Ben Hall 3

Continued from Ben Hall 2.

This section is a continuation of work in progress, 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 and who would ultimately die a violent and bloody death at the hands of his pursuers......." - Mark Matthews

This website will endeavour to give a true and 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 NSW Police Gazette records of Ben Hall and his associates' bushranging activities.

ben hall

The Charters' former home,
 Fern Hill. c. 1970's.

Reputed birth place of 
Henry Hall.
Courtesy Carcoar Historical Society.

Ben Hall's arrival into the area surrounding Carcoar in early September 1863 would prove to be the breakout for Hall and the gang. This period would also in the eyes of the public established their bushranger bona fides. Ben Hall's status as a bushranger would also incorporate a newfound celebrity amongst the colonial population whilst newspaper reports continued to highlight the gangs innumerable destructive and heinous assaults against store keepers, settlers and wayfarers out in the troubled districts of western NSW. Additionally, confusion also ran high in the newspapers as to who was the leader of the gang, with reports that Hall had recently usurped Gilbert for that honour. The shift by Hall from the Lachlan to the Carcoar area was a decision necessitated by the pressure being brought to bear by the resurgent NSW police resulting in the swamping by the bluecoats into the Lachlan district which had begun effecting Hall's ability to hole-up at his known harbourers now under the scrutiny of the traps, as well as his capacity to transit the Queens roads as he pleased. Nonetheless, the relocation to the Carcoar district was for Ben a very familiar place, as during the preceding years the township of Carcoar was where Ben had enjoyed many good times in the company of his longtime and closest friend Daniel Charters, insomuch as it was here in August 1859 whilst staying at the Charters’ residence that Hall’s former wife Bridget had given birth to the couples only son, Henry. Unfortunately, in Hall's current state the once friendly locals had in the current climate begun to feel the full force of Hall's presence through the use of the revolver, whereby in time the gang's prominence dominated through more and more egregious acts against those innocents. Their prominence also began to filter along the telegraph wires which in turn pressured the colonial government for more stringent measures. These communications divulged important information regarding the gang hold-ups either as a whole or where they had separated into two's and three's but rarely alone.
 Furthermore, Hall and Gilbert's free reign thru the remote settlements had brought into focus the cost and effort of the police force in preventing bushranging. In some quarters the police effort was noted as scandeless in others a mixture of regret and cynicism. However, in a shock to the citizens of NSW the overall cost of policing was brought home with an estimated cost for the year ending 1863 of £257,000(today $21,588,000). Subsequently, the large amount of the expenditure in administering the police force was being diverted to fund the pursuit and apprehension of Hall and Company. Many in the parliament would not let the associated costs rest and continued to badger the Colonial Secretary over failure and inaction;[sic]"How was it that Government could not manage to capture a half dozen bushrangers? Whether five or fifty, they ought to be able to bring them to justice, considering the great expense of the present large police establishment. It is necessary that the head of the Government would devise some plan which would lead to the speedy capture of these robbers. It was, he thought, clearly incumbent upon the members of the Government, and on those who had supported them on the police question to take this matter in hand. It was but too true that the country was now in a great state of insecurity, so that something should be done at once." Regardless, Ben Hall continued to hold the Queens roads to ransome.

17th September 1863.
For the NSW police however, the chase continued, cost overruns and all. And for the greater part the gang's current robberies still confounded the troopers in their fruitless search often hampered as well by the locals intent on protecting the gang for easy payments as the gang robbed with impunity throughout the surrounding district of Carcoar. Furthermore, the numerous attacks on country folk were being attributed to Ben Hall! Every recent robbery was a cry of Ben Hall, Ben Hall. However, this was not always the case. In amongst the populous there were vagrants and various rif raf trekking the country roads. These vagabonds included failed or luckless miners short of a quid. Furthermore, many of these down and outs inevitably drew the spotlight, apart from Hall, onto other more known local career criminals also canvassing Hall's new territory which included some of Chinese origin who rarely robbed but were not adverse to have ago. Furthermore, much like dingo’s awaiting a moment to strike a number of those passing itinerants effected one off robberies and even on occasion murders out on the lonely back roads and byways of the broader gold districts. Accordingly, the notoriety of Hall, Gilbert and Co created more than enough suspicion to have others establish a link to them. Henceforth, no doubt others were taking the opportunity to have a crack and where following further investigation it was often claimed when questioned by the authorities as to who the robbers were, the victims' inevitable reply was Ben Hall!; 'Bathurst Times'- BUSHRANGING IN THE WESTERN DISTRICT; - "Information was brought into Bathurst on Friday 19th September, 1863, that three bushrangers had made their appearance at Campbell's River, and had stuck-up and robbed three persons, besides committing other depredations. It is said that a Chinaman was shot and robbed of £40-but this has been contradicted. One rumour is to the effect that the men were Gilbert, Ben Hall and Burke while another assert’s that the delinquents are people hitherto supposed to be men of a far different stamp." However, as aforesaid some district locals believed there were other miscreants involved at the aforesaid Campbell's River hold-up and that suspicion subsequently proved correct when four Chinamen where nabbed for the robbery including the sticking-up of Arthur Budden's store. Rumour and innuendo quickly surrounded Hall and Co as the robbers responsible however, two of the four Chinese were later convicted and their claim of one having been shot by some bushrangers was proved false;sic] Sticking-up at Rockley.-— "The three men, whom we mentioned as having stuck-up several Chinamen at Campbell's River, also robbed Mr. Budden's store, taking away; the money they could find, and a large quantity of silks, clothing, blankets, and other goods." Notwithstanding the attention on Hall and Co the newspapers continued to be inundated with reports of the bushrangers activities. 21st September 1863; - "Gold is scarce, and the storekeepers are complaining of the little business doing. The only activity that prevails is that shown by the bushrangers, Gilbert and O'Meally, and their gang. Scarcely a day passes without their making themselves heard of, conducting their proceedings in the most open and wholesale manner. A store is bailed up, packhorses are brought to the door and laden with the proceeds of the robbery, unfortunates who come in to purchase are made to give up their cash without any return, and then the bushrangers ride gaily off, never to be heard of again until another robbery is committed, in the same manner. It is understood that the police in large numbers are scouring the country in every direction, and yet by some means the bushrangers manage to evade them, thus proving that they must be in possession of information of every movement of their pursuers."³
Cowra Mail Robbery,
NSW Police Gazette
September 1863.
Note, Description of 2nd
perpetrator fits that of
Ben Hall.

Accordingly, with O’Meally and Vane having remained behind in the Burrangong and Weddin area following the gangs fracture over the death of shop keeper John Barnes shot dead by O'Meally, Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke continued causing havoc in their new stomping ground. However, on the 19th September 1863 within a stone's throw of the hamlet of Blayney situated on the key road between Carcoar and Bathurst a brazen robbery transpired regarding the passage of the Cowra Royal Mail coach. However, most historians believe that this particular coach robbery was perpetrated by Gilbert, O’Meally and Burke whereas, in fact, new research indicates that the robbery could not in fact have involved, as has long been thought John O’Meally. It is well established through historical records that at the time of this 1863 hold-up O’Meally was 70 miles away in the Weddin Mountains. Consequently, there is no doubt that the perpetrators of this stick-up as noted from the au fait description's communicated to the police consisted of John Gilbert, Ben Hall and Mickey Burke the latter in this case wearing a face mask. The transcribed article below describes the days undertaking against the passengers and includes the report regarding the destruction of a rifle perpetrated, however, not by John O'Meally, but by John Gilbert. Furthermore, as is reported the use of 'Sanderson' which was the name of the tenacious policeman stationed at Forbes was a name that Ben Hall was often known to identify himself as when asked "who was in charge"; EPITOME OF NEWS. We compile the following from the various journals to hand. The Bathurst Times of 23rd ult. says: — “As the coach from Carcoar was coming
towards Bathurst, last Saturday afternoon, and when about a mile on the other side of Blaney, two men in drab-coloured coats galloped out of the bush on the right-hand side of the road, and shouted to the driver to "pull up," which he did. They were armed with carbines, and going up to the coach, ordered a passenger (the only one) named Garland to get out. Upon his doing so, one of them ordered him to "hand over" his money, which he declined, though they threatened to give him a "good hiding." He persisted in his refusal, telling them they might blow his brains out if they chose, when one of the men, who had got off his horse, went up and thrust his hands into his pockets, Garland, seeing four revolvers in his waist, and a carbine in his hand, thought it better to submit—more especially as the other villain was on his horse at the back of him. After rifling his pockets, and turning everything out on the ground, by which means they obtained five £1 notes and a sovereign, they ordered the coachman to drive into the bush, in the direction from which they had come, telling the passenger to follow them, which he did, after picking up the remainder of his property from the road. The place where the coach was stuck-up was in a hollow, and the direction the coachman took, when ordered to drive off the road, lay up hill. At a distance of 300 yards, on a ridge commanding a view of the road, the coach party came upon eight or nine individuals —one of them a trooper—who were sitting and lying on the ground. On guard over them was a man on horseback, with his face enveloped in a handkerchief—holes being cut in it for his mouth and eyes. He was heavily armed, having pistols in his holsters, besides revolvers and a carbine like the others. Garland mixed with the prisoners, and learned that they had all been subjected to the same treatment as himself. The bushrangers meanwhile unharnessed the coach-horses, of one of which they took particular notice. Seizing the mail-bags they sat down (the man on horseback remaining as sentry) and, cutting them, deliberately opened every letter and newspaper, the contents of which they tossed to one side, with the exception of bank notes, which they pocketed.

"Pull up"
There were a great many cheques, but they threw them away, grumbling at the coachman, as they did so, for bringing such useless things. Having finished their examination, they searched the coach, and found a cheese, when they called out to one of the prisoners to produce a damper he had, for being hungry, they said "they would have a feed." They offered to give all present a portion of the food, but it was declined, and having eat what they could, they cut the remainder into slices, and placed it in their saddle-bags. A general conversation ensued, in which the bushrangers indulged in many witticisms at the expense of the captive policeman, and told him to give their compliments too Superintendent Morrisett, and tell him that if he would engage to meet them at any given place, and bring four men and a hundred pounds with him, they would ease him of that amount. A remark was made about the poorness of their horses, when they said they had better ones in reserve, but would like to get a change. They were asked why they did not give up the life they were pursuing, when one of them answered, "It's of no use, they won't let us now; they are trying to catch us, so as to make us dance on nothing. "One of them, looking at the trooper, said as they had caught him, he wished they could catch another; whereupon the man on guard said he believed there was one coming along the road, the two instantly jumped into their saddles, rode down the road, and shortly afterwards returned with another victim (not a policeman) leading a race-horse. They asked the man whom the animal belonged to, when he told them it was the property of Mr. Daniel Mayne, of Forbes, and was called Retriever. They immediately took possession of it, and transferred some of the trappings from one of their own horses on to its back. Shortly afterwards another individual was seen tramping along the road, when the disguised bushranger rode down and brought him to the camp, where he was at once searched, and £5 taken from him. He complained bitterly of the robbery, and told them he was very sick, and also a poor man, upon which they gave him back a pound. Garland then asked them not to leave him without a penny, as he had to travel to Sydney, and they immediately threw him ten shillings. Two more men were subsequently captured, brought up and searched in a similar manner, but having only a few shillings nothing was taken from them. Before returning them the silver, though, one of the bushrangers offered to toss them for it. Those present now began to demur at being kept prisoners so long, and asked to be allowed to go, but were told to be quiet, and were detained till nearly five o'clock, when it was intimated they might go on their journey, While the coachman was harnessing his horses to the coach (which was the identical one that was attacked when the late rescue was attempted), one of the bushrangers pointed out the track of the bullet which, it will be remembered, was described as fired at Mr. Morrissett, and explained how that gentlemen jumped away before the bullet tore through the vehicle.

Another took up the policeman's carbine and pointing to a tree, said, "Now, see how I can shoot a man." He raised the piece, took aim, and pulled the trigger, but it missed fire, and on a second trial the same thing happened again. At this he became enraged, cursed the weapon, and, seizing it by the barrel, smashed it to atoms on the trunk of a tree. As the coach regained the road, the three bushrangers came up and "passed before it at a gallop, and went down the hill, in the direction of Blaney, at a rapid pace. The mail, however, on reaching the flat in sight of Blaney, was again stopped by the same men, they being engaged in the middle of the road in inspecting a valise belonging to Mr. Beardmore, of Forbes, who, it appears, they had fallen in with riding along, and ordered him to dismount. Mr. Beardmore appeared to be anything but a passive spectator of the scene, and offered to give the man who was turning over his things a cheque for £20, with the promise that he would not stop its payment, if he would stand up man to man at twelve paces and let him have a shot at him. The fellow eyed him, and asked what good it would do, as, if he chanced to shoot him, he (Mr. Beardmore) would be shot by his companions immediately after. There "was no money in the valise, but a ring was found, which Mr. Beardmore begged them not to take away as it had been a present from a friend. After looking at and passing it to each other they complied with his request, by handing it to him, and, mounting their horses, rode off. The coach then resumed its journey and arrived in Bathurst about nine o'clock in the evening. The description given of the men, and the fact of their recognizing the coach as "the one they had formerly attacked, leaves no doubt but that they were O'Meally, Gilbert, and Burke. They were decently dressed, had watches, and one of them wore a large gold ring. Another had appropriated the trooper's cartouche-box. Throughout, it is said, they were remarkably cool, quiet, and determined. (Since the above was written, we have heard that the same gang, accompanied by Vane, stuck up three young men on Flood's Mount, later in the evening, and at sundown they were observed, " rounding up" some horses, who objected to their taking them; they said they were policemen, and that they had orders to take, on an emergency, the first horses they could lay their hands on. The one who acted as spokesman, when asked his name, replied "Sanderson." They were last seen passing Cheshire's public-house.”

Whilst Ben Hall, John Gilbert and Mickey Burke were undertaking operations in the vicinity of Rockley, Carcoar and Mount Macquarie. John O’Meally and Vane had lingered behind in the Weddin/Burrangong district. However, on the 14th September, John's family home was put to the fire stick and incinerated by the NSW police. Vane and O'Meally's location there is clearly evidenced and corroborated through John Vane's biography and clearly states that the pair were not in the neighbourhood of Carcoar nor involved in the Cowra Mail robbery;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 James O'Meally's place at Black Range.” (James O’Meally is John’s uncle and was transported with his father.) However, following some notable escapades conducted by the pair during their lengthy sojourn from their three companions and where the following articles give an account of robberies which were effected from the 9th September 1863; MORE BUSHRANGING NEAR YASS.-The Yass Courier of 12th Instant says - "On Wednesday evening last, 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 portemonnaie 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. Maylon on 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." Shortly after the pair were described following the robbery of a man of the cloth resulting in the threat of a beating by O'Meally; A CLERGYMAN STOPPED BY BUSHRANGERS.—"One day last week a clergyman of the Presbyterian Church, whose name we have been unable to learn, whilst on his route between the Murrumbidgee and Ginenderra was stopped by two armed bushrangers, who demanded his money, at the same time pointing a gun at the rev. gentleman. The only money he had about him was fifteen shillings, which of course he gave up under the intimidation of the firearms brought closely in contact with him. Not content with the money, the robbers took a nearly new saddle from him, leaving him to proceed on his journey with a much inferior one. The man who pointed the gun, being irritated at the small amount of cash he had acquired, threatened to smash the rev. gentleman's skull with the butt-end of the piece and raised it, as if intending to carry out his threat. The rascals rode off, however, without further molesting their victim."Yass Courier, Sept. 12. Accordingly, by the 19th September the pair commenced the trek to seek out and rejoin their companions;op.cit.  “…leaving Spring Creek, 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 inquiries concerning Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke, but the sawyer had not seen them, although he had heard of the Carcoar-Bathurst coach having been recently stuck-up, and a policeman’s firearms taken from him; so we concluded they had not left the district which we were entering. We therefore pushed on for Teasdale Park, about six miles from Number One, and reaching there after nightfall decided to make our camp at the back of a cultivation paddock.” Vane continues;op.cit. “…but two days having passed without our hearing anything, we sent a messenger to Teasdale to make a few inquiries, not only about the police, but about Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke who we felt sure were somewhere in that locality.” However, their messenger returned with positive news of Ben Hall, however, in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity between the two parties when coming into contact created some confusion. Vane recounts that they had unknowingly stumbled upon the camp of Ben Hall and Gilbert's at first thinking it was a police camp. However, on the gang finally re-joining it arose that both sets of bushrangers had feared each other were the police who had now resorted to the very effective wearing of bushman apparel, championed by Sir Frederick Pottinger to confuse the gang in determining friend from foe. Following much amusement between themselves, the five bushrangers re-joined;op.cit. “…we were not long in coming together, and full explanations followed as soon as we met, each laughing at the other’ but O’Meally and I claimed the best of it.” Now reunited the five bushrangers went into camp close to Number One (Neville) and prepared to mount new daring activities. 

NSW Police Gazette
30th September 1863.
In the wake of a couple of days in camp together the well rested bushrangers remounted and ventured back out onto the Queens roads. However, on the 22nd September 1863 as the gang roamed the bush near Mount Macquarie, coincidentally, three NSW troopers Turnbull, Evenden and Cromie were also out in the scrub searching for the elusive Ben Hall. By mid afternoon the three troopers rode up to the small property of a local farmer and his wife Mr & Mrs Marsh whose farm was located in the proximity of Mt Macquarie southeast of Carcoar. On arrival the troopers made inquiries regarding any sighting of the gang whilst also looking forward to some relaxation and refreshments. However, whilst the troopers were relaxing Marsh commented that he had seen a horse not far off, saddled, and believed it belonged to the bushrangers. With this information and a quick discussion trooper Cromie accompanied Marsh and set off to investigate and retrieve the animal. In the process unfortunately, the pair was suddenly confronted by those for whom the police were seeking. Subsequently, the full scope of the men's predicament only came to light much later in December 1863 when the full details of Mr Marsh and the troopers encounter was comprehensively revealed during the later court proceedings brought against the three troopers, who after their confrontation were charged by Superintendent Morrissett with 'Neglect of Duty'. Mr Marsh recounted his brush with the gang and stated that at the time of the gang’s harassment, Mrs Marsh was six months pregnant. The 'Empire', Tuesday 8th December, 1863, reported Marsh's deposition and charges face by the troopers; NEGLECT OF DUTY. - James Evenden, Charles William Trumble, and Thomas Crummy (Cromie), three constables, were charged with Neglect of Duty. The case had been allowed to stand over for some time in-order to procure the attendance of Mr. Marsh to give evidence, E. G. Marsh- being sworn, said: "I am a farmer, and live at Mount Macquarie, near Carcoar; I have seen all the men now before the Court; on the 22nd of September last they came to my house, between three and four o'clock in the afternoon; they called to inquire about the road to Carcoar, and in the course of conversation I told them that I had seen a horse that morning at the back of the paddock, which I thought belonged to Burke; one of them asked me if I could get it, and I replied that I had no horses in; I was going on foot when Crummy said he would go with me, and one of the other troopers said I had better take his horse as I said it was no great distance to the spot where I had seen it; we went away together, and when about half a mile from the house and going round, the ridge, five bushrangers galloped down behind us and shouted "get off the bl--dy horses or we'll blow your bl--dy brains out;" they came up immediately and presented their revolvers at us; they commenced searching us, and one asked who I was and that was my name; Vane replied, "OH it is Marsh, he putting the bl--dy troopers on our track, shoot the bu--er." Gilbert pointed a revolver at my head; Hall searched me, and Vane searched Crummy; they took from me a knife and some matches; they also took Crummy's coat off him and Burke put it on himself; they then handcuffed us with our hands behind our backs and took us into the bush and fastened us to a sapling; I knew the five men-they were Hall, Gilbert, Vane, O'Meally and Burke-while they were searching us Burke sat on his horse with a double, barrelled gun in his hand; O'Meally and Vane were near Crummy, but as they were behind me, I could not see what they were doing; they asked how many troopers there were in the neighbourhood, and we told them there were two down at the hut; they said they would go and stick them up, and if they showed fight they would come back and shoot us for spite; I said they would not be so cowardly as to shoot two poor fellows tied up in that way; they said we should see what they would do; Crummy had a revolver, which they took from him-in-deed they took all they could; they then left us, and, after going about 200 yards, they fired two shots; we heard the reports and saw the smoke, and we heard them gallop towards the hut; when they had been away about fifteen minutes, Burke returned to watch us; he had the gun in his hand, and sat on his horse about twenty yards away; he said we were all right and would not be shot this time, as they had stuck up the troopers; about twenty minutes after that Gilbert came back, and, having released us, marched us down to the hut; when we got there Hall and Vane were inside searching the place Hall went into the kitchen and pulled down the saddle, and took possession of my saddle-bags and coat-straps; when we, went to the hut O'Meally was guarding the other two troopers outside; he had his revolver in his hand; they then ordered dinner to be got ready for them, and two of them stopped outside on guard while the other three went in to dinner, and after they had eaten dinner they came out to guard us while the others went in and had theirs; after dinner they held a consultation as to which way they should go, and after that they went away, taking with them all the arms; and my saddlebags and coat-straps; Hall stopped a little while after the others left to see whether any of us left the spot; my wife was in the hut all the time; she is not here to-day-she was not able to come, as she is near her confinement; Crummy had no opportunity to use his revolver, as the five men came down upon us so suddenly and covered us with their arms."

A contemporary view
of the capture of the

troopers by Ben Hall.
Courtesy NLA.
However, an earlier report regarding the encounter had sowed an impression in the public's mind of what was now becoming, not only a police, but a political embarrassment for the Cowper government and NSW police Inspector-General McLerie; 'Bathurst Times', 23rd, September, 1863. - "Sergeant Turnbull, and two troopers came into town last evening (Tuesday), about eight o'clock, without arms, ammunition, and chapfallen, and stated that when they joined the police they never expected to be called upon to pursue bushrangers but unfortunately the bushrangers pursued them the whole of Tuesday afternoon, and about five o'clock, bailed them up at Marsh's, about eight miles from Carcoar, and took their carbines, revolvers, pouch box, handcuffs, and sent them about their business. The troopers say it was Ben Hall, O'Mealy, Gilbert, Vane, and Burke and that when they get caught they will be enabled to swear to them, as they had a good view of them." The deplorable comments were an injustice to the wider police effort, however, it did appear that the three troopers must have been terrified from their encounter to state such a scandalous comment concerning their lack of pluck after being confronted by Ben Hall. This reluctance to fight the bushrangers would rear its ugly head at various times over the next few years. Coincidently, as the gang pressed home their raids in the Carcoar district at the Goulburn Court, Ben Hall's former confederates, Patrick 'Patsy' Daley was sentenced to fifteen years gaol, the first year in Irons and young John Jamieson had his sentence deferred after pleading Guilty on the charge of 'Highway Robbery', shortly after Jamieson was also sentenced to fifteen years. (see Police Gazette below.)

NSW Police Gazette
for Daley and Jameison
During Mr Marsh's brush with the gang he made an interesting observation regarding the way in which Ben Hall and company had rigged their horses and equipment to resemble the NSW mounted troopers, this equiping of their mounts and selves would bamboozle many a shop keeper and traveler as well. Marsh also stated that he had been aquainted with John Gilbert prior to his taking to the life of a bushranger;[sic] "He had known Gilbert before he took to the bush. When I first saw the men, I thought they were policemen by the way in which they were equipped; they had on belts like those worn by the troopers; they had also pouches and handcuffs on their belts; their carbines or rifles were slung in buckets, and they had holsters for their revolvers on their saddles; their whole appearance was similar to that of troopers."  As far as the charges of 'Neglect of Duty' stood for two of the troopers Trumble and Evenden, both were exonerated and continued as troopers. The captured Cromie had no case to answer.

NSW Police Gazette
September 1863.
Consequently, and brazened by their humiliation of the three troopers at Marsh's farm, the five bushrangers with their new police equipment headed for the small settlement of Caloola, 18 miles from the hamlet of Carcoar. Accordingly, once again the luckless Stanley Hosie who was a supporter of the police was subjected to another visit by Gilbert, and O'Meally. This time with Ben Hall, Vane and Burke in tow. Once more as a result of the raid Hosie was harshly dealt with, resulting in his store being totally upended as well as a number of others suffering at the hands of the scoundrels. The horror that Hosie endured on that day was exposed in detail during his testimony at John Vane's subsequent trial which was reported in the 'Empire', on Tuesday 8th December 1863 and laid bare all that took place; Stanley Hosie being duly sworn stated: "I am a storekeeper and reside at Caloola; I know the prisoner before the court; on the 23rd September last, he and four other bushrangers came to my store; I was sitting in the parlor writing; when I first saw them I thought they were police by their equipment; when I rose from my chair I recognised one of them whom I supposed to be O'Meally; I had been robbed on a previous occasion by the same man and Mickey Burke whom I know; when I saw they were bushrangers I seized the double barreled gun which I kept in the place; the doors were open and one of the men who I thought was Ben Hall, rushed into the store: I pushed the parlor door to, and he retreated; he was coming into the parlor when he retreated; Burke and Vane sat on their horses outside, pointing their guns at me through the window: the one I thought was O'Meally ran to the door, and ran in, with a revolver in his hand, which he presented at me; Hall was still in the store; O'Meally called on me to surrender, and I said that as there were five of them I would do so; I then gave up my gun to him; after that they took me into the stores and handcuffed me; some of the party went out, and returned with the blacksmith and his man, and the shoemaker and his man, who lived just opposite; they were handcuffed in couples and brought into the store; the bushrangers then fastened their horses to the post in front of the store, and fed them with corn from my stock; they then ransacked the place, pulling the store goods down and selecting what they thought proper; Gilbert and O'Meally came into the parlor searching for money; they took about 15s. from the cash-box; O'Meally took half-sovereign from my pocket but left me what silver I had; Gilbert afterwards searched me and took the silver O'Meally had left in my pocket; the men then selected six three bushel bags and filled them with store goods; there was a horse of mine just outside the door, the prisoner ran him in and caught him and put my bridle and saddle on him; they also caught another horse and took a saddle from the blacksmith and put on it; they had a led horse with them when they came to the store; they tied the sacks together and slung, two over each of the three horses; they then released us from the handcuffs and went away, saying they would watch me, and if I went for the police that night they would shoot me; they said they had come the second time to, rob me because I had informed the police the first time; Hall took possession of my gun and they took several articles from me besides store property; they went into the bedroom and took some of my wife’s brooches and trinkets; they also took some silk handkerchiefs from the drawers and some pillow-cases to put sugar in."

Author's Note: The Sydney Morning Herald, Tue 27 October 1925, Page 6 reported the death of Stanley Hosie. MR. STANLEY HOSIE.- Mr. Stanley Hosie, whose death occurred at Mosman on Friday, had reached the great age of 85,years and 8 months. He was born at Leith, Scotland, and came to Australia in the sailing ship New York Packet when 18 months old. Upon retiring from business some 12 years ago he took up his residence at Mosman. Mr. Hosie had a very rententive memory, and could relate incidents of early Sydney. As a child of 5 years he lived In what is now Market-street, and could recollect the time when there were several green paddocks within the city area. Later, when a very young married man in business in the Bathurst district at Caloola, his place was twice raided by Ben Hall's gang of bushrangers. He, was resisting on one occasion, and he and O'Meally were on the point of firing at each other when Mrs. Hosie rushed between them. The bushrangers then took all that they wanted, including a fine grey horse. Mrs. Hosie, who died seven years ago, was born at Penrith, being a daughter of Mr. George. Larnach and niece of Mr. Donald Larnach, first chairman of directors of the Bank of New South Wales at Sydney, and later held a similar position in London. Mr. Hosie reared a family of eight children-five sons and three daughters; the sons, William (now deceased,) Edwin, and George, being bank managers; Stanley, Assistant Commonwealth Public Service Inspector for New South Wales; Alfred, a clerk In tho New South Wales Benevolent Society. The daughters are Miss M. Hosie, of Mosman; Mrs. Ingram Thoma, of Balgowlah, Manly; and Mrs. Walter Workman, of Cremorne. The funeral took place at Gore Hill Cemetery , the Rev. D. P. MacDonald officiating. Among those present were .Messrs. Stanley Hosie, George Hosie, and Alfred Hosie (sons), Walter Workman (son-in-law). George Hosie and Ingram Thomas (grandsons), C. Heyward, C. Asprey, F. Workman, M. Workman, R. Miller, D. Miller, W. Cheadle, A, Cheadle, H. Gent, L. Gent, J. Barry, C. R. Smith, C. Grlce, A. Hosie (cousin), J. Turnbull, E. Hole, E. Thomas, T. Lewis, J. Felton, F. Thomas, R. Hughes, C. Staines, and W. Caesar. The officers and brethren of Manchester Unity I.O.O.F. Loyal John Gelding Lodge, Mosman, acted as pall-bearers. Mr. Hosie had been a member of the order for over 50 years. He was also a prominent Mason.

john loudon
Mr. John Loudon
c. 1863
Nevertheless, following the wanton destruction of the store of Mr Hosie at Caloola, including the heinous act of shooting dead helpless horses yarded at the time.[sic] "...the best horses that could be found at the place they took possesion of, making them carry a part of the swag; the rest they shot. Leaving the store, the bushrangers adjourned to an inn close by, and there caroused until a late hour." Following the gangs devilment at Hosie's Ben Hall and company proceeded to cut across country criss-crossing their way towards another remote settlement, the small township of Canowindra 44 miles to the west of Caloola. However, late on the night of Friday 25th September 1863 enroute to Canowindra the gang diverted to ‘Grubbenbong Station’ some 15 miles distant after their telegraphs had provided information that some troopers were staying at the station which was owned by Mr John Loudon J.P. Decending onto the station the gang with their well practised modus operandi of gathering up the station hands first, soon roused and secured them locking them in the store hut of the station. With all hands secured the gang then proceeded on to the homestead in search of police. Ben Hall knocked at the door startling Mrs. Loudon who called out, "who was there" and the reply was, “Police”. Mr. Loudon then asked which officer and the reply was “Sanderson.” Fortunately for the Loudon's no troopers were present;‘Sydney Morning Herald’, 28th September, 1863; — "News has just reached here that Gilbert, O'Meally, Ben Hall, Burke, and Vane have stuck up Mr. John Loudon's house at Grubbenbong, near Carcoar. Grubbengbong, fourteen miles from here, had been stuck up about eleven o clock on the night previous, by Ben Hall, O'Meally, Gilbert, Vane, and Burke, who made up to the house and knocked at the door. Upon Mrs. Loudon inquiring who was there, they answered "Police." Mr. Loudon then inquired who was their officer-when they answered Sanderson." Mr. Loudon told them that he would not admit them, and the words were no sooner spoken when a piece was fired, sending six slugs through the door into the passage. The door being unpaneled the bushrangers immediately entered, and having bailed up Messrs. Loudon, Kirkpatrick (Mrs. Loudon's brother) and Wilson, putting handcuffs on them, they ordered Mrs. Loudon and her niece into another room. They then commenced ransacking the place, and searching the men, taking what they pleased. They demanded some supper, and Mrs. Loudon ordered some ham and eggs to be cooked for them, apologising for not having something better to offer them. However, they did ample justice to what was laid before them, ordering, as an additional zest, some wine, which was at once brought them. During the whole of this time the gentlemen were on the verandah handcuffed. After supper they had a smoke, Gilbert proposing to go outside as the smoke might be annoying to the ladies. After the villains bailed up the family and helped themselves to what they wanted, they obliged the young ladies to preside at the piano whilst they tripped it on the light fantastic, enjoyed themselves till two o’clock in the morning, and said "adieu! till next we meet," without, however, either robbing or abusing any of the family or inmates but before departing all, except Vane, returned what they had previously taken in the shape of jewelry and trinkets. After they had handcuffed all the inmates they searched the house for policeman they had been told were there. Finding none, they went to prosecute their search elsewhere. They said before leaving Mr. Loudon's house, that if any more troopers were sent from Bathurst, they would capture them, and take them in handcuffs to Carcoar. Sanderson was the police officer from Forbes, instrumental in re-capturing the Eugowra gold in 1862 from Frank Gardiner, and who knew Hall well and whose name Hall was often known use when asked to identify himself. In conjunction with the newspaper report this notice also appeared; Portraits of Lowry, the bushranger, after his death, may be had of S. W. Fry and Co., 452, George street, Sydney.

Mrs Helen Loudon
c. 1863
Additionally, in the many years following those stirring events there appeared in 1924 a description of the sticking-up at the Loudon's homestead reflected on by a former stockman Mr Bates then a 15 yr old employed on the station. Bates reflected on his experience in an article in 'The Bathurst Times' Saturday 13th December 1924, and paints a different picture from the original 1863 account. Mr Bates' observation produces a great insight into the course of the evening. However, Bates is the only eyewitness to refer to Loudon firing in defence of his home. For Bates though this was untrue however it probably added some colour to his very good account; "...on one occasion they stuck up a station in the Carcoar district. They first secured the station hands and locked them in the hut, a precautionary measure afterwards adopted by the Kelly gang at Euroa. Loudon, the station owner, had barricaded the homestead, leaving holes in the walls through which he could get a view of any unwelcome intruders. As Hall and his men approached, Loudon fired two or three shots, but no one was hit; The bushrangers gained entrance to the house but instead of taking Loudon out and shooting him as the Kelly’s invariably did to those who showed resistance Hall and his mates treated the affair as a joke and turned it into merry-making. Loudon had a well-stocked cellar, upon which the outlaws bestowed liberal attention, and a convivial evening was whiled away in vocal hilarity. Some of the most popular air of Loudon's native Scotland were included in the program. The owner, well primed with his own whisky, joined heartily in the singing, and in time honoured journalistic phrase, a most enjoyable evening was spent. Gilbert was the Claude Duvall of the occasion. He was the polite and gallant highwayman of Old England transplanted to the Australian bush. He rebuked Burke for lighting his pipe.: "Not in, the presence of ladies, Mick," he said. Mrs. Loudon was standing and Gilbert offered her a chair. She indignantly declined the invitation. "Well, it is your own chair, madam," he replied. The only article the gang took on leaving was a valuable bridle. Loudon begged them not to take it, as it was the gift of an old friend. They took the bridle, but later sent it back to the owner." Although Bates portrays a jovial evening the presence of the bushrangers at Loudon's, the gentleman would have been prudent enough not to have given the appearance of having entertained Ben Hall and Company for propriety sake.

Melbourne Punch,
22nd October 1863.
A depiction of
Ben Hall & Co's evening
at Loudon's.

Note the papers use
of satire with the artist name. 
Courtesy NLA.
Once more in the years that followed various accounts of the depredations of the gang surfaced and many give a great description of Ben Hall and the structure of the gang recounted by those held at the point of a revolver such as the evening spent at 'Grubbenbong Station', by Hall. A letter subsequently appeared in 1908 written by one of the lady hostages, possibly Mrs Young wife of the overseer or more likely one of the young ladies who reportedly played at the piano. The letter sheds some light on the bushrangers' character and that Ben Hall had appeared to be in command of the gang; 'Sydney Sportsman' August, 1908; “…the whole five of them seem mere youths, in their ways, especially. They are always armed though, and ever ready to place their hands upon their revolver stocks. Gilbert is quite a good-looking fellow, is always in a jolly humor, and smiling. He told us he is an American by birth, and I quite believe it, for he seems to be more travelled than the others. O'Meally I don't like a little bit. He looks a spiteful fellow, with hard eyes that flash all about, and take in everything, but never rest in one place for any length of time. Vane is a great, big fellow, but Burke is a little man, and both seem very quiet in their ways. When Gilbert told them to go outside and smoke they at once did so, and seemed more at ease sitting on their heels smoking in the open air than they did in the drawing-room. Ben Hall is a big, young man. He seemed very serious, and was always going to the door and keeping watch. The others always went and consulted him about anything they intended doing, and he decided whether it would or would not be done. Gilbert, as I have said, is the best-looking one of the lot, and was on for singing and fun.”

A Dambrod Board.
Furthermore, in extreme old age Mrs. Loudon herself recounted forty-five years after Ben Hall had with his revolvers drawn and Gilbert's gunfire raking the house walked through the doors of 'Grubbenbong Station’ with the gang bailing up the hapless Loudon's and their guests. The dramatic occasion was relived during an interview printed in 'The Sydney Morning Herald' on Tuesday 10th July 1923, titled 'The Women Pioneers', by J. Ward Harrison, where Mrs. Loudon's retold of her brush with Ben Hall and gang; "I sat one day at Grubbenbong, In the Carcoar district, five and forty years ago, and listened to the story which a member of the Kirkpatrick family, Mrs. John Loudon, told me of a visit from Ben Hall's gang. I had been looking at five holes in the door leading to the bedroom from the room in which I sat enjoying her hospitality. "That," she said, "was Gilbert's work. I mind it as though it were but yesterday. Mr. Wilson and my niece were playing dambrod (A chess or checker-board) on a board which Loudon had just brought from town, and Loudon was lying down, a bit tired, on the sofa, there. My husband always said that he wouldna' knuckle-down to the knaves if they ever came his way, and Ben Hall had sent us a message through some of his scouts that he'd be along some night. I heard a knock at the back door, and went to see whom it might be. It was Ben Hall though I didna' ken. I opened the door, and there were three of them. They had just put a pair o' hand cuffs on my brother James and the overseer, out in the store, that they had taken from two o' the police at the back o' the mount that day, and sent them walkin' into Carcoar without their boots, the villains! Ben Hall said, 'Good night, Mrs. Loudon, we're the police.' 'No,' said I, 'I dinna think ye're the police, ye're the bushrangers,' wl' that he laughed. 'Bail up, then,' said he. I let the door slam and came back. 'Loudon Loudon, the bushrangers are here, get your gun, man, get your gun.' Loudon ran in to the bedroom to get it, and I followed him in. Wilson came in to say he had had it out to shoot a native cat, and had left it in the store. Man! It was a pity. Burke and Vane stood on the verandah in front of the window, in the moonlight, it was a grand shot. With that Hall was calling out to us to come out, and Gilbert put his carbine up and fired shot after shot through the door. One bullet smashed my mirror, and another splintered a drawer. Wicked destruction, I called it. Some had to go out, and they handcuffed Loudon and Wilson together, and sat them on two chairs by the window. Then they said they were hungry, so my niece and I got them some supper, and put it on the table. 'There ye' are,' I said, 'and I'm sorry to say that for the 'first time in my house I canna' say yo're welcome to it.' And I must say the poor fellows were hungry. When the table was cleared, and they had turned the place fair inside out, looking for money, Burke lay down and put his dirty boots upon my sofa, and went to sleep. I told Ben Hall the little wretch would sell him yet. There's none of the breed was any good says I. Hall said if he had any suspicion he would shoot him like a dog. And sure enough he did, about three weeks after. Don't tell me Keightley shot him. Hall did it himself, I'm sure. But I was real sorry for Gilbert. I talked to him a long time that night. He told me he was sick of the life, and if he could get away from the country he would. But he said, 'there's not one of my mates who would stick at putting a bullet in me if he heard me say what I am telling you,' Poor boy! I used to pray for him every night till I heard that Dunn's grandfather had sold the pair to the police, and Johnny Gilbert was shot." But space is running out. This sketch of the bushrangers' visit to Grubbenbong is a picture of Helen Loudon. And Helen Loudon is but one of a regiment. Interestingly, Mrs Loudon raised an issue that has long been held in contention, that is that in the dramatic attack to come in the following weeks on the station of Henry Keightley in which one of the bushrangers would be fatally wounded and the shot being attributed to Keightley, however, Mrs Loudon completely belived otherwise.

Cliefden c. 1900.
Courtesy NLA.
Consequently, the bushrangers on departing Grubbenbong rode on to the home of another highly respected pioneer of the district Mr. William Montague Rothery, J.P. whose station ‘Cliefden’ was situated near Limestone Creek, 5 miles north of today’s town of Woodstock. Here the five bushrangers arrived at 11 am and in the usual manner rounded up the staff and upon entering the homestead commandeered Rothery's midday meal for themselves including copious bottles of Champagne; 'Empire', 6th October 1863; “…on Saturday, at half-past three o'clock, p. m., Mr. Rothery, Junior, rode into town, stating that about two hours' previously, Gilbert and four other bushrangers had taken their quiet departure from Cliefden about 15 miles from Carcoar. He stated, that at eleven o'clock that morning, he saw Gilbert, Ben Hall, O'Meally, Vane, and Burke, riding up to the house, when he gave the alarm to his father, who ordered the door to be closed and fastened. This done, Mr. Rothery and his two sons armed themselves with fowling pieces and revolvers—the cook and ostler being shortly afterwards admitted by the window. The cook was armed with a carving knife and toasting fork, and the ostler with a stable fork and a sickle. By the time these arrangements were completed, the bushrangers came up to the front of the house, when the young men wanted to fire, but their father ordered them not, directing them to plant the firearms and open the door. The bushrangers accordingly entered and took immediate possession of the premises, so that the pluck of these three gentlemen exploded instead of their powder. The ostler and cook were despatched to their several departments—the one to feed the bushrangers' horses, and the other to cook dinner for them; of which, when ready, they partook with excellent appetites. They ordered a bottle of brandy and champagne, which was brought them without delay, when Gilbert, filling glasses round, proposed the health of Mr. Rothery, J P., and his sons, the latter of whom, he said, he hoped shortly to see gazetted as sub inspectors; believing, as he did, that they possessed as much pluck as most of them. Mr. Rothery, J.P., in a neat speech, returned thanks for himself and sons, and assured them that he felt deeply the compliment they had paid him and was not able to express all be felt, but would represent to the Government the flattering opinion they held of his own and his sons' pluck, as no doubt they would be considered better authorities on such matters than Captain McLerie. After a few more compliments, they inquired of Mr. R. what horses he had, and being shown them they tried the animals and selected three, which they took with two new saddles and bridles. It was now two o'clock, and they took their departure, stating that they were bound for Canowindra. As there were no police in town, Mr. Rothery returned by himself, being advised to keep the back "slums" in his way back."

William Rothery
Courtesy NLA
Furthermore, many of the raids of Ben Hall were published in a wide variety of newspapers with varying accounts of each outrage. One such paper the 'Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser', published on Thursday, 8th Oct 1863 another report of the days merriment and bragging over the capture of the troopers at Marsh's whilst the gang enjoyed the refinements of Cliefden;-LATER BUSHRANGING ITEMS.-"Yesterday intelligence was brought into town that, on Saturday 26 September, the five bushrangers Ben Hall, Gilbert, O’Meally, Vane and Burke stuck-up Mr. Rothery's house at Limestone Creek, just as that gentleman was about to sit down to dinner. It is said they handcuffed Mr. Rothery and enjoyed the dinner themselves, washing it down with some champagne which they called for. After dinner they played the piano and otherwise amused themselves. As they wanted a horse, they took some pains-in selecting one--going into a paddock and making a trial of two or three before they found an animal to suit them. During the inspection of the horses, Burke showed a revolver and a breech-loading rifle, which he "took from one of the b———y traps at George Marsh's." They informed Mr. Rothery that they proposed visiting Canowindra and Bungaroo, where they expected to find Mr. T. R. Icely, whom they intended to serve out for being so officious. However, Mr. Icely arrived at Coombing all right on Sunday evening, being fortunate in having missed them on the road. Before leaving they said if Mr. Rothery desired to send to Carcoar for the police, they would be happy to wait for their arrival, as they would then be handcuffed and taken back to their barracks as prisoners." In 1921 an old resident also recalled the evening Ben Hall spent at 'Cliefden' station and where Rothery had initially decided to defend his station, but had became hesitant, as the thought of any loss of life weighed heavily upon him, therefore, the defence of 'Cliefden' was abandoned; 'The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser’ Friday 29th April 1921; "...the gang rode into Carcoar on the following Saturday afternoon, and called at the home of Mr. Rothery, where the men, forewarned, were armed with rifles, the cook with a carving knife, and the groom with a long stable fork. Mr. Rothery changed his proposed tactics when the outlaws knocked at the door, and hid the arms. The bushrangers ordered the groom to look after their horses and the cook to prepare a meal, which they attacked with full appetites. Glasses went round and Hall proposed the health of Mr. Rothery, J.P. After an exchange of compliments, the gang made off with three of the house's horses." John Vane's version of these events can be read by clicking the link on the Links Page, 'John Vane Bushranger' and proceed to page 135. Page 137 also re-tells the first Canowindra raid and festivities.

Canowindra from
Blue Jacket Lookout, 2016.

My photograph.
Following a tranquil respite, the gang rode out of 'Cliefden'  and turned their horse’s heads toward Canowindra, continuing to stick-up travelers as they rode along. 29th September 1863;[sic] - "The bushrangers Gilbert, O'Meally, Hall, and others continue to rob passengers on the Western Road, and to elude the police."

Meanwhile, as Ben and his four companions were in the process of wreaking havoc across the Carcoar district, Ben's former acquaintance Henry Gibson, who had been captured the previous April 1863 in the company of Hall, Gilbert and O’Meally and who had been continuously held at the Forbes gaol was once again dragged into court by Sir Frederick Pottinger in September 1863 charged with 'Shooting with Intent' at the police. Subsequently,  Gibson represented himself whereby he wove a compelling defence which convinced the jury of his innocence by claiming that the reason for his friendship and presence with Ben was that he had been acting in the capacity as manager of Hall’s station Sandy Creek. A statement in itself far-fetched as Sandy Creek had been out of Hall’s hands since the end September 1862 where in fact Gibson and Hall's former lover Susan Prior had been residing there as illegal squatters and were only extricated after Ben Hall’s home was incinerated at the hands of the police on the 14th March 1863; ‘Sydney Mail’, 19th September, 1863; SHOOTING WITH INTENT- "Henry Gibson alias Henry Parker, was charged with shooting at a constable named James Townly, at Brewer River on the 17th of April This was a case in which the prisoner was proved to be one of the party whom a body of police had chased, under the supposition that they were bushrangers. The prisoner had been called to stand (but not in the Queen's name) and, not complying with the order, had been fired at two or three times and eventually captured. Immediately afterwards a shot was fired by one of the prisoner's companions, the whole of whom escaped. On the prisoner a loaded revolver was found. Some witnesses were examined to prove they had seen him frequently in company with Gardiner, Lowry, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Hall, in the Wheogo district. The prisoner, who had no legal advisor, spoke in his own defence, and in such a way as to create a great impression in his favour. He said that at the time the witnesses proved having seen him in company with two bushrangers they had not "turned out in the bush," and that he had been managing overseer to Ben Hall when the latter was an honest man, and said if they ware criminals surely he was not to be hold equally guilty. His Honor summed up very favourably, and the jury retired for a short interval, and on returning gave a verdict of not guilty, which called forth some applause from the body of the court. His Honor ordered these manifestations to be checked, and then spoke as follows: - "It will no doubt be a gratification to you, gentlemen of the jury, as well, no doubt, to everyone else, to learn that the prisoner will not escape. Since the jury retired it had been ascertained beyond all doubt that the prisoner is an escaped convict from Melbourne.” The prisoner was removed into custody. This verdict was not enough to save Gibson, and he was removed to Victoria for sentencing on the previous charges. Ben Hall continued bushranging.
After Gibson's May 1863 release, Sir Frederick Pottinger re-arrested Gibson and he was held over until the Victorian Police bona fides could be ascertained.
Gibson Acquitted, NSW Police Gazette September 1863.
Gibson held for transfer to Melbourne Victoria September 1863.
However, following the sojourns and success at Loudon's and Rothery's the five bushrangers duly arrived, as they had stated to Rothery, at the quiet town of Canowindra knowing from their telegraphs that the troopers were out in the bush searching for them. Canowindra was a nondescript village similar in status as those that surrounded it such as Woodstock, Cargo and Billimari and where over the next few weeks Canowindra would be the one town that was to become well acquainted with the gang and gain a lasting historical notoriety. The gang rode into Canowindra and dismounted outside the local General Store of Pierce and Hilliar, drew their revolvers and saunted in; “…on Gilbert and staff arriving at Canowindra, they bailed up the stores of Messrs. Pierce and Hilliar, where they took £3 in money and about £30 worth of goods, recounting, at the same time, some of their former exploits with enthusiasm. The next amusement was to visit the inns of the place. At Daley's they did not do anything worthy of notice; but at Mr. Robinson's they had quite a jollification—there being a piano, dancing was kept up until morning was far advanced. They paid for everything they had, except a valuable horse which the service required. Burke being quite overpowered, had to be roused with some force at 8 a.m., to take the line of march ordered by his Commander.” The property stolen from the store included, five pairs of boots, five waistcoats, four pounds weight of tobacco, and £9, not £3 as first stated. Furthermore, as far as the bushrangers were concerned the evening at Canowindra presented an opportunity for fun and to enjoy themselves in an escape from the trying conditions of living rough therefore they gathered up the townsfolk and hearded them into the local hotel. Once gathered the gang demonstrated no vindictiveness towards any of the citizens. Consequently, for the inhabitants the evening turned into a welcoming distraction and was conducted in a festive atmosphere. The night went on to become legendary and was widely reported as a thoroughly enjoyable soiree or jubilee with the bushrangers footing the bill via their ill gotten gains for the entire evening; 'Empire', 6th October, 1863: "On Sunday evening we received information that Gilbert and his four companions reached Canowindra, as promised, four hours after they left Mr. Rothery's. About six o'clock they rode into town, tied up their horses, and commenced searching every house and person for cash, but obtained a very limited amount. They took from the only stores in town, Messrs. Pierce and Hilliar, about thirty pounds' worth of men's clothing, and three pounds in cash; after which they adjourned to Robinson's, junior, inviting all hands to have a ball, for which Gilbert paid-tea being first ordered. I may state that the landlord and his wife had departed that morning for Bathurst, leaving only his sister and two miss Flanagans in charge of the house.

After the tea things were cleared away, Gilbert very politely asked one of the young ladies to play him a tune on the piano. Some short time after, a dance was proposed, and commenced about nine o'clock, and continued till daylight next morning (Sunday). Constable Sykes being amongst the company, it was proposed by Ben Hall that he (Sykes) should act as M.C. and that Burke and O'Meally should receive any company that might arrive during the evening. The company, we are informed, numbered eighteen at 12 o'clock, and the numbers were not augmented after that hour. Gilbert and his companions called and paid for all they drank during the night; and the nights amusement is spoken of as one of the jolliest affairs that has ever taken place in that small town-not a low or improper word being spoken by the gang. Gilbert kept the crowd in roars of laughter, at intervals, during the night, by giving an account of the police, whom he designated as a lot of cowards and said when he left Rothery's he mentioned where he was going, so that it might be intimated to the police; knowing full well that they would not reach Canowindra until they (the bushrangers) had left. He said they never came till a day or two after. How fully borne out is this assertion, I will presently show. However, to finish my narrative: The bushrangers left Robinson's at five o'clock, and retired to a paddock opposite, where they had two hours' sleep, and left Canowindra unmolested at eight o'clock." Following the festivities it was reported that O'Meally, who had many relatives throughout the district paid some of them a celebrity visit; "...before leaving Canowindra, O'Meally visited some of this admiring relatives, about three or four miles off, and was most cordially received by them."⁶ Furthermore, it should also be noted at this time that the majority of newspapers were still referring to the five bushrangers on and off as Gilbert's gang and in many instances continued to do so up until mid-1864, where others had given Ben Hall the title as Mrs Loudon had stated. On the Sunday 27th September, a near tragedy occured when the son of the Inspector-General of police Captain John M’Lerie, Sub-Inspector Greorge McPherson McLerie, came to grief whilst crossing the flooded Five Mile Creek near Carcoar, the result being that he almost lost his life while on patrol searching for Ben Hall; "Mr. Inspector M'Lerie had a narrow escape from drowning on Sunday night. He and his men were returning to Carcoar, and on attempting to cross the Five-mile Creek, he was swept down — his horse being turned over and over in the stream— and but for the assistance of some diggers encamped near the spot, he must have perished."⁷ However, after the night of entertainment and dancing at the Canowindra hotel another piece of information came to light of the gang's movements following their departure where it was reported that as they rode away they came upon a flooded creek and whilst they were in the act of crossing the water course John Vane got into some difficulty which might have well-nigh have cost Vane his life; 'Sydney Mail', Saturday, 10th October, 1863;- [From a Correspondent.]- Carcoar, Saturday. October 3rd.- “…I mentioned in my last that Gilbert and his gang were at Canowindra on Sunday morning, and left there at eight o'clock a.m. They then proceeded to Bundaroo (Mr. Icely's station), and took some horses. In crossing the race at Duffy's fall, they had to swim, and in doing so Vane lost his seat, and was precipitated into the water— the horse being carried down some distance, till he washed against a tree. The girths then breaking, the horse made for the bank, where he was secured by the others, who ran down for a mile on foot to catch him. The saddle and swag, containing three revolvers £25 in notes, and some clothing, were lost. They then returned to Canowindra, ran some horses into the town, and slept there on Sunday night. I may state that when they were within half-a-mile of the town, they (the bushrangers) sent a message by a man named Sullivan, an old resident of Canowindra, to the police, that they were prepared to meet them and would stop there for them, so long as no more than six came. That they would fight them man to man, and allow the police one extra to take the place of the first trooper that fell. Sullivan took his message, but the police said they could not cross the river. Sullivan offered to punt them across, but they declined!" The report above of the narrow escape from the possible drowning John Vane recounted the event in his biography and stated that after warning the Canowindra constable Sykes not to inform his superiors of their presence for 24hrs he Hall and Burke then separated from O’Meally and Gilbert and crossed the Belubula River where they made their way to 'Bangaroo Station' then owned by Mr. Icely, on the lookout for fresh horses but finding none were available they then returned to re-joined Gilbert and O’Meally but found the Belubula River now in full flood which prevented them crossing;Vane op.cit. “…Hall, Burke and I rode down the river to Bangaroo Station hoping to get fresh horses; but there were no horses in the paddock, and we returned up the river again, only to find it in full flood. Shortly after we had reached the river, Gilbert rode up on the other side of the stream and said there were a lot of police higher up on the top crossing, waiting for the flood waters to subside, and they were camped just opposite the town; so we made up our minds to swim the river without delay. First stripping our clothes off we each folded our revolvers and ammunition inside, rolling them up securely, and strapping the bundle securely to the saddle. Hall was first in the water and I followed close behind; but my horse would not swim, and when he reached the strong part of the current he turned turtle and sank, raising only to be carried down the stream until he came near the bank on the side from which he started, which I reached in safety. When he reached the bank the horse got his head between two saplings that were growing close together and became fast, while his hind quarters remained in the stream. He remained in this position until Burke, who had not started to cross, ran down and pushed his head back, when the stream caught him again and carried him into the branches of an old oak tree that had fallen in the river. He sank once more and remained so long under water that I thought he was drowned; but he rose again, this time without the saddle, and made for the opposite bank, where I was standing, when I caught the bridle and assisted him out. With the saddle I lost my clothes and firearms and £19 in money. Burke did not cross the river till next morning, by which time the water had fallen; but Hall, Gilbert, O’Meally and I rode away from the river and camped for the night on a hill overlooking the town. We paddocked our horses there and re-saddled at day-break next morning, when Burke re-joined us.”

"Bail- Up"
(Unknown artist)
In a buoyant mood after their recent jubilee at Canowindra the gang gave Mikey Burke his first opportunity for a solo performance in coach robbing. However, in case the young bushranger was unable to handle the robbery the remainder of the gang observed the proceedings from the nearby bush. Accordingly, Burke came through with flying colours; ‘The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser’, October 1863, published with a date of September 30.- “The mail was stuck up on Tuesday near the usual place. "Burke did the job himself, to the satisfaction of his comrades, who kept out of sight. About £10 was abstracted from the letters." Furthermore, the local newspapers were reporting the ease in which the bushrangers continued to sweep through the Carcoar district, and wrote of the wide spread belief that the bushrangers had the police’s measure; 'Bathurst Times', 30th September 1863; - "In the Bathurst district, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Company appear to be as busy as ever, helping, themselves indiscriminately to whatever they choose. The police are in hot pursuit, but, so far, have not succeeded in apprehending any of the gang; and we cannot but regret to see the belief expressed that the constables are afraid of them. We certainly should be glad to see these offenders brought to justice, but the lawlessness of their pursuits, keeps them so constantly on the alert, that their capture is far easier to write about than to effect." However, in the coming days ahead Ben Hall and his confederates were to conduct one of the most daring and affronting raids in NSW colonial history which sent shockwaves to the very seat of colonial power. Moreover, on the Thursday, 1st of October, 1863 the 'Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser', re-published an article from the ‘Yass Courier’, highlighting again the burning of bushranger John O’Meally’s families homestead which included their notorious public-house which had been incinerated arbitrarily by the NSW Police earlier in September 1863 under the auspicious of the 'Crown Lands Occupation Act of 1861.' In spite of the police action this writer's sympathies seem to lean towards an empathy for Ben Hall in his current circumstances. However, his assumption is totally without foundation; “…within the last two years several bad characters have been captured at O'Meally's; therefore, this burning down looks like destroying the trap that ensnared the vermin. Such Culverhouse acts will never stop bushranging; they are more likely to increase it, as in the case of Ben Hall, who was rendered the desperate outlaw he now is principally through the police burning down his once comfortable homestead, and thrusting his wife and family into the shelter-less bush. At least one of the victims in Hall's case must have been innocent, for it was an infant at the breast. But acts of indiscriminate harshness have been, and always will be the distinguishing characteristic of a weak government. People around here say that as some police inspectors find themselves incompetent to take the leading bushrangers, they therefore vent their disappointment and rage upon the robbers' relatives, i.e., by rendering houseless their aged parents, wives, and children. Such retaliation indeed smacks of the medieval ages, and is unworthy of the enlightened nineteenth century." The above article's 'sympathetic' comment may well have been composed by the same gentleman who had written the earlier June 1863 article on Ben Hall’s path to bushranging. (see Ben Hall page) Nonetheless, the article conjured up a view to those unfamiliar with Ben Hall's current atrocities by encompassing on the one hand, pity, and on the other admiration regarding Hall's actions and his emerging notoriety via the so called injustice of authority against not only Hall but those closest to him, as in the case of the O'Meally's. This misguided view had been highlighted through the incineration of Hall’s own former home destroyed also also under the auspicious of the 'Crown Lands Occupation Act of 1861'. However, it must be remembered that Hall’s ownership of his station had been relinquished back in September 1862 and that his former home at the time was being illegally inhabited contrary to the new owner John Wilson's wishes. Consequently, to the wider sections of the NSW public who scoured the newspapers and hung on every word or morsel of information regarding the bushrangers exploits or current circumstances may well have been swayed through the correspondents setting of a brutal scene regarding a perceived injustice inflicted on Hall through police victimisation or a singling out. As a result these type of sympathetic stories could be construed as a type of assistance if not collaboration by the press by entreating a great deal of compassion to the public therefore generating uninformed sympathy for Hall’s previous law-abiding life. A compassion which, however, in the months to come would begin to wane in the public's mind.

The Bushrangers.
Courtesy NLA
Notwithstanding, the bushrangers free range throughout the troubled districts and the outcry from settlers living in those areas had the country's newspapers in pursuance of all the recent outrages conducted up to the commencement of October 1863, came forth with more damning editorials over the bushrangers escapades and as a result demanded explanations from the NSW Legislative Assembly as to why the NSW police were so reluctant to engage the bushrangers. furthermore, many editorials openly lampooned the government inferring that if the troopers earlier conduct at George Marsh's Farm was anything to go by, then the colony and public had completely misread the ability of the NSW police and the legislative power of the government in effecting their capture or demise; 'Sydney Mail', 10th October 1863; THE REIGN OF TERROR. (From the Bathurst Times, September 30th.)"There can be no ignoring the fact that we are now living under a reign of terror such as never before prevailed in these districts, since they were first inhabited by the white man. Half-a-dozen heartless, reckless, blood-thirsty scoundrels are masters of this western territory, and hold, at their good will and pleasure, the lives and properties of all our citizens who reside beyond the boundaries of a populous township. Mere boys though they be, they are, beyond all question, masters of the situation, and the fact is a deep disgrace to our civilization. Just at the time that our most intelligent and respectable citizens assemble together in a monster mass to discuss the conditions of our future progress, and contend for the prize of a grand trunk line of railway, which, if decided in our favor, is to give us the leadership amongst the great districts of the colony, a few striplings, armed to the teeth, and surrounded with chevaux de frise of carbines and revolvers, sweep the country to our very doors, and carry on a wholesale system of plunder altogether unparalleled in the history of New South Wales. One unfortunate storekeeper, Mr. Hosie, of Caloola Creek, has thus been deprived of money and property, we understand, at the rate of £700, at two different periods, and is brought to the verge of ruin, and, notwithstanding that the district is almost swarming with police, their career appears to be one undisturbed series of successes so far, indeed, from the police keeping them in check, they have commenced apprehending the police, and habitually hold them in the most thorough contempt. In our last issue our Rockley correspondent gave a characteristic sketch of a week's bushranging adventures of the Western banditti, and the sort of services rendered by the police, we appear to be reduced to that normal condition of society in which a man is doomed to protect himself by his own strong arm or his trusty sword. Law and authority are fast becoming powerless, and no one knows, who carries on business outside a township, how soon he may be stripped of his worldly possessions and ruined. There can be no concealing the fact that the evil is deep seated, and has taken, or is now taking, firm root in the soil. The class to which Gilbert and O'Meally belong number amongst its rising youth many budding bushrangers, who will assuredly be encouraged to take the road by the impunity which has marked the career of their predecessors.

There is a large population, bred and reared in the holes and corners of our district, who know little of honest labor, and care less for its moderate rewards. To moral restraints they are utterly insensible, and are dead to any salutary influences but those of fear the law they regard as a tyranny, and its administrators as tyrants, and are prepared, at any fitting or convenient time, to commence a career of violence and crime and what, pray, is to prevent them? We hear, frequently of bushrangers camping within a few hours' ride of Bathurst, and doing the coolest possible things. They evidently feel their security from harm, and care no more for the police than if they were so many gadflies. It is time something were done, and if the Government cannot protect life and property, that the people do it themselves. With as full a regard for the law as any citizen in these districts, and as unflinching a determination to adhere to it, we are reluctantly driven to the conclusion that it is, in the community at least, powerless for protection. Surely there are pluck and manhood sufficient in the young men of the West to defend their hearths and homes and to induce such a gathering as would hunt the miscreants down, and bring those to justice who are filling the country districts with terror and alarm. Without some auxiliary to our present police force, we have certainly little hope of a restoration of peace and security. Since the foregoing, which was penned for Saturday's issue, was committed to type, further intelligence has come to hand in reference to the doings of the bushranging firm. The jolly cut-throats who now direct the destinies of these regions, have flown off at a tangent and given their attention to higher game than they have hitherto pursued. They now aspire to magisterial society, - have super with Mr. Loudon, J P, and after subjecting him to the ignominy of handcuffs, held a thieves' jubilee in his presence. Having played out their game at Grubbenbong, and done a generous thing in not stripping his house of all its valuables, they start for Mr. Montague Rothery's establishment at Limestone Creek, appropriate his champagne, quaff his brandy, and select from his saddle horses and saddlery just what suits them, jocosely remarking, we understand, to the proprietor, whilst all this business is being transacted, that if he will send for the Carcoar police, they will put them in handcuffs and take them into town.

After remaining there several hours and completing their marauding enterprise, they start for Canowindra, have a night's carouse at a public inn, rob a store, and pursue their way with a deliberateness which, in their estimation, argues a sense of perfect security, and a complete freedom from interference. And such is the game these ruffians have been playing during the last fortnight - camping, on one occasion, two nights in the same locality, and appropriating a settler's hay for the feed of their horses. In brief, we may state that during the time specified, this band of freebooters have, in the most public and deliberate manner, been preying upon the inhabitants of this district- despoiling them of their property, laughing the authorities to scorn, and in every practicable and possible way, insulting the sacred form of justice! Were the thing not gravely serious, it would be absolutely ludicrous. If our social life and commercial security were not involved, the whole thing would be a huge joke. And where, pray, whilst all this melancholy farce has been enacting, were our police detachments - superintendents and inspectors to boot? Whilst these reprobates were leisurely pursuing their infamous traffic through the country, with their ten or dozen horses, which, owing to the softness of the weather, could be easily tracked, where were the men who are paid to protect our property - Echo answers where? - and the one universal impression is, that they were looking for the bushrangers and praying that they might not find them! We have no desire to deal unjustly by the police, but the whole business is now approximating to a crisis which can neither be ignored by the Government nor the country.

NSW Police Gazette
7th October 1863.
Unperturbed by all the press reports surrounding their atrocities and where possible the gang sought to read of themselves with amusement. With all their successes and narrow escapes the gang had become completely indifferent to the forces of the NSW police or their pursuit as the bushrangers casually drifted from their jubilee at Canowindra towards the provincial town of Bathurst. Moreover, without any fear of discovery and though widely confirmed by locals the bushrangers formed a camp close to Bathurst at Swan Pond alongside Evans Plains Creek including another further south at Long Swamp near Mulgunnia Station in preparation for more outrages. However, these unruffled actions had many asking just where were the police!; 'Sydney Morning Herald', 1st October, 1863; “Good information has just been received that the bushrangers were seen camped about fifteen miles from Bathurst three hours since. These scoundrels have been within twenty-five miles of this town, committing all kinds of depredations, during the last week, and it is firmly believed that the police, from their dilatory and sluggish proceedings, are afraid of them.” Were they? However, as the debate continued to rage over the gang’s reign of terror, coincidentally on the 1st of October, 1863, Ben Hall riding with John Vane broke camp and proceeded on horseback in the direction of the Trunkey Diggings. However, whilst traversing a gully the pair came across two young men with whom they instantly 'bailed up'. These unfortunate victims were revealed to be the sons of two of the most esteemed members of the local Bathurst community. They were Mr Randolph Machattie, son of the well-known and highly respected Dr Machattie and the son of the intrepid NSW Police Captain, Edward Battye, who had at the outbreak of Gardiner/Ben Hall’s bushranging activities in 1861 had been the officer in charge at Lambing Flat. During his tenure at Lambing Flat Captain Battye had had moderate success in the suppression of both cattle duffing and bushranging. Now his son, Montague 'Bertie' Battye was being held at gunpoint by one of his former adversaries. Furthermore, it would be through this encounter between young 'Bertie' and Ben Hall that within a few days of their meeting would set the country alight after the two young men goaded the bushrangers to display some real pluck and come and raid the district capital west of the Blue Mountains, Bathurst; 'Empire’, Tuesday, 6th October, 1863; - The Bathurst Free Press of Saturday last publishes the following:-"It appears that, notwithstanding the number of policemen engaged in the Western districts, with Captain M'Lerie at their head, little or nothing has been done, or can be done, to break up the gang which has lately caused so much annoyance in this neighbourhood; the villains are constantly prowling about, within a circuit of thirty-five or forty miles, and are frequently met with by passers-by, but, strange to say, the police cannot find them. On Thursday morning, last, Mr. R. Machattie, surveyor (son of Dr. Machattie), and Mr. B. Battye (son of Captain Battye), were met by Vane and Hall in the neighbourhood of Mulgunnia near Caloola, and were ordered to stand and deliver; a conversation ensued, which lasted for about two hours, during which time Hall was exceedingly amused at the propositions made by Machattie and Battye to run them a footrace, rather than lose their property. Vane wanted to handcuff the young gentlemen, but Hall would not consent to such a proceeding. The robbers took from their victims £2 in cash, but Hall gave back to Mr. Machattie a watch he had taken from him, and allowed him to retain a gold ring. Hall had a bottle of port wine with him, of which all hands were invited to partake, and when asked by Mr. Machattie why they did not give up their present evil courses, they replied they had nothing better to do, and would not give up unless Government offered them a bonus to leave the country. Eventually they rode away, taking with them the horses, saddles, and bridles, belonging to Messrs. Machattie and Battye; saying they would leave the horses where they would be found as soon as they were better suited. Shortly after the foregoing occurrence, another man was stuck up and robbed by the same persons in the same neighbourhood, but they only took from him a few shillings. Mr. Machattie had to walk several miles before he could procure another horse, after which he rode into Bathurst and gave information to the police."

John Vane gives a first hand account of the bailing up of the two sons of Captain Battye and Dr. Machattie in his biography, ‘John Vane, Bushranger’.op.cit. “…leaving Long Swamp early next morning, Hall and I decided to take a short run in the direction of the Trunkey Diggings, for gold always had an attraction for us, although we didn’t trouble to search for it as the diggers searched.  Evading the main road, we were quietly jogging along a gully when we met two young surveyors on their way to Bathurst – “Dosh” Machattie, son of the late Dr. Machattie, and young Battye, son of the then well-known Captain Battye, of the Western police. Without much ceremony we bailed them up, but neither of them was burdened with riches, and we didn’t get much.  Battye wanted to run me a foot-race (he was a good sprinter), but I was “not on,” and there was some light talk about an engagement with fists; but this came to nothing. Before leaving, Machattie said, “Why don’t you come to Bathurst? I suppose you are not game?” Hall replied that we would show him whether we were game or not, and that we would pay the big town a visit during the following week. They took this as a big joke, and a piece of boasting and bluff on our part; but, as the result proved, they had put a thought in our heads which led to a determination that was fully and faithfully carried out.” Years following Battye's encounter with Ben Hall it was noted of his prowess on foot by a Mr. Ned Hennessy; [sic] "Battye, a son of old Captain Battye (who had many a brush with the 'rangers) and Robson ran 100 yards for £100 aside. Battye won."

NSW Police Gazette 7 Oct 1863.
Furthermore, when Vane and Ben Hall had encountered the two young riders, Machattie and Battye, their two other members Gilbert and O'Meally minus Burke, were holding the road near the settlement of Number One Swamp, now known as the small town of Neville and not far from where the gang were encamped in the rugged Neville State Forrest, part of a range of state forests which encompass this area. The two bushrangers whilst out on the road 'Bailed-Up' two travellers by the names of Jones and Newman and detained them for over one hour. However, the details of the robbery did not appear in the press until some three weeks later as reported here on the 20th of October. Subsequently, during this robbery the burning of John O'Meally's family home was raised and it appears that O'Meally may have looked to take revenge against the police, which fortunately for these prisoner’s, police they were not; ANOTHER CASE OF STICKING-UP. -At 11 a.m. on Thursday, the 2nd, instant, "Mr. Alfred Newman (brother of an old colonist in Sydney) and Mr. Jones, Sheriff’s officer, were on their way to Caloola, when Messrs. Gilbert and O'Meally commanded them to stand, covering them with their carbines. They had each three or four revolvers stuck in their waist belts. A strict examination of pockets was made, when Mr. Newman requested O'Meally to remove the muzzle of his gun from his head. Mr. Newman offered him what silver he had, which fortunately, amounted to only four shillings-a sum quite beneath their notice-as they stated that they did not take anything less than gold or notes. Mr. Jones, however, had a half-sovereign, which they appropriated, and made him take off his Napoleon boots, remarking that they had once found a watch and £14 in a man's boots. With some persuasion Mr. Newman saved his horse, telling them that it was the property of a poor man in Bathurst. They however, exchanged bridles with their victims. Messrs. Gilbert and O'Meally had each of them a pair of handcuffs, telling these gentlemen that they, and not the troopers, carried those articles now. They also said that the police might always find them, if they wanted, as they were always on the road, -adding, "Why don't they come after us?": They tried on Mr. Jones' cloak, but Mr. Newman telling Gilbert that it did not become a bushranger, they threw it away. They took Mr. Newman, from his wearing a long beard and moustache, to be a policeman, on which class they appeared inclined to avenge themselves for the burning of his O'Meally's father's house, and he considered himself very fortunate, and was very thankful, with his companion Mr. Jones, to get off as well, as he did. They detained them about a quarter of an hour, extracting a promise that they would not report the affair at the next police station, which was not more than half a mile away. It occurred at No. 1 Swamp, near Caloola."

However, where Burke was during this time is unknown, but recent research has uncovered the possibility that Burke had ventured off to visit family or a girlfriend? It appears that the locket found on his body after his death, may well be his daughter, and therefore, his presence may well have been in their company. (For a view of the portrait of Burke's reputed daughter see Gang page. Source R.A.H.S.)

The 'Empire', of Saturday 3rd, October, 1863, again repeated what had been continually stated in all the newspapers of the day, that dissatisfaction with the NSW police force was continuously raging through the community. The NSW Parliament, was also feeling the heat with many members outraged over the poor conduct of the police force, as their constituents berated those members representing the districts most affected by bushranging. Mr. Cowper was under sustained attack in Parliament with the Legislative members wrestling with the call for a change agitated by Mr. James Martin, thereby forcing Mr Cowper to publicly rebuke the Inspector-General, Captain McLerie; “...on Wednesday night the Colonial Secretary read several telegrams to and from the Inspector-General of Police. Captain M'Lerie was informed that the Government were disgusted at the behaviour of the police, and that he would be expected to resign if the five bushrangers, including Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Hall, were not captured within a month. And further, that a new force would be inaugurated. The House expressed its gratification at this decided step on the part of the Executive.” ⁹ The 'Empire' newspaper however, in the first few days of October 1863 published another editorial reprinting the sentiment expressed in the 'Lachlan Miner', September 30th 1863, in exasperation of the continued lack of effort by both NSW Government and the NSW Police in first their ability and second their attempts to capture Ben Hall and his companions. However, after the recent events at Marsh's Farm and for the first time the press now referred to the contest between the bushrangers and the police as a 'Bushranger War'; STILL THE BUSHRANGER.- “The aspect of the war. (for we can call it nothing else) between the bushrangers and the police, is becoming ever day more alarming to the peaceable inhabitants of New South Wales; and were it not for the imminent danger to which both properly and life are exposed, the performances of our defenders would be truly a farce of the broadest kind. Not satisfied with, attacking parties of police sent out to scour the country in search of offenders, the present "Overseers of Roads" have actually been searching premises, where they expected the "protectors of life and property" were concealed; and the rifles and handcuffs are now transferred from those who either could not or would not use them, to others who both can and, will. We are told by the Bathurst Times, in the most matter-of-fact manner, that when, two troopers went out from, Mr. Marsh's, near Carcoar, after hearing two shots, which they must have supposed to have been exchanged between bushrangers and one of their mates, who had accompanied Mr. Marsh to secure a stray horse, only one of them had taken the precaution to have his rifle with him. The one who had his arms, as a matter of course, gave them up, and these troopers were specially sent out to take bushrangers. No wonder the Times recommends make-believe fire-arms, so that the bushrangers may not be benefitted. Why not have dummy troopers, who would benefit the country, by costing nothing for pay, and wearing out no shoe leather? While these accounts are reaching us every hour-while the district, from Bathurst, round Canowindra, Cowra, and Carcoar, is in a state of martial law-if the law of bushrangers can be called by such a name-we hear of but few efforts (beyond the old six-and-eight penny ones) being made by the police. The Lambing Flat papers, as well as those of the "Great City of the West," teem with reports of robberies, handcuffing’s, and murder's; enlivened at intervals by an account of a spirited, and usually successful resistances by some "private individual”, who does not receive Government pay for allowing himself to be shot at. The proceedings which have lately taken place in the Bathurst districts are a disgrace to the police officers, and men who are supposed to protect others, but cannot, in reality, take care of themselves. The same applies in a large degree to the Burrangong district; where it certainly appears that the inhabitants must look out for themselves. Such a stigma upon officialdom, we venture to say, has never been cast in any other British colony. But why should we waste more time and space upon a subject which we have worn threadbare, without the least advantage resulting to any one, or the slightest effort having been made by the Government?”

NSW Police Gazette,
30th September 1863.
Nevertheless, the article above highlighted the actions of a local squatter Mr. Wilding, (although not named) of 'Wildash Station' Burrowa who earlier in the month of September 1863 was bailed up by two bushrangers that resulted in the killing of one perpetrator, a death which was mercilessly meted out by those present and the other after a similar beating lay close to death. Furthermore, the two bushrangers may or may not have been fringe dwellers of Ben Hall and Co. The two men were named James Murphy and Frederick Phillips. From the ‘Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser’, Thursday, 1st October, 1863; STICKING-UP NEAR BURROWA. -ONE BUSHRANGER FELLED, AND THE OTHER MORTALLY WOUNDED. A CORRESPONDENT of the Yass Courier writing under date 23rd instant, says-"Mr. Thomas Wilding's residence at Gunary Creek, seven miles from Burrowa, was attempted to be stuck-up last night by two bushrangers, one of whom was shot dead, and the other severely wounded by Mr. Wilding and another party who was in the house at the time. The dead body was brought into Burrowa this morning on a cart. The other man is not expected to recover. Another correspondent states that no firearms were used by Mr. Wilding, but that on the bushrangers entering the house they were attacked with cudgels; that the head of one man was thoroughly beaten in and the jaw of the other broken in three places. When the last accounts were received the wounded man was in Burrowa lying in a very precarious state. We refrain from entering into further particulars, as various accounts of this affair are current, and we, therefore, prefer waiting until we are in possession of an authentic statement, which we shall be provided within due course. The names of the men are Phillips and Murphy, alias Jem the Blackguard. An enquiry was commenced on Thursday morning. Phillips, under the name of Vane or Kane, was tried and convicted, about three years ago, for abduction. He and Murphy were suspected of sticking-up Maloney's inn, at Wallah Wallah, a short time since. The writer adds: I saw both the murdered man and the prisoner; the former had four large cuts on the back of the head, which broke that part of the skull into fragments; The latter's jaw is broken in two or three places, and he is so beaten and chopped about the face and skull, that there can be very little hopes of his recovering." The people of Burrowa and surrounds who for some time had felt the depredations of Ben Hall and gang were gratified at the news of two bushrangers being captured. The townsfolk rushed to the lockup to catch a glimpse of who was at first rumoured to be Gilbert and O'Meally, ‘Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser’, Tuesday, 20th October, 1863; "...the townspeople, who had already, heard of the affair, and the supposed capture of Gilbert and O'Meally, ran in crowds towards the lock-up to ascertain its truth and to satisfy their curiosity by feasting their eyes on the two men who had committed so many depredations but much to their astonishment, the men turned out to be James Murphy, better known as Jemmy Blackguard well known in the district for some seven or eight years, being in the employment of several of the settler's, and a man of very small stature; the other, the survivor, calls himself Frederick Phillips, of huge size."

View of Bathurst from the
 bushrangers perspective
on the Bald Hill.
(Mount Panorama)

Courtesy NLA.
The bushrangers next appeared on the evening of Saturday the 3rd of October 1863, where one of the most sensational raids ever committed by bushrangers in the history of NSW was about to take place and saw Ben Hall, John Gilbert, O’Meally, Vane and Mickey Burke arrive at the social and cultural hub of the NSW Western Districts, Bathurst, a large sprawling township and gateway to the western districts of NSW. Bathurst was founded in 1814, and positioned on the main road to and from Sydney via the track cut across the Blue Mountains which was fully completed in 1815 and where in 1813 after struggling across those ranges; "...surveyor William Evans is gazing with a contented heart at the wonderful panoramic view of virgin country that lies below him. It was like a glimpse of Paradise after his strenuous journey over the Blue Mountains."

William street, Bathurst. View
from top of St Michael's Church
looking N.E. as the Gang

approached Pedrotta's shop
on the right from the south
c. 1880's
Courtesy RAHS. 
Furthermore, Bathurst had been a town that Ben Hall was very familiar with, as in 1856, Ben married Bridget Walsh in St Michael's Catholic Church on William street and whose nuptials were performed by Father Jerome Keating, and where also in those pre-bushranging days Ben was known to visit on more than one occasion in the company of his older brother William, and reputedly held his wedding party at the 'Bentinck and Piper Inn', licensed to Alexander Crilly and the newly married couple enjoyed Bathurst for a reported five days. However, for the gang as a whole, Bathurst was also the lion’s den, for the town was the headquarters of the NSW Western police aptly led by Superintendent Morrissett, who along with other NSW police officers including Inspector Pottinger, were constantly scouring the local area's for the five elusive bushrangers. Consequently, with the arrival of the gang in town, news was soon circulating of their presence with the alarmist cries ringing out of "bushranger", "bushranger", creating a panic, and therefore turned the resident’s thought's to the much publicised 'Bushranger War' which had now apparently arrived on their doorstep. Furthermore, many locals flooded the streets to see for themselves the mythical bushrangers in person one of which also included the future author of the 'History of Australian Bushranging', Charles White, and where at one-point as the residents gathered close by, Ben Hall fired off a shot into the night air to clear a path, scattering the incredulous crowd.

However, upon their arrival the bushranger’s presence was held in disbelief and the early reports of their proximity around the town were few and far between as to what was about to transpire on that Saturday night as the five well dressed and mounted men walked their horses down William Street, for at the time Bathurst;[sic] "...was badly lighted, I. N. Wark not having at that time descended upon the city with his gas. The shops were dimly lighted with oil and candles, so that the time was well chosen—the residents were at tea, and the town at peace." The bushrangers then reined their horses outside the Gun Shop of a Mr Pedrotta in search of the much heralded and sort after Revolving Rifle. Furthermore, it would be revealed following the excitement of the evening, that the reason for the bushranger bravado encompassing the Bathurst visit had developed a few days previously when the two local young men Randolph Machattie, and the fiery Montague Battye had goaded them into it. However, as previously noted, when the two men were confronted by Ben Hall and John Vane both lads were not overly joyed at their apprehension which resulted in the two young men having their horses and equipment 'commandeered' by Hall. Furthermore, Battye, a man of small stature was incensed at the position then presented before him and with his blood up challenged the two bushrangers to either a fist fight or foot race, the prize being the return of their possessions, but Ben Hall refused. 'Bertie', smarting from the refusal and embarrassed at the loss his own and Machattie’s equipment as well a the lost chance to 'fist fight' a bushranger, Battye threw the parting taunt at them and sarcastically shouted out,[sic] “You are not game” he called “to come to Bathurst and take DeCloutt’s ‘Pasher’,” incensed at the cheek of Battye, Ben Hall retorted[sic] “We’ll show you about that”. Below is a series of newspaper articles published in order of the events of the acclaimed raid on the town of Bathurst NSW and consequently, it's surrounding district regarding those first few days of October 1863, which had newspaper editors scrambling for the most sensational and up to date details as they came to hand. The whole of the colony was thunderstruck and the telegraph wires crackled.
View of Bathurst from cnr of
 Russell and Stewart St
 c. 1880's.

Courtesy NLA.
TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCHES. [FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS.] BATHURST. Sunday, 4th October 1863, 7 p.m. THE BUSHRANGERS IN BATHURST. - "Last night, about half-past seven, Gilbert, O'Meally, Ben Hall, Burke, and Vane came into the heart of the town, and attempted to stick up the shop of Mr. McMinn, jeweler, in William-street. Gilbert and O'Meally went into the shop, leaving the others outside, but the screaming of the females in the house raised the alarm, and they beat a retreat. Jumping on their horses, they galloped down William-street, and, firing a shot in the air, passed down Howick street, then cantered up George-street, as if going out of town. In a little time, a troop of police were in pursuit, but by a manoeuvre of the bushrangers, they passed them, and so were out generalled. The bushrangers, ongoing up George-street, made for the rear of Mr. De Clouet's, and entering the house, stuck up the inmates and remained there in cool conversation for fully twenty minutes. They wanted the racehorse Pasha, but at the request of De Clouet, in whose employ Gilbert had at one time been, they relinquished their design and left quietly. Several young men volunteered immediately to go in pursuit, but there was neither ammunition nor caps in the police barracks. It is said that later in the night the police afterwards came up with them and exchanged shots, but without any result. The townspeople are in a fearful state of excitement. It is impossible to describe the state of feeling caused by the visit of this notorious gang of bushrangers." 

'The Sydney Morning Herald' reported from Bathurst on the 6th of the efforts of the town from Monday, 5th October 1863 at 5 p m. of the general panic and the urgent town meeting to form Special Constables for the capture of the gang; —"A meeting was held today at which resolutions were passed to accept the services of special constables, to form a committee to deliberate in secret on the best means to be adopted to capture the bushrangers. —A telegram from Mr. Cowper, authorising the Police Magistrate to take whatever steps might be suggested by the townspeople, was received with gratification. A horse thoroughly knocked up, supposed to be belong to the bushrangers, was brought in by the police last night. It had a saddle with a poncho on it, and a leather buckle to hold a rifle, but was without a bridle. ——A report is circulating through the town that the mail from Bathurst at Carcoar was stuck again this morning, twelve miles hence, at Fitzgerald's Mount. —The bushrangers were at Bartlett's yesterday, and took two horses from Mr. Mackie. ——A report has been received here to-day that Burke, the bushranger, had been taken near Carcoar by the police, who shot his horse and broke his arm." All hell was breaking loose as the audacity of the gangs brazen actions was hitting home as a correspondent from the 'Bathurst Times' published a frantic calling to all good citizens to help eradicate the scourge of bushranging, and gave an opinion that Ben Hall and Gilbert's actions were more about taunting NSW than from the rewards, though little, of highway robbery; (From the Bathurst Times, October 5th 1863) "The audacious visit of Gilbert and his mates to Bathurst, on Saturday evening, when considered in connection with their late career, though sudden and unexpected, is by no means calculated to create surprise, except so far as the manner of it is concerned. The contempt and ridicule in which they hold the police have been shewn in so many instances through, out all parts of the country comprised within the boundary pegs respectively represented by Forbes, Young, Abercrombie, Caloola, and Carcoar, that we cannot wonder they should project a journey to where the Western department has its seat, and its chief. The only thing which creates astonishment is, that they should have chosen Saturday evening for the raid, and at an hour when the bulk of the population were out of doors. Yet even this proves how capable they are of choosing an opportunity to make a "stroke," or of seizing an occasion to create a panic. Their object could not have been to plunder on a scale, though they were loath to depart without leaving some evidence of their craft They took advantage of every circumstance that could conspire to make their visit unexpected. Just the hour when the working portion of the inhabitant’s turnout, with their earnings of the expiring week, for the purpose of making household purchases, and when young people make it usual to walk for pleasure. The street chosen in which to commence operations was by many odds the throngest part of the town, and that section of the street in which is situated the largest number of well-lighted establishments was certainly the spot where everyone would suppose such a band of marauders would be least likely to come, yet come they did, and business they essayed to do, at three immediate adjoining places of business.

But all this was exceeded by the cool effrontery and dreadless impudence with which they turned into Mr De Clouett s yard and robbed the inmates of the house, at the very time when the whole town was in a state of alarm, and the police galloping in their supposed 'track'. Bushranging by this gang is evidently not followed as a mere means of subsistence, this could be obtained in the usual way, with little trouble and less risk, but it is their life. Every new success is a source of pleasure, and they are stimulated to a novelty of action from a desire to create a history. This has become their great ambition; and the spirit of adventure is fed in them by the popularity which attends almost every incident of their career. Every word they say, and everything they do, is recorded and they aspire to a name. Individual travellers carry less cash on their persons than once was customary; mails are less profitable and better guarded than they were formerly, and bushranging proper is partially stale. It is a circle which they have often described, and they would rather fly off at a tangent than walk round and round, and hence their late daring and partial pleasure trips to Loudon's, Rothery's, and Robinson's, and last to Bathurst. Since the attempt on the Carcoar Bank, in open day, we have frequently expressed the opinion that they would certainly visit Bathurst. We regarded that exploit as an index of their general plans, and the result has transpired very much as we expected. Having practically and frequently demonstrated the childishness of the officials employed and paid to capture them; having achieved success with so much ease; having combined the desperado and the gallant each in his own person, the robbers feel on the one hand that they have built up a superiority (though false it be) which denes the power of Government itself, and on the other, that they have secured, to a very great extent, a kind of sympathy in given circles, which, though of little real use to them, is nevertheless adapted to the miserable vanity in which they indulge. None of these things, however, can cover the wretched villainy of their proceedings. They may urge that their object is merely to possess a purse; but the alternative is death to him who refuses it.

Murder is in their schemes; and every man ought, therefore, to think of them, and to act towards them and pursue them, as enemies of the human race. From the tone of last Monday's meeting, Bathurst is worthy of rising in the estimation of every man who cares for his children, or who loves his country; and we trust that the movement will issue in means to be practically applied for the purpose of sweeping bushrangers and bushranging from the face of the land. The meeting might have been felt to be objectionable to some, if it had not been assured of the co-operation of the Government. The telegram received by Dr. Palmer whilst filling the chair set that matter at rest; and the inhabitants will therefore be warranted in any vigorous measures they may choose, to adopt for the capture of the villains infesting these districts. Let us strengthen the hands of the Police Magistrate and the gentlemen acting with him, in order to restore confidence in the people, and carry out the protective measures contemplated. A little sacrifice made now may secure many benefits in the future. It may establish peace. It may prove a blessing to posterity."

Tuesday, 6th October 1863, 8.30 p.m.-"A horseman has just galloped into town from the Vale Creek, about a mile and a half distant, with intelligence that the bushrangers have made an attack upon Mrs. Mutton's house, and bad proceeded in the direction of Mr Hellman's. Five troopers jumped into their saddles, and have this moment left the barracks in pursuit of the bushrangers. -The Inspector General of Police arrived in town this afternoon."¹⁰

BATHURST. Wednesday, 10th October 1863, 9 p.m. "The committee appointed to consider the best means for capturing the bushrangers have, with the sanction of the Government, issued placards, offering £2500 reward for the apprehension of the five Bushrangers-Gilbert, O'Meally, Bourke, Vane, and Ben Hall, or £500 each. Volunteers are called for, and the town has the appearance of being in a state of siege. The police have been out all day."¹¹

TELEGRAPHIC INTELLIGENCE. (Through Greville and Bird.) BATHURST. Wednesday Evening, 7th October 1863; "GILBERT and his gang, last night, at 9 o'clock, stuck-up Mrs. Mutton's house on the Vale Road, half a mile from Bathurst. Whilst searching for money, the rascals accidentally set fire to the bed, and one of them burnt his hands severely in attempting to put out the flames. The police on hearing the news, sallied forth at once, but arrived at Mrs. Mutton's half an hour too late, having taken a wrong direction. The bushrangers went right on from Mrs, Mutton's, and stuck-up Walker's Inn, M'Diarmic's store, and Butter's inn, all within four miles of Bathurst. A second party of police, headed by the Inspector-General of police himself, went in search of the scoundrels on receipt of the information. Meantime, the bushrangers attempted to rob several other places further on the road, and managed, after all, to escape from the police who are still out. There was great excitement amongst the townspeople on bearing the news, and crowds were in the streets until 3 o'clock this morning. It ought to be noted that immediately after the police under Captain M’Lerie started, shots were fired off; supposed to be meant for a sort of telegraphic signals, by confederates of the bushrangers in town. Placards have been posted offering £500 reward for the capture of each bushranger, and many volunteers are enrolling themselves."

NSW Police Gazette
14th October 1863.
By the 9th October 1863, the full details of the gangs raid on Bathurst was beginning to come to light thru the press as reported in the 'The Sydney Morning Herald', of that date; AUDACITY OF THE BUSHRANGERS: THE GANG IN BATHURST. (From the Bathurst Times of Wednesday 7th.) "THE shrieks of a woman in terror, a cry for "Help! " the trampling of horses, the report of a pistol, and the rapid galloping of a body of horsemen, whose figures as they shot through the darkness looked like shadows gliding down the main thoroughfares of the town, were productive of such a scene of consternation and amazement, on Saturday evening, as can never be forgotten by those who have witnessed what we have just described. In an instant the bewildered inhabitants of the houses within the line of disturbance were at their doors, and almost as quickly the cry of " Bushrangers " passed from lip to lip. To say that astonishment or excitement prevailed does not convey an adequate notion of the stunned and appalling effect produced, as little by little the fact was gradually affirmed that the bushrangers had actually made a descent upon the town. Proceeding in the direction from which the bushrangers had come, we found a crowd assembled outside the shop of Mr. M'Minn, the jeweller, in William-street, and there learnt that Gilbert and his gang had made a daring attempt to " stick up " that gentleman's shop.

In order that the bushrangers' proceedings may be better understood, we must first inform our readers of the manner in which they were disposed so as to prevent surprise. There were in all five, being as is supposed, O'Meally, Ben Hall, Burke, and Vane - the fifth, Gilbert, having been positively identified.

Bartholomew Pedrota
When they came into town, Vane appears to have been stationed in the right-of-way between the Church of England school and the Telegraph Office, and in the darkness he was effectually screened from view. The others rode in a body to Mr. Pedrotta's shop, where a number of firearms are displayed for sale. Gilbert and one of his companions, leaving their horses in charge of the other two, went in and asked if Pedrotta had any revolving rifles or double-trigger revolvers, upon being answered in the negative and shown the common kind of revolver, they said they were of no use and walked out. They then went down to Mr. M'Minn's shop, and the family being engaged at tea, walked into the room where they were sitting and presenting their revolvers, ordered all to be quiet. Miss M'Minn, however, at sight of the revolvers, screamed with fright, and though they threatened to blow out her brains if she did not keep quiet, she did not heed them in her terror, but still gave expression to her fear. Disconcerted, the two ruffians beat a retreat, presenting their revolvers as they backed out of the shop - one of them as he passed by the counter trying to lift the lid of a glass case, but he was foiled, as it was constructed to open from the inside of the counter.

The alarm was taken up outside, in the street, by Messrs. Curtis and Charles White, who called out for help, but before anything could be done the bushrangers were in their saddles and going down the street at full speed. At the corner of Howick-street, two of them turned sharp round, but the others appeared to be uncertain of their way and galloped on towards the police barracks, but a shot being fired into the air, by one of the first two, caused them to turn and re-join their companions. Galloping along Howick-street they were met as they turned the corner of George-street by Vane, who had ridden down the right of way already mentioned, and rapidly crossed the square. As he came up his horse stumbled, when the others eased their pace, and went up George-street at a moderate canter. In about a quarter of an hour, a body of troopers passed through the town in pursuit, following the direction taken by the bushrangers, but as it subsequently proved they passed them on the way.

Woodcut of DeClouet's
Sportsman Hotel
Piper St, Bathurst.
About half-an-hour after, while the townspeople were gathered in knots talking excitedly of the events we have described, a rumour began to circulate that Mr. De Clouet's public-house had been visited by the gang, who had robbed the inmates, and but just left. This proved to be true, for upon inquiry it was discovered that the bushrangers on passing Piper-street, in which Mr. De Clouet's house is situated, had turned off George-street and made for the rear of the premises. Here they dismounted, and tearing down two rails of the fence leading into the stable-yard, four of them went to the stable door, leaving one behind in charge of their horses. Just at this moment a man named William Bromley, a horse trainer, stepping in the house, crossed the yard, when he was bailed up. The ostler, Mark, almost at the same time, was coming up with a lighted lantern, and he was quickly pounced upon, and asked for the keys of the stable. Mark told them the keys were kept by Mr. De Clouet, and, in answer to another question, told them he did not know what money there was in the house. Leaving the two prisoners to be guarded by the others, Gilbert and (it is supposed) Ben Hall went into the house, and made their way into the bar parlour, where Mr. De Clouet and a lodger, Mr. John Hunter (a compositor engaged in our own office), were seated reading the newspapers. In a bedroom leading from the parlour, Mrs. De Clouet was engaged washing and putting the children to bed. Hall went up to Mr. De Clouet and demanded his money, and after receiving a £1 note took a watch from his waistcoat pocket. Mr. Hunter was then compelled to hand over what money he had (£2) and while Gilbert remained to keep them quiet, Hall passed into the bedroom and asked Mrs. De Clouet for " the cash-box;" but that good lady, thinking he was some drunken man, at once ordered him out of the house. He soon undeceived her, and as she declined to say where the cash-box was placed, he proceeded to a chest of drawers and commenced to turn over its contents. He told her it would be better not to give him the trouble and save his disturbing all her things, if she would tell where the cash-box was kept at once. At this she asked if he would desist upon her placing the cash-box in his hands, when he promised that he would. She had a child in her arms, and unthinkingly asked the fellow to hold it while she was getting the box, but he showed her the revolvers in his hands and laughed.

The box having been produced and opened, he took out what notes it contained, and in doing so dropped half-a-sovereign, which rolled under the bed. He stooped down and hunted for it, turning over the carpet, and not being able to see it said it must be found, for he " couldn't leave that behind." Mrs. De Clouet at length picked it up and handed it to him, when he returned to the parlour.

Gilbert on being left with Mr. De Clouet made himself known, he having at one time been engaged by that gentleman as a jockey; and a long conversation is described as having taken place, and Gilbert's manner is spoken of as being extraordinarily cool and self-possessed. He asked for the keys of the stable, as they had come expressly for the race horse Pacha, and must have him, and added that they should not have come in at all had it not been that Machattie and Battye had dared them to do so, and had tauntingly told them they had not the " pluck " to come in and take Pacha. Mr. De Clouet begged him not to take the horse, as it was only a colt and would be unable to do the work they required of him. Gilbert then went to see what money there was in the till, and finding it contained nothing but silver, shook his head and said they only dealt in gold, at the same time putting his hand into his pocket, he pulled out two shillings which he told Mr. De Clouet he would give him. Mr. De Clouet came into the bar, and Gilbert stood with his face fronting the door, talking, without the slightest trepidation, of by-gone times, saying once that he and his companions might as well stop there for an hour or so as anywhere else. Hall now came out and asked Gilbert if he had the keys of the stable, when Mr. De Clouet told them that the ostler kept them. Hall said they must have the horse, and went out to the ostler. While he was away Mr. De Clouet begged Gilbert to leave his horse, and prevailed on him to go out and speak with the others. He heard Gilbert in conversation, and then he heard a brutal suggestion to "blow out somebody's brains, -you'll soon have the keys then." Almost immediately Gilbert returned, followed by Hall driving in the ostler. He (Hall) threatened to shoot him if he did not give up the keys. The man, however, still persisted in saying that he had not got them. A parley ensued, in the course of which the ostler told them the police had just gone by, when one quietly answered " Two of us are enough for four of them any day." Shortly afterwards they ordered all present to come out at the back of the house, but on receiving a promise that no one would go into the street, they took their departure without any further attempt to obtain possession of the horse, having remained altogether about twenty minutes. After the lapse of a quarter of an hour two foot policemen came in and expressed their astonishment and disapproval of Mr. De Clouet's conduct in allowing himself to be stuck-up.

From what we afterwards learned it appeared that the troopers on reaching the reserve at the head of George-street, listened for the tramp of the bushrangers' horses, so as to discover what direction they had taken, and not being able to hear anything they came to a halt. The night was exceedingly dark, and while deliberating what course to pursue, they descried the bushrangers, through the gloom, coming towards them, having just left De Clouet's. The bushrangers, it would seem, caught sight of them at the same moment, for they turned and galloped off in another direction. A hot chase ensued, when one of the troopers named Johnson, whose horse was better than the rest, got in advance, and the bushrangers seeing this turned and fired two shots at him, which he returned. Undaunted, he kept up the pursuit, but his house foundered, and the bushrangers finally escaped."

Furthermore, the newspapers had been rampant with varying accounts of the bushrangers' daring descent upon Bathurst. However, John Vane in his reminiscence of his membership of the gang in ‘John Vane, Bushranger’ gave a detailed account of the raid and commented that after he and Hall's encounter with Machattie and Battye they returned to their camp to re-join Gilbert, O’Meally and Mickey Burke informing them of what had transpired with their sitting ducks and the challenge the pair had laid out before them. John O’Meally, always game and ready to jump at the chance for action voiced;op. cit.“We’ll show the beggars whether we’re game or not! It’s a pity one of you didn’t take on the cove that talked fight; either of you could have flattened him out,” Hall the cool-headed of the five brushed off the claim of failing to belt the boys responded;op cit. “Oh, that’s nonsense, we got something better to do than fight with bragging school boys, and neither of them was much better. But, I’ll tell you what; if you are agreeable we will take up their challenge in earnest and go to Bathurst.” A quick discussion ensured on the topic of Bathurst and the challenge having been thrown down for the visit was accepted. Once more O’Meally said;op. cit. “Well, I’m agreeable to make the next trip to Bathurst the ‘go’ and as the police are all out from the head station we could have a free run in and out, and the affair would make a big sensation; besides which we ought to make a big haul from one of the jewellers. If we go at night the banks will be closed, or we might ‘touch’ one of them.” Accordingly, with the run into Bathurst agreed upon Vane expressed the view of maybe obtaining one of the much talked about ‘Revolving Rifles’, with Pedrotta's store being the likely source for the procurement of the weapon. Furthermore, Johnny Gilbert stated that he had desires for the thoroughbred race horse ‘Pasha’ which could be lifted from DeClouet's hotel. The gang prepared for the ride to Bathurst selecting the best horses from their stock for the journey which commenced early on Saturday morning the 3rd of October 1863. Evading all the public roads the bushrangers traveled by way of Newbridge, Wimbledon, George’s Plains then crossed the Evan’s Plains arriving at the mount known as Bald Hill which overlook Bathurst. Here the gang rested to wait out the day till the evening. As the gang prepared to enter the town for the citizens of Bathurst Saturday was market day, a day when all the outlaying residence attended town for the enjoyment of a festive night out and replenishment of their groceries. Where trading hours were left to the wants of the business proprietors as well as an evening where another five young men on horseback was not an unusual sight. (‘John Vane, Bushranger’, can be accessed from the Links Page, see pages 124-132 inclusive on Bathurst.)

Howick Street, Bathurst.
c. 1871.

Courtesy RAHS.
John Vane recalled that[sic] “the night was bright and clear and calm” as they entered the town, first in single file, then they entered William street where they grouped together so as to avert any suspicion and gave the appearance of five local lads in town for an evening out, arriving in front of Pedrotta’s Gun Shop where Hall, Gilbert and Vane entered, but were disappointed that Pedrotta had no ‘Revolving Rifles’ in stock, without fanfare they left promising to return another time. They rode on with Gilbert spying a fruiters shop and wishing for some oranges dismounted and ordered two dozen but was soon called away by O’Meally who had ridden on with Ben Hall where they had reached the jewellery shop of Mr McMinn’s. Here their much heralded evening’s excitement commenced with Ben Hall entering the store first and O’Meally’s calling to Gilbert to[sic] “come on quick”, Hall had ordered the family into the back of the shop but when Gilbert rushed in with revolvers drawn the ladies believing their[sic] "last hour had come" began to scream which startled the bushrangers who bid a hasty retreat. However, finding that a crowd had now formed attracted by the noise from the store the bushrangers leaped into their saddles as the crowd became more excited by the women’s continued screaming and McMinn rushing to the door of his shop crying out,[sic] “Police! Bushrangers! Bushrangers! Police!”, the gang started to ride off with each holding a revolver in each hand when abruptly Ben Hall fired a shot over their heads as a warning to prevent the crowd from blocking their path. The five cantered on to Howick street then into George street with Vane recollecting that;op cit. “…we headed up that thoroughfare in the direction of the Bald Hill’s again, quietly laughing at the scare we had created, for we could see people running in all directions towards William street,” Vane continues, cantering quietly up George street we came to its intersection with Piper Street.” The Gang turned into Piper street and reigned their horses at the back of the 'Sportsman Arms Hotel' and the public house of the owner of the thoroughbred racehorse ‘Pasha’, Mr DeClouet, aka 'Dublin Jack'.

Arriving at the hotel the gang entered via the back fence and made for the stables. Here they came across the hotel's groom who informed the bushrangers that Mrs DeClouet had the keys for the box 'Pasha' was held in. With O'Meally Burke and Vane waiting in the yard Hall and Gilbert proceeded to the hotel where they entered through the back door and bailed up all those present. Following some heated exchanges between Gilbert and Mrs DeClouet, Ben Hall became impatient at having heard a body of mounted police pass close by telling Gilbert to be quick about it. Frustrated Gilbert gave up his chance for the horse and the five bushrangers quickly remounted and headed off down George street towards Milltown. However, at the corner of George and Lambert street the gang came in-contact with the police. On spying the troopers the gang halted in the hope of not being spotted but the police also halted. The bushrangers realised the jig was up. In an effort to confuse the troopers in the darkness of the night the bushrangers laid down upon their horses necks, clapped the spurs in hard and started off at full gallop down a steep fall of ground with the police instantly firing, although the bushrangers heard the bullets whistle by, they rode into a gully turned quickly and heard the troopers on galloping horses pass on, John Vane states that afterwards;Vane op.cit. “…congratulating ourselves that we had escaped so easily, we were talking and laughing as we rode Hall and I being almost twenty yards behind the other three, when suddenly one of the police galloped past us and when near O’Meally, Gilbert and Burke he commenced firing. The three at once scattered but as Hall and I followed the policeman pretty close he abandoned the chase.” Vane remarks that he rode hard after the trooper, when a riderless horse passed him which he believed to belong to Gilbert, undeterred and now joined by Ben Hall they followed the horse which in fright and riderless jumped and cleared a creek soon followed by a galloping Vane who launched his horse at the creek but failed the jump unseating him, Vane unhurt recounts;Vane op.cit. “…Hall came up just at this moment and after assuring him that I was not injured I began to search for my hat, striking matches for the purpose. While thus engaged we were startled at the sound of a revolver shot, and as the bullet whizzed rather close we cleared away without the hat, riding a short distance into the scrub, where we found O’Meally and Burke.” 

Another view from
Bald Hill of  Bathurst.

Courtesy NLA.
Re-grouping Burke informed them that Gilbert had come a cropper whilst pursued by the firing police, but he was sure that Gilbert was not captured as Burke had seen him running away. Deciding to look for Gilbert the four secured their horses and on foot went in search, but could not find him. Remounting they made their way to the Bald Hill and a spot near Evan’s Plain where they camped till daybreak then made for their bush camp and where on arrival none other than Gilbert was already present. However, Gilbert told them that he had jumped off his horse during the pursuit as Gilbert claimed that the animal was afraid of jumping the creeks. O’Meally in disbelief reiterated his long held view regarding Gilbert's bravery and stated;Vane op.cit. “…you were afraid of the bullets which were flying about; and I believe you will be shot yet when running away for you have no fight in you,” after some more heated words between the two covering some ten minutes, and where Gilbert sulked for sometime like a spoilt child. Gilbert would not let the matter rest and still fuming declared he would separate from O’Meally and go off on his own asking who would join him. However, Hall, Burke and Vane declined. Soon after peace was again restored and the camp settled down with Gilbert off by himself. Soon after the ride in fright by Gilbert his abandoned horse was reported as captured in the ‘The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser’, Thursday 8th October 1863; Bathurst- “…a horse thoroughly knocked up, supposed to belong to the bushrangers, was brought in by the police last night. It had a saddle with a poncho on it, and a leather buckle to hold a rifle, but was without a bridle.”

The bushrangers through their telegraphs learnt of their 'big sensation' created over the raid into Bathurst and on information that the troopers would be out in the scrub the gang headed for the Vale Road to raid the stores and inn’s scattered along that throughfare.

The hunger for information regarding the deeds of the bushrangers had another account of the recent robbery of Machattie and Battye appear in ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, on Tuesday 6th October 1863, THE STICKING-UP OF MEERSERS MACHATTIE AND BATTYE. – “Saturday’s ‘Bathurst Times’ furnishes a detailed account of this affair, which was briefly noticed in our telegraphic news on Saturday: - On Thursday morning, at a place called One Eye, near Mulgunnia, young Messrs. Machattie and Battye were stuck up by Hall and Vane. The young gentlemen were out surveying, and had dismounted from their horses to roll up their cloaks, when two ruffians appeared, and ordered them to stand and give up what money they possessed, they had each twenty-two shillings, but the robbers returned the odd two shillings, they eased Mr. Machattie of his watch, and searched each, for pistols or revolvers. They detained both gentlemen as prisoners for two hours and a-half, during which time a continued "chaffing" was kept up.

One other victim who passed along was stopped and taken prisoner, but as the robbers could only find a few shillings upon him they declined to take them. One of the bushrangers showed the young men how to take the shoes from a horse's hoofs with the help of a stirrup-iron, and by way of illustration pulled off the shoes of the two fore feet of Mr. Machattie’s horse in a few seconds. To relieve the monotony of their forced captivity several proposals were made to the bushrangers, one consisting of an offer to run Hall two hundred yards for the ownership of the horses, and another to have a little amusement in the shape of a fight. The bushrangers laughed, and said they would fetch " the toad," meaning Bourke, as he and Battye would be about a match. On being asked where their three companions were, they said "close by," adding that they were going to get some horses out of Mr. Smith's paddock. They said they must take the young gentlemen's horses, but if they could get better, they would leave them where they could be easily recovered. A ring worn by Machattie in his scarf, attracted Hall's attention, but upon learning that it was prized as a maternal gift, the bushranger declined to appropriate it. Hall showed a revolver which he had taken from one of the three policemen at Marsh's, and said they did not offer the slightest resistance. As no one else appeared to becoming along the road, the prisoners were released and before they left Hall returned Machattie’s watch The two men are described as being very muscular, and to betray no symptoms of care and anxiety. Hall was continually laughing, but Vane was sullen and morose.”  It is most interesting to note that the bushrangers referred to their mate Burke as the "Toad", that might indicate that the portrait long in circulation maybe quite flattering. 

James Martin, MLA.
However, once more in the New South Wales parliament, with all the mayhem surrounding Ben Hall, Mr Cowper's leading critic Mr Martin Q.C. again came on the front foot and attacked the Colonial Secretary over the conduct of the Inspector General of police, Captain McLerie, and that the view of the NSW Government should be to consider outlawing Ben Hall and Gang, an idea to which Mr Cowper would not submit too, this was reported in the ‘Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser’, Thursday 8th, October, 1863; “…in the Assembly this evening, Mr. Martin called the attention of the House to the recent exploit of the bushrangers at Bathurst. In the course of a warm debate which ensued. Mr. Cowper denied any intention on the part of the government to outlaw the gang, and refused to offer additional rewards for their capture. He also stated that he did not in tend to dismiss Captain M'Lerie; and informed the House that the police had encountered the bushrangers near the Bathurst racecourse, that shots had been exchanged, and the police were still in pursuit.” It should also be remembered that Mr. Martin Q.C. was also the defense council for the Eugowra Escort Robbers, Bow, Fordyce and Henry Manns at the first trial held in February 1863. 

Night raid on Bathurst.
Painting by
  Patrick William Marony
Furthermore, through their diligent telegraphs the gang remained in relative safety from discovery by the police. The information of the police movements by their telegraphs saw the gang break camp and head off towards the Vale Road leading towards Caloola. The gang transited the road where unmolested they commenced conducting a series of robberies of the storekeepers and hotels with goods often used as payment to their various harbourers. The following are reports of those raids along the Vale Road on the 6th October, 1863, on a fine evening of 20°c, the raids also included the low act of stealing the pocket-money from a child's piggy bank; from the Empire’, Tuesday, 13th October, 1863; MORE BUSHBANGING OUTRAGES (From the Bathurst Free Press, Oct. 10. 1863)- “On Tuesday evening last the inhabitants of the town were again thrown into a state of great, excitement by the announcement that the bushrangers had paid a visit to Mrs. Mutton, who resides within half-a-mile of the town on the Vale road. It appears that Gilbert and his party were anxious to obtain, admission to the store of Mr. Edward Mutton, which is very near to his mother's residence, but the store was closed and all the doors fastened, so that they could not obtain an entrance. Mrs. Mutton heard them, trying to get in at the store door and as she had been anticipating a visit from them she was not surprised to hear them at her own door. She admitted them to the house, and they wanted to obtain possession of the key of the store; but as Mr. E. Mutton was not at hand the key was not forthcoming and Mrs. Mutton told them they might take anything she had, but certainly she would not allow them to rob her children, they then searched the house but could not succeed in finding anything of value to take with them except a small brooch; two shillings Mrs. M. had in her pocket they allowed her to keep. They went into the bed-room and whilst turning over the bedclothes one of them who was holding a candle accidentally set fire to the bed curtains they expressed their regret at the accident and exerted themselves to the utmost in endeavouring to extinguish the flames, in doing which, one of them burnt one of his hands severely, and Mrs. Mutton gave him some Holloway’s ointment with which to dress it. Mrs. Mutton talked seriously to them and they left the house without further interference. Information was immediately conveyed to her son, Mr. John Mutton, whose residence was but a short distance away, when that gentleman hastily rode in for the police, who went out at once, arriving at Mrs. Mutton's about half an hour after the bushrangers had left. It should be understood that Mrs. Mutton's residence is situated on the main road from Bathurst to Caloola, and that when the robbers left the house they proceeded right along, the same road, and turned into Walkers public-house, one mile and a half from Mrs. Mutton's, whereas the police turned at right angles up a lane between the places, and which leads only to a few farms and the ridge beyond. It was about half past eight o'clock when Gilbert and his mates entered Walker's; the only inmates at the time were Mr. Walker, his brother, a woman servant and two children. Three of the gang went into the house, two remaining outside with the horses. They were armed with rifles and revolvers. They searched Mr. Walker and his brother and told the servant and children to be quiet and they would not hurt them. They demanded firearms. Mr. Walker, replied they, had none excepting the fiddle and flute, with which he and his brother were then amusing themselves. The drawers were then searched, and the key of one that, was locked inquired for, from which they abstracted three notes, and took some silver from Mr. Walker himself. They proceeded quietly through the house, not speaking an angry word, and took an old revolver, which had been left at the house to be raffled for. They coolly walked to the blacksmith's opposite, and brought over the son of Vulcan, without trouble and without chains, found nothing upon him and of course couldn't take less. They inquired for horses, but obtaining none quietly left the place. Mr. Walker describes them as all young men, clean well dressed. They stayed there about twenty minutes. The police at this time must have been close at hand, as Captain McLerie with some of his men came up on foot very soon after wards, having left their horses at some distance. Entering the inn, the gallant Captain seeing Walker smoking, at once ordered the pipe out of his mouth and perambulated the rooms of the house in search for bushrangers.

This salve used to treat
Vane's burns at
Mrs. Mutton's.
The first party of police, who had gone out on the first information, had not called at Walker's. Captain M'Lerie then returned, to town. The robbers still continuing on the main road towards Caloola, one mile from Walker's, came to Mr. Hugh M’Diarmid’s store, where they stopped three-quarters of an hour. They found M’Diarmid in the yard, when one of them put his arms round him, forced him into the house, and asked for the key of the store and for money. They offered no violence, but proceeded to put up a large, quantity of goods consisting of tobacco, flannel, tea, sugar, and draperies amounting in value from £10 to £50 worth in the whole. They inquired for pillow-slips which having obtained they filled with tea and sugar, took a new saddle, twenty-two boxes of sardines, opened one, with which, and a bottle of sauce they refreshed themselves. They emptied the till in which they found from 25 to 30 shillings, and took one shilling and sixpence from one of the children.

The mother requested them not to take the child’s money, but, they answered they would take, all they could get. They left, heavily laden, and the police came up about ten minutes afterwards on foot, and walked over to Mrs. Boyd’s' inn some four hundred yards further on the main road, then turned back to M’Diarmid’s mounted for their horses. Had they followed on, the robbers must have abandoned their heavy swag. The police by this last movement lost a full half-hour. Mr. MacDiarmid has sent his stock and trade to Bathurst for safety, fearing a second raid upon the store. The next place of call for the bushranging party was at Mr Butler's inn, one mile farther in the direction of Caloola. here they arrived at 10 o'clock. There were eight men in the house, and Mrs. Butler was attending to them. four of the robbers came in, armed like the police. They rummaged a side room, and the drawers, but took nothing excepting a chain; a watch which they were told belonged to a widow woman, who had left it there to be raffled for, they allowed to remain where it was. One of, the gang, asked his mate to drink but he refused as, he said, he was on duty. They demanded Mrs. Butler's money; she emptied her pocket, but as there was nothing but silver they returned it.

They inquired from the men in the house what money they had. lt was produced; there was only silver and they suffered them to retain it. One man asleep on the sofa they awoke, asked him for his money; he said he had only silver; they searched him and found some notes; they took them and the silver too, because, they said, he told them a lie. This man had a draught horse in the stable; they took that, but left those of Mrs. Butler. In their search through the house they came to the door of the bedroom occupied by Mrs. Butler's mother. A girl who was there said "if you are gentlemen you will not go into the old lady's room, she is nervous and you would frighten her," and they turned away. They called for six nobblers for people in the house and paid for them; they themselves drank nothing but lemonade. They made all right and proceeded forward. The police came up five minutes’ afterwards, two walking a head of the others to reconnoitre; the others shortly came up on horseback. Mrs, Butler informed them that the bushrangers had only just gone; that they had heavy swags with them, and had taken a draught horse out of the stable to carry some of the goods that they were still in the lane, and, if pursued, must be taken. Superintendent, Morrissett held a short conversation with a person living opposite Butler's, and then went, but shortly came back to request the person he had conversed with to go with them. Seeing that time was pressing, Mrs. Butler asked them what they were waiting for, when one of the police said 'for orders." They then went forward again, but although they were all within sound of the bushrangers' horses they did not succeed in coming up with them, and thus ended the latest effort to take, and the last chance to break up, the daring gang.”
     Vale Road and countryside, outside Bathurst, filmed by Craig Bratby. 

However, contrary to the above article on the Vale Road raid, John Vane recounts that it was he and not Gilbert who suffered the burnt hands when Mrs Muttons bedroom curtains accidentally caught fire, and that O’Meally had remonstrated with Gilbert for setting the room on fire;op.cit.  “…we turned down on to the Vale road and paid a visit to Mutton’s store, where Hall said we might get a little money. The only person in the store when we entered was old Mrs Mutton, and there wasn’t anything in the whole place that would be any use to us. Gilbert then asked Mrs Mutton for money, and she said she handn’t got any, whereupon he said he would look for some; and taking a candle he went into the bedroom to make search. While he was tossing things about the bed-curtains caught fire, and as they were flaring up O’Meally rushed in and rated Gilbert for trying to burn the place down. Gilbert protested that it was a pure accident. I rushed in at the same time, and got my hands well burnt when putting out the flames. The old lady was very kind when she saw what had happened, and got me some Holloway’s ointment to dress the burns, at the same time remonstrating with us for pursing such evil courses. We took her sermon in good part, and shortly afterward took the road.” Vane goes on to described the raids at Walker’s, M’Diarmid’s and Butler’s, Hen and Chickens hotel, where they only acquired a few pounds, as well as the horse of a German traveller staying at the hotel which became their pack horse.

Inspector-General of
N.S.W. Police,

Captain M'Lerie,
c. 1863.
In keeping with the recent criticism of the New South Wales Police the raids along the Vale Road brought the actions or more succinctly the scantiness of the police's actions once more under scrutiny over their recent lack-lustre efforts in capturing the gang or at least engaging in a confrontation. Consequently, a correspondent for the Bathurst Times ventured out to the scene of the gang’s latest robberies and took a firsthand account from those people and businesses attacked. The correspondant came away with a more in-depth view of how the bushrangers had proceeded that night, including the number of stores and equipment stolen at gun point. Moreover, a very interesting development came to light on this occasion with the report that four other men where in company with the gang during the last part of the robberies, believed to be local bush telegraphs, which demonstrated how up to date and informed Ben Hall was of the police movements and therefore enabled the gangs slow and easy progress where they appeared to proceed without a care in the world. Furthermore, the writer describes the way in which the stolen property was then transported by the gang, with all the goods strapped to the front of their saddles reaching up to waist high and one pack-horse in tow stolen from the Hen and Chickens hotel guest. The goods were loaded in such a cumbersome way that it would have hampered their movements and consequently would have allowed the police ample time, from the evidence, to pursue the gang. However, for some unknown reason, superintendent Morrisset appeared reluctant to press home his advantage, leaving Ben Hall and gang to ride off into the night with their evenings work. However, with Captain M’Lerie on hand at Bathurst, the Inspector-General himself took to the saddle, and with full nobleness, harassed the innocent victims of the gang’s raids with little or no respect or empathy for what they had endured at the point of a gun. The gang were soon after reported in camp, enjoying a very festive time and were not disturbed by any police although their presence was widely acknowledged and reported; ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, 13th October, 1863. HOW THE POLICE GO AFTER THE BUSHRANGERS. (From the 'Bathurst Times', October 10)- "During the whole of Thursday and Friday some very ugly rumours reflecting upon the conduct of the police who went in pursuit of the bushrangers on Tuesday night were in circulation in the town; and, in the exercise of our duty, we now lay before our readers the following statement of facts, as the result of special inquiries made amongst those who were principally concerned in the robberies committed. We do not intend to enter into the minutia of each depredation-our object being to throw some publicity upon the proceedings of the police rather than of the bushrangers-leaving our readers to form their own conclusions. 

In our last, it will be remembered, we reported that the bushrangers had "stuck up" Mr. Walker's public-house and that the police had been left tracking them on foot. From Mr. Walker's, the robbers proceeded to the store of Mr. M'Diarmid, where they forcibly entered the premises and packed on their horses a variety of goods, consisting of flannel, coats, waistcoats, trousers, woolen plaid, crimean shirts, tobacco, and other stores, valued at between £40 and £50, besides about twenty-five shillings in silver. The bushrangers, five in number, remained on the premises about three-quarters of an hour, and left at a quarter past nine-the stolen goods being packed in front of their saddles and reaching waist high. They had one pack-horse and owing to there being incommoded by luggage, they (the robbers) were unable to go at a quick pace, so they left the store walking their horses. Ten minutes after they had disappeared a body of police on, foot, numbering twelve, made their appearance under the command of Superintendent Morrisset, and were told of what had occurred and the time that had elapsed since the bushrangers departed. It appeared the horses belonging to the troop had been left some distance down the road in Mr. Lane's paddock, so the police left the store to continue the pursuit on foot. After an absence of ten minutes they came back in a body, and held a consultation as to the propriety of sending for their horses, which course they ultimately decided upon, dispatching some men to bring them up.

Whilst waiting, they borrowed four greatcoats, two other coats, and a pair of spurs from Mr. M'Diarmid's, and, thus equipped, upon arrival of their horses, they followed the direction taken by the bushrangers. While the bushrangers were in Mr. M’Diarmid’s store, a man in his employ distinctly heard the tramp of the police horses as they came up to Mr. Lane's paddock. The next places visited by the gang were the butcher's shop belonging to Mr. Harper, and the hotel opposite, kept by Mr. Butler, called the Hen and Chickens; these being distant from M'Diarmid's over two miles. They arrived as Mr. Harper's clock was sinking ten, but here their numbers had increased to nine-it is presumed by the accession of four bush telegraphs. They are described as coming along with the greatest leisure, as if inconvenienced by the "swags" they bore before them. They did not search Mr. Harper's house but ordered him to go over to the hotel, where they followed him, and took what money they could procure from the landlady- Mr. Butler being from home.

A lodger in the house (a German), who was asleep in one of the rooms, was woke up by Gilbert, and asked if he had any money when he answered, "Only some silver. " Not feeling satisfied, Gilbert searched him and found, besides the silver, four or five notes in one of his pockets. He then turned upon the man, accused him of telling a lie, and said it was not their custom to take silver, but as he hated liars, but should do so in his case. This man was a heavy sufferer, as, before going, the robbers took from the stable a horse belonging to him worth £15. The bushrangers treated everyone in the place, and having been on the premises altogether about a half-an-hour left, taking the direction of the Native Home Hotel-at a walking pace.

Superintenent Morrisset
c. 1860.
When about thirty yards away, one of them returned for a loaf of bread he had left on a form outside, and upon its being handed to him, rejoined his companions. We now beg to draw special attention to what follows:- Scarcely had the retreating figures of the gang been lost in the darkness, when two troopers came up on foot, as if reconnoitering (In order to give a correct estimate of the time supposed to have elapsed between departure of the desperadoes and the coming of the two policemen, an individual, who was present, requested us to mark what time he occupied in doing certain actions, which he said he had performed during the interval that occurred. This consisted in running about twenty yards down the road passing through a house, and after calling a neighbour, coming out upon the road again, where he met the troopers. We took notice of the time, as requested, and found just three quarters of a minute were consumed. (Several persons present, however were of opinion that a longer space of time had intervened-fully three minutes.) These troopers were immediately told of the close proximity of the bushrangers, upon which one of them gave a low whistle, when ten mounted men made their appearance-being Superintendent Morrisset and nine troopers Mr. Morrisset was told how close he was upon the heels of the ruffians, and that if he pushed ahead he might drop upon them, when he replied, "It would never do to rush them, but he would follow their track until daylight." The superintendent requested Mr. Harper to go with and show the police the road , but he told them he had no horse, and that there was no necessity for the road being pointed out, as it was fenced on both sides, and, moreover, being heavily laden, the bushrangers could only be a little way up the lane They then left at a steady walking pace, and after a few minutes, returned in a body Mr. Morrisset again asked Harper to get a horse and go with them, but Mrs. Harper objected to the proposal saying the police were paid for doing the work, while her husband was not, and that they ought to do their duty. Without any other apparent reason than the endeavour to persuade Mr. Harper to accompany him, they delayed, we are informed, fully ten minutes, during which they were remonstrated with taunted, and jeered, when one of the troopers said they could not stir without orders. Mr. Harper told them he was sure the gang would make for the Native Home public-house, about four miles distant, and then the police left at a steady pace.

What became of the troopers after this we do not know, but we are possessed of information that the bushrangers stopped about two hundred yards above Butler's Public- house, (it is presumed to re-adjust the stores packed on their saddles, as a quantity of sugar was found next morning spilled upon the road) that one of them was singing and another whistling, that a discussion was held as to whether they should go back or not, and that one of them said “if we go back we are sure to meet them" (the police) where upon they went forward. Between eleven and twelve o'clock the robbers are said to have reached the Native Home where it is also said five troopers were in bed, - being a party on their return to Bathurst. there were three drays camped close adjoining, and the bushrangers compelled one of the teamsters to rise and make them some tea, which he did, and they partook of super, no police making their appearance until six o'clock the following morning.

It will be in the recollection of our readers that the Inspector-General of Police himself went out on Tuesday night, and the account of the unwarrantably imperious manner in which he behaved towards several highly respectable inhabitants of the Vale Road is such as to make his conduct highly reprehensible. Of one gentleman, who did not know him, and who did not immediately tell his name upon being asked, he inquired how he "dared" to be so tardy in his reply. As the house of Mr. Roberts, who had received a visit from the bushrangers earlier in the evening, he threatened to have the door burst in, because that individual demurred to open it, as he was fearful the answer made to him upon his asking who was there, was merely a ruse of another pack of marauders. The crowning point was reached at Mr. Walker's, where, after a considerable rattling at the door, the posse gained admittance, and Mr. Walker was asked very arrogantly, "How dare you smoke in the presence of the Inspector-General of Police?" and ordered to take the pipe out of his mouth. He was then commanded to bring a light, and had to submit to the indignity of having his house searched-the police minutely inspecting the rooms and looking beneath the beds. Finding nothing worthy of remark, Captain M'Lerie came back to Bathurst.

It must be borne in mind that the persons we have alluded to, had each been robbed that very evening. The bushrangers injured them. It was left to Captain M'Lerie to insult them."

In 1912, Forty nine years after Ben Hall’s raid along the Vale Road, John Harper, a eyewitness to the gang's appearance on that October evening 1863, and who was the person Superintendent Morrissett had had a conversation with and who Morrisset asked to "go with them" in their search during the raids, but who declined, reminisced about the excitement of that evening, and cast his mind back in an interview for 'The Bathurst Times', in July 1912; " the time of the raid upon Bathurst I was keeping a butcher's shop on the Vale Road, near the Hen and Chickens Hotel. I had received information from a very reliable source three days before that 'the boys' were to pay a visit along the Vale Road on the said night so assured was I regarding it that I took my informant's advice, and all that afternoon drove into Bathurst with what cash and jewellery I and my wife possessed, the landlady of the Hen and Chickens (Mrs. Butler) doing like wise. While in Bathurst a plan entered my mind—had it been carried out according to arrangements with the police—most, if not all, of these misguided young men would, no doubt, have been in existence for years, if not to-day. Well, I drove home again in the evening, arriving about six o'clockbutcher's shop on the Vale Road, near the Hen and Chickens Hotel. I had received information from a very reliable source three days before that 'the boys' were to pay a visit along the Vale Road on the said night so assured was I regarding it that I took my informant's advice, and all that afternoon drove into Bathurst with what cash and jewellery I and my wife possessed, the landlady of the Hen and Chickens (Mrs. Butler) doing like wise. While in Bathurst a plan entered my mind — had it been carried out according to arrangements with the police — most, if not all, of these misguided young men would, no doubt, have been in existence for years, if not to-day. Well, I drove home again in the evening, arriving about six o'clock, here were also with me in the house my wife and young daughter and Miss May Melville a young lady visitor from Windsor. After partaking of our evening meal, at about 7.30, I went into the shop (I was butchering at the time), and was chatting with my shopman till 8.30, when he strolled across the road to see a friend. I walked on to the verandah to listen for the tramp of the police horses, as I expected them, according to arrangements, at 8 o'clock.

Vale Road as it looks today.
I had not been there more than a quarter of an hour when I heard horses coming along the road. I waited till they came opposite to where they I standing, when I called out: “Good night, lads!” But I got no reply, they rode by my place and coming to Mrs Butlers hotel one of them ordered “Wheel!”, I at once realized that the ‘Boys’ were with us for I thought that had it been the police they would have replied to my “Goodnight lad’s” and come over to me. I stood on the verandah when I saw one of them place a brass candlestick with a candle burning in it and place it in the middle of the road. Being a beautiful calm starlight night, it burned steadily and brightly. As I have told this incident to others, they have asked me; “What did they do that for?” and my reply has been “That’s what I never could make out unless it was-----“Ah, well! Never mind; draw your own conclusions”. After the man left the candlestick on the road he came to my place as I was now standing behind a large forequarter of beef… he didn’t see me, so, as he was going into the shop I hailed him with: “Well, what’s for you, my lad?” He replied: "Is that you, Mr Harper?"- "Yes; what do you want?" "Come over the road; Johnny sent me over for you." I started to walk over with him, when I stopped, and said: hold on, Ben; I am going to tell my wife, for I would not have any of you chaps go in without warning her first. It would frighten her to death. So we walked back, and after Ben had said to her and Miss Melville that they would not be molested, we went over to the hotel. The candle was still burning brightly in the middle of the road.

We walked into the bar, where Gilbert, Vane and O'Malley had eight or nine persons bailed up round the bar. Burke was outside with the horses as I went in. Gilbert came up to me, and, putting his hand in my vest pocket, wanted to know where my watch was. "Oh, she’s at home over the way, and watches me pretty closely sometimes." he laughed at the joke, and then went through the others. Gilbert then went into Mrs Butler's bedroom just off the bar, and called to her to come and unlock the drawers. "No, indeed! she said; "I am not coming in there with you—unless Mr. Harper comes too, “Oh,' said Gilbert; he can come if he likes.” I went in, and Mrs. Butler unlocked the drawers.  He turned everything over, looking for cash, but found nothing but wearing apparel, he seemed a bit disappointed, and asked: "Have you no notes or gold in the place?" "Well," said Mrs. Butler, "I would be a flat to keep a lot of cash for you to come and take." We returned to the bar, and he pulled out the till, which contained about 15/s, at the same time saying: "Here! I am going to shout for all hands with this," asking all round what they'd have. As each one named his drink Gilbert called Mrs. Butler to serve it. "No, indeed, I will not," she replied. "You are the bar man; serve them yourself." After we had finished the drinks I walked over home. When I went in O'Meally was sitting in my wife's rocking chair, quite unconcerned, telling them about the exploits of the gang. After talking with them awhile he, walked across to the hotel. On leaving my house O'Meally wished my wife and Miss Melville good-night, at the same time doffing his straw hat. As we went into the bar Gilbert was asking the ostler what sort of horses were in the stables. Going to the door Gilbert took the lantern to view the horses.

When walking up to a fine looking colt just being broken in the ostler, grabbed him by the shoulder, exclaiming "Don't go near that brute; he'll kick your brains out." He had hardly said the words when the horse lashed out, kicking, a couple of slabs out of the walls of the stable. Coming up to the next one—a fine bay horse belonging to a man who had put up for the night on his way from Bathurst to Trunkey Creek goldfield he ordered the ostler to take him round to the front. When we got round all the men that had been in the bar were standing outside, among them the horse's owner (a German). On seeing his horse, he wanted to know what they were going to do with him. "Oh," said Gilbert, "I only just want the lend of him till morning; I'll send him back to-morrow." Of course we all laughed at the idea of him sending the horse back. "Now, don't forget to send him back early, as I want, to get home tomorrow," said the owner. (Six months after he had not seen his horse.) Well, after packing this horse with goods—such as tea, sugar, rice, tinned fish, clothing, etc.— which they had taken from M’Diarmid’s store, they had another shout, took a bottle of gin off the shelf, wished us good-night, and started to go. They had not gone far when one of them turned back and asked us to hand up three loaves of bread tied up in a bundle handkerchief, which they had left on a cask standing at the door.

When they left the house it was 20 minutes to 10 by the clock in the bar. They had not got out of sight when my faithful friend Judy (a powerful bitch of the bull-dog- breed, always at my side) set up barking and ran towards a large gum-tree that stood on the bank of the Vale Creek. Being certain that someone was there, f called out: “Who’s that?” A voice from behind the tree: “Is that you, Mr. Harper,” On going up to him I recognised him as a policeman. “Have you seen anything of 'the boys’”' he asked. “Have I seen anything of the boys? Here, come here! Do you hear that?” listening to the sound of the horse's as they tramped; “that's the boys — just left us about three minutes ago.” He ran back along the load, and in a few minutes the super, and eight or nine more rode up. . ..

They wanted to know about the boys. “Well, they have just paid us a visit, and just left us after hanging about for a while.” They then tried to induce me to go They then tried to induce? me to go with them, when my wife stopped me. Catching me by the arm, she said: “No; he will not go with you. You are paid to look after them, and he is not going.” That settled it. After further parleying they started, but had not gone far when they came back, and again asked me to go with them. Mrs. Butler tackled them this time with some pretty severe comments upon their shilly-shallying-. And when they finally started we stood for a while discussing why the police returned so soon. — we could not make it out — but on riding up the road the next morning I was shown where the boys had alighted to fix their plunder. A lot of rice and sugar had been spilled on the road, and their boot-tracks were plainly visible.

They must have been fixing their swags on the horses when the police left us, the first time. However, we went, to, bed, the clock showing the time as 11.30.

Seerey, Lynham and Druits,
NSW Police Gazette 1863.
However, while Ben Hall, Gilbert, O’Meally, John Vane and Micky Burke were plugging away in the Carcoar, Bathurst region, they were not the only miscreants terrorising travelers as back in their former haunt of the Yass district two other bushrangers were taking the opportunity to rob drays and lift horses in their absence, they were Hugh Seerey (Seary) and George Lynham (Lineham) who had been in the shadow of Ben Hall and gang for some time and were making a name for themselves following a dray robbery at Manton’s Creek a popular resting place for wagon's on the road to Yass and Wagga Wagga. Hugh Seerey was a member of the districts notorious Seerey family including his brothers Michael, James and John were all often presented before local magistrates on various charges but inevitably for one reason or another often received bail and fled. The robbery reported below is from the 'Freeman's Journal’ of Saturday 10th October 1863. Moreover, it is unknown whether or not Seerey & Co were ever involved in any robberies with Ben Hall or whether they crossed paths however as with Gardiner, Ben Hall's accomplices would vary. Note also that one of the owners of the goods pinched by Seerey was Mr. Dickenson of Spring Creek, who had suffered at the hands of Ben Hall earlier in 1863. Seerey was also known to conduct robberies with another well known set of bushrangers the Druit brothers John and Peter; STICKING-UP AT MANTON'S CREEK. — "On Friday night last three Drays loaded with store goods from Sydney were robbed by two armed mounted men at the old camping ground at Manton's Creek. The Drays belonged to Benjamin Weeks, John Cook, and Robert Beaver, and the property was being conveyed to Mr. Forsyth, Mr. Mitchell, and Mr. Whitehand, of Wagga Wagga, and Mr. G. D. Dickenson, of spring Creek. Burrangong. There was also some Government stores in the shape of buckets, which were to be delivered at Wagga Wagga. The bushrangers, who from the descriptions given are in all probability Seary and Lineham, rode up to where the teamsters were sitting by the fire, and each presenting two revolvers told them to bail up. From one of the men they took £1 3s. and a Crimean shirt, and six or seven shillings from the others, returning, however half-a-crown to each. From the loading for Wagga Wagga they took two quarter cases of whiskey, and from the other drays, boots, hats, harness, sugar, tea, and a variety of wearing apparel. They broke open some of the cases, strewing their contents on the ground and, selecting the property they most desired, loaded three horses with it and rode off in the direction of Blakney's Creek. On-finding the buckets and ascertaining they were police stores, they smashed. One of them told the draymen that they had watched them at the Gap, and thought they had more valuable loading. They remained at the drays for upwards of three hours. Both men wore caps similar to those used by the police force at present, and it is probable they once belonged to the Government. On information of the outrage having been communicated to the police next morning, sergeant Scully and all his available force proceeded in search of the bushrangers, but although the country for a considerable distance was well scoured, the scoundrels still remain at large. They took away a bay horse branded JD conjoined, but that they will probably abandon."

Mr. Cowper, five time
Colonial Secretary
( 1856-1870)
Photo c. 1863.
The audacity of the Bathurst raid was still reverberating throughout New South Wales, where once again on the 7th of October, the Colonial Secretary Mr Cowper was questioned over the Bathurst raid of the 3rd October, and was vigorously grilled over the possibility of an 'Outlaw' proclamation being brought against Ben Hall, Gilbert and Co. This outragous climate generated by the bushrangers had the Premier face an onslaught of continued ridicule from the floor of the parliament and where he also blamed many of the good citizens of the town and wider districts for protecting the gang; 'The Empire’; Wednesday, 7th October, 1863; THE BUSHRANGERS IN BATHURST. (Government Hansard)

Mr. HART (without notice) asked the Colonial Secretary-"Whether the Government was aware that on Saturday last a party of bushrangers had come into Bathurst? Whether means had been taken for the special protection of the Western District?"
Mr. COWPER said on Sunday morning he received a telegram, informing him that a party of bushrangers had gone into Bathurst and entered two houses. They were pursued by the police, and speedily made their exit.
Mr. PIDDINGTON: The police or the robbers (A laugh.)
Mr. COWPER: Both-one running away, the other pursuing.
Mr. LUCAS: Which running away? (A laugh.)
Mr. COWPER: "Those that usually do so-the bushrangers. No doubt the bushrangers had friends and admirers in all the country; he would not say in that House. (Oh!) The following steps had been taken:-He (Mr. Cowper) dispatched three constables who arrived in Bathurst on Saturday at 7 o'clock. The only policeman in Bathurst-a sergeant, placed himself at the head of these three men, and pursued the bushrangers to the racecourse, where they exchanged shots. Neither party had been heard of since. He hoped they would soon hear that the police had been successful. At all events it was evident that the police had not been wanting in their duty on this occasion. By a telegram received last night, he found that a public meeting was held yesterday in Bathurst, at which the inhabitants proposed certain resolutions offering to take measures for self-protection. He had answered that the Government would willingly co-operate with parties acting in the way suggested. (Hear, hear.) As to the proposition that the Government should proclaim these robbers as outlaws, and offer a large reward for them, dead or alive, -that was under the consideration of the Crown Law Officers."
Mr. MARTIN asked how long the Crown Law Officers took to consider this question, -whether there was the power in the Government to proclaim a person an outlaw, and to hand over the protection of the Western districts to a committee of the Bathurst people?
Mr. COWPER: Crown Law Officers now answer questions much more speedily than in the honourable member’s time, (Hear, hear.) And it ill-became him especially when the Attorney-General had been engaged in the performance of a sad duty for a relative-to complain of the time thus occupied? He would have the opinion of the Crown Law Officers in a few minutes. He (Mr. Cowper) had not read the telegram in the newspaper referred to.

However, unsatisfied with the government Mr Martin began the process of gathering his forces and moved closer to unseating the Colonial Secretary. Then to add salt into the wound accused Mr Cowper of lying to the Parliament over some of his excuses and sought a vote of 'No Confidence';'The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News’, Saturday 10 October 1863; Mr. Martin moved the adjournment of the House, with the view of bringing under notice the conduct of the Government, and especially of the Colonial Secretary, with reference to the disclosures just made, and which, if the newspaper statements were to be credited, showed that the honourable gentleman had been guilty of a suppression of the truth.
NSW Police Gazette
21 October 1863.
In the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of the 8th of October, a new reward was issued for the apprehension of the gang; BATHURST. Wednesday, 9 p.m. "The committee appointed to consider the best means for capturing the bushrangers have, with the sanction of the Government, issued placards, offering £2500 reward for the apprehension of the five Bushrangers-Gilbert, O'Meally, Bourke, Vane, and Ben Hall, or £500 each." ($207, 500 or $41,000 each in today's value.)

During this period news also hit the newspapers that one of Mickey Burke's cousins and a good friend of John Vane had been captured and where the troopers had at first thought they had chased and apprehended Mickey Burke himself;'Sydney Mail', Saturday, 10th October, 1863; The police brought in, yesterday, one of the Burkes, a cousin of Mickey Burke. It appears they were riding on some ridge, about Teatree Spring, when they caught sight of Burke, who immediately turned his horse and galloped off. The police gave chase, and called on him to stand, which he refused to do. They then fired five shots without effect. At last Burke's horse got into a bog, threw his rider, which caused the breaking of one of his arms. The troopers then chased the horse, which they caught and shot. Burke's arm was attended to on his arrival by Dr. Rowland, and he was brought up yesterday, and remanded for three days.

Sir James Martin
However, political machinations were a foot in the NSW parliament, encompassing not only the embarrassment and trouble five bushrangers, Ben Hall, John Gilbert, John O'Meally and Co, were causing the sitting government of Mr. Cowper, whose stability was also being compounded by those in the opposition, who were politically unaligned, and who were opposed to the path that Cowper’s Secretaryship was leading the colony. After much debate on the bushranger debacle and the poor financial circumstances of the state, including the debate on the divisive Bill on State Aid during the early period of October 1863, saw the disquiet in the parliament culminate in an adjournment vote of the house led by Mr. Martin, who had continuously bombarded the government over many months on the inadequacies of the NSW police, but also the diabolical financial position of the colony including the drain Ben Hall and gang were imposing on the coffers of the colony. Furthermore, Mr. Piddington, a staunch ally of Mr. Martin, was one who also vigorously attacked the government over these matters and encouraged members in the demise of the Colonial Secretary; "the outrages of bushrangers were more flaring than had ever been known in the history of the colony. Ample power had been given for the repression of these outrages, and it was a disgrace to the colony, that four or five bushrangers could perpetrate these glaring enormities in the focus of a district furnished with such means of police protection. This state of affairs was the more reprehensible, when it was borne in mind that the colony was now incurring an annual police expenditure of upwards of a quarter of a million sterling..."¹³ Furthermore, on Wednesday 7th October, Mr. Martin had risen in the house and again accused the government of misleading the house and of financial mismanagement; “as to conflicting statements as to the condition of the finances made by two of the leading members of the Government, and on the confused statements contained in the accounts presented to the house, from which it was almost impossible to collect the true financial position of the country...”¹⁴ Accordingly, Mr. Martin's was to force the resignation of Charles Cowper, who complied and tendered his resignation on the 8th October, 1863;[sic] “Mr. Cowper announced that, in consequence of the vote of the House on the past night, he and his colleagues in office had tendered their resignation, and that they only held office until their successors were appointed, and he moved therefore that the House adjourn until Tuesday next.” This state of affairs saw a scramble by the sitting unaligned members, led by Cowper’s former deputy, Mr Forster, attempt to hold on to power in an effort to form a government, but this was unachievable and Mr. Forster informed the Governor, Sir John Young, who consequently invited Mr Martin to form a government. After a short deliberation, Mr Martin went about recruiting a new minority government to be made up of unaligned members, and which he duly achieved, with those members sworn in on the 15th October, 1863. Mr Martin retained Mr. Forster in the cabinet. The first order of business was Ben Hall.[sic] "...on Monday last, the now Ministry were sworn in by his Excellency. The first official act was to take active measures to strengthen the hands of the police, with the hope of capturing the bushrangers." Within days of the transfer of power from Mr. Cowper to Mr. Martin this appeared in the 'Newcastle Telegraph', 24th October, 1863, quetioning the nepotism which seemed to flourish in the former administration; WHO IS WHO?— “It has often been a matter of surprise that there should not be found amongst our representatives in the Legislative Assembly one sufficiently free from the corruption and venality which surrounded him, and at the same time with the necessary amount of moral courage, to give notice of and move a resolution to the following effect: "That there be laid on the table of this House a return showing the names of all persons in the employ of the government related to or connected by marriage with members of either House of parliament, so far as the same can be ascertained, showing the degree of relationship, date, and nature of appointment, age, and salary received, &c " What a glaring state of things such a return would have furnished. It would have shown to the country the corrupt means by which the late administration kept so long in office, and would have accounted for much of the sneaking and servility of many of the so-called representatives of the people in the Assembly.” Of course even today the same is prevelent and therefore for the writer to expect 'moral courage' to surface, well! as today, he was dreamin. (Political Parties based on aligned members in NSW did not evolve until 1889, when Sir Henry Parkes formed the Free Trade Party.Voting in elections by citizens was not compulsory until early in the first decade of the 20th century.)

Moreover, as the fracas in the New South Wales parliament was unfolding and the change of Colonial Secretary appeared imminent, the evolving developments seemed to have little effect on Ben Hall, Gilbert and party. However, whether or not the gang had any knowledge of the happenings of Macquarie Street and there possible cause and effect upon their continued depredations appeared of little consequence for the gang, as soon after the Vale Road raids the bushrangers accordingly, gave the appearence of being completely unperturbed by the mass of New South Wales police reportedly traversing the Rockley-Bathurst-Carcoar district in search of them. Whilst the police floundered, the bushrangers went into camp, where they were reported by local residents as having the time of their life as they celebrated the recent successes with singing and dancing, in celebration and embarrassment which they had inflicted on the police. Throughout their recent triumph's the bushrangers brought about the reiteration of the public's long held view regarding the ineptness of their troopers. This sojourn by the gang, would after a short period end, and they broke camp and headed once more on the Queens roads. News was about to break of a deed so brazen that the Bathurst raid would be considered a dull affair. THE BUSHRANGERS — "Private information reached us last night that the gang of ruffians, who so lately made a raid upon our town, are camped, in a dense scrub, twelve miles from Rockley, in the direction of Carcoar. The intelligence is contained in a letter which states that the fires of the party can be seen for a considerable distance round. The writer says the bushrangers are enjoying a lengthy carousal— indulging in a variety of amusements such as singing, dancing, &c. &c, — and that no police have been seen in the neighbourhood. Considerable anxiety is naturally felt by the inhabitants in the vicinity, who look with alarm upon the close proximity of such desperadoes."¹⁵ In conjunction with the success of Ben Hall's current gun blazing harassment and raids of the surrounding local settlements and towns, which were often referred to 'Troubled Districts', further south in the Wagga Wagga surrounds, the bushranger Daniel 'Mad Dog' Morgan's depredations were still reverberating in the press, with stories of heinous deeds and vicious robberies, and in one case in what could only be described as a very suspicious death of one of Morgan's cohorts named Clarke. The incident was reported as a dark affair, and Clarke had been discovered dead, peppered with bullet wounds. At first the killing appeared, it was said, as self-inflicted, but the death raised the macabre idea and quite possibly the scenario of Morgan doing the killing himself for his own survival. Although at this stage amongst Ben Hall and gang the situation hadn't presented itself where a falling out of the magnitude that saw Morgan often turn on his accomplices had arisen. However, although this sense of betrayal amongst the gang had at present not reared its ugly head, nevertheless, friction amongst the bushrangers was never far from the surface with Gilbert and O'Meally often at loggerheads over this and that, as demonstrated in this account after the Bathurst raid and Gilbert's escape from police and separation during the encounter at Bathurst, in which O'Meally once again jeeringly accused Gilbert of his lack of pluck;Vane op.cit “…you were afraid of the bullets which were flying about; and I believe you will be shot yet when running away for you have no fight in you,” this outburst was followed by a very heated exchange between the two bushrangers which almost caused a fracture, but Gilbert, after being unable to convince Hall, Vane or Burke to leave O'Meally, sulked for a short time. However these cat fights would continue to become not uncommon amongst the five bushrangers. MORGAN THE BUSHRANGER. - "The Wagga Wagga express hears that this miscreant has been seen about Piney Ridge within the last week but not engaged in depredation. There is a twofold rumour afloat of his mate Clarke, one as to his having shot himself from apprehension of falling into the hands of justice the other of a darker dye, that Morgan has made away with him a view to his own safety from discovery."¹⁶

Henry Challener
Advertisment c. 1860's
With the Bushrangers enjoying a respite from highway robbery, an article appeared in the ‘Empire’, of the 16th October, 1863, regarding a new locally manufactured carbine issued to the Sydney police which would pique the interest of the gang on learning of its existence and would be a handy addition to their arsenal once it fell into their hands. The manufacturer, no doubt would have been Henry Challener, who was situated at 61, King St West, Sydney, and who sold weapons to the New South Wales police who, consequently, when attacked in the bush by the bushrangers often let their weapons fall into their hands. Challener’s business operated at this address between 1859-1869; NEW ARMS FOR THE POLICE. – “We noticed yesterday that the foot police have been furnished with strong and serviceable looking carbines, which bear the name of a Sydney manufacturer. One barrel is smooth while the other is riffled; at the same time the weapon is light and handy.”

However, with Mad Dog Morgan wreaking havoc in the Wagga Wagga district and the likes of the Seery's and the Druitt’s taking control of the Yass surrounds following the absence of Ben Hall and gang, and the New South Wales police still maladroit in the scrub and the New South Wales governments continuing disarray, pessimism was still rife over the inability of those police forces professing to be the bastion's of Law and Order to be able to rein in the Wild Colonial Boys, as well as those who continued to aid and abet the bushrangers, the harbourers; MONDAY, OCTOBER 12, 1863. "Our readers are doubtless weary of the continual occupation of public time by discussions in reference to the exploits of the bushrangers. When the first alarm is past, or the amusement excited by the comicalities of crime is exhausted, the feeling which remains is one of indignation that so much attention should be exacted by persons so worthless. As an abstract proposition, it is perfectly true that Government is responsible for the peace of the country, but that responsibility only implies that it is accountable for the use of those means at its disposal for the prevention and suppression of crime. It is not responsible for the luck which sometimes attends a criminal career, and much less so for the corruption of principle by which it is encouraged. It is difficult to say how much guilt pertains to those parties who have lately been dancing with bushrangers, and treating them as a great Minister was entertained. It either indicates the force of fear, or a dangerous tolerance of crime. One question which seems now to press upon the public and Government is what are the limits of legal effort to destroy these marauders, for their destruction ought to be the desire of every honest man. We have little patience with those whose sole anxiety seems to be that these enemies of the public peace should have every chance of success which the forms of law may give them, and be covered by its most rigorous restraints in any attempt to capture them. It is only in deference to the general principles of law which extend their protection even to the worst of men, that there could be any hesitation to use every possible means to entrap and dispose of these robbers. All our sympathies are with their victims. It is deplorable to think how many are suffering, directly and indirectly, from the perpetual terror of their isolated homesteads. Surely, all these things are enough to rouse any man who has any sympathy with right, or whose heart is not essentially the heart of a felon."¹⁷

Reputed photo of
Pierce's General Store.
c. 1860's
However, in the preceding month of September of 1863, with the gang rampaging through the central western districts of New South Wales, Ben Hall, Johnny Gilbert, John O’Meally, John Vane and Mickey Burke as had earlier been mentioned unexpectedly appeared once more in the small hamlet of Canowindra. Canowindra consisted of an assortment of sparse wooden buildings, incorporating a butcher’s shop and a blacksmith shop as well as a small police station located a stone’s throw from the ford across the Belubula River, where today stands the current John Grant Bridge. Canowindra at the time of the September raid had only one substantial brick building having been built by a Mr. Collits (Colletts), an extensive landholder and business man in the Canowindra district. However, the building had been rented to Mr. Pearce (Pierce), who operated his business there as a General Store and had fallen victim to the gang on a number of ocassions.

Mr. James Collits, aged 74.
Courtesy NLA.
Consequently, the hotel at Canowindra patronized by the gang on the evening of the September 1863 visit and where on that occasion the subsequent earlier reported evening's festivities were held, was also owned by Mr. Collits and named as the 'Canowindra Hotel', which had been under license, leased to a Mr. William Robinson. Furthermore, as was the practice in the 1800’s, hotels whereby de rigueur and under the law were required to display prominently the name of the licensee and were therefore, usually known colloquially by the licensee's name, i.e. in this case, Robinson’s Hotel. It was also a requirement by law for the licensee to have displayed outside the hotel a prominent light to be lit during the night as a guide for travellers. Robinson’s hotel was reputedly situated on Gaskell street. (there are some conflicting views as to the right spot where the bushrangers held both their jubilee's.) Nevertheless, the five bushrangers had departed their former area of operations in the first weeks of October in a leisurely manner with recent newspaper reports stating that the gang appeared to be in genial spirits, and unperturbed at the large police presence scouring all points of the compass surrounding them. However, the gangs contumelious Bathurst raid in that first week of October 1863, which was up to this date, still the most brazen achievement by any bushrangers, and their audacity tp visit that provincial town was still reverberating through the colony would now in the days ahead be surpassed. The five bushrangers once more headed for Canowindra where on the morning of the 12th October, 1863, the five rode nonchalantly into the 'The Falls' the station of Mr. Thomas Grant J.P. some four miles east of Canowindra. Ben Hall and Mr. Thomas Grant may have been aquainted with each other in the years prior to Hall's current activities, due to a probable link between Ben Hall's late father in law, John Walsh and the father of Thomas Grant, John Grant a former convict and in 1863, a large landholder in the district. John Walsh had been an assigned convict to Thomas Grant's father during the late 1830's, therefore, the initial conversation between the two was most probably cordial, although more than likely the subject matter related to the penalties to be meted out by relaying information of Hall's current presence or to assisting the police in their search for the gang, and of the severe consequences if any news of betrayal reached the bushrangers. Shortly afterwards the bushrangers casually remounted and departed, riding the short distance onto Canowindra; “…on Monday morning Gilbert, O'Meally, Hall, Vane, and Burke, visited Mr. Grant's house at Belubula. They did no mischief there; but the same day they went to Canowindra"¹⁸

Bill Robinson, Publican
with daughter Beatrice.
On the morning of the 12th of October, 1863, (there are conflicting reports as to morning or night but police evidence points to a.m.) the nondescript sleepy township of Canowindra, which had been established in the mid 1840's and consisted largely by way of its most important building, a permanent Post- Office operated by a Nicholas Daly who also held the lucritive job of Poundkeeper for the Belubula district. However, the Post-Office benefited the small town through a weekly mail coach from Carcoar, but unfortunately for the township it was disadvantaged as a main mail route or throughfare or a district centre due to the lack of a relevant and year round crossing of the Belubula River which precluded it to be considered important. Therefore, the main route for the mail coach servicing the southwest area and bypassing Canowindra for Cowra would be sent on the current Mid-Western Highway, leading between Bathurst and Cowra as the most direct route, passing the settlements of Blayney, Carcoar, Mandurama, Lyndhurst, Woodstock and into Cowra. However, Canowindra could be accessed on another main route from the other major provincial town, Orange, 35 miles by road and passing on a direct route skirting Mount Canoblas on the Cargo Road. Consequently, for the bushrangers, Canowindra's geography was a perfect place for a hiatus. Moreover, Canowindra was also centred near three major forests and rugged ranges all of which were well known to the gang and with their ever-present telegraphs providing up to date knowledge of the police movements, enabled Ben Hall and Co to plan their jubilee accordingly. In conjunction with the towns remoteness, the Belubula River, which when in flood, created a blockade against any police arriving from Cowra and making an attempt to ensnare the bushrangers in the town. Recent heavy rain was also a factor in the gang’s favour, as after much local rain falling in the surrounding country the Belubula River begin to raise which gave the bushrangers a sense of security. The heavy weather was also a factor in the gang's visit as it was reported that Ben Hall had had enough of sleeping rough and being cold wet and miserable. Consequently, in the early morning of the 12th October 1863, Canowindra would be awakened with the arrival of the much-heralded bushrangers, Ben Hall, Gilbert, O'Meally, Burke and Vane. The bushrangers rode into the town just as folks began to stir for the day's labours and the encamped teamsters with their parked drays lined-up were preparing the bullocks and putting the billy on the boil for breakfast. Without due notice the bushrangers approached the hotel of Bill Robinson, dismounted and knocked on the door where; "...Mrs. Robinson was interrupted by a loud knocking at the front door. She put her head out of the window, asked who was there and was told 'Police.' But when she opened the door, she found the three outlaws, who having asked for Bill Robinson and discovered that he was away, inspected the till, and found only a few pounds in it. Mrs. Robinson expected them to take the money. They did neither. Instead, they announced that they would trouble everyone to get up and assemble in the dinner room. This was done, the party consisting of Mrs. Robinson, the hotel hands, and Kieran Cummings. who was boarding there. Ben Hall then remained on guard, and despatched Gilbert and O'Meally as messengers to the two sentinels at the township approaches. By that time, it was beginning to be sufficiently light for easy movement and the four men next went on pre-arranged sectors, galloping across paddocks and herding into the town all horses found within a mile of it. That was a precaution against news being taken to the police at Cowra, some twenty miles away. Shortly after the horses had been placed in a fenced paddock nearby, the hotel opened its doors in the normal way, but with the precaution that at each end of the verandah, leaning against a post, stood a bushranger. Another was inside the barroom. There were a number of teamsters camping in the town and most of them called along for an early-morning drink before resuming their journey. They were commanded to remain in the town until further orders, Ben Hall then announced that no one was to leave the town without a written permit, and stated that no harm would be done to anyone unless they attempted treachery.”¹⁹ This was the prequel too and commenced the afterward reported 'Robbers Jubilee'. As the town assembled Ben Hall and Vane reputedly negotiated the rising Belubula River to the south side of Canowindra on a shared horse to a hotel reputedly 'The Travellers Rest', so as to ensure and prevent anyone capable of getting a message to the police in Cowra from doing so. The whole of the affair and its three day festivities are transcibed below;

Reputed photo of
Canowindra Inn.
c. 1860's
CANOWINDRA HELD BY THE BUSHRANGERS FOR THREE DAYS; "Yesterday, news reached Bathurst that Gilbert and his gang had paid another visit to Canowindra, and investing the town, had held it against all comers for three days and nights-their proceedings being characterised by a cool audacity, which has hitherto been unequalled. The tragedy of bushranging is a thing of the past, it is now such a familiar every day matter that it has become a broad farce. From what we learn, the bushrangers made their appearance late on Sunday night, or early on Monday morning, paying a visit to Mr. Robinson's hotel, and taking from him about £3. After this the farce commenced, some of the gang were placed so as to guard the approaches to the town, and everyone who made his appearance was taken into custody and brought to the hotel, where he was told he must remain, but that he might call for whatever he liked at the bushrangers’ expense. No restraint was imposed upon them other than that they were ordered not to quit the town-the bushrangers amusing themselves in a variety of ways, holding a robbers’ jubilee. On Tuesday morning at ten o'clock, Messrs. Hibberson, Twaddell, and Kirkpatrick drove up to Robinson's, where Ben Hall informed them that he was sorry to inconvenience them, but they really could not be permitted to proceed on their journey, and he must therefore trouble them to leave their vehicle and put up for a while.

On getting out O'Meally, who was present, saw a revolver in Mr. Kirkpatrick's possession and presenting one of his own weapons at that gentleman's head, he compelled him to give it up, remarking that they did not require it, but as it might be used against them it was as well to take the precaution of keeping it out of harm's way. He promised, however, to leave it at Mr. Loudon's residence at Grubbenbong, as they intended to pay him another visit before long. This, and the robbery of the £3 already mentioned, were the only items of violence committed during their stay. A first class dinner was ordered for the three gentlemen, and the cost of this as well as every thing else called for, was defrayed by the gang.

Every dray and team that passed was stopped, and the men belonging to them were lodged, fed, and supplied with drink, free of expense. There were twelve or fourteen drays drawn up in a line, and not the slightest attempt was made to interfere with the loading they contained. Bundles of cigars, purchased by Gilbert, as required, were thrown loosely on one of the tables in the public-house, for all who cared about smoking them, and a huge pile of sweetmeats was also provided to suit the taste of others. Everyone was empowered to call for what he liked, but the bushrangers drank nothing but bottled ale and porter, the corks of which they insisted upon having drawn in their presence. Great festivities were kept up, and from the description given of the gang, they entertained not the slightest apprehension of being disturbed, and did not seem to think that they were incurring any risk.

World News illustration of
Ben Hall marching

Constable Sykes. c. 1950
Courtesy NLA.
Later that morning, various contests were organised, the most popular being shooting matches, and none of the participants even thought of using the bushrangers as a target, though a little excitement was caused at one point by someone dropping a carbine accidentally. It went off, the contents just missing O'Meally's leg. Laughing Johnnie Gilbert, as was his habit, saw much humour in the incident, especially in the way O'Meally leapt into the air, and no serious result arose. To some of the residents in the neighbourhood who desired to visit their homes, leave of absence of an hour's duration was granted, passes, being given to them, duly signed, in one or two instances, where the time allowed was exceeded by the pass holder Ben Hall went after them, but on meeting the individuals returning, he contented himself with admonishing them for their transgression. On one occasion, Ben Hall said he must go and look after the policeman, and getting on his horse he rode to the barracks, where it seems a constable is stationed, and ordering the man to fix the bayonet to his gun, and place his revolver in his waist, he drove him before his horse down to the hotel, where the others amused themselves with him for a little time, and taking his arms way, told him to go in and enjoy himself till he received further orders. There were about forty persons detained altogether, and the reason given for adopting this course was that they had a number of scouts out, who they were desirous should return before any one left the town, they recounted several of their exploits, and expressed a lively contempt for policemen generally, and their officers in particular-saying that when the police came all they had to do was to ride away.

It is said that Messrs. Hibberson, Twaddell, and Kirkpatrick, were anxious to resume their journey, and, upon representing to Hall the fact that the river was rising, and unless they were allowed to go at once they might be detained for days before they could cross, they were allowed to take their departure at four o'clock in the afternoon. It is said that the bushrangers were in Canowindra at least three full days, during which they acted the parts of rollicking, good-tempered fellows, treating everybody they met, and paying for all they took."²⁰

For the settlers of Canowindra and district the occurence of the gangs visit would later be reminisced in terms that could only be reviewed as a great distraction to the sometimes mundane and isolated life of the people of the remote town and stations, as recounted in another view of the festivities; “…but free drinks were not the only form of entertainment provided. During the morning, various people arrived in the settlement on business from outlying homesteads. Included among these was a young woman able to play the piano. She was requested, quite politely, to favour the company with dance music, and intermittent dancing helped to pass away the morning. All prisoners were next provided with a good lunch, also at the expense of the bushrangers, who were beginning to be quite popular. By afternoon all apprehension had evaporated. The citizens decided it was not every day their town was captured by outlaws, and that the occasion ought to be celebrated with due jollity. Another teamster had arrived. He had a concertina. This made a variation to the piano for dancing, so that by evening time the whole party was able to have a really fine time, the bushrangers (generally two at a time) participating and enjoying a thoroughly sociable interlude to their usually hazardous life. Altogether, this impromptu ball was such a success that it continued till dawn, as is the habit of the bush, after which the women and children were allowed to go to the bedrooms for a sleep. The men had to take what slumber they could get seated round the dining-room table, head in arms. The members of the gang seemed to be impervious to any such need.²¹ It was later reported after the departure of Hibberson, Twaddell, and Kirkpatrick, that; “…an hour later, Hall ushered all the guests onto the verandah. O'Meally was still on guard there and the bushrangers' horse’s fine thoroughbreds stolen from rich squatters were tethered to the posts. Hall and Gilbert gravely thanked everyone for their attendance, paid Robinson the final reckoning for the party, and galloped off. As they rode off. the three young outlaws waved gaily back at the crowd on the verandah. For nearly 60 hours they had held a whole township captive-five men against 40. They had danced with pretty women, eaten good food again, sung songs and laughed with other "people-a change from the grim hide-and-seek they played with the police in the ranges."²² For the unfortunate constable Charles Sykes this had been the second time that he had been accosted by Ben Hall, however, to Sykes credit he made an attempt to cross the Belubula River to get word to Cowra, unfortunately, due to its fast flowing waters blocking his path he was soon discovered as Ben Hall had got wind of his leaving and rode quickly to intercept him on the road a short distance from his home, and reputedly, Hall returned him by way of force marching him back to Robinson's Hotel. In January 1864, at the hearing into Vane's bushranging rampage with Ben Hall and gang, Charles Sykes gave an account of both of his encounters with the bushrangers, first on the encounter on the 26th September 1863, and then the October visit to Canowindra, from the 'Empire', Friday, 15th January, 1864: Constable Sykes, being sworn, said: "I am stationed at Canowindra, I saw prisoner on the 26th September last; he was in company with Hall, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Burke; I was going down the town about half-past seven in the evening, and they all stuck me up when near Robinson's public-house; I had no arms at the time; they took, me to Robinson’s public house, and kept me a prisoner until five o'clock the next morning; they were drinking during the night; I could not get away as they watched me closely; they went backwards and forwards to the store during the night; there were between twenty and thirty people in the house; the men were all well-armed at the time; I saw; Vane again on the 15th October with the same party; I was away for a short time, and when I returned I was informed by my wife that my arms had been taken away by Hall; I had a carbine and a horse pistol-they were both taken; I then left to go to Cowra, and was stuck-up by Hall near my own house; I saw Vane at the same time at some little distance away from Hall; Hall ordered me to stand, and I was taken to the public-house; that was about eight o'clock in the morning, and I was kept a prisoner until about four o'clock; Gilbert, O’Meally, and Burke were there; there were between twenty and thirty people there; when I left Vane told me he would get me the arms back, and they were afterwards given to me; I did not see the bushrangers any more after that time." After the constables ordeal he stated this of his capture and treatment by the gang especially Gilbert; “…they detained the constable a close prisoner from the time of his arrest, until eight o’clock on Wednesday morning. The prisoner speaks very highly of the kindness he met with from Gilbert; and does not seem to have suffered any indignity at the hands of his captors. During the time of his captivity, Gilbert showed the constable a pistol taken from the police camp; and asked whether, in the event of its being returned loaded to him, he would shoot Gilbert; to which he replied, that "he might if he got a chance." "Then," said Gilbert, "to do away, with any chance you might have, I'll fire it off for you." After discharging the pistol, he handed it to the constable, remarking that such arms were useless to them, we learn from the constable, that they rode splendid nags, though rather light in condition, and that they took the police paddock fence like a bird.” ³⁰ Constable Sykes also attested to Gilbert's leadership of the five bushrangers; "...Gilbert is described as possessing the most unlimited authority over the rest of the band. His every command is law, no one daring to dispute it; and at night, while one of the five keeps watch, the other four slept soundly, and with the utmost confidence and reliance upon the watchfulness and good faith of their mate on sentry. The same men, on this visit to Canowindra, gave a look in at Mr. Pierce's, and took £12 in money; and about £30 worth of goods.”³¹ Gilbert's former position as Frank Gardiner's lieutenant appeared to still hold true under the new regime, and that Gilbert at this stage still commanded the bushrangers, although this was obviously tenuous as Ben Hall was now often reported as leader and that during the three day's at Canowindra the residents often defered to Hall for any matters to be resolved. (Charles Sykes would retire from the force in 1872 on a pension of £126 per year) Consequently, with the festivities concluded, this was noted of the bushrangers standing with some of the struggling farmers;[sic] "The bushrangers remained until evening, the town having been in their possession for three full days, three gala days, three days which established their popularity, announced to the world that they did not rob or kill as a pastime, and which served as a direct challenge to the police parties that during those three days were out searching the surrounding bush for the outlaws. It was a remarkable piece of audacity on the part of the bushrangers, whose resultant prestige was enhanced greatly by the fact that all the expenses of those three days of jollity were borne by them." It must also be mentioned that as gracious as Ben Hall and gang appeared, and the costs of the three days being covered by the gang, the funds provided however, were not earnt through hard toil, but from the point of a gun on some happless victim, who on the ocassion was terrified for his life.

Furthermore, the initial newspaper reports of the gangs arrival at Canowindra gave the impression that the publican Bill Robinson had been absent, however, this appears to be incorrect as once again at Vane's future court hearing, Bill Robinson gave a brief account of the situation, and where he does state that at the first raid in late September he was absent from Canowindra. Robinson's testimony in some instances varies from the newspaper accounts of the gangs doings over the three day hiatus. Below is Bill Robinson's deposition into the sticking-up of Canowindra, from the 'Empire', Friday, 15th January, 1864;  William Robinson, being sworn in deposed; “About the end of September, while I was absent from my home, my house was robbed by persons said to be bushrangers. One day, about the beginning of October, about eight o'clock in the evening, five armed men came to my house; they were Gilbert, Ben Hall; Burke, O'Meally, and Vane; Ben Hall and Gilbert came into the house, leaving the others outside, they bailed me up with the other inmates of the house; Hall searched me and found some silver in my pockets, which he returned, saying he never took silver; Gilbert asked for the keys of the cash box which he opened and took one pound from it; he returned the pound about an hour afterwards, saying if he could not get any more he would not be bothered with it; Hall was dissatisfied, and said Gilbert could not have half searched the house; he then went to the drawers, and found £2 10s' he took the notes and left the silver; the other men then came in, and other people being about the house, Gilbert treated them; after this Hall and Vane got on one horse and rode across the river to the other public-house; Gilbert, O'Meally, and Burke remained at my house; Hall and Vane did not return until one o'clock in the morning, and an hour after that they, all want away; next morning (Sunday) about six o’clock, they all returned, and told me they intended to take the town and stick-up everybody; they did so, but did not take any money from those they stopped; young Mr. Robert Kirkpatrick was stopped and searched, and a revolver taken from him; they also bailed-up Messrs. Twaddell and Hibberson, and a number of bullock teams; the same day Ben Hall went up for Sykes the policeman; on the first occasion he could not find him, but brought his arms down, consisting of a pistol and a carbine; he went again some time afterwards, and returned with Sykes and another man named Ferguson; about 4 o'clock in the afternoon they let Messrs. Waddell and Hibberson go as the river was rising, and they were anxious to reach Bathurst; Mr. Kirkpatrick went with them; O'Meally and Burke then went in the direction of Mogong; O'Meally took one of my horses; the others went away in about an hour; at about 8 o'clock at night Burke and O'Meally came back again, and at 10 o'clock Gilbert, Vane, and Hall came to look for them; the night was very wet, and Hall said they could not camp out without blankets, and he had no money; he asked the strangers in the house if they had any money, and on their saying no he turned to me and said I must have done well that day, and ordered me to turn out, my pockets that he might see what I had; I did so, there being £3 in notes and £2 in silver; he took the notes and returned the silver; he went over to Mr. Pierce's stores to get some blankets; they paid for everything they got at the store after the first time they robbed it; when the bushrangers left this time they did not return until after Burke was shot; I then asked them where Vane was, and they said they had left him behind, for since Burke had been shot he was no good; they had some drinks, and offered to pay, for them, but as I heard that the money was a portion of Mr. Keightley's ransom money I declined to take it; they then went away and I have not seen them since; before going away they told me not to give information to the police, as they wished to get away; I had given information on both the previous occasions. I know John Vane as one of the men who came to my house.”

View of Canowindra, c. 1901.
Taken from southside
looking north. In 1863 there
 was no bridge over the
Belubula River.
Hall and Vane crossed close
 to this point and
Robinson pitched his bottle
Courtesy Canowindra
Historical Society.
However, the bushrangers had their scouts out on the hunt for and information on police movements comprising their current position, meanwhile, the police were not without their own intelligence and were quite aware of the gangs presence in the Canowindra district, but once again the leadership of the NSW Police through its scene of action commander at Cowra, Superintendent William Chatfield, delayed and bickered with the Inspector-General of NSW police Captain John McLerie over administrative issues and complained of the disbursement and transfer of many of his troopers into Sir Frederick Pottinger’s command, therefore, Chatfield's argument was that he believed it lessened his effectivness, therefore, in brisk telegrams Chatfield complained of his now depleted forces, a situation that in the future would become diobolical for him; Telegram, 5th October, 1863;- "My dear sir, I have just seen a note from Mr. Orridge to Sir F. Pottinger, by which I am led to believe you wish me to proceed to Canowindra; I start accordingly tomorrow for that place; my party, however, only consists of three men besides myself. I do not think it quite fair, as Superintendent of a district, to have my best men taken away from me and to be sent about the country with a party so small. Had I a larger party I might perhaps have been able to do something, but with three I shall have enough to do to protect myself should I by chance meet the bushrangers." signed, Wm. Chatfield.²³ Consequently, Chatfield departed, and after a fruitless search for the bushrangers in foul weather returned to Cowra. Once again, Chatfield lamented the reduced size of his force, and again fired off a telegram on the 12th October, 1863, as simultaneously Ben Hall and entourage rode casually into Canowindra; Telegram, Cowra, 12th October, 1863; "Sir, - I have the honour to report, for your information that I returned to Cowra yesterday and intend to retrace my steps towards Canowindra tomorrow. My party is so small, consisting of three constables besides myself, that I fear I could not to much towards the capture of the bushrangers should they again visit Canowindra. I beg, therefore, to request that, if possible, it may be strengthened by at least two, and this request I make with the more confidence, having brought nine constables with me from my own to the South-eastern district." signed, Wm. Chatfield.²⁴ The Inspector General who was at present in Bathurst taking control of the search for the gang returned a telegram acknowledging Chatfield's circumstances and as requested had dispatched two constables one of which was mounted to Cowra; Telegram from Inspector General; “...reporting your arrival at Cowra on the 11th, and your intended return to Canowindra on the 13th, and to acquaint you, in reply, that a senior constable and, one constable (mounted) has been detailed for duty at Canowindra. The senior constable will hand you this communication; and if nothing is heard of the presence of the bushrangers in the vicinity of that township, you on will leave the party sent from Bathurst for permanent duty at Canowindra, and return with the party under your orders to Cowra, and there wait for further instructions."²⁵ Furthermore, in the same telegram reply to Chatfield, and what could only be perceived as a rebuke, the Inspector-General reminded Chatfield of what he had intended for Chatfield’s small party of police to achieve; "...I may add, that it was not intended, with your small party, that you should have gone in pursuit of the bushrangers, but that you should have watched the Lachlan and have ascertained whether the gang had crossed that river towards the Young district." signed, Captain McLerie.²⁶

However, as the bushranger’s departed Canowindra, sometime around 1pm on Wednesday, 14th October, 1863, the publican, William Robinson, sent a desperate telegram to the police at Cowra, addressed to Sir Frederick Pottinger. Furthermore, with the Belubula River now in flood and to swift to cross, Robinson flung the message in a bottle across to the other side, where it was sent on by a flying messenger on horseback to Cowra;

Canowindra, Wednesday,

Sir, - I wish to inform you that the bushrangers, viz. Gilbert, O'Meally, Hall, Burke and Vane, are here; they came here on Monday morning at 8 o'clock and have been on and off until one o'clock today. They stuck up the stores and public houses, and every one that was travelling to and from the Lachlan yesterday, and detained them all day - would not let any one go for fear of giving information. Constable Sykes could not get across the river to go to Cowra; he then started to go to Eugowra but they met him somewhere on the road and turned him back; they would not leave sight of him all day yesterday, and took all his firearms and handcuffs but gave them back to him last night, saying they would give him or any one else fifty lashes if they left the town. They detained Waddell, Hibberson and Kirkpatrick, but did not search the former; John O'Meally searched Kirkpatrick and took a revolver from him. I have not time to give you any more information as the mail is starting; the bushrangers are only now gone, so I could not write while they were here.
I am, &c. 

To Sir F. Pottinger, Cowra.
I have to throw this letter over in a bottle, as the river is very high.²⁷

Artist impression of
Sir Frederick Pottinger with

silver tipped riding whip.
Courtesy NLA.
That evening of Wednesday the 14th October, 1863, upon receipt of Robinson’s message, Sir Frederick Pottinger dispatched an urgent memo at 7pm of that date to the Inspector-General briefing him of the fluid situation and how he would utilise his forces, and in the process of writing takes a subtle swipe at Chatfield. However, what is of interest is the use of a boat to assist the police in negotiating the flooded rivers; Telegram, Cowra, Wednesday, 14th October, 7 p.m. Memo: "Intelligence has just arrived that on Mr Chatfield (injudiciously I think) leaving Canowindra the "5" put in an appearance at 8 a.m., bailed up the township and everybody passing, and remained there till this afternoon. It would seem they are intent on the escort, but were baffled by Sanderson's precautions; and the party at Goolagong, who having seen the escort by, returned to "spell" at Goolagong.

2. Mr Chatfield started at once this evening with two men, having only light enough to swim two of the horses. He proceeds tonight to Goolagong, and with the party there swims the river the first thing in the morning at Young's on the Lachlan Road (there being a boat there) and thence works across to Canowindra sending one man with instructions from me, to the Eugowra party, to co-operate with the Toogong men, and work the bush thereabouts between this and the next mail. Tomorrow I proceed, or send a party with a boat in a cart to the Belubula, establishing pro tem stations at the crossing place to Canowindra, as to the present state of the weather the district in that quarter is necessarily quite isolated and at the mercy of the gang.

I shall either leave or stay with a good party, however, here, as I am positively informed they are only waiting my departure to make a descent here.
I have nothing more to report."
The Inspector General.

N.B.- The Carcoar police had better work towards Canowindra. I have informed them of the contents of this. The Orange police must look out too. The rivers and creeks are higher than they have yet been - regular bankers. - F.P.²⁸

Unfortunately for Superindentant Chatfield, the political powers in Sydney were greasing the wheels for his ultimate fall from grace, as will be seen later in this manuscript.

Charles Lydiard
c. 1860's
Consequently, the lack of success of the Western Patrol in the apprehension of Ben Hall, would see the Inspector-General of the NSW police cast his net further north for efficient officers, and ordered an officer recruited to the NSW police force from the neighbouring state of Victoria, Superintendent Charles Lydiard, who on arrival in the Victorian colony in 1850, would serve in the public service in various capacities from 1851 to 1860. However, Lydiard's credentials for high office in that colony enabled him to become an Assistant Gold Commissioner at the Mount Alexander diggings on a salary of £250 per yr., then subsequently enlisted into the Victorian police force. In this capacity Lydiard would see success whilst commanding the Victorian Native Police Force, operating with twelve highly skilled and disciplined Aboriginals, as well as commanding various Victorian gold escorts, including the first escort from Ballarat to Geelong. However, Lydiard’s quick rise to prominence may well be as a result of nepotism, (reportedly rife throughout the colonies) due to his connection to a highly placed cousin in the Victorian police, Evelyn Sturt who was Superintendent of the Victorian police force, and also included his cousin's Evelyn's famed brother the explorer Charles Sturt. Superintendent Charles Lydiard was based at the time of the Canowindra raid at Maitland and was accordingly seconded to the Bathurst command by Captain McLerie, where he was directed to hunt bushrangers with his select party of police, they were reported departing Newcastle on the 13th October, 1863, to take up the fight; OTHERS IN SEARCH OF THE BUSHRANGERS. — “On Tuesday orders were received by Mr. Superintendent Lydiard to proceed to the Western district in pursuit of the gang of scoundrels, called bushrangers, who infest that district. He took with him senior sergeant Kerrigan, and four troopers (Connolly, Johnston, Woods, and Rayfield), and started on Wednesday morning by train to Newcastle, and from thence by steamer to Sydney. On their arrival in Sydney, they will without delay proceed to the district whither they have been directed. Mr. Lydiard and senior sergeant Kerrigan, and also the men under their command, are the right stamp to employ on such a mission.” ²⁹

On receipt of Robinson's message in a bottle, Sir Frederick Pottinger gathered his troops and departed Cowra, with the newspapers throwing speculation over the police movements, including a swipe at the police's lack of pluck, as well as noting that a force from Bathurst was enroute with orders not to return without Ben Hall; “…it is also currently reported that ten policemen, with an officer at their head, were at Cowra when information reached that place of the state of affairs at Canowindra; but instead of proceeding, as persons anxious to meet with the bushrangers would have done, by the nearest and most direct route, they crossed the Lachlan at Cowra, and whether they got lost in the bush, or, as the river was rising at the time, could not recross it, we are unable to say; but it is pretty certain that up to the period of our informant's leaving, they had not arrived at Canowindra. A large party of the police left Bathurst on Thursday morning and another party yesterday, who, we understand, have orders if possible to circumvent the bushrangers, or get upon their track and follow them; but not to return to Bathurst without fighting with, or taking them.”³²

Furthermore, with the Canowindra festivities concluded, the five bushrangers depart and head northward towards Murga, situated on the fringe of the now named Nangar State Forest, accessing the same road that 16 months previously Hall, Gilbert and O’Meally had participated in robbing the Eugowra Gold Escort, in-company with Frank Gardiner. The reported movements of the gang by law abiding citizens kept the NSW troopers rushing from one sighting to another, where at times the searching troopers became completely confused, and through frustration and fear, often took to drinking spirits in camp whilst on duty for the Dutch courage required to confront the five desperadoes, as described below in a case brought against five troopers who faced the wrath of Sir Frederick Pottinger when dragged in front of a magistrate over their performance; The case was brought by Sir Frederick Pottinger against five men of the police force, for neglect of duty, by being drunk and unfit for duty and that at a time when their energies were most required to track and apprehend the band of bushrangers that have lately been keeping this portion of the Western and South-western districts in a state of lawlessness and fear hitherto without precedent in the history of the colony. Senior constable Wright, constable Mannix, constable Simpson, constable Hamilton and constable Cox were charged by Sir F. Pottinger with misconduct and neglect of duty They pleaded not guilty, and were defended by Mr. James, solicitor, from Forbes.”³³

Thomas Grant appointment,
May 1863.
The troopers in question had been out scouring the bush in the immediate area of Thomas Grant’s station ‘The Falls’ on the Belubula river some four miles east of Canowindra, and had camped in a paddock of Grant’s when the newly appointed J.P. received information of a party of police being camped there, went to investigate. During the subsequent trial, Grant stated regarding the troopers conduct after charges were brought by Pottinger; “…some time since (about a month or six weeks ago,) I met a person on the road near my residence, who told me that there was a party of police camped in my paddock, and that they seemed to be drunk. A short time after senior constable Wright came galloping down the road towards me, when he came close to me I stopped my horse, and then went on one side a little, as I expected he would ride over me, —his horse appeared to be unmanageable, and himself drunk; he appeared to have been spurring his horse, he rode his horse close to where I was standing, and I had to move out of his way; he had some conversation with me, but I do not remember what it was, but think it was something about bushrangers; I saw other police, some of them I now identify as the defendants before the Court, and to the best of my belief the greater number of the party I saw were drunk, I might be some fifty or sixty yards on when I saw them, but as I was driving some cattle at the time I did not take much notice of them; I would not swear they were drunk, but to the best of my belief they were drunk.”³⁴

Trooper's dismissal.
NSW Police Gazette
16th December 1863.
However, the troopers actions were indicative of the general consensus held by the wider public and their view of the current state of morale amongst the NSW troopers at the coal face of the hunt for the bushrangers, and of their fear at the prospect of being killed in a gun battle when confronted with a heavily armed banditry. During the evidence against the troopers another constable, constable Burk who reportedly did not participate in the reported binge drinking stated;  “…that on the 21st day of October last he was on duty with the defendants, we were under the charge of senior constables Wright; we left Robinson's public-house at Canowindra and went to Mrs. Hartigan's house, some short distance from Canowindra: constable Wright was drunk, but not so drunk as he had been an hour previous: we left Hartigan's and went to the Falls across the Belubula, and while there we were drinking, having heard at Hartigan's that the bushrangers had been there and were then only a short distance ahead. We proceeded to the Falls in search of them. Early in the day Wright was drunk, the others, with the exception of constable Hamilton were drunk in the afternoon, and my reasons for believing the defendant to be drunk were, first, that constable Wright could not walk straight, and said it was the only day he had seen double, and that he had lost a horse pistol. My reason for believing constable Mannix to be drunk was, that as he was trying to get on his horse he fell down. Cox and Simpson were not so drunk as the others, but were the worse for liquor. There was some contention between senior constable Wright and Hamilton wanting to go to the Falls, and he (Wright) said he would not allow of his parting from his company, and said he should not go. When we left Robinson's inn the defendants were sober, but I believe they had had a few glasses or rum before they left: this was at eight o'clock in the morning: when leaving they took with them a square bottle of rum; about one o'clock the same day we returned to Robinson's: we remained there till three o'clock, when we again left; when on the road constable Cox asked a shilling a man from each of the party, as he said to pay for the grog- the second bottle they had had that day; when we came to Hartigan's in the morning we heard that the bushrangers had been there, and had only left five minutes; after going to the Falls we went in search of them; we had then ridden some twelve or fifteen miles that day; we returned to Robinson's about one o'clock, and stayed there till three in the afternoon; before starting I saw Hamilton, Cox, and the other three drinking in the bar; I was not drinking.³⁵ The outcome for Sir Frederick Pottinger on this occasion was that the troopers were fined accordingly, £5 for Wright and £3 for the others, however, the severity of the charges including Pottinger's fury brought about the troopers dismissal from the NSW police service.(see above right.)

Moreover, as the drunken deeds of those troopers under the combined command of Sir Frederick Pottinger and Inspector Chatfield had come to light the two intrepid inspectors were still canvasing homesteads, and tramping through the cold, wet and miserable weather currently inflicting the district as they sought information from settlers as wellas any other morsel of information to assist them in their duty. However, for Chatfield, unfortunately, his days in the bush would come to an end when the Inspector-General of Police under pressure from the Colonial-Secretary who was now baying for blood ordered Chatfield to provide a detailed written explanation of his efforts over the failure of his defence of Canowindra when acting against specific orders to remain at the town Chatfield had seen fit to depart; Police Department, Inspector General's Office, 19th October, 1863. Sir, -Referring to your letter, dated the 12th instant, reporting your return from Canowindra to Cowra on the previous day, and your intention of returning thither on the following day (Tuesday), I have to request that you will report under what circumstances you considered it advisable to leave Canowindra without instructions and what prevented you from returning there on Tuesday, as proposed, the result of the course adopted being a serious outrage in the township left unprotected? I am informed by the Colonial Secretary that the Government will hold officers of police responsible when such outrages take place in the localities where they are employed on duty unless they can satisfactorily show that by no exertions on their part, with the police under their command, such offences could have been prevented, or were promptly checked. You will, therefore forward me, at, your earliest convenience, a report, in explanation, to lay before the Government.

I have, &c.,

JOHN McLERIE, Inspector General of Police.³⁶

Chatfield responded to the demand of the inspector-general and provided a detailed account of his efforts in the search for ‘The Five’, as the gang were refered to by the police, as well as his explanation for his departure from Canowindra. However, Chatfield’s response to the Colonial Secretary’s enquiry was not enough to placate the Premier; Canowindra, 24th October, 1863; Sir,- In answer to your letter, No. 940, of the 10th instant I have the honour to state that I received no instructions from you for my guidance beyond a passing remark in a note to Sir F. Pottinger, from Mr. Orridge, which the former gentleman showed me, by which it seemed you wished me to proceed to Canowindra, which I did, and remained there some days without acquiring any information regarding the bushrangers. I then thought it advisable to proceed to Cowra, via Limestone Creek, intending to return on the Tuesday, but the rain fell so heavily that I was certain I could not cross the Belubula. I therefore thought it better to give the men and horses another day's spell at Cowra. Had I received any definite instructions I should, to the best of my ability, have acted up to them; as it was, I acted according to the best of my judgment. Trusting this will be sufficient explanation to exculpate me from all blame.

I have, &c.,
W. CHATFIELD, Superintendent, Eastern District³⁷

The whereabouts of the bushrangers was difficult to assess as on the day prior to Chatfield’s memo of his actions regarding the leaving of Canowindra, Chatfield gave a detailed version of his latest trek through the Belubula district tracking Ben Hall and gang, and where at some point the five bushrangers had separated and visiting some of their local sympathizers, one of which was a settler named Mrs. Catherine Hartigan, who fed two of the gang (unnamed) at her residence, (as stated at the court appearance of the police charged by Pottinger) prior to the police arriving for information; Catherine Hartigan, a farmer, residing near Canowindra, stated: “…some time in October last the five defendants come to my place on a Tuesday evening, and had some tea; about sundown they all went away, and returned next morning about nine o'clock; they asked me if the bushrangers had been at my place the night before; I said yes— two of them (that is, two of the bushrangers); the police asked me what direction they had taken when they went away; I pointed it out to them, and then the police galloped away together; about twelve o'clock the same day two of them returned; the two were Mannix and Cox; shortly after senior constable Wright also rode up to my place: I asked him to stop and have some dinner; he said he had not time, and that he had only come to see the other two policemen; they then went away together.”³⁸ Catherine’s sympathy extended further when she continued to state; “I would sooner see the bushrangers at my house than a party of police”³⁹

Chatfield, in an earlier letter to the Inspector-General of police, dated 23rd October, 1863, had collated the latest expedition into the bush, and ascertained the whereabouts of Ben Hall, referring to the belief amongst the police that the gang were heading back towards the Bathurst district. The letter also demonstrates the continued friction between the two inspector's operating in the Belubula district and where Chatfield complains of Sir Frederick Pottinger's abrasive attitude; The Inspector-General of Police, Sydney, Canowindra, 23rd October, 1863; Sir, - I have just returned to Canowindra, I am sorry to say, without success. Last night I camped at Nyrang Creek, and discovered a hill known as "Bald Hill," where the tracks of the bushrangers were very distinct and some horse dung so fresh that they must have been there on Tuesday last. This day I proposed attempting to pick up and follow the tracks, but heavy rain falling from 4 until 9 o'clock this morning rendered it impossible, the spoor being destroyed, and the ground so soft that the horses could not carry their riders without danger of straining.

Looking toward the hill
that overlooks Grant's
'The Falls', that Hall camped on
with the Belubula
tree line in forground.
On my arrival, here I found a party of six men whom Sir Frederick Pottinger has sent to cooperate with me. The senior constable (Wright) has gone to Mr. Grant's: I have not yet seen him, but one of the men tells me that the whole five bushrangers were seen the day before yesterday at Hartigan’s, some miles up the Belubula. I have also heard that they have a camping place opposite Mr. Grant's on the Canowindra side of the creek, on a rising ground, whence they can see everything that goes on. I purpose going there this evening with the fresh party now here.

The Bald Hill just mentioned is a remarkable place from whence the bushrangers had a view of the Eugowra Road, the crossing-place at King's, on the Nyrang Creek and the whole surrounding neighbourhood. From this hill they can escape in any direction through the bush; but, should they again make it their rendezvous, which as I am keeping its discovery dark, is probable, I think it improbable that they could altogether escape were two police parties working together, and ascending the hill from different directions. I do not think any of the gang have gone from this part of the country, unless there be truth in the report that they were seen at Hartigan’s. If so, they are returning to No.1 Swamp, through King's Plains.

I believe I told you in my note from Goimbla that I had engaged a black tracker "Albert." He was in the police at Forbes, some time ago., Without him, I could have done nothing, the whole country being intersected by hills and gullies, and being a perfect terra incognita to me and my party, I have gone over a great deal of it; much more might be searched with advantage, should the gang be in the neighbourhood.

I beg to call your attention to the perfect uselessness of sending parties of police out after bushrangers, such as are now at large, without trackers; by chance they might meet the offenders, but they would never trace or find them.

I trust you will excuse this note; I have no other paper. I have been up nearly all night, and am wet through. I have one request to make, before I conclude, which is to be rendered perfectly independent of Sir Frederick Pottinger. I have only three men of my own.

I consider I ought to have five. Sir Frederick has lent me one; he has also sent a party to co-operate, but he writes to me as if to a subordinate under him. As a senior officer working out of my own district this is not pleasant; at the same time, I will not allow any such feelings to interfere with the public service. This request I make contingent on my being continued here, for, unless I hear farther from you and I learn that the gang have left this district, I intend returning to the Flat by the end of next week.

I have, &c.,
W. CHATFIELD, Supt., Eastern District.

P.S. - I was obliged to purchase a horse at Goimbla, to remount one of my men who was riding a borrowed horse. It is not such as I should like to have bought; I gave £10 for it. I trust you will sanction the purchase; at the same time, I must inform you that it is already strained in the back sinew from being sent after the pack-mare, which broke her hobbles and got into the bush. I am obliged, to leave it here and mount the constable on the pack Mare. - W. Chatfield, S.P.⁴⁰

Consequently, with the bushrangers departure from the town, once more constable Sykes attempted to make his way to Cowra only to be thwarted by Ben Hall, therefore Sykes reversed course and made for the police station at Toogong successfully; "...on regaining his liberty, the peeler tried to make for Cowra; but the gentry of the road put a veto on his journey in that direction. He then headed another way and came to Toogong, where he secured the co-operation of two troopers. The army then marched to the homestead of Mr. Campbell, of Goimbla, who, being a J.P., very wisely thought he was bound to join in the chase; and taking with him his brother and Mr. Barnes (not agent of Cobb and Co., who was driving the coach nearer Bathurst at the time) and at a moment's notice, sounded his bugle "to horse!" That party returned next morning, and issued the usual bulletin; - Results nil. - Empire, 23rd October, 1863.

Near Murga, with Nangar Range
in view. Camping area
of Ben Hall, October 1863.
However, as the police under the command of inspector Chatfield flounded through the rain sodden scrub Ben Hall and gang having left Canowindra had taken the bush road north towards Murga. Murga, NSW in 1863, was known as a horse changing station for the mainly uncontracted coaches of her majesty's royal mail including Cobb & Co. With the madness associated with the gold rush at Forbes the town principally serviced the multitudes of bullock drays and miners headed on the road to and from Forbes and her rich goldfield. Mr. Edmund Rymer reflected in the 'Forbes Advocate' in 1920 on life in early Murga and his memory of his fathers hotel when a 15 year old; "In 1861 my father built and conducted a hotel at Murga, about midway between Orange and Forbes, where all goods were taken by carriers on horse and bullock teams from Orange and Forbes, and the Western country. Little townships sprang up along the line of route. There were 17 or 18 hotels between Orange and Forbes, all doing good business. Cobb & Co. were the mail contractors from Orange to Forbes, receiving two thousand pounds per year, the coach drivers being Ted Workman, Ted Smith, Jack Fagan."

The trail to Murga from Canowindra would take the gang into the outskirts of the Nangar Range then passing the northern clifts of the Range and running parallel to Mandagery creek, to the east was Toogong, Cudal and Orange to the west the road to Forbes thru Eugowra. Murga for many years was also known as a timber town with a mill and post office and importantly a school, as well as two hotel's where travellers could stop for accommodation and refreshments, one hotel was known as 'German Jack's'. Murga at the height of the gold rush had some 100 residents scattered in and around the township. This was noted of the route from Toogong to Eugowra;[sic] "Toogong, Murga, and Eugowra are just the beginnings of small towns, which we passed through on our way; but however small a place may be, we are sure to find it possessed of two or three public-houses, which always manage to secure a fair share of patronage. There is nothing worthy of mention on this road until we reach Murga, where we changed horses. Here we see a grand country—several ranges of very steep picturesque hills of metamorphic slate, their forest-clad sides a pleasure to the eye. Dark green coniferous trees here begin to relieve the sight from the dusky line of the gum trees. As we proceed on our journey these become more numerous and of larger size, so that at last they become even more numerous than the eucalypti. Afterwards we lose them almost altogether, but they reappear again at intervals." With the deeds of the bushrangers foray at Canowindra spreading throughout the district, the residents of Murga had soon become well aware that the bushrangers had arrived back in the vicinity of their town and old haunts, with news of them having formed a camp, positioned so as they could hold the road from Forbes to Orange.(today's Escort Way) 15th of October, 1863;[sic]" was reported in town on Thursday night that the bushrangers had been seen at Murga on that day, amusing themselves by firing at targets."

David Campbell
c. 1890's.

Courtesy NLA.
On the 16th October, 1863, 'The Five' conducted several hold-ups in the neighbourhood of Murga, the first being the Forbes mail coach where earlier in the day an old friend of Ben Hall's and reputed bush telegraph had reported to Hall the coach driver's encounter with a local and influential landholder Mr. David Campbell, who was the lessee of Goimbla station. Mr Campbell's desire to see the end of Ben Hall had seen him pull-up the coach and inform the passengers to be on the alert for Hall and Co. Campbell saw it as his duty as with many other graziers to assist the police in the pursuit of the bushrangers. Campbell was also in-company his brother as reported below.[sic]“David Campbell made no pretence as to his intentions with regard to the outlaws under discussion, and who did such desperate deeds along the Lachlan-side in those days—he stood out prominently, amongst a number of sympathisers, as one man at least who would show them no quarter.” 

Furthermore, the presence of Hall's suspected bush telegraph who had been openly observing the encounter and conversation was reported to Campbell who unfortunately ignored the information. However, Campbell's presence would do little to deter the bushrangers next actions. Furthermore, this effort in searching for the gang by Campbell may well have been the catalyst for a future encounter with Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally, which would turn out deadly for one; “…on the Forbes side of "German Jack's," a man was seen standing behind a large tree, growing within a few feet of the road. As the coach approached him, the horses walking, he advanced carelessly, twisting his pipe between his finger and thumb, with his cabbage-tree hat slouched over his left eye, so as to hide one half of his face, or otherwise make his features partially irrecognisable, and surveyed the passengers most minutely, and having satisfied himself that the troopers were not there, he carelessly turned on his heel. Just previously, Mr. Campbell of Goimbla, accompanied by his brother and two others, came up on horseback, all armed, having one double barrel and three single-barreled shot guns—with only one ramrod amongst the lot. These gentlemen told the passengers to look out, as Gilbert and his gang were close at hand, they themselves - being on the search for the marauders. They passed on in the direction from which the coach had come, the man before alluded to casting an anxious glance after them, and then watching the coach to the turn of the road, from which point he was observed to dart away and disappear over an adjoining ridge. Half a mile further on, our informant observed the track of a horse's hoofs coming down the road in the direction of Toogong; near which place it was afterwards ascertained the bushrangers were encamped the same night. The features of the bush telegraph were well known to two gentlemen in the coach, who remembered him as an old "pal" of Ben Hall's, and who had lived at Gallen's some twelve months back with that individual, and is frequently to be seen in Forbes. Three troopers, stationed at Toogong, were told of what had occurred, when they started off, saying, "they would soon catch them," and, putting spurs to their horses, our informant says they went at such a pace through a soft sandy paddock that their horses must have been blown before they were a mile on their way. It was afterwards ascertained that they reached Murga, and thence made their way to Eugowra, meeting no bushrangers, as those gentry are not so particular in keeping to the main road. Towards evening the same three troopers rode quietly back to Murga (where our informant had been detained) in company with eight or nine others, with whom it seems they had fallen in during the day, coming from the direction in which they were going, and shortly afterwards they left for their quarters. Mr. Campbell and his party also came to Murga, without having encountered the bushrangers, and were considerably "chaffed" upon their adventure with one ramrod. The next day, as our informant passed Toogong, he learned that the gang had camped on Wednesday night within three miles of that place, and in the precise direction taken by the bush telegraph.” ⁴¹

Later the same day as Campbell rode on, with Ben Hall's old pal having reported the passing of the pursuers the bushrangers with the latest intelligence consequently descended on the town of Murga; “YESTERDAY morning, the bushrangers- we suppose them to have, been Gilbert and Co.-stuck up German Jack's well-known hostelries, at Murga. We did not hear that they took anything. They next visited Mr. Hanley, next door to German Jack's, where they possessed themselves of seven pounds, and then departed. They said they were going to Goimbla, and that they would “Shave.” Campbell, and "warm" Barnes. Fortunately, it was not our Barnes not the Barnes of Cobb and Co., -but, as we suppose, an overseer of Mr. Campbell. The next thing the maunders did was to stick up the coach- a feat they accomplished at a place about three miles on the Forbes side of Murgah. Jerry was driving, and the number of "rangers" five. These gentry asked for the mail, and found there was none. They then asked for firearms, when the same answer being returned-they left."⁴² In 1920, an eyewitness to the gangs visit to Murga, Mr Edmund Rymer then 15 yrs old, once more recounted that days activities. 'Forbes Advocate'"One morning early, Ben Hall, with his gang of men, including J Gilbert, J. O'Meally, J. Vane, and J. Burke, visited my father's hotel. After having two rounds of refreshment in the bar. Hall asked for my father, who was absent, at Molong on business. They informed my mother they had no intention of interfering with the hotel or the inmates, and not to be alarmed. They left two half-crowns on the counter for their refreshments, and went over to the other hotel about 100 yards distant, held up the inmates, took their money, and also took all the money the butcher possessed. The butcher, imagined there was something doing and was getting out the back door with his money when one of the gang came on the scene and demanded his roll of money. He took the gold and notes and returned the cheques to the butcher."

It was reported in town on Thursday night that the bushrangers had been seen at Murgah on that day, amusing themselves by firing at targets. They were expected iOrange yesterday, and preparations were made to give them a warm reception.”⁴³

A dry Nyrang Ck, summer 2016,
with Nangar Range
in background.
The foray into Murga was corroborated by John Vane, in his account of his time with Ben Hall. However, Vane states that the coach they held-up following the reported bush telegraph's observance and actions was empty of passengers; Vane op.cit.That night we camped in very rough country, and on the following morning started for the Forbes-Orange road, which we reached about ten o’clock. Having heard that it was escort day, when the coach from Forbes would be carrying a good sum of gold under police protection, we determined to vary the proceedings by sticking-up the mail. So, we rode in the direction of Forbes, with the object of meeting the escort. The day proved full of adventures, some amusing, some disappointing. A mile further along the road we met a horse with hobbles on and Hall caught him and rode him on to Murga township, giving his other animal a rest. There were two public houses and one general store there, and as we dismounted in front of one of the hotels, a man came out and said to Hall, “Why are you riding my horse?” to which Hall made reply “It’s my horse now and don’t you touch him.” The man opened his eyes at what he, no doubt, a cool piece of impudence, but he speedily realised that we were out for more than a single horse." Vane now describes the raid on Murga; Vane op.cit. “Gilbert and I went over to the other pub, and found an old woman in charge. When we made known our mission she said, “There’s no money here boys; but you can have all those youngsters if you like”- pointing to a number of children of varied ages that surrounded her. Not being in want of such spoil we passed on to the store, to find this also in charge of a woman. As we approached she ran out at the back door, and I followed her in time to see her throw something into a tub of dirty water. I at once picked up a broom that was handy and stirred the water, fishing up a pickle bottle containing twenty- two £1 notes. We were more fortunate than our mates who got no money, and after Hall had returned the horse to its owner we proceeded along the road to meet the coach. But here we met with a great disappointment. The coach was empty, not having a single passenger or mail-bag aboard. We turned back in the direction of Canowindra, and camped that night at a place called Nyrang Creek.”

John Grant
The gangs presence in the immediate area of Murga lasted two days after which the gang rode back towards Canowindra passing over Nyrang Creek, skirting the township and taking up the track parralel to the Belubula River, heading in the direction of Orange, and the rough country of nearby Mount Canoblis. Consequently, it had been reported that as Ben Hall had earlier departed and prior to their descent on Murga and its surrounds there appeared to have been a malicious encounter with a local squatter named Grant. It had been reported in the newspaper that the gang burnt down his home over suspected collusion with the police. "the same night the ruffians stuck-up Mr. Grant's place on the Belubula, and burnt it down, to wreak their vengeance on the owner, who had dared on a former occasion to give information to the police. They said they were overlooking him when he was directing the police, and saw him point out their tracks..."⁴⁴ However, exactly which Grant suffered is unknown. Furthermore, the Grant family had been highly respected as long time residents of the Canowindra district having been settled there for well over thirty years holding extensive property throughout the fertile reaches of the Belubula River. At the time of the Canowindra raid there were recorded three Grant's all brothers who owned three properties on the outskirts of Canowindra, they were George J. Grant who held the ‘Grove’ John Grant ‘Belubula’ and Thomas Grant ‘The Falls’. Moreover, it is difficult to ascertain as to which home was burnt down, or if in fact it ever happened? As prior to the arrival of Ben Hall at Canowindra on the 12th of October 1863 it had been reported that ‘The Boy’s’ had paid a brief visit to the property of Thomas Grant’s, ‘The Falls’ where it was said that[sic]“they committed no mischief there,” and soon after departed.

Grant family properties,
Thomas Grant’s ‘The Falls’ was five miles east of Canowindra and for the gang to burn his home it would have caused a great sensation and public outcry as Thomas Grant was a newly appointed J.P and sat as a magistrate for the Belubula district. Therefore, if any of the Grant brothers had had their home destroyed through arson then there is no doubt that Thomas Grant had the chance to have raised the issue when giving evidence in court some months later in December 1863 pertaining to an encounter with and the conduct of the police regarding their effort whilst searching for the bushrangers near his home. Moreover, it is suprising that at John Vane’s trial later that year no mention of the fire was raised. However, the incident regarding the destruction of one of the Grant's family homes may well be only Chinese Whispers, and not based on any other substantial evidence!

#-Reference notes can be accessed on the Note Page by number except where book and author or newspaper title are named or publication referred can be found on the Links page.

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