Ben Hall

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

"Ben Hall! Stockman, Squatter, Bushranger, from these personas his character has still 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, who would ultimately die a violent and bloody death at the hands of his pursuers......."- Mark Matthews

This website will endeavour to give a comprehensive, detailed account of Australian bushranger Ben Hall's life, gathered from eyewitness accounts, 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.
                                              BEN HALL
                                                         ("A good looking young man")
Originally held by William Hall.
Ben Hall was born in the British penal colony of New South Wales in May 1837, at Maitland in the Hunter Valley. Both of his parents were convicts who were transported to Australia for stealing goods exceeding the value of one shilling. His father was Benjamin Hall born in 1805, Bristol, England, whereas his mother Eliza Somers was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1807. (For more on the Hall family see:

Ben Hall, in late 1838 as a toddler, relocated from his birthplace of Maitland, NSW, to a remote farm near an area referred to today as Ben Hall's Creek, travelling by bullock dray alongside his parents and siblings, their chattels and stock, the journey lasting three weeks, settling as squatters. Ben Hall's Creek is situated close to the area known as the 'Ben Hall Gap National Park', 90 miles north of Maitland, the closest accessible township was Scone, originally named St Aubins (Ben Hall's old squattage is accessible today via the Scone/Nundle Rd). Ben Hall's Creek flowed into the Barnard River, known as a very wild and inhospitable place with extreme cold during the winter and was often covered in snow, and far removed from civilization. Ben Hall's father Benjamin Hall (Sr) whilst at 'Ben Hall's Creek' constructed a sturdy bark hut for the family, where it was said that;"...the station was in a very mountainous country."¹ (Old remnants of the hut were still visible and the home was still habitable into the nineteen thirties’, where some bricker brack can still be seen.) The primitive conditions of this location reportedly did not suit Ben Hall's mother Eliza, therefore, after four years of isolation the Hall family, with a young Benjamin turning five, relocated to the private village adjacent Murrurundi named Haydonton early in 1842.

Land grant to Haydon
 for a village May 1839.
A gentleman by the name of Peter Haydon, and his brother Thomas had established the private township of Haydonton through a land grant issued in 1839. The village was situated along the banks of the Pages River with direct access to the Great Northern and Southern road, today's New England Highway. Benjamin Hall (Sr) had approached Thomas Haydon and requested to purchase two and a half acres along the banks of the Pages River. Benjamin Hall in approaching Haydon no doubt knew Thomas, where they may have had a connection through Samuel Clift, Hall's former employer, which enabled the sale, reputedly for £150; "Mr. Thomas Haydon, J.P., of Bloomfield, Blandford, the most popular magistrate, and the most beloved man that ever lived in this district. Mr. Haydon was the second squire of Haydonton and Bloomfield, having succeeded to those estates upon the death of Mr. Peter Haydon, the first founder of the name in this neighbourhood."² The property may have already included a hut, which Ben Hall (Sr) set about improving into a house of wooden slabs, a bark roof with three bedrooms, and then added some outbuildings such as a butcher's shop as well as a blacksmith shop, within a short time the family had established a self-sufficient home. ‘The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser', Saturday 22 July, 1854 summarises the now well established home and land at Haydonton; " the flourishing town of Haydonton, being lots 1, 2, 3, and 4, commencing at Page's River, and bounded on the north by Main-street 202 feet 7 inches; on the east by Adelaide-street 400 feet: on the south by Liverpool street 138 feet 7 inches to the River Page; on the west by that river, on which are erected a sling Cottage, three rooms, Butcher's Shop, Kitchen, Blacksmith's Shop; a splendid Well of Water, communing from 10 to 15 feet of water in dry seasons; a small Orchard, Garden, Three Stock Yards, Two Gallows; and the whole is enclosed by a four-railed fence." This was also noted of the access of the property; "...the properties situation is eligible, having an extensive frontage, and commands the main thoroughfare to all the Northern Diggings."

Reputed home of the
Hall family, Hydonton,
Murrurundi. c. 1900
The small Hamlet of Haydonton/Murrurundi was illustrated in Joseph Phipps Townsend's book titled 'Rambles and Observations in New South Wales' 1848;” "Murrurundi affords a fair specimen of an inland town. We were greeted with the sight of something green; for the rain, probably attracted by the hills, often drives through the deep valleys as through so many open tunnels. We have two inns both well built; and one is kept by a widow of real, homely, English aspect, and as kind and attentive as neat and respectable. Her nicely plaited widow's cap and her fine countenance tell a long and touching tale. There is a slab built Roman Catholic chapel, with broken windows and otherwise much out of repair; and, behind it, is an open graveyard, with some neat monuments and head stones. There are two or three brick cottages, and a tolerable sprinkling of bark huts; and, at a little distance in the bush, is the court house. Here divine service is performed once a month by a clergy man of the Church of England who travels twenty-five miles for the purpose; and the magistrate's clerk gives the responses. A Roman Catholic priest comes from Maitland four times a year to shrive his flock at the slab built chapel. He also catches every stray drunkard, of whatever denomination, on whom he can lay his hands, and insists on his becoming a tee-totaller. There is a large store, where everything that can possibly be required in the bush is to be bought. In one of the bark huts you would find a good natured, intelligent, and comfortable looking medical man, who came out in charge of emigrants, and has not exactly made up his mind when he shall return, but will probably think about it some day or other. In the meantime, he turns his skill to account, and is gradually accumulating cattle and horses; and, for the love he bears them, may perhaps become a fixture. He reads 'Blackwood,' and is fond of talking of 'that fine old fellow, Christopher North,' whom he follows through all his fishing excursions. In the climate of NSW, a bark hut is as substantial a dwelling as a man needs; such abodes are often very comfortable; but they do not, unless double roofed, afford sufficient protection from the sun. The river Page runs, or rather lingers, in the rear of the town. The people seem happy and contented; and as all of them have cattle running on the waste land, they are at no loss either for meat, or a matter of constant interest."(see

A.B.Sparkes and Samuel Clift's
properties Maitland
Author's Note: There is a long-held belief perpetuated through the sands of the hourglass that Ben Hall was born on a property named Breeza, situated on the Liverpool Plains, NSW, (the name of the current town) this is definitely not the case. The vast Breeza station was situated on the Mooki River (Mokai), and covered an area of 72 sq. miles. Breeza would eventually be owned by Samuel Clift, but not until 1848. Most historical accounts comment that Benjamin Hall senior obtained work as an overseer for Samuel Clift, the owner of Doona station through an advertisement prior to 1837. Unfortunately, Doona was not purchased by Samuel Clift until late 1837. Research indicates that in 1841, there were a number of trespass cases, where it was evidenced that Samuel Clift's acquisition of Doona was acquired from Joseph Merrick, and stated thus;[sic]" appeared from the evidence that the plaintiff had purchased the right of the run from a person named Merrick, in the year 1837, for £5 and a fat bullock." Doona station was virtually positioned next door to Breeza, and both stations were some 118 miles from Maitland (quite a horseback ride). In 1837, it was stated that a Mr McLaughlan was the then owner of Breeza, and it was recorded that;[sic]"...Mr McLaughlan had cattle of his own, and in 1830 and 1837, McLaughlan or his wife was always at Breeza, and McLaughlin and his wife kept a store at Breeza in 1830 to 1837." Recent evidence has revealed that in 1835, Benjamin Hall was in the employ of one John Gaggin, and drove cattle from Windsor to the Liverpool Plains for a charitable organisation known as the 'Hawkesbury Benevolent Society', (of which John Gaggin was a member) in late 1835. Benjamin drove the societies cattle to the Liverpool Plains in the company of Edward and William Nowland. Edward Nowland would succeed John Gaggin as superintendent of the societies cattle station at Phillips Creek (Quirindi);[sic]“...during the time of Merrick, Hall also went up with some cattle of Mr Gaggin's, to find a station, and William and Edward Nowland accompanied him to Winda." This journey to Liverpool Plains would also have included Ben's wife, Eliza and the three children Thomas, Mary and William, this journey also saw that Eliza once more with child.

However, in court at the time of the trespass cases, Benjamin Hall was called as a witness on the behalf of Samuel Clift, during which Benjamin deposed;
[sic]"...that at a certain time he was brought to court by Merrick for having trespassed on Duono." At this point it is also revealed that, contrary to the long-held belief that Eliza Hall was never on the Liverpool Plains, it is stated that, Eliza, at the same time as Benjamin, was also charged for quarreling with Joseph Merrick and was bound over to keep the peace, it must have been a fiery encounter;[sic]"...the deponent's wife (Eliza) had been quarrelling, and the magistrates had bound her over to keep the peace," it may also have been that as Eliza was still a bonded convict, and as so, may have had her sentence extended through this misdemeanor, as Eliza did not become free until 1846, a total of 17yrs, as a convict 1829-1846. Nevertheless, it was also revealed that on arrival at the Liverpool Plains, Eliza was pregnant, and that at the time of their arrival Benjamin had left cattle at Doona (Duono) for want of rations. However, it is more than likely they left the station to stay at the Breeza store, with the store probably being the only place with a semblance of civilization, for the birth of their newest son Edward;[sic]"...Hall went to Duona, and stayed there some months, and was taken to court by Merrick for trespass. He went away for want of rations, and left the cattle behind him."

Reputed home of  Ben Hall's
birth, Bridge House,

Maitland, owned by
Samuel Clift,
built in c. 1832.
In 1836, Eliza had her fourth child and her third with Benjamin, a son named Edward, who was born at the Liverpool Plains, (see Hall page) soon after the family relocated to Maitland. On arrival at Maitland, Benjamin appears to have obtained and commenced work for Samuel Clift sometime in 1836. The relationship between Clift and Hall was most certainly from stock work and that whilst in Clift’s employ Benjamin had on occasion moved stock between Maitland and Doona through Murrurundi, which planted the seed for the families eventual residence, Samuel Clift, also owned several properties in Maitland, with one being a 44 acre lot along the bank of Wallis Creek, this employment also enabled Benjamin to remain at Maitland with Eliza. Clift also had a number of houses in Maitland in the vicinity of Banks St (see map), it must also be noted that Ben Hall's master during his servitude, A.B. Spark, who was a close friend of Samuel Clift, also had a number of houses in Maitland around Rouse St, any one of which the Hall family resided at and wherein 1837, Ben Hall was born reputedly at the home of Samuel Clift, named Bridge House, although the Hall family never actually lived there, as it was believed Eliza worked for Clift here as a servant. Samuel Clift died at Bridge House in 1862 aged 71. (believed to be the house illustrated right). It must also be noted that Eliza's sister Catherine was also a resident at Maitland and was married to Mr. John Wynn. (see the Hall's page) The sisters may have been neighbours, and where Catherine for whom one of Eliza's children is named after, would have attended to her sister in the birth of Benjamin Hall. There was also mentioned by Ben Hall's Great Grandson, that Ben was born in February and not May, which would make Ben Hall 28 at the time of his shooting? Ben Hall Snr during his time as an assigned convict for A.B. Spark, came across the secluded area, that for a short time was the home of the Hall's, and would become known as Ben Hall's Creek.

Reputed Hut remains at
 Ben Hall's Creek c. 1932
It was during these early years at Haydonton that young Benjamin would learn the bushcraft and animal husbandry which would stand him in good stead in the future. Haydonton was a small village with limited facilities and amenities, however, there was a school which was operated by a Mr. James Gowan, the former Murrurundi lockup keeper. There is no evidence that Ben Hall attended this or any other school and remained unable to read and write his entire life, and would in the future make his mark with a cross. (X)

Author's Note: When the government laid out the township of Murrurundi in 1840, Thomas Haydon decided to create the adjacent private village of Haydonton which serviced the local estates, government officers and travelers. Over time the name Haydonton fell into disuse.

The Hall family were indicative of the small settlers eking out a living in the remote towns and villages, therefore, horses and cattle were their lifeblood, and represented not only income but also their sustenance. However, in the many nooks and crannies of the ranges surrounding the Hall’s new residence, Haydonton, roamed many wild cattle and horses available to supplement their numbers. However, in 1845, Ben Hall’s father, who already had a reputation as suspected cattle duffer, appeared to take the easy route for increasing stock, and became suspected of horse theft. Luckily for Hall he was tipped off for being wanted and without hesitation, including help from Eliza, and their elder son William, old Ben bolted from Haydonton, thus leaving Eliza, eight-year-old Ben Hall and siblings to look after their farm and stock. Although the family residence was now Haydonton. Ben Hall (Sr) had retained some stock at their former home at Hall's Creek, where it was reported in a later court case, that the run, ran over 60 head of cattle and 10 horses. The older boys, Thomas, William, Henry, possibly accompanied by young Ben would have shepherded the animals at the remote location, or removed the stock to Haydonton, then ran them on what was referred to as the waste-land (The waste lands were unoccupied or allocated land beyond the colonies boundaries used for depasturing), as in 1847, the old squattage at the Barnard river was reported as abandoned; " appeared from the evidence of White and a man named George Mepham, that White agreed in March 1846, to act as stock-keeper for Mr. Marshall for twelve months. In pursuance of this agreement, White and his wife proceeded up the country, as he understood from Marshall, to go to a licensed station of the latter, twelve miles from Muswell Brook. About 140 head of cattle and 14 horses were the stock White had to take charge of, and he found that instead of stopping near Muswell Brook, they went on and on until they reached the Barnard River, where they squatted on a deserted station of Ben Hall's, of somewhat famous memory."³

William and Ann Hall
c. 1910
Ben Hall's father's departure, followed by a reward for his capture of £10, did not see him return until arrested almost two years later, two hundred miles away from Murrurundi at the Lachlan River, in 1848. During this absence, Eliza and the children were left to look after themselves, earning income from selling vegetables, fruit, and livestock to make ends meet. After Ben Hall's father, had absconded, Hall's older brother William (who would maintain a close relationship with his brother Ben until his death, would, along with Ben Hall's half-brother Thomas be the only family members to attend Ben Hall's funeral.) would be arrested regarding his complicity in his father's theft of horses in August 1845. Six months later in March 1846, William Hall, would be arraigned before the 'Maitland Circuit Court', as an eleven-year-old, and appeared as both defendant and witness regarding the crime committed in conjunction with his father. The evidence presented against William stated that he was an accomplice in; "...the killing of two mares for their Unbranded foals by slitting the mare's throats and letting them bleed to death."

William's short incarceration first at Murrurundi, was quite an ordeal for an eleven year old; "...the boy Hall was brought there; he was put into a room, the windows of which had been boarded up by John Ross, of Murrurundi, the boy cried very much through fear; he was kept there some days, and then put beside Taylor,(co-accused) the cries of the boy in the dark room were such that they had brought, tears to the eyes of witness's wife.”

Whilst held in custody at Murrurundi, William was provided for by his mother, Eliza. It would appear that Eliza had instructed William to keep quiet about what he knew of the killings, so as to keep his father out of it, and no doubt had tried to instil in William, the old convict adage of 'keeping mum' about all he knew, sadly for William he failed, which earned his mother's wrath; "...the boy was kept by himself for three or four days, and was then put beside Taylor; after the boy gave information his mother utterly refused to send him anything, although she had sent him food previously; food and clothes were then given him by witness." However, how this treatment of Ben Hall's older brother was seen by the other siblings at the hands of their mother is unknown, suffice to say that when the time came for Mary, Thomas, William and Ben Hall in company with their father to leave for the Lachlan within a few years, they did so, and never looked back, according to William. The above-mentioned witness was 'The Clerk of Petty Sessions' at Murrurundi, Thomas James Blair and his wife, who cared for William while he was held in custody after his mother Eliza's refusal to assist her son. On 4th of October, 1845, William was subsequently moved from Murrurundi to Parramatta Gaol, where William was held to await his trial. William was transported to Parramatta with a co-accused Charles Taylor.(see below)
William Hall aged eleven, Parramatta Gaol Entrance Book, 4th October 1845.
Extracts from the 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser', 18th March, 1846, recounts William Hall's court appearance and consequences; “...William Hall, twelve or thirteen years of age, was taught his prayers in Parramatta Gaol by the Ladies of Charity, and understood the consequences of false swearing." Fortunately for William, he was not held with the general prison population but was taken into the care of the Sisters of Charity. However, in the witness box William divulged all he knew regarding the killing of the horses, and at first was reluctant to provide his father's name as an accomplice, with this hesitation William was admonished by the Judge; " the son of Benjamin Hall, of Murrurundi, lives close to the lock-up; knew Abbott's run, and went there with prisoner and another man, but did not think proper to tell that man's name. The witness was here reprimanded by the Judge, and informed that what he should say would not criminate that person, and then said the name of the man was Benjamin Hall, his father"⁷, William also admitted that "...he had once been engaged in horse stealing himself, when he did not "quite help" to kill the mares; "William Butler (co-accused) and witness's father helped to kill the mares."  In the summing up of the evidence, it was said of William; "...but that of Hall, a boy, although young in years, evidently old in crime, and well versed in dissimulation."

Mary Hall c. 1905
With the conclusion of William's evidence, William's older sister Mary, who was thirteen, then appeared before the Judge as a witness. However, Mary gave a different version of events, and where she contradicted her brother's statements and gave the impression that she had been coached by her mother Eliza; “...Mary Hall (apparently about nine years old?), sister of William Hall, never took an oath but knew the consequences of false swearing. Saw Charles Taylor at Murrurundi; never saw him speaking with her brother William; her brother told her that Taylor said to him that if he did not say what he (Taylor) bid him, he would be sent away in a ship and drowned, or be put in Newcastle Gaol and hung.” When cross-examined, Mary stated: “ one told her to say so here. She told her mother what she had heard from her brother. Her brother used to ride about after the cattle; her father had 60 or 70 head, and 8 or 10 head of horses."¹⁰ Ben Hall (Sr) on earlier occasions, may have included his other children in nefarious activities.

Furthermore, during these court proceedings, it came to light that the only Hall child who had been attending school was Mary. The school teacher, Mr. James Gowan at the trial was recalled by the court and cross-examined. Gowan was the former lock-up keeper, it appeared from the evidence presented that Gowan had given Benjamin Hall the tip to scamper from Haydonton in 1845; "...witness was dismissed from the lockup in consequence of it having been supposed that he had given or permitted an intimation to Benjamin Hall to keep out of the way; was now a school-master; he had a daughter of Benjamin Hall's at his school, but was not aware of her coming to the Court to contradict her brother; his school was within eighty yards of the lockup, and was patronized by the most respectable people in Murrurundi. Considerable laughter was excited by this witness's off-hand manner of giving his evidence."¹¹ (It would seem that the word respectable was seen as tongue-in-cheek by the observers).

Eliza Hall's death notice,
At the completion of the trial, the Jury retired for half an hour and upon returning, found a verdict of "Not Guilty" against young William Hall. Therefore, William was discharged, with an admonition (firm warning or scolding) from the Judge. However, his ordeal would evidently turn him against his mother Eliza for the rest of his life. Furthermore, when William Hall was interviewed by former bushranger, Jack Bradshaw in 1912, William related to Jack Bradshaw that their mother had died when his brother Benjamin was quite young, unfortunately, this information was incorrect, as their mother, Eliza, passed away in 1869, at Murrurundi. (see article, right) Therefore, it would seem that as far as William was concerned his mother, Eliza, was not held by him with much affection. William's co-accused in the killing of the mares were found guilty.

Hall's capture at Hamilton's.
The end of the year 1850, saw a young Ben Hall say goodbye to his family home in Haydonton at the age of 13 years, for the Lachlan district in the company of his father, Benjamin Hall, and older siblings, Thomas Wade (half-brother), William Hall and Mary Hall. Arriving in the Lachlan district, the three boys were able to obtain employment stock keeping on local properties, including Mr. Hugh Hamiltons’, Tommanbil and Boyd runs. Hamilton had already been acquainted with young Ben Hall's father, from an earlier period in 1846, when Hall (Sr) was on the run and had been lying low, under an assumed name, reputed to be Jack Binding. Although at the time Hall’s father’s offence was unknown to Hamilton, until Hall (Sr) was arrested by a Constable Hoy of the NSW mounted police in October 1848. However, it appears that this circumstance created no trouble for Hamilton in employing Thomas, Ben, and William. Furthermore, there is no doubt that Ben Hall (Sr) explained his earlier arrest, as a misunderstanding. Ben Hall commenced stock keeping for Hugh Hamilton who had become the owner of Tommanbil Station, at the end of 1842, after purchasing the run from Mr. Delmahoy Campbell, followed by Boyd station in 1845. The Tommanbil Station (alternate Tonanbil) covered 11,520 acres and was situated on the Lachlan River and Boyd Station covering an area of 26,500 acres and situated on the junction of Boyd and Pinnacle Creeks. Hamilton, it was said was "...the first man to bring pedigreed Short-horn cattle to the district. The man in charge of the cattle was Ben Hall, after bringing out Mr. Hamilton's cattle, Hall was for years on the station as a stockman."¹² Both stations were situated within 25 miles of Forbes. Hall's sister Mary married a local stockman, William Wright. (a much older ex-convict) After the boys were settled, Ben's father returned home at the end of 1851, to Eliza and the remaining children, Edward, Catherine, Robert, Henry, and Ellen, leaving Ben Hall, William, Thomas Wade and the newly married Mary on the Lachlan.

Furthermore, although Benjamin Hall (Sr) had been captured in 1848, upon his return from the Lachlan District, it appeared that fortuitously a principal witness had passed away, therefore, this news allowed Benjamin Hall (Sr) to escape prosecution. Furthermore, the new home of Ben Hall, was recorded by W.H. Wells, in  the 'Geographical Dictionary of Australian Colonies, 1848', who noted that the vast Lachlan district had a habitation of;" the late 1840s the Weddin area was officially proclaimed to be in the pastoral district of the Lachlan, which was a vast area of four million hectares, with 2,984 horses, 92,975 head of cattle, 1,176 pigs, and 209,788 sheep. Along with the beasts existed 2,198 humans — 1,569 males and 629 females."

Hugh Hamilton's leases of Tommanbil and Boyd Station.

Hall's return to Murrurundi,
There has been speculation that in 1850 the whole of the Hall family uprooted to the Lachlan district, as Ben Hall's youngest sister Ellen's birth was registered on the journey there at Whittingham Post Office at the junction of the New England Hwy and Bulga Trail (Putty Rd), as her father was responsible for registering her birth, it would appear he did so, as per the law at the first opportunity, thus giving the misapprehension Ellen's birth there and of the Hall's eventually settling in the Lachlan district. “Ellen E Hall: Birth Date: 1850 Birth Place: New South Wales Registration Year: 1850 Registration Place: Whittingham, New South Wales, Australia Father: Benjamin Hall Mother: Elizabeth- Volume Number: V18501899 71” (From my research leads one to believe that Ben Hall's father would have needed dynamite to shift Eliza Hall from her comfortable home at Murrurundi, as will be seen on the Hall's page.)

Whilst in Hamilton's employ a young Ben Hall excelled, and commenced building a strong reputation as an honest, hard-working and knowledgeable stockman and skilled horseman, and presented himself as a young man of much promise. In Jack Bradshaw's 1920's narrative of 'Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall & Gang', Bradshaw described Ben Hall's early life employed by Mr. Hamilton on Boyd Station;op.cit. "...Mr. Hamilton grew very fond of young Ben, finding out he possessed great ability as a stockman. Mr. Hamilton gave Ben permission to graze horses and cattle on his station, which young Ben did, and purchased out of his salary in about three years a small station. He became full manager for Mr. Hamilton. The seasons were good and the grass plentiful, so that young Ben became fairly rich."

'Slasher' riden by
 Jockey Turnbull
However, around 1853, as young Ben Hall was attempting to mount a race horse of some renown from around the bush racetracks of the Western Districts, he suffered an accident which severely broke his leg. The perpetrator of the severe break was a horse named 'Slasher', a reputed fiery animal being agisted at Boyd Station. Slasher's reputation was as an outlaw horse and was very rough to handle. The bad break would ultimately leave Ben Hall lame in one leg for the rest of his life. John McGuire, Ben Hall's future brother-in-law, wrote an account of Ben Hall's accident in his narrative, 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native(written by P.H. Pinkstone, owner of the 'Hawkesbury Herald' and first published in the said newspaper after many in-depth interviews and fireside talks, c. 1906)"...whilst mounting him one morning 'Slasher' let out a lasher and poor Ben's leg and hoof met, resulting in a bad smasher for the former.”

Mary Coneley nee
Strickland c. 1862
Accordingly, the severely injured Ben Hall was transported by wagon to the nearby Bundaburra Station, where the owner, Mrs Mary Strickland, with the aid of her brother Tom Higgins, (future owner of the Dog and Duck Hotel, and long-time friend and harbourer of Ben Hall) attended to the badly broken leg. McGuire states that Tom Higgins was one;op.cit. "...who had a reputation as a bush surgeon, set the fracture, making a good job of it. In nine or ten weeks Ben was able to get about on crutches, and after that was as lively as ever." During his convalescence, Ben Hall developed a close friendship and teenage romance with the niece of Mary Strickland, and her namesake, Mary Strickland (who it is believed was heartbroken when Ben Hall began courting Bridget Walsh) who helped to tend to young Ben in his recovery. Furthermore, young Mary would become the future wife of one Michael Coneley. Long after Ben Hall's demise, this was noted about the tendering of his grave;[sic] "In the Forbes cemetery today rest the mortal remains of Ben Hall, and the mound which covers his dust is still tenderly cared for by a female hand—one who, though long years have drifted by since Hall's unfortunate body was riddled with policemen's bullets, still cherishes a kindly regard for a man who, but for a certain set of circumstances, might have earned renown in a different walk of life." This female hand was Mary Strickland.

Mary Strickland
nee Higgins.
It was reported in the 'The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate', Wednesday 16th October, 1918, that the care and bush doctoring of Mrs Strickland, Tom Higgins and young Mary was a kindness Ben Hall never forgot: Death of a Forbes Pioneer. Oldest White Woman on Lachlan. "The death of Mrs. M. A. Strickland, which occurred at Bundaburra Station, Forbes, during the week, has removed one of the real Lachlan pioneers, the deceased lady was 93 years of age, on one occasion Ben Hall was severely kicked by a horse he was breaking in, and Mrs. Strickland set the broken leg and nursed Ben back to health. He never forgot Mrs. Strickland's kindness, and it is on record that he refused to allow his gang to raid Bundaburra. On several occasions, when hard pressed, his lawless band took valuable horses from the station, but they were always returned within a month or so," the obituary continued with an account of Ben Hall's future partner in crime John Gilbert, “...Johnny Gilbert, one of the best known of the bushrangers, turned up at Bundaburra one afternoon in a specially cheeky mood, he made himself at ease in the sitting-room, and, lighting his pipe, was having a great old time. Mrs. Strickland informed him that she did not allow anyone to smoke and spit there, and ordered Gilbert out of the house, Gilbert went. Mrs. Strickland did not like the look of Gilbert, and told him that if he did not shift very soon she would box his ears. For a wonder, Johnny made himself scarce. It is believed he was warned by Ben Hall against interfering with the Bundaburra people.”  Another example of Ben Hall's respect for the Strickland's is recounted by Edward Taylor who years later recollected in the 'Forbes Advocate', 23rd September, 1921; "...I recollect on one occasion when there were three days racing at Wowingragong, the bushrangers came to the course one morning before the crowd arrived. There were a dozen or more booths on the ground. The bushrangers—Hall, Gilbert, O'Maley, came to one of the booths and had drinks. They met Joseph Strickland, an old-time handicapper of Parkes, and found out that he was racing a horse called 'Inkerman'. Gilbert and O'Maley wanted to take the horse, but when Ben Hall found out who owned him, he would not allow the horse to be interfered with."

Ernest Bowler, a respected Lachlan squatter, had a long acquaintanceship with Ben Hall as grazier, and gives an account from his reminiscences in 'The Moleskin Gentry' by Frederick Howard, of Ben Hall's early solid reputation: "...Ben Hall had a cattle station at Wheogo, and he used to attend all the musters round.  He was one of the smart, devil-may-care bushmen, knew the whole country well, always had a good horse and knew how to ride.  He was a good mate at mustering cattle or running wild horses.  He could "mother" calves; that means, after a day's mustering, he could tell you, which calf belonged to which cow - even if there were a hundred different brands." Such qualities would have been admired and respected throughout the Central West. Many years later in the 'Narromine News and Trangie Advocate' Friday 24th May, 1929, Ernest's wife, Mrs Elizabeth Bowler, who in 1857 had arrived in Forbes with her father, Mr. Farrand, newspaper editor of the ‘Lachlan Miner’ and Magistrate, who would later sit on the inquests into both John O'Meally and Ben Hall's death's. Mrs Bowler, in her reminiscences of Ben Hall's early life said; "...when cattle were mustered in those days (there were no sheep), they were held in some chosen spot overnight. Next morning squatters who had an interest in the herd came with their riders and the job of cutting-out began. Among the stockmen of those days was one who gained a modicum of fame as being the best of them all. Mrs. Bowler describes him as being a well-built, good looking young man with a pleasant disposition which gained him the friendship of all with whom he came in contact, A splendid rider and a good stockman, his services were frequently in demand."

Daniel Charters, this photo
 was most probably taken
 at Mrs  Reed's photographic
 gallery Forbes in 1862,
 on the same day as the
 Ben Hall portrait. 
After settling down to stock work during the mid-1850’s, Benjamin Hall struck up a close friendship with a local grazier working in the area between Carcoar and Forbes by the name of Daniel Charters. Daniel Charters was described as 6 ft. tall, of stout build, a fresh complexion, light brown hair, blue eyes and could read and write, a very useful attribute for helping his friend Ben Hall, who could do neither. Charters would state in February 1863, during the 'Special Commission' into bushranging whilst in the witness box as approver/informant regarding his participation in the June 1862, Escort Robbery that;"...I have known Ben Hall for six or seven years; I used to be at his place when I was gathering cattle for myself and for my sister." Charters and Ben Hall had established a close friendship and both were excellent horsemen and bushmen and were often found at all the local musters and dances in the districts. Daniel Charters also had a reputation as a lady’s man and ran cattle at several properties near Forbes totaling some 500 head, making Charters very well off. Charters' sisters also owned extensive properties as well as public-houses in and around the Lachlan District, the most notable being the 'Pinnacle Station', 26,880 acres’ with its own hotel which was owned by Charters' older sister Margaret and her husband Rodger Feehiely. Ben Hall could also be found at Daniel Charters' sisters' property 'The Pinnacle', mustering and attending the hotel there. The distance between Sandy Creek and the Pinnacle was twelve miles.

St Michael's Catholic Church,
 Bathurst. c. 1850's.
Furthermore, Ben Hall had long been renown as a loyal friend, a knowledgeable and reliable stockman throughout the district, as recorded in the 'Freeman's Journal', titled 'The Last of the Bushrangers', 25th September, 1930, described his standing in the district and wide circle of friends; “…he had long resided there and was at one time in good circumstances and a station holder. He was a popular man in the district, and the circle of his acquaintances was large from Bathurst to Euabalong, and from the Belabula to the Weddin Mountains, where old Walsh, his father-in-law, lived in easy affluence”. These strong friendships would in the years ahead provide comfort and aid. However, included in this reputation was Hall's inclination to work long and hard, and exhibits his personal qualities; "...he had an amiable sincerity of soul, a generosity of spirit, and an honesty in all his dealings with his fellow-settlers that won their friendliest esteem. He was steady, industrious, temperate, keenly intelligent, and, above all, always ready to give a helping hand to a neighbour."¹³ There were some who held the view that Hall appeared characterized by a 'certain detachment and shyness,' whereas others such as Mr. Thomas Bates, recalled in the 'Bathurst Times', of the 13th December, 1924, that Ben Hall could particularly be one who, "...could spin a good yarn and sing a song in the rough, boisterous fashion of the day."

Walsh, Uoka (Weeogo) 1849.
By 1855/56, Ben Hall had ceased work for Mr Hamilton. Hall then commenced stock work at 'Weeogo Station'(also known as Uoka) a 16,000-acre run owned by his future in law's the Walsh's in order to court the middle daughter Bridget Walsh. In author Des Sheils account of 'Ben Hall' (see Link page for copy of the book) Shiel's states this about John Walsh, (a former convict sentenced to Life) Weeogo Station and John McGuire, Ben Hall's future brother-in-law; "...upon his ticket-of-leave, Walsh drove his four hundred cattle down the Lachlan thirty-three kilometres from Cowra and took up his new run at Bendoo. In 1836, at Parramatta, he married Mary Hickey, (actually Julia Hickey) an immigrant from County Clare, Ireland. They settled at Bendoo, and by 1841 they had three daughters — Ellen, Biddy, and Kate. In 1845 there was a massive flood at the Lachlan; Bendoo was awash, and John Walsh decided to seek drier terrain. Westward he headed, beckoned on by the Weddin and Wheogo ranges, where he reckoned plenty of wild cattle would be roaming. Near the ranges he marked out a rectangular run ten miles by eight, and thus the Wheogo (or Uoko) run became the first property to be taken up in the Weddin area.

Marriage of John Walsh to 
Sarah Hurpur, Julia was
mother of the 'Warrigal' died
 in child birth 1845
Little is known about John Walsh's life at Wheogo. John McGuire, who came to work for him a short time after he settled the run, recounts a few personal aspects in his reminiscences. In 1849 Walsh and McGuire took cattle to Sydney and Walsh became ill. From that time, Walsh never really recovered his health, and the running of Weeogo became more and more the responsibility of McGuire. Mary Walsh had died during the late forties and John married again. To John McGuire, the second Mrs Walsh appeared somewhat of a shrew, and relationship became so strained that he transferred his quarters to the nearby Pinnacle station, then owned by Thomas Hull. But his interests at Wheogo were not solely concerned with cattle, for he was paying serious court to Ellen, the eldest of the Walsh girls. Towards the end of 1852 he and Ellen eloped to Bathurst. Mrs Walsh, enraged by the perfidy of the whole thing, rode to Bathurst to bring back the lovers, but she was too late, they had been married on 1 November. After six months the stepmother was mollified to the extent that Ellen and her husband returned to Wheogo, with McGuire as manager." 
John Walsh application to marry Julia Hickey at Windsor, 1836. 
John Walsh Conditional Pardon 1840.
The same Alter at St Michael's
Catholic Church Bathurst where
Ben and Biddy exchanged
their vows in 1856.
With the relocation to Weeogo (Wheogo) Station, Ben Hall working alongside his future brother-in-law John McGuire, commenced a romance with one of the wild Walsh girls, Bridget, and where on the 29th February, 1856, at the age of 19, Ben Hall married the second daughter of John Walsh, 15yr old Bridget Walsh (1841–1923)[sic] "a pert and lively woman", (Her father John Walsh would pass away in 1858), at St Michael's Catholic Church, Bathurst. It was said of John Walsh's three daughters that they were true creatures of the Weddin—tough, wild, and untameable. A pioneer reminisced in the 'Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser', February, 1917, his memory of the happy occasion when Ben Hall and Bridget made the trip to get married;[sic] “I saw Ben Hall and his Bridget Walsh when they were going to Burrowa, or Yass, to get married. I think it was about the year 1857, or it might have been 1856. They stayed at our house on their return trip. They were both, young — Ben about 20 years of age, and I think she was under 20. I fancy I see her slender, little white fingers peeling, with a sharp knife, apples for us youngsters.” 
Wheogo Homestead c. 1920's
Type of Parental Consent
 for marriage under 21.
Prior to Ben Hall's marriage to 15yr old Bridget, there was speculation that Ben Hall's father disapproved of the union, although, whether or not in 1856, Ben Hall communicated his intentions with his father is a matter of conjecture, as Benjamin Hall (Sr) had departed the Lachlan District by the end of 1851 and had returned to Murrurundi. Consequently, it was reported that they were never to communicate with each other again, except possibly through Ben Hall's younger brother Robert Hall, who was known to visit Benjamin at the Lachlan in the early 1860's. In 1856, marriages between couples under the age of 21 required parental approval, and it was rumoured that Ben Hall raised his age to 21 at the time to overcome this legal impediment. Ben and Bridget's only child, a son, Henry was born on 7th August, 1859, at the home of Ben Hall's close friend Daniel Charters' mother's residence at Carcoar with Daniel Charters mother, Mrs Jane Charters acting in the capacity of Midwife to Bridget. (In later years there was speculation that the couple had another child that passed away either as an infant or possibly stillborn, although there is no direct evidence.)

In 1860, Ben Hall had what may have been his first encounter with the legal system, when his close friend Daniel Charters was summoned to appear at the Burrowa Court over an outstanding matter of payment for a horse, and where on behalf of Charters, Ben Hall was called as a witness in the matter, although Charters claimed that Ben Hall was not implicated in the business, even though Hall was present when Charters obtained the horse in question. However, the incident appeared to be a fine line between an acquired horse over a trialed horse; 'Escort Trials, Special Commission', Sydney February 1863;[sic]  "I was brought up with Ben Hall at the court at Burrowa; I was not brought up there on any charge; I was summoned there about a horse; I had a horse from a man on trial, and he summoned me for payment for the use of it; I swear it was no charge of criminality at all; it is about two years and a half years ago; Ben Hall was present when I borrowed the horse; he was implicated in the matter in no other way, I was summoned by John Healy; the charge was made against me; I was not in custody; I went in and spoke a few words; the verdict was against me, and I paid £2." (John Healy was well known to both Hall and Charters, and would eventually be sent down to Cockatoo Island for larceny, and for the robbery of a dray with firearms at the O'Meally's Inn at the Weddin Mountains, and sentenced to 15 yrs., first year in Irons in early 1863.)

Bridget Hall from the ©Penzig collection

In 1859, the advertisement above demonstrates that Ben Hall was a person of  standing in the community supporting Law and Order. Note the commitment of some of the Lachlan's esteemed citizens marked by a #.

Ben Hall's Marriage Certificate 1856 (above)
Note:  Ben Hall signed his name with an "X" (his mark) demonstrating he was illiterate
Bridget also signed her name with an "X"(her mark)
Bridget's sister, Elen actually signed her name as a witness as did John Maguire.
It is interesting how one sister was literate and not the other.
Henry Hall's (Ben Hall's Son) Birth Certificate 1859 (above)
Note:  Again Hall signed his name with an "X" as his mark still demonstrating he was illiterate.
Nevertheless, for Ben Hall a young man, married and desiring a future in the evolving and progressive society of Australia, which presented an opportunity for the adventurous to have ago and to build a solid foundation for their future without the social judgments that had long handicapped those of limited means and of the so-called predetermined order of things. Moreover, in 1800's Australian society, there were still in place some sections that retained the old structured aristocratic style of old England, where inherited wealth and title determined a path of an assured future either in government or industry for those that were termed privileged, this, of course, excluded Ben Hall. However, it was for those in Australia, including Ben Hall, who with courage and determination, that for them the land could offer that same fighting chance of diversity and position in the newly founded aristocracy of the colony which was being forged out by the ex-criminals of England who had once been bound down by iron chains, and for whom the land alone presented a new opportunity and wealth for men long ago marked as outcast and sent to the far off English penal colony of NSW for crimes that were so petty that ordinarily in a modern Australia or England they would not even see the courthouse, let alone those perpetrators receiving seven to fourteen years, or worse, a life of incarceration with severe physical punishment and a voyage of unimaginable horror, why the civil libertarians today would have abject heart failure. So, it was with the vast open tracts of land available in NSW, stocked with volumes of cattle and sheep that was enabling the birth of the new emerging Australian pioneer and aristocrat. Men who were more at ease in the company of themselves and more tolerant of others and were less pretentious, where over time, even they would blur the origins of their arrival in the old penal colony of New South Wales. Men who would go on to establish a more prestigious aristocrat with wealth more copious than some landed gentry in England. Ben Hall had grown up in a family with ex-convicts as parents remembering that Ben Hall was nine years old when his mother, Eliza finally obtained her 'Ticket of Leave' in 1846, even so, his parents established for themselves a respectable farm with a few acres at Murrurundi and prospered to become a self-sufficient entity of moderate means. For Ben Hall in those early days of working for Mr. Hamilton, who showed enormous interest in Ben Hall, which was then followed by his work for the Walsh's enabled Ben Hall to hone the skill's he had developed for stock work which in turn empowered an ambition to arise for his own station and to search for the opportunity to be his own master. This opportunity was presented in 1860 when at the age of 23, Ben Hall, after discussions with his brother-in-law John MaGuire, took the plunge.

NSW Government Gazette
27th March, 1860.

Courtesy NLA
Therefore, in March 1860, Ben Hall tendered for the Runs of Crown Lands (see article right) and he was granted the lease and occupancy of Sandy Creek Station in partnership with his brother-in-law, John MaGuire who was married to Ben Hall's wife's older sister Ellen. The venture was a bold move for the two experienced stockmen, furthermore, both John MaGuire and Ben Hall suffered a disability, that being, MaGuire was blind in his right eye, and Ben Hall, from the accident in his youth, lame in one leg, although neither affliction restrained the two men from the tough work in establishing Sandy Creek cattle station, which covered an area of over 12,000 acres and had a carrying capacity of 640 head of cattle. At the time Sandy Creek was uncleared, and fed by a well-watered creek running through the property. This extract was noted in the newspaper, about the standing of Sandy Creek; "...shortly after his marriage, he, in company with Mr. John Maguire, obtained a lease of a run adjoining Wheogo, called Sandy Creek, which they stocked with cattle and horses. Sandy Creek, Wheogo, and Bundaburra are estimated to be among the very best runs in the Lachlan district."¹⁴ This comment was also recorded of Ben Hall's personal standing as a grazier; "...Hall became the owner of Sandy Creek Station, adjoining Wheogo. He had it on lease, running cattle and horses, and managed it in a businesslike way, thereby adding further to his reputation as a young man of fine promise."¹⁵

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

Condensed map of
Sandy Creek and adjacent
Stations c. 1861.
© Des Shiel
Ben Hall and John MaGuire may have divided the property and operated independently of each other, in John McGuire's narrative, 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native', MaGuire states that Ben Hall reputedly named his portion of Sandy Creek, 'Cubbine Bin', running his own cattle and horses, and when required the two men worked together in clearing and forming stockyards close to their water supply, this would have been a prudent way to operate a new farming enterprise in the 1860’s, and thus the two squatters shared the yearly rent to the government. As for the acquiring of stock for their new enterprise, John MaGuire stated that himself, and Ben Hall, had done a bit of duffing of unbranded and wild 'Mickie’s;op.cit. "...Ben had always done a bit of duffing. But, for the matter of that, we all duffed, with very few exceptions, it was not considered a great crime - simply a matter of business. The man who could muster and secure unbranded calves was considered a fool if he did not stick his own brand on." In reference to cattle duffing this was noted of the practice; "...Cattle duffing, in those early days, it may be remarked, was not considered a criminal offence. If one settler took a beast of a neighbour's, the latter simply bided his time until he found an animal belonging to his predatory fellow settler worthy of appropriation. Under such retaliatory system recourse to law proceedings was avoided, because the sinner and sinned against then came on an equal footing. In the days referred to the holdings of Crown leases were unfenced, nothing but ill-defined lines denoting their boundaries. As a result, there was frequently a general mingling of herds, separations only being effected during the periodical musters."¹⁶ When Ben Hall attended the district muster it was a time in which he excelled with his animal husbandry knowledge.

On Sandy Creek station, Ben Hall constructed what has been commonly referred to as a Hut for himself, Bridget and his baby son Henry. During the Hut's construction, Ben Hall would have employed the help of older brother's Thomas Wade and William Hall. Furthermore, William and his wife Ann were also residing with Ben and Bridget. John MaGuire constructed as well a hut some five hundred yards from Ben's, no doubt the men worked together. Whether or not some friction existed between William, his wife Anne and Bridget is unknown, suffice to say that in the future, much agitation between William and Bridget emerged. Although this agitation in the early part could also point to the beginning martial issues between Ben and Bridget, as Ben Hall's loyalty to his brother was strong, whereas Bridget may have wished to be sole mistress of the house. With William living at the home, it enabled a disgruntled Bridget to take leave and accompany her sister Catherine in her secret meetings with her new lover the bushranger, Frank Gardiner, as Ann Hall would have cared for young Henry. As will be seen later in this biography. (It should also be noted that John McGuire also used the spelling of McGuire with an A ie: MaGuire, Maguire as demonstrated on Ben Hall's marriage certificate.)

Edward Hall 1879
Prison addmission
Whilst Ben Hall was in the process of establishing Sandy Creek, at Hall's childhood home, Murrurundi, his father and siblings were often reported as quarrelling during the 1850/60's, and well into the turn of the century. Ben Hall’s brothers were often connected with many thefts, and who as individuals were often required before a magistrate, even including incarceration; 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser' 1860; MURRURUNDI. [FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT] POLICE OFFICE, July 24th. -Before P. W. Wright, A. Brodi, and R. G. Higgins, Esqrs. - "Benjamin Hall was charged by Honora Hall with using abusive language towards her. Case dismissed. -Edward Hall was charged with assaulting his father, Benjamin Hall, on the 11th instant. The evidence of the complainant and several witnesses went to shew, that on the day above named Hall senior went to take possession of a bullock, which was also claimed by the defendant. The father and son met in the bed of the river, near the house of the latter, when an altercation arose, which was ended by the son laying his stock-whip pretty smartly across the shoulders of his father. Defendant was ordered to pay a fine of £4 15s., or in default to be imprisoned for two months."

Ben Hall's reaction to those events surrounding his father are unrecorded, having been out of communication and far removed from those internal and troubling events whilst residing at Sandy Creek, situated close to the new thriving township of Forbes, risen out of the ground through the discovery of a rich gold field. The township grew quickly out of the drive of the new gold-diggers. This was written about Forbes in late 1861, as Ben Hall was in the throes of establishing a fine and prosperous cattle station close to a goldfield hungry for beef; THE TOWN OF "FORBES". — We never saw a place of the same age in such a state of forwardness as this. Several good streets give an appearance of regularity to the rows of calico and bark; and the existence of an unlimited supply of excellent pine timber close at hand has led to the erection of buildings much more substantial, and sightly than those we have been accustomed to see in other new townships. A bi-weekly Court of Petty Sessions has already been established; of amusements we have no lack of music and dancing, while billiard tables, a rifle gallery, and ten pins seem as popular as ever. The banking and gold buying business, of the "Oriental", and also of the post office are transacted at the stores of Mr. Greig. Mrs Reed has a photographic gallery. Coaches ply frequently during the day between the crossing place at Fenn’s. (Wowingragong) and also these diggings a distance of nearly five miles. The Cowra coaches and mails from Sydney and the Flat run three times a week. Thus it will be seen that Forbes is not a place to be lightly esteemed.”¹⁷ It was also noted of the importance of the township in this article of life in Forbes in those formative years; "...this important town is situated on the north bank of the Lachlan River, at a point almost midway in between Cowra and Condobolin. It is 82 miles from Orange, and 245 miles from Sydney, Tens of thousands of miners went out to their work at sunrise, and returned at 6 in the evening. Then, many thousands of fires were lighted, and the diggers prepared their evening meal. Comparative quiet reigned while they were partaking of it; but, that over, all is bustle again, for, with few exceptions, the diggers betook themselves to the theatres, concert halls, dancing Saloons, or public-houses, and many did not return to their tents until dawn. Scores of shoeblacks took up positions in the streets, and did a wonderful trade; hurdy-gurdy girls and other itinerant musicians played and sang, and reaped a rich harvest; mounted troopers and policemen (under Sir F. Pottinger) moved to and fro among the masses; coaches were running at all hours, and in all directions, as well as actors and singers, sawyers, doctors, clergy, tradespeople, menagerie-men, and men of almost every nation, rank, and condition were on the field in incongruous medley."¹⁸

Home of  Catherine & John Browne
 frequented by Gardiner
photo c. 1920's 
However, before long a dark shadow emerged in the Wheogo district that would change the dynamics of the serene farming communities, when the well-known bushranger, Frank Gardiner, also known as 'The Darkie', the scourge of the NSW police, and the man singularly responsible for the ruination of many a young colonial boy, commenced using the Wheogo district as a hideout. Furthermore, Frank Gardiner had formed an intimate relationship with Ben Hall's sister-in-law Catherine Browne (Brown) nee Walsh, Bridget Hall's younger sister, 18yrs of age, who resided with her husband John Browne in a hut a short distance from Wheogo homestead. Gardiner was, 14 yrs. Catherine's senior.

Sir Frederick Pottinger
The police of the Lachlan district were led by the newly appointed police inspector, the indefatigable Sir Frederick Pottinger, stationed at Forbes. Pottinger was, however, one who's top priority was to apprehend the elusive bushranger, Gardiner. Pottinger would spend many weeks searching the bush in the Wheogo and Bland districts for the phantom fugitive, who was being aided and abetted by many public house and station owners, such as Mrs Feehiley, owner of the notorious 'Pinnacle Station.' In the year of 1861/62, in an effort to apprehend the notorious bushranger, the NSW Police created a detailed map of his known haunts, detailing an area over eighty miles, and listed people long suspected of secreting the bushranger. (In the future, many of these same inhabitants would also extend their assistance to Ben Hall.) This detailed map became the 'key' for tracking Gardiner, although without much success. (For more on Pottinger see Traps page.)

Moreover, throughout the map, the police furnish an insight and opinion about the character of those people they considered criminal or just plain reprehensible, who were the known protectors of 'The Darkie'. However, two names which figure prominently on the highly confidential map, are the young wife of Ben Hall, and her sister, Mrs Catherine Browne, who were noted as 'bad', and at one station states; "Harbourer, Yorkshire Jack, good man bad women, the retreat of Mrs Hall and Brown." (See map below) Yorkshire Jack's was also a well known sly-grog shop. The map gives a clear insight into the close ties both married 'wild Weddin girls' had with many of the shady characters marked by the police. Furthermore, the detailed map was forwarded to the Inspector-General of police in Sydney under the strictest of confidences, for if it leaked out, it could spook those who aided and abetted Gardiner as well as unwittingly setting the police intelligence effort backward, including possible reprisals against those citizens seen as supportive of the NSW police.

The Map drawn by NSW police c 1861, showing the Routs and Harbourer's of Frank Gardiner living in the western districts and notes Mrs Ben Hall and her sister Mrs Catherine Brown as Women of Interest. ( I have edited the map to make it more legible.)

Henry Hall,
 Ben Hall's
son c. 1900's
Nevertheless, the naming of the two married sisters on a highly confidential document openly reveals that Bridget Hall, in company with her sister Catherine were mixing with undesirables, it also indicates that from Bridget's frequent absences from 'Sandy Creek', her marriage of nearly five years may have already been on rocky ground with vexation over William Hall's presence, as a result Bridget was to spend many weeks absent, stopping over at the cattle stations of the many known harbourers of the 'Darkie', minus her young son HenryMoreover, there is no doubt that Ben Hall himself had a friendship with Gardiner, where at first Hall possibly kept the association at arm's length, although his cattle station partner John McGuire was on very close terms with the bushranger. Furthermore, it was reported that Hall had also been linked to two of Gardiner's close companions, the younger and notorious bushrangers, John Gilbert, and the O'Meally brothers from the nearby Weddin Mountains. A long-time resident of the Lachlan, in 1863, wrote of Ben Hall's friendship with the above-mentioned Gilbert and John O'Meally, circa 1859; "...about four years since, whilst taking some cattle overland from my station on the Lachlan, I fell in with young Hall, who was then stock-keeping for his brother near Bundaburra. He, O'Meally, Gilbert, and some others had all just returned from their usual trip after cattle, and on my asking them what luck they had met with, they replied "they had camped out for three nights at a place called Humbug Creek, but had met with little or no cattle, only in one mob there were a few duffers." The term "duffer" is too well known to need description here; it simply means clean-skinned animals, which are appropriated by whoever can get them into a yard."¹⁹ Some years later, the friendship which is obviously long standing, was noted by a minister of the cloth, on his travels near Sandy Creek Station, where he came across Ben Hall and John Gilbert together fencing, and reportedly admonished the pair for working on the Sabbath; “…on one occasion the same preacher was travelling near the residence of Hall, on a Sunday, when he discovered Ben, Gilbert and others doing some fencing. Reminding them of the sacred character of the day, the preacher was surprised to learn that they did not know it was the Sabbath. They referred the point to a lady who happened to live in a homestead near, and on the statement of the preacher being confirmed they, immediately ceased their work for the day. Facilus descensus averni.”²⁰ (Descent to hell is easy.) These observations illustrate the long held mateship between Ben Hall, Johnny Gilbert and John O'Meally, which has previously been only thought of as a distant friendship. For Ben Hall however, the quiet farming world he resided in was about to turn on its head.

Bridget c. 1915.
Note that her hair style
from known portraits
never changed.
Accordingly, during Hall's wife Bridget’s reportedly frequent absences with her younger sister Catherine, where Bridget could enjoy the high-spirited shenanigans and easy money of Gardiner's satellites, whilst her sister's love affair with the celebrated bushranger, sizzled. However, during one of her many absences, Bridget became reacquainted with a long-time family friend, James Taylor, ten years older, who appeared to infatuate and woo the flighty 20yr old Bridget Hall. There has long been the thought that Taylor was unknown to the young wife of Ben Hall, but evidence suggests otherwise, as prior to Bridget’s marriage to Ben Hall, a quietly spoken, somewhat shy, easy going man and in some reports even dull, when compared to Bridget's pre-marriage wild reputation, where in her previous friendship with the much older Jim Taylor, Bridget may have flirted, as there was no doubt that opportunities for interaction amongst the settlers out on the socially deprived isolated stations existed. Therefore, Taylor's knowledge of the pretty Bridget Hall had no doubt been established much earlier through the long association of Taylor's recently deserted wife's sister, Mary's family (nee Dower), the Jamieson's, whose property was at Back Creek, The Bland and in close proximity to Bridget's father's station, 'Wheogo', and consequently later Sandy Creek. Taylor's own family had property situated near the Weddin Mountains at Bimbi, relatively close to the O'Meally's vast Arramagong Station, as well as Reid's Flat, on the Fish River. It is well documented that the majority of all these squatting families in and around the Weddin Mountains and Bland district had intimate knowledge of each other, and in a lot of cases were interwoven through marriage. Furthermore, James Taylor's own family had a long connection with the bushranger Frank Gardiner, as Taylor's older sister Mary was married to Gardiner's close friend the wily old fox, William Fogg. The Fogg's were also well-known thieves and scoundrels, but surprisingly well off, with extensive land holdings, and stock at The Bland and Bigga on the Fish River. Taylor's family by association were also linked to cattle and horse theft. (James Taylor himself would be arrested for this crime by Sir Frederick Pottinger in the future, but due to lack of evidence would be released.) However, at the time of reacquainting with Mrs Hall, Taylor, was still a married man, who had wed Miss Emma Dower in 1849 at a temporary church on The Bland. Although when Bridget Hall began her affair with Taylor, he had only recently deserted his alcoholic wife at Bennet Springs near Reids Flat, leaving her with a new born in arms, as well as deserting his daughter Sophie, born in 1851, and three other children, Mary b. 1858, John b. 1859, lastly and most interestingly the new baby in arms, Jameison, born 14th April 1861. This corroborates Taylor's relationship with Bridget as commencing in late 1861, when Taylor returned to the Lachlan district. Furthermore, Taylor himself suffered from the affliction, alcoholism, which would eventually be the cause Taylor's death in 1877. (For more on William Fogg see Gilbert page

Catherine Walsh nee Browne,
marriage certificate, 1859.
Note, Catherine could write,
as well as Ellen, but strangely
their sister Bridget couldn't.
The return of Taylor to the Bland saw him working a cattle run of his in-laws the Fogg’s near Humbug Creek. Humbug Creek was the perfect retreat for unscrupulous men of the likes of Taylor, however, Humbug Creek's remoteness was also favoured by 'The Darkie' Frank Gardiner, furthermore, this remote area was well known to Ben Hall through his excursions in search of lucrative unbranded cattle and wild horses in company with Gilbert and O'Meally. However, James Taylor would also become a frequent visitor to Ben Hall's station at Sandy Creek, 25 miles from Humbug Creek, (today the small town of Ungarie, NSW) and before long it would be revealed that Taylor's visits were not for Ben's friendship, but for Bridget Hall's affection. Taylor was the complete antithesis of Ben Hall. Bridget Hall and Taylor's affair had commenced in late 1861. 

The Bland Plains, with
Humbug Ck in Flood.
During the 1850/60's, Ben Hall’s old mustering area and Taylor's new home of Humbug Creek was described as an out of the way, remote area, and sparsely settled. Most of the stations on the Bland Plains including the Jameison’s covered thousands of acres, as well as being an area where in the drier months of summer, was known as a somewhat inhospitable place, with limited water and searing heat, it was a big country. However, on 4th November, 1863, this remoteness was brought to light in a letter to the 'The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News', by a long-time resident who highlighted the lack of general knowledge during those early years prior to and including Ben Hall taking to the bush; "...none seem to know anything about the locality of Humbug Creek, now I being an old resident on the Lachlan, well know of the existence of this place, and that stock men, when out after cattle, always used to visit this spot, there being only this one place for cattle to water, between the Billabong Creek and the Murrumbidgee — a distance of 100 miles. On looking at the map, I find no mention made of this creek, which lies about 15 miles distant from Bland Plains, to the right of Lake Cowell — an extensive lagoon, or, in flood time, a lake of vast magnitude. Leaving Bundaburra, the station of Mr. Strickland, the traveller passes over some very open, country, timbered by ironbark, gum, and myall trees; the latter stud the vast plains of the Billabong in all directions, but afford no harbourage. A person journeying across the Plains can be seen for miles distant. The first station was formerly in possession of Mr. Stonestren of King's Plains; it is situated on the banks of the Billabong Creek. Pursuing the same direction, after crossing this creek, a ride of some 15 miles would bring the traveller to Humbug Creek; there to the Murrumbidgee River is about 45 miles. There is no road this way, it being generally believed water could not be obtained. To go the regular road to the Murrumbidgee makes it a distance of 140 miles; this inner route is the one mostly taken by those travelling with stock." Furthermore, it was also noted that even in the vast remoteness of The Bland, a stockman/bushranger, such as Ben Hall was not without the availability of fresh game for the tucker bag. Here, reminisced by an old settler in the ‘The Grenfell Record and Lachlan District Advertiser’, Monday 6th August, 1934; “…the Bland in those days abounded with game of all kinds. Ducks, pigeons and turkeys would be shot from a tilted cart after stalking round them; fish were plentiful in the creeks,” and notes the vast stations producing quality cattle for their ready markets in the state of Victoria, and the new goldfields springing up in the Central West of NSW; “…the great Bland country from which source many drafts of fat cattle were overlanded to Melbourne, Ballarat and Bendigo during the gold rushes there. No finer beasts entered those particular places from any other quarter? while up to the present day they more than hold their own in any, market.”

John McGuire,
c. 1900
John MaGuire, in 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native' wrote that he hinted to Benjamin of Bridget's questionable association with Taylor, who MaGuire claimed was; "...a pretend friend of Ben, but, as the after events showed, his visits were more on account of Ben's wife, who was a fine-looking woman." MaGuire ventured on that, "...I suspected his little game myself, and had dropped hints to Ben." Furthermore, after MaGuire dropped those hints, he continues; "...Ben cautioned his wife, in very threatening language, what would happen if he ever discovered anything between her and Taylor. Later on, Ben actually came across some of Taylor's letters, and there was such a row that the latter kept a civil distance." Bridget's infidelity and propensity for a good time was the beginning of the end for the young couple, and would throw the once steady, respectable, hard-working, loving father, Ben Hall into becoming the most feared man in New South Wales.
Therefore, at the beginning of spring 1861, Ben Hall would bid farewell to his wife and young son Henry, unknowingly for the last time, and taking leave from Sandy Creek, saddled up for the annual mustering of branded and unbranded cattle and wild horses out on the vast plains of the Lachlan and The Bland, a time when the mornings were still chilly and the days lengthening and where all the squatters of the districts, regardless of their stature or station, participated in these great musters, described here by Clarence Paget Bayly; "...wire fences were unknown, and wild horses and cattle roamed the bush at will, and you would see from 20 to 30 men saddle up in the morning to take part at these great musters, and the stockwhips would sound like thunder coming home to the yards at nightfall. Up would go the slip rails, off would come the saddles, when supper would be partaken of, and then you would see as jolly a lot of fellows as ever smoked a pipe.”²¹ These great stock musters was an environment where the very likable Ben Hall excelled in. However, on Hall's return to to his home at Sandy Creek, it was reported; "...when Hall returned to Sandy Creek a few weeks later he found the homestead hut deserted and learned from neighbours that the wife he had so greatly loved and so entirely trusted, had gone off."²² Ben Hall had learned for himself that Taylor was doubly traitorous, for whilst pretending to be a friend, Taylor had been encouraging the infidelity of Ben Hall's wife.

Relationship between Fogg's
and Taylor's, February 1861.
Jim Taylor had finally swept young Bridget away. It was in late 1861, when Bridget eloped and in doing so took Ben Hall's young son Henry with her to Bigga, where Taylor’s older sister Mary Fogg resided, MaGuire wrote Hall was;op.cit. "...cut up terribly, for he had been fond of his wife, and the little boy was the sunshine of his home." MaGuire also remarked that Ben Hall; "...soon lost interest in his station, and started roaming about, so often that I missed him for days together." The 'Adelong and Tumut Express and Tumbarumba Post', Friday 22 August, 1924, surmised the effect on Hall when learning of his wife's faithless actions; "...Ben was dumbfounded, and on recovering from his shock, said, "For God's sake, don't say that." It was abundantly clear that Hall was a changed man, and that he had received a wound that no skilled surgeon could heal. He raved and acted like a madman. The agitated father inquired eagerly after his child, only to be told that they had taken it with them. That night he saddled his horse, then procured a loaded revolver, and within a short space of time was on his way to search for the despoiler of his home and happiness. For a whole week he continued the search, and then returned to Wheogo a completely changed man. Instead of being the industrious, hardworking grazier, he became sullen, restless and ill-tempered. He said it was useless working as he had no home nor anything to which was worthwhile living for. He had no wife, no child to cheer him at the end of the day's toil. As time wore on he became more reconciled to his lot, and began to enjoy the company of others. He made frequent excursions to Lambing Flat, then a prosperous gold digging field."

William Fogg and Mary Fogg,
nee Taylor.
However, as Ben Hall conducted a fruitless search, the lovers scampered to Taylor's sisters home and a place where the Fogg's had earlier been instrumental in facilitating the bushranger and close friend Frank Gardiner's escape from the clutches of the police during an arrest and an ensuing gunfight at their Bigga farm in mid-1861. Furthermore, it was reported that the Fogg's allegedly bribed one of the arresting Constable's, Constable Hosie £50 for Gardiner's freedom. It was noted in the 'Empire', Saturday, 14 March, 1863 that; "...Mrs. Fogg is in the habit of showing the shirt that the desperado wore in that encounter, or rather the shreds of it that were picked up after his escape; I am given to understand that it is prized as a relic, and when shown to the rising generation, it in conjunction with the embellished narrative, will, I've no doubt, exercise a beneficial influence over that portion of the peculiar community in question, viz., The Abercrombie Ranges." After a period of time out of the way of Ben Hall, Bridget and Taylor returned to The Bland and the property near Humbug Creek, close to Lake Cowal, some 25 miles from Sandy Creek Station. (For more on Frank Gardiner see

Extract from  The
Biography of a
Reliable old Native.
Nevertheless, John MaGuire, in his memoirs believed that Bridget Hall's desertion was a factor, if not the key factor in his brother-in-law’s tumultuous path to bushranging. (see full detail's in the article right) Furthermore, in former bushranger Jack Bradshaw's narrative of 'Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall & Gang', recounted from the recollections of Ben's older brother, William Hall, Bradshaw recounts through William that Bridget supposedly left Ben Hall a letter of apology for her faithless actions: "Ben, my boy, try and forget me; I do not think it is in the power of God to forgive. I love a scoundrel—that is, if it be love at all, which I know the world will say it was not. Call it what you wish. ‘The hellish promptings of the devil,’ Taylor destroyed my duty to you as a wife, and I have destroyed your happiness for life. Something was in me that I had not fortitude to resist, however, hope that you will possess sufficient manliness to bear up against the conduct of a runaway strumpet. If you have not, I can't help it. Follow not. You have always been too good a man for me. Two villains are more suitable, possessing no love nor yet even the fear of God or the eternal flames of hell. Poor Ben, good-bye.” The above letter, whose authenticity is questionable, but if true, would therefore, most probably have been written on Bridget's behalf by her sister Ellen MaGuire (who maintained a close relationship with Ben Hall until his death), who could write, whereas Bridget was illiterate, this fact is demonstrated on the marriage certificate of Bridget and Ben (see marriage certificate above), where both signed their names with an "X". Ellen MaGuire was aware of Taylor's affection for her sister. With the elopement of Bridget, Ben Hall had been released from the bonds of responsibility, and was clearly devastated at being deprived of his son Henry, 'the sunshine of his home', thereby, the circumstances left Hall to deal with the treachery of his wife, and the sympathy of his neighbours. Furthermore, the thought of Taylor’s duplicity, however, saw Ben Hall turn to the gun reputedly for the first time, filled with possible thoughts of a bloody revenge against the usurper of his home;op.cit. “I witnessed Ben’s first essay at pulling the trigger. It was a revolver that he had picked-up on the road one day while we were out riding together-a six chambered weapon that had evidently fallen from someone’s belt. Getting a supply of ammunition, Ben used to pass his lonely moments at home practising at a target.”

However, it is quite possible that based on the early evidence following Hall’s wife’s desertion, Hall suffered a nervous breakdown, a colloquial term for an acute psychiatric disorder that manifests primarily as severe depression, anxiety or dissociation in a previously functional individual, to the extent that they are no longer able to function on a day-to-day basis, i.e.: the neglect of Sandy Creek after Bridget's desertion, loss of his son, the sense of betrayal, all apparent until the disorder is resolved. This nervous breakdown, however, is defined by its 'temporary nature'.

Jack Bradshaw,
c. 1912.
Bradshaw corroborates John McGuire's assumption in regard to Hall's life becoming a "reckless one". Bradshaw states that one might imagine the state of Ben's mind after receiving the heartbreaking letter;op.cit. "...for 15 days, he rode about the country like a madman, hardly knowing what he was doing, and mixed up with all kinds of company." John MaGuire, also alluded to the loss of Ben's interest in his share of Sandy Creek, and its day-to-day operations, and whatever savings Hall may have had were being frittered away in the grog shops, and seedy haunts of the drunkards, the hooligans and the lazy of the district; 'The Yass Courier', 22nd April, 1862, states; " behoves our protectors, the police, to have a keen eye upon all those young men who appear to have plenty of idle time to own and ride flash horses, and knock about public-houses, with apparently plenty of spare cash, and no ostensible means of earning or replacing the same; also, they are generally surrounded by old "loafers" of a shabby appearance, which fact ought to be enough to a sharp policeman for noscitur a sciios."(it is known by the company it keeps) Furthermore, well known fiery Presbyterian minister, and M.P., John Dunmore Lang, on a visit through the Western Districts, noted in an article in 1862, titled 'Notes of a trip to the Westward and Southward, by the Rev Dr. Lang, M.P.' regarding those miscreants who frequented the many seedy haunts surrounding Burrangong/Lachlan goldfields, and those citizens inclined to turn a blind eye to that dubious element of villain entrenched in the area, and who Ben Hall was often cavorting with; "...all along these routes there are these places of accommodation, shanties, sly grog shops, etc., of the most questionable character and it is in these places that our modern bushrangers obtain occasional shelter and general information." Ben Hall was moving one step closer to the prophesied 'reckless life'. (For Bradshaw's full narrative of Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall and Gang, see Links page.)

MacAlister's former
 Great Eastern Hotel,
 Forbes, frequented by
Ben Hall. c1862
Before long, the lonely days at Sandy Creek came to an end and Hall embarks upon his decline into bushranging by starting the ball rolling and commenced to roam the districts, predominantly in the company of John O’Meally, Daniel Charters, Gilbert and others of a less reputable character, whereby, in their company Hall would time and again be seen attending local shanty's and public houses in the vicinity of Forbes, Lambing Flat, the Pinnacle and the O'Meally's Inn at the Weddin Mountains, where the likes of Gilbert and John O'Meally were often tending the bar, thereby, Hall would according to eyewitnesses finally abandoned the hard work and effort of establishing his fledgling farm. During early 1862, a former publican and confidant of Gardiner's, Mr Charles MacAlister, later penned in his memoirs, "Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South," of Ben Hall's devil may care friendships, circa 1862. However, MacAlister comments that even at this early stage, Ben Hall was thought by those leading citizens in Forbes and its surrounds to have thrown his hat into the ring with the other budding bushrangers, Gardiner, Gilbert and O'Meally, it may also be that in many of the criminal offences, Hall may have at first resorted to blackening his face and wearing a crape mask for disguise. However, Hall's connection to bushranging in early 1862 is a situation most historians dispute, but is certainly evident;op.cit.“ was brought in on the sticking up of Mr. Horsington, the Lambing Flat storekeeper, at Big Wombat, by Gardiner and his gang, Horsington having to part with £500 odd in money and over 200 ozs. in gold dust. Up to that time, this was the biggest coup the Darkie (Gardiner) had made. Ben Hall, Gilbert, Fordyce, Charters, and others of the bushrangers had drinks on many occasions at the Great Eastern Hotel in Forbes, and in broad daylight, too. This was prior to the Eugowra affair, and up to that event, Ben Hall and Gilbert were only suspected of a bushranging kinship with Gardiner. For though several of them had been before the Forbes Bench on suspicion (Ben Hall and O’Malley were repeatedly brought up), the law had failed to sheet the guilt home to them to the satisfaction of the local J.P.” (MacAlister built and was a former owner of the Great Eastern Hotel in Forbes. MacAlister's book may be accessed on the Links page.)

Illustration of hotel
festivities on the
Gold Fields. c. 1860's.
Courtesy NLA.
Ben Hall's status as a cuckold, as well as his new-found freedom, with plenty of time to spare, which is illustrated by reports of continuous forays into the thriving township of Forbes, including carousing in the many hotels and dance hall establishments of the gold town, not to mention the dancing Hurdy-Gurdy girls. Moreover, these much-admired girls danced with the stockmen and miners for a shilling a dance, some ladies took advantage of the free-flowing gold nuggets and would charge as much as five pounds for a whirl to the desperate miners. The men danced to the rhythms and beat made by the musicians, who it was reported sang and played very loudly so the music could be heard above the noise of the stamping feet of those excited and hard drinking men. Charles MacAlister, in "Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South" recalls rugged fist fights amongst revelers, not an uncommon sight during their raucous festivities, and where even barmaids were fair game;op.cit. “The barmaid was shying empty bottles and, pewters at the head of a young fellow who, she said, had insulted her, and the air was full of smash and frenzy. The great Sir F. Pottinger (then head of the police) was riding by at the time with one of his troopers, and he and his subordinate rushed into the bar, leaving their horses tethered to a tree nearby. While the police were inside quelling the row, someone made off with their horses, and we doubt if they were ever recovered. Johnny Gilbert, it was said, had a hand in the business; but whoever took them reduced the awful Pottinger to the level of an old vituperative fish-fag and he threatened several bystanders with summary punishment if the prads were not returned.” These hard men of the goldfield and cattle stations, starved of women's company, flooded those dance halls and public houses for the company of the sweet feminine charms, and Ben Hall was in the thick of it. Furthermore, in some establishments, some strict rules pertaining to fraternization existed, whereas, others rode a less moral path. Nevertheless, these men, even after an energy-sapping day of mining, both surprised and exhausted their female partners as they whirled them around the floor. One old-hand recalled life in the new sin city, in the 'Western Herald', October 1908; "It was a motley crowd one saw in Forbes along in '62 and '63, pressmen, lawyers, magistrates, surveyors, actors, demireps, unfrocked parsons, gamblers, pugilists, golden hole men, "all sorts and conditions of men," cheek by jowl. Vice and villainy were rampant, needy adventurers on the make, bushrangers in faint—very faint, disguise; bars and dancing saloons full to o'er flowing, cafe chantants better patronised than churches. Money was flung about anyhow; it seemed as if Sheol itself was let loose. Fast and fair women danced, or drank for wagers, and boasted that they could hold-up the police—or any other body in fact. One woman backed herself to waltz "either man or woman blind for £50," and declined to dance with any ordinary mortal for less than a fiver." (Sheol is ancient Greek for Hades.)

Susan Prior c. 1862.
(my opinion, see Gallery page)
The township of Forbes was flying as men and women from all walks of life converged on the timber and canvas tent city seeking their fortune, where before long;op.cit.“...there were fully 50,000 people on the field. The Warden Captain Brown, himself informed me that up to that date over 25,000 miner’s licenses had been issued and scores were applied for every day, and truly the Forbes rush at its height was a pandemonium.” However, as Hall got on the spree including visits to the Forbes public house's, filled with wine, woman and song. Inn's such as the Great Eastern, Cohen’s Inn, and 50 others, along with sojourns at the Harp of Erin Inn, where Hall was known to enjoy the company of other women, and where it was believed that at one time Hall was living with one named as Betsy;op.cit. “…knew Hall to be staying in the same house as Betsy.” Furthermore, on a run down to Lambing Flat, Ben Hall would establish a new relationship with a young woman, Susan Prior, 17 yrs. old. Accordingly, for Ben Hall and his associates they would have also found the Sly Grog businesses as a good alternative to the more expensive and crowded dance hall's and hotel's, and were the miscreants of the goldfields who wished to stay off the police radar would frequent, although at times the law cracked down on these den's of iniquity, The 'Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday', 7th January 1862; Forbes- "The police have commenced prosecutions against the sly grog sellers. Five were summoned to appear before the court yesterday-Captain Browne and Commissioner Grenfell on the bench. Samuel Richards, James Pattison, and Margaret Scully were severally fined £30. The case against one Elizabeth Marshall was remanded for a week. A warrant was issued for one Helen Berriman, she not appearing to the summons."

Later another gentleman, Dan Mayne recounted in the ‘Freemans Journal’, 10th November, 1906, of wild nights of singing, dancing and boozing and those Forbes ladies' charms as an unfettered Ben Hall strode the crowded streets; “…when Maggie Oliver and Joey Gogenheim were playing with old Bill Holloway's company the diggers were so delighted with the sight of those ladies' fair forms and the sound of their sweet voices that (as bouquets were unknown) they threw valuable nuggets of gold on the stage to them instead. It was the liveliest place I was ever in, and many a jolly night I spent with M'Guire's friend, Ted Barry, who kept the hotel where old John Toohey drove the mail coach to, and Ted's pretty sister sweetened the sherry with her sunny smiles. Money was thrown about in the most reckless fashion.” Conversely, in 1921, an old-stager reminisced in the 'National Advocate', Friday 30th, September, of an evening in Bathurst, when Ben Hall in company with his brother Bill, attended a dance at a local hotel; "...talking of dances did it. Alec declared that he had danced with Ben Hall. "Ben Hall wasn't a bushranger, then," protested Alec. "That was before he broke out. A lot of young fellows came into a hotel in William Street, and made themselves known. I was only 17 or 18 then, (around 1860) and I didn't know them. One was Ben Hall, and another was his brother Bill. Ben looked a fine young fellow. They said "Let's have a buck set." That meant all men. And we had a buck set. I took "tops" with Ben. And the only woman in the set was the publican's daughter."

Furthermore, many years after the gold rush had faded, and recounting the heady days of life in Forbes, an old timer mused over the throngs of people parading the streets in continuous festivity in 1862; 'The Forbes Advocate', Wednesday 4th April, 1928; "...I have not as yet given you any idea of the diggings. Well, It opened my eyes. I never saw anything approaching it; it was simply impossible for you to get down Rankin Street with a mate without losing him. The people were like sardines in a tin, it was simply wonderful. The hotels were packed, you had to wait your turn to get into them as well as other places of business. I do not think there was a country on the face of the earth which was not represented." Ben Hall was robustly inserting himself into the environment of nonstop festivities, and threw off the reputation 'as a young man of fine promise.'

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

However, in December 1861, Ben Hall's family and father were once again in the news and with Hall's father reported as suffering a brutal assault by a person believed known to him at Murrurundi; 'The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News', Wednesday 8th January, 1862; BRUTAL CONDUCT.— "On Friday last, as poor old Ben Hall, of Blandford, was on his road home, a "little the worse for beer," and as Benjamin resided a distance of half-a-mile from the public house where he had been spending the evening, and felt tired, he sat down to rest awhile, and unfortunately fell into a sound sleep, when some villain poured over his head and face a quantity of hot water, scalding poor Hall in a fearful manner. The police have a clue to the monster who committed this atrocious act." — Mercury's Murrurundi Correspondent, Dec. 28. 1861. The nature of the attack on Ben Hall's father indicates that it was perpetrated by a woman, possibly the wife of Henry Hall, Honora, once more there is no record of Ben Hall's reaction to his older brother's ongoing disputes and dealings with his father. 

Accordingly, Ben Hall who with a heaviness of heart, fast and loose behaviour, continued forming a closer relationship with the bushranger Frank Gardiner, 'Prince of Tobymen'. McGuire wrote;op.cit. "...things got from bad to worse, till Frank Gardiner, the bushranger came. He capped the lot. Now under 'The King of the Road's' influence Ben started on his notorious career." Furthermore, Ben Hall's long-standing friendship with, John O'Meally and John Gilbert, lured Hall further into a precarious destiny, through their devil may care, free-spirited lifestyle. However, this association with 'The Darkie', and his constant companions Gilbert and O'Meally was to draw a bead on Hall by the police, following several highway robberies, one of which would have Ben Hall arrested. Moreover, many of these robberies also included 'The Darkies' ever-changing band of bushrangers, including the likes of John Davis, John McGuinness, Paddy Connolly, young Johnny Walsh and John Jameison. A series of Gardiner's robberies of early 1862 were summarised in the 'Parliamentary Hansard', printed in the 'Sydney Morning Herald', 19th August 1863, for the period between March 1862 - April 1862; "March 25th 1862.-Telegram, Forbes. Gardiner stuck-up and robbed two drays (between this and Lambing Flat) of provisions, spirits, and winter clothing; April 12th, Gardiner went to Mrs Chisholm station, at Bland, and stole a horse; 17th, telegram, from Forbes, sticking-up is still the order of the day between here and Lambing Flat, 20th, Gardiner stuck-up about twenty-five men on the Lachlan Road a few days ago, and several drays. 23rd, Gardiner and four armed men dashed in front of Greig's coach, on the road from the Lachlan to Burrangong and turned into the bush again; on the same day, they stuck up and robbed a dray, belonging to Moses and Son and the other day, they stuck up and robbed Mr Greig's dray on the Lachlan road." (The dates of robberies and the reporting of them could often differ by days.)

NSW Police Gazette
April 1862.
Ben Hall’s hard work, and upright standing in the district was soon put to the test, as in company with Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert, Ben Hall took the plunge, and participated in his first recorded incident of 'highway robbery'. Robberies had been a dime a dozen since the rush of the Burrangong gold field, (Lambing Flat) and Ben Hall had participated in those earlier holdups. Moreover, the NSW Police Gazettes of early 1862, reported a number of those robberies with descriptions strongly attributed to Hall as; "...rather above the medium height, 5ft 6-8in tall and rather stoutly built, lame in one leg and weighed 13 st 7 lbs...", or around 86kg, which for the men of the 1860's, in today's terms, would be considered overweight. (according to today's standard B.M.I.) During a later robbery in 1864, it was noted about Ben Hall’s appearance; "...Hall is the only one of the three who cultivates any moustache or whiskers, and he is getting fat."²³

"Look out, Bill, 
here are the boys!"
It is 14th April, 1862; Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert approach the transport dray of William Bacon drawing their revolvers. Edward Horsenail an employee of Bacon's later attested; "...I noticed two men ride out of the bush, and cried out to Bacon, "Look out, Bill, here are the boys!" they came up and presented their revolvers, and ordered us into the bush."²⁴ Gardiner order's Bacon to turn his wagons into the scrub where Ben Hall and another man, John Youngman are waiting. Hall is holding the reigns of a pack-horse to load their ill-gotten gains from the drays. Two passing travellers are spotted on the road from the scrub and Gardiner orders Ben Hall and Gilbert to fetch them. They bail them up, steal a saddle and hold the men as prisoners, on completion the four bushrangers depart. It was said of Gardiner's operations during this time, and of the hold Gardiner had over the Queen's highway; " is asserted that the bushranger Gardiner is supplied information by numberless accomplices both in the township and along the roads; a Journalist has had it said of him that he can secure any friend from Gardiner by giving "passes."²⁵

Nine days later, on 23rd April, 1862, at the Forbes races held at Wowingeragong, police inspector Sir Frederick Pottinger, on information recieved from Bacon arrested Ben Hall; “…from information received I apprehended prisoner (Hall) on Wednesday last on the racecourse, charged with highway robbery, in company with others, on the road between the Lachlan and Lambing Flat”;  It was noted that; "Ben Hall denied the charge."²⁶ (see articles below) On the day of the arrest and old timer noted that; [sic]"It was at these races that Ben Hall, who was at that time looked upon as being in a fair way to do well, was first arrested for horse-stealing or something of the kind. I remember he was dressed in knee-breeches and boots, and wore a cabbage-tree hat, which were generally used at that time." 
Wednesday, 23rd April 1862

Report of Hall's first arrest (above)
His identity is unknown here,  yet the correspondent assumes he is one of Gardiner's gang.

Updated report of Hall's arrest (above)
Consequently, Hall is brought before the Court on Friday, 25th April 1862 and he was committed for trial. 

Advert Forbes
Races, 26 March

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

William Bacon had nothing to gain or lose by his evidence, and he clearly knew Ben Hall well, well enough to positively identify him. Another eyewitness, Edward Horsenail, corroborated Bacon’s evidence, and he also claimed to have known Ben Hall on sight from previous social occasions;"...I am driving for the last witness, I have been in his employ fully fifteen months; I know the prisoner-have seen him on several occasions; on Monday week last, as far as I can judge about ten o'clock, when about two or three miles from Green's, I noticed two men ride out of the bush, and cried out to Bacon, "Look out, Bill, here are the boys!" they came up and presented their revolvers, and ordered us into the bush, one kept near the dray I was driving, the other by the side of Bacon's dray; when a short distance off the road, two other men rode up, one the prisoner, leading a pack-horse on which there were two or three saddles; I can positively swear to the prisoner; the man we supposed to be Gardner then commenced to open the cases on the dray; prisoner stood by with a revolver in his hand; a case of gin was opened, and a bottle passed round for all hands to drink; prisoner and another left by order of the man supposed to be Gardner, and brought two other men from the road; prisoner, by order of the same man, searched my dray; he broke a case of tobacco open, and packed two bags containing tobacco and other things on a horse; they soon after left; I know prisoner; the last two trips we have made, on both occasions I saw him at the Pinacle Station (Mrs. Feehiely's public house); I can positively swear to him; I cannot be mistaken."²⁸ ....…... of all the drays in all the districts to rob, Ben Hall had to pick the one where they all knew him and knew him well!

Detective Lyons
Furthermore, whilst no doubt participating in those early robberies, Ben Hall was acquainted with another bushranger, who was noted to have a similar build as Hall, short and stout, John Davis. (See Gaol entry for Davis below.) John Davis was one of Frank Gardiner's closest accomplices, consequently Davis had been known to visit Sandy Creek and Wheogo station’s several times, although only briefly. Hall’s close friend Daniel Charters remarked on an occasion of Davis’ presence there; "I saw Gardiner next at John Welsh's at Wheeogo house; he was there with man named Davis; I was not in his company at that time, for more than five minutes; he rose and walked out to see, as I suppose, whether anybody else was there; Johnny Welsh, Davis, another man, and Mrs. Brown were in the house at the time." John Davis had been involved in bushranging for some time with Gardiner, and was thought of as Gardiner's First Lieutenant. However Davis, originally from Singleton, and a carpenter by trade, had recently been captured by three NSW Police officers, Patrick Lyons, Kennedy and Sanderson in a wild gunfight at Brewers Shanty on the Lachlan Road, 25 miles from the Burrangong goldfield on the 10th April, 1862, the ensuing gunfight between John Davis and the troopers, for the excitement alone is worth recounting for Ben Hall as well would soon be in the thick of it against the police; 'The Sydney Morning Herald', 17th April, 1862; "...after noticing the start of Sergeants Sanderson and Kennedy, and detective Lyons, with prisoners from the Lachlan to Lambing Flat, the Courier says: On arriving at Brewer's shanty, about twenty-five miles from Burrangong, they saw three mounted men, with two pack-horses, which they were just in the act of tying up in front of the house. The three men, who turned out to be bushrangers, quickly recognised that two at least of the passengers by the coach belonged to the police, and one of them said to the other two, "There are troopers in the coach, what do you say, shall we stick them up?" A ready answer in the affirmative was immediately returned, and the three mounted men rode up to the coach, ordered the passengers to bail up, and drew their revolvers. By this time the police had dismounted, and were prepared to receive the enemy. Two revolvers covered detectives Lyons and Kennedy, but, nothing daunted, they covered in turn, and the firing commenced by a shot from the pistol of detective Lyons. On the first discharge two of the bushrangers, Paddy Connolly and McGuinness, put spurs to their horses and bolted, leaving their unfortunate mate to do battle against three. Davis, however, refused to run, and exchanged shot for shot with detectives Lyons and Kennedy, who, on foot, stood up to him manfully. Three shots took effect on Davis, and he tumbled from his horse, after having knocked the top of the trigger finger off detective Lyons' hand, but succeeded in running about twenty yards, when Lyons rushed in and secured the prisoner, assisted by Kennedy. The firing was sharp, and lasted a considerable time. One random shot struck Mrs. Brewer, of the shanty, in the cheek, but did no serious injury, and two of the coach passengers, finding that the balls whistled in too close proximity to their ears, cowardly left the coach, in a state of extreme nervous excitement, and took to their heels. They were too much alarmed to show themselves again at Brewer's, and had to walk all the way thence to the flat. The captured man was struck in the head by a ball, one entered his leg at the upper and outside part of the thigh, and, passing clean through the thickest part of his leg, was taken out on the inner side. Another ball, glancing off the bushranger's revolver, pierced his right hand, and lodged below the muscle of his thumb. After Lyons closed with Davis a fearful struggle ensued, which lasted some time, but eventually the prisoner had to give in, but not until he had received no less than ten wounds on the back of his head, from the trigger and butt end of Lyons' revolver. When Davis was brought to the camp he was in a dreadful state from the loss of blood and from his undressed wounds. While Dr. Temple probed for the balls he never uttered a moan, but bearing the excruciating pain of extraction, he kept doggedly indifferent to the last. The ball was taken from his thigh on Thursday night, and the one from his wrist on Friday, and, although evidently in great pain and in a very weak state, he never flinched under the knife, or winced under the probe. Detective Lyons suffered severely from the wound in his finger, and will be unable to use a pistol for some time in consequence. From the appearance of the balls extracted from Davis, it is known that the one that struck him in the thigh was fired by Kennedy, while the other in the wrist was from the pistol of Lyons; the ball that struck him in the head was also fired by Kennedy. Davis appears to be a very determined man; he has nothing evil in his countenance; on the contrary, he has a remarkably fine forehead and profile; his conversation shows that he is both intelligent and shrewd, and he possesses no ordinary degree of courage. On the person of the Prisoner was found a considerable sum in money, a bank cheque book, revolver, compass, &c., and the horse on which he was mounted was captured likewise. Besides these, the two led horses were also taken and brought to the camp. He also had in his possession the accordion which was stolen from Mr. Croker's station. As soon as the information was brought into the camp, sergeant Smith, accompanied by five troopers, were immediately sent out for the purpose of endeavouring to secure the rest of the bushrangers. It is to be hoped that their endeavours will be crowned with success, more particularly as it is well known that not only were these three bushrangers some of Gardiner's gang, but also that, at the time, the leader was within two miles of the spot when the affair took place."

Furthermore, after Davis' capture 'The Darkie' commenced 'bailing up' mail coaches along the Lachlan Road, accompanied by four bushrangers, one of whom was Ben Hall, and who were noted as riding magnificent mounts searching for the NSW troopers responsible for apprehending his mate; ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ 23rd April, 1862. "On Monday, as Greig's coach was passing between the Pinnacle and Green's on the road from the Lachlan to Burrangong, Gardiner, the bushranger, with four mounted associates, riding magnificent horses, dashed into the road and came in front of the leaders. After looking over the passengers, and without speaking, the party turned into the bush. It appeared the bushrangers were in search of someone, probably of one or other of the police who shot and captured Davis a Brewer's, Gardiner rode a brown horse, and wore breeches and high boots, cabbage-tree hat with black band, and black poncho, spotted on the inside of like the skin of a leopard. Knowing the determined character of Gardiner, and the confidence he reposed in the man who was shot down and brought to the camp a few days ago, we cannot but believe that his coming to the coach on Monday was to look for and fight the police who captured Davis and regret that Sergeant Sanderson was permitted to go alone yesterday morning, on the box of Greig 's coach, to the Lachlan. No officer should be exposed to unnecessary danger, but we feel assured that such is the case with Sanderson. In all probability, Gardiner will stop Greig's coach with a strong-armed party every time it passes along the road, till he can avenge the fall of his mate. It would be advisable, then, that no police officer connected with the late affray should the suffered to go along the Lachlan road, unless he knows the country as can make his way through the bush. On the same day, Gardiner stuck up and robbed a dray belonging to Messrs. S. Moses and Sons. He said he was in want of provisions, and accordingly helped himself to a case of claret, two and a half chests of tea, and some fruit. He took the liberty of appropriating also a few blankets, as the evenings are getting colder, and it is not pleasant to camp out without a sufficiency of clothing. Gardiner handed the driver a bag of gold, and asked him to weigh it, expressing his regret at the same time that the driver had not a little of the yellow about him, as the bushranger would be delighted to ease him of it."

Sophie Braslau who
sings 'Ever of Thee'
With Davis' capture, an event that hadn't dissuaded Hall from Gardiner's company, this appeared shortly after his own incarceration in the 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser', which no doubt attracted the attention of Hall's family"...things are assuming a quiet aspect since Davis was captured, and Benjamin Hall committed for trial for robbing Mr. Greig's team, on Friday last, by Sir F. Pottinger."²⁹ However, the capture of Davis was a blow to Gardiner, as he had lost his trusted ally and First Lieutenant. Davis would now be ably replaced by John Gilbert. It appears that Davis and Gilbert had similar personalities, brave, daring, smart, educated, happy go lucky, humorous, loyal and excellent horseman. Davis was also quite musical and was known to entertain the gang with musical ditties; “…Davis and his two companions, who galloped away when the firing commenced, are supposed to be three of the men who accompanied Gardiner on Tuesday when they stuck up Mr. Pring at the Crowther Station, and afterwards Croaker's Station. At the former place Gardiner, with seven accomplices, stuck up Mr. Pring's servants. One of the bushrangers played the piano while the rest danced and drank brandy and water at Mr. Pring's expense. At Mr. Croaker's station one of the bushrangers played a concertina, and sang " Ever of thee" to the host. Sergeant Smith and five troopers are out in chase of the robbers, with a fair chance of capturing them. It is to be regretted that Captain Battye's black trackers have not yet arrived, otherwise the bushrangers might have been followed to their den."³⁰ Davis had a Concertina in his possession when wounded and captured. There may even be some conjecture that the mystery person in the famous photo of Gardiner and another, long believed to be John Gilbert maybe John Davis?
This version of 'Ever of Thee' is sung by Sophie Braslau in 1919

John Davis, Goulburn Gaol entrance log 1862
John Davis, Parramatta Gaol entrance log 1866,
note his appearence in four years went from
 Dark complexion to Sallow.
Author's Note: John Davis was born at Singleton in 1834, he is described as 5ft 6in tall of stout build, Light Brown hair and Blue eyes and dark complexion and was a carpenter by trade and could read and write, Davis was convicted in September 1862 and sentenced to 15 years on the roads the first three in irons.

Under the Darkie's command bushranger justice would now rear its head as two other long-time associates of Gardiner who were involved at the time of Davis' capture, and known to Ben Hall, as part of the general mix of miscreants Hall was now aligning himself to, were Paddy Connolly and John McGuinness, who were at Davis' side at the commencement of the gunfight at Brewer's Shanty, but when the bullets started to fly, fled in an act of cowardice; ‘The Sydney Morning Herald', 17th April, 1862; "...on the first discharge two of the bushrangers, Paddy Connolly and McGuinness, put spurs to their horses and bolted, leaving their unfortunate mate to do battle against three." Davis would later comment about the two deserting him;bradshaw op.cit " mates were curs,” said Davis, “Tea-and-sugar runaways.” However, in the end McGuinness would pay a high price for deserting Davis, and would ultimately be shot dead, reportedly on Gardiner's orders; 'Burrangong Courier' 23rd April, 1863; " was not known at the time who the murdered man was, but it has since been ascertained that, he was McGuinness, the bushranger, one of the party that stuck-up Pring's and Croker's Station, a short time ago, and one of the three that had the fight with the police at Brewer's, when  Davis was shot down and captured, There are strong reasons for believing that McGuinness was shot at the instance of Gardiner himself, for deserting Davis, during his late fight. McGuinness was standing in the bush, looking down at a fire, with his hands behind him, when a bullet from a distant place treacherously killed him on the spot, Honest men may congratulate themselves that the notorious robbers who have infested our roads for so many months have commenced to destroy each other. We look upon the capture of Gardiner and the breaking-up of his whole gang as an event not far distant now. His most trusted companion, Davis, is in a very precarious state in the lock-up from gunshot wounds; Brewer is there also to console the other; McGuinness lay unburied where he fell by the hands of his mates for three whole days; the man that shot him is in the watch-house at the Lachlan, and the man that carried the order for the murder lies in the same lock-up with Davis and Brewer." (Another report has McGuinness shot dead for interfering with an Aboriginal woman.) 'The Darkie' soon located Paddy Connolly, and as a consequence was stripped of everything he possessed, furthermore, after a severe beating by Gardiner, Connolly escaped within in an inch of his life. Consequently, battered and bruised Connolly vowed vengeance against 'The Darkie'; 'Sydney Morning Herald', 1st May, 1862."... Connolly, it is stated that Gardner has met him and accused him of cowardice in deserting Davis; took what money he had said to be £200-this amount no doubt included McGuinness' share; took his pistols and boots way, and threatened to shoot him. It is also stated that Connolly swears vengeance against Gardner..."(Paddy never did. It was reported by MaGuire that Connolly was found dead sometime after with a bullet hole between the eyes, shot dead by Gardiner.) For Davis however, it was reported that the sentence of death was passed, but was thereupon commuted to life. Years later it was reported in the press of John Davis' sentence and prison term;op.cit "…Davis was taken to Goulburn, tried and found guilty, and sentenced to death. However, the sentence was commuted to life’s imprisonment. He did three years in irons, but on account of his health failing and being a cripple from bullet wounds, the irons, which cut into the legs, were knocked off. He obtained his freedom after serving 15 years in January 1877, and died in agony, an emaciated lunatic." 

Sub Commisioner for Lachlan
Goldfield J.G. Grenfell.
Newspaper Image c. 1867
Following Hall's arrest with co-accused John Youngman at Forbes on the 23rd April, 1862, for Highway Robbery of Bacon's dray's. Ben Hall was remanded in custody for a number of weeks at the Forbes lock-up, by Sub Commissioner for Goldfields, Mr J.G. Grenfell J.P. (for whom the township of Grenfell, NSW is named and who was shot by two bushrangers in December 1866 and died of his wounds). The lock-up was a very primitive, cold and depressing gaol, small in size and easy to flee from as portrayed in the 'Empire', Monday 28th April, 1862; " mentioning our Government buildings in my last, I forgot to mention our lock-up; it is a log hut, about twenty by twelve feet, anything but secure; for a few nights ago, nine prisoners escaped by burrowing a hole under the logs with their knives; in the morning it was discovered that the birds had flown, and no one to go after them, our inspector and posse being on a wild goose chase after Gardiner, the bushranger." Due to the serious nature of the charge, and after the preliminary evidence, and a lack of a Quarter Sessions court in Forbes, which was lamented about in the 'Empire', 23rd May, 1862; "...amongst our many wants perhaps none is more imperatively felt than that of a session court somewhere in the district. At present we have to go to Orange, a distance of eighty miles." Ben Hall, manacled, was subsequently transported by coach to Orange, NSW for trial in conjunction with John Youngman of whom it was stated in the ‘Lachlan Observer’ of the 25th April, 1863; HIGHWAY ROBBERY – “…at the Lachlan police-court, John Thomas Youngman, was charged with having, in company with three other men (one of them supposed to have been the bushranger, Gardiner) robbed the dray of William Benkin on the road between Lambing flat and the Lachlan. From the evidence of the prosecutor and his assistant it appeared that on the 14th April, they were on the road to Lambing Flat with the dray, when they were met by the prisoner, and three other men, one of whom they believed was Gardiner. The prisoner was riding a brown horse, and leading a grey one. The man supposed to be Gardiner handed fire-arms to the prisoner, who stood with them until Gardiner and his mates commenced to break open the goods on the dray. The robbers took clothing, tobacco, spirits, and other goods, and then went away. The prisoner was subsequently arrested by order of Sir F. Pottinger. The prisoner reserved his defence, and was committed to take his trial at the ensuing quarter-sessions to be held at Orange, on Monday, the 19th May."
Clerk of the Peace, Forbes, Depositions recieved entry book for Ben Hall, 1862.
Ben Hall was under the guard of Sgt Condell, who was to weave in and out of Ben Hall’s life from this moment on, and ultimately Ben Hall's dramatic conclusion. Prior to Hall's removal to Orange, NSW, and as Ben Hall languished in the Forbes lock-up, in Bathurst at the Bathurst Gaol, John Peisley, Gardiner's good mate, with an aboriginal named Jackey Bullfrog, who was convicted of murder, were hanged side by side on the morning of the 28th April, 1862. This was noted of Jackey Bullfrog's demeanour and Peisley's last words extracted from the 'Empire', Tuesday 29th April, 1862, as they prepared for the next world; "...during the last two or three days, Jackey Bullfrog became more resigned and attentive, The Rev. Thomas Sharps had also very frequently attended him, and notwithstanding the difficulties of the case, succeeded at length in convincing him of the existence of a Supreme Being, the certainty of a future state, and the necessary of seeking salvation through the redeemer; and being satisfied that he so far understood the leading doctrine of Christianity, the rite of baptism was administered yesterday morning. Exactly at nine o’clock the criminals, having been previously pinioned, were led forth from their cells, and conducted towards the scaffold, accompanied by the Revs. Messrs. Sharpe and Hillyer, who read a portion of the funeral service as they proceeded. On reaching the foot of the gallows, the clergymen and the prisoners knelt dawn, and after prayer, in which Piesley appeared to engage very devoutly, the men ascended the scaffold. He (Piesley) concluded, by saying, "Goodbye gentlemen, and God bless you." The fatal rope was then adjusted, and the white caps being drawn over the faces of the culprits, at a signal from the acting sheriff the drop fell, and the two unfortunates were launched into eternity. Piesley did not appear to suffer much for long; but the poor blackfellow was for several minutes frightfully convulsed. After hanging the usual time, the bodies were cut down, and, being placed in coffins, were conveyed to their last resting place." The reality for Ben Hall, if convicted for Highway Robbery under Arms, could well have followed the same steps as those above, therefore, a strategy for Hall's release was set in motion with the help of John MaGuire.
Orange Courthouse (above) c1860's where Hall's trial would take place on 19th May 1862. Hall was transported to Orange under escort by Sgt Condell. Courtesy NLA.
View overlooking the street from the Orange Courthouse. (above) Courtesy NLA. 
John MaGuire, Ben Hall’s brother-in-law, duly arrived in Orange to assist Hall. MaGuire engaged solicitor, Mr George Colquhoun, who instructed Mr Edward Lee, a well-respected barrister to defend Hall. John Youngman, Ben Hall’s accused confederate in the hold-up of the Bacon bullock dray, was also to face the Orange Court at the conclusion of Ben Hall’s trial. Luckily for Youngman, the Crown Prosecutor was doubtful of the evidence against him, and so he was bound over on bail. However, having insufficient funds for his own release, turned to MaGuire and another friend who went bondsman for Youngman with a surety of £40 each.  Youngman used this opportunity to 'abscond' and faded from the pages of bushranging history.

The trial commenced on the 19th May 1862, and Ben Hall stood in the dock, reportedly indifferent to the proceedings, as Bill Bacon again testified of Hall's involvement in the robbery, and again identified Hall as the man in company with Gardiner. However, another of Bacon's employees, Mr Ferguson, was then called, but inexplicitly altered his testimony, as he had originally positively identified Ben Hall as one of the offenders in Forbes, but at the Orange, NSW trial Ferguson stated that he was now not positive that Ben Hall was the same person he saw during the dray robbery. The Court, stunned with this revelation saw the jury retire for deliberation on the now tainted evidence, and after a short period they returned a verdict of 'Not Guilty by Reasonable Doubt'. Moreover, Ferguson was thought to be the witness widely believed by members of the NSW police, and NSW Court officials to have been offered an enticement to alter his original testimony through McGuire. Shortly after a happy and relieved Ben Hall was released, and it was reported that Hall, Ferguson and McGuire left Orange in a joyous mood. This verdict however incensed a court official, Mr R. B. Mitchell (son of explorer and Surveyor General of NSW, Sir Thomas Mitchell, 1792-1855) who consequently after the court case wrote a scathing letter about the terrible miscarriage of justice over Hall’s trial and acquittal on 19th May 1862. At the time of Hall’s death, R. B. Mitchell reiterated these facts once again. (See article right, a must read.)

Author's Note; There has been a concerted effort over the years by writers from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries to deflect the involvement of Ben Hall from criminal activities, by claiming in some instances, coincidence in Ben Hall's appearance, and presence at or near places which hold-up's occurred. This select group of sympathisers rewriting the events of known eyewitness accounts and history of Ben Hall's activities is demonstrated by a piece written in the 'Scone Advocate', in 1934, and claims that Hall's arrest for the Bacon robbery was instigated out of fear by James Taylor and Bridget Hall. The article is consistent with many published since Ben Hall's death, that have attempted to portray Ben Hall as a tortured soul, haunted by his past, haunted by what, the ghost of Mrs Hall. It is well known that, "if you lay with dogs you get fleas", suffice to say that many of the accounts by those who knew the[sic] "amiable man with a generosity of spirit, and an honesty in all his dealings with his fellow-settlers," need dramatic sympathy to justify the unjustifiable, as the 'Scone Advocate' attempts to portray;[sic] "...but the wrong which Taylor had done did not rest there. Whether on his own initiative or at the instigation of the fly-by-night wife, is not known. Possibly it was a mutual, conspiracy born of fear, to get the outraged husband out of the way lest he might follow the traitorous pair and be avenged. In any case, Taylor supplied spurious information to the police at Forbes, implicating Ben Hall, in a recent bushranging exploit. Soon after came the Easter meeting at the Wowingragong racecourse, out from Forbes, and it was here that Sir Frederick Pottinger, Bart., head of the police district centred on Forbes, decided to act on the false information secretly supplied by the traitorous Taylor, and in the full publicity of the race assemblage he arrested Ben Hall on a charge of highway robbery under arms. The meeting was amazed, left breathless, as the news raced about the course. It was impossible — that decent, likable, well-respected young fellow charged with bushranging. This amazement was one of the surest indications of his innocence Bushranging was so woven into the social fabric of the district and the period, and its practitioners had so many sympathisers, assistants, bush telegraphs, and such, while so many, others not actually concerned were passively acquiescent of these activities, that it would have been impossible for Ben Hall to take any part without the fact being generally known. His arrest created much indignation and served to deepen the conspiracy of silence which constituted such a barrier between the police on one side and the bushrangers and citizenry on the other. It served also to increase the contempt in which the police were then held." The other point is that inducements to have witnesses alter their testimonies, as in the case of John Maguire's payment to Ferguson, appeared a common practice amongst the lowly paid workers and carters, £50 could go a long way, unfortunately the transcript of the Orange court appearance no longer exists, from all accounts William Bacon, who also gave evidence, was a well-respected businessman who had nothing to gain only to lose, as he stated at the first hearing;[sic]"...I swear positively that the prisoner (Hall) is the man; I cannot be mistaken-when he robbed the drays some chaff passed between us with respect to a woman I knew he was acquainted with; my loading was for Mr. Greig, storekeeper on these diggings, for whom I have carried, almost exclusively, more than fourteen months; I have not yet been paid for the loading." Ben Hall had choices and he chose poorly! I was recently at a venue where someone asked the question, "What is Ben Hall's legacy". Well! his legacy demonstrates that murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, assault, arson and crime, in general, does not pay.
R.B. Mitchell c. 1882
In the eyes of the law McGuire did himself no favours at Ben Hall’s trial, when he cast suspicion over the evidence presented in court by one of the witnesses;op.cit. “…in assisting Ben in his trouble, I did so believing him innocent of any crime. It cost me a tidy sum; and, moreover, was a bad day for me, as I left the impression with the police that I had tampered with witnesses. The pairs plan to corrupt a witness with a financial incentive had been set in motion, and had succeeded.

In returning to Sandy Creek, Hall met and confided to a long-time friend Ernest Bowler, a highly respected squatter, at Toogong near Eugowra, here a reported angry Ben Hall foretold his own future. Recounted in the 'The Moleskin Gentry' by Frederick Howard“...I met him when he was coming back from Bathurst by Cobb’s coach. It was at Toogong where the coach used to change horses, that I had a talk with him about his trial. He told me that the next time the police should want him he would give them a “jant”, that is, they would have a lot of trouble to take him. I little thought that his words would come true.”

Author's Note: During the period Ben Hall was held in custody, a police notice appeared in the NSW Police Gazette dated 14th May 1862 stating “...found in the possession of Benjamin Hall bushranger a light chestnut horse." It is interesting that if the police had thought the horse was stolen, why was Ben Hall not charged with horse-stealing which was considered a serious and gaolable offence? It may have also been to discredit Ben Hall in the eyes of his neighbours.(See article right.)

Sydney Telegraph Office
c. 1862
Having returned from Orange, Ben Hall's life resumed at Sandy Creek, which included his live-in and now pregnant girlfriend Susan Prior, including frequent visits from Frank Gardiner. Interestingly, as Ben Hall was aligning himself to Gardiner, crime and its reporting was evolving very quickly with a new and rapid means of information being disseminated more widley to the populace. How! through the unveiling of the newfangled electric telegraph, (the 1860's internet) this new technology would see many variants of any one crime reported at a moments notice. This system would commence launching the depredations of Frank Gardiner and others into an eighteen hundreds celebrity, as citizens soaked up news of their brazen exploits; "...there is scarcely a nook of the colony which has any population that does not possess its press. The wires make us acquainted with every outrage committed on the great lines of communication almost as soon as it has happened. The various stages of prosecution cause a repetition of the same facts in different phraseology; and thus a single crime becomes multiplied to the imagination of the reader, who loses the clue of identity, and takes every repetition as a now incident.” ³¹

After escaping conviction at Orange, Hall, it appeared had not been cognizant of those lessons. Within weeks, Ben Hall would participate in the planning and execution of one of the most sensational heists in Australian colonial history, the attack on the 'Forbes Gold Escort'.

A NSW mounted gold
escort preparing 
to depart.
Courtesy NLA.
Frank Gardiner had set about organising an audacious armed robbery of a Gold Escort, and had been following their movements in and around both the Forbes and Lambing Flat goldfields, with their routes and times being frequently published. However, Gardiner's plan for the robbery may well have sprung from his former home state of Victoria, where in 1853, a gold escort travelling from the McIvor diggings to Bendigo to connect with the main escort for Melbourne was attacked and robbed by a gang of six, who split in two with one section firing on the police whilst the others snatched the gold, and escaped after wounding four police officers taking over 2,300 ounces of gold and £800 in cash. At the time that Gardiner was in the process of his planning, a serious concern had been raised over the the lack of sufficient police protection. Newspaper editors such as the 'Western Examiner' was one who was alarmed over the unsatisfactory self-defence, commenting in February 1862; "...the Western Examiner complains that the Lachlan escort is insufficient for the protection of the gold." Frank Gardiner was also observant of that very sentiment. Therefore, Gardiner gratified in the knowledge, set about the planning of the heist, for June 1862. John MaGuire, a long-time acquaintance of Frank Gardiner wrote;op.cit. " was with Gardiner that the idea of taking the escort originated and took a fortnight to prepare for the attack. For some months before Gilbert and O'Meally were Gardiner's constant companions, and they had been talking about it together. They were getting full of the petty bailing-up business, and wanted to make a grand haul and then quit the country." All 'The Darkie' needed was a perfect place to ambush a gold escort and that place was provided by Ben Hall, who in discussions with Frank Gardiner proposed Eugowra Rocks, an area of large rocks on the road between Forbes and Orange. Ben Hall's knowledge of that particular area came from journeys there with his close friend Daniel Charters, next Gardiner set about recruiting the willing participants.

The planning for the robbery was held over a two week period between John McGuire and Ben Hall's homes at Sandy Creek station; [sic] "Thomas Richards, soda water maker at Forbes, gave evidence which went to show that Maguire's house was the rendezvous of Gardiner and his gang, where the attack on the escort was planned." Gardiner had no trouble in recruiting his accomplices and the planned robbery would be carried out by these eight men; Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert, John O’Meally, Daniel Charters, Alex Fordyce, John Bow, Henry Manns and Ben Hall. Preparations for the bold attack at what would become the famous 'Eugowra Rocks', now began in earnest.

Bill Hall c. 1910
Bill Hall, Ben's older brother, gave an account to Jack Bradshaw during their 1912 interview for 'Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall & Gang', and didn't shy away from his knowledge of all that occurred including the whole of the picture leading up to the pre-planning activities and subsequent departure for the Eugowra Rocks; (Bill Hall and his wife Ann were residing at Sandy Creek during this period.) Bill’s intimate knowledge destroys any notion that Ben Hall was not an active and willing participant or that he was somehow coerced into the game by Gardiner, no! Hall was per his brother well and truly a bushranger, but was yet to show his true colours. "...Ben Hall knew the place well and had a good knowledge of the surrounding country. He was also appointed pilot. Ben Hall was likewise chosen to go into Forbes and inquire particulars as to the escort. Hall found out that the escort would be leaving Forbes on Sunday. Word was passed around for another meeting on the Friday before. True to their promise, the lot turned up on that day. After receiving instructions how to act, they rode away, and camped that night near Mrs. Feeley’s pub."

The well planned armed robbery took place 3 miles to the east of the hamlet of Eugowra, 25 miles from Forbes late on the afternoon of Sunday, 15th June, 1862. The Rocks at Eugowra was an area Gardiner knew of but was unfamiliar with. Ben Hall earlier related to Gardiner about Daniel Charters' knowledge of the area, as together they had often visited Charters' sister Agnes and her husband James Newell, who operated a public house near Bandon, some 12 miles from Eugowra. Gardiner set about seeking out Charters, along time friend.

Front view of  Eugowra
Robbery Site. 2013.
However, the influence of Ben Hall over Charters through their close friendship appeared to draw Charters into the bold once in a lifetime get rich quick heist. Charters' extensive knowledge of Eugowra would be instrumental. Information was required, and equipment needed, again William Hall recounted Charters' willingness to be involved, and how his brother and Charters obtained the relevant supplies;op.cit. "...when spoken to about it Charters said, “I am your Moses. A really good thing. To miss such a buss as this would cause me a shock in the stuffing of life.” “We knew this, old hoss, and that is why we called on you. Come over to us to-night. You and Ben Hall are required to go for the necessary equipment.” “I will do anything, lads, for my share of such a beautiful haul." Charters came to the camp and willingly agreed to do everything proposed to him. He and Hall started out next morning for everything required and returned with six double-barrelled muzzle-loading guns, and moulds for making bullets. They also brought back with them black crape for making masks and other articles for disguise. After having dinner Hall and Charters went over to Jack Healey’s, where lived a young lad of 19 Henry Manns, and Charters persuaded him to join them also. At about 3 o’clock in the afternoon Ben Hall, Charters, and Manns joined the rest of the band...", next Gardiner then; "... spoke to Charters and said: "Now, go and lead us through the bush to Eugowra and keep off the roads; if there are any fences we will chop them down, Charters knew every inch of the country and had never been away from it for a day, and took the party to a creek near Mr. Clements station at Eugowra rocks. On Sunday morning, the gang crossed the creek and reached the Eugowra mountain, where the attack on the escort was to be made."

View from behind the rock
as the coach approached
the bushrangers. 2013.
 Meanwhile, as the bushrangers rode to Eugowra, in Forbes on the Sunday morning 15th June, 1862, the Escort coach was preparing to depart for its fateful journey. The Escort would have normally been under the charge of sergeant McClure but on this occasion Sergeant Condell had temporary command of the coach; "...the escort left Forbes on Sunday morning, under the immediate charge of sergeant Condell, seated on the box alongside the driver, Mr Fagan; the remainder of the escort, three men, were seated in the body of the coach; their names, were senior constable Moran, constable Haviland, and another constable, Rafferty a stranger on the escort. The treasure consisted of 2719 ounces of gold, and £3700 in cash; there were also the usual mails, which were heavy. The escort proceeded on its way without any unusual occurrence to warn them of impending danger; at about half past 4 o'clock, on arriving at Coobong, a distance of 27 miles from Forbes, and immediately in the vicinity of Mr Clement's station, two teams were observed in the road way, no uncommon circumstance. As the coach drew near, it became evident there was but one passage, and that between the obstructing teams, and a mass of broken, perpendicular rocks, overhanging the narrow passage; the peculiarity of the situation never for a moment excited suspicion, but the driver brought his horses in to a walk, in order to steer between the drays and the rocks." ³²

"Make way for
 the Royal mail"

Scetch by Percy Lindsay. c. 1935
Furthermore, prior to the coach's arrival on that fateful Sunday afternoon, it was reported that "...Gardiner hid his men behind some large rocks by the roadside, having first forced a number of carriers to block up the road with their wagons. The long expected coach came in sight. "Make way for the Royal mail," cried the driver John Fagan, as he noticed the teams on the road. There was no answer, and again he repeated the order. There was no answer but the echo of his voice.” ³³ As the echo of Fagan's voice faded, the crack of gunfire was heard followed by a barrage of bullets crashing into the gold escort coach wounding a number of unsuspecting policemen, including Sergeant Condell. The rapid fire startled the horses which bolted, flipping over the coach. The escorting troopers out gunned and under intense fire managed to retreat into the nearby scrub where they covered the short distance to Mr. Hanerbry Clement’s farm, who had heard the comotion and gunfire and was in the process of investigating as the armed robbers Gardiner, Hall and company quickly decended on and ransacked the coach, then cleared out with over £14,000 worth of gold and cash. Roughly $1,162,500 in today’s value.
My video of the 1862 Eugowra hold up site.
Sgt Condell
The result of the successful attack and raking gunfire, Sgt Condell was shot in the ribs, shoulder and leg. Snr. Constable Henry Moran was wounded in the groin and leg; their wounds were not considered life-threatening. Constables Havilland and Rafferty were unhurt and the coach driver, Mr Fagan, had a bullet pass through his hat and another through his coat. At the 'Special Commission Escort Trial' held later in Sydney, February 1863, John Fagan described the attack: "I was mail-driver of the escort on the 15th; I had four horses in my coach; I lost some of the horses in the attack; they were the property of Ford and Co,; Phil. Mylecharane was one of the owners; I was in the coach when it was attacked; I than lost all four horses; next morning saw two of them at Clements', where they went after getting away; about a week after saw a black horse, one of the leaders, and afterwards at Forbes the other; it was at the Camp; a dark brown horse with a switch tail; I received it from Sanderson; I was not wounded, but a ball went through my hat and another through my coat; there were eight or ten bullets in the coach; the gold boxes were gone when we came back to the coach; the mail-bags were opened, and the contents scattered about; I lost two coats from the coach belonging to myself." (John Fagan died in 1912, and it was noted that he drove the coach when the memorable robbery of the escort occurred near the rocks at Eugowra. On that occasion, he was almost shot, a bullet perforating his hat as he ran for shelter from the flying bullets of Gardiner, Ben Hall and Co., fired at the police escort, and himself. ³⁴ That hat is now in the possession of his family, upon his death Mr Fagan left an estate valued at £257, 970 = $21,400,000 today.)

Clements would provide first aid to the injured police as they trickled in, and soon after he was dispatched to Forbes 25 miles away to carry intelligence of the affair. When news broke the whole colony was stunned; 'Sydney Morning Herald', Saturday 21st June, 1862; “…our citizens are awaiting with some impatience the result of the efforts that are being made to get upon the trail of the villains implicated. The Escort consisted of 2067 oz. 18 dwts. of gold, and £700 in cash belonging to the Oriental Bank; 521 oz. 13 dwts and 6 grs. to the bank of New South Wales; and 129 oz. and upwards of gold, £3000 in cash, to the Commercial Bank.”

John Fagan c. 1890.
In a little known fact regarding the Escort robbery, is that some hours prior to the fateful Gold coach departing Forbes for Orange there were to be two other passengers on-board as well as the police troopers, they were Police Magistrate for Forbes, Captain Brown a long-time friend of Captain M’Lerie, Inspector-General of NSW police and the Gold Commissioner for Forbes, Mr. Grenfell, who had previously sent Ben Hall to Orange for the Bacon Dray Robbery. The two men had left Forbes on horseback; 'The Courier' Tuesday 8 July, 1862; - Captain Brown and Mr. Commissioner Grenfell were to have come down by the escort, but owing to special instructions from Inspector General M'Lerie, they came on horseback, and were some miles in advance of the escort when the attack was made. Early on Tuesday morning, Mr. Superintendent Morrisset, with a detachment of six troopers, passed through this town en route for the scene of attack; and on Wednesday morning a couple of troopers from Stoney Creek also set out for the same destination. On the arrival of the Forbes mail in Orange, on Wednesday, we were informed that two troopers belonging to Sir Frederick Pottinger's party had returned to Forbes to obtain fresh horses, theirs being knocked up. These men report that they had tracked the bushrangers to within a short distance of Finn's public-house on the Lachlan, and within ten miles of Forbes. The rain had, however, set in, and destroyed the tracks. The black trackers could only discover the tracks of six horsemen. Whether or not as the gang waited for the approaching coach, and prior to the blocking of the road, the robbers watched the two men pass by is unknown.  

Hanbury Clements.
c. 1880's.
Sir Frederick Pottinger, who was the police officer in charge of the Lachlan district, arrived at Clement’s home at 6 o’clock on the Monday morning with eleven troopers, 20 settlers and two trackers, here they began the task of tracking down the bushrangers. Note; Mr Hanbury Clements died in January 1912; "The death occurred at "Kilmessan," Freeman's Beach, near Sydney, on January 11, 1912, of Mr Hanbury Clements, at the ripe old age of 84 years. Deceased was the third son of the late Lieut. Hanbury Clements, R.N., and at one time owned Eugowra station, and at the time of the robbery of the gold escort, he, with Mr C. W. Cropper, the owner of Yamma station, took an active part in the pursuit of the bushrangers. Eugowra station, a few years after, was cut up, and the owner left these parts, being a single man at that time."³⁵

On arrival and report of the events from Condell, Sir Frederick Pottinger and his trackers set off in pursuit; “…about six o'clock yesterday morning Sir F. Pottinger, with eleven troopers, twenty settlers, and two trackers got on the track of the bushrangers. About three miles from the coach they found, near a camp fire, the gold boxes, which had been opened.³⁶ Sir Frederick after finding the remnants of the robbery divided his force in an effort cover a more comprehensive area, meanwhile, back at the rocks the overturned escort coach was righted and by late Monday afternoon, with the wounded escort troopers on-board, continued the journey to the town of Orange, NSW.

NSW Police Gazette
August 1862
Influential citizens of the surrounding area of the Escort attack, volunteered to help in the search, those included Mr Suttor, Mr Clements and Mr Cropper, who was owner of Yamma Station. Mr Cropper would at the February 1863 escort trial, describe their efforts in the hunt for the perpetrators, as Ben Hall, Charters and Gardiner winded their way back to the seclusion of Wheogo Hill; "I live about fifteen miles from the Eugowra rocks. I recollect hearing of the escort robbery, and on the night of the 15th I went in search of the robbers, with Mr. Clements, and my stockman. We went first to Mr. Clements' station. On the following morning we set out to Eugowra rocks. From Eugowra rocks to the junction of the creek with the Lachlan River is about ten miles; the crossing place is near Newell's. At the back of the rocks, and on the bank of the river, were the only two places where we saw that horses had been tied; the rocks lie to the east of the road; there is a mountain between the road and where the horses had been tied at the rocks. The escort in coming from Forbes would have the rocks on the right hand. We saw traces there of the coach, and of men. We next went over the range, and saw tracks up a path. We found tracks for about a quarter of a mile, when we came on some boxes and red comforters; there were four iron boxes broken open; there was the remains of a fire, and portion of burnt comforters; we then got on the tracks of horses; there were shod horses among them; we crossed a creek and got to a pine scrub; the tracks then went to the Canowindra road, and on by the side of a fence to the Eugowra Creek again; I was running the right hand track which led down the creek to a place where the horse had evidently slipped; I went down from my horse, and in the bed of the creek found a bottle of Old Tom; we followed on and joined the other persons tracking, and further on we crossed a creek, and on to a fence, where the rails were cut down; the mortice-holes were cut; we passed through, and followed the tracks till we got on to the Orange road; the tracks ran down the road a little way, and then went off to the right, as if in the direction of Forbes or my own place; after going some distance, the tracks bore in towards the river again, and kept along the bank; we saw no teams there; when we got on to the Forbes Road, we saw some teams; the tracks went near the teams, passing through two paddocks; the tracks went in a zigzag sort of way, and it was after passing the slip panels that we saw the teams; we saw where the tracks crossed the river, and on the other side we saw the remains of a small fire and where horses had been tied; this was in Newell's paddock; the fire was close to the river bank; we found here some beef on a bone and some envelopes; we followed the tracks across Newell's paddock and into another paddock through slip rails; the tracks went crooked, and led away to the left of Mr. Suttor's; the tracks turned off from where the dray was camped; we followed them down nearly parallel with the road; we ran them down that night to within five miles of Fenn's public-house; we followed them up till dark when we could no longer see; in the morning we resumed the track; it led in the direction of what I believe to be the Wheogo Mountain; after this, two or three days after, I noticed that my fence was cut in the way the other fence was; there was a track through my fence which led in the direction of Eugowra; the other tracks that I now speak of led from Eugowra; the track came near Newell's; they led past a sawyer's hut. We tracked a distance of about forty miles; We ran them down that night to within five miles of Fenn's public-house; Fenn's from Eugowra rocks to the junction of the creek with the Lachlan River is about ten miles; the crossing place it near Newell's, the first day we tracked a distance of about forty miles. In a straight line, the course we tracked would be about 20 or 25 miles. Near the Eugowra rocks, when starting, I found a spur and a coat; I saw where horses had been tied; the spot was about a quarter of a mile behind the rocks."³⁷

Following the affray at Eugowra, the battered and bullet-riddled escort coach entered the town of Orange, travelling up Byng Street and turned right at the corner of the Commercial Bank, into Sale Street heading for Dalton's Inn and Post Office. As the coach negotiated the turn Constable Haviland seated inside the coach, was killed instantly by a single shot from Constable Moran’s revolver, which had in the melee with the bushrangers fallen to the floor, and had gone unnoticed under Haviland's seat.

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

Mrs. Haviland's gratuity.
The verdict at the inquest found Haviland; "...died from a wound by a bullet, whether by intent or accident not known."³⁹ Consequently, William Haviland's death would be the first by a member of the newly formed and restructured NSW Police Force whilst on duty. The unfortunate Haviland left behind a widow and two children. You could say Ben Hall's actions indirectly contributed to William Haviland’s death.

After the robbery the Bullock drays used to block the road arrived in Forbes, where one of the drivers reported the astonishing events; “…since our last we have little to communicate in reference to the robbery of the Escort which can enlighten the public mind, On Wednesday one of the bullock drivers who was stopped by the robbers arrived in Forbes, and reported that his own team and another was stopped and drawn across the road two hours before the Escort arrived, when the bandits made free with two bottles of spirits, and placed the drivers some distance from the rest, compelling them to lie faces downwards. Sir Frederick Pottinger and the police are still in pursuit, but after running the tracks forty miles unfortunately lost them, owing to the late rains. Up to a particular point, we believe there was no difficulty in tracking, and had not the rain interfered with the pursuit, it is by no means improble that the scoundrels might have been hunted down. Correspondents will be glad to learn that the mails were very little interfered with, Government letters only having been destroyed. Private correspondence has therefore been forwarded to its destination.”⁴⁰ At the trial for the captured escort robbers in 1863, amazingly, these dray operators were never called as witnesses, either by the defense or prosecution. 

One of those direct witnesses was George Burgess, then a thirteen-year-old. Burgess is the only other person outside of the police involved to relate a detailed account of the events of that day at Eugowra;" father had four horses and dray, and wished to take advantage of the great prices. In June, 1862, he loaded up with one ton of hay, half ton potatoes and five cwt. bacon, engaged Dick Bloomfield as driver, and I was sent as offsider or, as called in those days, his billy boiler; On the fifth day out, at about 11 o'clock; I went into a pine scrub about two miles, from Eugowra to cut a whip handle when I came out I saw the driver in conversation with a man wearing white moles and Wellington boots, with a red comforter round his head and his face blackened, who I afterwards heard was the notorious Frank Gardiner. He was leaning on a double-barrelled gun, and he said, "I want you fellows, come along". We then turned a corner in the road, and came in sight of two bullock teams right across the road, ours was put in the same position and made a barricade. Our hats were pulled over our faces and tied in that position with handkerchiefs. My hat, which was an old cabbage tree one, had a hole in the   crown, and I could see what was going on. We were placed behind a small rock and threatened, under pain of death, not to look up or remove our hats.

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

As we pushed our way on towards Eugowra we saw the bushrangers pass over the mountains, in the direction of the Weddin Ranges. In due course we reached Forbes, a huge canvas town of nearly 30,000- people...".⁴¹ George Burgess died on 12th June, 1945; GEO. BURGESS PASSES AT 96. WITNESSED FAMOUS GOLD HOLD-UP; -"Molong 's oldest identity in the person of Mr. George Burgess, of Hospital Hill, passed away on Tuesday night, at the grand old- age of 96 years and 4 months. Born at Bathurst in 1849, he came to Molong in the year 1860 and has resided here almost continuously for 85 years. The late Mr. Burgess worked for years at shearing and other bush work. When the late John Black opened his flour mill in 1876, he was engine driver there for over 25 years. He then conducted a bakery business in Bank Street for many years until he retired. His wife predeceased him some years ago and he is survived by two sons, George (Wellington), Alfred (Sydney), and one daughter, Miss Annie, who nursed him to the end with the fortitude and patience of a saint. The other daughter Jessie (Mrs. Rodgers) is deceased. Three brothers survive — Harry (Manildra, 85), Frank (Manildra, 82), James (Parkes, 80). Unlike most old-people Mr. Burgess' mind was as vivid and as clear as any man of 30 years of age. George Burgess was the only living individual, who witnessed the greatest gold robbery in Australia—the Eugowra Escort Robbery in June 1862."⁴²

The colony was horrified, and the press took aim at the NSW Government over their poor efforts in curbing the lawlessness of greater NSW, and more specifically the western districts. Enormous pressure was now placed on the NSW Police for arrests. Fortuitously, within days of the robbery, a valuable victory was achieved by the police, led by Sgt Sanderson, with the discovery of the gang’s hideout on Wheogo Hill, 32 miles from Forbes and 60 miles from Eugowra and a short distance from Ben Hall's hut. Maguire states;op.cit. "...Sanderson had his suspicions, made straight for Ben Hall's house, which he reached about 10 or 11 on Tuesday morning. Bill Hall and his wife lived at Ben's house." However, Ben Hall was absent. This indicates that Ben Hall was truly in the police cross hairs for bushranging activity, and destroys the idea long held, that Pottinger only had it in for Hall.

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

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

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

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

Sanderson's success was not as forthcoming to Sir Frederick Pottinger, who after splitting his tracking parties headed south, and arrived as far as Hay, without crossing the suspected bushrangers, who appeared, in his view to be making for the Victorian border. At Hay, Pottinger decided to return to Forbes, and during the ride met three riders at Merool near Temora, one of which, surprisingly, was John Gilbert, in company with Henry Manns and Gilbert's brother Charles. Quick as a flash Gilbert spurred his horse and escaped. With the capture of his companions, Gilbert commenced his much heralded 60-mile round trip to the Weddin Mountains to gather men to help in the rescue. Those sought out by Gilbert are suspected of being Frank Gardiner, John O'Meally, Patsy Daley and Ben Hall. Furthermore, in the melee that ensued which released Manns and Charles, Ben Hall, whose hatred of Pottinger was well known, had another exchange of words with Pottinger, and an attempted deadly outcome during the attack; 'Sydney Mail' Saturday 26th July, 1862; “One of them, apparently, addressed himself principally to Sir Frederick Pottinger, saying, "I know you, you bl---y ba---rd, Pottinger: "I'll put a pill through you, you ba---rd," &c. Sir Frederick fired at this fellow three times, Mr Mitchell, at his side, being also fully occupied with their assailants, and discharging shot for shot.” Ultimately those involved in the attack on Pottinger retreated to the Weddin Mountains and Gilbert with his brother made tracks for Victoria and then New Zealand, Manns headed back to his old haunt near Burrowa.

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

c. 1970's ©
However, Sir Frederick Pottinger had his suspicions of those involved, not only his attempted murder at Merool but Eugowra, and with Gardiner sprung at Wheogo Hill very close to Hall and McGuire's place, Pottinger closed in and in rapid succession, started making carte blanche arrests of persons known to be associates of Frank Gardiner. Therefore, Ben Hall was the first in his sights after the fiasco of Bacon dray affair. As a result, Ben Hall was arrested on 27th July, 1862, with his brother William Hall, and his two brothers-in-law John Brown, (husband of Catherine Brown) John McGuire and Hall's best friend, Daniel Charters at Sandy Creek. Sir Frederick Pottinger, had received information of their participation at Eugowra from MaGuire's friend Richards, crown witness at the Escort Trial, who had been present at McGuire's in the planning stage for the Eugowra robbery and where £1000 reward was a good incentive;[sic] "hearing afterwards of the robbery, he (Richards) was forced to combine the one set of facts with the other, and on this, before any charge was brought against him, he gave information to the police."

After their arrest Charters explained his presence with Ben Hall; "...Hall was gathering cattle; getting fat cattle for market, and I was there to get mine and my sister's cattle that might be brought in."⁴⁴ Unfortunately, these arrests and the long incarcerations to follow would be a death knell for Sandy Creek station. The five suspects were taken to Forbes where they were charged by Sir Frederick Pottinger before a magistrate THE ESCORT ROBBERY. -"On Tuesday, last, at the Lachlan police-court, four men, named Benjamin Hall, William Hall, John Maguire, John Brown, and Daniel Charters, were brought up charged with being concerned in the late escort robbery. The only evidence taken was that of Sir Frederick Pottinger, who deposed to having received information to the effect that prisoners were concerned in the robbery; he prayed for a remand, for the purpose of obtaining further evidence. The prisoners were remanded accordingly." ⁴⁵
Sir Frederick

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

Court appearance
 5th August 1862.
Under the threat of execution, the five manacled men were incarcerated in the Forbes lock-up, where they were arraigned and remanded for seven days. (See article right) As they languished in gaol, McGuire saw Ben Hall and Daniel Charters constantly in deep conversation together;op.cit. …I often noticed Hall and Charters whispering together apart from the rest of the prisoners; and I began to suspect that they knew something about the robbery.  McGuire also stated that he overheard Ben Hall tell Charters; …they haven’t found anything on us, and they can do nothing to us." McGuire continues; …we noticed Sir Frederick in conversation with James Newland, a brother in law to Charters, Sir Frederick then came and took Charters away. On his return Charters told us he was going to get bail whilst we could not, I watched Ben’s countenance, and noticed that he looked a bit upset when Charters got his freedom. Daniel Charters, was admitted to bail with two sureties of £250 each, and his own recognizance of £500, to appear when called upon. Whilst held on remand MaGuire threw a spotlight on Hall confessing to him of his involvment at Eugowra;op.cit. "...Ben and I were now left alone together, and next morning he confided to me a full account of the robbery and the names of the men who took part, They were himself, Gardiner, young O'Meally, Gilbert, Charters, Bow, Fordyce and the only man I was not aquainted with-Henry Manns. This I declare, was the first time I really knew who the culptits were, although as I said before, I had my suspicions as to some of the gang, at any rate." Maguire continues; "...I remonstrated with Ben, as there had been no occasion for him to take that game on, but he said he had been run on to it by Gardiner." 

Daniel Charters

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

Author's Note; Even 40 years after the Escort Robbery, MaGuire attempted in his memoirs to be totally ignorant of the planning of the escort robbery.  In fact MaGuire knew full well who the participants were in the robbery, as the whole affair was planned at his residence. Even after the robbery, he was supplying the gang with food and equipment. This sentiment was also noted after the convictions and MaGuires acquittal, from; 'The Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser', Friday 6th March 1863"...the Escort Robbers have been sentenced to death, with the exception of Magiure, who is acquitted. I have no doubt he is the biggest scoundrel of the three. The evidence showed clearly enough, in my opinion, that he was an accomplice of the gang from the begining to end: at any rate, that he was cognisant of the intended robbery. The prisoners will, I am afraid, be strung up without mercy."
John McGuire's Darlinghurst Gaol entry log Febuary 1863,
note that John McGuire was blind in his right eye, until now this information was unknown.
Subsequently, Charters was put under pressure from his devoted sisters to turn Queen’s evidence for the full pardon on offer. He informed on all the participants of the heist, but failed to implicate his close friend Ben Hall and the wild John O’Meally. (O’Meally would no doubt have harmed/killed Charters had he been implicated). Ben Hall was granted bail at the end of August 1862 for £500 and two sureties of £250, his bail conditions were to 'appear when called upon'. He never would see the inside of a gaol cell again. It was noted when Hall was released, that words passed between Hall and Pottinger; On the last occasion, that Sir Frederick had Ben Hall brought up in Forbes, as Ben was leaving the Courthouse, Pottinger remarked, "Well, Hall, you have escaped again." ''Yes," replied Ben," and the next time you bring me here it will be for something, and don't you forget it.  And if all be true that I hear, when I get home you'll get cause to remember me."⁴⁸ (£1,000 in 1862 is worth today around $83,000, and demonstrates that Ben Hall was in a very good financial position or at least asset rich to raise that amount of money, and as will be seen from a possible mortgage over Sandy Creek or the cashing in of his proceeds from Eugowra.)

Author's Note
:  Maguire would be charged for his part in the robbery and transported to Sydney for the most sensational trial in the history of the young colony and he would appear before the special commission established for the escort trial. The first trial took place in February 1863 with the result of a hung jury. The government placed the defendants back in the dock immediately and a second trial was established.  After all the evidence was heard again, Bow, Fordyce and Manns were this time found guilty and sentenced to death. John Maguire was found not guilty by his peers (he was rearrested over the bond still outstanding for Youngman which was paid by a benefactor). Manns would be the only bushranger from the escort robbery (see “In Company” page) to be executed and die a long and horrible death at the hands of the bungling hangman. Bow and Fordyce’s sentences were commuted to life and they would serve 12 years and ironically enough be released from prison with the man who led them there…, Frank Gardiner.

As Ben Hall was released on bail from Forbes, his younger brother Robert was sentenced to six months’ gaol for 'Illegally working two Bullocks'.
Robert Hall, Maitland Gaol 1862, released 1863.
John Sanderson.
c. 1880's.
Of interest is that, at the future 'Special Criminal Commission' into the Escort Robbery, February 1863, Sgt Sanderson was called upon to give evidence in regard to his efforts in the recapture of half of the proceeds recovered near Wheogo Hill, a large hill which rose to a height of 430 meters, with a marvelous all round view. In his own words Sanderson described the scene at the bushrangers camp, situated within a mile of Ben Hall and McGuires homes at Wheogo“...on the Thursday morning following the robbery I was near the Wheogo Mountains, on my search; I was near to the house of a man named Hall; McGuire’s house was about 300 or 400 yards from Hall's house; I went to Hall's house; I wanted to see one of the Hall's; he was not in; I went on towards McGuire’s house; as I went I saw a horseman coming towards me from the Wheoga Mountains, in the direction of Hall's or McGuire’s house; when he caught sight of me he turned round and bolted into the mountains; I followed him with my party; by the aid of our black tracker we got on the tracks; we followed him by roundabout course up to the top of the Wheogo Mountain; the top of the mountain was about a mile and a half from McGuire’s place; at the top of the mountain I found the remnants of a camp; there were sixteen empty bottles; some contained remnants of port wine, some of gin, some of rum, some of ale; there were biscuits about and tea with milk in it; I did not see how the robbers could have got milk on the spot without going to the stations round about; there were remnants of beef, bits of bread! pieces of green hide tied to bushes, and bits of red tape; I found the top of the hill very stoney, and consequently very difficult to keep the track; we lost it for a time; in about a quarter of an hour it was found by the black tracker, and we proceeded on it a distance of about twenty or twenty-six miles, through a dense scrub; the black tracker rode a white horse; as far as I could judge the man who evaded me at the foot of the Wheogo Mountain rode a bright bay horse; we found the track of several horses; I could not say how many; one of them was shod; we followed in these tracks about twenty-five miles; when we came upon a shod horse with a pack on his back; the pack contained a bag with 1239 ounces of gold, a bag similar to that which I saw put into the escort which started on Sunday, 15th June, from Forbes.”

Report of hold-up of  Sale of 
Sandy Creek in 1865,
for £3000.
Earlier, whilst Ben Hall had been remanded in Forbes, other events were shaping that would continue to affect and change the course of Ben Hall's current life. Ben Hall, had been held by many of his Peers in high regard and was considered a good fellow and to many a good friend. This view was shattered following Hall's frequent arrests. As a consequence, Hall's reputation was in pieces, and he faced the precipice of no return, a result of which, in this new state of affairs, would drive a man of limited education and full of resentment, to step across the line and fall headlong into the abyss of lawlessness. Moreover, in light of the legal situation a Forbes publican, John Wilson, who owned the White Hart Inn, and a close friend of John MaGuire, reportedly provided monies to MaGuire (who faced a long expensive trial at Sydney) and possibly Ben Hall? for their legal representations, for at the time it was noted that John Wilson was attempting to raise capital by selling some of his assets in order to take over Sandy Creek station;[sic]“John Wilson, of the White Hart Inn, Rankin-street, has for sale a full share in the Britannia Prospecting Claim and a sleeping half share in the same claim, including share in 200 tons’ quartz now ready for crushing as soon as machinery is ready.” Furthermore, it appeared whilst in custody MaGuire had ultimately sold Sandy Creek station. Consequently, with Hall's lack of interest in the station's success, following the elopment of Bridget, saw the whole station come under Wilson's ownership. MaGuire states;op.cit. " wife and children were living at the White Hart Inn kept by a man named Wilson, to whom I had transferred the Sandy Creek Station whilst in gaol, in order to raise the wind." However, upon MaGuires return; "...I made over to Wilson's to see my wife and two children; Next day I arranged with Wilson to take over his hotel, as he wished to go out and work the station." Wilson also had a similar debt situation with Wheogo Station regarding young 'Warrigal' Walsh, Bridget Hall's younger brother, and reported groom to 'The Darkie' regarding his many remands. There is no doubt that the true market value of Sandy Creek, was somewhere in the vacinity of £2,560/£3000, which included dwellings, stock and improvements. It was also noted that in 1864, John MaGuire and Ben Hall still had an outstanding debt of rent to the NSW government over Sandy Creek from 1862, in the amount of £3 15s, which indicated that one of them paid some monies on the lease.

However, this debt is mystifying when one considers that the total yearly rent was £5 10s, with a twenty pound assessment and all indications are that the two proprietors had enough stock for sale to cover any costs, even duffed stock, and although in late 1861 early 1862 there had been a drought, a not uncommon event, there is no indication of this affecting Hall and McGuire's cash flow, which could easily be supplemented with the sale and demand for beef at the new goldfield's, both at Forbes and Lambing Flat. Even Charters commented on the fact that he and Hall were gathering in cattle for the market when Pottinger swooped and William Hall had over £60 in his possession at the time of their arrest in July 1862. However, Hall's current recklessness behaviour may just be that he succumbed to the lure of fast money, thereby no longer encumbered with responsibility, no home, no family, and even with the new beginning of fatherhood, Hall still abandons all he had worked for, for a fast horse and a six gun.

Note on MaGuire; I have utilized MaGuire's memiors, and in doing so note that much of his narrative is out of context to the facts regarding times and places. MaGuire recounted his memories near the end of his life and as such I have tirelessly cross referrenced much of and disregarded erroneous information. However, the bulk of his reminiscence is solid and most useful. 
NSW Government Gazette
31st December, 1866.

Courtesy NLA.

Furthermore, although Wilson had in effect became the lessee of Sandy Creek, his legal tenure was not gazetted until the end of 1866, some 18 months after Ben Hall's death. Moreover, it would appear beforehand, that for any transfer to take effect it required Ben Hall's signature, signed before a Magistrate. This was something that Ben Hall was incapable of providing, due to his having taken to the bush instead of coping it sweet with a gaol term. Hall nevertheless, fell deeper into lawlessness. However, on Ben Hall and McGuire's departure, there was a dramatic increase in the lease value from the original rent of £5 10s per annum, increased to £40 per annum, which demonstrated the solid work in upgrading the station from rough scrubland to a fine property with stockyards and dwelling's. This is by any standard a significant increase over a brief period, which exemplifies that the two men had developed a splendid run. Yet through misadventure lost everything.

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

The 'Peak Hill Express' newspaper in 1907 also gives credence to McGuire and Hall receiving money for the sale of Sandy Creek. (See article left.) However, to compound Ben Hall's current situation of late 1862, Ben Hall faced fatherhood. Ben Hall's new girlfriend Susan Prior who had met Hall at Lambing Flat shortly after Bridget's desertion with James Taylor, moved with her family onto Hall's old station and was soon pregnant. Susan Prior fell pregnant around March of 1862 and this new relationship for Ben prior to his dray robbery and escort robbery may have indicated that for a brief moment Hall may have been straightening up and attempting to fly, right? However, this does appear fleeting.

Susan Prior c. 1880's.
Coloured by me.
'The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser', 26th August, 1924 recounted this about Hall and Prior; "...during one of these weekend visits he met a handsome young girl of 16 summers named Susan Pryor, whom he induced to go and live with him at his home at Wheogo. This action, or mode of life, provoked no resentment on the part, of the Walsh family. Ben now resumed his former energies and appeared as much enamoured of his mistress as he was of his wife."(Little else is recorded of Susan Prior after 1863. Susan gave birth to their child, a daughter named Mary born in January 1863. Mary died in Newton, Sydney in 1922. Although it has been noted that in old age Susan was a very bitter woman.) Wilson had taken up residencey at the station and had aquired MaGuire's home ejecting Ellen, who had returned after the break-up with MaGuire, now running the White Hart Inn in Forbes. Therefore, Ben Hall, after his release from Forbes in late August 1862 had also returned to his ex-homestead find Ellen McGuire as well in residence. It was a full house, another person of interest at the homestead was a friend of John Gilbert’s, and well known to the police, Henry Gibson, (Henry Gibson arrived in the colony as a nineteen-year-old free settler in 1853, from Middlesex, England) as well as Ben's older brother William and wife, Ann Hall;op.cit. "...Bill Hall never turned out on the road, though he remained in the district whilst his notorious brother went through all his exciting experiences; in fact, he lived in Ben's house until it was burnt down by the Police." William Hall would eventually move to the Pinnacle station and commenced gold mining on the Pinnacle Reef, a place where, no doubt, Ben Hall in future would lay low when times became to hot. Ellen McGuire would eventually return to her stepmother’s home at Wheogo Station, leaving Susan Prior, her mother Mary, her sister Charlotte and brother William at the residence, and from January 1863, Ben Hall's baby daughter Mary, and from time to time Ben Hall,who was now in Pottinger's gunsight.

Mary's Baptisim
Therefore, it can be contemplated, that even at this point in Ben Hall's life with the dispossession of Sandy Creek, and the recent incarcerations, fatherhood, then conjoined with Hall's self-inflicted sense of persecution by the law, undoubtedly instigated by his two very recent close shaves with the judicial system, and coinciding with Ben Hall's continuous and reckless friendships, all of which inevitably kept Hall under the spotlight of police suspicion and surveillance. All these correlated facts indicated that Hall did not after his release at Orange and Forbes, prevent himself from taking a venturous path, one that asserted his associations with the bushranger Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert, John O'Meally and another young tearaway Patrick 'Patsy' Daley, a first cousin of John O'Meally.

Author's Note; There has been a long-held belief that during Ben Hall's incarceration at Forbes for the Escort Robbery, where Hall had been remanded for many weeks, that whilst in custody Ben Hall's property, Sandy Creek station was abandoned and that furthermore all livestock supposedly yarded at the time of Ben Hall's arrest by Sir Frederick Pottinger in August 1862, were left to die a painful and horrible death through starvation and thirst, this is completely untrue, and long after Ben Hall's death the tale was continually perpetrated as a form of excuse and sympathy for a man who was still held by many of his friends of that period in high regard and therefore became portrayed as a way of alleviating Ben Hall's complicity in bushranging by deflecting Hall's true path to those criminal activities, by forming an opinion that the NSW police were to blame by their persecution of Ben Hall. Furthermore the situation at Sandy Creek was that William Hall, his wife Ann and the then pregnant Susan Prior and another ruffian Henry Gibson all resided at the homestead and Hall's ex in law's the Walsh's including John Browne also lived close to the property, so to state however that these people would have sat idly by and allowed livestock to perish so horribly would never have happened when one considers the value, the importance and need for these animals for income and survival in a remote and lonely area. At the second escort trial of 1863, Sir Frederick Pottinger was questioned about the arrests of Ben and William Hall and Dan Charters, where under oath Sir Frederick stated the following in regards to the three men's demeanour at Pottinger's arrival and of the situation of the livestock and of some suspicious cash found on Ben Hall at the time;[sic] “...nothing was said beyond the expression of surprise. I took them to McGuire's, where I had arrested Maguire and Brown, and took them all into town. I did not notice any cattle in Hall's stockyard. They might have been mustering, but I saw nothing of it. I found £50 or £60 in notes on Hall. A great deal was said about them, and a long investigation was had into the matter, about there being notes that had been taken from the escort, I took some notes from the house of Ben Hall, and they were claimed by William Hall, to whom they were returned. There was an investigation before the Bench, and then they were returned. I took possession of them and produced them before the Bench with a view to show that they were taken from the escort. They were placed before several witnesses; Mr. Weakes, and a clerk of the Commercial Bank who is not here.", By the Judge:[sic] "... an investigation took place; the notes were examined by witnesses, and the magistrates dismissed the case and returned the notes to William Hall." It must also be noted that £1 in 1862 is equal today to around $83.04.

Ben Hall's association with Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert & Co, convinced Sir Frederick Pottinger that 'Sandy Creek' was still a haven for bushrangers, and through police intelligence gathered from some law-abiding landowners stepped up police patrols around there and Wheogo Station and the Pinnacle, as well as the nearby Weddin Mountains..., O'Meally territory.

A letter was written by a resident of the Lachlan to the newspapers depicting the inhabitants' long friendships with Ben Hall and others, as both telegraphs and harbourers; "...on the Billibong and Bland Plains are several stations; many of the residents there, to my certain knowledge, having been at one time hut mates and companions of the now noted bushrangers, whilst after cattle in bye-gone days; consequently, though these residents may not go out and stop persons on the roads still there is little doubt they do wink at the evil practice of their former companions, and, when they see them, give them food and shelter. It is impossible the police can take the bushrangers whilst they have such means afforded them of escape with scouts in all directions — "bush telegrams" as they are called. They may be within an hour's ride of the police, and still escape them. They will never take these bushrangers openly, or in uniform; it will be done simply by stratagem, Humbug Creek, and Weddin Mountains used to be their haunts when they were stockkeepers; consequently, they know the ground well now — every bush and tree is familiar to them."⁴⁹

From the 'Empire'
Sir Frederick Pottinger, still harbouring deep suspicions, was extremely frustrated, however, that people associated with the Escort Robbery, (and there were many) had managed to escape justice, furthermore, to add salt to the wound Sir Frederick was still smarting from the humiliation of failing to capture his nemesis Frank Gardiner in late August 1862. Pottinger had staked out Gardiner's paramour, Catherine Browne's home at Wheogo, where Pottinger had received information and believed that 'The Darkie' would appear for a romantic liaison. Pottinger's information proved correct and as Gardiner mounted his horse and left Mrs Browne's hut in the dead of night, Pottinger with complete surprise on his side rose to fire point blank at Gardiner, who was completely startled, however, due to a failure of Pottinger's pistol, allowed Gardiner to escape from the eight carefully positioned troopers and vanish into the night. An episode which unfortunately brought much ridicule from the NSW press towards Sir Frederick Pottinger, as described in the 'Empire' newspaper. (See article above right).

Mrs Brown, NSW Police
However, through 1862, and the early weeks of 1863, authorities began gazetting robberies and hold-ups in which Ben Hall, through the his current associations and the firm evidence had undoubtedly participated. Furthermore, the NSW Police Gazette provides descriptions of perpetrators closely resembling the known descriptions of Gardiner, Gilbert, O'Meally and Hall, along with other known acquaintances. Furthermore, it was also reported that on occasions Catherine Browne had been participating in robberies alongside 'The Darkie' disguised in men's apparel. The reports, however, continued to state that the bushrangers 'can be identified'. Although many of the correspondents in the country centres where the offences had occurred, either knew or were well informed as to who the perpetrators were, but appear to be reluctant to name them, either as a way of helping the police by not alerting the criminals or protecting themselves against reprisals. Therefore, in most instances, as with the police gazettes, descriptions of the assailants were also only printed by correspondents as they had recieved them. However, these descriptions would often led to an arrest by the police who had good knowledge of those committing crimes but invairiably the court would bail the offenders or those police would suffer the embarrasment of a friutless chase. Even for Ben Hall, noticeably lame in one leg, and stout (rather fat or of heavy build), this leg impediment would often not be mentioned in any report or description, as noted below right.

NSW Police Gazette
1863. Note age.
John Gilbert's return to the Lachlan District mid January 1863, after an absence of some months following the Escort robbery, a lucky escape from Inspector Pottinger and a stint in New Zealand's South Island, would, however, find Gilbert back in the saddle in the Weddin Mountains district and before long once more in the company of Ben Hall and John O'Meally,[sic]“…the notorious Johnny Gilbert, for whose apprehension a reward of £500 is offered, and who is known to be in the neighbourhood of the Weddin Mountains.” With the bush as their fortress a new wave of determined sticking up commenced. Furthermore, there were also conflicting newspaper reports and general gossip as to the whereabouts of Frank Gardiner, even with speculation by correspondents in some newspapers, although humorous, of Gardiner's death from a broken heart at the Abercrombie, this assumption, however, was quickly rebuked by another writer who saw their folly; "...did you ever see Gardiner? If so, I'm sure you will coincide with me in thinking that a man of his vigour of life, stalwart physique, and determined physiognomy would almost be the last man in the universe to expire from that malady, peculiar to hopeless sighing swains and lovelorn forsaken damsels,"⁵⁰ the scribe goes on to say "...this freebooter would have been taken long ago, but for the false sympathy and shelter granted him by some of those petty vitiated settlers of the Abercrombie Ranges."⁵¹ By September 1862, Gardiner had shot through from Wheogo to Rockhampton, Queensland, turning up at Appis Creek on the road to the Peak Downs goldfield arriving sometime in early 1863, with his lover Catherine Browne, even so, a plethora of crimes would continue to be attributed to 'The Darkie' who's departure from the Lachlan would leave John Gilbert upon his return from New Zealand, to claim the mantle of leader and instigator of, "outrages against citizens"

NSW Police Gazette
February 1863. Note Hall's
description- 5ft 6in, Hall's
height would vary
 in future police reports
 from 5ft 6in-5ft 9in.
However, for Hall the jump from respected grazier to known bushranger was a hairs breath away, when in quick succession a number of robberies where gazetted fitting Ben Hall's description; Sticking up- "A man named John Grandylar, who left Goulburn for the Lachlan some time back, was stuck-up by two armed bushrangers on Monday last, about sixteen miles on this side of Burrowa, on his return hither, and was robbed of whatever money he had on his person A cheque for a considerable amount that he had sown inside the band of his trousers escaped observation. They, however, took a good pair of boots off his feet, but gave him an old pair in exchange, and also robbed him of his coat. The man's swag with a revolver in it, where of course it was utterly useless, was appropriated by the bushrangers to their own use.”⁵² Throughout January 1863, Ben Hall transformation appeared complete, and Hall was now being absolutely identified by victims that were well acquainted with him. Although historically many dispute the evidence. however, in all cases, without any sense of honor or civility, Ben Hall puts a gun to their heads and places terror in their hearts, then rips from them their hard earned possessions.

NSW Police Gazette
February 1863.
On the 27th January 1863, the leap was completed when an attempted robbery is made against two gentlemen, Mr Pollock and Mr Evans, both residence of Forbes traversing the Lambing Flat road, and bailed-up by Ben Hall who is identified along with O'Meally and Patsy Daley as the bushrangers responsible, (see article above right.) as a Mrs. Green who operated Green's Inn on the Lambing Flat road witnessed the attempt. The very next day on the 28th January 1863, again saw Ben Hall in action with Patsy Daley and John O'Meally, this time the three-villain’s hold-up and rob Mr. Green, whose wife had earlier watched the previous day's attempted robbery of Pollock and Evan's, at their public house on the Lambing Flat road. (see article left) Once more Ben Hall is identified, although the police gazette named John O'Meally's younger brother Patrick as one of the bushrangers, however, this was proved an error with his subsequent arrest, by Captain Zouch. 

NSW Police Gazette,
 February 1863,
O'Meally, Gilbert,
 Patsy Daley & Ben Hall.
John O'Meally struck

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

Furthermore, in March 1862, the NSW Government led by Mr Cowper instigated a restructure of the whole of the NSW police force, which from the previous diverse sections were amalgamated into one entity with an inspector-general in overall command. This honour fell to a highly experienced and politically savvy former army officer, Captain John McLerie, once a nominee for the Victoria Cross. However, the wave after wave of people flooding the state from all over the colony and the globe to the new Goldfields overwhelmed the revamped force. Robberies, beatings, murder was becoming commonplace as those who without luck resorted to the revolver for a few shillings to get by on or flee. Reports were rampant and into this mix came the dedicated bushranger who boldly snubbed their nose at law and order, Ben Hall fell into this category. Mr Cowper whose tenure as Colonial Secretary would face many challenges with the new audacious wave of lawlessness, where the government was not only fighting the bushrangers but also the press. As 1863 dawned, the force was still suffering from organisational teething problems, including substantial criticism over their handling of the new 'Wild West of NSW'. Furthermore, Mr Cowper was of the belief that large rewards for the capture of these out of control bushrangers was an appropriate inducement for the harbourers and those lenient to their marauding, therefore, Mr Cowper offered large amounts of money, which for the poorest of the cockatoo squatters would have been quite a windfall to feast one's eyes on just to dob in the bushrangers; 'The Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser', on the 13th February 1863; "...Cowper is getting quite convinced of the inclemency of the 'Grande idee' about the New Police: for he has just offered a reward of £500 for the apprehension (without conviction) of Gardiner, and another £500 for his mate Johnny Gilbert. The only chance of capturing these ruffians seems to be by offering a large reward." (See reward notice right.)

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

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

Ernest Bowler and long-time friend of Ben Hall, once more relates an interesting account of Ben Hall's activities in early 1863, in 'The Moleskin Gentry'. On this occasion, however, Ernest Bowler had been out mustering cattle on the Pinnacle station, when near sunset his party rode up a mountainside where they came across two horses hobbled in the bush, on identification, Bowler believed they were stolen from a friend of his, he believed by Gardiner, one horse was a fine bay and the other horse, a grey, which belonged to himself. Ernest approached cautiously, removed the hobbles from the animals and at full gallop headed to the stockyard with the horses.

Ernest Bowler
However, later that evening Ernest Bowler had returned to the Pinnacle public house, and was dinning in the kitchen when word was passed that 'The Boys' (the locals term for bushrangers) were lurking about. Ernest describes an interesting meeting after the recovery of the horses;op.cit. “...Ben Hall appeared at the back door. Nothing was said for a while. Hall, Ernest noted was wearing a cabbage tree hat that seemed new. He stood somewhat menacingly, a hand on each doorpost. It was perhaps, Hall's silent warning to a man he respected that it is unwise to liberate hobbled horses. When at last Ernest said “Good evening”, Hall nodded curtly and moved away.” Furthermore, fearing that 'The Boys' may bail them all up and steal their cash and horses, two messengers set out for the Pinnacle police station three-quarters of a mile away, and persuaded the sole constable in charge, constable Knox to accompany them back to the public house for protection, it was also rumoured that Knox was the lover of the widow Mrs Feehiley, the sister of Daniel Charters. For constable Knox it was a fateful mistake, for the Pinnacle public house, was not the quarry. 

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

Pinnacle Station with Weddin
Mountains in background.
Shortly after as Ben Hall and Patsy Daley were riding away from the police station they were tracked by Constable Knox, however, before long the two bushrangers were spotted departing a known hangout of undesirables, Allports Inn on the Forbes road, and close to the Pinnacle Station by trooper William Hollister (an American by birth and a former world travelling sailor who worked as a Trimmer, resigned to try the goldfields and joined the NSW Police force early 1862. Coincidental he was crewman on-board the 'City of Sydney' arriving with a passenger named Pottinger in 1860) who with his trackers give chase, exchanging shots.

NSW Police Gazette,
March 1863.
Hollister, an efficient constable maintained a diary where he describes the chase; Diary entry for Saturday 7th February 1863; "on Saturday 7th instant the Pinnacle barracks were broken into and robbed of one rifle one carbine 10 rounds of rifle ammunition one pouch and bridle one pair of saddle bags belt one gunnysack one flask of powder two pair of handcuffs two Crimean shirts.LC Ben Hall was tracked from the barracks to Uar by constable Knox." Diary entry Sunday 8th February 1863; "With Dargin (Tracker) from this station to Uar from Uar to Pinnacle reefs from reefs to this station. Myself and Dargin from Forbes met constable Knox at Uar and took up the tracks and ran them for about 12 miles and came upon Ben Hall and Patsy Daly within about 3 miles of the Pinnacle reefs and chased them about one mile when my horse ran me against a tree Daly tried to shoot one of the Black Trackers McFenns black fellow was with me through me getting the fall Hall and Daly escaped came to Pinnacle Police Station. When I met Knox I sent him back to this station." Later tracker Billy Dargin gave this account of those events; “...followed them at that time with Prince Charlie and Trooper Hollister. Chased them for three miles and a half, and should have taken them but for Hollister getting thrown from his horse through running against a tree; saw Daley snap his revolver three times at Charlie."⁵⁵ Ultimately Constable Knox would be dismissed from the NSW police after the Pinnacle robbery. (see above right)
William Hollister's arrival as crewman with Pottinger as passenger 1860.
NSW Police Gazette
February 1863
Historically, there are those who abide by a belief that Ben Hall's complicity in unlawful activities prior to and following the Eugowra Gold Escort Robbery were fabricated. Including Ben Hall himself, who had professed his innocence at all these recorded events by claiming that as in the case of the Pinnacle robbery, he was at Allports' pub, and had met Daley there well after the robbery, whereby, whilst riding home, the two were chased by trooper Hollister, unfortunately, Hollister knew Hall well, how? most assuredly from criminal activity. Furthermore, another denial was Hall's presence at the Bacon robbery, where Hall stated that he and Youngman were just passing by as Gardiner conducted the robbery, really!! Can one man have so much rotten luck or was he truly just the unluckiest bystander in history. No! it's all too obvious to be just coincidence. Ben Hall was in it, and in it up to his eyes. Moreover, as far as newspaper references and Police Gazette reports, including Ernest Bowler's recollection, they all give a solid indication of what the police had long suspected, and what the locals of the Lachlan already knew that Ben Hall was and had long been bushranging.

The NSW Police Gazette published on the 13th February 1863, gave a graphic account of an attack on a woman, Mrs Finigan who is home alone, it reports two men fitting the description of Ben Hall and Patsy Daley, who conduct a most heinous act against the defenceless woman..., I will let the account speak for itself. read the article right. (O'Meally is described as having redish brown hair not light.)

Furthermore, the Pinnacle attack, the flogging of Mrs Finnigan, demonstrated, however, that Ben Hall was at last beginning to revealing himself as a true cur. Ben Hall had now embarked on a directionless path, where his choice of compatriots and actions against society could only provide a future of a long incarceration in a gaol cell in leg-irons, or an ignoble death swaying on the gallows.

Ben Hall's fall from civility was becoming irreversible, with the NSW police now his all-powerful hunters, led by Inspector Pottinger. Moreover, the people Ben Hall was now mixing with were inherently from a similar background to his own, convict parents, cattle and horse thieves and petty criminals who like dingo's stole as the opportunity presented itself. These new bushrangers of the likes of O’Meally, Lowry, etc. were all bent and entwined by a common generational link of lawlessness. Some of Hall's current associates had been drawn into crime through their family affiliations or close friendships, some of the bushrangers were influenced by the older generation of convicts' yarns of bygone adventures including their long-held distrust and attitude to authority, many of the parents of the native-born youths turned bushranger were old lagges. The ‘Empire' newspaper Thursday 12th March, 1863, succinctly expressed the current injury of bushranging; "...but if once detected in cattle stealing, they become depredators on a large scale, bushrangers of a more dangerous kind than the colony has yet known, having resourced in themselves and their surroundings of which the poor outlaws under the old penal system were utterly devoid. Horses they have the pick of the country and friends and brothers wherever they go. Hence the class of bushrangers who have, within, the last few years spread terror throughout the country districts. PEISLEY, GARDINER, GILBERT, are each and all "bush natives;" at first stockmen, drovers, or horse breakers, suspected or found guilty of cattle stealing, and taking to the bush to avoid as long as possible apprehension and punishment, and so entering upon a career of crime that has conducted PEISLEY, and is likely to conduct the others, to the gallows. But the ignominy and distress which these men have brought down upon their own heads is not confined to them. The influence they have exercised over their young countrymen has been of the most pernicious kind, and disastrous consequences. Already some who have been misled by GARDINER, are doomed to expiate their complicity with his criminal designs and doings, by an ignominious death on the scaffold." The article continues "...a given number of GARDINERS and GILBERTS, obtaining the ascendancy, must soon transform Australia into a howling wilderness, where men more savage and unreasoning than wild beasts could only anticipate starvation by mutual slaughter. But the class we are speaking of are not generally capable of reflecting upon the effects of a certain course of action upon the general interests of society, or upon their own individual welfare as bound up therewith. They have never been taught to think, and scarcely to read. They are not, therefore, readers of newspapers, and have no turn for politics. And, as might naturally have been expected, whatever smatterings of speculative politics the more intelligent amongst them possess are decidedly obstructive. For "bush natives," as a general role, are the rankest of colonial Tories."  (Tories-a dispossessed Irishman who resorted to banditry)

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

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

Accordingly, the townsfolk of Forbes following the Pinnacle police station robbery and other outrages had great concern regarding the lack of police protection of the town and other remote settlements at the commencement of Hall's bushranging activities mid 1862, where he was frequently drawing out the troopers on many a wild goose chase. The 'Lachlan Observer', February 18th, 1863, noted the police disposition for various NSW districts as no less than 47 troopers stationed at Forbes, remembering that Forbes alone had some 30,000 inhabitants, 22 at Young, and 17 at Bathurst. In some instances residents filled the role of constable, where they meted out a summary punishment to the perpetrator; "...a few nights ago, a man was balled up by a fellow opposite Dave White's establishment in Rankin street, and, on his calling out lustily, the pugilist-to his credit be it spoken-rushed to the rescue, and administered a sound thrashing to the would be robber, The town is now almost destitute of police protection, the whole of the detectives being employed elsewhere, and the police generally being either at Orange, Bathurst, or some other distant locality attending to their various duties. Seeing that the Pinnacle police station has recently been taken possession of by the bushrangers, in order to secure the firearms, and ammunition, we would advise sergeant Rush to "keep his powder dry," and make ready for a similar, visitation." With Ben Hall setting alight the western plains, other long past criminal events pertaining to the Hall family were still fresh in the memory of many people, 'The Empire' newspaper in 1863, recounted Ben Hall's fathers' long past criminal activities recalled and commented on by Mr. Josiah Harpur in the NSW Parliament, Harpur was the member for Patrick Plains, NSW, and who it must be remembered was the son of Sarah Walsh, stepmother of Bridget Hall and stepmother-in-law to Ben Hall: "...remember when old Ben Hall robbed one Brown of a splendid horse, which he almost worshipped. A gentleman gave information to Brown about the robbers, but charged him to make no use of the information, because if it were suspected that he had given the information, he would not be safe for a moment. The man Brown came to him (Mr. Harpur), who was then young and daring. He went with the owner of the horses, in pursuit of the robbers, and was near losing his life. Such was the state of things on the Hunter in the time of old Ben Hall, the father of the present Ben Hall, who had always been bad. They were connected with a gang of cattle stealers."⁵⁶

NSW Police Gazette 1863.
On the 15th February 1863, two bushrangers long thought to be John O’Meally and John Gilbert reputedly arrived at a hotel the 'Miners Home Inn' owned by a Mr. Cirkel, a German immigrant, at Stoney Creek, Lambing Flat, intent on robbery. A newspaper report written in the 'Empire' on 26th February 1863, gave details of the robbery and the subsequent killing of Cirkel. However, it describes the two assailants as one short and stout, the other tall. It was evidenced that the pair on arrival entered via the rear entrance and bailed up all those present, soon after the proprietor of the ‘Miners Home Inn’, Mr Cirkel entered through the front door, when he was suddenly grabbed by one of the robbers, stated as the tall one, where in an ensuing struggle a defiant Mr Cirkel, who held his own until a panicked cry of the taller man's short and stout accomplice, yelled words to the effect "shoot the bugger." Consequently, Cirkel was shot in the head at point blank range. A witness to the shooting and the man who first greeted the two robbers, Mr James Fisher, recounted the events at the inquest into Cirkel’s death, and deposed; “I am a labourer, and live at Stoney Creek; I knew the deceased well; I was employed by him as ostler and gardener; yesterday evening, about six or seven o'clock, a person, a stranger to me, came to the back of the house and said he would hang his horse to the paling for a few minutes; I asked if I might put it in the stable, but be replied no; another person soon after came and hung his horse up at the fence also, and said to me "Came and have a nobbler, old fellow;" on going inside I did not get a nobbler, for he ordered me to go and sit down in the corner with the storekeeper and cook; there was a short man and a tall one; the former had no beard or hair on his face; he seemed about thirty years of age; the short man went behind the bar and put all the money in his pocket from off the shelf; then Mr. Cirkel came in at the front door, he had been at the bakery; the tall man laid hold of him by the collar, and a scuffle ensued; Mr. Cirkel endeavoured to get round the corner of the bar, but was pulled back by the tall man; the short man then shouted to his companion, "Shoot the bar---d," and immediately a shot was fired, and Mr. Cirkel fell, and never moved again, nor spoke; he was shot by the tall man; both men were strangers to me; they immediately fled, got on their horses, and were off by the back of the house into the bush, as if going to Mr. James's slaughter yard.” Shortly after the murder of Cirkel, another known criminal and mate of O'Meally's named Clarke, would be arrested by Captain Battye and face court on the charge of Cirkel's murder, but was found not guilty as witnesess could not clearly identify Clarke as one of the culprits, however, Clarke would be sent down for two years over an earlier robbery at Demondrille station, when he was caught with stolen property.

"Shoot the bu--er,"
Furthermore, Clarke also named John O'Meally as the person who fired the fatal shot. However, the shooters companion on that fateful night may well have been Ben Hall, as the description of the shorter man in many of the reports point to the other ruffian as being of stout build and thirty years old, around 13 stone which based on police reports describes Ben Hall (26yrs old), and where Hall was 2 or 3 inches shorter than O'Meally. Gilbert however, was always described as of slight build and around 10 stone, and slightly taller than Ben Hall between 5ft 7in- 10in. It must also be remembered that in the early stages of their crimes, O'Meally, Ben Hall and Daley had not the notoriety of Gardiner or Gilbert, and although the trio were well known to many of the districts, the link to bushranging was just beginning to emerge, and Cirkel's murder would draw them well and truly into the public light.

Patrick Daley, a newcomer, who during this period was also constantly in the company of Hall and O'Meally may have been one of those reported as waiting outside, but is possibly excluded from suspicion, as he was much younger than his first cousin O'Meally, and slightly taller, at 6ft and described as thin. Furthermore, John Gilbert had only just recently returned from New Zealand, and was reported with Hall, O'Meally and Daley at the Solomon Store robbery a week after Mr Cirkel was killed. Surprisingly, Gilbert was not a participant in the future capture of Inspector Norton. Therefore, Gilbert's presence at Cirkel's may be questionable, if not misleading, as Ben Hall was in the constant company of O'Meally and Daley.

Patrick O'Meally bore a
 striking resemblance to
brother John O'Meally.
c. 1880's
The result of the death of Mr. Cirkel, a German immigrant, saw a group of fellow German Diggers go on the hunt for the killers, the diggers had stong suspicions that an O'Meally was one of the culprits and therefore headed straight for the O'Meally's where they would arrest Patrick O'Meally at his family’s Public House at the Weddin Mountains, thinking they had seized the right man, unfortunately back at Lambing Flat the witnesses to the murder of Mr Cirkel could not identify Patrick O'Meally as one of the killers, so he was released, the 'Burrangong Star' reported that Patrick; "...left the court laughing.” ⁵⁷ It may also be that the witnesses may have felt highly intimidated and fearful of reprisals over identifying those responsible.

The recent spate of robberies and the audacity of their success involving Ben Hall and his confederates, brought this comment from the newspaper 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' 21st February 1863, the paper was most interested in what had been stolen by Ben Hall from the earlier robbery of the Pinnacle Police Station and its possible use, which the bushrangers would reveal in due course; "...the robbery itself must astonish every one;- to attack a police station is certainly one of the most daring acts probably ever heard of. The motive, however, is the next consideration. The stealing of the police clothing is rather a mysterious affair; bushrangers would scarcely carry about property of this description, for sale, neither would they were it except to accomplish some daring outrage in the disguise of mounted troopers; what that will be time will tell, but it would not surprise us if the escort or some of the banks were stuck-up. This at first sight may appear an imaginary conclusion, but when it is borne in mind that a 'number of bushrangers (we believe a large one) are infesting the roads of this district, we do not consider it at all imaginary. Look at the late robberies at Macnash's station, Mr Tout's, Herbert’s, at the West Lead, and last, not least, Mr Dickinson's; consider the property taken in almost all instances; -firearms of all descriptions-ammunition, even to the wadding, clothing, saddles, and bridles! What does all this mean but that the force is to be well armed and mounted. We are fully aware the horses are a secondary consideration, as these ruffians can very easily help them self to horses at the various stations, which are no doubt as well known to them as the wild bush itself. We cannot look upon Gardiner us a myth, though we might almost consider him ubiquitous. Not a highway robbery takes place, not, a store or station is stuck-up, but the cry immediately is "Gardiner,"-" Gardiner!" Why, he; would want a railroad, with a carriage, to carry him sixty miles an hour, to be often in the different places people accuse him of being in." [We shall next probably hear of their Honours, the three Judges being "stuck-up, and despoiled of their wigs and gowns!]

With a murderer now amongst the gang they next entered the small town of Wombat near Lambing Flat and stuck-up of the store of Mr. Solomon, here some of the gang were dressed (as feared by the article above) as police troopers. The robbery is graphically reported in 'The Goulburn Herald', 25th February, 1863, which from the evidence in the article it appears that O'Meally was the one who earlier fired the fatal shot, killing Mr. Cirkel; - STICKING-UP AND ROBBERY OF MR. MYER SOLOMONS STORE, NEAR WOMBAT.-'The Burrangong Star', of Saturday last, gives the following further particulars of this outrage:-"On Saturday afternoon, about 4 o'clock, four men accoutred as troopers, rode up to this store with three pack-horses. Upon entering they bailed up the inmates. Mr. Solomon fired at one of them and grazed his neck-he suspects, and states, that they were Gardiner, Gilbert, John O’Meally, and his cousin. A young lad in Mr. Solomon’s' employ, presented a revolver at one of the bushrangers and was about to fire, when the bushranger, supposed to be Gardiner, placed a revolver at the head of Mrs. Solomon, and threatened to blow her brains out if he did. Whilst this was going on the bushrangers coolly commenced to sort and pack up such goods in the store as they fancied-selecting some prints and female clothing, which they remarked would suit the women. Taking up some tins of lollies, they began to eat them, remarking that they would do for the children. Some gin was in a bottle, which they took, but before drinking they compelled Mrs. Solomon to swallow a portion of it, fearing, perhaps, it was poisoned. The time they were in the store was about two hours and a half, and whilst they were there, they made use of the most flash, disgusting language-cracked their ribald jests, and whilst plundering their unfortunate victim, coolly drank his gin and consumed his lollies. The ruffian, supposed to be Gardiner, ordered and directed everything that was to be done, pushing and swearing, at the others if they did not obey his orders quick enough. Some remarks having been made by Mr. Solomon about the police at Wombat Camp, one of them said-" What do we care about the bl----y police? We will muster a force, go into Lambing Flat, and stick-up the bl----y camp there." They also told Solomon not to be too flash or they would serve him like they did the man at Stoney Creek (meaning poor Cirkel), who was too flash, and blow his bl---y brains out, as they did his." The goods stolen and carried away were clothing of all descriptions, both for men and women; amongst the rest fifty pairs of Bedford cord trousers, rations and firearms of all kinds, with ammunition, they did not leave even one for Mr. S, to protect himself with. Saddles, bridles, and jewellery, fortunately, they took only the plated, not of much value; the valuable jewellery was in a case which they could not easily open, and therefore left it behind. Two horses, one of which they fancied for a saddle horse, being a very fine animal; the other they used as a pack-horse. Solomon estimates his loss at about £250. There is a police station not far from the store, at Wombat, but only one trooper, who had charge of it, was at home; the others were away escorting some party’s to Lambing Flat with their gold. It is very evident the bushrangers must have been aware of this, or they never would have remained such a length of time in the store. It is certainly one of the coolest and most daring robberies we have ever heard of, and clearly proves the gang of desperadoes who are now roaming the bush have spies who give them quick and correct information of everything that is going on. After the robbery this appeared in the 'Sydney News'; Affray at Wombat -Intelligence has reached the town of the robbery of Mr Solomon's store at Wombat near Lambing Flat on Saturday last. It appears that the robbery was perpetrated by four men dressed in police uniform, and hence supposed to be the same parties who lately robbed the police station at the Pinnacle. They took away two pack-horses loaded with the property- Mr. Solomon reports having fired at and wounded one of the robbers in the neck, and that he can identify him."

Country Store c. 1860's
Courtesy NLA.
On the 6th March, 1863, two weeks after the Solomon robbery a reporter from the 'Goulburn Chronicle', arrived and published a first-hand account from the victim, Mr Solomon, who recounted his ordeal at the hands of the villains, this newspaper article brings to light more detail on the events associated with this brazen and vicious armed robbery; "...a most daring wholesale robbery on Burrangong, at which shots were exchanged between the robbers and the robbed, but for fortunately the latter escaped unkilled. Although happily unattended with the same fearful atrocity perpetrated only a few days previously at Stoney Creek when poor Mr Cirkel lost his life in an attempt to protect his property, yet this affair is a more extensive robbery than the murderers accomplished at Stoney Creek. The victim this instance was Mr Solomon storekeeper at Big Wombat and also at Little Wombat and the robbery was committed at the latter place about fifteen miles from Young, and about five miles from Big Wombat. The particulars as I have learned from Mr Solomon are these:- About four o'clock in the afternoon of Saturday, four men mounted, and equipped with firearms something approaching the style of police in private clothes, were observed by Mrs Solomon riding towards the store, when she immediately gave the alarm to Mr Solomon who, having plenty of firearms at hand ready for action, instantly seized a musket, and ordered the door to be closed, but instead of obeying the order, the lad went outside to have a look at the men, and discarding the repeated order to come in and shut the door, he cried out 'Troopers!" Troopers!" under the impression that the robbers were mounted constables. Immediately on coming up to the door two of the fellows presented carbines (similar to those used by the police) at Mr Solomon who at the same instant levelled his musket at them and fired the ball grazing the neck of one of the fellows and tearing the collar of his coat: Two shots were fired in return, and the bullets lodged in some shirts on a shelf nearly behind Mr Solomon. By this time two of the ruffians had entered the store and seized the lad, so that they could not be fired at without placing the boy’s life in danger. Mr Solomon then rushed out at the back, and made for a Chinaman's tent for help and in so doing fell headlong into the muddy bed of a creek which he had to cross. He was closely pursued by two of the robbers, who captured him in the mud, and assuring him they had no intention of injuring his person, ultimately conducted him back to the store, and placed him under guard alongside of Mrs Solomon and the lad. During the chase after Mr Solomon all the four bushrangers left the store for a second, and with admirable courage and presence of mind the lad jumped over the counter, got hold of a revolver, presented it at one of the fellows who had returned to the store, and was about to pull the trigger, when the robber held a similar instrument of death close to Mrs Solomon's head, and said, ' If you fire I'll blow her brains out. "The counteracting threat stayed the hand, and immediately the return of another of the robbers compelled him to surrender, but with undaunted courage he said, "Had it not been for Mrs Solomon, I would have stopped your run;" and for this noble exhibition of spirit one of the villains knocked him down and said, "If you want a pistol, get up and I'll give you one, and let me see if you are game to use it."

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

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

Although witnesses at the time claimed to recognize Gardiner as one of the robbers, evidence points that Gardiner and his lover Catherine Browne had already departed the Lachlan at the beginning of September 1862 or thereabouts, and had commenced the long and arduous trek north to the Peak Downs goldfield via Rockhampton then on to Apis Creek in Queensland, a distance as the crow flies of 740 miles in a spring cart, through rough and at times inhospitable country. Nevertheless, after Gardiner's previous lucky escape in August 1862 from Sir Frederick Pottinger at Kitty Browne's hut at Wheogo station, a frustrated press had many reports flooding in as to his perceived whereabouts, and even wrongly believe Gilbert's family resided in S.A., as in this example from the 'Launceston Examiner', Tuesday 30th September 1862;"...the following as the latest respecting Gardiner: "Gardiner, the supposed leader of N.S.W. escort robbery, is reported as either at Adelaide or Portland Bay accompanied by a woman named Brown, in boy's clothes. The family of John Gilbert, who is charged with being one of the same gang, resides in Adelaide. Gilbert is supposed to be either there or in Melbourne." Just where were they! For Gardiner, the trip North was made even longer, as Gardiner would have avoided any major settlements or remote stations, arriving at Apis Creek at the end of June 1863. However, in 1864 Gardiner would be captured in a sting by police from NSW in company with a contingent of QLD Native police at his general store at Apis Creek. In later evidence, Catherine Browne detailed their trip and where she stated that she was the lawful wife of Frank Gardiner/Christie and had travelled direct to Queensland from NSW; "...I am the wife of Francis Christie; I was lawfully married to him. It was sometime in June last that I came to Queensland; I came overland in company with my husband: we came from New South Wales direct to Apis Creek, we met the Craig's a few miles on the other side of Yaamba, the only reason why we travelled together was, we were all of us going the same road; There was no house then built at Apis Creek, but one was being put up by Craig; I am aware that my husband had a half share in that house; I think it was paid for between them; I do know that the store alongside of the public house belonged to my husband. My husband and myself resided there when the house was finished, and lived as friends with the Craig’s." (for Frank Gardiner see;

..commenced his "jant" 
Nevertheless, the leap for Ben Hall from respected squatter to bushranger had commenced with his own prophesied "jant" and thus had truly fallen off the pedestal of respectability forever, all that Ben Hall had achieved and gained was now lost forever. In the following extract, it was said of Ben Hall as he lit the flame of malevolence across the western districts of NSW, by his sympathetic former defence counsel at Forbes and NSW Parliamentarian, Mr Redman; "...some of the bushrangers were the creatures of circumstances. He remembered the imprisonment of Ben Hall and young O'Meally, who was incarcerated with his father. Month after month they were kept confined without any charge against them, and against his (Mr R.'s) repeated remonstrance. The family and antecedents of Ben Hall were credible, but after he came out of prison there was no incentive to virtue; he knew he was watched by the police, and he felt disgraced by being imprisoned, and not being a man of great mind, he took to the bush."⁵⁸ Mr. Redman's statement does not justify or excuse the course of action that Ben Hall was embarking on, although Ben Hall was 'not being a man of great mind', being unable to read or write and who required others, such as Gilbert, a well-educated man, to keep him appraised of the newspaper articles concerning their exploits. However, for Ben Hall this handicap was compensated by Hall's expert knowledge in bushcraft, with this skill, Ben Hall would become a party to murders, attempted murder, kidnapping, theft, arson, intimidation, assault and the pillaging of country Homesteads and Inns, in numbers not seen before in the colonies of Australia and all conducted on the end of a gun without any compunction.

Ben Hall’s current lawless actions bear witness to the facts that any preconceived notions of a man somehow driven to take up arms are a load of absolute rubbish, this idea of Hall as a victim is ludicrous, which also includes the oft utilized saying Ben Hall was a ‘gentleman bushranger’, this is destroyed on the strong evidence presented so far of Hall robbing a hard-working dray operator, firing to kill the crew of a gold escort, beating up a woman and robbing a police station and other linked and well-known occurrences.  Even so, 150yrs on the same old drivel is wheeled out about an unfortunate soul hounded by police and forsaken and tortured by the actions of an unfaithful spouse. Remember! Ben Hall pulled those triggers. However, the one thing Hall understood was that he needed protection, therefore, at times Hall portrayed the quintessential ideal of a bushranger, polite to women and magnanimous to travellers, who of course loved to have a revolver shoved in their face, therefore, the aforesaid Pinnacle robbery, the brutal attack on Mrs Finnigan, the killing of Mr Cirkel and the attack at Mr Solomon’s store all deeds which drew Ben Hall in by a willing participation and strong association. Therefore, Ben Hall’s depredations would continue with vigour however, when next in company with John O’Meally and Patsy Daley, Ben Hall would participate in another daring violent exploit and with guns blazing and bullets flying Hall and his two companions would capture and attempt to kill a police inspector and hunt a tracker.

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

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

The capture of Inspector Norton created widespread embarrassment for the NSW Police, and demonstrated the ability of the bushrangers, when equipped with superior horses and weapons, and in conjunction with their local knowledge of the landscape, provided an insight of what was to prevail for the inhabitants in the near future, when even more brazen acts and threats to life and liberty would be an everyday occurrence for travellers and settlers of the Lachlan, as pointed out in this postscript from 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' newspaper after the release of Inspector Norton; "...Sir Fred. Pottinger has just arrived. I forgot that Mr Norton was told that had he been Pottinger, they would have "shot him dead as a crow." There's a consolation for Sir Fred. Pottinger."⁶¹

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

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

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

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

Lowry, NSW Police Gazette,
7th January, 1863.
At this juncture a man who was to become the newest member of the gang appeared in the Lachlan area, and on the 8th March, 1863, it was reported in the 'Burrangong Star' that Frederick Lowry had arrived. Lowry had known the gangs former leader Frank Gardiner at Cockatoo Island, and had arrived after breaking out of Bathurst gaol earlier in February 1863, where he was being held for the recent wounding of a Mr Foran, and was seeking out his former convict mate, but on learning of Gardiner's departure, seconded himself to the gang. SICKING-UP ON THE MARENGO ROAD;- "...on Tuesday a man was stuck-up and robbed of 12s 6d on the Marengo Road, by a bushranger dressed in a poncho, supposed by his height, (about 6 ft. 2 in), to be Frederick Lowry, who escaped out of the Bathurst gaol on the 15th of last month, for whose apprehension the Government have offered a reward of £100. On reference to the Government Gazette we perceive by his description that he is 6 feet 1 or 2 inches high."

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

Capt. Henry Zouch
 c. 1883.
Coloured by me.
Shortly after the capture of Inspector Norton, the NSW government moved to acquire John O'Meally's father Patrick O'Meally's, Arramagong Station homestead, which was also doubling as a public house as well as a meeting place of the Weddin criminals. The goal was to create a police station in the heart of the Weddin Mountains. 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser' on the 11th March, 1863, applauded the government's move; BUSHRANGING; -"The government appear to be vigorously carrying out their plans for the suppression of bushranging in the south-western district. We hear that O'Mealy's farm has been taken possession of for a police-station. If a few more of these resorts of bushrangers were served in a similar manner the roads about Lambing Flat and Forbes would again assume a state of order, and once the criminal population were dispersed they would find it difficult to gather themselves together in any other part of the colony." The O'Meally home as reported, was acquired by Captain Zouch, who proceeded to instil his troopers there, although the house was reportedly in some disrepair, therefore the Captain requested £20 to have some work carried out repairing the building’s roof; The 'Burrangong Star', 11th March, 1863 wrote the following; BUSHRANGING; POLICE CAPTAIN ZOUCH,J.P."...this gentleman (superintendent of police for the south-eastern district), left the township on Tuesday morning in company with the sub-inspector of police, some volunteers, and ten of the mounted patrol. From the early hour, they departed we presume their destination was the police station at the Pinnacle, to scour the bush, after Mr. Inspector Norton, and recapture him from the bushrangers if still detained a prisoner by them. Fortunately, that gentleman was liberated before they could possibly have arrived there. We understand that Captain Zouch intended on his journey to form a police station at O'Mealy's station (at the Weddin Mountain), ejecting by orders of the government, him and his family, thus breaking up that rendezvous for bushrangers and their accomplices. The Captain returned yesterday afternoon to the camp."

O'Meally's holding's
Weddin Mountains
 c. 1863
The altercation with Inspector Norton and the increased efforts of the police patrols brought this comment from the 'Lachlan Miner'BUSHRANGERS AND POLICE;“ is very satisfactory to know that we are really receiving some benefits, in exchange for the money expended by the government in sending up extra police to look after us. The Lambing Flat road is well patrolled; the neighbourhood of Wheogo, and Weddin Mountain is rendered safe to travellers and dangerous to bushrangers.”⁶⁵ This was in the short term as Ben Hall now laid low for a short period and was rumoured to have retreated to the area of Hall's former haunt's and an area he knew intimately near Lake Cowal, including his old stockman camps of Humbug Creek. This section of country was where Hall still had many friends, including property owned by the family of his closest friend Dan Charters, properties now vacant while Charters had been held in Sydney as part of the 'Special Commission', this area was also the residence of Ben Hall's former wife, Bridget, and where most of all his son Henry was living. Many of these Bland Plains runs were utilized when Hall's supplies ran low, for it was no trouble for Ben Hall to resupply from friendly homesteads and long-time friends. If Hall had seen his son it is not recorded, suffice to say as a father, and the opportunity arose no doubt Hall would have apprised the chance.

Elements of the press during this early period attempted to portray Sir Frederick Pottinger and the police in general as a law unto themselves, wreaking havoc against anyone suspected of sympathy toward the bushranging fraternity, the press ran stories in the newspapers of many families being thrown out into the bush and their dwelling burned on a regular basis, this of course was far from the truth, although Pottinger could be heavy handed at times. Pottinger's attitude was to show a position of strength using the law and was therefore not a fan of leniency. This was demonstrated when a subordinate, one Constable Hassen was charged with killing a man in custody, Sir Frederick was called as a character witness for the constable; 'Goulburn Herald', January 1863; "...Boyd never the less put himself in an attitude as if about to strike; on which Hassen fired, and Boyd fell mortally wounded. He died about noon. The jury by a majority of 7 to 9, returned a verdict of justifiable homicide. Sir Frederick Pottinger gave Hassen a good character, and said that there had been only one charge against him since he had been in the police force, and that was for excessive leniency."⁶⁶

Sir Frederick Pottinger
The 'Empire' newspaper was one who had an editorial flair which however, gave the impression of support for the sympathizers and harbourers of bushrangers, these elements invariably were those the bushrangers could count on, such as; “…his parents, his brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts and cousins for all sorts of assistance. It was from amongst his innumerable relations and their close friends that the 'bush telegraphs, who kept him aware of the movements of the police,”⁶⁷ whereby other correspondents such as those from 'The Courier', Brisbane, Queensland, and the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ appeared more enlightened as to the difficulties faced by Sir Frederick Pottinger patrolling out in the vastness of the Western Districts, currently being infested by bushrangers and a systematic 'Cone of Silence' being employed by the local less well to do inhabitants, and therefore judged him far more fairly, 'The Courier'“...there is nothing in the fact that he wears a title which places his official acts beyond the pale of honest and impartial criticism, but we have yet to learn that it constitutes him a butt for every bilious, ill-natured scribbler, who loves to shine in print. Fiat justitia ruet coelum ("Let justice be done though the heavens fall."). Let Sir Frederick Pottinger, like every other public man, be dealt with upon his merits. Above all, let the truth be spoken of him, and when the occasion is one of sufficient gravity, by all means employ the language of censure and condemnation, as unreservedly in his as in any other case. Persecution we detest, and have small respect for that class of scribblers who hound a man down for fashion's sake.”⁶⁸ Sir Frederick Pottinger was hungry for success, any success would do, and for a brief moment Pottinger’s luck was in, his instinct's about the Weddin Mountains area as a haven for the bushrangers and more importantly Ben Hall's old run at Wheogo and the nearby Pinnacle Station with its old outlying huts and heavily wooded scrubland paid off, as on Wednesday 11th March 1863, Sir Frederick in company with a number of troopers and the tracker Billy Dargin were out in the neighbourhood of the suspected bushrangers between Wheogo Range and the Weddin Mountains, when the tracker detected fresh hoof prints of a horse crossing their path, Billy Dargin directed Sir Frederick's attention to them; 'Sydney Morning Herald' dated the 17th March 1863, writes of the pursuit and the end of Patsy Daley's short but colourful bushranging career.  (For more on Daley see The Gang page.) 

Patsy Daley's prison
photo 1873.
Coloured by me.
“…Sir Frederick turned his course in the direction of the tracks. Billy soon pointed out the identical tree which had afforded such friendly protection to Mr, J. O. Norton, the sub-inspector of police. Sir Frederick Pottinger was directing his course again, when he espied in the distance, through the foliage of the trees in the bush, a mounted horseman, and at once gave orders for pursuit. The party were now in the vicinity of the Pinnacle reef, and, first of all ordering two of his troopers to make round the hill, on which the reef is situated, in order to intercept the flight of the horseman, Sir Frederick, with the black tracker and the two remaining troopers, continued the chase. All this was done in less time than it takes to write, and very shortly afterward, Sir Frederick pulled up before some deserted-looking huts and found a horse, with a saddle on it, tied up to one of the huts. He at once recognised the horse to be one he had seen the night before in Ben Hall's paddock, "all in a sweat." to use the baronet's own language. The black-fellow also recognised a pair of girths on the horse as being a portion of the property stolen from the Police Barracks, at the Pinnacle station, on the occasion of that place being stuck up and robbed during the temporary absence of the police, shortly before. Entering the huts, Sir Frederick saw two or three men inside, and finding them unwilling to answer his questions, he threatened them, where upon he was informed that the rider of the horse was down a shaft on the reef above named. Proceeding to the place indicated, Sir Frederick found that the shaft was about sixty feet deep, and that a permanent kind of ladder was fixed to the side, for ascent and descent. Sir Frederick called to the man (presuming him to be there) to surrender, but received no answer. Again, after an interval, the same request was repeated, but met with no response. After several minutes, the supposed bushranger was again summoned to appear, without eliciting any reply. At length, finding mild exhortations insufficient, Sir Frederick threatened that he would at once proceed to burn and smoke him out like an opossum. The man not liking the latter alternative, surrendered at discretion, and was immediately taken into custody. It is obvious that if the notorious Gardiner selects such innocent looking striplings to execute the deeds generally left to men of sterner stuff, it must be for some new arrangement in bush tactics, such as the human telegram hinted at by a contemporary. Patrick Daley, who forms the subject of this sketch, is a mild, youthful whiskerless looking person, with light-blue eyes and fair complexion. There is nothing in his physiognomical expression outwardly, to denote the degraded villain. He certainly, during the examination, kept his head down, glancing furtively round. His eyes move quickly and, with a sinister expression, as if were in the habit of looking under his eyebrow and "taking stock" of those around him. Sir Frederick Pottinger undoubtedly deserves great credit for his prompt action and discernment in this matter; and doubtless, he is willing to accord is portion of the merit to the acute sight of his black tracker." [prisoner was brought be the Forbes bench on the 12th instant, and remanded for a week."]

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

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

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

Therefore, the final straw in the breaking of Ben Hall appears to be played out when Sir Frederick Pottinger, instructed by John Wilson, who was protected under the Lands Act, destroyed by burning to the ground Ben Hall's ex-home, thereby leaving the woman and the mother of Hall's new baby daughter, Mary, homeless. Hall's newest child Mary was born at Sandy Creek in January 1863. Nevertheless, this event saw mother and baby cast out into the rain, an action that caused much angst among some of Hall's closest friends and large landholders, such as William Jameison of Back Creek. Furthermore, Sir Frederick Pottinger had for some time, realised that Ben Hall's ex-home was still a light on the hill as a place of safety and respite for Hall and others for whom Pottinger had so long hoped to nab and where aid and comfort were being provided to the elusive bushranger. Pottinger had a particular view of those reportedly trespassing on an acquaintances' land and of those people he was damned sure were involved in criminal activity and where from his lofty view as a Baronet, were people who Pottinger had considered of 'low character'. The destruction of Ben Hall's ex-hut could be seen as the message Pottinger intended to send to those he had termed as that 'Class of People' therefore the message to be relayed was, that the police were to be obeyed and not impeded with. After the destruction of Hall's hut Pottinger sent a memorandum regarding the justification of his actions to the Inspector-General of police Captain M’Lerie in June 1863, and of his thoughts in regards to that 'Class of People', an extract follows; "...I accordingly deemed it my duty to at once summarily interfere and conclusively show Hall and those of his class in the district that at any rate, as yet, they could not have everything exactly as they thought fit."⁷²

Accordingly, illegal occupancy was one of the most pressing matters facing the authorities regarding crimes perpetrated by the bushrangers and others, who in turn were the life line for the likes of Ben Hall, they appeared in the form of settlers who were willing to provide food and comfort to the gang for a stipend. Therefore, this sympathy and sentiment was another area causing great angst to the NSW Police who were pressuring the NSW Parliament for more stringent powers to act against those found to be harbouring and in most cases suspected of harbouring. The destruction of Ben Hall's home was the first step by the government to address the subject. However, the government's actions for dealing with illegals created horror in the press regarding its pending behaviour, which sought to quell harbouring; 'Sydney Morning Herald', April 28th, 1863; Dispossession of Illegal Squatters. -"The success and impunity with which Gardiner and his gang and other bushrangers have, during many months, carried on their depredations, have been to a considerable extent owing to the assistance and shelter that have been afforded them by a class of unauthorised occupants of Crown lands, known in the provincial slang as "Cockatoo squatters." It is satisfactory to learn that, in connexion with other efforts that are being made by the police to drive out of their haunts the desperadoes whose doings have caused so much alarm in the Western districts, steps are being taken at the instigation of the Secretary for Lands for the dispossession of the harbourers of these rascals from the lands of which they have for a longtime held illegal possession. The officers in charge of the police at Bathurst, Young, and Forbes have been furnished from the Lands Department with lists of licensed holders of runs in the country between those three divisions, and all persons found in occupation not included in those lists, will be proceeded with under the 32nd Clause of the Crown Lands Occupation Act, which provides for the removal of trespassers on public lands. The country comprehended in the above districts extends from the Fish River down as far as the levels near the Murrumbidgee, and reaches westward as far as the Billybong, and northward to the Lachlan. The police having received the lists, are preparing to put the law into operation, and we may expect shortly to hear if the enforced dispossession of some of these unlawful occupants (many of whom have accumulated considerable wealth), unless in the meantime they should anticipate their expulsion by clearing out." (see link below).

Constable John Bohan,
who assisted Hollister
at the burning of
Hall's former home, and
later Hall's death

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

Hollister Diary Extract
March 1863.
Courtesy RAHS
Interestingly, the date of the burning of Ben Hall's hut is confirmed by one of the police Constables in attendance, and who likely placed the firestick. Constable William Hollister noted in his diary the events of that day whilst under the command of Sir Frederick Pottinger. Hollister was also the Constable who earlier in February 1863, some five weeks before hand had pursed Hall and Patsy Daley after the pair had robbed the Pinnacle police station. Constable Hollister, was also the trooper Hall wanted to kill when conversing with Norton during his capture. Hollister kept an account of his bush work as a mounted trooper, his diary entry of the burning is as follows; Saturday 14th March 1863- "At Wheogo burnt Ben Halls house down and myself and constables Bohan and Hamilton went to Pinnacle station Hamilton to proceed to Gooloogong to take charge of the Gooloogong station."⁷⁴ Note: Newspapers and Government records show two types of spelling of Susan's surname Pryor/Prior, I have at times used both versions. Photo below of William Hollister, has never been published before.

Susan Prior c. 1880's
Furthermore, in a letter adressed to the editor of the 'Sydney Morning Herald', referred to Ben Hall's girlfriend Susan Prior as “...the lady pro-proprietress of Ben Hall's household is a single female, who nevertheless luxuriates in the blessings of maternity, having, it is said, usurped that place in the outlaw's affections which properly belonged to the married Mrs. Hall."⁷⁵ In the leadup to the destruction Ben Hall was furious on hearing of the eviction order against his folk and “...had threatened to scatter a considerable quantity of brains, to whomsoever belonging, if his mansion were in any way interfered with.”⁷⁶ Even under these threats Sir Frederick Pottinger forced the eviction, ordering his police officers to remove all belongings of the occupants. (The full letter from Veracity can be read on the Gallery page.)

The same letter from 'Veracity' to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ stated; “...this hot-bed of rascality was not destroyed until after frequent notice was given to the occupants to clear out, but instead of doing so they pertinaciously held on, and when at length it became necessary to eject them and destroy their den, the furniture and other valuables were first removed, and left at the disposal of their owners."⁷⁷ Susan Prior, who was now a first time mother to a baby in arms, watched as the police proceeded to set fire and burn down the dwelling." (With a little digging the remnants of the fire can still be seen today.)

William Jameison
c. 1862
Following the burning and ousting of the women, there was outrage amongst the local community and a very sympathetic letter regarding Susan Prior and her mother Mary's fate was written by a Mr. Jameison to a member of Parliament, Mr. Jameison was also the father of John Jameison who had been nabbed a couple of times by the police in company with John 'Warrigal' Walsh. NSW Parliamentarian Mr. Harpur (who over the next few months under parliamentary privilege, Harpur would brandish Pottinger a coward. It should also be noted that Harpur is the son of Sarah Walsh, stepmother of Bridget Hall.) received the letter, no doubt sent due to Jameison’s friendship with his mother Sarah Walsh, which gives a first-hand account of the events of that day, his account was not very favourable towards the conduct of Sir Frederick Pottinger, (contrary to the earlier letter above) following the destruction of Ben Hall's ex-house. The letter reads as follows; Sir-"I must tell you about burning of houses and turning women and a baby out in the cold to get shelter under the trees in wet. One of the women is now under the doctor's care, from being out with only a small bit of calico to keep the night air and cold from her and a baby of two months old. That was after Sir Frederick burnt the house and all that was in it.  The two woman and baby had to stop out in the wet.  Sir Frederick and two men were, at Hall's house. He burnt the house down and turned the women out. The man (Hall) was only a hundred yards from them on a knocked-up horse. He only galloped a quarter of a mile, and then his horse gave in, and he jumped off and let the horse go. They got the horse but not the man. Still Sir Frederick was riding as good a horse as was in the district; but he acted in his usual way, disputing with the women, instead of going after the bushrangers. That is the way he has always acted, for he has not yet taken a man that tried to get away; and then his excuse is to the Government that the squatters harbour them."⁷⁸

Susan Prior c. 1880
Shortly after Mr. Jamieson's letter on the matter, he died in a fall from his horse near Goulburn. Jamieson's final words on the event are extracted from a letter to the editor of 'The Sydney Morning Herald' written by John A. Hux; "...some short time before the unfortunate man Jamieson died, he visited this township. I had a conversation with him, during which the conduct of the police was very warmly discussed—Jamieson being particularly severe on Sir F. Pottinger for turning out the woman and burning down Hall's house, concluding with the following words, as near as I can possibly recollect:—"I admit he (Sir F. P.) is the most courageous and plucky policeman that ever I knew, and had he been here some few years since he would have played h—l with the cattle racket, but he is a d— wretch to turn women out of house and shelter."⁷⁹

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

Mr. Cowper
The burning of Ben Hall's home caused great consternation in the NSW Parliament, along with constant attacks from its members towards the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Cowper over the performance of the new police force, this necessitated a memorandum to be forwarded to the NSW Legislative Assembly by Sir Frederick Pottinger outlining not only his conduct but actions. In an offhanded manner Pottinger refers to the ousting of those previously living at Ben Halls ex-home; "...but one ejectment has been enforced by Lachlan police. Ben Hall's house was alone burnt down, and that at the request of the then (by mortgage) actual proprietor. The house was at the time occupied by Henry Gibson (notorious villain since committed), also illegally at large from Victoria, Mrs. McGuire, and Susan Pryor, and Hall's mother, and was daily frequented by bushrangers, a week's notice was given and nothing destroyed—no woman or child frightened or molested."⁸⁰ Surprisingly Pottinger mistook Mrs Mary Prior for Ben Hall's mother.

There are as they say, two sides to every story, the article below somewhat puts paid to the idea that Pottinger's actions were some sort of chivalrous co-operation with Susan Prior and Mary Prior, about the burning of Hall's home and the instant destitution that the women and children now faced. It also refers to the presence of Ben Hall on the day of the police actions in the burning of the hut, and even Ben Hall's valiant attempt to lure the police away for a show down, this however was not enough to deter the gallant Sir Frederick; "...when the police came to the house of Ben Hall, he (Hall) ran away, mounted his horse. Sir Frederick Pottinger sent two policemen after him. They chased him, and Ben Hall with two revolvers jumped from his horse and faced them. The policemen brought back the jaded horse to the house. At that time, Sir Frederick Pottinger was riding one of the best horses in the district, but when these men came back, instead of going after the robber, he ordered them to set fire to the house. They burnt it down, the women not being allowed to bring out their clothes. It was raining at the time, and the women and children took shelter under a gum tree. However bad Ben Hall was, it was not right to punish these poor women and children."⁸¹

However, with the razing of the Sandy Creek Hut to the ground, Ben Hall failed to “scatter a considerable quantity of brains”, but not through lack of effort, the finale of the destruction of the house by fire would be the final nail in the coffin for Ben Hall, and his hatred of Pottinger would become all consuming, as now there would be no possibility of seeking redemption, instead Ben Hall launched himself fully into the arms of Hades. The remains of Ben Hall's home stood for a number of years as described by R. Fitzgerald, Wamboyne, who saw them in 1876 and recorded them when writing for the 'Wyalong Advocate' in 1919; "...that was the month of May, and we used to get a load of shearing supplies to take out to Caragabal station. We went through by Wheogo, and there I saw the remains of Ben Hall's Hut, it had been burnt down, and there were only the burnt stumps remaining."⁸²

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

However, following the day of the burning of Hall's home and his valiant attempt to confront the troopers responsible by leaping from his horse to fight it out with them, only to have the troopers withdraw, saw Pottinger with his recent successful capture of Patsy Daley, now safely incarcerated, and Pottinger flushed with renewed vehemence, would have the inspector remain on patrol in the Wheogo area ready to clobber and apprehend Ben Hall. Consequently, Pottinger’s wish came true as once more he came into close contact with Ben Hall near his former home where Ben Hall was camped nearby to the smoking ruins of his hut and still in close contact with the ejected women who were still supplying Hall with information, victuals and other comforts as they remained at the site in a calico tent. Accordingly, the result of the encounter, Sir Frederick Pottinger sent the following telegram of his pursuit of both Hall and John O'Meally to the Inspector General of Police in Sydney, dated the 18th March 1863. The sighting of O’Meally in Hall’s company demonstrates that the two were constantly together, and that this evidence gives some merit to Hall's earlier participation at Cirkel’s; "...camped about Wheogo till Sunday, when, just after sundown, came with two of my troopers on Ben Hall and John O’Meally, standing about six hundred yards off, talking to Mrs. McGuire and Susan Pryor the female aforesaid. The woman at once gave the word, and the men bolted into the brush. We, however, pressed them so hard that Hall had to give us the slip-on foot, leaving his horse and swag, containing ammunition and firearms-magnificent Tranter revolver and Government pistol, taken from the Pinnacle. It being by this time quite dark, and the scrub being dense, we could do nothing more, and returned to camp. Next morning, we took up the tracks for some twenty-six miles, till, about three miles hence, we apprehended William Pryor, a lad of about seventeen, whom I hope to make very useful. I start again in an hour, till last night none of us had slept in a bed, and none of the horses had a feed since we left Forbes." (William Pryor is the younger brother of Susan Pryor. Also, Hall's possession of the weapons stolen from the Pinnacle police station demonstrate his complicity in the February robbery.)

William Hollister
c. 1870's

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

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

Even at this early stage of Ben Hall's bushranging activities, Hall's tentacles of crime were reaching the heart of power and local district members of parliament were in a dither. Furthermore, the NSW Police Gazette's in the early months of 1863 continued to be rampant with reports of crime from 'the interior' so much so that it was overwhelming for the police of the troubled districts to resolve, as such, most holdups and robberies went unreported mainly through victim apathy, as described here once more by Ernest Bowler, who relates a personal experience of a robbery conducted by Ben Hall's men in which Ernest resolved not to report. These extracts are from 'The Moleskin Gentry'; by Frederick Howard. Ernest states; "...I was surrounded by four revolvers at my head, so close I could see the bullets in the chambers. One of the boys called me to jump off, as he wanted my horse. Then Ben Hall rode up asking what all the noise was about, Hall said "It’s Mr Bowler. It’s alright let him go."

Earnest then rode on to the town of Orange and the mornings experience had left him depressed rather than angry and he reflected that the police were; "...always away on some other route when the boys were close at hand." That evening Ernest attended a dance after the days gun-toting experience, he stated; "...I didn't take much persuading to go to the ball"as the evening progressed, the police heard of Bowler's holdup and called him away from the dance to explain why he had not reported the incident to the police, Bowler's reply was; "...because, I thought it was useless; the police always told where they got their information, so I had made up my mind to tell no more"this attitude angered the police but it was becoming the general code for survival among people living on isolated properties and hamlets in the Western Districts.

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

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

Capt. John Mclerie
c. 1862
The Officer in Charge of the NSW Police, Inspector General John M’Lerie oversaw and controlled all aspects of policing in NSW. The Telegraph line was M’Lerie's umbilical cord to his far flung officers and all reports of crime were to pass through his office before their publication in the NSW Police Gazette, which was printed in Sydney then dispatched to the Officers in Charge of the various police districts and then disseminated to all the outlaying police stations, therefore a crime committed in one particular police district on one particular day along with the relevant report and the description of the crime and the offender were telegraphed to Sydney, the information may take as much as two weeks to be relayed via the Gazette before it comes to the attention of neighbouring police districts from where the offence originated, that is not to say that the officers at the scene did not take the initiative and commence action in pursuing the perpetrators who regularly crossed from one police district to another as referred to by Sir Frederick Pottinger who's Lachlan district boarded that of Captain Zouch, where invariably they worked together or overlapped each other’s district if hot on the trial of Ben Hall and his confederates.

"to late, there goes the
The large rewards on offer by the government for the apprehension of Ben Hall, Gilbert, O'Meally, Gardiner and others involved in bushranging were not, however, inducement enough for the locals of the districts to 'rat out' any of the gang, much to the government's dismay. Furthermore, there was in place a system the bushrangers relayed upon known as  the 'Bush Telegraph', these people or 'telegraphs' were in a position to have their fingers on the pulse of the police's activities, and were able to pass the word swiftly for a return bounty from the bushrangers, these messages would involve police movements, persons travelling with large sums of cash, mail coaches with valuables on-board plus a myriad of other pertinent intelligence; "...a perfect system of 'bush telegraphy' had been established in every locality where their friends resided; and as they invariably moved with a given object from their hiding places, and either returned direct to the place from which they had started or made for some other friendly shelter in another direction, they were always in touch with their 'telegraphs,' and were thus kept posted in every movement made by the police force. Upon these 'telegraphs' the bushrangers depended as absolutely as do the officers of an army upon their scouts when in the territory of an enemy. Flitting on fast-footed horses from station to station in the disturbed districts, or mixing with the people in the nearest town, generally, the headquarters of the police, the 'telegraphs' would pick up every scrap of information likely to be of interest to the hunted men, sometimes coming into contact with the police, and learning directly all they desired to know, and, having satisfied themselves concerning police, intentions, they would suddenly disappear and convey or send their news to the camp where the bushrangers were located. Occasionally one of these 'telegraphs' would be arrested, but as nothing could be proved against him, a few days' confinement between the time of his arrest and his discharge by the magistrate formed the worst of his sufferings. And should a suspected 'telegraph' find himself too closely watched or be arrested, others were always ready to take up the work. They were invariably young men, some of them mere boys, intimately acquainted with the bush, who could cover miles of the roughest country more speedily than the badly mounted troopers could ride along good roads. Ben Hall, Gilbert, and O'Meally had hosts of such friends in the Lachlan district.⁸⁴

Sir Frederick Pottinger following the destruction of Ben Hall's old homestead, was keen for information on Ben Hall's whereabouts and through his tout John Wilson, gleaned that Hall had left Sandy Creek presumably with Ellen McGuire. Based on this information Pottinger relayed a telegraph to the Inspector-General with the updated intelligence of Hall's movements, dated the 23rd March 1863: "...returned here last night, without any further definite results. On Monday last Mrs. Maguire and Ben Hall cleared out via Weddin Mountains for the Fish River. Received information to that effect, and accordingly tracked them till foiled, some twenty miles from Wheogo, by inundated Plain. Heard of Hall at the Weddin, so pushed on to Gaps, in my district, leading to Fish River, but coming across no tracks, returned home via Cowra, men and horses having for twelve days and nights bushed out. Ben Hall and party must have crossed on to the Fish River via Marengo or Burrawang in the Southern district. Discovered several camps about Wheogo, and recovered sundry saddles, bridles. &c., &c., stolen property. Please telegraph touching the limits of my district towards the Weddin. The O’Mealy’s and others ought to be at once cleared out, I but I cannot act at present." Moves regarding the O'Meally's were already being enacted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Hall, they had not! Gibson was the man however finally identified. Gibson was once more arraigned before the court this time to hear from a new crown witness Mr. Percy Scarr. The evidence presented by Mr Scarr is compelling, as it throws light over the movements of Ben Hall between the period of the 14th to 28th March 1863, this evidence correlated with a telegram sent by Pottinger to the Inspector General 23rd March 1863, of Ben Hall's movements. Pottinger, through information he had received, was of the opinion that Ellen MaGuire was the lady in company with Ben Hall and others, but Mr. Scarr's evidence relates to Ben Hall being in the company of a woman and child, the woman is no doubt Susan Prior and the child is their daughter Mary, the other men were John Gilbert, John O'Meally and Gibson. However, coinciding with Gibson's court appearance, there was a tragedy unfolding in Forbes which would have drawn Ellen McGuire there along with her stepmother Sarah Walsh and not as thought by Pottinger in the company of Ben Hall. The unfolding tragedy was Ellen's MaGuire's younger brother 'The Warrigal', John Walsh, long believed to be the groom of Gardiner lay dying in a Forbes hotel 'The White Hart Inn', after contracting Gaol Fever whilst being held in custody over his associations with Frank Gardiner and another tearaway John Jameison. An old timer who knew 'The Warrigal' in their youth recounted this in a look back in the 'Freeman's Journal', 10th November 1906, of the young 'Warrigal' and his skill as a hoseman; “…little Jack Walsh was such a mischievous, dare-devil young lad that he was known to all as 'The Warrigal’, and I can picture him now as clearly as in our school days. Rather short, with sharp features on a freckled face, and when he smiled, which was nearly always, he showed a large mouthful of good teeth when not stained by tobacco, and he simply did not know what fear was. He was generally with Gardiner, in fact he was known as 'Gardiner's Boy.' While flying from the police with Gardiner on one occasion the pair separated, and little Jacky got caught in the pocket of a creek. To turn back meant capture, so 'The Warrigal' being mounted on a splendid bay pony called 'Little John,' dug in his spurs, sent the brave little horse flying over the creek, and got clear away, for none of the police would risk the jump. And no wonder, for when afterwards measured, it was found to be 20 feet wide. The police had to go round a quarter of a mile, and by that time 'The Warrigal' was 'over the hills and far away.' But poor little Jack was caught at last, and died of fever soon after.” Alas his painful and sad death was reported in the 'Lachlan Observer' on 23rd March 1863; MAGISTERIAL INQUIRY.- "An inquiry was held on Monday afternoon, at two o'clock, at the White Hart Inn, Rankin street, touching the death of John Walsh, late prisoner in the gaol. There were present Commissioner Grenfell, Esq., J. P., Dr. J. J. Connell. Drs. Flatan and Nutt, and senior sergeant Rush. Senior sergeant Rush explained that the lad Walsh was lately a prisoner under his charge, and that in consequence of having been taken ill, Dr. J. J. Connell had been called in to attend him, which he did for about a week at the gaol, and that he treated him for colonial fever. The lad got worse, and senior sergeant Rush then had him removed by his mother, Mrs, Walsh, to the White Hart Inn, when Dr. Flatan and Nutt were called in, and these gentlemen pronounced the lad to have been suffering from gaol fever in the first instance, which at the time they were called had resolved itself into a violent congestion of the brain. Vigorous and prompt measures were at once adopted, and it was found necessary to open both temporal arteries, and the jugular vein, in order to relieve the congestion. In spite of every care, however, the boy gradually sank under the disease, till death put an end to his sufferings. The result of the inquiry was the finding that "the said John Walsh had died of the effects of gaol fever." John 'Warrigal' Walsh was 16 yrs. old. (On the Warrigal's death certificate his mother is stated as Julia Walsh, his step-mother was Sarah Walsh who was previously married to Joseph Harpur in 1814, who passed away. Sarah married John Walsh in 1847. She was also the mother of NSW parliamentarian Josiah Harpur who was the member for Patrick Plains, and Sir Frederick Pottinger's antagonist.)

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

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

Ben Hall no doubt would have been deeply saddened upon receiving the news of the young Warrigal's death, following Walsh's removal from the miserable conditions of the Forbes lock-up where Hall himself had twice suffered for many weeks. Furthermore, Ben Hall had known 'The Warrigal' almost all the young man's life, first from working on his father’s Wheogo station as a stockman, then as a brother-in-law. This was a puncture that Ben Hall percieved as one more injustice by Sir Frederick Pottinger, which played a hand in Ben Hall's continuing resolve to wreak vengeance against those responsible for what he saw as law sanctioned victimisation and outrages. However, Ben Hall was not the only one to question the actions of the law into young Walsh's death. The NSW Parliament required a full account of the incident and the newspapers on gleaning the story ran this article on 1st April 1863; "...most people will remember the occasion on which Sir Frederick Pottinger, with some nine or ten policemen, attempted to take Gardiner, but failed, and carried off instead a little boy, whom they took out of bed, on the charge, so far as we can understand it, of having held Gardiner's horse. This lad, John Walsh, it now appears had been kept in gaol ever since, in the custody of a police-sergeant. He was not brought to trial for any offence, but immured for months in the miserable lock-up used for a prison, until at last he suffered capital punishment, having died of gaol fever. When the police authorities found that he was slipping through their fingers by the agency of death, they then handed him over to the care of his friends; but it was too late. " In spite of every care," says the report which we quote elsewhere, "the boy gradually sank under the disease, till death put an end to his sufferings." What followed is worthy of record. The commissioner held an inquiry, and arrived at the conclusion that "the said John Walsh had died of the effects of gaol fever." We are not aware whether there is any coroner at Forbes, or whether that office has also merged into the police administration. But, unless we are to surrender every impulse of humanity with every vestige of constitutional liberty, we ought to insist upon knowing how it was that John Walsh caught the gaol fever of which he died, whether he was in lawful custody, or whether those who held him in unwarrantable durance have subjected themselves to an indictment for manslaughter or murder."⁸⁸

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

Henry Gibson's hearing which took place on the 17th of April 1863, saw Mr. Percy Scarr, manager of a station belonging to Mr. Broughton give the following evidence into Gibson's charge of highway robbery with arms and more importantly refers to the movements of Ben Hall after the Sandy Creek home was destroyed by fire. The evidence is as follows, including a statement about being held up by John Gilbert and John O'Meally on the 14th March 1863, the day of the fire;

Percy Scarr c. 1905
Percy Scarr being sworn, deposed: "...I am an assistant 'Superintendent for Mr. Broughton; I know the prisoner now before the court; I pointed him out this morning from amongst three other men in the lock-up; on the 26th March last, I had occasion to go to one of my employer's sheep stations near Marengo; I counted the sheep and left; I had forgotten something and returned to the sheep station; On arriving there the second time I saw the prisoner and three others; two of these men were armed I did not see any firearms on the prisoner; I was on horseback ; I spoke to one of the four men; I said "Good morning;" I saw the shepherd's wife; I asked her if the men were sticking up the place; she replied, "No, that they had told her to get them breakfast at once; "I saw them take breakfast; I was on horseback then; the prisoner (Gibson) came and took hold of my horse by the bridle and told me to get off; I did so; prisoner then took my horse and tied him to the stirrup iron of his own; he ordered me to go inside; I did not at first; prisoner told me to go in again;  I then went in; I saw three revolvers on the person of one of the men in company with the prisoner; I was detained about an hour and a half against my will; the prisoner asked me if I was a good cook; I said "no" he then said, " Can you track ?" I said I was not used to the bush; the prisoner told the shepherd's wife that if she mentioned anything about their being there they would return and burn the place; prisoner said to me, "If you say anything about this to the police, I'll visit you at Marengo for it; “on the 14th of March last, I was stuck up; I was riding a chestnut horse, the property of my brother this was on the road leading to Burrowa, and about nine miles from Marengo; the horse was of the value of £20; two men stuck me up; one rode in front of me, took hold of the bridle of my horse, and said, " Bail-up! get off!" I got off, and the men took the horse; I have not seen the horse since; the prisoner is not one of the two men who stuck me up on the 14th March, but he was in company with these two men on the 26th March, at the sheep station; there was a woman and child in company with the prisoner and the other men at the station I saw all the men leave the station; the woman went away also."

However, after all the evidence against Henry Gibson, his well-known association's with Ben Hall, Gilbert and others, amazingly the pending case against Gibson was dropped by the Attorney General and Gibson was discharged on the 17th May 1863, with an explanation by the Attorney General, referring to the lack of a possible Guilty verdict. (see article below.) Although after Gibson's release, he would be quickly re-arrested by Sir Frederick Pottinger and sent to Forbes; ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, Tuesday 2nd June 1863; YOUNG. [FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.] MAY 29th 1863.- The supposed notorious bushranger, Henry Gibson, alias "Parker," against whom a charge of "suspicion of highway robbery" had been preferred by detective Coward on the 8th of April, and also a further charge of attacking (in company with others) a station near Marengo on the 26th March last, belonging to a Mr. Broughton, on which latter occasion it appeared by the evidence that the supposed bushranging party in question had simply demanded breakfast, which had been accordingly prepared for them by the inmates at the hut, when they left, bidding each other "good day" - and who had been committed from this place for trial at the next Goulburn Circuit Court on both of the supposed serious offences, the full particulars of which appeared in your several issues of the 17th and 27th April - suddenly made his appearance in the town in propria persona, to the no small astonishment of many persons. I have been given to understand that the Attorney-General had directed his discharge, not, however, without good grounds for so doing, as on reading over the depositions there was nothing upon which he could file a bill either this step or an acquittal could alone have been anticipated, and no doubt a very proper course had been taken by the Attorney-General in adopting the former alternative. However unfortunately for Gibson, the presence of Sir Frederick Pottinger here had no very great advantage in his favour, in as much as he was speedily deprived of the sweets of liberty before he had enjoyed many hours of fresh air, having been arrested on a warrant issued by the police magistrate, and brought before him on Tuesday, charged with "having on or about the month of March, and divers other occasions, harboured, aided and assisted certain notorious bushrangers, to wit, Johnny Gilbert, Johnny O'Meally, and Ben Hall, contrary to the statute." Sir Frederick Pottinger, who sat on the bench, and not only acted in the capacity of a prosecutor, but appeared in the witness-box against the prisoner, to prove that he knew the prisoner before the court, had frequently seen him at Ben Hall's house, and had tracked him to a place where he was in company with Mrs. MaGuire (supposed to be the wife of another notorious bushranger), urged that he might be remanded to Forbes, where there was a witness who would prove that he was actually in company with the before mentioned notorious characters. Mr. Prendergast, who appeared for the prisoner, vainly endeavoured to show that there was no ground for the prisoner's arrest, that the warrant was informal, because no specific charge was laid against the prisoner, and neither time or place alluded to. As a matter of course the prisoner was remanded to Forbes in order that there might be a charge with a specific offence proved against him.
Furthermore, coinciding with Gibson's period of incarceration, Inspector Pottinger continued searching out in the troubled districts for whatever information which could be obtained regarding the whereabouts of Ben Hall, John O'Meally and Gilbert since travelling with Susan Pryor and Ben Hall's baby daughter Mary, following the destruction of Ben Hall's ex-home at Wheogo. Furthermore, Pottinger through various sources promptly gathered the information he required and quickly determined the groups eventual destination, with his view being the Fish River, although evidence points to this as being a faint. Pottinger then forwarded a telegram the Inspector General of Police on the 4th April 1863, referring to his and his troopers continuing search in the bush, as well Pottinger states for the first time his belief that Gardiner has fled NSW: - "Start tomorrow morning via Cowra for the Fish River to co-operate with the southern police, both Captain Zouch and myself having been informed from distinct sources that Gardiner, Gilbert, John O'Mealy, and Ben Hall are there abouts: the three latter are, I believe, in that district, the former I still think is out of the colony. My movements will of course depend upon circumstances; I cannot therefore report thereon now; expect to be absent some fourteen (14) days. Have also sent four (4) troopers and trackers to scour Wheogo, &c Patrol detachments and other stations still in status quo. Sanderson returned yesterday. By-the-bye I hear Captain Zouch has applied for Sanderson to be transferred to Young; I hope you will not consent, as Sanderson a presence here till matters are quite settled is indispensable, Sergeant Rush still very ill, also detective M'Glone, our only detective. Swainson much wanted back."⁹⁰(for more on Gibson see Ben Hall 2.)

'camp in the scrub'
Since the capture of Daley and the burning of Hall's old home, Ben Hall's whereabouts were continuing to frustrate Sir Frederick Pottinger, who was throwing all of his resources into seeking out Ben Hall's haunts including harbourer's, gleaning any information, no matter how insignificant it may appear. Furthermore, the last report Pottinger had of Hall was travelling in company with Susan Pryor and their child. Pottinger undaunted was continuing on Ben Hall's tracks, sent another telegram of Hall's movements to the Inspector-General of Police in 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 Pottinger had now realised that Gardiner was long gone and that Ben Hall was being mistakenly identified as Gardiner. The camp at 'Berthong' that Pottinger refers to is in today's 'Jindalee State Forrest'.

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, date 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

However, at the time of the Ryan theft, a Mr J.E. Richter gave an account of his brush with Hall, Gilbert and Co including a run in with Sir Frederick Pottinger in 'Random Recollections', 1913. Richter describes the bushrangers who passed themselves off as drovers as pleasent 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 horse 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.”

'The Goulburn Herald' reported the robbery of Thomas Barnes' store near Cootamundra 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 Incensed by the lack-luster police effort, Thomas Barnes' father John wrote of his disgust to the 'Yass Courier'; 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 (not Gardiner but Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John O'Meally and their new member Fred Lowry.)

While Ben Hall and gang were still near Cootamundry they robbed, another store belonging to a Mr Hurley, as well as a bullock dray owner; 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."⁹⁵

The volume of holdups in and around the two goldfields of Forbes and Lambing Flat created opportunities for others to lay blame on to bushrangers for incidents of lost money belonging to their employers or injuries they may have suffered as a result of their own foolhardiness, and where most of the mentions in newspaper and crime reports were inaccurate or even manufactured, as in this example below of misinformation and blame being attributed to bushrangers by a John Keogh in an attempt to deflect his own behaviour, the troubling event was reported to the police, this example of an incident happened near Chew's Station, Marengo, a 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 thinking 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

However, in the Empire’ Wednesday 22nd April 1863 the true facts of the reputedly attacked and robbed Mr. Keogh came to light as the police after investigating the sorry story, 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."

Newspaper correspondents valiant in their reporting of the exploits of Ben Hall and Co, were also finding themselves in the firing line by locals with attempts to intimidate them from reporting the gang’s activities, these local supporters and friends of the bushrangers, who were acting as spies and telegraphs for the gang, as well as helping to fence the gang's stolen booty or in receipt of it as payment for harbouring, were somewhat shy of publicity. Therefore, the possibility of being implicated in the press and subsequently drawn to the police's attention, brought written threats; 'The Empire' newspaper, 22nd April 1863, 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 effort.

However, the police were not idle in their continued and at times often frustrated attempts to trace Ben Hall, and were continuously mounting forays into the scrub from Yass, Young, Forbes and Cowra, seeking as much information as possible of Ben Hall and associates' whereabouts. The police were now adopting Sir Frederick Pottinger's instructions of wearing disguises in the form of bushman's clothes, Pottinger's instigation of police being dressed in bushmen clothing were based on his thought that if you wish to seek the enemy, you must dress like the enemy, so that they won't know friend from foe. The troopers were also faced with the thought of the possible life changing rewards upon the heads of the gang members, when and if captured; '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."

Information also appeared in 'The Empire' of 26th April 1863 to show that the newspaper had information from sound sources that an informer of sorts had been incorporated into a mounted police patrol; 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 crime acts as guide, and the police are commanded by one of the most efficient officers in the force." 

The informer that the reporter may be alluding to was the previously mentioned newly recruited Trooper Zahn who had earlier been under arrest at Bathurst and was a career criminal and cohort of the recently hung John Piesley, and a close friend of Gardiner, Zahn was also known to use alias' of Burgess/Herring. Trooper Charles Burgess/Herring/Zahn's friendship with Frank Gardiner/Christie dated back to March 1851, when both men escaped from the Pentridge Stockade in Victoria, Zahn was possibly born in Egypt as his escape notice refers to his being Egyptian.

Escape 1851
Zahn had arrived in Australia as a 3yr old in 1824, with his parents on board the ship 'Sir George Seymour' at Point Henry, Geelong, Victoria. Prior to his timely enlistment into the NSW police, Zahn had been brought up on many previous occasions before the court on charges varying from giving false information, Highway Robbery, Theft, obtaining money under false pretences as well as many other offences. On the 28th November 1862, Zahn had been committed for trial at Bathurst during which time he was able to sweet talk his way into the NSW police on the grounds that he would give the police Frank Gardiner based on his long acquaintance to the 'King of the Highway', as such Zahn was made a police trooper and his first foray and success was in the capture of 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).

As bushrangers of opportunity Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John O'Meally would also stick up targets less prone to resistance, one of those targets that were often fair game were the Chinese Gold diggers who were since the start of the gold rushes in Australia demonised by the wider majority European mining community, and who had been driven out of the NSW Burrangong goldfield by violent protests and attacks, the Chinese had then been forced to mine in more remote and hazardous areas in disused gold mines with no nearby law and order and as such were easy game for the bushrangers and other ruffians. The Chinese also had a reputation for not offering any resistance to attack; '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."

As April drew into May 1863, news was published of the capture of John Gilbert's brother Charles alias D’Arcy in New Zealand, Charles Gilbert (whose middle name was D’Arcy) was returned to Australia from New Zealand escorted by Detective Lyons to face charges in relation to his alleged connection with the 1862 Escort Robbery and subsequent escape from Inspector Pottinger, orchestrated by his brother John; THE BUSHRANGER DARCY;—We extract from the Empire of the 27th ultimo, the following telegram from Otago, via Melbourne:-- "The bushranger Darcy alias Gilbert, has been identified by Sergeant Lyons, who was sent front Sydney with that object. He acknowledges his connection with Manns, and was remanded to Sydney." We understand that Darcy was one of the men captured some months since by Sir Frederick Pottinger and Detective Lyons, was rescued from their custody at the same time as Manns, it is supposed that he is one of the escort robbers." 

Charles Gilbert would eventually be released as the police could not prove that he was in anyway connected with the events at Eugowra. The first few days of May 1863, Ben Hall and Co.’s bushranging activities went quiet for a short period; '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." Another reporter wrote regarding a spate of recent robberies by person’s unknown, and who were such as Ben Hall, Gilbert ,O'Meally and Lowry, not in the habit of wearing disguises, noted; "...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 During this short sabbatical an interesting newspaper account appeared in the 'Goulburn Herald' when none other than Bridget Hall's paramour and the man she eloped with, James Taylor was arrested near the Fish River where some of his extended family resided, on suspicion of cattle duffing whilst in the process of moving the questionable cattle between the Bland and Fogg's Fish River property when he ran into Sir Frederick Pottinger; 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.

The lull from bushranging by Ben Hall appeared only temporary, as on the 9th May 1863, Ben Hall remounted his stead and in company with John O'Meally and another bailed up another gallant police inspector and robbed him of all his valuables, it was reported in 'The Sydney Morning Herald' one week after the event; 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 levelled 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, and a postscript of the gallant inspector's ordeal appeared in the 'Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' on the 16th May 1863; " 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, this article is taken from the '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 short cut through the bush; but Mr. Ben Hall and his mates molested no one except the police officer, though the leader inquired who the ladles were.”

Author's Note: John Jamieson, son of the late Mr. Jamieson who wrote of the burning of Ben Hall's home, would be identified as the 'not known' bushranger in the holdup of Shadforth, tried at the same court appearance as Patrick Daley and sentenced to fifteen years hard labour on the roads, for Jamieson, the fall from grace appeared most harsh, as reported here in the '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. Another interesting fact is that young Jamieson's mother was the older sister of James Taylor's lawful wife, whom he deserted, Emma Downer, and the Jamieson's family property was close to Sandy Creek, Ben Hall's station, and Jim Taylor was working nearby at the Foggs run at the time of his wooing of Bridget Hall. The issue surrounding the inheritence maybe erroneous, as Jamieson had a number of younger siblings being the eldest, therefore, the act of primogeniture was not relevent to Australian law.

Once more Inspector Pottinger was demonstrating his indefatigable zeal in the bush and was hard on the trail of Ben Hall and forwarded another series of telegrams to the Inspector General as follows, 16th May 1863 the following was received: “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 in planting fresh horses along their well-known escape routes, the information also confirms the evidence that 'The Darkie' had long since left the haunts of the gang and that the majority of offences were being perpetrated by Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John O'Meally, the mention of Jameison is interesting as he is the son of the deceased Mr. Jameison who wrote of the burning of Hall's home (See note above). The telegram reads as follows; "...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 personally concert measures with Superintendent Zouch."¹⁰⁰

NSW Police Gazette
Description fits Fred Lowry
 & Ben Hall.
Newspapers relying on second-hand information telegraphed through their correspondents were struggling with the flow of reports involving bushrangers and their authenticity in regards to the amount of robberies being perpetrated, as a result many robberies being attributed to Gardiner were, in fact, being conducted by Ben Hall, John Gilbert, John O'Meally and Fred Lowry, with the bushrangers working alone or in pairs, threesome or all together. The draw of Gardiner's reputation throughout NSW, limited the reporters knowledge that 'The Darkie' had long fled NSW, any exciting information always related to Gardiner's presence and didn't help the reporters in their ability in disseminating fact from fiction, as travellers were giving descriptions beyond all doubt as to Gardiner's presence during current hold-ups at townships and stores and along roadways in the Lambing Flat region, where citizens were convinced of Gardiner's presence even though time, distance and place, meant his ability to cover ground must have been superhuman, this was noted in the press of Gardiner; "...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 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 were sightings of Gardiner were 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 leathern 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 that by May 1863, Frank Gardiner had well and truly left the Western Districts of NSW, and had by now entered the state of Queensland, but reports of his being apart of the gang were continuing to be circulated instead of 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 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."

On the 16th May 1863, Mr. Thomas Barnes of Cootamundra, once more suffered the unfortunate fate of being visited again by Ben Hall, Gilbert and John O'Meally who again helped themselves to over £200 of goods and equipment as reported in the 'Sydney Morning Herald', this also confirmed that Gardiner, as had been previously reported in the press, was not 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 the gangs pursuit by Brennan and shortly after the raid on Barnes' store the gang held up a Mr. Frank near Yass, reported on 17th May 1863, it also interesting to note that the new 'Money Order System' was starting to be widely used; "...a 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 efforts in capturing bushrangers, however, had a two-pronged strategy, the first was to bring the freebooters to justice, the second was in the reaping of the rewards on offer to the troopers, these rewards, some of which were of a considerable amount, were payable to police troopers who had the good fortune to apprehend or even shoot dead any bushrangers with a bounty on their heads, John Gilbert had £500, these rewards were paid in addition to their annual police pay, as reported of Senior Sgt Patrick Brennan's good fortune on 21st May 1863. Sgt Patrick Brennan who was stationed at Yass had earlier shot dead a bushranger in February 1863; Yass, Feb 28th- "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 Brennan was not a policeman to be trifled with as shortly before killing the bushranger 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 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) 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, gives a good indication of the bushrangers wide and varied victims, from which Ben Hall was able to choose from, for the resupply of knocked up horses or the need for additional clothing, food and firearms taken at the end of a gun; 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 enlightened 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 reported 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 where 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.”

Typical Colt Cylinder
with percussion
cap nipples.
Furthermore, Ben Hall, as has been well documented was not averse to firing his revolvers when conducting hold ups and only through the good fortune on behalf of the recipients were they not seriously wounded or killed. However, one of the greatest problem faced by the bushrangers and the NSW police for that matter, were 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 gold fields 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 round then 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. (types of weapons see link

NSW Police Gazette
 3 June 1863.
However, once again at Ben Hall former childhood home another of Ben Hall's siblings, Edward Hall was arrested 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 lastest 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.

Gold miners meeting c. 1863.
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

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 close scrutiny of the press, who brought the question of settler safety to the forefront, as the gang of Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally, with Gilbert appearing to be leading the trio according to the press, who were robbing stores and travellers at will by day and night; 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 stores, it should be noted that Sir Frederick loved the races; "...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.”
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 1863.
On the 21st June 1863, Ben Hall's associate, John Gilbert was reported as being involved in 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 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 shot Mr M'Bride who died after suffering many hours from the wounds inflicted upon him, O'Meally was reported at the same time in a coach holdup in company with Ben Hall, on Sunday, 28th June 1863, where 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 on the transfer of bushranging responsibilities for the South Western districts in July 1863, from Frank Gardiner to John Gilbert, who in the 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; 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', of 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, either way Ben Hall had bid adieu, and Gilbert re-joined O'Meally. However, the area aroung Young was now too hot for Gilbert so the two wild colonial boys, Gilbert and O'Meally then 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, Ben Hall may, however, have stopped at Wheogo or the Pinnacle, where his older brother William was gold mining, then headed back south to Young, as what can be derived through piecing together various information, is that Ben Hall was reported in the press as operating around 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 referred to as Mimmegong Station and that Ben Hall after their meeting had Vane accompany Hall to retrieve some washing which was 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, was at this time residing in the Young area with her mother Mary and younger sister Charlotte, who had unfortunately been sexually molested by her mother's partner at the age of eleven in late 1862, the man, George Pentroe had been arrested earlier on the 23rd of January 1863, over the rape of the very young Charlotte. As a consequence was Pentroe was found Guilty and 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 young son William. There were reports at the time, of the police, believing that Hall's mother was living at Sandy Creek, as Pottinger attested to after the burning of the home and leaving 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 but evidence points to it being Mary Prior residing at Sandy Creek, no doubt to support Susan during the birth of Mary, 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
Lambing Flat was still a thriving gold field with thousands of diggers working the dirt for the elusive gold, so for Ben Hall, although well known by reputation was not as well known by sight and could have easily blended in with the populace. At the time that Ben Hall was conducting hold-up's in the area of the Burrangong gold field this was reported about the state of the rushes and of the easy access for highway robbery; "...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) NLA
Furthermore, the miners of the Burrangong were intensely conscious of the presence of Ben Hall and Co. and were at 'their wit's end' after the recent murderous actions of the bushrangers Gilbert, O'Meally and Lowry and the impunity with which these bushrangers wielded their six guns. The indignation of the 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, weeks on end for a few specks of gold or the anticipative possibility of a Eureka strike, was back breaking 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 of 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, furthermore, it would be enough to cause anyone's blood to boil, 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 believed to be in Ben Hall's company during a robbery at that time; "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 M'Carthy, the bushrangers, 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 travelers around Burrangong, Ben Hall learnt that his arch enemy, 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 would have no doubt quickly taken his leave from the safety of Susan Prior's, who had relocated there with their daughter Mary after fleeing Sandy Creek, headed for 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).

The following article was written in the 'Sydney Mail' and gives a fantastic summary of the life that Ben Hall and his fellow bushrangers were now enduring in the middle of 1863; "... 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 A reversal of fortune was out of luck and with the onset of winter, the bitterly cold nights would have made the outdoors most uncomfortable for the gang, therefore, a 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

This report appeared in the newspaper of a robbery at Possum Flat, Young on Monday 13th July; "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 sicking up trade. The above statement also alludes to the success of the new 'The Money Order' system for the transfer of cash which was starting to bite. Ben Hall's cash flow was now being impeded, after all the need for payment to 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; " 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

Ben Hall, not eager to engage Sir Frederick Pottinger, remained quiet at Memagong and awaited the return 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
Homestead c. 1889.

Courtesy NLA.
On the 20th July 1863, a report appeared regarding Ben Hall observed in the area of Mimmegong station in company with three bushrangers thought to be Gilbert and O'Meally, however, this is incorrect as by mid-July the two bushrangers were operating 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 Emu Hunt. Ben Hall had recently lifted the racehorse 'Mickey Hunter' from 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 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, c. 1864,
at Rockhampton Qld.

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 Walkers 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 the most frequent helper his long-time friend young Jamieson, who Hall had known since the boy's childhood and Hall being a neighbour and good friend of Jamieson's late father, and following a number of close shaves including Ben Hall's near capture, Hall would now lay low. During this time a peculiar comment 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?"
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 Watchbox's, these could be found in those areas far from the Head Station homestead's. These Watchbox's could and were on occasion also the target of robberies, as described in the '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 still front and centre of various press reports around the Carcoar/Bathurst region of NSW. On the 1st August 1863, a newspaper report stated that Gilbert and O'Meally attempted to hold up the Commercial Bank at Carcoar on the 30th of July 1863 while proceeding to the town the two bushrangers captured and tied up Mr Henry Hickles to a tree so as to prevent Mr Hickles from raising the alarm at Carcoar. After the Carcoar bank attempt fell short of success, the two bushrangers followed up with the robbery of a 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 race horse 'Comus II' and the fine horse of the visiting police inspector Mr James Henry Davidson, (once again in Vane's narrative 'John Vane, Bushranger' transcribed and edited by Charles WhiteVane 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, as reported in the '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.
The bushrangers Gilbert and O'Meally with the two new recruits in tow, Vane and Burke, 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, the boys laid low for a number of days, as Vane describes from his memoirs 'John Vane, Bushranger' transcribed by Charles White; "...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 gun fight 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 Out of ammunition and no 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; 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; " 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.
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. " 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 to hot in the Carcoar district with the heavy police presence and fearing the swiftness of the blacktrackers 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
After the gunfight with Superintendent Morrisset close to Carcoar and the 'Boys' commencing their return to the Lachlan to re-join Ben Hall, Superintendent Morrisset after placing the three prisoners from that affray in the Bathurst Gaol, set out once more in company with Sir Frederick Pottinger on the trail of the gang, this time with a reporter embedded with the tracking party, who reported as follows 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 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 be reinstated, as unfortunately his replacement, Inspector Black, was soon earning a reputation for staying in the confines and safety of the police camp where as 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; " 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; EQUESTRANISM 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
above Susan Prior
While Ben Hall was reconnecting with 'The Boys', an article appeared in the 'Goulburn Herald', 5th August, 1863, regarding Ben Hall, written by the correspondent of the 'Yass Courier', possibly the same person who wrote earlier of Gardiner's whereabouts, furthermore this article gives the impression of an attempt in conjuring sympathy for the plight of Ben Hall. However, the article has some valid points but is nevertheless mostly spin, from a modern historical view. This article could also be seen as the foundation of the misinformation that had commenced being perpetuated about Ben Hall's story, even in use 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 McGuire bribed a witness in 1862, the reporter may have even interviewed Ben Hall, but the reader can draw their own conclusions;


"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,
The citizens of Sydney through the barrage of press reports were constantly feed news of the depredations of Ben Hall and the bushrangers of the greater West, so much so that once more the 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 to enforce a version of Marshall Law in an effort to curb the outbreak of bushranging, many of the Parliamentarians agreed with the proposal and it caused great angst amongst the fair mindedness and English sensibilities of those charged with the safety of the population, although 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 citirzens of the district. Thompson stated in the Parlimentry 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 crime
Mr. 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' 11st 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;" 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 " 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
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
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 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, 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 the 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, Mr Barnes dug in 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 hold 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 amount 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.
With the gang currently split, during which time they had conducted a number of small robberies in and around the areas of Young and the Weddin Mountains whilst in those separate groups conducting robberies upon the store keepers and travellers of the district, as reported in the following newspaper reports; 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 This was also reported of an evening the bushranger's spent with a driver and his team on assignment for the luckless and often robbed by the gang, Miles Murphy; " an instance of the audacity with which Gilbert and his companions carry on their deprivations, and 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

After the Yuill robbery and the earlier Hammond robbery and enjoyable dinner, it was once more reported of Gilbert's penchant for woman's apparel; "... 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 

Mr Eastlake c. 1920's
However, it was next reported mistakenly, that Ben Hall and John O'Meally acted together in robbing the Burrangong stores of Mr. Eastlake and the Neasmith's at the Twelve Mile and Ten Mile Rush's respectively and during the robberies there was some resistance from the store owners and a gunfight ensued, although these robberies are attributed to involve Ben Hall by the eyewitnesses, it appeared from John Vane's biography as edited by Charles White, that it was John Vane himself who accompanied John O'Meally and conducted those robberies. John Vane gives a very good description of the robberies of both Eastlake and Neasmith's at the Twelve and Ten Mile Rush's. It should be remembered that with newspaper reports that were current and along with the fact that John Vane was a new chum and as yet unknown at the people of the Flat, it would appear that the witnesses in the adrenalin-charged atmosphere of the gunfight that they automatically assumed and naturally claimed that it was O'Meally and Ben Hall. The report of the robberies and Hall's alleged involvement is demonstrated here; 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. Mr Eastlake cannot identify either of the men, but he supposes them to have been O'Meally and Hall."¹⁷⁶ Disappointed at the lack of success at Eastlakes, O'Meally and his companion Vane go on to attack the Neasmith's store further down the track of the Ten Mile Rush, once more the victims thinking it was Ben Hall reported to the 'Burrangong Star'; " 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

Moreover, a few day's preceding the reported attacks 
above on the stores of Eastlake and Neasmith's at Burrangong, John Vane in his narrative 'John Vane, Bushranger', states however, that whilst he and O'Meally were separated from Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke following the shooting of John Barnes at Wallendbeen Station and afterwards remaining with O'Meally's uncle Peter O'Meally at the Black Range near Burrowa on the heels of their 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 prey they came into contact with two young girls traipsing through the bush searching for strayed cattle, Vane advanced to enquire 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 and have the girls point out the best shops. 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 assailant, the search for Ryan was reported in the 'Burrangong Times' 19th September, 1863; " 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 gun fire 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, here 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."

During the gang’s separation having commenced 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 newspapers 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 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 lead-up to their re-joining the newspapers kept up a barrage of articles of the gangs expliots 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 

O'Meally and Vane were still active in the Yass district as reported in t
he 'Yass Courier' of 12th September, 1863, soon the reports of the pair in the district went quiet as they re-emerged with Hall, Gilbert and Burke; MORE BUSHRANGING NEAR YASS; - "On Wednesday evening last 9th September, 1863, a tall young man, on horseback, called at the Telegraph Inn, two miles from Yass, and stated he had that afternoon, between three and four o'clock, been held-up by two armed and mounted bushrangers, between Barber's and Limestone Creek, who took from him eighteen shillings in silver. He further stated that on observing their approach, and suspecting them to be bushrangers, he threw away on to the grass by the roadside a portemonaie containing further money. The same story he afterwards repeated at Mr. Alt's inn. He described the bushrangers pretty fully, and from his description there can be no doubt that they are the same men who robbed Mr. Malyon on the previous day; the poncho, however, being worn by the shorter man of the two, both had guns slung to their saddles in regular leathern buckets. The police having learned the particulars, sergeant Scully started off the same evening to Mr. Alt's to make inquires, and at break of day the following morning proceeded, in company with one of the mounted men, and scoured the bush, but without falling in with the scoundrels.

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 n