, and we had to step in when they were getting to hot on the job..." Vane also remarked;op.cit. ”but Gilbert was certainly fond of 'turning tail' and we all occasionally had a peg at him for dodging in that fashion..."
The link above shows the place were O'Meally, Gilbert and Vane attacked the Police as described above, narrated by Craig Bratby. (see link page for Craig's book on the life of John Vane.)
By early August 1863, the four bushrangers realising that it was now too hot in the Carcoar district with the heavy police presence and fearing the swiftness of the black trackers in getting on to their trail, decided to head back to familiar territory, the bushrangers whilst resting in their camp discussed their next move, and as Vane explains, O'Meally was for re-joining Ben Hall, and stated;op.cit. "well" re-joined O'Meally, "what do you say to a quick run up to the Lachlan? Ben is keeping his end up over there, although the police and papers say he's over here with us. I only wish he was. My oath! wouldn't he make things lively if he was here now?" Gilbert, conscious of the skill of the trackers stated;op.cit. "I'm not afraid of the police" said Gilbert, "it’s those bloody black hell-hounds of trackers that we have to fear-they pick up tracks and follow them so devilish quick, but I think with Jack that we ought to make a move soon and give this quarter a rest..," they agreed with Burke reluctant. Gilbert and O'Meally in company with Vane and Burke deserted the Carcoar district and made their way toward Young. Local gossip of their whereabouts was reported in the press; GILBERT AND HIS MATES;-A report was freely circulated through the town yesterday, that Gilbert, O'Meally, and Vane, had been seen in the neighbourhood of Cowra, apparently wending their way to the "Weddin Mountains"; the neighbourhood which they have lately been infesting having become too hot to hold them. It is to be hoped that Sir Frederick will shortly be on their heels and secure the villains."¹⁴⁴

It was noted in the 'Sydney Mail' as the four bushrangers were enroute to Burrangong that Inspector Davidson had suffered a self-inflicted wound; Inspector Davidson; — "A report reached here yesterday that this gentleman, while fixing his gun, accidentally shot his toe off. This accident is very much to be regretted, as Mr. Davidson's services can be ill spared at the present time, for since Gilbert and his gang made their appearance about here he has exerted himself to the most in trying to find out their haunts. Davidson was not at Coombing when his horse was stolen, but had left him there to rest for a few days."¹⁴⁵

Superintendent Morrisset
 c. 1860
Following the confrontation and gunfight between Superintendent Morrisset and the 'Boys' which had the Carcoar district being swamped with troopers set O'Meally, Gilbert and their two new members to commence their return to the Lachlan to re-join Ben Hall. Superintendent Morrisset on arriving at Bathurst following the encounter placed the three prisoners from the affray in the Bathurst Gaol. Immediately afterwards Morrissett set out once more this time in company with Sir Frederick Pottinger to pick up the trail of the gang. However, on this occasion a local reporter was embedded with the tracking party who followed up with a report which appeared in the 'Sydney Morning Herald', 11th August 1863; State of the Interior.-The following is an extract from a letter, dated Carcoar, the 9th instant, referring to the lawless state of the country in that neighbourhood ;- "We are all here upon our mettle, and in a state of considerable excitement. The attempt to rescue the prisoners from Morrissett and the three troopers, shews that there are men not many miles from us prepared to do almost anything. Pottinger and Morrissett are here and six troopers, and a black tracker, and we are just starting out again. This part of the country really is in a frightful state, and will, I am sure, get worse and worse. I am satisfied, from what I have seen during the past week, when in company with the police, that it will be impossible to put bushranging down, unless the harbourers are punished with the greatest severity. I believe there is scarcely a house between Mount Macquarie and the Abercrombie that will not afford any criminal shelter when required, and I am satisfied that there are hundreds of lads in that neighbourhood, under twenty, that would give one of their eyes to have the same notoriety as Gilbert or Gardiner. They never work, never have worked, and they are, without exception, the flashiest lot I ever saw. Something must be done by the Government or things will become worse and worse, and what will be the end of it no one can tell. You may depend upon it if the Government do not take the most stringent measures to punish most severely all harbourers, bushranging and its accompanying evils, not only never will be suppressed, but will daily, monthly, and yearly get worse and worse, until consequences will follow, which I believe it would be difficult to over-rate.

A typical Shepherds Hut
 or Watchbox.
The winter weather was setting in and the bushrangers and police were now subjected to the cold and freezing conditions as they were exposed in the bush to the elements, the gang sought out any shelter or hut or harbourer that could provide warmth, it was reported that as the Gang now consisting of Hall, O'Meally, Gilbert, Vane and Mickey Bourke, soon after they had re-joined were using a Cave as part of their camp at Mimmegong, as for the police in the cold conditions they looked for any settler that could provide information, shelter and a hot brew. The cold weather of August 1863, was commented on by a reporter; "the weather for some time past has been very changeable, and while I am writing it is very boisterous, the wind blowing hard and likely for rain..."¹⁴⁶ John Vane also referred to the hardship being faced by them and the onset of winter, and stated as the gang returned to the Lachlan and their efforts to avoid the police;op.cit. "our custom was to make tea before nightfall, then travel on for an hour or two, leaving easily discerned tracks, and afterwards double back and camp a little of the course we had followed. Our object in doing this was, of course to mislead the police. If we found they were on our tracks we would let them pass on, and at once change our course. It goes without saying, that we made no fire when camping, and in winter, it was all we could do to keep our blood in circulation. Sleeping under a simple break wind (a few boughs’ leaned against a fence or a sapling), with feet frozen, and limbs stiff with cold..."

John Vane.
c. 1898.
Gilbert, O'Meally and the two new members Burke and Vane having commenced the trek from the Carcoar district to the Lachlan in search of Ben Hall, is recounted by Vane of their eventual arrival at Mimmegong Station;op.cit. "our appearance there (Carcoar) had the effect of drawing the police to that centre; and while they were hunting for us in the Carcoar and Abercrombie districts, we crossed the Lachlan and kept quiet for a time, certain of our friends paying us occasional visits, and keeping us posted on all the movements of the police. Having learnt that most of the Young police had been brought over, we made a start for the back country moving very cautiously and keeping to the wildest and more sparsely populated places, in due course and without mishap we reached a place called Mimmegong sheep station, beyond Young and it was while at this place that we met Ben Hall, who from that out became our leader. The five of us camped together on Mimmegong Creek, where we formed two camps-one for the day, and one for the night..." The Shepherds Huts utilized by Ben Hall were often very remote and lonely places and the Shepard's would have enough victuals to survive for some time before restocking, a blessing for Ben Hall, it was stated that in regards to the Shepard; "the country at that time was mostly open country, with very few fences. Sheep farmers had to employ shepherds. The pay was usually 10/ per week and rations, which consisted of 8lb. meat, 8lb. flour, 2lb. sugar and 6lb. tea..."¹⁴⁷ (John Vane's memoirs were recorded some forty years after the exciting and short time Vane spent with Ben Hall and some of the events Vane describes are out of context with the valid reports of the police and press at the time, but are factual, as sadly Vane doesn't record dates just events, as a result, I have attempted to give a chronological order of those events from the relevant reports and use Vane's own account of that period from the gang's own birds eye view.) As Gilbert, O'Meally and the two new recruits returned to the Young district for their rendezvous this appeared in a Tasmanian newspaper ridiculing and scoffing at the inadequacies of the NSW police and the appointment of Inspector Black over Captain Battye at Young, taken from the Launceston paper, 'The Cornwall Chronicle', Wednesday 5th August, 1863; -NEW SOUTH WALES. -THE BUSHRANGERS WEEKLY GAZETTE, And Police Intelligence!!! (From "Bell's Life in Sydney, 25th July.) TELEGRAM EXTRAORDINARY. Forbes, 3 p.m., Friday; "The Police after the Bushrangers—a long way after them. Captain M'Lerie has not yet been captured. Sir Frederick Pottinger is still at large. Black has been presented with a magnificent "white feather" by the Insurgent Chief." Inspector Black was the replacement for the officer who was held in the highest regard by the miners and the wider community of the Flat. Captain Battye, had been recently been transferred to the south coast at Kiama and the miners and influential citizens were demanding that Battye is reinstated, as unfortunately his replacement, Inspector Black, was soon earning a reputation for staying in the confines and safety of the police camp whereas Battye was continually scouring the scrub. Inspector Black was ridiculed both in the Parliament and the press for the size of his girth, as quoted from the 'Parliament Hansard', 20th August 1863; "it was then said that Mr. Black was too heavy — that he killed all the horses he rode. But there was no reason why he should be employed in that particular service; or if there was, there was nothing to prevent the Government getting an elephant for him if necessary (Laughter)..." This sentiment was followed with another observation from the press in the 'Empire' 25th August 1863; EQUESTRIANISM FOR THE POLICE;- "As it has been stated that some of the police horses are too weak to carry the heavy troopers, and also that one at least of the police inspectors now engaged in the endeavour to capture bushrangers is too fast and too eager in the pursuit, we are happy in being enabled to suggest a means of overcoming both difficulties. There is now on view at the Menagerie in Pitt street an elephant of sufficiently physical proportions to carry even Inspector Black, and we can bear testimony from a personal inspection of the animal that its deportment is sufficiently quiet and gentle to restrain even the arduous impetuosity of Sir Frederick Pottinger. It is to be regretted that the Inspector General of Police is absent from Sydney, otherwise we feel assured that the Government would be recommended to purchase this valuable animal for the use of one or other of the officers whom we have named."

Ben Hall c. 1862. Note
the table cloth in the
previous Susan Prior
While Ben Hall was reconnecting with 'The Boys' at Mimmegong, an article appeared in the 'Goulburn Herald', dated 5th August 1863 regarding Ben Hall's rise to bushranger written by the correspondent of the 'Yass Courier' most probably the same person who wrote earlier regarding Gardiner's current whereabouts. Furthermore, the article gives the impression by the writer of attempting to conjure sympathy for the plight of Ben Hall. However, although the article has some valid points is nevertheless from a modern historical assessment mostly spin. Therefore, this article could also be seen as the foundation of the misinformation that had commenced being perpetuated about Ben Hall's story and even espoused today in some circles. It declares Ben Hall born Maitland; true, well educated; not true, his father a free and wealthy settler; not true, Taylor the cause of Ben Hall's arrest; not true, participated in Escort Robbery; true, Daniel Charters lied for Ben Hall; true, Ben Hall's friends suspicious; true, Ben Hall's station neglected; not true, the eventual loss of Sandy Creek; true, also true is that Ben Hall was very well respected in the district, what is also true is that Maguire bribed a witness in 1862 at Orange. The reporter may have even interviewed Ben Hall! However, the reader can draw their own conclusions. Ben Hall was 26yrs old in 1863;


"Benjamin Hall is now about twenty-eight years of age born near Maitland, and his father, who was a free immigrant, cultivated his own farm on the banks of the Hunter, and gave his son a good education. About eight years ago the young man went to the Lachlan district to take up a station, and settled at Wheogo, where he won the friendship and good opinion of all the settlers in the neighbourhood. He was honest and obliging, of good appear address, and was what he professed to be-a gentleman. About four years ago Hall married and fortunately in an evil hour; and after the birth of his first child, his wife eloped with another man. This person, afraid of Hall, went to a certain officer, and told him that Hall was connected to the gang of Gardiner; and shortly afterward at the Lachlan races, Hall was given in charge of the police, and taken to the watch-house. In a question put to him by Hall as to the reason of his arrest, the officer in question replied, riding a good horse, and none but bushrangers ride good horses now-a-days." The man was then heavily ironed, his hands were fastened behind his back, and he was pushed into a damp, dark cell whence he was not let out for three weeks, but where, he was taken, once every seven days, to the court to be remanded again and again, in order to allow the police to find out whether there was any charge against him or not. During the many weeks of his incarceration Hall's horse was ridden as a hackney by the officer referred to, who appeared to have taken a fancy to the animal, and at the of three weeks two witnesses were brought in to swear that Hall was like a man who was with Gardiner, and he was on this testimony committed for trial. Although several Squatters and Settlers in the neighbourhood offered bail to a large amount, none was accepted, and the man was then sent back to one of the filthiest watch-houses in New South Wales, into the company of men whose society he loathed, to await his trial. That came about in time, and, there not being the shadow of evidence against him he was discharged. In the meantime, many of his horses and cattle had been stolen, his farm had suffered from his unjust incarceration and he had expended over £500 in law expense, in procuring witnesses, and in satisfying the harpies that preyed on him when he was down. When he was discharged he taxed the police officer with riding his horse while he was imprisoned, and that threatened to lock him up again if he did not immediately be off. Hall went back to his farm and was just getting his disordered affairs put right and had collected his remaining cattle and horses when the escort robbery took place. Advantage the opportunity was taken, and poor Hall was again remanded on suspicion, and kept in the lockup for a considerable time heavily ironed, although the two approvers, Charters and Richards, declared he had nothing to do with the affair, either directly otherwise. There being no charge against Hall, he was dismissed by the magistrates at the request Mr. Inspector Sanderson. His ill-usage was at an end even then. After being out of the lock-up only for a few days he was a third time chained to the lock-up on the same charge. By this time intimate friends began to regard him with suspicion. They could not fancy such injustice could be perpetrated without a shadow of a cause, and be he lay a long time in the watch-house before anyone would come forward to bail him out. At last, one ventured to do so, and then a second. But the latter received a large pecuniary consideration for this action for this act of friendship. By this time, the man of gentlemanly appearance and fine healthy countenance looked years older, was care-worn and haggard, also ruined in pocket and in spirits. It may suit some views of the New South Wales police to magnify the villainy of particular bushrangers, but they have not been able to find a single case against the fortunate Hall."

Map of Weddin Mountains,
Google Earth.
The inhabitants of Sydney via the barrage of press reports were continuously provided with news of the marauding of Ben Hall and other bushrangers of the greater West. So much so that once more the NSW Parliament was consumed with the debate of how to combat the lawlessness of those districts most affected. A number of Parliamentarians had tabled in the Legislature a Bill for a special law to be passed to give the police extraordinary powers of arrest and to separate the Lachlan and the surrounding districts of the Weddin Mountains from the general laws of the colony and accordingly enforce a simple version of Marshall Law in an effort to curb the widespread outbreak of bushranging. However, although many of the Parliamentarians agreed with the proposal the prospect caused great angst amongst the fair-mindedness and English sensibilities of those legislators charged with the safety of the population, furthermore, the local member for the Weddin Mountains, Mr Deas Thompson was of the opinion that as a liberal-minded MLA he thought the move was uncalled for and unnecessarily branded all the good citizens of the district as complicit in bushranging activities. Thompson stated in the Parliamentary Hansard that; “he did not see how, as representing a liberal Government, the could have advised that a special law should be enacted for the Weddin Mountains. There was nothing but vague general reports about Ben Hall and some others, upon which the Government could have proceeded to place under a special law all the peaceable people dwelling about the Weddin Mountains.” The following extracts are from the 'Sydney Morning Herald', 1st August 1863, in relation to the ongoing debate; "the proposal to withdraw parts of the colony from the usual system of government, and to place them under special administration and exceptional laws, must be taken as one evidence at least of the reality and force of those evils we are required to combat. No one would assent to these changes unless it should be found absolutely necessary for the repression of crime. But when we are told by the Postmaster-General that contracts are taken with reluctance, because they involve risk of life; when we hear that the aid of the printer is required to multiply forms for the purpose of transmitting notices of mail robberies; when we learn that commercial intercourse is already in some cases impossible, from the want of safety in the high roads; a very strong case is certainly made out for new laws or new methods of enforcing them. It is obvious that those who are most strongly impressed with the present dangers, and have suggested new remedies, have only uttered the feeling of all respectable colonists, and that they are right in believing that nothing can so deeply stain or effectually retard the colony as the continual success of marauders and the large arrears of unpunished crime.

Is it not possible, however, to make those districts which furnish the robbers yield the means of repressing them? It is said there are large numbers of young men who are acquainted with every nook and corner in the bush, and whose superior knowledge enables them to baffle pursuit. They are not all equally, criminal, perhaps many are not so by choice. Would it not be possible to enlist some of these last into the service of the country, and by giving them the position inspire them with the feelings of honest men? The police are said to be incapable of contending with their superior agility and skill, and we can easily imagine the helplessness of any man, whatever might be his other qualifications, if new to the country. He could not pursue, because he must keep the high road or be lost in the bush. He could not make enquiries, because, not knowing the people, he might be only letting out information to an accomplice. Wherever he might move he would find all unintelligible and trackless. If, however, a score of young men who hover about the Weddin Mountains could be brought into the service of the police, they would probably do more for the detection of the offenders, and for the prevention of robberies, than five times the number of policemen collected from the four quarters of the globe. 
Every man who now countenances criminals must be himself a felon in heart, probably in history. There may be excuses in quiet times for indolent toleration for loose language and idle declamation, but it is infamous now. If the slightest right feeling remains in those districts, the false admiration of robbers must have been subdued by the evidence of their cowardice and cruelty. They spare none who are not accomplices, and rob the hard-working digger with as little remorse as they rob the banker. Many a family in this colony have deeply suffered by the interception of letters, and the loss of small remittances, as well as from the personal injury inflicted by criminals in their career of crimeMr. DEAS THOMSON, Mr. KEMP, and Sir WILLIAM MANNING have had too much experience of the colonies to be led away by a mere cry of danger, and the strong language they have employed in reference to the state of the country demands the serious consideration both of the Government and the Legislature. As to the colonial reputation, nothing could be more damaging than such speeches except the facts they attest. They have done well to state the case boldly without regard to those who would imitate that foolish bird which endeavours to get relief from the cries of the hunter by sticking its head in the sand..." While Parliament was fumbling around with the solutions to curbing bushranging, Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally with the two new recruits marched on and started to test the ground around the Burrangong district and were seen near Yass, whilst there the five bushrangers were interviewed and counselled by a Catholic priest on the possibility of their surrender, the report is as follows from the 'Yass Courier', 5th August 1863; THE GILBERT BRIGADE PREPARED TO ENTER INTO A TREATY WITH THE GOVERNMENT; - We understand that some short time ago, while a reverend gentleman, the pastor of the Catholic portion of the inhabitants of a large district near Yass, was engaged in visiting a portion of his charge in the locale of the tract of country now in the possession of Gilbert and his companions, he was somewhat surprised to have the outlaw pointed out to him at a short distance from where he was staying. The rev. gentleman at once approached the bushrangers and entered into conversation with them. He took advantage of the opportunity to point out to them the inevitable fate of their lawless career, the enormity of their offences against God and man, and strongly urged them to discontinue their reckless life. The outlaws listened attentively to the admonitions of the rev. gentleman, thanked him warmly for his kindness in addressing them, and stated that they were prepared to give themselves up if the government would guarantee that no worse fate would be awarded to them than imprisonment. They dreaded being hung, although the life they were now compelled to lead was a most unhappy one. We understand the rev. gentleman promised to lay the matter before the government, and that he has already done so.

NSW Police Gazette
 August 1863.
When the above article's appeared, Ben Hall's brother Robert Hall, upon his return to Murrurundi was arrested for horse stealing, at first it was reported that Ben Hall himself had been captured as recounted in the 'Singleton Times' 11th August 1863;  Capture of Ben Hall and two other Bushrangers at Murrurundi.-"We are indebted to Mr. R. S. Holmes, who was a passenger by the mail from Armidale yesterday, for the following particulars :-It appears that Ben Hall and two mates were in Murrurundi on Monday afternoon, in cog, as they thought, when the police got on their track. Before they were able to complete their capture of all three, however, one of the men mounted his horse and made off, but, after a chase of half a mile, he was taken. They were all safely lodged in the lockup before five o'clock, when the mail left. Mr. Holmes having been a witness of the whole affair, almost from the commencement. The capturers were, we understand, two troopers and three constables, all of whom were mounted. Although there is no doubt in the minds of the police, it is just possible that there may be a mistake in the identity of Ben Hall; but, even so, the satisfactory fact still remains that there are three ruffians the fewer at large." 

Robert Hall. 
c. 1875.
After the above article appeared this was reported in 'The Star' newspaper in Ballarat, Victoria on the 18th August 1863, as when those first reports appeared, it was thought by the press to be the capture of the notorious Ben Hall at Murrurundi, but as it turned out it was; "the bushranger whose capture at Murrurundi was recently reported has turned out to be a brother of the notorious Ben Hall..." Soon after the confusing press reports of the possible arrest of Ben Hall at Murrurundi, the following letter to the editor of the 'Maitland Mercury' appeared, and from the frankness of the letter it seems to have been written by a close friend or family member of the Hall's;

(Letter to the Editor of the Maitland Mercury.)
"Sir-A paragraph is going the round of the papers stating "that the notorious Ben Hall" and some of his bushranging companions have been captured at Murrurundi when they were on a visit in cog. This information seems to have been communicated to the Singleton Times by a day dreamer of the name of Holmes, who stated that "he witnessed the capture of Ben, the successful chase of a trooper after another of the banditti, and their safe incarceration." Now, although I do not know this Mr. Holmes, I would advise him to be more particular the next time he carries any information to a public journal, for in the above statement there is not one word of truth, as neither Ben Hall nor any of his associates have been seen, chased, or caught in Murrurundi consequently are not in our lock-up. We have had several cases of mail robbery in this district since the present "Dick Turpin" mania commenced, and although our policemen may be smart fellows for all I know, they have as yet failed to put salt on any bushranger’s tail. I may at the same time mention that rumour with her hundred tongues has it that there is a mystery connected with the recent Murrurundi branch mail robberies which calls for a thorough investigation."

NO HUMBUG. Murrurundi, 18th August, 1863.¹⁴⁸

The five bushrangers remained in camp for a number of days, as it was reported that;"it is stated that bushranging is in the decline in the vicinity of Lambing Flat; but this is accounted for from the fact that the bush is swarming with police, and that it would be next too impossible for a bushranger just now to escape detection..."¹⁴⁹ Before long the gang emerged, when on the 18th of August, O'Meally and Gilbert were chased by troopers close to the O'Meally's home at the Weddin Mountains, with top class horses the gang was able to cover considerable miles quickly and where at various points in the bush they had deposited goods, horses and equipment well known only to themselves to help expedite their escapes and which unfortunately on some occasion's those deposits were discovered by the troopers. (For the reader, I have used portions of the John Vane narrative, 'John Vane, Bushranger' transcribed by Charles White and as such, have where possible cross-checked certain incidents with newspaper and Gazette reports. I believe the information attributed to John Vane to be factual but out of context chronologically.) The gang were often reported together or in pairs and at different points of the Western districts where they conducted operations separately, then re-joined and split the booty. John Vane wrote in 'John Vane, Bushranger', transcribed by Charles White of one such raid and the split of the proceeds of the stolen goods within the gang; "O'Meally, Gilbert and Burke, taking two spare horses with them as 'packs' started for the township to get a new fitout. Hall staying behind with me to look after the horses. The three excursionists returned about 4 o'clock next morning fully equipped with abundance of blankets, clothing, gunpowder and caps and a new revolver they had taken from one of the stores in the township. They had made a successful raid without molestation, as the police were still in the bush trying to pick up our tracks. Gilbert handed me the new revolver, and also seven £1 notes, which he said was my share of the previous night’s spoils..." This return of funds taken from the raid and the fair divvying up seemed somewhat dubious to Vane, who seems to have some doubt as to the true amount obtained by his compatriots; op. cit "so they must have taken at least £35 in addition to the stores, although I didn't ask for the particulars..." No doubt the two wily foxes, Gilbert and O'Meally, knew how to hoodwink their new chum.

Mr. Steele Caldwell,
Moonbucca Station.
c. 1880's.
The following police reports of the movements of the gang are from early to mid-August 1863; “two hours ago Mr. Inspector Singleton with some troopers and a black tracker arrived in Marengo; he only waited long enough to get reinforced by part of the patrol here, and they, rode away into the bush. The public may daily and hourly, expect to hear of an, affray, and, if the bushranging dogs will only stand their ground, and not bolt as usual, I'm confident that the said affray will be a Sanguineous one; for as far as my experience is concerned, I know that the feeling of the police against the robbers is   getting one of intense hatred; consequently, it partakes of all the bitter animosity of a private personal quarrel. In the meantime, all storekeepers in this district, whose premises are in the least degree in an isolated position, are advised to be on the qui viue and at once make arrangements in case of an attack for opening a quiet yet speedy communication with the police camp for, taking the number and ferocity of the desperadoes into consideration, all resistance on the part of small and badly armed parties of civilians is worse than useless..."¹⁵⁰ This was again followed up by another report of the Police patrol; MARENGO. -The Yass Courier's correspondent, writing on August 18th, says: -"Yesterday a party of troopers come across some suspicious looking tracks near Mr Steel Caldwell's station; they put the black tracker on them and followed the same for about three miles, when they sighted about 400 yards off, two horsemen supposed to be Gilbert and O'Meally. A sharp chase ensued, but the bushrangers cunningly led their pursuers through a very boggy country consequently the troopers got repeatedly stuck, thereby losing much ground; the continuation of these tactics ultimately got the robbers clear off, the tracks being lost near the Weddin Mountain." The gang were now ranging some distance from Mimmegong and the next day the 19th the bushrangers were once more tracked by the police, now wearing bush clothing, as recommended by Sir Frederick Pottinger and which was being widely adopted by the patrols as follows in this article; "this morning a party of six troopers and a black tracker, headed by Inspector Singleton, again passed through here. They were the best equipped party I have seen, all the men being dressed and armed more like bushrangers than troopers they had a pack-horse, carrying tent, provisions &c &c. This is the way that bushrangers ought to be hunted..."¹⁵¹ The police unfortunately were as is seen again and again one step behind the elusive bushrangers, and another party of police were seen returning to Marengo, unsuccessful; "last night Sub-inspector Roberts, a black tracker and a party of five troopers, looking wet and weary, yet still determined, arrived in Marengo and remained the night, but again struck out into the bush early this morning. The party also seems admirably equipped for the style of work it has to do. Good luck..."¹⁵² By mid-August the weather was continuing to turn cold as reported below, making life in the bush difficult for the gang and the troopers, from the 'Yass Courier', 8th August, 1863; FALL of SNOW. -Although only a few flakes of snow fell in Yass on Tuesday last, we learn that in some parts of the district the fall was considerable. It is singular that at Binalong and in its neighbourhood, where the atmosphere is, generally speaking some degrees warmer than at Yass, snow fell pretty copiously on the day we refer to. At Bowning, also there was snow; but the heaviest storms were on the other side of the Murrumbidgee. The drift there was considerable. Wheogo, also, was visited with a sharp shower of flakes, and the mountains in the direction of the Abercrombie are said to wear their winter robes of white. We have heard of the blossoming of the wattle much nearer to Yass than Gundagai." The following telegram was relayed from Inspector Pottinger to the Inspector General on the 19th August 1863 and tabled in parliament by Mr Cowper; Inspector Pottinger returned here at six o'clock last nights, and reports that, having left Cowra at noon on Friday, he proceeded towards the Wedden, and on Sunday, between that mountain and the Levels, he got upon the tracks of five horses, which he followed till dark. His party, consisting of three mounted men and two trackers, remained at this spot under an incessant rain all night, holding their horses by the bridles, and on daylight next morning again took up the tracks with difficulty, and after following them about five miles, saw, about a quarter of a mile in advance, the horses and riders. The bushrangers, seeing the police, at the same time mounted and galloped off, followed by Pottinger and his party, who did not succeed in getting nearer than three hundred yards, in consequence of his horses having been all night exposed to the pelting rain without food, and the superior horses ridden by the gang, Gilbert riding Icely's grey horse, and O'Maley the racehorse stolen from Mr. West, the other three men were Mick Burke, Ben Hall, and John Vane. Every available man and horse is now absent from the town formed, in parties, and watching localities in the bush likely to be visited by the gang, but the continued rains have rendered the bush almost impracticable for riding. Their movements are consequently much impeded, and accidents occurring, one of the trackers having come in yesterday with a broken collar bone. No depredation is reported to have been committed by the gang since their return to this district."

The Marengo correspondent of the 'Yass Courier' writes, under date 20th August 1863: —It is the general impression here that the bushranger’s days are numbered—at least, if they are not, they ought to be, for there is now scouring the bush of this district no less than five parties of troopers, each party consisting of six or seven men, headed by an officer and accompanied by a black tracker. The officers commanding these detachments are— Messrs. M'Lerie, Pottinger, Singleton, Orridge, Roberts, and Tippon. These officers have very properly dispensed with all military trappings, arms excepted, and have adopted the costume of ordinary squatters, and their men that of rough bushmen or stock-riders; also, on a packhorse each detachment carries a tent and provisions. Some parties of foot police are likewise performing their share of the program, which, being of a highly strategic nature must be kept dark for the present. Sufficient to say that we all think in fourteen or twenty days the majority of the desperadoes will he either killed, taken, or compelled to retreat to their other stronghold, viz., the Abercrombie Ranges; for I'm sure they have or will soon find the Weddin Mountains far too hot. I suppose you have heard of the last attack made by the bushrangers, if not here it is:— For some time past, Mr. Roberts' men had been engaged in mustering, picking out, and breaking in per order of the Inspector General, some fine horses for the express purpose of bushranger-hunting; but the bush telegraphs having conveyed information of this to their general, he, i.e. Gilbert, followed by three or four of his men-at-arms, made the night before last a descent upon the thrice stuck up Currawang station, stealing therefrom four or five of the best of the above horses. Yesterday, Mr. Sub-inspector Roberts recovered one of them in the Black Ranges, between Mayo's and Irish Jack's; but unfortunately he saw none of the robbers. Last Sunday Sir F Pottinger and his men came upon a party of bushrangers encamped near Marshall's, in the Weddin Mountains; the rascals immediately rushed to their horses, and notwithstanding in the scamper that two of the thieves had to gallop off on the one horse, yet ultimately they all managed to escape." 
After the above telegram was relayed from Sir Frederick Pottinger this appeared in the 'Burrangong Star', 21st August 1863, of the efforts of Sir Frederick Pottinger; BUSHRANGERS CHASED BY THE POLICE;-"We are informed that Sir Frederick Pottinger and his troopers, lately pursued seven of the bushrangers, amongst whom we have heard mentioned, as forming part of the gang, the names of Gilbert, O'Meally, Hall, Burke, and Vane, from Carcoar to Cowra, and from that town to Cootamundra. They were tracked by the black trackers to their camping place, and sighted by the police; but escaped through the fleetness of their horses, those of the police having been knocked up with hard and constant work for the last three weeks. It was then reported of another attack on Mr. Robert’s Currawang Station; Bushrangers Stealing more Horses from Currawang. -Last Tuesday night a party of bushrangers, seven in number we are told, amongst whom were Gilbert and O'Meally, paid a visit to Mr Roberts' stables at Currawang near Murrumburrah, and forcibly took away four excellent hackneys, one of which had only been a short time before been brought out of the bush. The bushrangers compelled the ostler to remain up with only his shirt on for upwards of an hour, telling him they had seen Pottinger and his bloody traps that morning, in all likelihood mistaking Sub-inspector Roberts, who, our Marengo correspondent says, sighted Gilbert, for the gallant baronet."

NSW Police Gazette of
September for August 1863.
However, in the earlier report above, of no depredations was not to last long, as the five bushrangers were hoping that the bush telegraph information recently relayed to them was accurate. The gang on the 24th August 1863, waited for the local shopkeepers from the Young township to pass their way for the Burrangong diggings to settle their outstanding accounts, this article was reported in the 'Burrangong Star' five days after the robbery on 29th August, 1863, Burke and Vane are in this report are unknown; "Between ten and eleven o'clock on Monday morning, Messrs. T. Watson, John Murphy, T. Coupland, and B. Emanuel, of Burrangong, wore stuck-up by five bushrangers. This daring affair occurred on the road leading to the Ten and Twelve Mile Rushes, about a mile and a half from the former, near Duffer Gully, and not far from where poor McBride was barbarously murdered. They were robbed of their horses, saddles and bridles; each of them was most carefully searched, being compelled to take off his coat, vest, and boots. Mr. John Murphy had a valuable gold watch and chain stolen from him; Mr. Emanuel a £1 note; Mr. Watson was more fortunate, as a cheque for £200 and 10s. in silver, which they found on his person, were returned to him, the bushrangers refusing to take either the money or the cheque. Mr. Coupland had an opportunity of slipping down one of the legs of his trousers a £5 note, unobserved by the robbers. They threatened to knock Mr. Watson's brains out because he would not quietly give up his horse, and said he was too cheeky. One of them observed to Mr. Coupland— "This is the saddle you had when you were stuck-up down the creek." On the hill, somewhat nearer to the Tipperary Gully road, some miners were bailed up, with another of the bushranging fraternity keeping guard over them, whilst the remainder of the gang were quietly robbing the storekeepers. They did not, however, plunder the diggers; but prevented them going, or rendering any assistance to the first party of victims to their lawlessness, We are informed that the ruffians asked the miners captured to join their gang, offering to supply them with horses, arms, and ammunition, but they, to their credit, most indignantly refused all their offers they were then suffered to go at large without being further molested, Mr Watson, as soon as he regained his liberty, procured a horse from a man he met on the road, and proceeded to the Ten Mile rush and gave information to the police stationed there, who proceeded to this township and reported the robbery to the police authorities at the camp, Mr. Watson returned to town on horseback, and the other gentlemen came in one of the coaches. Three of the bushrangers are supposed to be Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Hall, the two others are unknown. We believe four of them can be identified." During this robbery Ben Hall had detained between 60 or 70 locals, John Vane remarked in his narrative;op.cit. "when the gold buyers hove in sight Ben Hall warned the crowd that he would shoot any one of them that gave warning or raised an alarm..." It was also reported of the gang in ‘The Golden Age’, Thursday 10th September, 1863, of telling the unfortunates; “that they were sorry that there was no more cash among the crowd, and that they would be happy to meet them some other day, when their pockets were better lined, rode off, taking also their ponchos...”

Soon after the robbery, the report reached the town and Sir Frederick now in the district began a pursuit; "...Sir Frederick Pottinger and his troopers lost no time in giving chase, and having pursued the bushrangers to Mimmegong, tracked them, with the assistance of a black tracker, to a cave there; On approaching this place they saw, at a short distance, the parties they were in pursuit of, who, upon observing the police coming, immediately mounted fresh horses that stood ready saddled and bridled, and galloped off; leaving behind five horses which were taken possession of by the police. The troopers then pursued the bushrangers for about eight miles, and fired several shots at them; but they ultimately escaped, through the fleetness and freshness of their horses. One of the horses recovered, belongs, we understand, to Mr Icely, and another to Mr. Roberts, and are a portion of those lately stolen from these gentlemen.”¹⁵³ Consequently, another report of the bushrangers run down by Sir Frederick Pottinger at Mimmegong was also reported in ‘The Golden Age’, Thursday 10th September 1863, stating; “it appears that he followed on the tracks of the outlaws from near Duffer Gully, through White's station, over the Lachlan road, by Mr. Beckham's across Meroo Creek, and three miles beyond Mimgong, he descried horses at the bottom of a rocky elevation. On approaching closer he discovered one of the horses to be that lately taken from J. Robert's Esq., Currawang stables, and another, the race-horse Comus, taken from Mr. Icely. On the horses were a saddle belonging to Mr. Roberts, and the one taken from Mr. J. Murphy, and the one taken from T. Coupland, which wanted a rein, besides blankets and ponchos. Quite adjacent was a cave, to which they were wont to resort. While securing the horses, the black tracker espied the bushrangers riding away on the fresh horses they had captured. The party consisted of Gilbert, O'Meally, Hall, John Vane, and Dick Bourke. On seeing Sir Frederick and his men, they took flight in various directions, each trusting to the speed of his quadruped. Sir Frederick, we are told, kept close on Dick for about an hour, and was once within shot; but as Ben Hall came to Dick's aid, and Sir Fred alone, he thought it better taste to decline firing, and return to his men, who were in pursuit of the other three. As the highwaymen had better horses, and soon got out of sight, the police were compelled to return and be satisfied with the booty they had already seized. A fresh body of troopers started on the tracks on Tuesday evening, but with what greater success their return will tell...” With the recovery of the horses by the police however, the following appeared in the newspapers of the bushrangers next daring plan and consequently the successful attack of the police camp to recover the captured horses and the reporters misguided admiration of Gilbert, stating if he should depart Australia for the Civil War now raging in America Gilbert would be handy on the Confederate side; A POLICE CAMP SURPRISED BY BUSHRANGERS AMD THE HORSES STOLEN; "One of our correspondent’s writes: — On Sunday night Detective Inspector Orridge’s party of troopers left their bush camp in the neighbourhood of Wombat with only one man and a black tracker to guard it, and went on foot and surrounded a suspected settler's hut. It is probable they were decoyed away by some false information, or else the bush telegraph must have been put in immediate operation, for before the troopers returned Gilbert's gang made a descent upon it, riddled the tent with balls, and ended with galloping off with the trooper’s horses. Talk about the ubiquity of Gardiner, why this Gilbert beats him hollow: for he seems to be here there and everywhere: in the morning leading, the on slaught upon Haughey's party, and in the evening attacking the police camp; really this fellow’s talents are prostituted in Australia, he ought to, go to America and join some marauding cavalry regiment. General Stuart would take him and ask no questions, for as a guerrilla officer, he would be invaluable.”¹⁵⁴ After the pursuit by Sir Frederick Pottinger at Mimmegong, John Vane recounts his version of the fracca;op.cit. "I was in the act of putting a bridle on him when I heard a voice calling on me to "Stand!" The voice was that of Sir Frederick Pottinger, who was in charge of the police in that district, and as soon as he heard it Gilbert fired, the firing still continued, but no further damage was done, and Gilbert and I were soon galloping side by side down a steep hill and into a thick scrub, making round to where Burke had been planted, then O'Meally who came around from the other direction suddenly galloped down and fired, getting together, however, we soon out distanced our pursuers, and, crossing a flat, we turned and kept them at bay with our rifles which had a longer range than their revolvers. O'Meally secured one of the horses on the other side of the camp, and Burke having changed the saddle to the fresh horse, we all easily got away from the police, who then returned with their two black-trackers set themselves to rifling our night camp, removing everything they could carry away with them and not leaving a blanket behind them..." Although Vane's recollection from his narrative was that the police failed to catch the horses and stated;op.cit. "but they could not catch the loose horses, and that night we returned and shifted them, and then rode in towards the township of Lambing Flat..."

"..getting together, however, we
 soon out distanced
 our pursuers."

John Vane.
The police were swamping the districts in search of the gang as reported in the 'Yass Courier' of the numbers and the unlucky disposition of the police in their failure;  MORE ABOUT BUSHRANGERS;"It is the general impression here that the bushrangers days are numbered-at least, if they are not, they ought to be, for there are now scouring the bush of this district no less than five parties of troopers, each party consisting of six or seven men, headed by an officer, and accompanied by a black tracker. The officers commanding these detachments are Messrs. M'Lerie, Pottinger, Singleton, Orridge, Roberts and Tippon. These officers have properly dispensed with all military trappings, arms excepted, and have adopted the costume of ordinary squatters and their men that of rough bushmen or stock riders; also on a pack-horse each detachment carries a tent and provisions. Some parties of foot police are likewise performing their share of the programme, which, being of a highly stratagetic nature, must be kept dark for the present. Sufficient to say that we all think in fourteen or twenty days the majority of the desperadoes will be either killed, taken, or compelled to retreat to their other stronghold, viz., the Abercrombie Ranges; for i am sure they have or soon will find the Weddin Mountains far too hot. I suppose you have heard of the last attack made by the bushrangers: if not here it is:- For some time past, Mr. Roberts' men had reengaged in mustering, picking out, and breaking in per order of the inspector-general, some fine horses for the express purpose of bushranger hunting; but the bush telegraphs having conveyed information this to their general, he, i.e. Gilbert, followed three or four of his men-at-arms, made, the night before last, a decent upon the thrice stuck-up Currawang station, stealing therefrom four or five the best of the above horses. Yesterday, Mr. Sub inspector Roberts recovered one of them in the Black Ranges, between Mayo's and Irish Jack's, but unfortunately he saw none of the robbers. Last Sunday Sir F. Pottinger and his men came upon a party of bushrangers encamped near Marshall's in the Weddin Mountains; the rascals immediately rushed to their horses, and not withstanding in the scamper that two of the thieves had to gallop off on the one horse, yet ultimately they all managed to escape."¹⁵⁵ After this close encounter the five once more split as attested to by John Vane;op.cit. "we stayed together for several days on the Black Range, and then parted, Gilbert, Burke and Hall started for Borrowra, on the Yass side, and O'Meally and I remaining at Peter O'Meally's place (O'Meally's uncle) at Black Range, the arrangement being that we were all to meet again at Demondrille Station, near Murrumburrah..."

"..make for the scrub"
John Vane.
A newspaper article appeared reporting another close encounter and escape by Ben Hall, Vane, Gilbert, O’Meally and Burke, who had now fully regrouped and had formed the formidable gang which was to set the Western Districts alight again and again. After the escape from the clutches of Sir Frederick Pottinger, and whilst relaxing in one of their bush camps, the gang were again detected once more by the Inspector and his patrol of troopers who rapidly closed in on the unsuspecting and soon startled bushrangers, during the pursuit and frenzied escape, John Vane comes a cropper from his mount, reported as follows; The Carcoar correspondent of the Bathurst Free Press writing on the 5th instant, says:"These ruffians have not been seen again about this district since they were hunted by superintendents Pottinger and Morrissett and the troopers, although they have been robbing every person they could meet. Sir F. Pottinger and several of his men sighted Gilbert, Vane, and others. Gilbert was mounted on Mr. Icley's grey; Sir F. and his men immediately gave chase, and after running them some miles Vane's horse fell with him, when Gilbert instantly pulled up, and the young Vane jumped up behind. The gallant grey bore both Gilbert and Vane along at a rattling pace, but as they found the police were gaining on them they jumped from their horse’s backs, and rushed on foot into a thick and extensive scrub, and made their escape, the police making prizes of their horses, saddles.”¹⁵⁶ John Vane recounts his version of the encounter;op.cit. "...we were disturbed by the sound of horses galloping, and Gilbert jumped up to look, calling out immediately that the police were coming across the Flat, headed by two blacktrackers. There was quite a crowd of them, but I didn't stop to count them, we at once rushed to our horses, but when I placed my foot in the stirrup, forgetting that I had not girthed up properly, the saddle slipped, by this time the police were quite near, one of the police whom I recognised as Sir Frederick Pottinger, rode quite close up to me. He was wearing a poncho and I could hear him swearing because he could not get at his revolvers. He then tried to get his poncho off by throwing it back over his head, meanwhile I had run to a large tree where our rifles and carbines were stacked. Seizing one of these, I called out to Sir Frederick "Go back, or I'll shoot you" at the same time Gilbert galloped back and told me to jump up behind him, which I did and we then galloped off at top speed, whilst the bullets from the police fire whistled around us very uncomfortably, Gilbert was troubled a little about the speed at which we were going, for the horse was a rattler from the stables of Mr T. R. Icley, as we reached the top of the hill, I said to Gilbert "make for the scrub." After this event and narrow escape, it was discovered by the gang that they had been betrayed by none other than young Jameison, who had been the one to leave a trail that led the police to their haunt, as Vane explains;op.cit. "when we made our bolt from the camp, Jameison accompanied us, riding with his hat in his mouth and his revolver held out in his right hand. When we afterwards came to think of his actions we could see plainly enough that his object was to show the police which man they were not to fire at, we doubled behind the police, and then I told him to get down off his horse and put his revolver on the ground. He obeyed at once without a demur, I then picked up his revolver and mounted the police horse which he had been riding. He at once speared into a clump of thorn bushes and said "They won't find me here; you come back for me when they are gone"- still wanting us to believe that he was on our side, instead of the spy he was, Gilbert wanted me to shoot him there and then but Ben Hall said no as the police would hear the shot," we saw the police coming back, Jameison being with them on foot..."

It was reported in the 'Goulburn Herald', 16th September 1863, and is interesting to note is that prior to Jameison's being released on what was thought to be bail it was reported that Jameison had been released as a police spy of runner and that he was to help the police in the apprehension of Ben Hall & Co which corroberates Vane statement that Jamison was a spy for the police as follows; "some time ago, two drays laden with produce from Tumut, were stuck-up near Young, by a young man named Jamieson, whose father, was a settler on the Levels, Jamieson was subsequently concerned in another highway robbery, and at the request of his family and some of their friends he surrendered to the police, such being considered advisable, as the youth was rapidly fulling into ways that would in all probability lead him to a disgraceful death. Jamieson was committed to take his trial on both cases of robbery, but from some cause he was permitted to become a police runner, the Inspector-General possibly considering that his services would be more valuable in that line than in geological pursuits. Jamieson was only a short time in the service of the Queen before he made his escape, and we have now to record two fresh robberies against him, one at Messrs. Webb and Crego's store, Burrowa, and the other at Mr. McGregor's, on the Levels. His career, has been brief, for, us we have mentioned, he was reapprended a few days ago at the Weddin Mountain..." After this encounter it was reported in the 'Goulburn Herald' on the 26th September 1863 many weeks after the episode that Jamieson was in the hands of Inspector Pottinger;  "the re-taking of Jamieson; however, I was right in stating that Sir Frederick Pottinger escorted on the 9th instant the bushranger Jamieson through Marengo; but the officer who re-arrested the supposed robber was Sub-inspector Roberts..."

NSW Police Gazette for
Daniel Morgan, August 1863.
Ben Hall now re-joined and resumed working the roads with Gilbert, O'Meally and the two new recruits, 'The Boys' were soon to learn of another bushranger operating to the east of their area near Wagga Wagga, by the name which would become synonymous with brutality and torture, Daniel Morgan, or better known today as 'Mad Dog Morgan'. Morgan was described as follows; "aged 33, 5 feet 10 or 11 inches high, black hair worn down to his shoulders, black moustache, and black beard, with brown tinge on points about his mouth, long nose very sharp straight down his face, sallow complexion with brown spots like freckles, loose jointed seems to have weak knees; speaks very slow and quietly, inter-lards his conversation with the words "of course"; insolent and overbearing in his manners..," although Morgan was not his real name it is believed that his name was Jack Fuller, born around 1830 at Appin NSW.
Prision Hulk "Success" c. 1900
Daniel Morgan.
Morgan drifted to Victoria about the time of the first Gold rushes without success and turned to highway robbery where he was soon apprehended and sentenced to 12 years, of which, some time was spent on the prison hulk 'Success' moored at Hobsons Bay, Melbourne. Morgan was released on a 'Ticket of Leave' in 1860 and returned to NSW, he soon found work as a station hand breaking in horses, before long Morgan stole a prized horse and was tracked by the owners and shot and wounded but managed to escape and recover. By mid-1863 Morgan was soon conducting hold-ups and robbing stores in the Riverina district, some robberies of which were attributed to Ben Hall and Co. There is no evidence that the two camps ever came into contact with each other, on the 21st of August 1863, Morgan fired upon Magistrate Henry Bayliss seriously wounding him and where a £200 reward for Morgan's capture was soon offered.

John Hammond
 c. 1860
However, during the time between Vane's statement that the group was to re-join at Demondrille Station which saw Vane still in company with O'Meally and Gilbert on this occasion with Ben Hall and Micky Burke revisited Old Junee following Gilbert's earlier spree in June. 1863. The trio arrived on the afternoon of the 26th August 1863 where it was once more reported in more detail of the events of this latest robbery at Mr Hammond's Station 'Wyoming' at Old Junee, (not the current township) a short distance of 47 miles from Lambing Flat; "a messenger came galloping into town with the information that the rangers had paid another visit to Junee, going this time to Mr Hammonds station. About three p.m., while the family were at dinner, three men rode up to the door dismounting they enquired of the servant girl for the "Superintendent,'' and without hardly waiting for reply, pressed past her into the dining room, where were seated Mr Hammond, his brother, Mr Gwynne, Mrs Hammond and children. They introduced themselves in their usually courteous manner by the muzzles of three pointed revolvers. One of them the inmates recognized as Gilbert, and from the description of the others it is to be supposed that Vane was of the party, and even perhaps that lately mythical, personage Gardiner. Gilbert remained in the room holding the inmates in agreeable conversation while the two others went and searched the place, the result of the foray being watch, some jewellery and all the powder there was in the house, and two horses, the qualities of which, they tried. They informed the family that three horses they had, had been taken by the police; they had ridden Jacky Morgan to death; they particularly wanted the animal that had been ridden into Wagga Wagga by Mr Hammond's brother, on the occasion of the sticking-up at Harris's, as they had perused the columns of the papers, and learnt what a capital steed it was. One of the two horses they took was this very steed. They stated that the primary object of their visit was to punish the "Superintendent" for riding into Wagga Wagga with the information, on the previous occasion, and asked which of them it was, but Mr Hammond denied his being there; they declaimed on said Superintendent's ingratitude, in so doing, when, they had not, taken anything from him, and promised him fifty lashes for the first offence, one hundred if he repeated it, and a bullet for the third time. After joking with the family for a short time longer, they rode off with their booty, saying the horses they were mounted on would do well enough to travel with during the night. The scoundrels, it appears, had well-chosen their time of visit, for there were none of the station men about the place during the present, busy time. Mrs Hammond was of course very much alarmed at the sudden inroad, but they told her to calm her fears, as none need be entertained. Immediately on their, departure, our informant mounted and rode off full speed into Wagga Wagga to give information to the police; but us our police party, is at present out in the Galore scrub, sergeant Carroll had neither men nor horses at command, and all he could do was to telegraph to Lambing Flat and Gundagai..."¹⁵⁷ Another report of the hold-up at the Hammond's residence appeared in the 'Sydney Morning Herald, a week after the event on 1st September 1863, and also refers to the recent escapes and horse thefts from Mr Robert's 'Currawong Station' and Superintendent Morrissett at Carcoar; "Yesterday (Thursday), the 27th, about four o clock p m, a horseman, "bloody with spurring, fiery red with haste," thundered across the bridge and galloped along the street in the direction of the police quarters. the appearance of "The Firman" did not more surely convoy to the ancient Arab the token of the advancing foe, than did the appearance of this heated rider indicate to the inhabitants of our peaceful village that some other act of violence had been perpetrated. The people drew rapidly together, and we ascertained from the messenger that about two o'clock, whilst the family were at dinner, three mounted bushrangers rode up to Mr. Hammond's, at Junee and dismounting walked into the dining room. Two of the robbers were recognised as Gilbert and Vane, and the third, strange as it may seem, is said positively to be Gardiner, -and I believe it, notwithstanding the reports of his having left the country. The rascals made particular inquiries for the person who had ridden in to give information to the police of their former robbery of Junee store and public house, stating they knew he had gone from Mr. Hammond's. They assured the family that if they found him they would punish him servely by the infliction of fifty lashes with a stock whip, which they had brought with them for the purpose! As the person they sought for was not present the scoundrels were foiled but they stated the existence of a recent law passed among them, by which any one giving information to the police is to be punished by fifty lashes for the FIRST OFFENCE! one hundred for the SECOND!! and by Death for the Third!!! Gilbert, who leisurely leant against the sideboard whilst the family dined, was the mouthpiece for this new class of law givers, the other two men being engaged ransacking the rooms. They took outfits of wearing apparel, a watch, some jewelry, and all the gun powder they could find but got no cash. They then stated that their principal object in coming to Mr. Hammond's was to procure horses, "as they believed he had good ones," and "particularly they wanted that horse which had on the occasion of the former robbery carried his rider into Wagga Wagga in an hour." (The distance is twenty-four miles) They said they had read the account in the newspapers and "were pleased with it!" Also, that "they had seen the horses in the paddock, and believed this horse was amongst them." Gilbert asked for a late paper, and entered into a loose and careless conversation on the subject of bushranging in general. He referred to the late discovery of their gang by the police at the Weddin Mountains and said that Mr. Morrissett had reported he had wounded his (Gilbert's) horse when the attempt was made to rescue the prisoners at Carcoar, but that was untrue, for the horse had carried two of themselves away from the police when discovered near the Weddin Mountains (Vide account in your paper) He also remarked that "Mr. Roberts, of Currawong, was a first rate old fellow, as he furnished both the police and the bushrangers with horses!" This was facetious allusion to the circumstance of the horses ordered by Mr. M'Lerie, from Mr. Roberts, for the public service being stolen by the bushrangers. The robbers stated they had latterly lost five, of their best horses by the police. Gilbert remained on Mr. Hammonds premises whilst the other two brought up the horses from the paddock when having procured the fine animal they "particularly" wanted and having given another ''a trial gallop" against one of their own in the paddock, "just to try its foot" they decamped going in the direction of the Junee store and inn, which it will be they robbed in June last. As the messenger I have referred to as bringing the report of the robbery at Mr. Hammond's, left directly the robbers did, he could tell us nothing but a gentleman has, come in this morning from Junee and reported that the inn and stores were robbed by the rascals, the latter to a most serious extent.”¹⁵⁸

NSW Police Gazette
2 September 1863.
After leaving Hammonds sated and prior to leaving the Junee area Ben Hall and Gilbert revisited a previous victim as reported; "on Friday morning we received a fresh piece of information which shows that this gentry have no intention of doing things by halves. On leaving Hammond's place it appears Gilbert's party wended their way to the scene of their former exploit (Harris and Williams' public store). This time they entirely ransacked Williams' store, loading their horses with the booty, and absolutely despoiling him of the coat on his back. They served Harris' place somewhat in the same fashion, taking one of his best, horses and thus ends our one day’s record, which will do doubt occupy its appropriate niche, in the archives of crime A.D.1863, to be hereafter compiled..."¹⁵⁹ A Century after the raid of August 1863 on the Hammond's home 'Wyoming' Albert Hammond's encounter was recounted in the 'Junee Southern Cross' in July 1973 and recounts the story of the gang seeking the lad who rode to Wagga as follows; “he was in the house with his parents when they heard someone walking up the hall. The door was pushed open and they found firarms covering them. Hall was seeking the man who had gone to Wagga to inform the police but Albert had ruffled his hair and turned up his collar and the bushranger did not recognise him. Mr. Hammond tried to put it over Hall by telling him that Albert was his brother and that he had gone to 'Mimosa Station' on business. The maid offered the bushrangers a meal which Hall and his men accepted, telling the Hammonds to remain seated in the lounge. Albert unwisely crossed the room and was testing a muzzel loading gun with a ramrod to see if it was loaded but Hall took it from him and asked "What do you think you're doing?" Young Hammond tried to joke it off by saying "I thought I might have been able to hold you people up". Afterwards while Hall's men were testing the station's horses to see which ones they would take, Hall approached Albert and said "Young fellow, you thought I did not know you were the one who told the police, you are a very foolish fellow, if O'Meally had come with us today he would have shot you down like a dog.”

Hammond's Home
 'Wyoming' near
 Old Junee c. 1870's.
Courtesy Junee Historical Society.
An interesting circumstance occurred during the hold-up at Old Junee and the presence of the trio's evening at the Hammond's appeared in the Goulburn Herald’, Wednesday 23rd September, 1863, a few weeks after the event which stated that during the robbery and prior to departing the three bushrangers would have a mind to spend the evening enjoying with the Hammonds the already prepared dinner. The article also demonstrates how the bushrangers were very conscious of their appearance; AN INCIDENT IN BUSHRANGING; -"It is often said that bushrangers are regardless of personal appearance, and care for nothing but fingering the cash of their unfortunate victims; but the following incident shows that some of them do not think "small beer of themselves." A short time ago the station of Mr. Hammond at Junee, was stuck-up by three desperadoes. At the time of their arrival the family were at dinner, and accordingly one of the gang kept guard over the inmates of the house whilst his mates proceeded to ransack it, during which proceeding, they rigged themselves out in Mr. Hammond's clothes, and having washed themselves and oiled their hair proceeded to the dining-room and relieved their mate from guard while he proceeded to do ditto. This accomplished, the whole three sat down to dinner and refreshed themselves to their hearts content, after which they decamped with everything they could lay hands on. After this, who will say that bushrangers have no regard to etiquette, it being quite clear that they did not like to present themselves at the dinner-table until they had dressed; and therefore preferred adopting the course they did, to sitting down without having previously invited themselves in such a manner that the ladies could find no fault with them.” It was well known that the bushrangers Gilbert and Ben Hall took great care in their appearance and often adorned themselves with colourful sashes and hat ribbons and stylish apparel, boots and all, and were often referred to as Flash, where at one future robbery Ben Hall was referred to as downright fat. (this article will appear later.) At the time of this event, Morgan as previously mentioned was reported for the shooting of a Magistrate, Mr Bayliss; "later in the evening another telegram, from Wagga Wagga, reported that Mr. Bayliss, police magistrate, had been shot by the bushrangers Morgan and Mate, while he, with the police, were watching the camp of the bushrangers, which they had discovered in the scrub. The bullet went into Mr. Bayliss' right breast and came out at the left, but the wound was not considered to be fatal..." 

The subject of these recent outrages was once more raised in the NSW Legislature, with the Colonial Secretary Mr Cowper responding to questions stated that; "Mr. COWPER believed the information was strictly correct. He was sorry to say these depredations were still going on. This afternoon he had received another telegram from the same quarter stating that another establishment had been stuck up and three packhorses and some goods stolen by these scoundrels. He had ordered superintendent Chatfield to take all the men he could spare from Campbelltown, Inspector Wilshire to take all the men he could spare from Parramatta, and proceed at once to the scene of these outrages, and sub-inspector White would go also. The Inspector-General had telegraphed to say that he had ordered superintendent M’Lerie to proceed to the place, and that he himself intended to go there. He (Mr. Cowper) had not been aware that Gilbert, O'Meally, and their gang were in this district, but it now appeared that they were. He had this morning communicated with Captain M’Lerie, intimating that nothing as regarded police or any assistance beyond, should be wanting to put a stop to the outrages. The Government, by rewards and every means in their power, were inciting the police to do all they could, and induce others to aid them in capturing these scoundrels. There was another telegram received from the sub-inspector at Yass, stating that he had succeeded in capturing some of these scoundrels."¹⁶⁰ As Mr Cowper reiterated the government and police's efforts to apprehend the bushrangers, moves were afoot in the Legislature to unseat the Government by renowned lawyer Mr Martin over public expenditure; "on Thursday afternoon Mr. Martin has given notice of another vote of censure embracing not less than twenty-six resolutions, which he proposes to submit seriatim, and having reference to the unauthorised expenditure of public money. So I suppose that we shall have a second edition of the late jawing match which so disgraced our Assembly the other week or two..."¹⁶¹ Furthermore, those forces circling within the NSW parliament and the continued agitation from its members towards the Colonial Secretary Mr. Cowper over the state of crime pervading in the interior, these forces were led by Mr. James Martin who on a number of occasions and was in the act of bring censure on the Government for misuse of public spending with relation to the ongoing costs of the new police act and the perceived view of incompetence of both the police and government in the checking of the bushranging menace. Victoria through the Victorian 'Argus' newspaper took a swipe at the level of crime in NSW and poked fun at the Colonial Secretary over his flippant view of the checking of crime in NSW.

"The increase of crime in the neighbouring colony of New South Wales is a fact so alarming; as to merit the serious attention of all its neighbours. According to the confession of Mr. Cowper himself, the state of the country which he rules is such as to render a little ludicrous the recent agitation into which we have been thrown at the prospect of a fresh crop of convicts from England. If Mr. Cowper's statements may be relied upon, Australia has at her own doors a school of crime quite active and prolific; enough to keep up her normal penal character, without any necessity article from Europe. In a speech delivered in the Sydney House of Assembly on the 15th inst., the Colonial Secretary made the following statement in proof of the efficiency of the New South Wales police—“In the course of the ten months ending- the 31st of December, 1862, there had been 79 apprehensions for murder and other; capital offences in the colony, 189 for highway robbery with arras and mail robbery, 1,149 for manslaughter and assaults, 876 for burglaries and robbery 'from stores, 116 for forging and embezzlement, 331 tor cattle; stealing, 192 for arson and wilful damage to property, and 768 for other felonies:'' This almost incredible statement has since, it appears, been challenged by Mr. Cowper himself, who is: reported to have transmitted to England a telegram denying the correctness of his own figures.1 The world, therefore, is left to choose between the veracity of Mr. Cowper, as the advocate for the New South Wales police, and Mr. Cowper, as champion of the fair fame of his colony. On the whole, it may reasonably be doubted; whether the. Chief' Secretary is so marvellously clumsy, an advocate as he now wishes himself to appear. If it is almost, beyond belief that Mr. Cowper’s original figures could be true, it, is still more incredible that a gentleman in the position of Chief Secretary of New South Wales should deliberately give utterance’s to so damaging a statement, unless be had previously assured himself of its substantial correctness. Most persons who have, studied the character of that astute and slippery, gentleman; the dictator of. ‘New South Wales, will be inclined to prefer the first effusion of his candour to the matured result of his afterthought. In defending the police of the colony, Mr. Cowper may have overlooked all the consequences: of his exuberant zeal; yet, still, it is difficult to credit the Colonial Secretary with a deliberate error—or still worse, a deliberate falsehood—in a matter of so much importance. At any rate, on referring to Mr. Cowper's speech it seems almost impossible to believe that his figures are far wide of the' mark, except upon the hypothesis of a greater and more elaborate fraud than was ever before perpetrated upon the head of n Government. Allowing that there may be some exaggeration, however the number of apprehensions by the police in New; South Wales', there can scarcely be any doubt bat that the number of - committals and: convictions is absolutely correct, halting the number of tie committed and convicted alone, we find from Mr. Cowper's speech, that in ten months there were 48 persons committed for murder, of whom 31 were convicted. Of Highway robbers there were 57 committed, and 48 convicted. Of persons apprehended for manslaughter, 474 were convicted.1 Of burglars there were 499 committed, of forgers 49, of horse and cattle stealers 115, for arson 97; and for other felonies 389.

Confessing that many may have escaped and that many crimes were: committed which were not discovered Mr. Cowper urges that his list affords a pretty fair idea of the labours of the police during ten months. The general public will agree that it also; furnishes a pretty fair test of the labours and. activity, of the criminal class in New South Wales. In a population of scarcely exceeding 350,000 souls, there is perhaps no community in the world' which can show a picture like this. And yet, unless the New South Wales, police are maligned, the number of the successful and prosperous felons must? greatly exceed1 that of, those imbecilic creatures w1-6 permit themselves to falling the hands of Sir Frederick Pottinger and his: men. Messrs. Gardiner and Gilbert still run their prosperous course in the interior. The Mudgee mail is still robbed about twice in every week. The professions, of bushranger and highwayman continue to be successfully practiced by young men New South Wales. The journals abound in accounts of the exploits and the adventures of the gentlemen of the road. The Sydney Morning Herald even announces that Thiefdom has risen to the dignity of and organized association in New South Wales, having its correspondents, its journals and its representative” - that permeates all ranks and callings in life— that it keeps its telegraphic agents- its special reporter’s — nay even its members of Parliament. It is admitted that there now exists in the interior a “robber sept - having sympathies and moral sentiments in harmony with pillage, and murder” It is probable that, at the present rate of progress, there will even be a Gardiner party in Parliament, and that bushrangers will vie with democrats in their claims upon the young patriotism of New South Wales. Taking Mr. Cowper's statistics of the amount - of crime actually discovered and punished in., New South Wales, and comparing them -with the notorious prosperity and success of the felon. professions in the interior, we arrive at it be picture of the. internal condition of New South Wales which it is hardly possible to exaggerate. It is no wonder that the respectable journals of the colony deplore the moral state of the colony, and call attention to the serious disgrace. The evil has been of slow growth and is perhaps too deeply rooted to be speedily cured. Its worst features are the tolerance with which it is borne by the mass of the communityv1ttie apology which it finds among a certain party of the state, and the positive sympathy which it commands among the rural and pastoral population of the interior. So long as Gardiner continues a hero, and his deeds are invested with the hues of romance, so long will the felon taint be ineradicable from the colony of New South Wales."¹⁶²

Furthermore, in relation to the above article, this appeared in the Melbourne 'Leader' on this subject and where tongue in cheek advises: — “The extreme lengths to which the exploits upon the road have gone has at length attracted the serious attention of the authorities at Sydney. The result is that bushranging is recognised as an established institution—in the department of but, unfortunately, not under the control of the Postmaster-General. As the new bureau is extensive in its transactions, a number of printed forms have been prepared in order to economise the time of the inferior officials. The following are two of the forms just printed for the use of the Sydney Post-office: — No. General Post-Office, Sydney, 1S6. I beg to inform you that the mail dispatched on the form to ....... was robbed on the ....... by bushrangers, and registered letter to your address stolen therefrom. I have the honour to be your obedient servant, W. H. Christie, Postmaster-General, General Post-Office, Sydney, 1S6. I beg to inform you that a cheque drawn by ....... in favour of ....... on ....... which was in the mail from ....... that was robbed by bushrangers on ....... has been recovered, and now lies at this office for delivery to the party who can claim it as property. I am, your obedient servant, Postmaster-General. In due course Mr. Martin would have his pound of flesh.”¹⁶³

NSW Police Gazette
2 September 1863.
After the escapade at Old Junee, Ben Hall and Gang were next active, when on the 29th August, 1863, the five bushrangers re-joined and arrived at the home of John Edmunds, Superintendent at Demondrille Station, although newspaper accounts at the time point to Gilbert and O'Meally as entering the premises whilst the others remained outside as the two forced entry holding everyone up while they raided the home stealing saddles, bridles, a revolver and a valise and as well as two copies of the latest 'Yass Courier' along with a number of items of warm clothing and two horses, after which they departed Demondrille and where it is believed three of the gang, Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke departed from O'Meally and Vane after the visit to the hut of a family named Tootles, here the gang took supper and departed leaving O'Meally and Vane behind who slept the night there.

NSW Police Gazette
2 September 1863.
The word of the attack on Demondrille soon reached the newly established police outpost at Murrumburrah where senior constable Houghey quickly prepared to take the field in pursuit of the bushrangers, accompanied by three constables Pentland, Churchman and Keane as well as a blacktracker and a civilian the manager of Demondrille, Mr Edmunds, at the time of the first report it was thought that Gilbert, Burke, Vane and O'Meally were present at Tootles, as stated in the 'Goulburn Herald', 5th September 1863; CONSTABLE HOUGHEY DANGEROUSLY WOUNDED, BY O'MEALLY AND ANOTHER;- "It appears that Senior-constable Houghey, acting on information received, left Murrumburrah at a very early hour last Sunday morning, accompanied by three or four troopers, a gentleman who volunteered, and a black tracker, and went to a shanty situated about four miles from Demondrille on Sherlock Creek. As the police approached nearer they could discern that the horses belonged to the bushrangers, and while consulting as to what plan to adopt, the dogs about the house began barking and howling. Not an instant was to be lost, so the party surrounded the shanty before daybreak, and it was known that O'Meally and one of his mates were inside the hut. The bushrangers soon discovered how they were situated, and discharged a number of shots at the police, wounding two or three of the horses; they then endeavoured to escape unobserved through the back of the but, but Senior-constable Houghey caught sight of them, and hastily dismounting he rushed to the paddock where they were, and while in the act of getting over the fence he was fired at and seriously wounded. The bullet entered at the knee, and descended to near the ankle. Houghey fell and fainted; but how his companions afterwards acted we have not yet been informed. The bushrangers got off on foot. It becoming known in Murrumburrah that O'Meally and his mates were in the neighbourhood, one man succeeding in getting on his horse, escaped. The place being near a free-selector's ground, the large amount of fallen timber and it being dark enabled the men to escape. The police brought in two men who were found in the hut besides several horses; the property taken from the station (Mr. Edmonds') was also found." With O'Meally and Vane having escaped, the two men arrested were the harbourers Walter Tootles and George Slater, quite possibly mistaken for Gilbert and Burke, but at the time of the affray, John Vane in his narrative stated that only himself and O'Meally were present, Vane writes of the gunfight like a scene from 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid', Vane states;op. cit. "the police called on us to come out, and as we made no sign they poured a regular storm of bullets into the slab walls, fortunately without doing any damage, O'Meally and I took a revolver in each hand and suddenly throwing open the door we sent out a blaze of fire, discharging our revolvers simultaneously, and rushed out while the smoke filled the doorway. I heard one of the policemen call out "I'm shot, but look after their horses..." When arrested, Tootles would be discharged, but Slater would receive five years.
George Slater entry at Cockatoo Island, 1863
Bolting through the bush O'Meally in company with Vane now on their own, and after the narrow escape from the police at Tootles, the pair would ambush and shoot dead a passing traveller by the name of Mr Barnes, who when confronted refused O'Meally's demand to part with his horse. Consequently, the 'bailed up' gentleman dug his heels into the horse and took flight with O'Meally quickly firing after him and commenced pusuit, continuing to fire and where the gunshots took effect in Mr Barnes' back, as reported in the 'Goulburn Herald', 5th September 1863; "Mr. Barnes, storekeeper, (whose son keeps a store at Cootamundry, and had been previously stuck-up) resolved to visit his son, and it occasion called for it, to assist in encountering the bushrangers should they again visit the store at Cootamundry. Mr. Barnes was accompanied by some person whose name we have not heard, and on their reaching Wallendbeen, they fell in with the fugitives from the shanty, both of them on foot, one, leading a horse. They ordered Mr. Barnes and his companion to stop; the latter set spurs to his horse and made off, Mr. Barnes it is supposed was armed, and endeavoured to overcome the desperadoes. Be that as it may, shortly afterwards the body of the unfortunate gentleman was found on the road, with, it is said, no fewer than eighteen bullet-wounds-that causing death entering the centre of the forehead. The bushrangers secured Mr. Barnes' horse, and deliberately searched the paddock at Wallendbeen for fresh horse', and failing to find any that suited their requirements they made off..."

John Barnes.
After the death of Mr Barnes, Vane in his memoirs states that Ben Hall was unhappy about the murder, Vane states;op.cit. "Ben Hall did not say much in my hearing, but I could see he was greatly put out, and I saw him afterwards talking very seriously with O'Meally..." Vane goes on to say that the group then split into two; "shortly after this occurrence our party divided for a time..." The death of John Barnes by O'Meally and Vane forced a fracture in the gang and they split for some days with O'Meally and Vane together and Burke, Gilbert and Ben Hall remaining in the district around Mimmegong which was now swamped with troopers. (for full details see The Gang page.) With the brutal death of Mr Barnes, Vane wrote that the group separated at Memagong;op.cit. "after we had returned to Memagong and rested there a couple of days. Hall, Gilbert and Burke wanted to make back for the Bathurst district but O'Meally and I were not agreeable, so they left us at Memagong and we did not know where they were for several weeks, but we kept the game going on our side all the same..." Subsequently, at the Coroner inquest into Mr Barnes' death it was reported in the 'Empire' 21st September 1863 that the jury found; "The Coroner of Young held an inquest on the body of Mr. Barnes, the storekeeper who was shot by O'Meally for refusing to submit to be robbed. The unfortunate man had three bullets in his body. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against O'Meally." The tragic death of Mr Barnes motivated another letter to the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald go to print, this time calling on the Government to employ Ben Hall's close friend Daniel Charters, who had been holding up at the police stockade at Longbottom in Sydney, to help catch him and to also employ the native police who should be brought down from Queensland, the letter is as follows;

To the Editor of the Herald.  SIR, —So many chimeras have been published on the subject of capturing the bushrangers, now infesting the Weddin Mountains and their vicinity, I, with all the diffidence of a civilian (though an old bushman) would suggest to the "powers that be" the feasibility of my plan.

In my younger days in the colony, I did a "leetle" amateur work in taking bushrangers, and a good deal in the capture of wild cattle. I am confident the same course might be equally successful with those wild and impracticable bipeds—namely, by tracking, and thus hunting them off their run. 
The manner I propose this should be done is simple. Let Captain Battye or Sir F. Pottinger be placed in charge of four troopers, lightly equipped and well mounted, procure two of the native police from Queensland; the six men should be selected as to weight, horsemanship, and proficiency with the rifle. Then take Charters, from Longbottom, or wherever he is indolently enjoying himself; mount and arm him equally well. He is a good horseman, and knows not only the country but the haunts of the desperadoes. Let this party get on the tracks, and keep to them. The bushrangers will be wearied out, and forced to leave their favourite locality. Once expelled they will prove but easy victims to the numerous troopers patrolling the disturbed district.

It may be said the bushrangers can get fresh horses; well let this small force do as the old mounted police frequently did—press horses when in pursuit. If old sergeant Wilcox is alive he would verify and approve of this plan, and I believe few men have captured more bushrangers than that old soldier.

Bathurst, 4th September.¹⁶⁴

NSW Police Gazette,
Ben Hall with young
Nevertheless, with the gang being hotly pursued and under constant pressure by the NSW police and where their numerous and often well concealed day and night camps were coming under police attack around Lambing Flat. This pressure however from police resulted on a few occasions of the gang being startled in their camp, one such incident was reported in 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser', Thursday 3rd September, 1863 when Ben Hall and gang were together after the murder of Mr John Barnes on the 29th August and who were in their camp and were surprised by Inspector Orridge whilst the bushrangers relaxed in a hut close to Wombat and quickly took flight firing their weapons as they bolted taking theirs and the police's horses, this event was four days after the affray at Tootles and Slaters when O'Meally and Vane escaped with guns blazing and wounded Constable Houghey and was just prior to the raid at Webb and Crego’s store at Burrowa which occurred later that night as the bushrangers required fresh equipment, it was at this point that the five split into two groups, O'Meally and Vane as one and Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke as another with Jamieson also involved up to the Burrowa hold-up; “last night (Wednesday) Inspector Orridge, with a trooper and a black tracker, went to a place not far from here, in order to capture some bushrangers supposed to be in a hut. The police left their horses in the care of the tracker, at a yard, and went on foot to surround the hut. The bushrangers, seeing the police, came out of the hut, were joined by some of their comrades and commenced to fire volley after volley into the horses. One bullet went through the tracker's arm, and another tore his blanket. The bushrangers, if they wounded the horses, took them nevertheless all away, and left the police on foot”, on this occasion they were cornered and then nearly captured and where in a heartbeat they were forced to abandon their belongings, equipment but managed to keep the horses...” The killing of Mr Barnes again created further dissent from Ben Hall who was very angry with O'Meally as well as John Vane, and where Ben Hall in very heated words declared;op.cit. “O'Meally, I never thought you would be guilty of such a cowardly thing." O'Meally hung down his head and said, “I am sorry now myself for it, but he would not stop when I called on him to do so...” Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke having departed O'Meally and Vane now commenced operating without the other two and soon departed the Burrangong district and commenced proceeding towards the Carcoar district, where earlier John Gilbert had had some moderate success when in company with O'Meally. Furthermore, Carcoar was home to new chum Mickey Burke and a district Burke knew intimately. Newspaper reports had many article's covering reports of robberies conducted by the trio of Hall and Gilbert and Burke as they proceeded back through Mimmegong and Lambing Flat, arriving at Burrowa 25 miles from Lambing Flat in the first week of September 1863, (see article left) and conducted a robbery at Burrowa which was reported on the 2nd September 1863; A correspondent writing from Burrowa on Tue 2nd instant, supplies more accurate particulars of the store robbery noticed in our last issue. He says: -"The store of Messrs. Webb and Crego was entered last night by three armed men, who presented pistols at Mr. Webb's head, and ordered him to stand still. They then marched him into a room where Mrs. Webb was; and afterwards brought the servant down stairs, and placed her in the same apartment. The robbers then ransacked five trunks of clothing, the whole of the store, cupboards, work boxes, furniture, to discover if anything of value was planted. They were on the premises for half an hour, and succeeded in carrying off £50 in cash, and about £220 worth of goods. During the time they were engaged in pillaging the store one man came in and was immediately shut up in the room with the other parties. Having thoroughly searched the premises, the robbers quietly rode away, but previous to doing so they removed the prisoners upstairs, and told them not to move for ten minutes under penalty of death. Mr. Webb, however, came down almost immediately on their leaving, and at once informed the police. The robbers had just crossed the street to their horses, but the police failed in their efforts to overtake them. A double barrelled gun and two waistcoats were picked up this morning (3rd instant) on the road taken by the robbers. There were five or six police in Burrowa at the time the store was stuck-up."¹⁶⁵ A number of days after the Crego robbery more particulars appeared in the press; "the night being dark at the time, it was considered useless to follow them; but as soon as the moon rose, every man, of the force under Mr. Black, took to the bush and scoured the country for twenty miles round, but unfortunately without any other success, than finding a gun and a waistcoat, which the robbers had dropped, and of tracking seven horses to a point, where they appear to have separated and taken different roads. It is so customary nowadays to hear of all sorts of slurs being cast upon the police force, that, no doubt, many of your readers, who seem to delight in all that, may tend to lessen our confidence in them, as well to mark the appreciation of Gilbert's lawless band, will feel greatly disappointed at hearing, that in this case at least, they did all that men could do under such unexpected and trying circumstances, and I firmly believe that, if the officer in charge had a sufficient force to follow the robbers up at once, without leaving the town unprotected, the property might have been recovered. Surely, after such a bold and successful attack as this, the government will see the necessity of increasing the force in this town, and of establishing some stations in the neighbourhood. Upon enquiry I find the particulars of the robbery to be, that about half past six o'clock as Mr. and Mrs. Webb were at tea, three men coolly walked into the shop, thence into the parlour, where they ordered the inmates to deliver up their money and valuables. They took £30 in gold from Mrs. Webb and 3s. 6d. in silver from her pocket, and from Mr. Webb his gold guard and £50 in notes and gold. A man, named Maher, came into the shop at this time, when the robber, supposed to be Jamieson, went out and marched him into the parlour. They then sent Mr. and Mrs. Webb and servant upstairs forbidding them making any alarm under pain of immediate death, and commenced selecting from the store whatever they took fancy to, and called Mr. Webb down once to show them where the Crimean shirts were, sending him back with strict injunctions to remain quiet for ten minutes, while they packed their swags. After some time, Mr. Webb, hearing a friend's voice below, came down and gave the alarm. Two troopers, who had just come in from the Flat, happened to be in a public house opposite, they rushed out and fired. The robbers being at that time on their way to the church, where it appears, by the remains of horse feed, they had been feeding their horses before the attack. Further comment upon this daring feat is needless. I subjoin a list of the goods, stolen: --4 dozen cloth waistcoats; 2 dozen Crimean shirts; 1 dozen silk handkerchiefs; 8 dozen pairs of trousers; 1 dozen coats; 2 double barrel guns; 1 revolver; 6 pair Napoleon boots; 2 boxes jewellery, in all £250. Cases of sticking-up and store-robbery are rife as ever..."¹⁶⁶ This was followed a few days later by; PLUNDERING DRAYS; - "News arrived in town on Tuesday that three drays, conveying property belonging to Messrs. Moses and Son to Forbes, had been stuck up by three bushrangers, near the saw mills on the Lachlan road. From one dray they took a case of gin and half a chest of tea, from another three cases of merchandise."¹⁶⁷ Disgruntled at the effort of the police Mr. Webb wrote of his loss in a letter. (see article below)

This letter was penned by Mr Webb after Ben Hall's robbery of his store on the evening of the 2nd September 1863 and demonstrates the number of goods taken, it also reveals that Gilbert and not O'Meally was present.
At Webb and Crego's where the bushrangers stole a large number of items and Ben Hall was reported to be flashily dressed with a number of red silk sashes around his waist. This was stated of the dress of the diggers of the Goldfields and the general populace at the time during country festivities and races; "The diggers did not consider they were well-dressed without the red silk sash, with tassels shaped like bells hanging down below the pockets. There was usually a fiddler kept in every booth having a boarded floor at races, and they would dance nearly all day, then have a go at two-up and the thimble-and-pea game. All they knew about the races was what someone told them a week later."¹⁶⁸

The Inspector General of police Captain M'Lerie commenced a number of removals of police officers from the townships surrounding the Burrangong goldfield and one of the officer's removal in particular caused great concern at Yass and that was the relocation of the newly appointed Sub Inspector Brennan, a fierce officer who had already shot dead one bushranger near Yass and was a man not to be trifled with as described here on the 21st August 1863; From Yass:“Sub-inspector Brennan has apprehended a bushranger named Druitt, one of the three armed men who stuck up and robbed Mrs. Best's sheep station, on the 21st instant. Druitt put a revolver to the head of a man named Froy on the night of the robbery and threatened to blow his brains out. Information has been received of the capture at Yass, by sub inspector Brennan, of a well-known thief named McGuinness. The proceeds of several robberies were found in his possession.”¹⁶⁹ Brennan was, for the most part, an officer who Ben Hall and Co keep their distance, but with the deterioration of the law at Young, Brennan was sent for from Yass. (McGuinness is the brother of the McGuinness shot dead after fleeing the gunfight with police at Brewer's shanty in 1862.)

Sub Insp Brennan
c. 1870's
This also may have contributed to Hall and Gilbert packing their swag for the Carcoar district, as follows; REMOVAL OF MR. BRENNAN FROM YASS;“Sub inspector Brenan of Yass, having been ordered to proceed to Young, the townspeople of the former place held a public meeting on Thursday last, and agreed to memorialize the colonial secretary to keep him where he is. Mr. Brenan having made himself thoroughly acquainted with the Yass district, and with the bad characters who reside in it, his removal to a part of the country where he is a stranger would be very injudicious; and the intention to do this is in direct contradiction to the rule by which Mr. Cowper professed to be guided when he was defending the police administration. It is to be sincerely hoped that we may hear no more of these mischievous removals from districts well known to the officers to localities with which they are unacquainted, and where, however brave and energetic, they must for some time at least be comparatively useless.”¹⁷⁰ The following was reported of the recognition of the brave efforts of both Brennan and Stephenson in their gunning down of bushrangers; "we understand (says the Empire) that the government, having taken into consideration the conduct of acting Sub-inspector Brennan in the apprehension of bushrangers of late, and that of Senior-sergeant Stephenson in the affray with, and capture of Lowry and his gang last Saturday, have promoted both officers named to the rank of sub-inspector, as a mark of appreciation of the zeal and bravery displayed by Messrs. Brennan and Stephenson on the occasion above alluded to. These marks of approval in addition to the large rewards that will be payed by permission of the government, to the officers and will doubtless, have the effect of stimulating each member of the police force to use the utmost exertions to distinguish themselves in the detection and suppression of crime..."¹⁷¹ The fears of Sub Inspector Brennan posting from Yass were laid to rest when the petition for keeping Brennan at Yass was answered; SUB-INSPECTOR BRENNAN; -“The following answer has been returned to the petition sent to Sydney from Yass, praying that Mr. Sub-inspector Brennan might not be removed from that district: -" Sydney, 5th September. The colonial secretary to H. O'Brien, Esq., Yass: -You need not be apprehensive that Sub-inspector Brennan will be shifted. He is only employed for a time on special duty.”¹⁷² The special duty was part of swamping the Burrangong gold field with police to capture Ben Hall and Co.
George Slater and young Jameison both close to the Ben Hall Gang
sent down together to Cockatoo Island, 1863.
William Yuill.
c. 1870's.

Never before published.
Consequently, with the gang currently split, for the time being, O'Meally with Vane in tow conducted a number of small robberies in and around the areas of Young and the road to the Weddin Mountains. On the 10th of September, a bootmaker Mr William Yuill was transiting the Young-Forbes road when he, unfortunately, came under the revolver of John O'Meally. Yuill had known the bushranger for years and believed the tearaway would not molest him. How wrong he was! Mr Yuill had on his horse a number of items for delivery one being a grand pair of Napoleon riding boots just finished. However, even friendship could not save those boots but he kept his pennies; O'MEALLY STICKS UP A SHOEMAKER;—Writing on the 11th instant, the Marengo correspondent of the 'Yass Courier' says;"Yesterday our principal shoemaker, Mr. Yuill, was stuck up between here and the Twelve Mile Rush by John O'Maley and mates. He had on the pommel of his saddle four pairs of colonial boots, which took the outlaws fancy, and were appropriated accordingly. Mr. Yuill has known O'Maley for a number of years, therefore he pleaded hard for one particular pair of highly finished napoleons to be returned; whereupon O'Maley jumped off his horse, pulled off his boots, tried on the good-looking napoleons, and found them each a capital fit, that he said with an oath he could not think of returning them; but, for the sake of old times, he would not search him, consequently Mr. Yuill was allowed to ride on. This is, I believe, the first instance on record of any traveller leaving Johnny O’Meally’s presence with sound pockets."¹⁷³ For O'Meally the boots looked grand upon his feet as they rode off. Nobody was safe from a visit by the gang even in the quiet of a camp set up teamsters the arrival of the bushrangers searching for a free feed and fodder for their stolen throughbreds made for an uneasy fearful evening;  "the small amount of fear they seem to have of being taken, we may state that some few days ago Mr Miles Murphy of Binalong, dispatched a load of cut hay to the Flat, and on the driver of the team camping for the night within a couple of miles of the 'Currawang Station,' he was visited by Gilbert and four of his mates; they remained all night, feeding their horses with the cut hay; and in the early dawn took their leave quite leisurely. One of the horses thus fed was a superior animal belonging to Mr Howard of Binalong; and was stolen from Mr Murphy, jun., at Lambing Flat, eight or ten days ago...”¹⁷⁴ Henceforth, the robbery of William Yuill as well as the earlier robbery and enjoyable dinner at the Hammonds expense at Junee, it was again reported of Gilbert's penchant for woman's apparel as a disguise. This time Willam Yuill swore he spied Gilbert dressed as such; "Mr. Yuill states that about ten minutes before he was stuck up he met riding along the road a tall ungainly looking woman, and from what afterwards occurred firmly believes it to have been no woman at all; but Gilbert disguised as one; if so it is not the first time Gilbert has adopted female apparel, for I'm credibly informed that when he stuck up Hammond's station at Junee, one of the servant girls there was making some remarks upon his long and well-oiled hair and he laughingly observed "I'm obliged to wear it long for I've sometimes to dress in women's clothes, and I intend to escape out of the country in petticoats". It is well known that he attended the last Young race, mounted on horseback, disguised in a lady's riding habit, hat and feather. His smooth good looking face much assists him in this respect..."¹⁷⁵ For Gilbert this form of camouflage would enable him on numerous occasions to move freely at race meetings and other social gatherings. Rarely was he exposed, surprisingly!

Mr Eastlake c. 1920's
Consequently, Ben Hall now in company with Gilbert and another thought to be Burke, but who may well have been as later reported John Jameison was creating uncertainy in the eyes of the residence of Burangong and the outlaying towns, as to which bushranger was which, therefore, Ben Hall would often be mistakenly reported as being present with either John O'Meally or Gilbert and that in a forthcoming robbery Hall and O'Meally were in the interim operating together in robbing the Burrangong stores of Mr Eastlake (Estlake) and the Mr William Neasmith's (Neismith) at the Twelve Mile and Ten Mile Rush's (Hurricane Gully) respectively. As the suspected pair walked into the store there was some resistance from the store owners and a gunfight ensued with luckily no injuries. Although these robberies are attributed to involve Ben Hall by the eyewitnesses, they had assumed that it was Hall and O'Meally;[sic] "Mr. Eastlake cannot identify either of the men, but he supposes them to have been O'Meally and Hall..." However, it appeared from John Vane's biography as edited by Charles White, that the pair were actually John Vane himself not Ben Hall who had accompanied John O'Meally and wielded the revolvers in these robberies. Furthermore, John Vane gives an unquestionable description of the events at both Eastlake and Neasmith's at the Twelve and Ten Mile Rush's. Moreover, it should be noted that with the newspaper reports that were current and the fact that John Vane was a new chum in the area and as yet unknown to the citizens of Lambing Flat it would appear that the witnesses in the adrenaline-charged atmosphere of the gunfight that as Mr Eastlake stated they automatically assumed and naturally claimed that it was O'Meally and Ben Hall. Sticking-up at the Ten and Twelve Miles Rushes. — "Last Thursday evening, 10th September, 1863 shortly after sundown, Mr Eastlake's store, of the Twelve Mile Rush, was entered by two men, one of whom asked to see some trousers, which were shown him, when he said he required some of another quality, and upon Mr Eastlake turning round, while behind the counter, to hand them to him, a revolver was pointed at him by the supposed customer. Mr Eastlake immediately put up the trousers before his face, at the same time calling out loudly to his man, to come to his assistance, whereupon the robber fired at him; the slugs from the pistol striking the shelves, breaking a bottle of oil, and marking sundry articles. How Mr Eastlake escaped is a mystery, for the shot seemed to have taken effect all round where he stood. Immediately upon hearing the call for assistance, the man in the inner room rushed out, when the other robber jumped on the counter and fired at him, the ball missing and lodging in the door-post at the height of his head Another man in the store now came out of the inner room, but in the scuffle the lamp had gone out, and though he had a revolver, he could not see plainly enough to fire. One of the men who had come out of the inner room had retreated, and giving the alarm by calling out, 'Roll up;' and the bushrangers, finding probably that the affair was becoming critical for them, retreated towards the door, firing a parting shot, and, jumping on their horses, decamped, not having succeeded in taking a single article. The whole affair only occupied a minute or two, and it is entirely due to Mr Eastlake's call for assistance, his dodging the men behind the counter, and standing his ground, that he was not plundered. He risked his life, however, for the determination of the two men was plain enough to murder any who made the least sign of resistance.¹⁷⁶

NSW Police Gazette,
16th September 1863.
Disappointed at the lack of success at Eastlakes, O'Meally and Vane go on to attack the Neasmith's store further down the track of the Ten Mile Rush once more the victims were of the thought it was Ben Hall; " about half-past seven o'clock the same evening, two men (identified as O'Meally and Ben Hall), entered the store of Mr Neasmith, at the power end of the Ten Mile Rush, one of them asking Mrs Neasmith for some trifling article, when she, not expecting anything wrong, turned round to get it, upon which one of the men, whom Mrs Neasmith positively asserts to have been O'Meally, presented a revolver, and desired her to stand. Ben Hall then went into a back room, where Mr N. and other two parties were seated, and desired them to remain quiet under penalty of being shot. O'Meally asked particularly for fire-arms, powder, and shot, and on Mr N. declaring he had none, quietly put his revolver in his belt, and proceeded to examine the goods, Hall, in the meantime watching the three men. It appears the robbers were quite cool and jocular; broached some porter, asking Mrs N. to join them, and telling her they must take some sardines for supper. They filled their pockets with all they could contain of sundry small goods, and were about making off when a man of the name of James Parkinson, a carter, came in to buy a pound of butter, O'Meally instantly put his revolver to his head, demanding him to remain quiet while he searched him; unfortunately, this last victim had a bag in his pocket containing £35 in notes, which was transferred quickly by the expert robber. The two bushrangers then said they must be off, quietly mounted their horses and disappeared. It seems that a third man waited outside with the horses, whom the inmates of the store supposed was Gilbert. The police have been out all day, but we have not yet heard if they succeeded in tracking the scoundrels."¹⁷⁷ A few day's preceding the reported attacks on the stores of Eastlake and Neasmith's, John Vane in his narrative 'John Vane, Bushranger', states however, that whilst he and O'Meally were separated from Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke which followed the callous shooting of John Barnes at Wallendbeen Station and afterwards Vane hold up with O'Meally's at his uncle Peter O'Meally's farm at the Black Range near Burrowa where they had had a narrow escape from Sir Frederick Pottinger the two bushrangers arrived outside Young and set up camp so as to overlook the road leading into the Twelve Mile Rush. Whilst watching for their prey they came into contact with two young girls traipsing through the bush searching for strayed cattle, Vane advanced to inquire as to where the girls hailed from, some light banter ensued after which they all went to see Jack O'Meally loitering nearby. On meeting the bushrangers the delighted girls asked if they were bushrangers to which Vane replied “no” proceeding to give different names, however after some day's picnicking and enjoying the young lady's company, one of the girls remarked on the story of Patrick O'Meally being punched during a dance at a hotel on the Twelve Mile a few days before without realising that the man they were conversing with was Jack O'Meally, the brother of the victim Patrick O'Meally, the incident referred to by the girls appeared in ‘Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle’, Saturday 26th September, 1863, as follows; "Saturday night, young Patsy O'Meally visited one of the dancing houses on the Twelve Mile Rush, and was enjoying himself among the company as usual. It appeared that a powerful man named Con Ryan did not particularly admire his company, and after informing the young follow in anything but complimentary language of his unfortunate connection, followed up his observation with a blow on the mouth. "O'Meally took this as a short hint to retire, and considering; that it would be imprudent to retaliate, pocketed the insult and left the house, observing to Ryan that he might shortly have an opportunity of repaying him the compliment..."

Furthermore, on receiving the news of Patrick's altercation the bushrangers decided to find and confront the perpetrator Ryan in town and arranged to rendezvous with the girls once more as well as to have the girls point out the best shops for looting. After reconnoitring the streets with the women the two bushrangers said their goodbyes and departed town only to return the next evening in search of Patrick's O'Meally's assailant. The search for Ryan was reported in the 'Burrangong Times' 19th September, 1863; "it is reported that John O'Meally and Gilbert (actually Vane) called at a store on the Twelve Mile and enquired for Ryan, and not finding him, stated that if they should meet with the giant they would have much pleasure in accommodating him with a piece of cold lead. On receiving information, Ryan being rather averse to granting them an interview packed up his swag and departed from the Flat..." However, without finding Ryan the two bushrangers according to John Vane proceed to enter a store and on enquiring for some trousers simultaneously drew their revolvers. Vane's version of the events can be read on the Links Page in Vane's Biography, see pages 112 - 116.

Subsequently, after the robberies and gunfire of the Twelve and Ten Mile rushes at Burrangong O'Meally and John Vane retreated from the district and headed for Carcoar in search of Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke. Vane stated that;
op.cit. "once more the girls came to visit us, and as we learned from them that the police were looking for us along the Lambing Flat road we decided to remain at the camp until they returned to the Twelve Mile, as soon as they returned we left the camp taking a fond farewell of the girls who had proved such good friends to us and took the road the police had just left, four or five days after leaving the camp near the Twelve mile, we made a start back for the Carcoar district, first loading up two pack horses with the store goods, chiefly drapery, intended as presents for certain lady friends which we had accumulated. Necessarily, we did not travel very fast, leaving Spring Creek early in the morning we made for the mountain called Black Hill and there stayed for a day and a night, receiving shelter in the sawyer’s hut. We here made enquiries concerning Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke..."

With the commencement of the boys separation in early September 1863 there was a voracious appetite in Sydney for information and insight into the wild bushranger’s of the Western Districts pertaining to their adventures and citizens were seeking as much gossip and detail of those adventures as they could get their hands on, so much so that booksellers were selling out of their stock of articles on Frank Gardiner, Gilbert, Ben Hall and were having to issue 2nd editions on the wild colonial boys triumphs, as noted in this advertisement from the 'Empire' newspaper dated 1st September 1863. (See article above).

With Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke commencing their bushranging in and around the Carcoar District the papers once more lit up the colony with the news of the new and determined exploits of the three bushrangers who were soon to be re-joined by O'Meally and Vane the two killers of Mr Barnes following their penance of separation. The five bushrangers would throughout the month of September 1863 commenced a determined bout of bushranging and raided, robbed and shot at all and sundry. From ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, Monday 21st September 1863; "several policemen returned to Young on Tuesday 4th September, 1863. With the search of the bushrangers reported they succeeded in sighting, but not in catching the men who stuck up the storekeepers. They succeeded also capturing five horses taken by the bushrangers, brought them into the camp..." In the days leading to their re-joining the newspapers kept up a barrage of articles of the gangs exploits as follows; PLUNDERING DRAYS; - "News arrived in town on Tuesday 8th September, 1863 that three drays, conveying property belonging to Messrs. Moses and Son to Forbes, had been stuck up by three bushrangers, near the saw mills on the Lachlan road. From one dray they took a case of gin and half a chest of tea, from another three cases of merchandise.”¹⁷⁸ No traveller was immune from the revolvers of the gang.

Frederick Ward, alias Capt
Thunderbolt, in death 1870.
Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke with O'Meally and Vane were unaware that on this day 13th September, 1863, another convict who would after Daniel Morgan and themselves seize the mantle of terror of the 'Queens Highways' further north in the New England region had escaped from Cockatoo Island, his name was Frederick Ward, who in the near future was to carry the sobriquet of Captain Thunderbolt; ESCAPE OF PRISONERS FROM COCKATOO ISLAND;"On the master roll being called at Cockatoo Island on Sunday evening, two of the prisoners, named Britton and Ward, were found missing. On search being made, the leg irons of the former were discovered on the northern end of the island, and subsequently, Britton's clothes were found; but no traces of Ward could be seen. Ward was a Windsor resident, and was under sentence for cattle-stealing."¹⁷⁹

Ward Description, NSW Police
Gazette. 14th October 1863.
However, whilst the bushrangers had separated into two parties the NSW Government proceeded to finally remove John O’Meally’s parents from Arramagong Station situated at the southeastern end of the Weddin Mountains. The manoeuvre was part of the earlier enacted 'Crown Lands Occupation Act of 1861' then instigated for the removal of undesirables suspected of being in communication with bushrangers. What has often been overshadowed by the removal events was the fact that the O’Meally’s had two months previously been provided with an eviction notice of which old Patrick O’Meally had refused to acknowledge. In defiance and a self proclaimed disbelief that the police would never enact the threat O'Meally stated[sic] “that he would stick to the house as long as there were two sheets of bark on it; that if forcibly ejected he would break in the doors, and remain till it should be burnt over his head...” Furthermore, O’Meally no longer held tenure at Arramagong (See Gang page) whereby incorporating their houses well-known reputation as a retreat of bushrangers and other low life’s the NSW police acting under the Act summarily applied a fire-stick to the building and stood-by till the house was reduced to a heap of ashes then ran the family 'out of town'; PATRICK O'MEALLY'S HOUSE BURNT BY THE POLICE—The Marengo correspondent of the 'Yass Courier', writing to that journal on the 16th September, 1863 says: — "The day before yesterday a party of police, headed by a Sub-inspector (Roberts), surrounded Patrick O'Malley's public house in the Wedden Mountains; they searched the place for bushrangers but found none. The officer told O'Malley to clear himself, family, and chattels, out of the house, as he was going to burn it down; but the old man refused to budge an inch, saying, "the police have often threatened to burn us out, but they have never done it yet, and I don't believe ever will." Whereupon the sub-inspector took from the health a firestick, went outside, and instantly commenced the work of destruction; and in a very short time naught remained of the once substantial inn but a heap of charcoal and smoking embers. This O'Meally is the father of the notorious Johnny O'Malley. The old man and a portion of his family are now living in a tent contiguous to their late homestead. The police who conducted the ejection were the following officers and constables present at the time; -Sub-inspector Roberts, Sub-inspector P. Brennan, constables Hodson, Stepp, and Musgrove, and two black trackers, unnamed." Subsequently, the actions of the police once again caused outrage in some sections of the local district, so much so that on the 29th September 1863 a tenacious Parliamentarian, Mr Lucas (instrumental in the protection of the Binda Caves or Jenolan Caves in the 1860's from mining) raised the matter in Parliament and pressured the Government for information regarding who was responsible and under what jurisdiction was the family summarily evicted. However, in the tradition of the political two-step, Mr Robertson (a future Premier) gave a vague apology;[sic] "it was true that the residence of Patrick O'Meally, on the Wedden Mountains, had been burned by the police. An information had been laid, and proceedings taken against this party, for unlawful occupation of Crown lands, but the burning of the house he admitted was wholly unjustifiable..," for the government though, there ended the matter.

As a consequence, the burning of the O’Meally families dwelling could be construed as another provocation in Ben Hall’s resolute effort to hold those in authority to account for injustice's that he perceived as being exacted against not only his friends but were perpetrated through the very forces that Hall himself felt so aggrieved by regarding his own 1862 arrests by his nemesis Sir Frederick Pottinger over the Bacon and the Eugowra robberies which would also include the burning of his own home whereby his own family members were left destitute. Accordingly, this additional and widely perceived barbaric act against the O'Meally's would add fuel to the fire in Ben Hall’s emphatic path of licentious destruction. The results of which saw Hall launch more and more vicious assaults and wholesale sticking up of the local country folk without any fear or favour and who was in the majority supporting the NSW police. Furthermore, Ben Hall now roamed vast areas including Forbes, Lambing Flat and the Bathurst and Goulburn districts. Moreover, as of this point, Ben continued to spiral deeper and deeper into a date with the gallows or a bullet. Nonetheless, at every opportunity, Ben Hall would endeavour to make the NSW mounted police look inept whereby the police often became discouraged when confronting Hall and his now four fully armed and extremely well-mounted companions. The gang would now create absolute havoc across the Western and South-Western Districts of NSW and precipitate the fall of a government.

 Continued on Ben Hall 3.

#-Reference notes can be accessed on the Note page by number except where book and author or newspaper title are named or publication referred to on the Links page. For any research assistance, no charge, contact is on the Home Page under Q&A.

1 comment:

  1. That was really interesting. It helped with my school project - muchly appreciated!