|Originally held by William Hall.|
Google Earth image.
|Remains of the Ben|
Halls Creek home.
Courtesy A.A. McLellan.
|Clift residence Maitland|
Courtesy Dr John Turner
(1933 - 1998)
|Benjamin Hall land|
Courtesy Haydon papers
Reputed home of the
Courtesy A.A. McLellan.
A heads up by Gowan, Hall Snr, without hesitation, sought Eliza and eldest son William, who assisted Ben Snr in shooting through. (The relationship between young Ben Hall and brother William Hall would remain very close all the days of Ben's life.) The former convict headed 200 miles south for the Lachlan area. What is more, Hall Snr's reputation was so objectionable that it gave rise to the formation of several societies in the surrounding districts hell-bent on abolishing stock theft. Many of these associations were made up of prominent landholders who formed an alliance offering rewards for the blaggards' apprehension over their large stock losses. Men such as Ben's father. These associations included the Upper Hunter District and Scone District Associations for the Suppression of Horse, Cattle and Sheep stealing.
|Ben Hall's father|
William's arrest and the events surrounding it created a fracture between the boy and his mother that would endure for the rest of his life. As while kept in the cell, William was noted to cry very much, instilled by fear as the room was sealed in darkness and to add to his terror was placed with another accused Taylor, where it was said; "The boy cried very much through fear; he was kept there some days. Means had been used to intimidate the boy by placing him in a dark room, the windows of which had been boarded up for the purpose of darkening it, and his mind being overcome by terror at being shut up in a dark place (in which a death, too, had occurred), he was put beside Taylor, who had succeeded, apparently, in moulding him to his purpose." While held in the lockup it was recorded that Eliza abandoned him after William failed in the old convict adage of 'Keeping Mum' about what he knew. Thomas Blair the Clerk to the Court stated; "the boy was kept by himself for three or four days, and was then put beside Taylor; after the boy gave information his mother utterly refused to send him anything, although she had sent him food previously; food and clothes were then given him by witness..."⁵ On 4th of October 1845, William was removed from Murrurundi to Parramatta Gaol; “William Hall, twelve or thirteen years of age, was taught his prayers in Parramatta Gaol by the Ladies of Charity, and understood the consequences of false swearing...” ⁶(See below.) He was returned in March 1846 for the trial.
William Hall, aged eleven, Parramatta Gaol Entrance Book, 4th October 1845.
William escaped gaol and, upon discharge, faced an Admonishment from the Judge. However, how the other siblings perceived Ben Hall's older brother's treatment by their mother is unknown. Suffice to say that when the time came for Thomas Wade, Mary, William and Ben Hall to leave home and accompany their father back to the Lachlan. In what may well have been a pre-emptive move for the whole family, which, in turn, failed to materialise as Eliza Hall was recorded as refusing to depart Murrurundi. Therefore, the children accompanying their father did so and never took a backward glance. Ben Hall Snr and the older children's departure created lifelong enmity between Edward Hall left behind and his father. Edward was young Benjamin's older brother. However, young Ben was a favourite of his father and selected to go over Edward. The departure of the four children was reputedly the last time Ben Hall ever saw his mother. Eliza passed away in 1869. (In an admonition, an accused is found guilty but is neither imprisoned nor fined. They receive a verbal warning, and the conviction would be made part of the record.) (The link below is the 1846 newspaper account of the court proceedings of William's trial at Maitland Court.)
|Benjamin Hall arrested|
30th October 1848
at Hamilton's station.
|Hugh Hamilton's leases.|
Squatting Licences, 1848.
However, for Jones, his time as overseer and Ben Hall's boss abruptly ended when he was out mustering near Speck's Gap and came off his horse. The horse fall broke his thigh. Here he lay in agony before being discovered by stockmen, including Ben Hall and Cornelius O'Donnell. "Jones was out [sic] mustering in the vicinity of Speck's Gap when his horse fell, breaking the rider's thigh. He lay there alone for a considerable time before being discovered. The limb was then roughly set, and Jones was brought to Bathurst. It was some time before he had the use of his leg, and his pronounced limp or hop suggested the nickname 'Hoppy'. One of his assistants was a young man named Benjamin Hall." The accident produced the nickname of 'Hoppy' Jones. Subsequently, Jones went to Bathurst, where he recuperated and became the publican of the 'Lachlan Inn', corner of Seymour and Lambert Street, Bathurst. "Benjamin Hall and his wife patronised [sic] his old Boyd friend for about twelve months, when Ben's happy days were obsequered. Jones would maintain a friendship with his young former stockman until Ben's death.
Authors Note: Over time, there has been conjecture that in the 1850 move to the Lachlan, the whole of the Hall family had uprooted again. Ben Hall's youngest sister Ellen's birth was registered during the journey south at Whittingham Post Office at the old junction of the New England Hwy and Bulga Trail. (Putty Rd) However, Ellen's father was responsible for registering her birth. As per the law at the first opportunity when transiting through Whittingham with the four children, it would appear he did so, therein giving the misapprehension of Ellen's birth there, or of the Hall's of ever settling in the Lachlan district as a family. "Ellen E Hall: Birth Date: 1850 Birth Place: New South Wales Registration Year: 1850 Registration Place: Whittingham, New South Wales, Australia Father: Benjamin Hall Mother: Elizabeth- Volume Number: V18501899 71" (My ongoing research leads one to believe that Ben Hall's father would have needed dynamite to shift Eliza Hall from her comfortable home at Murrurundi, as alluded too in the 1854 advertisement and dispute over their home as will be seen on Hall's page.)
|Earnest and sister|
Highly respected Lachlan squatter, Ernest Bowler had numerous dealing with Ben Hall as both stockman and grazier and a large station owner and country squire. A man of means. While travelling in a dog-cart with his visiting sister a few years before Hall turned bushranger, the pair met Hall carting goods by wagon for Wheogo overtaking the dray. Earnest pulled up for a chat on recognising Hall, and with pleasantries exchanged, Earnest proceeded with his sister Adelaide. The latter casually said, "What a good-looking man that was." to which Earnest replied, "Yes, and a fine fellow he is too. He has a place at Wheogo near Grenfell way. His name is Ben Hall." Bowler as well noted Hall's work during mustering time — shining further light on his integrity as well as Ben's uncanny ability when it came to the reading cattle as well as his competence in the saddle; "Ben Hall had a cattle station at Wheogo, and he used to attend all the musters round. He was one of the smart, devil-may-care bushmen, knew the whole country well, always had a good horse and knew how to ride. He was a good mate at mustering cattle or running wild horses. He could "mother" calves; that means, after a day's mustering, he could tell you, which calf belonged to which cow - even if there were a hundred different brands..." 'The Moleskin Gentry' by Frederick Howard.
Adding to Ernest's recollections of Ben as a "young man with a pleasant disposition." The 'Freeman's Journal', recounted in 'The Last of the Bushrangers', 25th September 1930, through some old-timers reminiscences that Hall; “was a popular man in the district, and the circle of his acquaintances was large from Bathurst to Euabalong, and from the Belabula to the Weddin Mountains, where old Walsh, his father-in-law, lived in easy affluence...”
There was another view where Ben Hall appeared characterised by a 'certain detachment and shyness,' whereas others such as Mr Thomas Bates who in old age would recall in the 'Bathurst Times' of the 13th December 1924, that Ben, "could spin a good yarn and sing a song in the rough, boisterous fashion of the day..." It was also remarked that Hall; "had an amiable sincerity of soul, a generosity of spirit, and an honesty in all his dealings with his fellow-settlers that won their friendliest esteem. He was steady, industrious, temperate, keenly intelligent, and, above all, always ready to give a helping hand to a neighbour..."¹³
|Station Cattle Branding,|
by S.T. Gill. 1862.
Jack Bradshaw, a wanna be bushranger, wrote a book titled 'Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall & Gang' in the 1920s. The book draws its story mainly from the memory of Ben's older brother William. Bradshaw described Ben's standing in the eyes of Mr Hamilton as relayed by William Hall; "Mr Hamilton grew very fond of young Ben, finding out he possessed great ability as a stockman. Mr Hamilton gave Ben permission to graze horses and cattle on his station, which young Ben did, and purchased out of his salary in about three years a small station. He became full manager for Mr Hamilton. The seasons were good and the grass plentiful, so that young Ben became fairly rich..."
The many responsibilities for young Ben in the stockman's role included feeding, watering, mustering, droving, branding, castrating and preventing wildlife from damaging the herd. All from sun-up to sundown. Apart from livestock duties. Ben was also required to inspect, maintain and repair gates and stockyard fences damaged by severe weather, ride amongst the livestock to keep them settled. However, station life not only for Hall but for stockmen, in general, continued with little seasonal deviation until the annual break in routine that encompassed horse-breaking, which amongst the men often developed into a test of horsemanship, manliness and courage. Other tasks included mustering, cutting out heifers and calves, and branding.
Additionally, a couple of times a year, all station hands not engaged in boundary riding or outstation work assembled at the homestead. Their ranks swelled with the arrival of stock riders from neighbouring stations. These men were riding in for the great musters that took place out on the Lachlan and Bland's vast plains. A work encompassed by long days spent in the saddle, including building makeshift stockyards and camping out in isolated areas sleeping in a swag. (Bedroll)
These great stock musters were an environment where the very likable, easy-going Ben Hall excelled. Hall's fine horsemanship admired as the men were also mustering one of the grand prizes for any stockman, wild horses (Warrigal's) ridden down with a skill that would confound most city folk. Ben Hall was in the thick of it;[sic] "the mosquitoes and flies were the most effective agents in driving the warrigal's out of the scrub on to the open plain, where they gathered in mobs for self-protection, standing whisking each other with their tails. This gave the stockmen and others a chance for some sport. The stockman was usually an active, game fellow, and a first-class horseman, with the "bump of locality" exceptionally well developed. He could steer a course through the bush like a blackfellow, confused neither by frequent twist nor turning. Running wild horses was a fascinating but hazardous and exciting part of his work, undertaken for the purpose of recovering a broken-in horse or mare that had joined the mob; to run the warrigals off the station, where they had become a pest, or for the mere love of the sport. And sport it was when the mob could be found in the open as stated above. Driving a bunch of quiet horses to act as "trailers" (frequently with a stallion amongst them, for such was a grand auxiliary equal to half-a-dozen stockmen in rounding up and keeping together the warrigal's), the stockman often succeeded in yarding a mob. But it meant several miles of hard riding through scrub and over broken country..."
|Mary Coneley nee|
Nevertheless, long after Ben Hall's demise, this was noted regarding Hall's grave's tendering over many years. 'The Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer,' Saturday 5th August 1911; "In the Forbes cemetery today rest the mortal remains of Ben Hall, and the mound which covers his dust is still tenderly cared for by a female hand—one who, though long years have drifted by since Hall's unfortunate body was riddled with policemen's bullets, still cherishes a kindly regard for a man who, but for a certain set of circumstances, might have earned renown in a different walk of life." This female hand was Mary Strickland, who remained in the Lachlan district until 1910 and would pass away in 1913 at one of her children's homes at Redfern, Sydney. Furthermore, on the day of Hall's death, close to Mary's home at Billabong Creek, a distressed Mary as Hall's body lay bloodied cut off a piece of Ben's hair as a keepsake. Moreover, as was standard for women out on the remote properties, Mary was also an accomplished horse-woman. In her youth was often a rider at race meetings at Forbes in which large wagers were placed on Mary's race results;[sic] "Mrs Newell, whose husband, John Newell, kept the Western Hotel, which stood on the site now occupied by the Metropolitan Hotel. Dora was ridden by Miss Strickland, daughter of Mr Pearce Strickland. There was always great rivalry between those two well-known horse-women, and the match caused much excitement and considerable wagering. After a desperate race, Virginia won." (John Newell is not related to James Newell, who married Agnes Charters.)
|Mary Strickland nee|
|Daniel Charters. This|
photo was most
probably taken at
Mrs Reed’s photographic
gallery Forbes in 1862,
on the same day
as the Ben Hall
However, Daniel Charters also had a reputation as a lady's man. Where Charters was outgoing and relaxed in the company of ladies, Ben Hall was shy and unconfident. In 1863, Charters was rumoured to have been in a relationship with Elen Maguire while her husband John was standing trial in Sydney for Eugowra escort robbery. Furthermore, in the same year as Maguire's trial in 1863, Daniel faced a paternity suit from another intimate relationship with Miss Charlotte Brandon, which resulted in a son's birth. Sadly within a year, the son passed away. (See In Company Page) Although Charters owned cattle at several properties in Forbes' vicinity, he also grazed cattle on Hall's newly acquired Sandy Creek station. Sandy Creek bordered Pinnacle Station, and as fences were unheard of in those days, cattle from both properties mixed in then sorted at muster times. For Charters, these cattle constituted overall ownership of some 500 head — roughly a value of over £5000. Charters also managed the Pinnacle Station, leased by his recently widowed sister Margaret Feehiley in conjunction with her son John Hubert Feehiley. The Pinnacle homestead was situated twelve miles east of Sandy Creek Station. In 1863 Charters revealed his state of affairs as a stock owner;[sic] "my business is that of a stockowner, looking after my own and my sister's cattle. I have never been employed as stock-keeper by any one, and have never in my life received wages from any person. My sister's station at the Pinnacle is a large one. She has a good many people employed there, and has about 2000 head of cattle. I have about 500 or 600 head of my own."
The combined acreage of Sandy Creek and Pinnacle was 40,000 acres covering an area of 62 sq. miles. Furthermore, the two sisters of Daniel Charters, Margaret Feehiley and Agnes Newell, operated local taverns. One by Margaret on the 'Pinnacle Station', the other by Agnes Newell at Bandon. Close to the small town of Eugowra, NSW. The Pinnacle and Bandon taverns developed notorious reputations. However, due to the increased robbery in the area, the police established a station on the Pinnacle property a short distance from the Feheeily homestead. Both hotels were popular and frequent watering holes for Ben Hall and the Forbes Goldfield passing trade. The Pinnacle became a regular hangout for a bushranger new to the area, Frank Gardiner. By the end of 1862, Frank Gardiner long departed the Lachlan to be replaced as bushranger extraordinaire by Ben Hall. With the scrutiny and pressure from the police, the Pinnacle Hotel license was surrendered as noted;[sic] "recent events led to so many inquisitive visits, and the police were so particular in their occasional perquisitions, and the trade of the road fell off so much with the decreasing greatness of Forbes, that the license was given up..."
St Michael's Catholic
Circa 1855, following four years of employment for Hugh Hamilton. Ben Hall transferred his swag and commenced stock work at 'Weeogo Station' (also known as Uoka), a 16,000-acre run owned by an emancipated convict named John Walsh.
However, there was more to the move than just stock work as it enabled Ben to court a lass who had caught his eye. Fifteen-year-old Bridget Walsh, second daughter of John Walsh. Ben was eighteen. It was recalled that John Walsh's daughter's Bridget, her two sisters Elen and Catherine, were acclaimed by locals as pure creatures of the Weddin—tough, wild, and untameable. A stark contrast to the quiet, easy-going shy Ben Hall. In turn, relocation to Weeogo (Wheogo) Station for Hall moved him towards independence and opportunity. Weeogo as well solidified Hall's romance with the wild Walsh girl, an affair that matured into matrimony.
The very same Alter at
St Michael's Catholic
Church, Bathurst where
Ben and Biddy
exchanged their vows
in 1856.My Photo.
|John Walsh's Uoka (Weeoga) Station, registered under The Squatters Act-1846-47.|
Note; John Tait's station Oma.
Note; In later years, there was speculation that the couple had another child who passed away either as an infant or possibly stillborn, although there is no direct evidence.
|The Charters' former home,|
now Fern Hill. c. 1970's.
of Henry Hall.
Courtesy, Carcoar Historical Society.
Note: In today's view, the matter of the illegal use of a horse seems almost trivial, even so far as to say ridiculous, however, in the times of Ben Hall. These situations were seen as of a critical nature as the horses were the mainstay of survival. There are reams of articles in the day's newspapers relating to persons taking one's horse for use and, when discovered, either fined in court or, in some cases, gaoled for lengthy periods. Charged with Horse Theft and its punishment in the 1800s makes today's car thieves appear saints with no real note consequences.
Bridget Hall from the Penzig collection.©
In 1859, the advertisement above demonstrates that Ben Hall was a person of good standing in the community supporting Law and Order. Note the commitment of some of the Lachlan's most esteemed citizens marked by a #.
Sandy Creek Station.
Gazette, 15th February 1861.
NSW Government Gazette
27th March 1860.
However, neither affliction restrained the two men from the tough work in establishing Sandy Creek cattle station. Sandy Creek covered an area of 16,000 acres with a carrying capacity of 640 head of cattle. At the time, the station was uncleared and fed by many well-watered creeks running through the property. Extract from a newspaper recounts the standing of Sandy Creek; "shortly after his marriage, he, in company with Mr John Maguire, obtained a lease of a run adjoining Wheogo, called Sandy Creek, which they stocked with cattle and horses. Sandy Creek, Wheogo, and Bundaburra are estimated to be among the very best runs in the Lachlan district..."¹⁴ This was also said of Ben Hall's personal standing as a recently established Grazier; "Hall became the owner of Sandy Creek Station, adjoining Wheogo. He had it on lease, running cattle and horses, and managed it in a business-like way, thereby adding further to his reputation as a young man of fine promise..."¹⁵
|Sandy Creek c 1883.|
Cattle duffing in many quarters, as Maguire states, was 'not a great crime' and widely practised even amongst the largest of graziers. Where the value of those unbranded animals contributed to supplementing their wealth, "Cattle duffing, in those early days, it may be remarked, was not considered a criminal offence. If one settler took a beast of a neighbour's, the latter simply bided his time until he found an animal belonging to his predatory fellow settler worthy of appropriation. Under such retaliatory system recourse to law proceedings was avoided, because the sinner and sinned against then came on an equal footing. In the days referred to the holdings of Crown leases were unfenced, nothing but ill-defined lines denoting their boundaries. As a result, there was frequently a general mingling of herds, separations only being effected during the periodical musters..."¹⁶ When Ben Hall attended that district musters, it was a time in which he excelled with his animal husbandry knowledge.
|Maguire and Hall's Sandy Creek Station still recorded as owners in Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer, 1866. Note acreage.|
|William and Ann Hall.|
However, whether under the circumstances and arrangements, some friction prevailed between William, his wife Anne, and Bridget are speculative. Suffice to say that a great deal of agitation between William and Bridget emerged in the future. The agitation may also point to the beginning of marital issues between Benjamin and Bridget, as Ben Hall's loyalty to his older brother was of a strong kinship. At the same time, Bridget may have wished to be the sole mistress of the house. Therefore, with William residing there, it enabled a disgruntled Bridget to take leave and accompany her married sister Catherine in her secret rendezvous with her new lover, the bushranger, Frank Gardiner.
Nevertheless, during these absences, Ann Hall accordingly took care of young Henry and her two children Mary b. 1858 and John b. 1860. (In 1865, William and Ann would have another son named Benjamin.) In his later years, young Henry lived with William and Anne while they resided in Parkes, NSW. William and Ann would produce a total of ten children. (It should also be noted that John Maguire also used the spelling of McGuire with an A, i.e., MaGuire, Maguire as demonstrated on Ben Hall's marriage certificate. However, for the purposes of this bio, I have used Maguire.)
|Edward Hall, 1879|
|John Wilson freehold|
portion of Sandy Creek.
Forbes' overnight invasion and new-found prosperity were expressed in a newspaper description in late 1861; THE TOWN OF "FORBES". — "We never saw a place of the same age in such a state of forwardness as this. Several good streets give an appearance of regularity to the rows of calico and bark; and the existence of an unlimited supply of excellent pine timber close at hand has led to the erection of buildings much more substantial, and sightly than those we have been accustomed to see in other new townships. A bi-weekly Court of Petty Sessions has already been established; of amusements, we have no lack of music and dancing, while billiard tables, a rifle gallery, and ten pins seem as popular as ever. The banking and gold buying business, of the "Oriental", and also of the post office are transacted at the stores of Mr. Greig. Mrs Reed has a photographic gallery. Coaches ply frequently during the day between the crossing place at Fenn’s. (Wowingragong) and also these diggings a distance of nearly five miles. The Cowra coaches and mails from Sydney and the Flat run three times a week. Thus it will be seen that Forbes is not a place to be lightly esteemed.”¹⁷ (The Hall, Susan Prior and Charters photographs may well have been taken at Mrs Reed's studio. Photographs were both a novelty and expensive.)
Another article describes the life and times in the frontier town of Forbes as it appeared during Ben Hall's time; "this important town is situated on the north bank of the Lachlan River, at a point almost midway in between Cowra and Condobolin. It is 82 miles from Orange, and 245 miles from Sydney, Tens of thousands of miners went out to their work at sunrise, and returned at 6 in the evening. Then, many thousands of fires were lighted, and the diggers prepared their evening meal. Comparative quiet reigned while they were partaking of it; but, that over, all is bustle again, for, with few exceptions, the diggers betook themselves to the theatres, concert halls, dancing Saloons, or public-houses, and many did not return to their tents until dawn. Scores of shoeblacks took up positions in the streets, and did a wonderful trade; hurdy-gurdy girls and other itinerant musicians played and sang, and reaped a rich harvest; mounted troopers and policemen (under Sir F. Pottinger) moved to and from among the masses; coaches were running at all hours, and in all directions, as well as actors and singers, sawyers, doctors, clergy, tradespeople, menagerie-men, and men of almost every nation, rank, and condition were on the field in incongruous medley..."¹⁸
Ben Hall had moved from stockman into the realms of an emerging wealthy squatter and became flushed with cash as gold fever raged through the Burrangong and the fledgling Forbes goldfields. John Maguire, never one to let an opportunity slip by, was part of a body of men searching for Gold, sank shafts at the Pinnacle Range 5 miles N.E. from his hut Sandy Creek Station which ran side by side Daniel Charters sister's run Pinnacle Station. Their search proved fruitful as they also struck Gold. The find was reported on the 7th December 1861 in 'Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle'; "Gold is said to have been discovered at the Pinnacle, between the Burrangong and the Lachlan..." The gold mine would be locally known as Maguire's Reef;[sic] "from Maguire's Reef, 30 tons of quartz returned 60 ozs near the Pinnacle. Twelve dwts. of Gold." However, Ben Hall, instead of gold mining, worked his cattle and dabbled with the 'Wild Colonial Boys' and a revolver. Maguire's Reef and surrounds would become a nexus for bushranging activity over the next four years.
alias Francis Clarke,
Never before published.
While Gardiner's Lambing Flat butcher's shop was in full swing, it is beyond question that Gardiner made the acquaintance of the two local graziers Ben Hall and John Maguire, in this period. The cry for beef on the goldfield had Hall and Maguire herding cattle to the lucrative Burrangong field. The two cattlemen, along with Gardiner, were raking it in.
However, sprung by the police over suspected cattle theft Gardiner and Fogg shot through. In mid-1861, back in the familiar territory around the Fish River district, Christie/Frank Gardiner holed up at Fogg's. While laying low, the police arrived, seeking his apprehension. A confrontation ensued in a gunfight and brawl whereby the two police officers Middleton and Hosie, were severely wounded and Gardiner, beaten to a pulp. Gardiner, however, under suspicious circumstances, was able to escape. Now free, he suddenly appeared at Wheogo no doubt due to his connection to John Gilbert and John O'Meally, who duffed cattle for Gardiner at Young. Frank's emergence at Wheogo was due to an intimate and steamy relationship recently established with a beautiful married woman named Catherine Brown, nee Walsh, Bridget Hall's younger sister. 18 yrs of age who resided with her husband John Brown in a hut a short distance from the family's Wheogo homestead. Gardiner was 14 yrs. Catherine's senior.
|Kitty's hut, Wheogo Station.|
Courtesy Gordon Piper.
In 1861/62, to help apprehend the notorious Gardiner, the NSW Police created a detailed map of the bushrangers known and suspected haunts. The hand-drawn map listed many people long suspected of secreting the bushranger. (In the future, many of these same inhabitants would also extend their assistance to Ben Hall.) However, the detailed map became the 'key' for tracking Gardiner. Although evidently without much success. (For more on Pottinger, see Traps page.)
Moreover, the layout highlighted the character of those people the police considered criminal or just plain reprehensible as protectors of 'The Darkie'. As such, two names which figured prominently on the highly confidential map are surprisingly the young wife of Ben Hall and her sister Mrs Catherine Brown, both noted as 'bad', and at one station on the map states; "Harbourer, Yorkshire Jack, good man bad women, the retreat of Mrs Hall and Brown." (See map below) An 1861 article in a newspaper notes Yorkshire Jack as;[sic] "a person familiarly known in the neighbourhood by the appellation of 'Yorkshire Jack.' He is the proprietor of a small sheep and cattle station, and appears, from his many good qualities, to merit well the respect and esteem of those who know him..." Gardiner attended 'Yorkshire Jack's' as it also doubled as an infamous sly-grog shop. Therefore, the map gives a clear insight into the close ties both married 'wild Weddin girls' had with many of the shady characters earmarked by the police. No doubt people they had known all their life.
Furthermore, the comprehensive map was forwarded to the Inspector-General of police in Sydney under the strictest confidences. For if it leaked out, it could spook those who aided and abetted Gardiner as well as unwittingly setting the police intelligence effort backwards through possible reprisals against those citizens seen as supportive of the NSW police.
|The Map drawn by NSW police c 1861, showing the Routs and Harbourer's of Frank Gardiner living in the western districts and notes Mrs Ben Hall and her sister Mrs Catherine Brown as Women of Interest. ( I have edited the map to make it more legible.)|
|Ben Hall's son|
Henry, aged 56.
Note; Henry's big solid
frame. A dead ringer
for his Father.
Courtesy Noel Thurgood
Nevertheless, the two married sisters' naming on a highly confidential document openly reveals that Bridget Hall, in company with her sister Catherine had been mixing with riffraff, many of whom were close family friends. It also indicates that Bridget's frequent absences from 'Sandy Creek' may be an indication that her marriage of nearly five years may have already been on rocky ground with Bridget's vexation over William Hall's presence. It is also a period where a new man would make his presence felt in Bridget Hall's life. That man was James Taylor, a friend of Gardiner. Therefore, as a result, Bridget spent many weeks stopping over at cattle stations of the many known harbourers of the 'Darkie' minus her young son Henry.
Besides, there is no doubt that Ben Hall himself had a friendship with Gardiner, whereby at first Hall possibly kept the association at arm's length as a business concern from the days of delivering cattle to Young. However, his cattle station partner John Maguire was on very close terms with the bushranger. Furthermore, Hall had also been linked to Gardiner's close companions, the younger and notorious emerging bushrangers John Gilbert and the O'Meally brothers John and Patrick. They hailed from the nearby Weddin Mountains. A long-time resident of the Lachlan wrote in 1863 addressing Ben Hall's friendship circa 1859 with Gilbert and more specifically John O'Meally; "about four years since, whilst taking some cattle overland from my station on the Lachlan, I fell in with young Hall, who was then stock-keeping for his brother near Bundaburra. He, O'Meally, Gilbert, and some others had all just returned from their usual trip after cattle, and on my asking them what luck they had met with, they replied: "they had camped out for three nights at a place called Humbug Creek, but had met with little or no cattle, only in one mob there were a few duffers." The term "duffer" is too well known to need description here; it simply means clean-skinned animals, which are appropriated by whoever can get them into a yard..."¹⁹ See full letter below link.
Note Wedding ring.
Never before published.
Therefore, Taylor's knowledge of the pretty Bridget Hall had consequently been established much earlier through the long association of Taylor's ex-wife Emma whom he had recently deserted and her sister Mary Jamieson's family. (nee Dower) The Jamieson's held property at Back Creek, The Bland, some miles from Bridget's father's station, 'Wheogo'. Consequently, this sphere included Ben's, Sandy Creek. Taylor's own family held property situated near the Weddin Mountains at Bimbi, relatively close to the O'Meally's vast and former Arramagong Station and Reid's Flat on the Fish River. Documentation indicates that most of these squatting families in and around the Weddin Mountains and Bland district had intimate knowledge of each other and were interwoven through marriage in many cases.
|William Fogg and Mary Fogg,|
Accordingly, for Ben Hall, his good nature was about to be abused by Taylor and exposed John Maguire. In 'The Biography of a Reliable Old Native', Maguire wrote that he informed Benjamin of Bridget's questionable association with Taylor. Maguire disclosed that Taylor was; "a pretend friend of Ben, but, as the after events showed, his visits were more on account of Ben's wife, who was a fine-looking woman..." Maguire ventured on that, "I suspected his little game myself, and had dropped hints to Ben..." Furthermore, after those hints, Maguire revealed Ben's reaction; "Ben cautioned his wife, in very threatening language, what would happen if he ever discovered anything between her and Taylor. Later on, Ben actually came across some of Taylor’s letters, and there was such a row that the latter kept a civil distance..." Bridget's infidelity and propensity for a good time was the beginning of the end for the young couple and would throw the once steady, respectable, hard-working, loving father Ben Hall into becoming the most feared man in New South Wales.
However, on Hall's return home to Sandy Creek. Consequently, a homecoming that should have been joyous turned sour at discovering his wife's sordid actions and the absence of his son and pain too great to bear. Anger flared, followed by darkness which overtook a broken Ben Hall; "when Hall returned to Sandy Creek a few weeks later. He found the homestead hut deserted and learned from neighbours that the wife he had so greatly loved and so entirely trusted, had gone off..."²² Unfortunately, Ben Hall learnt for himself that Taylor was indeed doubly traitorous. For a while, pretending to be a good friend Taylor had encouraged Ben Hall's wife's infidelity.
Following a short period out of the way of a murderous Ben Hall, Bridget and Taylor returned to The Bland, stopping at a property between Humbug Creek and Lake Cowal owned by Alice Gibson. (Today, the small town of Ungarie, NSW, home of the Daniher's of Essendon Football Club fame.) roughly some 45 miles from Sandy Creek Station.
Nevertheless, in addition to Bridget's desertion, John Maguire, in his memoirs, believed that her betrayal was a key factor if not the critical factor in his once amiable brother-in-law's tumultuous path to bushranging. In turn, Jack Bradshaw, a former (bungling) bushranger, wrote in 'Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall & Gang', recounted mainly from Ben's older brother William Hall's recollections. (Even plagiarised in some sections from John Maguire's narrative.) William Hall claimed that Bridget supposedly left Ben Hall a letter of apology over her faithlessness: "Ben, my boy, try and forget me; I do not think it is in the power of God to forgive. I love a scoundrel—that is, if it be love at all, which I know the world will say it was not. Call it what you wish. ‘The hellish promptings of the devil,’ Taylor destroyed my duty to you as a wife, and I have destroyed your happiness for life. Something was in me that I had not fortitude to resist, however, hope that you will possess sufficient manliness to bear up against the conduct of a runaway strumpet. If you have not, I can't help it. Follow not. You have always been too good a man for me. Two villains are more suitable, possessing no love nor yet even the fear of God or the eternal flames of hell. Poor Ben, good-bye.”
The above letter, whose authenticity is questionable, but if true, would most probably have been written on Bridget's behalf by her older sister Elen Maguire. (Who would maintain a close relationship with Ben Hall until his death.) Elen could write, whereas Bridget was illiterate (see marriage certificate above), as was Ben, as both she and Hall signed their names with an "X" (cross). However, Elen Maguire was well aware of Taylor's affection for her sister, for she ultimately informed her husband Maguire of the affair.
Subsequently, Bridget's elopement, a futile search, Ben Hall, had been released from responsibility bonds. All reports indicate that Ben was devastated at being deprived of his son Henry, 'the sunshine of his home.' Thereby, the tragic circumstances left Hall to deal with his wife's betrayal and his neighbours' sympathy. Furthermore, the thought of Taylor's duplicity, however, saw Ben reputedly turn to the gun for the first time filled with rage as well as bloody revenge against the usurper of his home; Maguire op. cit. “I witnessed Ben’s first essay at pulling the trigger. It was a revolver that he had picked up on the road one day while we were out riding together-a six-chambered weapon that had evidently fallen from someone’s belt. Getting a supply of ammunition, Ben used to pass his lonely moments at home practising at a target.” (For an audio version of Bridget's letter to Ben Hall, see link below.)
|Rev. John Dunmore|
b. 1799 - d. 1878.
Ben Hall's incautious path was a step closer to the prophesied 'reckless life'. Whereby, the turmoil in Hall's home life in the early stages based on the evidence, Ben Hall no doubt, underwent a nervous breakdown. A colloquial term for an acute psychiatric disorder manifests primarily as severe depression, anxiety or dissociation in a previously functional individual. To the extent that they are no longer able to function on a day-to-day basis, i.e., Sandy Creek's neglect after Bridget's desertion, loss of his son, the sense of betrayal, all apparent until the disorder is resolved. This nervous breakdown, however, is defined by its 'temporary nature.' (For Bradshaw's full narrative of Frank Gardiner, Ben Hall and Gang. However, the content should be viewed with caution. See Links page.)
Great Eastern Hotel,
Forbes, frequented by
Furthermore, in early 1862 a former Forbes publican and confidant of Frank Gardiner, Mr Charles MacAlister recounted in his memoirs titled 'Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South,' of Ben's devil may care associations with those men no longer considered on the fringe of bushranging but in the thick of it. Even to the point of holding centre stage. Subsequently, MacAlister's comments provide insight as well as highlight just how far Ben Hall had fallen.
Therefore, in MacAlister's view, Hall was no longer only suspected but widely believed by the leading citizens of Forbes and other local prominent graziers to have thrown his hat into the ring with the bushrangers, namely those mentioned above. However, to disguise Hall's association during robberies, it may also have been that in those first forays with 'the boys' in sticking-up, Hall may have first availed himself of the widespread practice of blackening his face or wearing it a Crape or Calico mask as a disguise.
Accordingly, Ben's current path and newfound reputation and associations would bring him into eye contact with the head of the Lachlan police, Sir Frederick Pottinger. Furthermore, most historians dispute Hall's early connections and participation in bushranging activities. However, Hall's collaboration with Gardiner and Company, when adequately researched, is evident. Otherwise, why would prominent men such as MacAlister and others of the period make such remarks beyond doubt and whose comments are indeed not flights of fancy?; MacAlister op.cit. “news was brought in on the sticking up of Mr. Horsington, the Lambing Flat storekeeper, at Big Wombat, by Gardiner and his gang, Horsington having to part with £500 odd in money and over 200 ozs. in gold dust. Up to that time, this was the biggest coup the Darkie (Gardiner) had made. Ben Hall, Gilbert, Fordyce, Charters, and others of the bushrangers had drinks on many occasions at the Great Eastern Hotel in Forbes, and in broad daylight, too. This was prior to the Eugowra affair, and up to that event, Ben Hall and Gilbert were only suspected of a bushranging kinship with Gardiner. For though several of them had been before the Forbes Bench on suspicion (Ben Hall and O’Malley were repeatedly brought up), the law had failed to sheet the guilt home to them to the satisfaction of the local J.P.”
In 1863, Hall himself corroborated MacAlister's assessment of his being hauled before magistrates. Hall stated when he captured in a deed of brazen aggression, a police inspector lamented of being in his view harassed. However, when put into context, those arrests appeared fully warranted;[sic] "Ben Hall referred to the trouble Sir Frederick Pottinger had given him in having him taken into Forbes so many times before the magistrates for nothing..." (MacAlister had built and was the former owner of the Great Eastern Hotel in Forbes a regular drinking hole for Ben Hall, Gilbert etc. MacAlister's book may be accessed on the Links page.)
Illustration of hotel
festivities on the
Image courtesy NLA.
Charles MacAlister recollects brutal fistfights breaking out amongst revellers and the shenanigans of the cashed-up bushrangers, such as Gilbert. As well as the so not uncommon sight of the NSW police often being bamboozled while attempting to secure instigators of rough and tumble brawls during those raucous festivities. Activities where even barmaids were fair game; op.cit. “The barmaid was shying empty bottles and, pewters at the head of a young fellow who, she said, had insulted her, and the air was full of smash and frenzy. The great Sir F. Pottinger (then head of the police) was riding by at the time with one of his troopers, and he and his subordinate rushed into the bar, leaving their horses tethered to a tree nearby. While the police were inside quelling the row, someone made off with their horses, and we doubt if they were ever recovered. Johnny Gilbert, it was said, had a hand in the business; but whoever took them reduced the awful Pottinger to the level of an old vituperative fish-fag and he threatened several bystanders with summary punishment if the prads were not returned.”
Another former old-hand recalled life in the new sin city; 'Western Herald', October 1908; "It was a motley crowd one saw in Forbes along in '62 and '63, pressmen, lawyers, magistrates, surveyors, actors, demireps, unfrocked parsons, gamblers, pugilists, golden hole men, "all sorts and conditions of men," cheek by jowl. Vice and villainy were rampant, needy adventurers on the make, bushrangers in faint—very faint, disguise; bars and dancing saloons full to o'er flowing, cafe chantants better patronised than churches. Money was flung about anyhow; it seemed as if Sheol itself was let loose. Fast and fair women danced, or drank for wagers, and boasted that they could hold-up the police—or any other body in fact. One woman backed herself to waltz "either man or woman blind for £50," and declined to dance with any ordinary mortal for less than a fiver." (Sheol is ancient Greek for Hades.)
Furthermore, Dan Mayne, a well-known scribe during Hall's reign and close friend of Sir Frederick Pottinger, recounted in the 'Freeman's Journal', 10th November 1906. The ease with which men dispatched or flung gold nuggets along with the excitement and wild nights of singing, dancing and boozing as well as the Forbes ladies' charms as Ben Hall jostled from place to place in the crowded streets; “when Maggie Oliver and Joey Gogenheim were playing with old Bill Holloway's company the diggers were so delighted with the sight of those ladies' fair forms and the sound of their sweet voices that (as bouquets were unknown) they threw valuable nuggets of gold on the stage to them instead. It was the liveliest place I was ever in, and many a jolly night I spent with M'Guire's friend, Ted Barry, who kept the hotel where old John Toohey drove the mail coach to, and Ted's pretty sister sweetened the sherry with her sunny smiles. Money was thrown about in the most reckless fashion...”
Every entrepreneur was vying for the patronage of the cashed-up prospectors, graziers and station hands. A Forbes theatre advertisement 1862: "Wigram's Exhibition Concert, legitimate amusement, light, laughable, and agreeable. Every evening 7.30 to 11, by an unrivalled company of vocalists, musicians, and dancers. Reserved seats 1/-: Cushioned seats 2/-." Many of these establishments were well patronised and for those less lucky free theatre shows were available but would include a small stipend; "also there were several free theatres—but everyone who went in was expected to buy a drink; and whether they wanted it or not, they had to pay sixpence for it..."
However, Betsy only lasted a week and cleared off with another. Accordingly, for Ben Hall and his associates' entertainment, Forbes also spawned the Sly Grog shops (An unlicensed hotel or liquor store selling poor-quality liquor.) filled with shady characters. With one den conducted by John Gilbert and John O'Meally on the road from Lambing Flat to Forbes, the Gold highway as it meandered past the Weddin Mountains;[sic] Sly-Grog Shops. — "The existence of places on the diggings at which grog is sold in defiance of the law, may be excused by the peculiar circumstances of the population, constantly shifting from one locality to another, but we see no good reason why they should be tolerated in out of the way places in the bush, where they benefit no one except the class who live by cattle stealing. It is a veil known fact that the unlicensed grog-shops on by-roads, and in other quiet spots, are the very places where the professed horse and cattle thieves meet, concoct their plans, or effect changes in the property they have appropriated. We have known of half the carcass of a bullock (of course a stolen one) given for a bottle of rum at one of these dens; and the other day we were told of a mare of considerable value being swapped away for half a gallon of the same liquor. Of course while men risk the chances of detection so rashly, it is not to be wondered at that they will filch a dozen foals from a herd of mares, drive them away, and brand them. As these grog-shops are out of the usual line of traffic, and as the police never bother their heads to shape that way, the trade is carried on with impunity, the customers consisting wholly of those to whom the existence of such places is of incalculable advantage."
These establishments were also excellent information reservoirs for prospective highway deeds and the unloading of stolen goods. The sly grog establishments also offered a cheaper booze alternative to the more expensive and often overcrowded dance halls and hotels. Presiding at these more affordable taverns included gangs of dissolute characters who were in the habit of frequenting the many sparring saloons (Bare-knuckle boxing for a wager.) on the fringe of the goldfields and who wished to stay off the police radar. These shady hotels were as well blitzed by the law, where surprisingly women operated many of them; The 'Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday', 7th January 1862; Forbes- "The police have commenced prosecutions against the sly grog sellers. Five were summoned to appear before the court yesterday-Captain Browne and Commissioner Grenfell on the bench. Samuel Richards, James Pattison, and Margaret Scully were severally fined £30. The case against one Elizabeth Marshall was remanded for a week. A warrant was issued for one Helen Berriman, she not appearing to the summons."
Long after the gold rush had faded, and recounting the heady days of life in Forbes, an old resident mused over the throngs of people parading the streets circa 1862; 'The Forbes Advocate', Wednesday 4th April 1928; "I have not as yet given you any idea of the diggings. Well, it opened my eyes. I never saw anything approaching it; it was simply impossible for you to get down Rankin Street with a mate without losing him. The people were like sardines in a tin, it was simply wonderful. The hotels were packed, you had to wait your turn to get into them as well as other places of business. I do not think there was a country on the face of the earth which was not represented..." Ben Hall had thrown off the reputation 'as a young man of fine promise.'
Before Hall's marriage breakdown, and in joyous times he and Bridget were known to visit Bathurst. A trip to break the monotony of station life allowed the young couple to let their hair down. However, in 1858 while at the 'Australian Hotel' on Bentick Street, Bridget was embroiled in a verbal altercation with another woman Mrs Elizabeth Fitkin which was referred to as a 'casus belli' (An act or situation that provokes or justifies a war.) landing both women in the Bathurst court. Moreover, as one of the wild Weddin Girl's, language for Bridget was as good a weapon as any pistol, which Bridget levelled and fired at Elizabeth Fitkin. The language raised the hair of those within earshot. The barman of the hotel, Mr Murray, was so offended at the verbal abuse thrown between the two that he was placed in contempt of court for failing to appear as a witness when called. Murray was eventually escorted into court under the charge of a policeman. When asked of his reluctance, Murray told the judge; “because he did not wish to mix himself up with anything so filthy and disgusting as the case in question...” and “I am disgusted, your Worships beyond measure, at being in any way connected with the transaction. I am an unwilling witness, and will say no more than I am compelled...” The reporter in court also appeared to take a civil view and refrained to layout the ribald vitriol except to write; “it appeared that Mrs. Bridget Hall had made certain references to Mrs Fitkins', chastity, in language which could scarcely be equalled by either the celebrated Mrs. Moriarty or the great Daniel O'Connell, and which is therefore hardly fit for print. A portion of the language was given by Mr. Murray, but as he had not taken notes of the belligerent interview he could not undertake to give the whole...” Murray concluded, "For forty years I have been occupied in that vocation, and little imagined it would be my lot, being moreover the father of a family, to figure in a dirty, filthy obscene, piece of business such as this." The case was finalised and dismissed; "After some little discussion the Bench concurred in that reading of the law and dismissed the case, at the same time releasing Mr. Murray from custody, who left the Court with a polite bow." Ben Hall had been married to a hellcat!
Furthermore, Jim Taylor was nine years older than Bridget and died 13 months after their marriage on 21st July 1877, at Cadalgulee near Forbes "from the effects of drink" aged 46 years. The twice-widowed Bridget was 37 years of age. After Taylor's death, Bridget moved to Fords Bridge, Bourke NSW, to start a new life with her sister Ellen and her younger sister Kitty's husband, John Brown. Whilst in Bourke, Bridget appeared in court for failing to send her children to school under the new 'Public Instruction Act' and where Henry Hall, Ben's son, appeared on her behalf;[sic] "Bridget Taylor (for whom her son appeared) was also fined 2s 6d and 4s 10d in costs for an infringement of the Public Instruction Act." Bridget departed Fords Bridge Bourke c. 1904 finally settling at Cobargo, where she died on 9th July 1923 and was buried there in an unmarked grave. The relationship between Ben Hall's son Henry and his mother Bridget may have been a tenuous one as Henry left Bourke and resided in Condobolin. In 1884, Henry married Ellen Barnes and had one son Arthur, but as with his father, Ben Hall, Henry would suffer the same fate, and his wife Ellen would run off with another man, Charles Keightley, and they wed in 1892. Henry Hall then married Kate Fullbrook, an English immigrant, in 1899.
|Flamboyant, Claude Du Val.|
William Powell Firth (1819-1909)
A standard that would also be embraced by accomplice John Gilbert who also styled himself as a flash cove, as in due course would be a more conservative, Ben Hall. Therefore, in the majority of Gilbert, O'Meally and Hall's robberies, the Lachlan bushrangers were often noted as appearing clean, smartly dressed and dignified;[sic] "Hall had a quiet and respectable air—by wearing nicely- shaped high boots and a well-fitting pair of brown cord pants, with fashionably cut cloth coat and vest of the same colour, and only one gold chain, and not much of that to be seen..."
Furthermore, even those with a gun held to their heads and stripped of their valuables and cash. Were never left without a shilling to get by on. Silver was a coin that Hall's mentor Gardiner never made off with and one which Hall only held on to when hard pressed. All these actions enhanced not only Gardiner's prestige but later Hall's as well; "there have been few instances where violence has been used by these modern highwaymen, they will often leave a few shillings with their victims, so that they may not be on the road quite destitute...” These egalitarian standards laid out by Gardiner were the blueprint for John Gilbert, O'Meally and Ben Hall's activities.
These new alliance with Frank Gardiner and the long-standing friendships with John O'Meally and John Gilbert and their gun-toting free-spirited lifestyle elicited Hall's new devil may care outlook. This association was luring him further into a collision course with justice. These affiliations with 'The Darkie' and his companions had drawn a bead on Hall's head by the police and Sir Frederick Pottinger. Between March and April 1862, several highway robberies perpetrated within a few miles of Sandy Creek, including one robbery, would have Ben Hall identified as an accomplice. Arrested then dragged handcuffed off the Forbes racecourse to gaol by Sir Frederick Pottinger. In the eyes of the general public, however, Gardiner was undisputed 'King of the Road,' where;[sic] "it asserted that the bushranger Gardiner is supplied with information by numberless accomplices both in the township and along the roads; a journalist has had it said of him that he can secure any friend from Gardiner by giving "passes."
Subsequently, the miscreants Ben mixed with were usually found lounging about like dingos in the various sly grog shops and rough Shanties surrounding the goldfields. Here these minions gravitated to Gardiner's leadership and undeniable charisma. Oft waiting for the chance to obtain easy loot on 'The Darkies' coattails. These useless men included the previously mentioned John Davis, John McGuinness, 'Paddy' Connolly, and the emerging 15yr old's Johnny Walsh (Bridget's Hall's brother) and 15yr old John Jameison (Taylor's nephew), all well known to Ben Hall.
Ben Hall's link to Gardiner is attested to and dates back to November/December 1861, highlighted when a mail contract rider was held up at Binalong in 1863 by Ben Hall and John Gilbert. The postman, unwavering in his identification, declared and confirmed the earlier link. 'Geelong Advertiser' December 1863; "Richard Henry, in the employ of Mr Jacob Marks, the contractor, was conveying the mails from Binalong to Yass, he was stuck up by Gilbert and Hall. As to the identity of the bushrangers there can be no doubt, as their faces were not disguised in any manner, and Richard (or Dick, as he is better known by, a half-caste aboriginal) had the opportunity of fully recognising them as those well known bushrangers, who, in company with Gardiner, waited upon him professionally while he was conveying the mails in the neighbourhood of Murrumburrah, some two years past."
|Ben Hall description|
NSW Police Gazette,
for 8th April 1862,
2nd villain. Others
no doubt 1. Gardiner, 3. Gilbert
and 4. O'Meally.
As such, NSW Police Gazettes of the period reported robberies with descriptions strongly attributed to Ben Hall. Benjamin Hall was described in the NSW Police Gazette 1862 as; "rather above the medium height, 5ft 6-8in tall and rather stoutly built, lame in one leg and weighed 13 st 7 lbs...", alternatively, around 86kg, which for the men of the 1860s, in today's terms, would be considered overweight. (according to today's standard B.M.I.) Maguire stated as well that Hall was some three stone heavier (42lbs/19.05kg) than himself, and Maguire was of slim build 140lbs and stood 5ft 9in tall; Maguire op. cit" although he was a much bigger man than I was, for he was nearly three stone heavier than I..." Frank Gardiner was as well recorded as 5ft 9in and 145lbs or 10 stone. During a later robbery in 1864, Ben Hall’s appearance was noted; "Hall is the only one of the three who cultivates any moustache or whiskers, and he is getting fat..."²³ Many contemporary writers today always sight Hall as tall; however, he was short and heavyset. Furthermore, his lameness was also expressed in 1863 at the time of the October Canowindra raid when Hall was observed by a detainee;[sic] "Ben Hall is a quiet, good-looking fellow, lame, one leg having been broken. He is the eldest of the party and the leader--I fancy about 28 at years of age..."
It is 14th April 1862; Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert approach the transport dray of William Bacon drawing their revolvers. Edward Horsenail, an employee of Bacon's, later attested; "I noticed two men ride out of the bush, and cried out to Bacon, "Look out, Bill, here are the boys!" they came up and presented their revolvers, and ordered us into the bush..."²⁴ Gardiner ordered Bacon to turn his wagons into the scrub where Ben Hall and another man, John Youngman, reputedly an employee of Ben Hall were waiting. Hall is holding the reigns of a pack-horse to load their ill-gotten gains. Two passing travellers were spotted on the road from the scrub. Gardiner orders Ben Hall and Gilbert to fetch them. They bail them up, steal a saddle and hold the men as prisoners. On completion, the four bushrangers depart. Newspapers at the time reported Gardiner's command of the Queen's highway and that his current actions could only end in misery; "Gardiner is a bold rogue and a very great fool, because, he not only braves the police and levies toll along the whole line of road from Burrangong to the Lachlan, but he risks his liberty or neck for the paltry equivalent of a few months defiance of the law. A pity it is that so bold a spirit should be occupied in so bad a cause, and should have to look forward to so contemptible an end..."²⁵
|Forbes Annual Horse|
April 22,23 and
|Clerk of the Peace, Forbes, Depositions received an entry book for Ben Hall, 1862.|
Never before published.
While brooding in gaol, the many friends that had previously stood by him slowly began to wane in their support. No doubt due to the widely acknowledged amity with Gardiner, John Gilbert and O'Meally. Hall's April 1862 arrest was overriding any past loyalties or sympathy. Furthermore, Sir Frederick Pottinger had been a regular visitor to Sandy Creek while trekking through the scrub, searching for Gardiner and others. The visits from Pottinger appeared based on suspicions regarding who was harbouring bushrangers. Therefore, Hall's notoriety was as someone known to be consorting with bushrangers. Pottinger's suspicions regularly brought the inspector to Hall and Maguire's door. Sandy Creek's reputation had become as iniquitous as Arramagong (O'Meally's) or the Pinnacle. (Feehiely/Charters)
Pottinger's instincts dictated that Hall and Maguire were bent. Therefore the prevailing view of the inspector was that no one was above the law. For Pottinger, based on Bacon's convincing deposition in court, finally had one of Gardiner's men locked up with the belief that Hall was a shoo-in for a guilty verdict. A success Pottinger craved. However, Ben saw things differently and had witnessed Pottinger's heavy-handed actions in the manner of his own arrest. Therefore, as Ben sat in the Forbes lock-up, Pottinger became central to his anger. Anger that failed to grasp or accept his culpability in criminal matters.
|NSW Police Gazette,|
14th May 1862.
Here Hall's trial took place on
19th May 1862. Hall had been
transported to Orange under
escort by Sgt Condell.
Image courtesy NLA.
|View overlooking the street|
from the Orange Courthouse.
Image courtesy NLA.
Therefore, as Hall prepared for his court date on the 19th May 1862, a strategy for release transpired through the help of brother-in-law John Maguire and brother Tom Wade.
While Hall sat in the Orange courthouse cells, John Maguire duly arrived with Hall's half-brother Thomas Wade. Maguire engaged solicitor Mr George Colquhoun, who instructed Mr Edward Lee, a well-respected barrister, to defend Hall. John Youngman, Ben Hall's co-accused, was also to face the Orange Court on the conclusion of Ben's trial. Luckily though for Youngman, the Crown Prosecutor was doubtful regarding the evidence against him. Therefore he was bound over on bail. However, having insufficient funds for his release. Youngman turned to Maguire and another friend Peter Murray, who went bondsman with £40 each. However, Youngman used this opportunity to 'abscond' and faded from the pages of bushranging history. Maguire did his dough.
Furthermore, with Youngman's absconding, Hall's guilty verdict appeared assured as Youngman's bolting could only be construed as an admission of guilt in the prosecutors and jury's minds. Accordingly, Hall's trial commenced on Monday, 19th May 1862. Hall stood in the dock, reportedly indifferent to the proceedings as Bill Bacon (Benkin) again testified regarding Hall's involvement in the robbery. Bacon was asked if the person involved was present. Whereby Bacon once more pointed out Hall as the man in company with Gardiner at the time. However, in a shock to the court, another of Bacon's employees, Mr Ferguson, a driver, inexplicably altered his testimony. Ferguson had at the Forbes court in April 1862 positively identified Ben Hall as one of the offenders. However, at Orange, Ferguson stated that he was now not positive that Ben Hall was the same person he saw during the wagon robbery. This revelation stunned the Court officials; thus, the jury retired for deliberation regarding the new tainted evidence. Following a short review, the jury returned a verdict of 'Not Guilty by Reasonable Doubt'.
Courtesy Penzig Collection.
Having returned from Orange following the trial and success in hoodwinking the judicial system. Ben Hall's life in the interim resumed normalcy at Sandy Creek. However, fate is the hunter and Ben Hall would once more test its virtue. Furthermore, following an earlier run down to Lambing Flat on a spree, Hall had returned home in February/March 1862 with a young woman who struck his fancy and where she had commenced residing at the Sandy Creek home. The young woman was Susan Prior aged 17 years, originally from Tasmania.
Moreover, following some romantic affection, Susan fell pregnant. Ben's homestead was also home to his brother Bill Hall and his wife Ann and their two children Mary b. 1858 and John b. 1860, including frequent stopovers by Frank Gardiner and his brigade. While mustering Ben's partner, Maguire infers in his memoirs that 'The Darkie' upon hearing the news of Ben's acquittal, appeared at Sandy Creek offering Hall an apology for his lagging over the dray affair; Maguire op.cit. "next day Gardiner called Ben, and expressed regret that Ben had got into trouble through him." Hall shrugged it off In reply, stating; op.cit. "next time they take me they'll have something to take me for." Following their meeting, Maguire noted that; "from that out Ben and Gardiner were often together." The inference by Maguire that Hall was innocent and that Gardiner palled up with an 'I'm sorry' runs counter to the known facts of Hall's complicity in the Bacon Robbery and other matters! Well! For Ben Hall, the 'next time' the law was to lag him was rapidly approaching.
Sydney Telegraph Officec. 1862.
Image courtesy NLA.
In light of the bushrangers depredations, their wildness began to thrust a spear into the corridors of power in Sydney, where since the start of gold fever, the government was grappling with a tsunami of unparalleled lawlessness; "there is scarcely a nook of the colony which has any population that does not possess its press. The wires make us acquainted with every outrage committed on the great lines of communication almost as soon as it has happened. The various stages of prosecution cause a repetition of the same facts in different phraseology; and thus, a single crime becomes multiplied to the imagination of the reader, who loses the clue of identity, and takes every repetition as a now incident.” ³¹
Although Ben resumed his enterprise at Sandy Creek and a new love at his side, the ordeal at the Forbes lock-up and the subsequent close call at Orange failed to make Ben cognizant of the fatality of lawlessness. Accordingly, within weeks, Ben Hall would rub his hands together and help plan and execute the most spectacular heist in Australian colonial history. The attack on the 'Forbes Gold Escort'.
An NSW mounted gold
Image courtesy NLA.
However, obtaining gold was hard yakka (work) and required exploring remote rivers and creeks searching for the signs. In turn, there was also reef gold, which required deep shafts sunk into the ground. Where men would drop from 100 to 300 ft. to obtain the highly prized treasure, for some, the process would cost them their lives. Subsequently, for others, there was an alternate way to procure gold. That course of action was the Frank Gardiner method, where the riches were seconded at the end of a revolver. An experience many innocent victims were to suffer.
However, by early 1861 Frank Gardiner was in love and therefore, a desire to quit bushranging was starting to play on his mind. Subsequently, the daily robberies of cash, jewellery and gold Gardiner extracted from the unfortunates who happened to fall under his revolvers was inadequate to his needs. The constant life of living rough became more uncomfortable, and even being harboured brought danger and became humdrum and expensive.
|S.M.H. 8th May 1862.|
Frank Gardiner was also cognizant of that sentiment and amazingly almost followed the above paper's analysis to the letter. Therefore, comfortable in knowing that the small number of police guards could be overcome. Gardiner set about finalising the logistics. John Maguire recalled Frank's ambition. Remembering that Maguire was an eyewitness to the events both before and after; Maguire op.cit. "it was with Gardiner that the idea of taking the escort originated and took a fortnight to prepare for the attack. For some months before Gilbert and O'Meally were Gardiner's constant companions, and they had been talking about it together. They were getting full of the petty bailing-up business, and wanted to make a grand haul and then quit the country..."
c. 1910. (Penzig)
Courtesy Mrs Fred Wells
(Coloured by Author)
|Foreground view of |
Escort Rock as Fagan would
have seen on approach,
View from behind
as the coach
approached the hidden
Sgt James Condell.
However, for Condell and Moran, the wounds upon further investigation were not considered life-threatening. Constables Havilland and Rafferty providentially appeared unhurt, including the coach driver, Mr Fagan, who in turn had been very lucky as many whizzing bullets passed through his hat and coat. The whip or driver of the coach John Fagan describes his close encounter: "I was mail-driver of the escort on the 15th; I had four horses in my coach; I lost some of the horses in the attack; they were the property of Ford and Co,; Phil. Mylecharane was one of the owners; I was in the coach when it was attacked; I then lost all four horses; next morning saw two of them at Clements', where they went after getting away; about a week after saw a black horse, one of the leaders, and afterwards at Forbes the other; it was at the Camp; a dark brown horse with a switch tail; I received it from Sanderson; I was not wounded, but a ball went through my hat and another through my coat; there were eight or ten bullets in the coach; the gold boxes were gone when we came back to the coach; the mail-bags were opened, and the contents scattered about; I lost two coats from the coach belonging to myself." The men made their way to nearby Hanbury Clements' Eugowra station, some individually while Rafferty made for Forbes.
Upon coming into contact with Hanbury Clements, who and his brother William made their way towards the scene, the Grazier observed the police as they trickled out of the bush and accompanied them to his homestead providing first aid to the injured men. Shortly after, Hanbury took off to Forbes a ride of 25 miles to “carry intelligence of the affair”. When news broke of the brazen robbery, the whole colony was stunned, and Gardiner became an instant sensation; 'Sydney Morning Herald', Saturday 21st June 1862; “our citizens are awaiting with some impatience the result of the efforts that are being made to get upon the trail of the villains implicated. The Escort consisted of 2067 oz. 18 dwts. of gold, and £700 in cash belonging to the Oriental Bank; 521 oz. 13 dwts and 6 grs. to the bank of New South Wales; and 129 oz. and upwards of gold, £3000 in cash, to the Commercial Bank...”
|Sub Commissioner for|
Newspaper Image c. 1867.
First time published.
|Hanbury Clements station Eugowra.|
Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer and Road Guide, 1866
|NSW Police Gazette,|
Authors Note; Mr Hanbury Clements died in January 1912; "The death occurred at "Kilmessan," Freeman's Beach, near Sydney, on January 11, 1912, of Mr Hanbury Clements passed away aged of 84 years. Deceased was the third son of the late Lieut. Hanbury Clements, R.N., and at one time owned Eugowra station, and at the time of the robbery of the gold escort, he, with Mr C. W. Cropper, the owner of Yamma station, took an active part in the pursuit of the bushrangers. Eugowra station, a few years after, was cut up, and the owner left these parts, being a single man at that time."³⁶
|Mr Charles Cropper.|
Never before published.
Coach attacked at
Eugowra, 15th June 1862.
Photograph taken in 1917
by W.H. Burgess JP.
Held by the Mitchell Library.
|Mrs Haviland's gratuity.|
|"Make way for|
the Royal Mail."
Sketch by Percy Lindsay. c. 1935.
Very rare photo.
Mr Penzigs re-drawn Map from theoriginally sketched NSW Police
at the time of the Robbery.©
|Back to Molong Celebrations.|
|The police original map|
of bushrangers track too
and from Eugowra.
Bathurst Historical Museum.
Fortuitously for the police, within days of the robbery, a valuable victory was achieved by Sgt Charles Sanderson accompanied by senior constables Armour and Burke, constables Powell and Westhead and the tracker Charlie through the discovery of the gang's hideout on Wheogo Hill, 32 miles from Forbes and 60 miles from Eugowra and a very short distance from Ben Hall's hut. Maguire states; op. cit. "Sanderson had his suspicions, made straight for Ben Hall's house, which he reached about 10 or 11 on Tuesday morning. Bill Hall and his wife lived at Ben's house..." However, Ben Hall was absent, but only a short distance away atop of Wheogo Hill counting his loot. Sanderson zeroing in on Hall's home indicates without a doubt that Ben Hall was under police suspicion and in their cross-hairs regarding his long-suspected links to bushranging activity.
|View from Gardiner's camp|
Wheogo Hill. Weddin
Mountains in the
Courtesy Peter C Smith
|"..me see him"|
|View of Wheogo Hill|
from Deaths Lane. 2013.
Coloured by me.
|Marker commemorating the|
gunfight opposite Mrs
My photo 12/03/20
|The arrest of Ben Hall, William Hall,|
and Dan Charters,
by Sir Frederick Pottinger
depicted by Monty Wedd,
from Bold Ben Hall.
c. 1970's ©
On the 27th July 1862, six weeks after the Eugowra heist Ben Hall was arrested, his brother William Hall and two brothers-in-law John Brown (husband of Catherine Brown.) John Maguire and Hall's best friend Daniel Charters were also arrested at Sandy Creek. Sir Frederick Pottinger had received reliable information regarding the men's knowledge and participation in the events at Eugowra. The informant was Maguire's friend Tom Richards who became a voluntary crown witness during the Escort Trial's and who had been present at Maguire's during the planning stage for the Eugowra robbery and where a £1000 reward was an excellent incentive to spill the beans and cover his arse. There can be no doubt as well that Bill Hall was also appraised of the events surrounding Eugowra. Bill Hall's complete knowledge of his brother's culpability was highlighted in his telling of the events to Jack Bradshaw. Bill knew everything;[sic] "hearing afterwards of the robbery, he (Richards) was forced to combine the one set of facts with the other, and on this, before any charge was brought against him, he gave information to the police." After their arrest, Charters explained his presence with Ben Hall; "Hall was gathering cattle; getting fat cattle for market, and I was there to get mine and my sister's cattle that might be brought in."⁴⁴
|Ben Hall & others court|
appearance August 1862.
John Maguire's Darlinghurst Gaol entry log February 1863.
Note that John Maguire was blind in his right eye until now; this information was unknown.
Ben Hall, seething, was granted bail at the end of August 1862 on £500 and two sureties of £250. His bail conditions were to 'appear when called upon'. Hall never would see the inside of a court or gaol cell again. However, it was noted when Hall was released; words had reputedly passed between Hall and Pottinger; “On the last occasion, that Sir Frederick had Ben Hall brought up in Forbes, as Ben was leaving the Courthouse, Pottinger remarked, "Well, Hall, you have escaped again." ''Yes," replied Ben," and the next time you bring me here it will be for something, and don't you forget it. And if all be true that I hear, when I get home you'll get cause to remember me."⁴⁸ (Note; £1,000 in 1862 is worth today around $83,000, demonstrating that Ben Hall appeared to be in an excellent financial position or at least asset-rich to raise that amount of money. However, with the bush and bushranging Hall's new home Sandy Creek would pass through sale to John Wilson, thus providing the funding or Hall may have fenced off his proceeds from Eugowra. Whether Hall lost the funds is unclear as records indicate he was never called as he had crossed the point of no return. It may well be that the loss of £1000 also feeds Hall's desire to wage war with the authorities.)
|Robert Hall, Maitland Gaol 1862, released in 1863.|
|Report of the hold-up of Sale|
of Sandy Creek in 1865,
Accordingly, Maguire revealed that he and Hall ultimately disposed of Sandy Creek station to Wilson while in custody. Consequently, Maguire's incarceration in Sydney and Hall's inability to work the station due to the police's interest still housed his brother Bill Hall and girlfriend Susan Prior. They all remained there following Wilson's take over. Wilson's ownership took some time to become Gazetted; Maguire op. cit. "my wife and children were living at the White Hart Inn kept by a man named Wilson, to whom I had transferred the Sandy Creek Station whilst in gaol, in order to raise the wind..." Furthermore, upon Maguire’s return to Forbes, he stated, "I made over to Wilson's to see my wife and two children; Next day I arranged with Wilson to take over his hotel, as he wished to go out and work the station..." Subsequently, Wilson would commence working at the station whereby he resided in Maguire's old home. It was also said that Bill Hall's resettled Elen Maguire from Thomas Richards' Forbes home to the Harp of Erin Hotel. No doubt at Maguire's request. Richards said;[sic] "Mrs. Maguire was stopping at my house whilst Maguire was in custody. She stopped eight or nine days. After she left my house, she went to the Harp of Erin. Mrs. Maguire left my house because William Hall, who had been taken up about having some of these notes, came to my house, and my wife kicked up a row, and said she would not have people coming about the house at all hours, and then she left next day."
|New South Wales|
Friday, 23rd October 1863.
|Uoka Station, Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer, 1866.|
|NSW Gazette November|
1862, a notice of forfeiture.
Furthermore, Maguire could afford to employ a cook and housekeeper named Mrs Shanahan, indicating nil money worries. However, in Hall's reckless way of life, it just may be that Ben succumbed to the lure of easy pickings and fast money offered by Gardiner. Thereby Hall unencumbered with responsibility, no home, no family, no sunshine in the form of little Henry to enjoy at the end of a days toil. Notwithstanding, Hall became a new father to baby Mary. However, Hall abandons all for a fast horse and a six-gun.
|The Peak Hill Express,|
5th July 1907.
|Locket reputed to be among|
Ben Hall's effects when
shot dead on 5th May 1865.
Note no wedding ring.
Unlikely Bridget Hall.
Forbes Historical Museum.
|Susan Prior and her|
youngest daughter Esther
Stonham. Note the striking
resemblance between Mother
and Daughter. Susan right.
c. 1862, aged 17.
Esther Stonham never published before.
Purchased by author.
|The Empire. 16th August,|
Pottinger had staked out Gardiner's paramour Catherine Brown's home at Wheogo with eight officers after the Inspector had received reliable information that 'The Darkie' would appear or be present for a romantic liaison with Mrs Brown. Pottinger's information proved correct when in the midnight hour, Gardiner was returning mounted on his white charger when Pottinger, with complete surprise on his side, rose abruptly firing point-blank at Gardiner, who was completely startled. However, due to Pottinger's rifle misfiring, Gardiner escaped from the eight carefully positioned troopers, two of which also discharged their weapons and missed Gardiner, who vanished into the night.
Furthermore, as they say, there are two sides to every story as another version of that evening stated that;[sic] "there is indeed, as will be seen, another version of the story, which is that Gardiner was actually in the house, and in bed when the police surrounded it and yet he slipped through their fingers. As this, however, is positively contradictory of Sir Frederick Pottinger's affidavit, of course, it cannot be accepted on mere hearsay..."
Moreover, it was reported that Gardiner having bolted reined his horse some five hundred yards away;[sic] "Gardiner, cantered away into the bush on his white horse, and seems to have felt quite secure that nobody would follow him, for he dismounted and sat down at his ease when he got about five hundred yards away. The Battle of Wheogo was over, and the nine men remained masters of a barren field..." Unrepentant at his failure, Pottinger proceeded to Kitty's hut where she did not deny that indeed the Darkie had been present;[sic] "rather than go home empty-handed, it seems they took a little boy out of bed, where they found him asleep, and carried him off to Forbes, on suspicion of having held Gardiner's horse..." Unfortunately, an action brought much ridicule from the NSW press towards Sir Frederick Pottinger as he carted Catherine's young brother, 'Warrigal' Walsh, away.
However, the draw of the bushrangers exploits and their extensive coverage in newspapers and the topic of conversation around dinner tables, restaurants and hotels, brought this comment regarding the new fade of playing of bushranger amongst children. It also raised the alarm over the children's idol worship of Gardiner. In due course, Ben Hall, 'The Goulburn Chronicle' of October 24, 1862, stated that it was deeply worried by the number of town children playing bushrangers. It warned its readers: "The amusement of playing bushrangers and sticking up one another may prove very exciting to the juvenile mind, but such amusements must necessarily tend to loss of moral principles and disregard of right and wrong..." (It reminds me of my childhood in the 60s where instead of bushrangers, we played war. We killed Japs by the hundreds and Germans mercilessly as eight-year-olds. TV Shows like Combat and Twelve O'clock High were our diet. Many Combat battles in the street formed, and my Dad in the Army gave me leadership and tactical knowledge amongst my mates. Such as "Davey, you can't use Mrs Johnson's clothesline as cover," that kind of leadership or "We will go in through Mrs Robinson hedge split and sniper them one at a time." Mrs Robinson loved that hedge. We would see her often with shears trimming here and there, sometimes perplexed at the broken branches and gaps. Hey! That was tactics. We had it all covered. Of course, victories were not guaranteed as those Russiangerman's who lived up the street knew a thing or two and death, and wounding was selective. "I got you, Mark, your dead, said in a peculiar voice. "No, you didn't. I'm just wounded" pause. "Ok, I'm dead", count to twenty and back into the fight. Kids, Eh! 1862 or 1966 bushrangers or war no different.)
|NSW Police Gazette, 1863.|
|NSW Police Gazette,|
14th January 1863.
NSW Police Gazette.
|NSW Police Gazette 1863.|
In quick succession, many robberies were Gazetted by police fitting Ben Hall's description; Sticking up- "A man named John Grandylar, who left Goulburn for the Lachlan some time back, was stuck-up by two armed bushrangers on Monday last, about sixteen miles on this side of Burrowa, on his return hither, and was robbed of whatever money he had on his person A cheque for a considerable amount that he had sown inside the band of his trousers escaped observation. They, however, took a good pair of boots off his feet, but gave him an old pair in exchange, and also robbed him of his coat. The man's swag with a revolver in it, where of course it was utterly useless, was appropriated by the bushrangers to their own use.”⁵² Throughout January 1863, Ben Hall's transformation to full-time bushranger had now appeared complete as Hall became identified by victims who were acquainted with him. Although historically, there are those who today dispute the evidence. Nevertheless, in all cases, without any sense of honour or civility, Ben Hall puts a gun to their heads and places terror in their hearts, then rips from them their hard-earned wages and possessions.
|NSW Police Gazette|
Note; Hall's description- 5ft 6in.
Hall's height would
vary in future police
Gazettes from 5ft 6in-5ft 8in.
|NSW Police Gazette,|
|NSW Police Gazette,|
|Boland. Police Gazette|
|NSW Police Gazette,|
Frank Gardiner &
|NSW Police Gazette,|
|Pinnacle Station with Weddin|
Mountains in the background.
|NSW Police Gazette,|
By the end of February 1863, Hall was noted as armed and dangerous. Historically, there is a belief that Ben Hall's complicity in criminal activities before the Pinnacle Police Station robbery is suspect. Let's put the kibosh on that presumption right here! The evidence of Hall's villainy when thoroughly reviewed is overwhelming. Evidence dictates that Hall's fraternisation and criminal involvement with Gardiner etc. commenced circa 1861. Even though in the Bacon robbery, Ben Hall himself declared his innocence. Well, wouldn't anybody? However, the reports of eyewitnesses in the Bacon affair of April 1862 in company with Gardiner and Gilbert and the Gold Escort attack at Eugowra in June 1862 to which Ben Hall was an integral part tell a very different story.
In turn, the subsequent Pinnacle hold-up, as mentioned above in Patrick Daley's company, includes eyewitnesses identifying Hall's participation and can not be dismissed. Indeed, their statements were not one of happenstance. Furthermore, Hall had claimed in the case of the Pinnacle hold-up that he just happened to be in the vicinity at Allports' pub and that, amazingly, Hall had only run into Daley for a nobbler (Drink) by chance. Knox identified Hall as Daley's accomplice. Knox would have known Hall well from days spent at the Pinnacle with Charters. It was also well known that Const Knox was in an intimate relationship with Daniel Charters widowed sister Margaret Feehily. However, Hall claimed he had departed Allports with Daly for the ride home when trooper Hollister subsequently gave chase based on constable Knox's' information. And flee, the two men did! Besides, for an innocent man, such as Hall claimed to be, why flee and then brazenly exchange gunfire with the troopers is indeed confounding. At the very least, fleeing harbours a foundation of guilt. Unfortunately for Hall, Hollister knew him well. How? Most assuredly from Hollister's knowledge of Hall's criminal associations and most recent activities, [sic] "Ben Hall, Daley, and O'Maley, three well-known bushrangers."
|NSW Police Gazette,|
13th February 1863.
|Gardiner & Gilbert.|
It might also be observed that the villains Ben Hall had combined with were inherently from a comparable background to his own. As a child of convict parents well-known as cattle and horse thieves who like dingos purloined stock whenever the opportunity presented itself. This new breed of bushrangers contingent to John Peisley, O’Meally, Fred Lowry, etc., was bent and entwined by a common generational link of lawlessness. Hall's and his current associates appeared drawn into crime through family affiliations or close friendships. Some of the bushrangers became influenced by the older generation's convict yarns of past adventures and their long-held distrust and attitude to authority mixed with prolonged idleness. The 'Empire', Thursday 12th March 1863, succinctly expressed the current injury to the country by bushranging; "but if once detected in cattle stealing, they become depredators on a large scale, bushrangers of a more dangerous kind than the colony has yet known, having resourced in themselves and their surroundings of which the poor outlaws under the old penal system were utterly devoid. Horses they have the pick of the country and friends and brothers wherever they go. Hence the class of bushrangers who have, within, the last few years spread terror throughout the country districts. PEISLEY, GARDINER, GILBERT, are each and all "bush natives;" at first stockmen, drovers, or horse breakers, suspected or found guilty of cattle stealing, and taking to the bush to avoid as long as possible apprehension and punishment, and so entering upon a career of crime that has conducted PEISLEY, and is likely to conduct the others, to the gallows. But the ignominy and distress which these men have brought down upon their own heads is not confined to them. The influence they have exercised over their young countrymen has been of the most pernicious kind, and disastrous consequences. Already some who have been misled by GARDINER, are doomed to expiate their complicity with his criminal designs and doings, by an ignominious death on the scaffold..." The article continues "a given number of GARDINERS and GILBERTS, obtaining the ascendancy, must soon transform Australia into a howling wilderness, where men more savage and unreasoning than wild beasts could only anticipate starvation by mutual slaughter. But the class we are speaking of are not generally capable of reflecting upon the effects of a certain course of action upon the general interests of society, or upon their own individual welfare as bound up therewith. They have never been taught to think, and scarcely to read. They are not, therefore, readers of newspapers, and have no turn for politics. And, as might naturally have been expected, whatever smatterings of speculative politics the more intelligent amongst them possess are decidedly obstructive. For "bush natives," as a general role, are the rankest of colonial Tories..." (Tories-a dispossessed Irishman who resorted to banditry)
The regularity of outrages conducted by bushrangers and their successes were achieved by being one step ahead of the often flummoxed NSW police. Success and easy money enabled by good intelligence won the day for the bushrangers. There was also a wide selection of top-class thoroughbred horses and various firearms easily acquired by the bushrangers, all held on many larger stations. However, for the NSW police in pursuit, a disadvantage was the quality of their mounts and the standard of equipment, all inferior compared to the bushrangers. The troopers also had to contend with battling many settlers in cahoots with the desperadoes and who had installed a 'Cone of Silence' against the police. Nevertheless, an article written in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on 17th February 1863 conveyed a hope that the NSW Government, through the police and the courts, would shortly rid all the troubled districts of bushrangers, including their wide circle of supporters and small squatters. Expectations were high; LAWLESS STATE OF THE COUNTRY; - "Acting under the direct instructions of the Executive Council through the Chief Secretary, the Inspector-General is adopting stringent measures to put an end to those acts of bushranging which have been so frequent during the last eighteen months or two years. It is understood that a considerable amount of information is in the hands of the Government which is likely to lead, not only to the apprehension of the parties actively engaged in these lawless deeds but also of persons in various stations of life who have afforded them harbour and succour. Should success attend the exertions of the police with regard to the latter class of offenders, the public will be surprised to find that Gardiner and Co have been sheltered and supplied with provisions if not with the munitions of war, by individuals who carry their heads somewhat high amongst their fellow colonists. The outrooting of what a witness at the late trials designated "a public-house, but which had no license," and the cancelling of the squatting licenses of those parties whom the Government have good reason to suspect are, or who have been, harbouring bushrangers, will, it is generally expected, be resorted to without delay. A considerable number of picked men, detective and other police, have been already dispatched to the lawless district. Captain Battye is engaged in scouring the country about Murrumburrah, Burrowa, Marengo, and the diggings, and he will now be ably supported in his movements by some of the pick of the detectives. All accounts that have recently reached us of acts of "sticking up"' state that the robbers chiefly sought for firearms, although well-armed, themselves. This would lead to the supposition that the outlaws had increased in number, and that guns and revolvers were required for the recruits. The police station at Bogolong (Pinnacle) was attacked for that purpose, and it may, therefore, be expected that unless the police are successful in breaking up the gang, some desperate work will be done, before the winter sets in."
As Ben Hall was setting alight the western plains, other long-past criminal events regarding the Hall family at Murrurundi emerged in parliament. Events still fresh in the memory of some. 'The Empire' newspaper in 1863 recounted one such incident regarding Ben Hall's fathers' long past criminal activities. Commented on by Mr Joseph Jehosephat Harpur, Parliamentarian. Harpur was the member for the Hunter Valley seat of Patrick Plains, NSW, and who it must be remembered was the son of Sarah Walsh, stepmother of Bridget Hall and stepmother-in-law to Ben Hall and knew of all Ben Hall's antics and robberies where undoubtedly was a recipient of some of those proceeds through Elen Maguire. Therefore, Harpur was acutely aware of all the goings-on in the bushranger fraternity. After all, three of his mother's step-daughters and Harpur's step-sisters were in relationships with those at the centre of criminal activity: "remember when old Ben Hall robbed one Brown of a splendid horse, which he almost worshipped. A gentleman gave information to Brown about the robbers, but charged him to make no use of the information, because if it were suspected that he had given the information, he would not be safe for a moment. The man Brown came to him (Mr. Harpur), who was then young and daring. He went with the owner of the horses, in pursuit of the robbers, and was near losing his life. Such was the state of things on the Hunter in the time of old Ben Hall, the father of the present Ben Hall, who had always been bad. They were connected with a gang of cattle stealers."⁵⁶
No doubt, Harpur's intimate knowledge of the happenings of the Lachlan bushrangers were relayed through his mother. To a degree, Harpur became tainted in the NSW Parliament regarding his family's relationships by giving an appearance of leniency by not supporting the rigid motions of the Cowper Government in bushranger matters. In July 1863, this support was exposed; "no one would suppose that the hon. member (Mr. Harpur) would put before the House a statement he did not himself believe, or that he would advocate the cause of robbers and murderers—no, not even were some of them his own blood relatives..."
Sir Frederick Pottinger as the officer in charge of the Lachlan district, suffered many hatreds against him. None more so than Harpur's mother Sarah, as her young stepson John Walsh had fallen under Pottinger's heavy hand as a suspected thief and widely believed horse holder of Frank Gardiner. Therefore, Harpur had been heavily prejudiced regarding Sir Frederick through his mother and would under parliamentary privilege call out Pottinger as a coward over his tactics and the Baronet's perceived harassment of his mother.[sic] "In the course of the debate, it transpired that Sir Frederick Pottinger had sent a friend to demand satisfaction from Mr. Harpur, the member for Patrick's Plains, who had some time since stigmatised Sir Frederick as a coward."
|Dramatisation of O'Meally|
However, those who witnessed the terrible scene described the assailants as one man tall and the other short and stout. Short and stout preclude the long-held idea that John Gilbert was the second assailant; 'Empire' Thursday 26th February 1863; "on Sunday evening last, two men came to the Miners' Home Inn between six and seven o'clock, and proceeded to the back of the house. One of them went into the house after fastening up his horse, and the other hooked his on the garden gate, and asked the ostler to go into the bar and have a nobbler. He complied with the ruffian's request. When he did so, he was ordered by his companion to go and sit down in the corner of the taproom, not far from the bar. The shortest of the two men (the one that first went in) walked behind the bar, and said to the man who acted as barman during Mr. Cirkel's absence, that he wanted the money, and helped himself to the contents of the till—about five pounds in silver. Both the robbers had nobblers. They were each well armed with revolvers. The taller of the two stood near the entrance to the bar, covering with his revolver the people bailed up in the corner, the back door, and the one leading into the next room close to the back door. Whilst this was going on, Mr. Cirkel, who had been in the bakehouse, entered the taproom by the front door, which is opposite the counter. The tall man asked him to go and sit in the corner with those already there. He answered, "What for?" A struggle then ensued between the tall robber and him and there is little doubt that Mr. Cirkel who was a strong, powerfully built, and very determined man, would have overpowered the other, had not the stout robber behind the bar called out to him according to the report of one witness to the scene "Blow his bloody [sic] brains out," and to another's-"Shoot the bugger." The tall ruffian immediately fired, and shot the unfortunate gentleman dead. The deceased never spoke afterwards—death was instantaneous. The diabolical ruffians, after committing the murder, rushed out of the house, mounted their horses, and fled.."
Following Cirkel's murder, another villain named John Clarke was suspected as one of the perpetrators. However, witnesses to the shooting in the hotel could not pin Clarke to the crime. Clarke's physical appearance was close to Ben Hall's; Clarke born in 1842, 5ft 6/7in Stout build Brown Hair with Grey eyes. In due course, Clarke would go down for the robbery of Demondrille Station for three years.
A murderer amongst the group. An unperturbed Ben Hall next plundered the small town of Little Wombat close to Lambing Flat and stuck up the general store of Mr Meyer Solomon and his wife, Julia. When the gang walked through the store's doors, Julia Solomon was day's away from giving birth to their second child Samuel b. 23rd February 1863. In this instance, many of the gang were dressed, as feared by the correspondent's article above, as police troopers.[sic] "it appears that the robbery was perpetrated by four men dressed in police uniform, and hence supposed to be the same parties who lately robbed the police station at the Pinnacle..."
Following the robbery, the use of the stolen Pinnacle police items appeared in the 'Sydney News'; Affray at Wombat -"Intelligence has reached the town of the robbery of Mr Solomon's store at Wombat near Lambing Flat on Saturday last. It appears that the robbery was perpetrated by four men dressed in police uniform, and hence supposed to be the same parties who lately robbed the police station at the Pinnacle. They took away two pack-horses loaded with the property. Mr. Solomon reports having fired at and wounded one of the robbers in the neck, and that he can identify him."
|Typical country store. |
Image courtesy NLA.
|NSW Police Gazette,|
11th March 1863.
Furthermore, the fact was that Gardiner and his lover Catherine Brown had long departed the Lachlan following Gardiner's near capture by Sir Frederick Pottinger earlier in August 1862. Late October 1862 or thereabouts, the pair had commenced the long and arduous trek north to the Peak Downs goldfield via Rockhampton, finally arriving at Apis Creek in Queensland a distance as the crow flies of 900 miles in a spring cart through rough and at times inhospitable country. Nevertheless, a frustrated press had many reports flooding about Gardiner's perceived whereabouts, even a thought he had gone to South Australia disguised as a priest or to Portland, Victoria or Gippsland where his family resided. Furthermore, some even wrongly believed that young Gilbert's family lived in S.A. as noted in the 'Launceston Examiner', Tuesday 30th September 1862;[sic]"the following as the latest respecting Gardiner: "Gardiner, the supposed leader of N.S.W. escort robbery, is reported as either at Adelaide or Portland Bay accompanied by a woman named Brown, in boy's clothes. The family of John Gilbert, who is charged with being one of the same gang, resides in Adelaide. Gilbert is supposed to be either there or in Melbourne..." Just where were they! Gilbert had resurfaced in the Weddin in January 1863 after a short stint in New Zealand, but 'The Darkie' was long gone.
|"..next time you bring me here|
it will be for something,
and don't you forget it."-
However, Mr Redman's statement does not justify nor excuse the course of action that Ben Hall or any other person embarking on life behind a revolver. Mr Redman commented that Hall was 'not being a man of great mind', as Hall could not read or write. Hall depended on others, such as Maguire, Charters, then Gilbert, all fairly well-educated men, to keep him appraised of newspaper articles or land tenure matters concerning their bushranging exploits. However, for Ben Hall, this educational handicap was compensated by Hall's expert knowledge in bushcraft. These skills would lead the police to a merry dance. Furthermore, the once well-liked Squatter would become associated with, as well as perpetrate, murders, attempted murder, kidnapping, whipping, theft, arson, intimidation, assault, robbing mail coaches, pillaging country Homesteads and Inns, in numbers not seen before in the colonies of Australia. All conducted on the end of a gun without any compunction.
However, the one thing Hall fully understood was that he required protection. In consequence of that need, at various times, Hall portrayed the beau ideal of a bushranger as his mentor Gardiner had done, i.e. polite to women and magnanimous to travellers when it pleased him. Travellers who, of course, loved to have a revolver shoved in their face and humiliated as their valuables were stolen. Accordingly, Ben Hall’s ransacking continued with vigour. Therefore, when next in company with John O’Meally and Patsy Daley. Ben Hall would participate in another daring violent exploit. With guns blazing and bullets flying, Hall and his two companions would capture and attempt to gun down a police inspector and hunt a blacktracker.
|John Oxley Norton.|
Never Before Published.
"The three men were scattered at about 100 yards apart, one on each side of the road, and one near the road; the man on the left side advanced within eighty yards of me, and then commenced firing; the man on the left charged and fired a double-barrelled gun; I cannot swear to the man on the right firing his rifle, but he fired a revolver; the man I supposed to be O'Meally took up his position about eighty yards from me; Hall and the prisoner a little farther off; O'Meally cried out, "Throw up your arms," repeatedly; they then commenced firing with revolvers; we fired several return shots; they might have fired fifteen or eighteen shots; my ammunition was then expended, and O'Meally with Hall rode up to me; the latter presented a revolver at me, while O'Meally and Daley ran after the black-fellow, and fired after him; after a few minutes, Hall rode up to me, and said that they had nothing against, me, and that I might go."
|Artists impression of|
Billy fleeing after
Years after Norton's brush with Hall, Mr George Boyd, then a new recruit to the NSW police force, reminisced over Norton's capture and the scramble in Sydney to send troopers ASAP into the field to capture the trio. 'The Sun', Monday 19th August 1912; “and very short space had passed when the new recruit found himself actively involved in the general excitement resulting from a long succession of bold and successful outrages. "We had only been at the depot a few weeks," said the ex-sergeant, during a chat at his pleasant home at Windsor, "when we were called to the front. To speak exactly, we had been in training just seven weeks when the startling news arrived of the capture of Superintendent Norton by [sic] Ben Hall. That news threw the barracks into a tumult. With it came an urgent appeal for reinforcements. There were all the available police engaged in the hunt of the outlaws already, but they were not nearly enough. And there were very few men at the depot, even including the recruits. But Superintendent Black got together a company of 22 of us, nearly all raw recruits, and we started for the scene of war. We got off the mark very promptly. I believe we were all in the train with our horses and equipment, inside an hour. "The railway at that time went only as far as Penrith. It took us three days to get to Bathurst and we were all in the highest spirits possible, at the near prospect of excitement. But disappointment awaited us at the new headquarters. We learnt with satisfaction that the bushrangers had released Norton, unharmed. But it did not sort well with our desires to distinguish ourselves to hear that the outlaws had absolutely disappeared, no one knowing within a few hundred miles where they were working..." George Boyd arrived in Australia in 1862 from Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland, joining the NSW police in February 1863 as a Supernumerary. He served for 44yrs retiring in 1907 as an Snr Sgt, and passed away at Windsor in 1923.
|Ben Hall's pursuers|
promotions in March 1863.
Norton released, and only his pride damaged, Sir Frederick Pottinger, no doubt tired of the continued ridicule by sections of the media was out for blood and while on patrol was riding in proximity to the scene of Norton's encounter when the loyal Billy Dargin brought to Sir Frederick's attention the spot where Ben Hall had attempted to kill Norton. On dismounting, the Inspector examined the tree where Hall's bullets had struck, noting how narrowly it had missed Norton's head; "on Wednesday morning last, whilst Sir Frederick Pottinger with Billy, the black tracker, and some of the mounted police were out in the neighbourhood of the suspected bushrangers, near the Wedden Mountains, the tracker detected fresh footprints of a horse crossing the path Sir Frederick and his party were pursuing and directing the master's attention to the circumstances Sir Frederick turned his course in the direction of the tracks. Billy soon pointed out the identical spot which had afforded such friendly protection to J. O. Norton, the sub-inspector of police. Frederick Pottinger descended from his horse and minutely examined the tree, and found the imprint of two large bullets, one of which must have strayed just over the head of Mr. Norton, as he was described to have stood by the tree, and the other nearly at the level with his chest..."⁶³
In the meantime, with Norton's safe return, convicted Eugowra Escort robbers Manns and Bow awaited their fate with the gallows. As Manns and Bow sat on death row and Fordyce's death sentence commuted to life, the good citizens of Sydney were appealing through various petitions for the commuting of their death sentences to life. Furthermore, the newspapers were still doubtful regarding the evidence of Daniel Charters and for the first time came out and named Benjamin Hall and John O'Meally as being members of the gang involved in the Eugowra Gold robbery of June 1862; 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser', 17th March 1863; THE CONDEMNED ESCORT ROBBERS;-"Considerable exertion is being made to save the lives of the culprits, Bow and Manns, now lying under sentence of death in Darlinghurst gaol. It appears pretty certain, that when Chartres, the approver, was first taken into custody, with Ben Hall and O'Meally, they were all three charged with the escort robbery. Chartres, however, in taking advantage of turning approver, declared that neither Hall nor O'Meally had anything to do with the robbery, it is now pretty clear that these two were present and took part in the robbery, and that Chartres obtained their release by declaring that they were not concerned in it; but gave evidence against Bow, Fordyce, Manns, and Maguire, who were then at large. These facts, it is understood, will be brought before the Executive.”
A few days later, the purported threat regarding Norton's hanging was put into perspective in the ‘Goulburn Herald’, of Saturday 7th March 1863. As was popular when the writer laced his word with a hint of ridicule directed at the police; “then poor Norton was to be hung as high as Haman or as Gilderoy, if the executive dared to send the escort robbers to the scaffold. The government, as is usual, were fairly frightened out of their wits, and as if capturing a policeman was any worse than capturing anyone else, they sent off no less than thirty-five head of police for the scene of action, leaving Sydney, where, after all is said and done, there is far more crime than in the interior, comparatively unprotected. Of course the whole affair is a gross exaggeration, and the real facts were of the very tamest. There was no theatrical combat, no broadswords, no Long Tom Coffin, no harpoon, no toasting-fork, no eucalyptus, no seeking of shades below. The fact simply was that the acting-sub was out with only a black-boy, when he fell in with some bushrangers--or they fell in with him-and as they were superior in number, he was taken prisoner, kept for three hours, and then let go. He certainly says he used all his ammunition; if he did he must be a doosid bad shot not to kill or maim some of his foes, and they must have had more forbearance than they ever yet have got credit for not to have retaliated. There is a report here that he was well treated by the bushrangers. It will be seen that on hearing of his capture the government at once promoted Mr. Norton, who is now a full-instead of an acting- sub-inspector. Rather a curious inducement to hold out to Sir Pottinger and other police men, eh?" Ben Hall would continue in the attempt to kill men.
Ben Hall cruised the Wheogo area safe without fear or favour, knowing that his old friends and family were at hand for aid and comfort. A newspaper even alluded to Hall as being a well to do squatter committing robberies, including his convict heritage, February 1863, "Most of the atrocities committed, the police have good reasons for believing, are committed, not by needy marauders, but by well-to-do settlers, the excrement of the old convict population."
|O'Meally's holdings Weddin|
Mountains. c. 1863.
However, the advocated safe period for the police was short term. During the lull, Hall appeared to have retreated to his former stockman's haunts out in the back-country of the Bland Plains and camped around Lake Cowal and Humbug Creek. Areas which Hall knew intimately. In this wild country, Hall had maintained many friends. Hall's Bland haunt was described as[sic] "the most picturesque part, of the Bland plains — viz., the intervening space between east and west Bland. The Humbug Mountain to the west impresses me with the notion that I am on the verge of a wilderness, the steep ravines and huge granite rocks form such a striking contrast to the peaceful-looking green sward, dotted with lovely pools of water, on the Back creek winding through the plains. Turkeys and wildfowl are plentiful, and there is often good sport in seasons like this." Hall would not have lacked for grub while secreted at Humbug. The area was also the current residence of his former wife, Bridget and her lover James Taylor, residing at Alice Gibson station and, best of all, his three and a half-year-old son Henry. If Hall had seen his young son, there is no evidence, suffice to say as a father, and the opportunity arose, no doubt Hall would have apprised the chance. Presumably a fearful time for Taylor.
Furthermore, as well as the Bland, it came to light that Hall often appeared at his former home of Sandy Creek, where his latest child Mary and her mother Susan Prior continued to live. However, events at Sandy Creek would shortly alter to disastrous, culminating in a confrontation with Pottinger and his troop. As Hall and the gang had dropped off the radar, elements in the press had attempted to paint Sir Frederick Pottinger and his men as being a law unto themselves. Much criticism from many quarters of the region was directed at Pottinger, who dismissed any notion of unfairness and wreaked havoc against anyone suspected of sympathies toward the bushranging fraternity.
Newspaper's such as the Empire (1850-1875) had an editorial flair that appeared to garner support to the sympathisers and harbourers of bushrangers. The paper often censured the police over their perceived brutality towards the smaller, less well to do settlers who provided a helping hand for a gratuity from the hunted. Those sympathisers were noted as; his parents, his brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts and cousins for all sorts of assistance. It was from amongst his innumerable relations and their close friends that the 'bush telegraphs,' who kept him aware of the movements of the police, were recruited, and the system of intelligence that served such gangs as those of Frank Gardiner and Ben Hall was highly organised and tremendously effective, even though, as has been said, the bushrangers were expected to pay for it 'through the nose.'⁶⁷
On the other hand, some more conservative newspapers like the Sydney Morning Herald viewed the troubles and difficulties faced by Sir Frederick Pottinger more sympathetically. The root of those difficulties was a continued 'Cone of Silence' employed by many inhabitants. Therefore, the more conservative papers judged the inspector far more fairly, such as; 'The Courier' Brisbane; “there is nothing in the fact that he wears a title which places his official acts beyond the pale of honest and impartial criticism, but we have yet to learn that it constitutes him a butt for every bilious, ill-natured scribbler, who loves to shine in print. Fiat justitia ruet coelum ("Let justice be done though the heavens fall."). Let Sir Frederick Pottinger, like every other public man, be dealt with upon his merits. Above all, let the truth be spoken of him, and when the occasion is one of sufficient gravity, by all means employ the language of censure and condemnation, as unreservedly in his as in any other case. Persecution we detest, and have small respect for that class of scribblers who hound a man down for fashion's sake...”⁶⁸
Nonetheless, under the spotlight of numerous failures, in particular, Frank Gardiner. Sir Frederick Pottinger was hungry for success. Just one victory would do, and for a brief moment, Pottinger’s luck bore fruit. Sir Frederick's Pottinger's instinct's regarding the Weddin Mountains/Pinnacle/Wheogo areas as a continuous haven for bushrangers, including Ben Hall's previous run at Sandy Creek and his former in-laws at Wheogo as well as the nearby Feehily's Pinnacle Station were places Pottinger considered his best opportunity to 'nail the bastards'. The Pinnacle bordered the same name's range with its outlying miner's huts and a heavily wooded scrubland. Pottinger's dogged patrolling paid off.
"Ben Hall then charged witness, and ordered him to bail up against a tree; said—he would see them d--d first. Witness then jumped off his horse, and taking up a pistol he had thrown upon the ground, threw it at Ben Hall, hitting him on the jaw; Ben Hall then called out to Daley to come on with his revolvers. By the Bench: The pistol struck Ben Hall on the right ear. Prisoner Daley; was engaged loading two revolvers. Ben Hall called out, come on with the revolvers. Young O’Meally then came up, and gave one of his revolvers to Ben Hall. Witness then took off his boots, leggings, and coat, and run off, throwing sticks at his pursuers the whole time. They, chased him in this manner for eight-miles, firing all the way, till they got near the Pinnacle Mountain. They told him they would "whollop" him to death with sticks; witness replied, he would like to have a chance with him; he would forgive them if they killed him with sticks. They then went under the Pinnacle, and picked up some small pebble stones and fired them at witness. The prisoner Daley said, "I like you, you white livered scoundrel. “Witness in reply told Daley, "He would like him better if he would get off his horse. Afterwards asked them if they would go to the Pinnacle, and he would shout for them. Ben Hall said "Well, old man, you're a plucky one, and we'll let you off, but we'll stick up your barracks to-night." They then went off to the Pinnacle—To the Bench "Am certain the prisoner is the same man who was with Ben Hall when the police barracks were stuck up. Followed them at that time, with Prince Charlie and trooper Hollister. Chased them for three miles and a half, and should have taken them but for Hollister getting thrown from his horse through running against a tree. Saw the prisoner Daley snap his revolver three times at Charlie. —To Sir Frederick Pottinger: Can swear that prisoner is one of the three men who stuck up Mr Norton, and likewise to being the same we chased with the trooper Hollister. —To the Bench. Identified the prisoner directly when he was taken into custody by Sir Frederick Pottinger."⁷¹ (This account, although slightly embellished, confuses Ben Hall with O'Meally, as Norton stated under oath that Ben Hall guarded him as well as a shot at him whilst Daley and O'Meally conducted the short chase of the Blacktracker Dargin.) (For Dargin's story, see The Traps page at http://www.benhallaustralianbushranger.com/p/police.html
|John Wilson, mate of|
Sir Frederick and
Consequently, Wilson was pressured by Sir Frederick Pottinger to have them all evicted. Correspondingly, moves had been afoot in the NSW Legislature as early as 1861 to remove rent defaulters and undesirables from leased Crown Lands. During 1861, Ben Hall held legal tenure over Sandy Creek. However, following the passing of the Crown Lands Occupation Act of 1861, it became the prerequisite for Pottinger to act. The Act, due to Hall's criminal activity, covered the lease of Sandy Creek, ultimately taken up by Wilson in late 1862. A factor in Hall's loss was created by Hall's inability to sign the lease transfer to Wilson and pay any rent arrears to the government.
Therefore, the final straw in the breaking of Ben Hall played out. Under instructions from John Wilson and protected under the Crown Lands Act 1861 to remove undesirables, Sir Frederick Pottinger incinerated Ben Hall's former home, leaving the occupants and Hall's baby daughter, Mary, homeless. Hall's latest child Mary was born at Sandy Creek in January 1863. Nevertheless, the incineration of the home had a mother and her baby cast out into inclement weather. The action caused much angst among Hall's closest friends and large landholders, such as William Jameison of Back Creek Station.
Regardless, Sir Frederick Pottinger concluded that Ben Hall's ex-home was still a light on the hill as a place of safety and respite for the elusive bushranger and others for whom the inspector had so long sought and where aid and comfort were being provided. Pottinger had a particular if a not prejudiced view of those reportedly trespassing on an acquaintances' land and of those people he was damned sure was involved in criminal activity. Where-from, his lofty perspective of Baronet, they were people who Pottinger considered 'low character'.
Widespread illegal occupancy of Crown Land was one of the most pressing matters facing the government. In many cases, the illegal occupants fully supported the bushrangers and often became a lifeline for Ben Hall. These vitiated settlers provided food and comfort to the gangs, not for love but for a hefty fee. In turn, the blatant sympathy and sentiment gave rise to great angst among the NSW Police, pressuring the NSW Parliament for more stringent powers to act against those found to be harbouring or suspected of harbouring. Such as those named and marked on the police map of Gardiner's haunts.
|Constable John Bohan|
who would assist
at the burning of Hall's
home, and later
act in Hall's death.
|Hollister's actual diary entry,|
|Rare portrait of|
William Jameison father
Shortly after Mr. Jamieson's letter appeared on the matter, he died in a fall from his horse near Goulburn under suspicious circumstances. Finally, Jamieson's comments on the conduct of the police, namely Pottinger whom he both admired and censured, are extracted from a further letter sent the editor of 'The Sydney Morning Herald' by John A. Hux; "some short time before the unfortunate man Jamieson died, he visited this township. I had a conversation with him, during which the conduct of the police was very warmly discussed—Jamieson being particularly severe on Sir F. Pottinger for turning out the woman and burning down Hall's house, concluding with the following words, as near as I can possibly recollect:—"I admit he (Sir F. P.) is the most courageous and plucky policeman that ever I knew, and had he been here some few years since he would have played hell with the cattle racket, but he is a damn wretch to turn women out of house and shelter..."⁷⁹
Mr Charles Cowper.
Author's Note: The death of William Jamieson at the time was considered a mystery;[sic] "...it was a three day's trip to Goulburn, Mr. Jamieson making the trip from there, removing his money from the Commercial Bank, Goulburn, intending same to be placed at Young. He was found on the road four miles out of Goulburn by a man named Broffie; he had no pocketbook, and the valise was gone, being taken off his saddle; he was insensible and taken into Goulburn where he died at 3 o'clock next morning. He was a very fine horseman; his horse Merrylegs was found feeding 100 yards from where he was lying, but his mare, Lauristina, whom he was leading back to the station, was gone. £50 reward was offered for the recovery of Lauristina, as by finding her same might lead to the cause of death, but she was never heard of again. William Jamieson's death was a mystery never unravelled. He was a very abstemious man, a perfect gentleman, very smart all-round, a good runner, and made quite a name for himself in performing a feat, while at a place between Burrowa and Walla Walla, which has been called Jamieson's Flat."
However, after the deed was done in a surprise statement, the Lands Minister, Mr Robinson, denied that Hall's home was incinerated as means of the Crown Lands Act. Mr. ROBERTSON; There was a communication suggesting the expulsion by the police of illegal holders, but it was not thought advisable to act in this way. He believed the police had burnt down the residence of the notorious bushranger, Ben Hall; but it was the only case, and was not done under the Land Act.
|John Wilson's claim|
on Wheogo Station.
After capturing Patsy Daley and flushed with renewed energy for the bushranger hunt, Pottinger was back in the saddle on patrol in the Wheogo area, ready to clobber Ben Hall. Consequently, Pottinger's wish to come into close contact with Ben Hall was near his home's charred remains. Hall had been camped near the smouldering ruins and was sighted with the evicted women who were reduced to living in a calico tent and continued supplying Hall with information, victuals and other comforts. Accordingly, Sir Frederick and his troopers with Hall insight burst into a gallop, hoping to cut off and capture their elusive quarry. Still, as dusk fell, Hall and his companion John O'Meally escaped into the dense pine scrub. However, in the rush and surprise, the bushrangers abandoned their equipment and Hall his horse scarpering on foot, Hall's equipment recovered by the police. Sir Frederick Pottinger dispatched a telegram to the Inspector General of Police in Sydney, dated the 18th March 1863, regarding his pursuit of both Hall and John O'Meally. However, the presence of O'Meally in Hall's company not long after the publican Cirkel's death at Stoney Creek in late February 1863 gives merit to Hall's probable participation in 'The Miners Home Inn' murder. Furthermore, Susan Pryor's younger brother William was nabbed the next day and heavily questioned as to Hall's whereabouts; Pottinger op.cit. "camped about Wheogo till Sunday, when, just after sundown, came with two of my troopers on Ben Hall and John O’Meally, standing about six hundred yards off, talking to Mrs. McGuire and Susan Pryor the female aforesaid. The woman at once gave the word, and the men bolted into the brush. We, however, pressed them so hard that Hall had to give us the slip-on foot, leaving his horse and swag, containing ammunition and firearms-magnificent Tranter revolver and Government pistol, taken from the Pinnacle. It being by this time quite dark, and the scrub being dense, we could do nothing more, and returned to camp. Next morning, we took up the tracks for some twenty-six miles, till, about three miles hence, we apprehended William Pryor, a lad of about seventeen, whom I hope to make very useful. I start again in an hour, till last night none of us had slept in a bed, and none of the horses had a feed since we left Forbes..." (William Pryor is the younger brother of Susan Pryor. Also, Hall's possession of the weapons stolen from the Pinnacle police station demonstrate his complicity in the February robbery.)
Courtesy of R.A.H.S.
NSW Police Employment
Record May 1862.
New South Wales, Australia,
Registers of Police
|Hollister's diary, March 1863.|
|Sir Frederick Pottinger|
in the uniform
Furthermore, the NSW Police Gazette entries in the early months of 1863 were rampant, with crime reports from 'the interior' so much that it was overwhelming for the police of the troubled districts to resolve. As such, frequent holdups and robberies often went unreported. Due mainly to victim apathy and the view held by many of a reluctant police force to act in any meaningful way. The aforementioned Ernest Bowler highlighted the attitude of indifference. Bowler described a personal experience when being held up by Ben Hall's men. An incident in which Ernest decided not to report; 'The Moleskin Gentry'; by Frederick Howard. Ernest explains; "I was surrounded by four revolvers at my head, so close I could see the bullets in the chambers. One of the boys called me to jump off, as he wanted my horse. Then Ben Hall rode up asking what all the noise was about, Hall said "It’s Mr Bowler. It’s alright let him go..." Earnest then rode on to the town of Orange, and the morning's experience had left him depressed rather than angry, and he reflected that the police were; op.cit. "always away on some other route when the boys were close at hand..." That evening Ernest attended a dance after the day's gun-toting experience, stated; op.cit. "I didn't take much persuading to go to the ball", as the evening progressed, the police heard of Bowler's holdup and called him away from the dance to explain why he had not reported the incident to the police; Bowler's reply was; op.cit. "because, I thought it was useless; the police always told where they got their information, so I had made up my mind to tell no more..." However, this attitude angered the police, but it became the general code for survival among people living on isolated properties and hamlets in the Western Districts.
Note on Earnest Bowler;[sic] FORBES, Monday, 7th September 1896.- "This morning news was brought to town of the death of Mr. Ernest Ulysses Bowler, managing partner for Messrs. Suttor and Co, of Boyd station, about 20 miles from Forbes. The deceased gentleman had been suffering from a weak heart for some years and as he was 67 years of age, his demise was not altogether unexpected. He was judging at the Grenfell show that week and returned home on Saturday. On Sunday night he retired to bed in his usual health but awoke at about 2 o'clock and died in less than half an hour. His remains will be brought into Forbes to-morrow for interment. Mr. Bowler was the son of Major Bowler a well-known colonist of the early days. Mr. Earnest Bowler was one of the earliest pioneers of the Lachlan country and has been a resident of this part of the country for about fifty years. He was greatly respected in this district and great sympathy is expressed with his family. He leaves a widow, one son, and one daughter."
Image courtesy NLA.
NSW Police, Captain
|"..to late there goes the|
Image courtesy NLA.
Not only was Ben Hall apprised of sound information from the 'Telegraphs'. From the outbreak of his bushranging exploits, Hall also remained highly regarded by those who had had dealings with him during his stockman days and his tenure at Sandy Creek and often offered a safe harbour not only for Hall but his partners as well. This view was expressed of the Weddin gang's ability to remain off the police radar;[sic] "bushrangers are harboured and assisted, the fact that they have belonged so distinctly to definite localities would demonstrate it. The Western gang had its headquarters in the Weddin district, to which it could always retire for concealment, and out of the range of which it was always more exposed; and the associations and relationships its members held with persons resident in the locality quite explain the security it enjoyed and the way in which the police were baffled. But the police knew too well how much the bushrangers were harboured and helped by a set of the residents, some of whom were their relatives, and many of whom were their chums. As long as bushrangers are harboured, and sheltered, and warned, so long the police will hunt for them blindfold. But wherever the police can rely on the co-operation of the inhabitants, they show that they are not deficient in skill or courage. But it is not merely for the armed brigands themselves that diligent search should be made. Such men as Gardner have, doubtless, like their English prototypes, their spies, their harbourers, their "fences." Which way goes their most promiscuous plunder? Where do they brew their punch when they have not a pillaged householder to mix for them? Who are the judicious friends that inform them where they will find an easy booty, and where they will not find a policeman? Till these questions are fully answered, even the apprehension of the most notorious ringleaders will scarcely put an end to the system. The half-hearted scoundrels who keep ostensibly within the shadow of the law, merely that they may share the prey, jackal-like, with the bolder ruffians who defy law-these are the worst traitors to civilisation-the worst enemies to order and security." Furthermore, there many persons of good standing who were often intimidated and threatened with summary punishment for not attending to Ben Hall's needs;[sic] "but other people, under the influence of fear, were compelled to supply them with food and arms."
Charles Sanderson, in 'Reminiscence of Ex-Superintendent Sanderson' published in the 'Old Times' May 1903, commented on the stonewalling of sympathisers and the fear and angst of people willing to provide information; "The men of the road were looked upon as heroes and were surrounded with such a crowd of sympathisers and friends, who often acted as bush telegraphs for them, that it was often impossible to keep our movements secret, to say nothing of getting trustworthy information. Needless to say, these people were well paid for their trouble, and shared in an indirect way in the proceeds of robberies and sticking-up cases. Even when people were willing to give information they were afraid to; it would mean that they might be shot themselves, or at least get their farms, stables, or haystacks burnt. I never went into a respectable house if I wanted to learn anything. We had scores of persons who wilfully came and gave us the wrong information. When an “affair” was reported, I never looked for the perpetrators in the locality where it had taken place. I let others do that, for I knew that the game I wanted was, by that time, in a very different direction."
Image courtesy NLA.
|Bushrangers in Australia |
By: Joseph Ratcliffe Skelton.
We hope that the Money Order Office will be brought into extensive use for the suppression of highway robbery. While the policeman is exerting himself to affect a cure, for that evil, the money order may facilitate the still more desirable process of prevention. A few days ago, the newspaper reports informed us of a disgusted bushranger, who bitterly complained that there was no use in robbing the particular mail that he was then rifling, since it never contained anything worth carrying away. The fellow seemed to consider himself hardly used, and probably a continuance of such fruitless results to his enterprises would induce him to direct his genius to some other sphere of action possibly an honest one. We may fairly conclude that the days of gold escort robberies are at an end. Large bank bills, which are mostly payable to well-known firms in town, are not of much value to highwaymen; and in future they must rest their hopes upon the registered letters containing small sums in bank notes, which may amount to something handsome in the aggregate. But if the Post-office money order be generally substituted for the bank note, as a means of remittance, even this source of revenue will be lost to the thief, who will hardly be likely to risk his life or liberty for the pleasure of seizing a few documents which are utterly worthless to him. Even if, in the extremity of his disappointment, he should destroy the orders, the money will not be lost, but will still be the property of the remitter. When a sum of ten pounds can thus be safely insured from all the perils of the road by the payment of a shilling, the person who neglects so simple and reasonable a precaution will hardly deserve pity for any loss that he may sustain. A traveller called upon to stand and deliver might complacently baffle his assailant by presenting him with a Post-office order. The business of the road would be done, and the professional highwayman would become an extinct animal.
However, America's wild west eradicated outlaws during the 1800s, especially following the American Civil War through the advent of bounty hunters. Unlike Australia, these bounty hunters worked outside of official law enforcement. With a reward notice in hand, often stating dead or alive habitually turned to informants as their primary source of seeking information and thereby income, often ruthlessly. Whereas in Australia, during this same period, Australia never saw bounty hunters' per se. Within Australia, the apprehension of criminals fell directly at the constabulary's feet. However, settlers took direct action and were known to kill bushrangers, not for the reward (a bonus) but to save their own skins.
In turn, the NSW police may hold a suspect or acquaintance of the bushrangers in custody at varying intervals. Whereby with sufficient incentives, such as leniency of a sentence or a significant portion of a reward. Those held by the police were often swayed to become informants. As a result, the police attempted to place those informants to gather information via the seedy shanties or their friends. Thereby enabling them to seek out the movements or camps of Ben Hall and others, even at times participate in their capture. Some willingly accepted the job, such as the Eugowra informer Daniel Charters, who received £150 and a pardon for his stitching-up of Bow, Fordyce, Manns and Maguire but endeavoured to leave Hall and O'Meally out of their participation in the gold robbery. The latter Maguire found Not Guilty.
However, for the informants, their identities were, for protection, placed under the strictest confidentiality. Nonetheless, this confidentiality occasionally was exposed as the 'Empire' of 26th April 1863, unfortunately, demonstrated. The paper claimed it had information from a sound source regarding such a police infiltrator. Regrettably, for the police, it informed the public that a turncoat had recently become incorporated into a mounted police patrol in the Burrangong district. Therefore, in a role reversal, Ben Hall became on Qui Vive. However, if the bushrangers found such an informant in their presence, they were known to deal with them very harshly — even murder. Nevertheless, as bad as this error in judgement was by the 'Empire' newspaper, it would not be the first time a delinquent attempted to score a reprieve from the chain gang and line his pockets at his friend's expense as there is no honour amongst thieves![sic] GARDINER AND HIS COMPANIONS;-"we understand the police authorities are confident that an expedition now out searching the haunts of these ruffians will return with some of them in safe custody. A person familiar with Gardiner and his mates in criminal acts as a guide, and the police are commanded by one of the most efficient officers in the force..."
In this case, the informer, the Empire reporter, alluded to was no doubt Charles Zahn, a newly recruited Trooper who had been under arrest at Bathurst Gaol under the alias of Charles Burgess. Zahn/Burgess had been awaiting trial for fraud and suspicion over the Eugowra gold heist. Zahn was born Charles Herring in Egypt, as per his escape notice from Victoria referring to his being Egyptian. Zahn, a noted career criminal, hung out in the Fish River district and was a well-known cohort of the recently hung John Peisley and close friend of Frank Gardiner. Zahn was in the habit of utilising alias' in the names of Burgess and Herring. Furthermore, the newest Trooper Charles Burgess/Herring/Zahn's friendship with Frank Gardiner/Christie dated as far back as March 1851 when both men had escaped together from the Pentridge Stockade in Victoria fleeing the state in 1852.
Subsequently, as Zahn was held in custody for fraud and Eugowra, he informed the police of his close acquaintance with Gardiner, Gilbert, and others. Zahn virtually bragged that he could round Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert and others up quickly. Suddenly, Zahn was a police trooper, and in his first foray, captured one Hall acquaintance, Henry Gibson, former house guest of Ben Hall. Burgess' efforts almost secured John Gilbert, Ben Hall and John O'Meally/Lowry in April 1863. Zahn was described as "36yrs old 5ft 4in tall light brown hair Hazel eyes thin pale face sallow complexion rather long sharp nose mole under right eye dresses smartly." (Zahn/Burgess would be eventually dismissed from the police for stealing a valuable pistol from Captain Battye, the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree). In May 1865, Zahn would be sent down for three years of hard labour at Maitland Gaol. However, his link to Victoria and his 1851 escape was never exposed.
The associate of Ben Hall and John Gilbert mentioned above, Henry Gibson, also used an alias of 'Parker', had been one of those residing, as noted by Pottinger at Ben Hall's home up until its recent incineration. Gibson was a close friend of John Gilbert's and had known Gilbert in the 1850s, possibly at the Ovens River Goldfields in Victoria (See article above.), where he was wanted by the Victorian Police and fled to NSW once more linking up with Gilbert. In the days following the destruction of Ben Hall's hut, Gibson was pursued and captured while in company with Hall, Gilbert, and either O'Meally or Lowry via a thrilling chase. Troopers spotted Hall, Gibson and the others after the bushrangers spurred their horses to a full gallop. The troopers also dug the spurs into their mounts and gave chase, dodging the bushrangers bullets. However, Gibson was captured by NSW troopers Coward, (Burgess' handler), the informant Zahn and trooper Townly on the 1st April 1863; "Gibson was found in the bush, in company with Gilbert, Ben Hall, and others, and when he saw the police, he, with the others, galloped off, and was pursued. After going a considerable distance, the police succeeded in capturing him. He was armed, and could not give any satisfactory account of himself..."⁸⁵
|"..your goose is cooked."|
|NSW Police Gazette, 1862.|
The news of the encounter generated great excitement in Yass, and word quickly spread throughout the town of a notorious bushrangers apprehension. With a public jumpy and constantly in fear of being stuck-up or even killed whenever they ventured out. The thought of a notorious bushranger being escorted into their midst set the tongues wagging as people scrambled for a look. Bushranger fever rode high in the district, and the local correspondent, when hearing the news, prematurely jumped to the conclusion that the captured man was none other than the now thought of as 'notorious' Ben Hall who appeared to be the one spruiked as evidently captured by the gallant troopers.
However, the unknown man Gibson was brought pinioned into Marengo where his arrival and capture, as well as his appearance, was duly noted by another correspondent: 'Sydney Mail' 18th April 1863; "he was brought pinioned into Marengo this afternoon; and a fine upstanding young fellow he is, about twenty-five years of age, having well cut but rather ''noisy" clothes, his general appearance being that of a good-looking well-to-do but very fast young squatter; when they put him on a fresh horse it began to rear and plunge, to see him, handcuffed as he was, by the simple pressure of his knee preserve his seat so admirably could not but cause great regret to think that one whom natural favoured had so vilely prostituted his advantages..."
Ben Hall, they had not! Whereby even at this early stage, Ben Hall's bushranging activities were clearly acknowledged in the districts. The mysterious man was, however, finally identified as Henry Gibson. The wheels of justice were then set in motion, and Gibson was arraigned before the court, this time to hear from a new crown witness Mr Percy Scarr. Scarr said that he was the station manager where the men had breakfast on the day of the chase, which belonged to Mr Broughton. Percy then gave a description of the events before the police chase; 'The Sydney Morning Herald' 27 April 1863; "the substance of the evidence was to the effect that the prisoner, with three other men, two of whom had firearms, with a women and child, called at one of the out-stations of Mr. Broughton, near Marengo, on the above day, and that the party ordered breakfast to be got ready for them, which was accordingly prepared - that they had breakfast, and remained about an hour and a half, and that they had ordered Scarr, who came up to the station to inquire of the party in charge if they were "sticking up" the place to get off his horse and join them, which he did; that the men entered into conversation with him, asked him if he was a good cook, or if he could track, both of which question he answered in the negative, and finally wound up by inviting him to join them by a nobbler, after which they departed..."
The evidence presented by Mr Scarr is compelling. It throws light over Ben Hall's movements between the period of the 14th to 28th March 1863. This evidence correlates with a series of telegrams sent by Sir Frederick Pottinger to the Inspector-General of Ben Hall's movements and Hollister's diary entry of the 14th March, including the earlier interrogation of Susan Prior's brother William. Pottinger believed that Elen Maguire was the lady in company with Ben Hall and others. Mr Scarr's evidence relates to Ben Hall being in the company of a woman and child. The woman is no doubt Susan Prior and the child their daughter Mary. As at this time, Elen Maguire was a mother of two children aged five and two and was still married to John Maguire. The other men present were John Gilbert, John O'Meally, Lowry and Gibson.
The unfolding tragedy was Elen's Maguire's younger brother 'The Warrigal', John Walsh lay dying in a Forbes hotel 'The White Hart Inn', owned by none other than John Wilson the time managed by Hall's brother-in-law John Maguire. The tragedy unfolding was that the young 'Warrigal' had contracted Gaol Fever (There are several forms of Gaol Fever caused by an infectious disease such as rickettsia, transmitted by fleas, lice, or mites, and characterised generally by severe headache, sustained high fever, depression, delirium, and the eruption of red rashes on the skin and death.) whilst being held in custody over his associations with Frank Gardiner since his arrest in August 1862, where through the persistence of Sir Frederick Pottinger who regularly presented the lad in court to have him remanded; S.M.H 26th August 1862; FORBES POLICE COURT- "On the 19th instant, the young lad John Walsh, brought up on suspicion of being a mate of the bushranger Gardiner, was further remanded for three days."
|Woodcut image of|
The next day this note appeared in the newspaper; "a lad named John Walsh, who was apprehended at the time of an unsuccessful attempt to catch Gardiner, has lately died in the gaol at Forbes under rather peculiar circumstances. The verdict returned-"Died of gaol fever"-does not give public satisfaction. Application for a special commission of inquiry is talked of..."⁸⁹ Unfortunately, there was no record of any enquiry taking place. As the saying goes, today's media outrage is tomorrows 'Kitty Litter', and young Walsh's death in the interim faded from public consciousness. John Walsh was buried at Forbes Cemetery in an unmarked grave or lost grave. Thanks to the Forbes Historical Society and others, a memorial plaque bears his name at the Forbes Cemetery. (It is also rumoured that Walsh, O'Meally and Hall are buried side by side.)
|Mr Percy Scarr.|
|John Fletcher Hargraves|
2nd April 1860-31st July 1863
b. 1815 - d. 1885.
However, after all the evidence against Henry Gibson and his well-known association with Ben Hall, Gilbert and others, the case against Gibson was dropped by the NSW Attorney General, and Gibson was discharged on the 17th May 1863. However, an explanation by the Attorney General John Hargraves referred to the lack of a possible Guilty verdict. (see article below.) Although Gibson's did not go free. As on release, he would be quickly re-arrested by Sir Frederick Pottinger and forwarded to Forbes on other matters; ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, Tuesday 2nd June 1863; YOUNG. [FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.] MAY 29th 1863.- "The supposed notorious bushranger, Henry Gibson, alias "Parker," against whom a charge of "suspicion of highway robbery" had been preferred by detective Coward on the 8th of April, and also a further charge of attacking (in company with others) a station near Marengo on the 26th March last, belonging to a Mr Broughton, on which latter occasion it appeared by the evidence that the supposed bushranging party in question had simply demanded breakfast, which had been accordingly prepared for them by the inmates at the hut, when they left, bidding each other "good day" - and who had been committed from this place for trial at the next Goulburn Circuit Court on both of the supposed serious offences, the full particulars of which appeared in your several issues of the 17th and 27th April - suddenly made his appearance in the town in propria persona, to the no small astonishment of many persons. I have been given to understand that the Attorney-General had directed his discharge, not, however, without good grounds for so doing, as on reading over the depositions there was nothing upon which he could file a bill either this step or an acquittal could alone have been anticipated, and no doubt a very proper course had been taken by the Attorney-General in adopting the former alternative. However unfortunately for Gibson, the presence of Sir Frederick Pottinger here had no very great advantage in his favour, in as much as he was speedily deprived of the sweets of liberty before he had enjoyed many hours of fresh air, having been arrested on a warrant issued by the police magistrate, and brought before him on Tuesday, charged with "having on or about the month of March, and divers other occasions, harboured, aided and assisted certain notorious bushrangers, to wit, Johnny Gilbert, Johnny O'Meally, and Ben Hall, contrary to the statute." Sir Frederick Pottinger, who sat on the bench, and not only acted in the capacity of a prosecutor, but appeared in the witness-box against the prisoner, to prove that he knew the prisoner before the court, had frequently seen him at Ben Hall's house, and had tracked him to a place where he was in company with Mrs MaGuire (supposed to be the wife of another notorious bushranger), urged that he might be remanded to Forbes, where there was a witness who would prove that he was actually in company with the before mentioned notorious characters. Mr. Prendergast, who appeared for the prisoner, vainly endeavoured to show that there was no ground for the prisoner's arrest, that the warrant was informal, because no specific charge was laid against the prisoner, and neither time or place alluded to. As a matter of course the prisoner was remanded to Forbes in order that there might be a charge with a specific offence proved against him..."
Moreover, Inspector Pottinger continued patrolling out in the troubled districts hungry for information on Ben Hall's whereabouts. However, Pottinger's information was that the group's destination appeared to be the Fish River through various sources. Although subsequent evidence points to this being more than likely a faint. In fact, Lambing Flat and Burrowra appeared more likely. Consequently, Pottinger dispatched a telegram to the Inspector General of Police on the 4th April 1863, outlining his troopers continuing search in the bush. Furthermore, Pottinger states for the first time his belief that Gardiner has fled NSW: - "Start tomorrow morning via Cowra for the Fish River to co-operate with the southern police, both Captain Zouch and myself having been informed from distinct sources that Gardiner, Gilbert, John O'Mealy, and Ben Hall are there abouts: the three latter are, I believe, in that district, the former I still think is out of the colony. My movements will of course depend upon circumstances; I cannot therefore report thereon now; expect to be absent some fourteen (14) days. Have also sent four (4) troopers and trackers to scour Wheogo, &c Patrol detachments and other stations still in status quo. Sanderson returned yesterday. By-the-bye I hear Captain Zouch has applied for Sanderson to be transferred to Young; I hope you will not consent, as Sanderson a presence here till matters are quite settled is indispensable, Sergeant Rush still very ill, also detective M'Glone, our only detective. Swainson much wanted back."⁹⁰(For more on Gibson, see BH Part 3.)
Unsurprisingly, the Fish River was not their destination. Hall soon re-settled Susan at Lambing Flat, where after more gold strikes, the town once more became vibrant and lucrative as men renewed the rush and once more sought their fortune, only to, in some instances to have it ripped from them at the end of Hall's pistol; 'Empire' YOUNG. [FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT]-27th April 1863; "The cloud of dullness which had hung over this gold-field for some months past, has within the last few weeks, given place to a far more lively state of things. The new rush, twelve miles from Young, ls likely to turn out a large and remunerative one, if the crowd of miners and traders be any criterion to judge by. Public houses and dancing saloons have sprang up like mushrooms, and appear to do a brisk trade. Gold has been traced more than a mile down the main gully, and appears to be trending towards deep ground. Gold has also been struck in a gully between the Ten and Twelve, mile rush; also beyond the ten mile, in the direction of Chew's station. The country around these rushes has every appearance of being auriferous; but appearances are very poor guides to find gold, sinking being the only true test-all the bunkum of a Hargraves as to appear, dances notwithstanding. To sum up, mining prospects have not been so cheering the last twelve months as they are now, and Burrangong yet maintains its claim to the title of being the largest and best paying gold field ever opened in New South Wales. There are many parties gone out prospecting since the new by-laws of the local court have come into force, but sufficient time has not elapsed for the result of their labors to be known."
With Hall and Co narrowly escaping in the exchange with troopers during Gibson's capture, the bushranger dropped from sight as the press reported; Ibid "Bushranging is quiet just now, the spasmodic efforts made by the police to capture the members of the firm of Gardiner and Co. making it necessary for those pests to keep close to their haunts. Why could not all this great parade of force have been made any time within the last eighteen months, when this ruffian roamed at will throughout the district? Now, when he has ruined many young men by his vicious example, robbed and murdered people in their homes-captured an Inspector of police, after an encounter a la Pottinger-and stuck up police stations, our paternal, or rather "maternal Government," sends up the "hero of the colonial Bull Run," and a Sydney detective to try to capture him. Well may he laugh at their efforts. He can now rest easy for the remainder of his days, and while comfortably doing his "pipe," cogitate over the magistrate's "Advice to a Bushranger." I would suggest that Mr Cowper send our worthy P.M. and "The Hero of Bull Bun" to negotiate terms of capitulation, or offer him the Inspector Generalship of police-vice McLerie, appointed to the "Fort Bourke Noodles." However, this lull would be temporary.