Part 3

This website is designed, researched and written by Mark Matthews. It may alter with updated information and research as it comes to hand. This section is a work in progress...

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

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

ben hall
("young man with a pleasant disposition")
Continued from Part 2...
The Charters' former home,
now  Fern Hill. c. 1970's.

Reputed birthplace of 
Henry Hall.
Courtesy Carcoar Historical Society.
However, the political rumblings in Sydney had little effect on Ben Hall as he commenced bushranging operations near Carcoar, 70 miles North East of Lambing Flat. In the year's preceding Hall's bushranging, the district was an area where Hall enjoyed good times in the company of his once closest friend Daniel Charters. A friendship that became strained when Charters turned approver at the 1863 Eugowra Escort Robbery trials in Sydney. Inasmuch as, in August 1859 Hall's former wife Bridget gave birth to their only son, Henry at the home of Charters' mother. (See Birth Certificate on Ben Hall page.) Hall as well maintained ties to old friends who happily offered him a roof over his head. Consequently, stories of the many destructive and heinous assaults perpetrated by Hall against storekeepers, settlers and wayfarers out in the troubled districts of western NSW enhanced his bushranger bona fides as public enemy number one and promoted a celebrity status, as had emerged earlier with his mentor Frank Gardiner. A status that quickly spread amongst the broader Australian citizens highlighted by the newspapers.

Hall's decamping from Lambing Flat was initiated by a concerted effort and round-the-clock pressure by the police as they scoured Hall's bush haunts. To enhance the police's chances of success, the instigated dress code of dispensing with uniform and replaced by bushman's apparel continued to make it difficult for the bushrangers in determining friend from foe. 'The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser' Saturday 5th September 1863; The Marengo correspondent of the 'Yass Courier' writes, under date 20th ult.:— "It is the general impression here that the bushrangers days are numbered — at least, if they are not, they ought to be, for there is now scouring the bush of this district no less than five parties of troopers, each party consisting of six or seven men, headed by an officer and accompanied by a black tracker. The officers commanding these detachments are — Messrs. M'Lerie, Pottinger, Singleton, Orridge, Roberts, and Tippon. These officers have very properly dispensed with all military trappings, arms excepted, and have adopted the costume of ordinary squatters, and their men that of rough bushmen or stock-riders; also, on a pack-horse each detachment carries a tent and provisions. Some parties of foot police are likewise performing their share of the programme, which, being of a highly strategic nature must be kept dark for the present. Sufficient to say that we all think in fourteen or twenty days the majority of the desperadoes will be either killed, taken, or compelled to retreat to their other stronghold, viz., the Abercrombie Ranges; for I'm sure they have or will soon find the Wedden Mountains far too hot..." As police stepped up surveillance those sympathetic to Hall faced scrutiny and unannounced calls. So that the effort hindered an ability to take refuge unmolested. Sympathisers that included Hall's brother William, gold mining at the Pinnacle Range as well as the Charters family who continued to aid Hall up until his death.

Henry Hall.
c. 1895.

Penzig.
Nevertheless, the police failed to break the 'Cone of Silence' of those sympathetic to Hall. Even though a £500 reward was on offer. Carcoar also offered an opportunity for Hall to seek shelter through his elder sister Mary. In 1851 Mary Hall had married an ex-convict, William Wright, and had settled in the Carcoar area first at 'Bulligal Station' where Wright was employed shepherding sheep. William Wright passed away near Forbes in 1861 and Mary married George Huddy at Forbes.

Furthermore, Hall's ability in avoiding capture continued to bring his activities dead centre of political disquiet. Accordingly, much of the outcry in NSW parliament centred around the costs of administering what appeared to be a jinxed police force. Whereby, in some sections of the colony the perceived lack of energy by the police was deemed as scandalous.

Whereby in a budgetary shock to the citizens of NSW, the cost of policing was estimated for the year ending 1863 to be £257,000 (today $21,588,000, £1=$84). Subsequently, in a further shock, the vast amount of the expenditure was being diverted in the pursuit of Hall and Company. Understandably, many members in the NSW parliament were roundly indignant over the costs incurred by a state with an approximate population of 350,000 inhabitants. For this reason many in the press and parliament would not let the matter go unchallenged and continued to badger the Colonial Secretary over his leadership and the impunity in which Hall conducted his terror attacks. The badgering was loudest by those whose constituencies were directly affected by the banditry, in turn, putting their parliamentary seat in jeopardy;[sic]"How was it that Government could not manage to capture a half-dozen bushrangers? Whether five or fifty, they ought to be able to bring them to justice, considering the great expense of the present large police establishment. It is necessary that the head of the Government would devise some plan which would lead to the speedy capture of these robbers. It was, he thought, clearly incumbent upon the members of the Government, and on those who had supported them on the police question to take this matter in hand. It was but too true that the country was now in a great state of insecurity so that something should be done at once."

Regardless of parliamentary outrage Ben Hall continued to rob with impunity holding sway over the Queen's roads. The bushrangers Hall, Gilbert and Burke eased into the Carcoar district where even an onslaught of inclement weather failed to hamper their activities nor assist the police in their pursuit as mining and business slowed as the big wet of spring fell. Newspaper's reported that the only ones profiting under the circumstances were Hall and Co and their touts; OUR GOLD-FIELDS.- "The heavy rains that have occurred at intervals during the past month have been a great drawback to the work of the miners, since every creek, and the river has been flooded, and in many instances, the work of months has been destroyed in a night by the resistless force of the torrents that rush down many of the mountain watercourses or creeks, in the beds or bunks of which so many of our diggers are employed. The accounts from the mines, taken as a whole, are consequently somewhat unencouraging. Gold is scarce, and the storekeepers are complaining of the little business doing. The only activity that prevails is that shown by the bushrangers, Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally, and their gang. Scarcely a day passes without their making themselves heard of, conducting their proceedings in the most open and wholesale manner. A store is bailed up, pack-horses are brought to the door and laden with the proceeds of the robbery, unfortunates who come in to purchase are made to give up their cash without any return, and then the bushrangers ride gaily off, never to be heard of again until another robbery is committed, in the same manner. It is understood that the police in large numbers are scouring the country in every direction, and yet by some means the bushrangers manage to evade them, thus proving that they must be in possession of information of every movement of their pursuers."³

However, by mid-1863 every suspected robbery was a victims cry of Ben Hall! Ben Hall! As it had earlier been Gardiner! Gardiner! However, this was not always correct. Subsequently, in amongst those flooding the gold districts saw in its ranks many rogues and vagabonds. A great number being luckless miners short of a quid or on the lam. Accordingly, a few of those committed one-off robberies. These reported instances inevitably threw the spotlight onto Ben Hall. However, although Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally were well-known, others too were wielding a six-gun. Such as the Druitt, Cocorans, Lynham's and Seary brothers. One or two of these culprits had also ridden with Ben Hall.

John Ward
Similarly, there were robberies performed by Chinese gold diggers. The Chinese, since their arrival on the rich goldfields, continually faced attack and abuse by the Europeans. As such, they were rarely known to retaliate to aggression or to report such. In 1861 hundreds of miners of mixed nationalities routed the Chinese from Lambing Flat. Forcing them into the old disused areas, as such, they became easy targets for robbery, beatings and murder. Despite their general apathy, when the opportunity arose, some Chinese were not adverse to have ago at sticking-up. One notable Chinese miner Sam Poo did take to the roads, raiding travellers between Mudgee and Gulgong in February 1865. As with Hall and Co, Poo had extensive bush skills and evaded capture for some months. However, when surprised and cornered by a trooper named Ward, a chase and gunfight ensued, where Poo mortally wounded Ward. Within weeks of Ward's death, Poo was captured and hung at Bathurst Gaol.

Meanwhile, as Ben Hall, John Gilbert and Micky Burke were undertaking operations in the vicinity of Rockley, Carcoar and Mount Macquarie their compatriots John O’Meally and Vane had lingered behind in the Weddin/Burrangong district. The pair having been ostracised over the murder of John Barnes at Wallendbeen Station. Vane and O’Meally’s had remained in the area of Lambing Flat. (Evidenced through John Vane’s biography.) Vane clearly stated that the pair had not arrived in the neighbourhood of Carcoar until about the 21st September 1863. Vane's memoir appears to preclude the pair from an active part in robberies with Hall between 1st-22nd September 1863; Vane op.cit. "Hall, Gilbert and Burke wanted to make back for the Bathurst district but O’Meally and I were not agreeable, so they left us. A couple of days after this we went to a road leading from the Twelve Mile Diggings to Grenfell and took up a position commanding sight of the road for a good distance on either end. Travellers, most of whom carried a little gold or money, were numerous on those roads at that time, and we wanted to make a “haul” before leaving that part..." Vane then comments;op.cit. "we stayed together for several days on the Black Range, and then parted, Gilbert, Burke and Hall started for Borrowra, on the Yass side, and O'Meally and I remaining at James O'Meally's place at Black Range...” (James O’Meally is John’s uncle and was transported with his father.)

While Hall was in the Carcoar district some of the youthful boys of the Weddin Mountains chastised a patrol of mounted troopers giving off the impression they where bushrangers. The troopers gave chase covering eight miles in pursuit of the boys. Finally overhauling them. The police, not at all amused dealt out a flogging to the mischievous lads. S.M.H. 3rd October 1863; "some silly young men in the neighbourhood of the Weddin Mountains thought proper, a few days since, to ride away in a suspicious manner from a small party of police, with the view, as it would, seem, of leading the police to imagine that they were bushrangers. They led the police a dance for seven or eight miles before they were overhauled by the constables, who, not altogether seeing the fun of the thing, are stated to have administered a salutary corporal chastisement to the practical jokers."

The 19th September O'Meally and Vanes sin-binning come to an end and the pair set about seeking out their comrades at Carcoar commencing the 70-mile trek to rejoin their companions. A trek that took some two to three days; op.cit. “leaving Spring Creek, we made for the mountain called Black Hill and there stayed for a day and a night, receiving shelter in the sawyer’s hut. We here made inquiries concerning Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke, but the sawyer had not seen them, although he had heard of the Carcoar-Bathurst coach having been recently stuck-up, and a policeman’s firearms taken from him; so we concluded they had not left the district which we were entering. We, therefore, pushed on for Teasdale Park, about six miles from Number One, and reaching there after nightfall decided to make our camp at the back of a cultivation paddock...”

The above-mentioned camp would roughly be a mile south from the southern extremity of the Carcoar Dam in the shadows of Mount Macquarie. (The coach robbery referred to is highlighted below and conducted by Gilbert, Hall and Burke.) Vane continues; op.cit. “but two days having passed without our hearing anything, we sent a messenger to Teasdale to make a few inquiries, not only about the police but about Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke who we felt sure were somewhere in that locality...”

Their messenger returned with positive news of Ben Hall. However, in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity between the two parties when coming into contact created some confusion between them. Vane recounted that he and O'Meally had unknowingly stumbled upon the camp of Ben Hall and Gilbert's thinking it was a police camp. However, on the gang finally re-joining. It arose that both sets of bushrangers had feared each other were the police who had resorted to the very effective wearing of bushman apparel, championed by Sir Frederick Pottinger. The five bushrangers following much amusement between themselves, reunited; Vane op.cit. “we were not long in coming together, and full explanations followed as soon as we met, each laughing at the other’ but O’Meally and I claimed the best of it...” Together again the five bushrangers went into camp some six miles north of the nondescript settlement of Number One (Neville) and prepared to mount new and daring activities. Now a formidable gang and heavily armed they would ensnare some unsuspecting troopers.

Cowra Mail Robbery,
NSW Police Gazette
September 1863.
Note, Description of the 2nd
perpetrator fits that

of  Ben Hall.
Prior to their reconciliation and a stone’s throw from the town of Blayney, another brazen mail coach robbery occurred on Saturday 19th September 1863. Subsequently, most historians assume that Gilbert, O’Meally and Burke perpetrated this particular robbery and in some references Gilbert, O’Meally and Vane. Whereas research indicates the hold-up involved not John O’Meally nor Vane, but Gilbert, Hall and Burke. In turn, it is well established through historical records and memoirs that in the days leading up to the 19th September 1863. O’Meally and Vane were transitioning from the Weddin Mountains. Therefore, there is no doubt that the perpetrators were John Gilbert, Ben Hall and Micky Burke. As noted by the au fait description’s provided in the NSW Police Gazette. The latter, in this case wearing a face mask. (See the description right.)

The article below details the days undertaking against the Mail Coach and passenger Mr Garland. As well as other victims including a trooper and a former magistrate who had initially issued the warrant for Frank Gardiner’s arrest in 1861, a Mr Beardmore. Already held under guard by Burke. The details in the article regarding the destruction of a police carbine were perpetrated, however, not by John O’Meally as espoused, but by Johnny Gilbert. Vane confirmed the robbery; Vane "we here made inquiries concerning Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke, but the sawyer had not seen them, although he had heard of the Carcoar-Bathurst coach having been recently stuck-up, and a policeman’s firearms taken from him; so we concluded they had not left the district which we were entering..."
Sydney Mail
Saturday 26 September 1863
ANOTHER ATTACK ON THE CARCOAR MAIL.
In the link above, the Beardmore reference and incident validates Ben Hall's presence. Where he reputedly talked Beardmore out of his notions of a duel with Gilbert by expressing, "that if he wanted a shooting match, he should have brought his own gun." There is also the Garland confrontation whereas, with Beardmore, Garland was a reluctant victim, whereby Gilbert threatened to "blow the gentleman's brains out" for not handing over the money promptly. However, Gilbert was again placated by Hall. Furthermore, later that evening at Flood's Mount the three were lifting horses where they were asked who they were and answered 'police' informing the interrogators that the man in charge was 'Sanderson.' Sanderson was the tenacious policeman stationed at Forbes the hero of the recovery of the Eugowra Gold in 1862 and was well known to Hall. Therefore, Ben often utilised his name to identify himself whenever questioned: "who was in charge". Vane was not present.

It should be noted also that in Charles White's account narrated by John Vane and published after Vane's death, the Cowra Mail robbery is not recalled. Only the later episodes at Marsh's Farm as well as the Stanley Hosie store raid at Caloola. The Cowra mail was a success, and Vane often recounted his successes and bravado. Finally, at various times, the bushrangers went about deliberately confusing victims with their identities by either claiming to be police or each other. Even in some instances stating that Gardiner was observing. Ben Hall was of short and stout stature, even considered overweight roughly 190 lbs-13½ stone as per police descriptions, the others were all lithe. 

NSW Police Gazette
30th September 1863.
With numerous robberies presided over. Hall, Gilbert and Burke reunited with John O’Meally and Vane. Whereby in the wake of a spell in a bush camp, the well-rested bushrangers remounted and returned to the Queen's roads. Consequently, on the 22nd September 1863 as the five bushrangers roamed the scrub near Mount Macquarie, coincidentally, three NSW troopers Turnbull, Evenden and Cromie were also out in the scrub searching for the elusive bushrangers. By mid-afternoon, the three troopers rode up to the small property of a local farmer and his wife, Mr & Mrs Marsh. Their farm sat in the shadow of Mt Macquarie southeast of Carcoar. On arrival, the troopers made inquiries regarding any sighting of the bushrangers. The troopers were also looking forward to some relaxation and refreshments. However, while they were relaxing, Marsh responded to their enquiry and commented that he had seen a horse not far off, saddled, and believed it belonged to the bushrangers. Armed with this information and a quick discussion, trooper Cromie accompanied by Marsh set off to investigate and retrieve the animal. In the process, unfortunately, the pair were suddenly confronted by those for whom the police were seeking.

Subsequently, in the fullness of time, the full scope of Marsh and Cromie's predicament came to light later in December 1863. Here the details of Mr Marsh and the troopers encounter was comprehensively revealed during court proceedings brought against the three troopers, who after their confrontation were charged by Superintendent Morrissett with ‘Neglect of Duty’. As Mr Marsh recounted his brush with the gang he also stated that at the time of the gang’s harassment Mrs Marsh was six months pregnant. See link below for full details,
Empire
Tuesday 8th December 1863
ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE IN VANE'S CASE

A contemporary view
of the capture of the

troopers by Ben Hall.
Courtesy NLA.
However, earlier reports regarding the encounter at Marsh's once more sowed an impression in the public's mind of what was now becoming, not only a police but a political embarrassment for the Cowper government. Criticism as well towards the Inspector-General of Police Captain McLerie; 'Bathurst Times', 23rd, September 1863. - "Sergeant Turnbull and two troopers came into town last evening (Tuesday), about eight o'clock, without arms, ammunition, and chapfallen, and stated that when they joined the police they never expected to be called upon to pursue bushrangers but unfortunately the bushrangers pursued them the whole of Tuesday afternoon, and about five o'clock, bailed them up at Marsh's, about eight miles from Carcoar, and took their carbines, revolvers, pouch box, handcuffs, and sent them about their business. The troopers say it was Ben Hall, O'Mealy, Gilbert, Vane, and Burke and that when they get caught they will be enabled to swear to them, as they had a good view of them."

The deplorable comments above from the three troopers were a blight on the broader police effort. Sadly though, it did paint a picture of the men being terrified over their encounter. As to make such a scandalous statement concerning their lack of pluck brought great discredit to the government as well as the police. The reluctance to face the bushrangers head-on would rear its ugly head at various times over the next few years. Coincidentally, as the gang pressed home their raids in the Carcoar district. At the Goulburn Court, Ben Hall's former confederates, Patrick 'Patsy' Daley and John Jameison, following months in custody were given sentences of fifteen years gaol each, the first year in Irons.

NSW Police Gazette
for Daley and Jameison
sentences.
However, during Mr Marsh's brush with the gang, the farmer went on to make an interesting observation, which was published, regarding how Ben Hall and company had rigged their horses and equipment to resemble the NSW mounted troopers. Possibly in an effort to reverse the disguise of the police as stockmen as such the equipping of their mounts and selves in this fashion bamboozled many a shopkeeper and traveller. Marsh also stated that he had been acquainted with John Gilbert before his taking to the life of a bushranger;[sic] "He had known Gilbert before he took to the bush. When I first saw the men, I thought they were policemen by the way in which they were equipped; they had on belts like those worn by the troopers; they had also pouches and handcuffs on their belts; their carbines or rifles were slung in buckets, and they had holsters for their revolvers on their saddles; their whole appearance was similar to that of troopers." As far as the charges of 'Neglect of Duty' stood. Two of the troopers Trumble and Evenden were both exonerated and continued as troopers. The captured Cromie had no case to answer having been outgunned.

NSW Police Gazette
September 1863.
Encouraged by the humiliation of the three troopers at Marsh's farm, the bushrangers with their additional police equipment headed east towards the exiguous settlement of Caloola, 18 miles from Carcoar. Accordingly, once again the luckless shopkeeper Stanley Hosie, who was a vocal proponent of the police, was subjected to another visit by Gilbert and O'Meally. This time with Ben Hall, Vane and Burke in tow. As had transpired earlier in the August raid following O'Meally and Gilbert's failed bank robbery at Carcoar. Here again, Hosie would be made to pay through the nose for his support of the police. The result being his store upturned. Apart from Hosie, several other persons in the town suffered as well at the hands of the scoundrels they were the blacksmith George Garrett and shoemaker Robert Knott.

Stanley Hosie.
c. 1872.

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

Hosie's store Hill End.
Hosie is first on the left.
c. 1872.

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

Nevertheless, the wanton destruction and thievery at Hosie's store also included the heinous act of shooting, in some reports, horses dead by the gang. Other comments of only wounding the helpless horses yarded at the time. However, again the bushrangers seized what animals they wanted including Hosie's own. The horses wounded were noted as put down;[sic] "the best horses that could be found at the place they took possession of, making them carry a part of the swag; the rest they shot. Leaving the store, the bushrangers adjourned to an inn close by, and there caroused until a late hour..."

In the wake of the gang’s devilment at Hosie’s, the bushrangers ventured across country crisscrossing their way towards another remote settlement the diminutive town of Canowindra roughly 44 miles to the west of Caloola. However, while en route to Canowindra and late on the night of Friday 25th September 1863. The bushrangers diverted to ‘Grubbenbong Station’ some 15 miles distant from Caloola reputedly accoutred in items of police clothing.

john loudon
Mr John Loudon
c. 1863.

Penzig
'Grubbenbong Station' was owned by Mr John Loudon J.P. Loudon had recently been appointed by the NSW Government as a Magistrate of the Colony. In the dead of night, and en-route to Loudon’s the bushrangers made contact with their telegraphs who Hall had previously sent word through that they would call on the Loudon's. The Telegraphs also provided valuable intelligence that several troopers were possibly lodged at the station. Without fear, the bushrangers descended arriving at 10 in the evening invoking their well-practised modus operandi of gathering up the station hands first and securing them in the station’s store. With all the station hands secured the gang then proceeded on to the homestead to track down the reputedly visiting police. Subsequently, Ben Hall, knocking at the homestead's backdoor startled Mrs Loudon who called out, “who was there” and the reply was, “Police”. Mr Loudon then asked which officer and the answer came “Saunders.”

Fearing that the men were not as they had said, the Loudon’s retreated back into their bedroom area. With the backdoor unopened, the bushrangers forced the front door firing a volley of shots. Peppering the inside of the house. Fortunately for the Loudon, there were no troopers present, and miraculously no one was injured by the barrage of shots; ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, 28th September 1863; — "News has just reached here that Gilbert, O'Meally, Ben Hall, Burke, and Vane have stuck up Mr. John Loudon's house at Grubbenbong, near Carcoar. Grubbengbong, fourteen miles from here, had been stuck up about eleven o clock on the night previous (25th Sept), by Ben Hall, O'Meally, Gilbert, Vane, and Burke, who made up to the house and knocked at the door. Upon Mrs. Loudon inquiring who was there, they answered "Police." Mr. Loudon then inquired who was their officer-when they answered Sanderson." Mr. Loudon told them that he would not admit them, and the words were no sooner spoken when a piece was fired, sending six slugs through the door into the passage. The door being unpaneled the bushrangers immediately entered, and having bailed up Messrs. Loudon, Kirkpatrick (Mrs. Loudon's brother) and Wilson, putting handcuffs on them, they ordered Mrs. Loudon and her niece into another room. They then commenced ransacking the place, and searching the men, taking what they pleased. They demanded some supper, and Mrs. Loudon ordered some ham and eggs to be cooked for them, apologising for not having something better to offer them. However, they did ample justice to what was laid before them, ordering, as an additional zest, some wine, which was at once brought them. During the whole of this time, the gentlemen were on the verandah handcuffed. After supper, they had a smoke, Gilbert proposing to go outside as the smoke might be annoying to the ladies. After the villains bailed up the family and helped themselves to what they wanted, they obliged the young ladies to preside at the piano whilst they tripped it on the light fantastic, enjoyed themselves till two o’clock in the morning, and said "adieu! till next we meet," without, however, either robbing or abusing any of the family or inmates but before departing all, except Vane, returned what they had previously taken in the shape of jewellery and trinkets. After they had handcuffed all the inmates they searched the house for policeman they had been told were there. Finding none, they went to prosecute their search elsewhere. They said before leaving Mr. Loudon's house, that if any more troopers were sent from Bathurst, they would capture them, and take them in handcuffs to Carcoar. In conjunction with the newspaper report of the Grubbenbong attack this interesting notice also appeared; Portraits of Lowry, the bushranger, after his death, maybe had of S. W. Fry and Co., 452, George Street, Sydney. (See Gallery page.)

In December 1863, Magistrate Loudon was called as a witness at the trial of John Vane held at Bathurst and testified to the evening's events. The magistrate also describes how well armed the gang were. Carrying both revolvers and carbines and how without any concern for the lives of those inside the home. The bushrangers fired indiscriminately into the house and that O'Meally on entering placed a gun to Loudon's head and threatened to blow his brains out. 'Illawarra Mercury' Friday 11th December, 1863; John Loudon, being duly sworn, said: “I am a magistrate of the colony, and reside at Grubbenbong, about fifteen miles from Carcoar; I have known the prisoner Vane from childhood; on the 26th of September last, about 10 o'clock in the evening, my house was attacked by bushrangers whilst I and some friends were sitting at supper, the servant called out "there are some police here" they were then at the backdoor; I called out who is in charge, and one of them replied "Saunders" Mrs, Loudon said "see it is not the bushrangers," "shut the door "the doors were all fast, and one of the men outside called out "open the door or we will shoot" Mr James Kirkpatrick opened the door to see who was there; Mrs. Loudon and I went into the bedroom, where I generally kept a double-barrelled gun, but I found that Mr Wilson, a friend of mine, had been out shooting that day; he had discharged the gun and left it in an outside store; I then went to the front door and when I opened it I saw O'Meally and Burke standing one on each side of the doorway, with their firearms presented at the door; I at once shut the door, when they shouted that unless I surrendered they would fire or burn the house down; the other three men, Gilbert, Vane, and Hall, forced their way through the passage to the parlour, and a shot was fired by one of them through the bedroom door: there were six balls came through, and there were six holes in the door; I and Mrs Loudon were in the bedroom when the shots were fired; as soon as the gun went off the front doorway burst open, and they then rushed into the bedroom, and seized me, put a pair of handcuffs on me; one of the men took my watch from me; lam not sure whether it was Vane or O'Meally, but Vane afterwards gave it back to me when I spoke to him about it; on one occasion they pushed me back and I said "keep hands off," when O'Meally placed his revolver close to my cheek and said, "I will put this through you if you resist," I was then taken onto the verandah, after that they brought out Mr Wilson, Mr Kirkpatrick, and Mr Young, my overseer and handcuffed them all: the females were also taken to the verandah, and chairs placed for them; there was no violence offered beyond what I have stated; there were three men in the store and they locked the door on them; they then searched the drawers and the boxes, throwing the contents upon the floor; they took a good many articles at the time, but returned most of them before they left the house; they took away with them some shirt studs, a few nuggets of gold, and a bridle belonging to me; they then took us all into the house, took off the handcuffs, and ordered supper; they stopped in the house about four hours, and on going away said they would never trouble me again; Vane amused all present by playing on the piano, but there was not much done while they were there, except that Mrs Loudon talked to Gilbert about his evil conduct, and advised him to give it up. The men were all well armed; O'Meally had six revolvers, and the others had four each, besides their carbines.

The overseer at the time of the audacious raid was Mr Charles Young who had arrived from Scotland in 1860 with his wife Elizabeth onboard the ship 'Telegraph' and commenced work for his kinfolk, Mr Loudon. In later life Mr Young recounted how he attempted to fetch the police but was thwarted by Burke with a gun held to his head; ''During the time Mr. Young lived at 'Grubbenbong' the place was stuck up one night by the Ben Hall gang. While Mrs. Young was preparing supper for the bushrangers, Mr Young endeavoured to get his horse to go for the police, but he was captured and brought back, Mick Burke holding a revolver to his head while the others had a high old time at the house."

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

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

Note the papers use
of satire with the artist name. 
Courtesy NLA.
In the case of the forced entrance at 'Grubbenbong Station', a letter subsequently appeared in 1908 written by one of the ladies held hostage. Possibly Mrs Young, wife of the overseer or more likely one of the young ladies who played at the piano. The letter sheds light on the bushrangers' character as well as an insight into the structure or pecking order of the gang. Where Ben Hall had by all appearances, assumed command and that the effervescent Gilbert had won this particular ladies heart. Through his familiar humour and handsome looks and intelligent conversation; 'Sydney Sportsman' August 1908; “the whole five of them seem mere youths, in their ways, especially. They are always armed though, and ever ready to place their hands upon their revolver stocks. Gilbert is quite a good-looking fellow, is always in a jolly humour, and smiling. He told us he is an American by birth, and I quite believe it, for he seems to be more travelled than the others. O'Meally I don't like a little bit. He looks a spiteful fellow, with hard eyes that flash all about, and take in everything, but never rest in one place for any length of time. Vane is a great, big fellow, but Burke is a little man, and both seem very quiet in their ways. When Gilbert told them to go outside and smoke they at once did so, and seemed more at ease sitting on their heels smoking in the open air than they did in the drawing-room. Ben Hall is a big, young man. He seemed very serious and was always going to the door and keeping watch. The others always went and consulted him about anything they intended doing, and he decided whether it would or would not be done. Gilbert, as I have said, is the best-looking one of the lot, and was on for singing and fun...”

A Dambrod Board.
Mrs Loudon also recounted first-hand years after Ben Hall had with his revolvers drawn walked through the doors of ‘Grubbenbong Station’ and Gilbert’s gunfire raking the inside of the house. The dramatic occasion was relived during an interview circa 1878 and later reprinted in 'The Sydney Morning Herald' on Tuesday 10th July 1923, titled 'The Women Pioneers', by J. Ward Harrison; "I sat one day at Grubbenbong, in the Carcoar district, five and forty years ago, and listened to the story which a member of the Kirkpatrick family, Mrs. John Loudon, told me of a visit from Ben Hall's gang. I had been looking at five holes in the door leading to the bedroom from the room in which I sat enjoying her hospitality. "That," she said, "was Gilbert's work. I mind it as though it were but yesterday. Mr Wilson and my niece were playing dambrod (A chess or checker-board) on a board which Loudon had just bought from town, and Loudon was lying down, a bit tired, on the sofa, there. My husband always said that he wouldna' knuckle-down to the knaves if they ever came his way, and Ben Hall had sent us a message through some of his scouts that he'd be along some night. I heard a knock at the back door and went to see whom it might be. It was Ben Hall though I didna' ken. I opened the door, and there were three of them. They had just put a pair o' handcuffs on my brother James and the overseer, out in the store, that they had taken from two o' the police at the back o' the mount that day, and sent them walkin' into Carcoar without their boots, the villains! Ben Hall said, 'Goodnight, Mrs. Loudon, we're the police.' 'No,' said I, 'I dinna think ye're the police, ye're the bushrangers,' wl' that he laughed. 'Bail up, then,' said he. I let the door slam and came back. 'Loudon Loudon, the bushrangers are here, get your gun, man, get your gun.' Loudon ran into the bedroom to get it, and I followed him in. Wilson came in to say he had had it out to shoot a native cat and had left it in the store. Man! It was a pity. Burke and Vane stood on the verandah in front of the window, in the moonlight, it was a grand shot. With that Hall was calling out to us to come out, and Gilbert put his carbine up and fired shot after shot through the door.

One bullet smashed my mirror, and another splintered a drawer. Wicked destruction, I called it. Some had to go out, and they handcuffed Loudon and Wilson together and sat them on two chairs by the window. Then they said they were hungry, so my niece and I got them some supper, and put it on the table. 'There ye' are,' I said, 'and I'm sorry to say that for the 'first time in my house I canna' say yo're welcome to it.' And I must say the poor fellows were hungry. When the table was cleared, and they had turned the place fair inside out, looking for money, Burke lay down and put his dirty boots upon my sofa, and went to sleep. I told Ben Hall the little wretch would sell him yet. There's none of the breed was any good says I. Hall said if he had any suspicion he would shoot him like a dog. And sure enough, he did, about three weeks after. Don't tell me Keightley shot him. Hall did it himself, I'm sure. But I was real sorry for Gilbert. I talked to him a long time that night. He told me he was sick of the life, and if he could get away from the country he would. But he said, 'there's not one of my mates who would stick at putting a bullet in me if he heard me say what I am telling you,' Poor boy! I used to pray for him every night till I heard that Dunn's grandfather had sold the pair to the police, and Johnny Gilbert was shot." But space is running out. This sketch of the bushrangers' visit to Grubbenbong is a picture of Helen Loudon. And Helen Loudon is but one of a regiment."

J. Ward Harrison went on with this tribute to our valiant women of yesteryear; "These pioneers, they are the source from which has sprung the Light Horsemen who in the Holy Land can bare their heads in reverence as they stumble from out the conflict upon the sacred shrine, and value more than they can express the opportunity of casting forth the unbeliever from the land of holy memories, which their grandmothers hold so dear. And who can tell how much of the calm endurance of hardship, the cheerful facing of odds, the associations expressed the world over in the term "Anzac" found its origin. In the life of endurance and intelligent grappling with difficulties displayed in the life of Australia's woman pioneers, there you will find the Helen Loudon's of the nation." Interestingly! Mrs Loudon raised an issue in that interview that has long been held in contention. That is that in the dramatic attack to come in the following weeks at the station of Henry Keightley, where one of the bushrangers would be fatally wounded. Mrs Loudon was of the belief that the shot attributed to Keightley was, however, fired by another member of the gang? Ben Hall!

Cliefden c. 1900.
Courtesy NLA.
Consequently, departing Grubbenbong the bushrangers rode on to the home of another highly respected pioneer of the district Mr William Montague Rothery, J.P. Rothery owned ‘Cliefden’ 2500 acres situated near Limestone Creek, 5 miles north of today’s town of Woodstock. Cliefden was of particular interest to Ben Hall as it was reputed along with Icely’s Coombing Park to produce the finest thoroughbreds in the district. The horses bred were so valuable that Rothery had installed alarms from the stables to the homestead to combat the attention of horse thieves. The system operated when on the opening of the stable doors, a bell would blare in the house alerting all. The five bushrangers arrived at eleven am and in their usual manner rounded up the staff after which they entered the homestead commandeering Rothery’s midday meal. This also included the enjoyment of copious bottles of Champagne followed by the running in of the famous thoroughbreds for selection; 'Empire', 6th October 1863; “on Saturday, (26th Sept) at half-past three o'clock, p. m., Mr Rothery, Junior, rode into town, stating that about two hours' previously, Gilbert and four other bushrangers had taken their quiet departure from Cliefden about 15 miles from Carcoar. He stated, that at eleven o'clock that morning, he saw Gilbert, Ben Hall, O'Meally, Vane, and Burke, riding up to the house, when he gave the alarm to his father, who ordered the door to be closed and fastened. This done, Mr Rothery and his two sons armed themselves with fowling pieces and revolvers—the cook and ostler being shortly afterwards admitted by the window. The cook was armed with a carving knife and toasting fork, and the ostler with a stable fork and a sickle. By the time these arrangements were completed, the bushrangers came up to the front of the house, when the young men wanted to fire, but their father ordered them not, directing them to plant the firearms and open the door. The bushrangers accordingly entered and took immediate possession of the premises, so that the pluck of these three gentlemen exploded instead of their powder. The ostler and cook were dispatched to their several departments—the one to feed the bushrangers' horses, and the other to cook dinner for them; of which, when ready, they partook with excellent appetites. They ordered a bottle of brandy and champagne, which was brought them without delay, when Gilbert, filling glasses round, proposed the health of Mr Rothery, J P., and his sons, the latter of whom, he said, he hoped shortly to see gazetted as sub-inspectors; believing, as he did, that they possessed as much pluck as most of them. Mr. Rothery, J.P., in a neat speech, returned thanks for himself and sons, and assured them that he felt deeply the compliment they had paid him and was not able to express all be felt, but would represent to the Government the flattering opinion they held of his own and his sons' pluck, as no doubt they would be considered better authorities on such matters than Captain McLerie. After a few more compliments, they inquired of Mr R. what horses he had, and being shown them they tried the animals and selected three, which they took with two new saddles and bridles. It was now two o'clock, and they took their departure, stating that they were bound for Canowindra. As there were no police in town, Mr Rothery returned by himself, being advised to keep the back "slums" in his way back..."

William Rothery
Courtesy NLA
Furthermore, the incursions by Ben Hall were often published in a wide variety of the colony's newspapers with slightly varying accounts of the original outrage. One such paper the 'Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser', published on Thursday 8th Oct 1863, another view of the merriment at Cliefden and Burke's bragging about the capture of the three troopers at Marsh's Farm while they enjoyed the refinements of William Rothery's table;-LATER BUSHRANGING ITEMS.-"Yesterday intelligence was brought into town that, on Saturday 26 September, the five bushrangers Ben Hall, Gilbert, O’Meally, Vane and Burke stuck-up Mr. Rothery's house at Limestone Creek, just as that gentleman was about to sit down to dinner. It is said they handcuffed Mr. Rothery and enjoyed the dinner themselves, washing it down with some champagne which they called for. After dinner, they played the piano and otherwise amused themselves. As they wanted a horse, they took some pains-in selecting one--going into a paddock and making a trial of two or three before they found an animal to suit them. During the inspection of the horses, Burke showed a revolver and a breech-loading rifle, which he "took from one of the bl——dy traps at George Marsh's." They informed Mr. Rothery that they proposed visiting Canowindra and Bungaroo, where they expected to find Mr. T. R. Icely, whom they intended to serve out for being so officious. However, Mr. Icely arrived at Coombing all right on Sunday evening, being fortunate in having missed them on the road. Before leaving they said if Mr. Rothery desired to send to Carcoar for the police, they would be happy to wait for their arrival, as they would then be handcuffed and taken back to their barracks as prisoners."

John Stinson
1850-1921.

Private Source.
In 1921 an old resident of the district John Stinson then a 13yr old farmhand in 1863 working at 'Cliefden' who passed away aged 71, recalled the evening spent in Ben Hall's company. Recounting that Rothery initially decided to defend his station, but wavered at the thought of the loss of life which may have resulted. The situation as presented weighed heavily upon Rothery, therefore, unconfident, the defence of 'Cliefden' was abandoned; 'The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser’ Friday 29th April 1921; "the gang rode into Carcoar on the following Saturday afternoon, and called at the home of Mr. Rothery, where the men, forewarned, were armed with rifles, the cook with a carving knife, and the groom with a long stable fork. Mr. Rothery changed his proposed tactics when the outlaws knocked at the door and hid the arms. The bushrangers ordered the groom to look after their horses and the cook to prepare a meal, which they attacked with full appetites. Glasses went round and Hall proposed the health of Mr. Rothery, J.P. After an exchange of compliments, the gang made off with three of the house's horses..." John Vane's version of these events can be read by clicking the link on the Source Page, 'John Vane Bushranger' and proceed to page 135. Page 137 also re-tells the first Canowindra raid and festivities.

Canowindra from
Blue Jacket Lookout, 2016.

My photograph.
Following a tranquil respite, the gang rode out of 'Cliefden'  buoyant with their success and their three new steads, turned their horse’s heads toward their intended destination the hamlet of Canowindra. Sticking-up travellers they came across as they rode along. 29th September 1863;[sic] - "The bushrangers Gilbert, O'Meally, Hall, and others continue to rob passengers on the Western Road, and to elude the police."

Meanwhile, Hall’s former acquaintance, Henry Gibson after five months in custody finally fronted court. Sir Frederick Pottinger charged Gibson with ‘Shooting with Intent’ at the police. Pottinger wanted his pound of flesh. However, to the court’s surprise, Gibson represented himself. Whereby he wove a compelling defence convincing the jury of his innocence. Claiming that the reason for his friendship and presence in-company with Ben Hall on the day was that he had been acting in the capacity as manager of Hall’s station Sandy Creek. A statement which was in itself far-fetched. As Sandy Creek had been out of Hall’s hands since September 1862, wherein fact Gibson and Hall’s former lover Susan Prior had continued to reside as illegal squatters. Removed only after Ben Hall’s home had been incinerated at the hands of the police led by Pottinger on the 14th March 1863; ‘Sydney Mail’, 19th September 1863; SHOOTING WITH INTENT- "Henry Gibson alias Henry Parker, was charged with shooting at a constable named James Townly, at Brewer River on the 17th of April. This was a case in which the prisoner was proved to be one of the party whom a body of police had chased, under the supposition that they were bushrangers. The prisoner had been called to stand (but not in the Queen's name) and, not complying with the order, had been fired at two or three times and eventually captured. Immediately afterwards a shot was fired by one of the prisoner's companions, the whole of whom escaped. On the prisoner, a loaded revolver was found. Some witnesses were examined to prove they had seen him frequently in company with Gardiner, Lowry, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Hall, in the Wheogo district. The prisoner, who had no legal advisor, spoke in his own defence, and in such a way as to create a great impression in his favour. He said that at the time the witnesses proved having seen him in company with two bushrangers they had not "turned out in the bush," and that he had been managing overseer to Ben Hall when the latter was an honest man and said if they ware criminals surely he was not to be held equally guilty. His Honor summed up very favourably, and the jury retired for a short interval, and on returning gave a verdict of not guilty, which called forth some applause from the body of the court. His Honor ordered these manifestations to be checked, and then spoke as follows:-"It will no doubt be a gratification to you, gentlemen of the jury, as well, no doubt, to everyone else, to learn that the prisoner will not escape. Since the jury retired it had been ascertained beyond all doubt that the prisoner is an escaped convict from Melbourne.” The prisoner was removed back into custody. This verdict was still not enough to save Gibson from justice, however, and he was removed to Victoria for further sentencing on his previous charges. Ben Hall continued his onslaught.
After Gibson's May 1863 release, Sir Frederick Pottinger re-arrested Gibson and he was held over until the Victorian Police bona fides could be ascertained.
Gibson Acquitted, NSW Police Gazette September 1863.
Gibson held for transfer to Melbourne Victoria September 1863.
However, following the sojourns at both Loudon's and Rothery's. The bushrangers, as they had openly stated to Mr Rothery, duly arrived at the bijou town of Canowindra. Whereby, having been appraised by their telegraphs that the troopers stationed there were currently out in the bush the bushrangers rode in. The hamlet of Canowindra was one of the many nondescript villages on the various roads and tracks between Bathurst, Forbes, Orange and Wagga Wagga. Comparable in status to those that surrounded it such as Woodstock, Cargo, Cudal and Billimari.

Nevertheless, over the next few weeks, Ben Hall and band would hover in the district. Canowindra would be the one town that was to become well acquainted with the gang. Gaining lasting historical notoriety. On this occasion, the bushrangers rode into Canowindra and dismounted outside the local General Store of Pierce and Hilliar, drew their revolvers and sauntered in; “on Gilbert and staff arriving at Canowindra, they bailed up the stores of Messrs. Pierce and Hilliar, where they took £3 in money and about £30 worth of goods, recounting, at the same time, some of their former exploits with enthusiasm. The next amusement was to visit the inns of the place. At Daley's they did not do anything worthy of notice; but at Mr. Robinson's they had quite a jollification—there being a piano, dancing was kept up until morning was far advanced. They paid for everything they had, except a valuable horse which the service required. Burke being quite overpowered, had to be roused with some force at 8 a.m., to take the line of march ordered by his Commander...” It was recorded that the property stolen from the store included five pairs of boots, five waistcoats, four pounds weight of tobacco, and £9 cash. In conjunction with their arrival at Canowindra and the absence of the police. The occasion presented an opportunity for the boy's to enjoy themselves as a means of escaping the current wet and trying conditions of living rough. Therefore, without any malice, they gathered up the townsfolk and herded them into the local hotel. Once gathered, the gang exhibited no vindictiveness towards any of the citizens.
William Robinson owner
of the Traveller's Rest Hotel,
situated on the Cowra side of
the Belubula River
12th July 1862.
For Lease.

Moreover, for the town's inhabitants, the evening turned into a welcoming distraction. Conducted in a friendly and festive atmosphere. As such, the night went on to become legendary and was widely reviewed as a thoroughly enjoyable soiree or jubilee with the bushrangers footing the bill at their own expense. No doubt via their ill-gotten gains; 'Empire', 6th October 1863: "On Sunday (27th) evening we received information that Gilbert and his four companions reached Canowindra, as promised, four hours after they left Mr. Rothery's. About six o'clock they rode into town, tied up their horses, and commenced searching every house and person for cash, but obtained a very limited amount. They took from the only stores in town, Messrs. Pierce and Hilliar, about thirty pounds' worth of men's clothing, and three pounds in cash; after which they adjourned to Robinson's, junior, inviting all hands to have a ball, for which Gilbert paid-tea being first ordered. I may state that the landlord and his wife had departed that morning for Bathurst, leaving only his sister and two miss Flanagans in charge of the house.

After the tea-things were cleared away, Gilbert very politely asked one of the young ladies to play him a tune on the piano. Some short time after, a dance was proposed, and commenced about nine o'clock, and continued till daylight next morning (Monday). Constable Sykes being amongst the company, it was proposed by Ben Hall that he (Sykes) should act as M.C. and that Burke and O'Meally should receive any company that might arrive during the evening. The company, we are informed, numbered eighteen at 12 o'clock, and the numbers were not augmented after that hour. Gilbert and his companions called and paid for all they drank during the night, and the night's amusement is spoken of as one of the jolliest affairs that has ever taken place in that small town-not a low or improper word being spoken by the gang. Gilbert kept the crowd in roars of laughter, at intervals, during the night, by giving an account of the police, whom he designated as a lot of cowards and said when he left Rothery's he mentioned where he was going, so that it might be intimated to the police; knowing full well that they would not reach Canowindra until they (the bushrangers) had left. He said they never came till a day or two after. How fully borne out is this assertion, I will presently show. However, to finish my narrative: The bushrangers left Robinson's at five o'clock, and retired to a paddock opposite, where they had two hours' sleep, and left Canowindra unmolested at eight o'clock."

In the aftermath of the night's festivities it was reported that O'Meally, who had many friends and relatives throughout the district paid some of them a celebrity visit; "before leaving Canowindra, O'Meally visited some of this admiring relatives, about three or four miles off, and was most cordially received by them..."

Furthermore, as the gang descended on Canowindra the majority of newspapers still referred to the five bushrangers on occasion as Gilbert's gang and in many instances continued to do so up until mid-1864. However, other observers had given Ben Hall the title as Mrs Loudon commented. Shortly after the festivities at Canowindra a local resident in a letter to relatives gave this characterisation of the bushrangers appearance;  —"The whole five are sober youngsters—none of them drink. They all have breech-loading rifles, and each has four revolvers. Gilbert is a very jolly fellow, of slight build and thin—always laughing. O'Meally is said by everyone to be a murderous-looking scoundrel. 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 years of age. Vane is a big, sleepy-looking man, upwards of 12 stone. Mick Burke is small. They seem at all times to be most thoroughly self-possessed and to perfectly understand each other, and being sober men are not likely to quarrel. They appear to be always talking of their exploits and of the different temperaments of the people they "bail up."

Crossing the Belubula.
Contemporary Illustration
by Frank Dunne,
Smiths Weekly.

1935.
Courtesy NLA.
On the Sunday 27th September, a near tragedy occurred when the son of the Inspector-General of police Captain John M’Lerie, Sub-Inspector George McPherson McLerie came to grief whilst crossing the flooded Five Mile Creek near Carcoar, the result being that he almost lost his life while on patrol searching for Ben Hall; "Mr. Inspector M'Lerie had a narrow escape from drowning on Sunday night. He and his men were returning to Carcoar, and on attempting to cross the Five-mile Creek, he was swept down — his horse being turned over and over in the stream— and but for the assistance of some diggers encamped near the spot, he must have perished."

The day dawned and the night’s entertainment at Robinson’s hotel saw the pleasantries end as information came to light regarding the gang’s movements following their departure. It arose that the bushrangers separated, O’Meally and Gilbert remaining close to the town, whereas, Hall, Burke and Vane headed off to secure new mounts. However, the rain had been falling steadily, and the Belubula River was rising as Hall and the other two crossed over to the southern side. They rode on to ‘Bangaroo Station’ owned by Mr Icely. Here they obtained three good horses, then commenced their return to Canowindra. As the three bushrangers approached the previous crossing point, they were surprised and disconcerted to find the river had risen considerably. On the opposite bank, Gilbert appeared with O’Meally. They were calling out that a party of troopers had camped across from the town on their side. Held up from crossing by the rising waters they consulted amongst themselves, deciding to swim the flooded river. Without hesitation and stripped naked their guns rolled into their clothes Hall plunged his horse in first;[sic] “it was decided that the three men on the south bank should swim their horses across. They dismounted, undressed, rolled their clothes round their revolvers, making each a compact bundle. These they strapped on their saddles, and, remounting, completely naked, they rode to the river bank, Ben Hall leading. His horse plunged into the flood-waters and sank to its neck and to its rider's waist. Swimming strongly, it reached the north bank…” Next to go was Vane, but unfortunately, his horse stuttered and became unmanageable as it made the plunge into the raging waters. When the animal did so;[sic] ”it floundered helplessly, its clumsy attempt at natation being hampered by the fact that its rider was a big man and clumsy of build. This caused the animal to be top-heavy. When Vane made an effort to keep its head turned upstream, it swung round too abruptly, almost roiling over, and, as a result, unseating its rider. Vane struck out for the shore and joined Ben Hall…”

As Vane’s horse floundered in the racing waters, Micky Burke also naked attempted to retrieve the distressed animal. Where after a struggle Burke managed to save the horse from drowning, however, the panicked horse in its thrashing had lost Vane’s saddle including £25 in bank-notes, two revolvers, and other assorted possessions. By now the waters were too quick to cross, therefore;[sic] “Mickey Burke who was still on the south bank of the stream, still naked and seated sideways in the saddle, he held consultation across the yellow rush of water with his two dressed and two undressed comrades on the north bank. They decided that he should drive the two stolen horses across the stream, and this was done. But these, also, had such difficulty in fighting the current that it was thought unwise to take, any further risk, especially as the river was likely to go down, just as quickly as it had risen. It was arranged, therefore, that Burke should remain on the south side of the river during that day, while the other four should return to Canowindra, where Burke could rejoin them the following morning. He dressed and rode away to the hut of a sympathiser in the bush toward Mt Logan…” That evening a soaked Vane returned to Canowindra and again ventured into Pearce's store to replace his attire from the remnants he was wearing as recounted by Pearce's brother who was looking after the store; "Vane made his appearance at the store the night after they had taken their departure. His clothes were wet, and he said his horse had sunk with him in attempting to cross the river. He had a revolver in his hand and said he must have some dry clothes. He then took a Crimean shirt, a pair of trousers, and a pair of boots."

'Sydney Mail', Saturday, 10th October 1863;- [From a Correspondent.]- Carcoar, Saturday. October 3rd.- “I mentioned in my last that Gilbert and his gang were at Canowindra on Sunday morning, and left there at eight o'clock a.m. They then proceeded to Bangaroo (Mr Icely's station) and took some horses. In crossing the race at Duffy's fall, they had to swim, and in doing so Vane lost his seat and was precipitated into the water—the horse being carried down some distance, till he washed against a tree. The girths then breaking, the horse made for the bank, where he was secured by the others, who ran down for a mile on foot to catch him. The saddle and swag, containing three revolvers £25 in notes, and some clothing, were lost. They then returned to Canowindra, ran some horses into the town, and slept there on Sunday night. I may state that when they were within half-a-mile of the town, they (the bushrangers) sent a message by a man named Sullivan, an old resident of Canowindra, to the police, that they were prepared to meet them and would stop there for them, so long as no more than six came. That they would fight them man to man and allow the police one extra to take the place of the first trooper that fell. Sullivan took his message, but the police said they could not cross the river. Sullivan offered to punt them across, but they declined!"

Sullivan had been sympathetic to the bushrangers having punted them across the river on other occasions. He was a man that Hall trusted to pass on the offer of a duel to the NSW police. Crossing the swollen river, Sullivan fronted at the camp of the pursuing troopers and relayed the challenge from Ben Hall. To facilitate the proposed duel, Sullivan offered to ferry the police over to the bushrangers side. However, Sullivan's keenness in offering to help raised suspicion amongst the police. Who suddenly realised that Sullivan might be a Charon with a more sinister motive and hastily declined the offer.

With a near miss from drowning, John Vane recounted the eventVane op.cit. “Hall, Burke and I rode down the river to Bangaroo Station hoping to get fresh horses; but there were no horses in the paddock, and we returned up the river again, only to find it in full flood. Shortly after we had reached the river, Gilbert rode up on the other side of the stream and said there were a lot of police higher up on the top crossing, waiting for the floodwaters to subside, and they were camped just opposite the town; so we made up our minds to swim the river without delay. First stripping our clothes off we each folded our revolvers and ammunition inside, rolling them up securely, and strapping the bundle securely to the saddle. Hall was first in the water and I followed close behind; but my horse would not swim, and when he reached the strong part of the current he turned turtle and sank, raising only to be carried down the stream until he came near the bank on the side from which he started, which I reached in safety. When he reached the bank the horse got his head between two saplings that were growing close together and became fast, while his hindquarters remained in the stream. He remained in this position until Burke, who had not started to cross, ran down and pushed his head back when the stream caught him again and carried him into the branches of an old oak tree that had fallen in the river. He sank once more and remained so long underwater that I thought he was drowned; but he rose again, this time without the saddle, and made for the opposite bank, where I was standing when I caught the bridle and assisted him out. With the saddle, I lost my clothes and firearms and £19 in money. Burke did not cross the river till next morning, by which time the water had fallen; but Hall, Gilbert, O’Meally and I rode away from the river and camped for the night on a hill overlooking the town. We paddocked our horses there and re-saddled at day-break next morning when Burke re-joined us...”

However, a loss of weapons and devoid of suitable clothes the bushrangers returned to Canowindra too refresh their wardrobe;[sic] "Gilbert and O'Meally dismounted and assisted Johnny Vane to unstrap their reserve pack, from which Johnny was able to make up a set of clothing sufficient for the moment. They then remounted, and, with the two stolen animals on a lead, and with big Johnny Vane perforce riding bareback, returned to Canowindra and committed a breach of Sunday trading regulations by helping themselves to a new saddle and a suit of clothes at the general store. By that time it was afternoon, and they decided to make for the hill at the back of the town, where they could paddock and rest of their horses..."

"Bail- Up"
(Unknown artist)
In a buoyant mood after their recent jubilee at Canowindra as well as surviving the fording of the flooded river, the gang allowed Micky Burke his first opportunity for a solo performance in coach robbing. However, just in case the young bushranger was unable to handle the robbery. The remainder of the gang observed the proceedings from the nearby bush. Accordingly, Burke came through with flying colours; ‘S.M.H. October 1863, - “The Carcoar mail has been stuck up again. It was stopped by Burke alone, while Gilbert, O'Mally, Vane, and Hall lay concealed. The mail bags were cut open, and the money in the letters about £10 was abstracted."

Furthermore, the newspapers continued commenting on the ease with which the bushrangers robbed uninterrupted and editorialised the widespread belief that the gang had the police’s measure; 'Bathurst Times', 30th September 1863;-"In the Bathurst district, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Company appear to be as busy as ever, helping, themselves indiscriminately to whatever they choose. The police are in hot pursuit, but, so far, have not succeeded in apprehending any of the gang; and we cannot but regret to see the belief expressed that the constables are afraid of them. We certainly should be glad to see these offenders brought to justice, but the lawlessness of their pursuits keeps them so constantly on the alert, that their capture is far easier to write about than to effect." “Afraid of them” rang out in the corridors of power. As the above writer's ink was drying Ben Hall was about to conduct one of the most daring raids in the annuals of Australian colonial history. An assault which sent shock-waves into the very heart of colonial power.

Furthermore, in 'Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' reprinted from an earlier article of the ‘Yass Courier,’ again referenced the incineration of John O’Meally’s family homestead. The O'Meally subject as well appeared to demonstrate a certain sympathy toward Ben Hall in his current circumstances as well as strong criticism of the actions of the police, seemingly condoned by the NSW government; 'Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' Saturday 26th September 1863; “within the last two years several bad characters have been captured at O'Meally's; therefore, this burning down looks like destroying the trap that ensnared the vermin. Such Culverhouse acts will never stop bushranging; they are more likely to increase it, as in the case of Ben Hall, who was rendered the desperate outlaw he now is principally through the police burning down his once comfortable homestead, and thrusting his wife and family into the shelter-less bush. At least one of the victims in Hall's case must have been innocent, for it was an infant at the breast. But acts of indiscriminate harshness have been, and always will be the distinguishing characteristic of a weak government. People around here say that as some police inspectors find themselves incompetent to take the leading bushrangers, they, therefore, vent their disappointment and rage upon the robbers' relatives, i.e., by rendering houseless their aged parents, wives, and children. Such retaliation indeed smacks of the medieval ages, and is unworthy of the enlightened nineteenth century..."

Reputed portrait of
Joseph Harpur.

Courtesy of  Harpur Critical
Archive.
However, the assumption’s expressed above have long proven to be without foundation. What’s more, the above ‘sympathetic’ article may have been composed by the same gentleman who had penned (unlike today where almost every article will bear the journalist’s name whereas, in this period writers were only referred to as correspondents and therefore did not attach their name nor deem themselves as pseudo celebrities!) the earlier June 1863 article in the ‘Yass Courier’ on Ben Hall’s life. (See Ben Hall page.)

Nonetheless, the above article may well have sought out some empathy from the reader by conjuring up a view in the public mind unacquainted with Hall's background and fall from grace by encompassing on the one hand, pity, and on the other a somewhat perverse praising of Hall’s au courant actions. The general upsurge in Hall’s notoriety via the newspapers covered the purported injustices wrought by authorities against Ben Hall when as a settler, as well as those acquainted with him such as the O’Meally’s. A point of view, far from the truth.

Remember that Hall’s ownership of his station had been relinquished voluntarily in September 1862. Whereby his former home was illegally inhabited contrary to the new owner John Wilson’s wishes. Thereby under the auspices of the ‘Crown Lands Occupation Act of 1861,’ it too was incinerated to prevent its continued use as a bushranger base up to 14th March 1863. NSW Parliamentarian Joseph Jehoshaphat Harpur who personally knew Ben Hall through his mother Sarah Walsh nee Harpur nee Chidley often defended the affected settlers. Harpur was severely critical of the police’s heavy-handed practices against those settlers in the spotlight;[sic] "Mr Harpur, Mr Cummings, and Mr Dalgleish censured the police generally, and especially denounced them for burning down the houses of Ben Hall and the elder O'Meally."

The Bushrangers.
Courtesy NLA
However, Harpur's criticism of the police and their perceived aggression was out of step with the reality of Hall's defiant actions. Many of the settlers were terrified. The newspapers in pursuance of the recent outrages persisted in more damning editorials over the bushrangers escapades. Editors indignant at the ease of the attacks and demanded explanations from the NSW Legislative Assembly as to why the NSW police at extraordinary cost were so reluctant to engage the bushrangers. Inferring that if the troopers conduct at George Marsh's Farm was anything to be measured by. Then the public had utterly misread the abilities of the NSW Police and its leadership and the legislative power of the government in effecting the capture of the bushrangers. The disgrace regarding the inadequacies of both the Government and Police were highlighted in the attached article below.
Sydney Mail
10th October 1863
THE REIGN OF TERROR.

NSW Police Gazette
7th October 1863.
Unperturbed by all the press reports surrounding their atrocities 'The  Boy's' whenever possible sought out newspapers to obtain the latest on their antics and selves viewing the stories with amusement and ridicule. Unsurprisingly, with their most recent successes and narrow escapes, the gang had become utterly indifferent to the forces of the NSW police and their floundering pursuit. Ben Hall knowing he held the upper hand the gang casually drifted from their jubilee at Canowindra tracked east towards the provincial town of Bathurst a mere 55 miles distant.

Moreover, without any fear of discovery, though their presence in the area was widely confirmed by locals, many of whom enjoyed a visit. The bushrangers made the outskirts of the provincial town forming a camp close to Bathurst at Swan Pond. Swan Pond ran alongside Evans Plains Creek 4 miles from the town centre. Furthermore, they as well set up another base camp further south at Long Swamp near 'Mulgunnia Station' on the road to Trunkey. 'Sydney Morning Herald', 1st October 1863 announced the gang's presence in the Bathurst district;[sic] “Good information has just been received that the bushrangers were seen camped about fifteen miles from Bathurst three hours since. These scoundrels have been within twenty-five miles of this town, committing all kinds of depredations, during the last week, and it is firmly believed that the police, from their dilatory and sluggish proceedings, are afraid of them...” Where were they! The police that is? 

However, the freebooter's activities had many of the district asking just that! Where were the police! The question of the polices' inability to corral the gang following the Canowindra party brought another severe criticism from the 'Sydney Morning Herald', 7th October 1863 expressing disdain at the response to the gang's Canowindra, Rothery and Loudon outrages; "I would now say something about the police:"information reached Number One Swamp of the sticking-up of Rothery's and the bushrangers going on to Canowindra, about five o'clock on Saturday evening. Mr Superintendent Morrisett immediately dispatched five troopers to Canowindra ordering them to call at Clifden on their way up. Instead of proceeding direct, they first came to Carcoar, which they did not leave till nine o'clock p.m. Previous to their departure, they, however, received information that left very little doubt as to the bushrangers being at Canowindra. Now, giving them seven hours to get to Canowindra - thirty-two miles — they ought to have reached there at four o'clock a.m., where they would have had a good chance of taking the bushrangers, but, from some cause they did not arrive at Canowindra till eleven o'clock—three hours alter the bushrangers had left—thus taking fourteen hours to travel thirty-two miles! It is proved beyond a doubt, that when the bushrangers left Mr. Rothery's they kept the road the whole distance, meeting carriers and others. The police could have heard, and no doubt did hear, from the teamsters camped on the road, that the bushrangers had passed in the direction of Canowindra, and they're failing to reach that place, goes to prove what Gilbert said about them that they have not "the pluck" to meet them. This, however, is not the opinion of Gilbert only, but the police believe the same thing. Certainly, these five troopers should be called to account by Mr Morrisett, who to a certain extent is held responsible for the conduct or misconduct of his men. Then again we hear that a magistrate and his stockman were going into Canowindra about ten o'clock on Saturday evening when he heard that the bushrangers were at Johnson's Inn. Much to his praise, he rode to the first police station, Cowra, about eighteen miles off, reaching there about twelve o dock, and found two troopers in the barracks. He informed them of what was going on at Canowindra and directed them to proceed there, but they refused to go, saying "two were of no use" Consequently, they could be seen the next morning turning out with polished boots, calculating, it is presumed, when the aberrants would be up so that they might fill in their pay. Such is the state of the police system, that these same two troopers are sent down with, and to deliver, Mr Icely's horse while the mail coach comes down unprotected..." Having evaded the police the gang bedded down in their bush camp. The police flounded in the bush. Were they afraid of the gang? However public debate continued to rage in and out of parliament over the gang’s round-the-clock reign of terror.

October 1863 commenced with Ben Hall and John Vane breaking camp at Long Swamp and proceeded on horseback in the direction of the Trunkey Diggings in search of some gold; Vane op.cit. "leaving Long swamp early next morning, Hall and I decided to take a short run in the direction of the Trunkey Diggings, for gold had always had an attraction for us, although we didn't trouble to search for it as the diggers searched..." Consequently, while traversing a gully, the pair came across two young men whom they instantly ‘bailed up’. These unfortunate victims were the sons of two of the most esteemed members of the local Bathurst community. They were Mr Randolph 'Dolph' Machattie, son of the well-known and highly respected Dr Machattie and the son of the courageous NSW Police Captain, Edward Battye. Edward Battye at the outbreak of Gardiner/Ben Hall’s bushranging activities in 1861/62 had been the officer in charge at Lambing Flat. Furthermore, during his tenure at Lambing Flat, Captain Battye had had moderate success in the suppression of both cattle duffing and bushranging. Now his second son, Charles Herbert ‘Bertie’ Battye was being held at gunpoint by one of his former adversaries. (In 1861 Charles was nominated for a commission in Her Majesty's land forces. His older brother Montague joined the NSW police in August 1863 and was posted to the Lachlan district. In 1865 he resigned.)

However, with youthful bravado, a verbal exchange arose between young Machattie and Ben Hall. First in the form a running race then of a pugilist contest. Ben Hall with a hint of amusement declined. Undeterred the young men were to have the final say and goaded the bushrangers to display some real spunk and dared them to come and knock over the district capital west of the Blue Mountains, Bathurst.; 'Empire’, Tuesday, 6th October 1863; - The Bathurst Free Press of Saturday last publishes the following:On Thursday morning, at a place called One-Eye, near Mulgunnia, young Messrs. Machattie and Battye were stuck up by Hall and Vane. The young gentlemen were out surveying and had dismounted from their horses to roll up their cloaks when two ruffians appeared and ordered them to stand and give up what money they possessed, they had each twenty-two shillings, but the robbers returned the odd two shillings, they eased Mr. Machattie of his watch, and searched each, for pistols or revolvers. They detained both gentlemen as prisoners for two hours and a half, during which time a continued "chaffing" was kept up. One other victim who passed along was stopped and taken prisoner, but as the robbers could only find a few shillings upon him they declined to take them. One of the bushrangers showed the young men how to take the shoes from a horse's hoofs with the help of a stirrup-iron, and by way of illustration pulled off the shoes of the two forefeet of Mr. Machattie’s horse in a few seconds. To relieve the monotony of their forced captivity several proposals were made to the bushrangers, one consisting of an offer to run Hall two hundred yards for the ownership of the horses, and another to have a little amusement in the shape of a fight. The bushrangers laughed and said they would fetch "the toad," meaning Burke, as he and Battye would be about a match. On being asked where their three companions were, they said "close by," adding that they were going to get some horses out of Mr. Smith's paddock. They said they must take the young gentlemen's horses, but if they could get better, they would leave them where they could be easily recovered. A ring worn by Machattie in his scarf attracted Hall's attention, but upon learning that it was prized as a maternal gift, the bushranger declined to appropriate it. Hall showed a revolver which he had taken from one of the three policemen at Marsh's and said they did not offer the slightest resistance. As no one else appeared to be coming along the road, the prisoners were released and before they left Hall returned Machattie’s watch The two men are described as being very muscular, and to betray no symptoms of care and anxiety. Hall was continually laughing, but Vane was sullen and morose.” It is most interesting to note that the two bushrangers referred to their mate Burke as the "Toad", that might indicate that the drawn portrait of Burke long in circulation may be quite flattering.

John Vane in his biography, ‘John Vane, Bushranger’ provides a first-hand account of the encounter with the two sons of Captain Battye and Dr Machattie; Vane op.cit. “evading the main road, we were quietly jogging along a gully when we met two young surveyors on their way to Bathurst – “Dosh” Machattie, son of the late Dr Machattie, and young Battye, son of the then well-known Captain Battye, of the Western police. Without much ceremony, we bailed them up, but neither of them was burdened with riches, and we didn’t get much.  Battye wanted to run me a foot-race (he was a good sprinter), but I was “not on,” and there was some light talk about an engagement with fists; but this came to nothing. Before leaving, Machattie said, “Why don’t you come to Bathurst? I suppose you are not game?” Hall replied that we would show him whether we were game or not and that we would pay the big town a visit during the following week. They took this as a big joke and a piece of boasting and bluff on our part; but, as the result proved, they had put a thought in our heads which led to a determination that was fully and faithfully carried out...”

As the bushrangers reigned supreme. The battle in the NSW Parliament fought by many of the members representing the troubled western district's and who were subjected to the disgruntlement of their constituents. Remonstrated over the police's poor conduct whereby some members were facing a revolt in their seats. (Many seats were tenuous as compulsory voting only came into force a decade after Federation in 1912.) The fear of losing their seat resulted in Mr Cowper facing sustained attacks with many of those affected members wrestling with the call for change. Agitated by the ambitious James Martin. The upheaval thereby forced Mr Cowper to publicly rebuke the Inspector-General of Police, Captain McLerie; “on Wednesday night the Colonial Secretary read several telegrams to and from the Inspector-General of Police. Captain M'Lerie was informed that the Government were disgusted at the behaviour of the police and that he would be expected to resign if the five bushrangers, including Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Hall, were not captured within a month. And further, that a new force would be inaugurated. The House expressed its gratification at this decided step on the part of the Executive...” 

Of course, as with the 21st-century politician's talk is cheap! Obfuscation an art form. The 'Lachlan Miner', of September 30th 1863, owned by H.P. Williamson who later in the year be called upon by Hall and Gilbert highlighted the trial and tribulations of a police force under immense pressure to achieve results and for the first time the press referred to the contest between the bushrangers and the police as a 'Bushranger War'STILL THE BUSHRANGER.- “The aspect of the war. (for we can call it nothing else) between the bushrangers and the police, is becoming every day more alarming to the peaceable inhabitants of New South Wales; and were it not for the imminent danger to which both properly and life are exposed, the performances of our defenders would be truly a farce of the broadest kind. Not satisfied with, attacking parties of police sent out to scour the country in search of offenders, the present "Overseers of Roads" have actually been searching premises, where they expected the "protectors of life and property" were concealed; and the rifles and handcuffs are now transferred from those who either could not or would not use them, to others who both can and, will. We are told by the Bathurst Times, in the most matter-of-fact manner, that when two troopers went out from, Mr. Marsh's, near Carcoar, after hearing two shots, which they must have supposed to have been exchanged between bushrangers and one of their mates, who had accompanied Mr. Marsh to secure a stray horse, only one of them had taken the precaution to have his rifle with him. The one who had his arms, as a matter of course, gave them up, and these troopers were specially sent out to take bushrangers. No wonder the Times recommends make-believe fire-arms, so that the bushrangers may not be benefited. Why not have dummy troopers, who would benefit the country, by costing nothing for pay, and wearing out no shoe leather? While these accounts are reaching us every hour-while the district, from Bathurst, round Canowindra, Cowra, and Carcoar, is in a state of martial law if the law of bushrangers can be called by such a name-we hear of but few efforts (beyond the old six-and-eight penny ones) being made by the police. The Lambing Flat papers, as well as those of the "Great City of the West," teem with reports of robberies, handcuffing’s, and murder's; enlivened at intervals by an account of a spirited, and usually successful resistances by some "private individual”, who does not receive Government pay for allowing himself to be shot at. The proceedings which have lately taken place in the Bathurst districts are a disgrace to the police officers, and men who are supposed to protect others, but cannot, in reality, take care of themselves. The same applies in a large degree to the Burrangong district; where it certainly appears that the inhabitants must look out for themselves. Such a stigma upon officialdom, we venture to say, has never been cast in any other British colony. But why should we waste more time and space upon a subject which we have worn threadbare, without the least advantage resulting to anyone, or the slightest effort having been made by the Government?”

NSW Police Gazette,
30th September 1863.
In turn, the above article highlighted the actions of successful resistance administered by a "private individual”. That individual was a local squatter Mr Thomas Wilding, (although not named) proprietor of 'Wildash Station' near Burrowa who earlier in the month of September 1863 had been bailed up at home by two bushrangers, resulting in the killing of one perpetrator. A death which was mercilessly meted out by those guests present while held at gunpoint. The other assailant after a ferocious beating lay close to death. Furthermore, the two bushrangers may or may not have been fringe dwellers of Ben Hall and Co. The two men were named James Murphy and Frederick Phillips of Lambing Flat. From the ‘Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser’, Thursday, 1st October 1863; STICKING-UP NEAR BURROWA.- ONE BUSHRANGER FELLED, AND THE OTHER MORTALLY WOUNDED. A CORRESPONDENT of the Yass Courier writing under date 23rd instant, says: -" Mr. Thomas Wilding's residence at Gunary Creek, seven miles from Burrowa, was attempted to be stuck-up last night by two bushrangers, one of whom was shot dead, and the other severely wounded by Mr. Wilding and another party who was in the house at the time. The dead body was brought into Burrowa this morning on a cart. The other man is not expected to recover. Another correspondent states that no firearms were used by Mr. Wilding, but that on the bushrangers entering the house they were attacked with cudgels; that the head of one man was thoroughly beaten in and the jaw of the other broken in three places. When the last accounts were received the wounded man was in Burrowa lying in a very precarious state. We refrain from entering into further particulars, as various accounts of this affair are current, and we, therefore, prefer waiting until we are in possession of an authentic statement, which we shall be provided within due course. The names of the men are Phillips and Murphy, alias Jem the Blackguard. An enquiry was commenced on Thursday morning. Phillips, under the name of Vane or Kane, was tried and convicted, about three years ago, for abduction. He and Murphy were suspected of sticking-up Maloney's inn, at Wallah Wallah, a short time since. The writer adds: I saw both the murdered man and the prisoner; the former had four large cuts on the back of the head, which broke that part of the skull into fragments; The latter's jaw is broken in two or three places, and he is so beaten and chopped about the face and skull, that there can be very little hopes of his recovering."

The citizens of Burrowa and its surrounds who for some time suffered the pillaging and plunder of Ben Hall and gang were gratified by the news of two bushrangers being captured and especially joyous in one meeting his death. (Bushranger deaths were treated with jubilation.) However, on the news spreading of the confrontation at Wilding's the townsfolk rushed to the lockup to catch a glimpse of the surviving severely beaten robber and a view of his displayed dead mate. At first, it was rumoured the men to be either Gilbert or O'Meally; ‘Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser’, Tuesday 20th October 1863; "the townspeople, who had already, heard of the affair, and the supposed capture of Gilbert and O'Meally, ran in crowds towards the lock-up to ascertain its truth and to satisfy their curiosity by feasting their eyes on the two men who had committed so many depredations but much to their astonishment, the men turned out to be James Murphy, better known as Jemmy Blackguard well known in the district for some seven or eight years, being in the employment of several of the settler's, and a man of very small stature; the other, the survivor, calls himself Frederick Phillips, of huge size..."

The captured survivor was described so; "The above account was received from a man in Wilding's employment. The writer adds: I saw both the murdered man and the prisoner; the former had four large cuts on the back of the head, which broke that part of the skull into fragments; The latter's jaw is broken in two or three places, and he is so beaten and chopped about the face and skull, that there can be very little hopes of his recovering. The Goulburn Herald says: A correspondent writing on Monday states that after two, lengthy sittings, the coroner's jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide. He adds that, according to the evidence adduced, there is no reason to doubt that the case really was one of bushranging." Phillips recovered and went down for five years hard labour on the roads.

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

Courtesy NLA.
The earlier words of Machattie and Battye ringing in their ears the bushrangers were only too game to create a sensation, appearing in force on the evening of Saturday the 3rd of October 1863. This date marks one of the most audacious raids ever committed by bushrangers in the history of NSW. Ben Hall, John Gilbert, O’Meally, Vane and Micky Burke subsequently breezed into the social and cultural hub of the NSW Western Districts, Bathurst. A sprawling township and gateway to the western districts referred to as the 'City of the Plains'.

In November 1813 Surveyor William Evans set out and successfully accomplished the task of completely transiting the Blue Mountains, consequently, reaching the Macquarie River some forty-two miles beyond Bathurst. Evans was the first European to cross the Great Dividing Range. However, faced with many trials and tribulations, the famous expedition led by Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth earlier in 1813 fell short of having traversed the Great Divide. Furthermore, after Evans struggled across those majestic ranges, it was noted"surveyor William Evans is gazing with a contented heart at the wonderful panoramic view of virgin country that lies below him. It was like a glimpse of Paradise after his strenuous journey over the Blue Mountains..."

The founding of Bathurst occurred in 1815 and was established on the main trail to and from Sydney via the track cutout across the Blue Mountains and constructed by William Cox which was fully completed in 1815.[sic] "Governor and Lady Macquarie, the year after its formation, drove in a carriage over this road, which was highly spoken of by Surveyor Oxley in his published reports. For this service, Mr. Cox received a grant of land on the Bathurst Plains, which he called Hereford." This crossing was the footnote that changed Australian History.

Father Jerome Keating,
who married Ben & Bridget
as well as her sisters Ellen
and Catherine Walsh.
c. 1870's.

Courtesy E. Penzig.
Furthermore, Bathurst had been a town that Ben Hall was familiar with as in 1856; Ben married Bridget Walsh at St Michael's Catholic Church on William Street. Father Jerome Keating performed the nuptials. In Hall's pre-bushranging days he was known to often visit. These stay overs were also in the company of his older brother William. Following his marriage Hall reputedly held his wedding party at the 'Bentinck and Piper Inn', licensed to Alexander Crilly. Afterwards, the newly married couple enjoyed Bathurst for a reported five days.

However, for the bushrangers as a whole, Bathurst was also the lion's den, for the town was the headquarters of the NSW Western police aptly led by Superintendent Morrissett. Superintendent Morrissett along with other NSW police officers, including Inspector Pottinger were continually scouring the local area for the five elusive bushrangers.

Consequently, the arrival of the gang rumours began circulating of their presence and where alarmist cries were heard to ring out in the early evening of "bushranger" "bushranger," creating a sensation, as well as panic. In turn, the much-publicised 'Bushranger War' arrived at the front door. Word of the bushrangers, these mythical men who like ghosts led the police a merry dance through the hills and valleys drew many locals to flood the dimly lighted streets to catch a glimpse for themselves, the bushrangers in person. One such witness was the future author of the 'History of Australian Bushranging', Charles White. As the townsfolk gathered close by crowding the riders Ben Hall fired off a shot into the night air to clear a path, scattering the unbelieving crowd.

Authors Note; Father Keating was born in Ireland and attended Dublin University and Carlow College, arriving in Sydney in January 1845. As a priest, he served at Penrith, Bathurst, Maitland and Norfolk Island for over 33 years eventually migrating to America in 1878, where he served as Chaplin at West Point Military Academy and at Staten Island amongst their large Irish community. Father Keating passed away at New York in 1885.

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

approached Pedrotta's shop
on the right from the south
c. 1880's
Courtesy RAHS. 
In 1907 Charles White an eyewitness to the famous raid published ‘John Vane, Bushranger’, highlighting Vane’s reminiscence of his membership of the gang. Published after Vane’s death. However, much of the story is out of sequence regarding time, place and events. It is of interest to furtherance the bushrangers actions in the lead-up to all of the events mentioned above. Vane rode with Hall from August 1863 till November 1863.

As such Vane in the lead up to the Bathurst raid recounts the attitude of the gang on he and Hall's return to camp re-joining Gilbert, O’Meally and Micky Burke. The pair outlined the conversation with Dolph Machattie and the fiery Charles 'Bertie' Battye's and their challenge to them;[sic] “You are not game” they called “to come to Bathurst and take DeCloutt’s ‘Pasher’.” Vane stated to the group that Ben was incensed at the cheek of Battye stating;[sic] “We’ll show you about that.”

John O’Meally, always game was ready to jump at the chance for action said; Vane op. cit.“We’ll show the beggars whether we’re game or not! It’s a pity one of you didn’t take on the cove that talked fight; either of you could have flattened him out.” However, Hall the cool-headed of the five brushed off O'Meally's taunt of failing to belt the boys, responded; op cit. “Oh, that’s nonsense, we got something better to do than fight with bragging schoolboys, and neither of them was much better. But, I’ll tell you what; if you are agreeable we will take up their challenge in earnest and go to Bathurst.” Subsequently, a quick discussion ensued on the topic of a run into Bathurst and the boldness of the idea having been thrown down for the visit was unanimously accepted. Once more O’Meally said; op. cit. “Well, I’m agreeable to make the next trip to Bathurst the ‘go’ and as the police are all out from the head station we could have a free run in and out, and the affair would make a big sensation; besides which we ought to make a big haul from one of the jewellers. If we go at night the banks will be closed, or we might ‘touch’ one of them.”

Accordingly, the run into Bathurst was agreed upon by them all. The raid settled. Vane claimed he expressed the view of maybe obtaining one of the much talked about ‘Revolving Rifles’. That Pedrotta’s gun-shop would most likely hold the modern weapon. Furthermore, Johnny Gilbert stated that he had desires on the thoroughbred racehorse ‘Pasha’ which could be lifted from his former employer 'Dublin Jack' De Clouet’s hotel 'The Sportsman Arms.' The gang prepared for the ride to Bathurst selecting from their stock the best horses. The journey commenced early on Saturday morning on the 3rd of October 1863. The bushrangers evaded public roads. They travelled by way of Newbridge, Wimbledon, George’s Plains then crossed The Evan’s Plains arriving at the mount known as Bald Hill which overlooked Bathurst. Here the gang rested to wait out the day till the early evening.

In the early dusk, the bushrangers prepared to enter the town. Saturday in Bathurst was re-stocking day. A day when all the outlying farm folk attended for the replenishment of their groceries after which they enjoyed a much needed festive night out. A time when trading hours were not defined. That night another five young men on horseback riding through the streets was not an unusual sight. (‘John Vane, Bushranger’, can be accessed from the Links Page, see pages 124-132 inclusive on the Bathurst raid.)

Saturday night the town was filling with farmers and such, the sounds of the city pervaded the night air and music from the dance hall's filtered across the town as others shopped catching up with friends. No one had expected the bushrangers to materialise. As those mingled and went about their affairs the five well dressed and superbly mounted men drew little attention as they casually walked their horses down William Street into town. As they rode into Bathurst;[sic] "Bathurst was badly lighted, I. N. Wark not having at that time descended upon the city with his gas. The shops were dimly lighted with oil and candles so that the time was well chosen—the residents were at tea, and the town at peace..."

View of Bathurst from cnr of
 Russell and Stewart St
 c. 1880's.

Frank Walker 1861-1948.
Making their way down William street the bushrangers reined their horses outside the Gun Shop of a Mr Pedrotta in search of the much-heralded new type of weapon the Revolving Rifle.

However, not all good plans go well! Below is a series of newspaper articles published in order of the events on the raid on Bathurst NSW. The articles cover as well as the events in the surrounding district of the first few days of October 1863. Events which had newspaper editors scrambling for the most sensational and up to date details as they were telegraphed in. The whole of the colony was thunderstruck as the telegraph wires crackled with the news.
     
TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCHES. [FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS.] BATHURST. Sunday, 4th October 1863, 7 p.m. THE BUSHRANGERS IN BATHURST. - "Last night, about half-past seven, Gilbert, O'Meally, Ben Hall, Burke, and Vane came into the heart of the town and attempted to stick up the shop of Mr McMinn, jeweller, in William-street. Gilbert and O'Meally went into the shop, leaving the others outside, but the screaming of the females in the house raised the alarm, and they beat a retreat. Jumping on their horses, they galloped down William street, and, firing a shot in the air, passed down Howick street, then cantered up George-street, as if going out of town. In a little time, a troop of police were in pursuit, but by a manoeuvre of the bushrangers, they passed them, and so were outgeneralled. The bushrangers, ongoing up George-street, made for the rear of Mr De Clouet's, and entering the house, stuck up the inmates and remained there in cool conversation for fully twenty minutes. They wanted the racehorse Pasha, but at the request of De Clouet, in whose employ Gilbert had at one time been, they relinquished their design and left quietly. Several young men volunteered immediately to go in pursuit, but there was neither ammunition nor caps in the police barracks. It is said that later in the night the police afterwards came up with them and exchanged shots, but without any result. The townspeople are in a fearful state of excitement. It is impossible to describe the state of feeling caused by the visit of this notorious gang of bushrangers." 

'The Sydney Morning Herald' reported on the 6th regarding the efforts of the townsfolk on Monday, 5th October 1863 at 5 pm and the general panic that ensued and the urgent meeting called to form Special Constables to hunt and capture the gang; —"A meeting was held today at which resolutions were passed to accept the services of special constables, to form a committee to deliberate in secret on the best means to be adopted to capture the bushrangers. —A telegram from Mr. Cowper, authorising the Police Magistrate to take whatever steps might be suggested by the townspeople, was received with gratification. A horse thoroughly knocked up, supposed to belong to the bushrangers, was brought in by the police last night. It had a saddle with a poncho on it, and a leather buckle to hold a rifle but was without a bridle.— A report is circulating through the town that the mail from Bathurst at Carcoar was stuck again this morning, twelve miles hence, at Fitzgerald's Mount. —The bushrangers were at Bartlett's yesterday and took two horses from Mr. Mackie. ——A report has been received here to-day that Burke, the bushranger, had been taken near Carcoar by the police, who shot his horse and broke his arm."

All hell was breaking loose as the audacity of the gang's brazen actions was hitting home. A correspondent from the 'Bathurst Times' published a frantic call to all good citizens to help eradicate the scourge of bushranging, and set forth an opinion that Ben Hall and Gilbert's actions were more about taunting the authorities than from the paucity of the rewards; (See link below from the Bathurst Times, October 5th 1863)

The Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 9th October 1863
(From the Bathurst Times, October 5.)
More news flourished; Tuesday, 6th October 1863, 8.30 p.m.-"A horseman has just galloped into town from the Vale Creek, about a mile and a half distant, with intelligence that the bushrangers have made an attack upon Mrs Mutton's house, and had proceeded in the direction of Mr Hellman's. Five troopers jumped into their saddles, and have this moment left the barracks in pursuit of the bushrangers.- The Inspector-General of Police arrived in town this afternoon."¹⁰

Mary Mutton
b.1800-d. 1883.

Private Source.
The bushranger army was on the march; TELEGRAPHIC INTELLIGENCE. (Through Greville and Bird.) BATHURST. Wednesday Evening, 7th October 1863; "GILBERT and his gang, last night, at 9 o'clock, stuck-up Mrs Mutton's house on the Vale Road, half a mile from Bathurst. Whilst searching for money, the rascals accidentally set fire to the bed, and one of them burnt his hands severely in attempting to put out the flames. The police on hearing the news sallied forth at once, but arrived at Mrs Mutton's half an hour too late, having taken a wrong direction. The bushrangers went right on from Mrs, Mutton's, and stuck-up Walker's Inn, M'Diarmic's store, and Butter's inn, all within four miles of Bathurst. A second party of police, headed by the Inspector-General of police himself, went in search of the scoundrels on receipt of the information. Meantime, the bushrangers attempted to rob several other places further on the road, and managed, after all, to escape from the police who are still out. There was great excitement amongst the townspeople on bearing the news, and crowds were in the streets until 3 o'clock this morning. It ought to be noted that immediately after the police under Captain M’Lerie started, shots were fired off; supposed to be meant for a sort of telegraphic signals, by confederates of the bushrangers in town. Placards have been posted offering £500 reward for the capture of each bushranger, and many volunteers are enrolling themselves." ¹¹

NSW Police Gazette
14th October 1863.
Heads were spinning as the leading townsfolk after a meeting quickly assembled a committee to formulate a response to the insolent actions of the gang; BATHURST. Wednesday, 10th October 1863, 9 p.m. "The committee appointed to consider the best means for capturing the bushrangers have, with the sanction of the Government, issued placards, offering £2500 reward for the apprehension of the five Bushrangers-Gilbert, O'Meally, Bourke, Vane, and Ben Hall, or £500 each. Volunteers are called for, and the town has the appearance of being in a state of siege. The police have been out all day."¹²

As the dust settled as well as the fervour whipped up by the press a full account emerged of the gang's raid on Bathurst printed on the 9th October 1863. However, by now Ben Hall had well and truly passed through the Vale Road trailing the bounty of their raids'The Sydney Morning Herald', of that date; AUDACITY OF THE BUSHRANGERS: THE GANG IN BATHURST. (From the Bathurst Times of Wednesday 7th.) "THE shrieks of a woman in terror, a cry for "Help!" the trampling of horses, the report of a pistol, and the rapid galloping of a body of horsemen, whose figures as they shot through the darkness looked like shadows gliding down the main thoroughfares of the town, were productive of such a scene of consternation and amazement, on Saturday evening, as can never be forgotten by those who have witnessed what we have just described. In an instant, the bewildered inhabitants of the houses within the line of disturbance were at their doors, and almost as quickly the cry of "Bushrangers" passed from lip to lip. To say that astonishment or excitement prevailed does not convey an adequate notion of the stunned and appalling effect produced, as little by little the fact was gradually affirmed that the bushrangers had actually made a descent upon the town. Proceeding in the direction from which the bushrangers had come, we found a crowd assembled outside the shop of Mr M'Minn, the jeweller, in William-street, and there learnt that Gilbert and his gang had made a daring attempt to "stick up" that gentleman's shop. In order that the bushrangers' proceedings may be better understood, we must first inform our readers of the manner in which they were disposed of so as to prevent surprise. There were in all five, being as is supposed, O'Meally, Ben Hall, Burke, and Vane - the fifth, Gilbert, having been positively identified.

Bartholomew Pedrota
Courtesy Penzig.
When they came into town, Vane appears to have been stationed in the right-of-way between the Church of England school and the Telegraph Office, and in the darkness, he was effectually screened from view. The others rode in a body to Mr Pedrotta's shop, where a number of firearms are displayed for sale. Gilbert and one of his companions, leaving their horses in charge of the other two, went in and asked if Pedrotta had any revolving rifles or double-trigger revolvers, upon being answered in the negative and shown the common kind of revolver, they said they were of no use and walked out. They then went down to Mr M'Minn's shop, and the family being engaged at tea, walked into the room where they were sitting and presenting their revolvers, ordered all to be quiet. Miss M'Minn, however, at the sight of the revolvers, screamed with fright, and though they threatened to blow out her brains if she did not keep quiet, she did not heed them in her terror, but still gave expression to her fear. Disconcerted, the two ruffians beat a retreat, presenting their revolvers as they backed out of the shop - one of them as he passed by the counter trying to lift the lid of a glass case, but he was foiled, as it was constructed to open from the inside of the counter. The alarm was taken up outside, in the street, by Messrs. Curtis and Charles White, who called out for help, but before anything could be done the bushrangers were in their saddles and going down the street at full speed. At the corner of Howick-street, two of them turned sharp round, but the others appeared to be uncertain of their way and galloped on towards the police barracks, but a shot being fired into the air, by one of the first two, caused them to turn and re-join their companions. Galloping along Howick-street they were met as they turned the corner of George-street by Vane, who had ridden down the right of way already mentioned, and rapidly crossed the square. As he came up his horse stumbled, when the others eased their pace and went up George-street at a moderate canter. In about a quarter of an hour, a body of troopers passed through the town in pursuit, following the direction taken by the bushrangers, but as it subsequently proved they passed them on the way.

Pedrotta's Gun shop located
in William St. It was situated
next to Rachel Leed's Great
Western Hotel, seen here
 on the right.

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

Woodcut of DeClouet's
Sportsman Hotel
Piper St, Bathurst.

Penzig. 
Gilbert on being left with Mr. De Clouet made himself known, he having at one time been engaged by that gentleman as a jockey, and a long conversation is described as having taken place, and Gilbert's manner is spoken of as being extraordinarily cool and self-possessed. He asked for the keys of the stable, as they had come expressly for the racehorse Pacha, and must have him, and added that they should not have come in at all had it not been that Machattie and Battye had dared them to do so, and had tauntingly told them they had not the "pluck" to come in and take Pacha. Mr. De Clouet begged him not to take the horse, as it was only a colt and would be unable to do the work they required of him. Gilbert then went to see what money there was in the till, and finding it contained nothing but silver, shook his head and said they only dealt in gold, at the same time putting his hand into his pocket, he pulled out two shillings which he told Mr. De Clouet he would give him. Mr. De Clouet came into the bar, and Gilbert stood with his face fronting the door, talking, without the slightest trepidation, of by-gone times, saying once that he and his companions might as well stop there for an hour or so as anywhere else. Hall now came out and asked Gilbert if he had the keys of the stable when Mr. De Clouet told them that the ostler kept them. Hall said they must have the horse, and went out to the ostler. While he was away Mr. De Clouet begged Gilbert to leave his horse and prevailed on him to go out and speak with the others. He heard Gilbert in conversation, and then he heard a brutal suggestion to "blow out somebody's brains, -you'll soon have the keys then." Almost immediately Gilbert returned, followed by Hall driving in the ostler. He (Hall) threatened to shoot him if he did not give up the keys. The man, however, still persisted in saying that he had not got them. A parley ensued, in the course of which the ostler told them the police had just gone by when one quietly answered: "Two of us are enough for four of them any day." Shortly afterwards they ordered all present to come out at the back of the house, but on receiving a promise that no one would go into the street, they took their departure without any further attempt to obtain possession of the horse, having remained altogether about twenty minutes. After the lapse of a quarter of an hour, two-foot policemen came in and expressed their astonishment and disapproval of Mr. De Clouet's conduct in allowing himself to be stuck-up. From what we afterwards learned it appeared that the troopers on reaching the reserve at the head of George-street, listened for the tramp of the bushrangers' horses, so as to discover what direction they had taken, and not being able to hear anything they came to a halt. The night was exceedingly dark, and while deliberating what course to pursue, they spied the bushrangers, through the gloom, coming towards them, having just left De Clouet's. The bushrangers, it would seem, caught sight of them at the same moment, for they turned and galloped off in another direction. A hot chase ensued, when one of the troopers named Johnson, whose horse was better than the rest, got in advance, and the bushrangers seeing this turned and fired two shots at him, which he returned. Undaunted, he kept up the pursuit, but his house foundered, and the bushrangers finally escaped."

Howick St & William St
looking southeast.
St Michael's in the
background. John Staines
and William Matthews
premises foreground.
c. 1872
Furthermore, the narrative of John Vane is the only reliable account of life in the gang and the structure of its leadership as they rode from district to district unencumbered by the weak efforts of the police in checking their progress.

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

John Vane.
Prison Portrait
1880.
Reining their horses and unruffled by the sounds of excitement echoing through the town the gang entered De Clouet's via the back fence and made for the stables. Here they came across the hotel's Groom and demanded 'Pasha'. The Ostler named Mark informed the bushrangers that Mrs De Clouet had the keys for the stable of 'Pasha'. However, to expedite the snapping up of the horse one of the gang, no doubt O'Meally, said: "Blow out somebodies brains, you'll soon have the keys then."

While O'Meally, Burke and Vane waited in the yard, Hall and Gilbert proceeded into the hotel and entered through the back door bailing up all those present. Mrs De Clouet had previously known Gilbert had a heated exchange with the bushranger. However, Ben Hall became impatient after having heard the gallop of a body of mounted police pass close by told Gilbert to be quick about it. Gilbert frustrated with Mrs De Clouet no doubt through respect for her from his previous employment. Gilbert gave up his chance for the horse. The five bushrangers quickly remounted and headed off down George street towards Milltown. Accordingly, at the corner of George and Lambert street, the gang finally came in contact with the police.

On spying the troopers they halted in the hope of not being spotted, but unfortunately, the police also stopped. The bushrangers realised the jig was up. To confuse the troopers in the darkness they laid down upon their horse's necks and waited. The faint failed. Whereby the gang clapped their spurs in hard and started at full gallop down a steep fall of ground with the police now alerted instantly firing at the retreating horsemen. Police revolvers roared into action, and they were soon in pursuit of galloping marauder's who heard the bullets whistle close by their heads. Quick as a wink, the fleeing bushrangers rode into a deep gully yanked their reins hard and turned quickly, hearing the troopers galloping horses pass by. John Vane declared; Vane op.cit. “congratulating ourselves that we had escaped so easily, we were talking and laughing as we rode Hall and I being almost twenty yards behind the other three, when suddenly one of the police galloped past us and when near O’Meally, Gilbert and Burke he commenced firing. The three at once scattered but as Hall and I followed the policeman pretty close he abandoned the chase...” Vane goes on to say that as the troopers got ahead of him, he and Hall rode hard after them when all of a sudden, a riderless horse passed him by which he believed belonged to Gilbert. Undeterred the pair followed the horse, which in its riderless fright jumped and cleared a creek. In the effort to grab the horse a galloping Vane also launched his horse at the stream but failed to make the jump unseating him. Vane un-injured said; Vane op.cit. “Hall came up just at this moment and after assuring him that I was not injured I began to search for my hat, striking matches for the purpose. While thus engaged we were startled at the sound of a revolver shot, and as the bullet whizzed rather close we cleared away without the hat, riding a short distance into the scrub, where we found O’Meally and Burke...” Remounting and without concern at their near-miss with the troopers the four turned into George Street. Vane recollected that; Vane op cit. “we headed up that thoroughfare in the direction of the Bald Hill’s again, quietly laughing at the scare we had created, for we could see people running in all directions towards William street...”

Another view from
Bald Hill of  Bathurst.

Courtesy NLA.
After the adrenaline charge skirmish and upon re-grouping Burke informed them that Gilbert had come to a cropper while pursued by the firing police. However, he was sure that Gilbert was not captured, as Burke had seen him running away. Deciding to look for Gilbert, the four secured their horses and on foot went in search but could not find him. Remounting they pushed on and arrived at Bald Hill then headed to their camp near Evan’s Plain where they rested till daybreak. They then returned to their bush camp, and upon arrival, none other than Johnny Gilbert was already present. The wily Gilbert told them that he had jumped off his horse during the pursuit and claimed that the animal baulked at jumping the creek. Whereby O’Meally in disbelief reiterated his long-held view regarding Gilbert’s bravery and stated; Vane op.cit. “you were afraid of the bullets which were flying about; and I believe you will be shot yet when running away for you have no fight in you..,"

After some heated words between the two antagonists which lasted some ten minutes, Gilbert not liking the ridicule dished out by O’Meally sulked for some time like a spoilt child. However, Gilbert would not let the matter rest and still fuming declared he would separate from O’Meally and go off on his own asking who would join him. His impassioned plea fell on deaf ears as Hall, Burke and Vane declined. Soon after with peace restored, the camp settled down with Gilbert resting some distance off by himself. After Gilbert’s ride in fright, the police recovered the abandoned horse. ‘The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser’, Thursday 8th October 1863; Bathurst- “a horse thoroughly knocked up, supposed to belong to the bushrangers, was brought in by the police last night. It had a saddle with a poncho on it, and a leather buckle to hold a rifle, but was without a bridle...” Their successful escape achieved. The bushrangers through their spies and telegraphs learnt that their ‘big sensation’ in Bathurst had created the jitters amongst the townsfolk and that the troopers were out in force searching the scrub. Unperturbed the boys headed for the unprotected Vale Road outside Bathurst to raid the stores and Inn’s scattered along that thoroughfare.

James Martin, MLA.
However, the mayhem in the New South Wales parliament surrounding Ben Hall's antics had Mr Cowper's leading critic Mr Martin Q.C. once again come on the front foot attacking the Colonial Secretary over the conduct of Captain McLerie the Inspector General of police. Where in his view the NSW Government should be debating the possibility of outlawing of Ben Hall and Gang. An idea which Mr Cowper would not submit too; ‘Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser’, Thursday 8th, October 1863; “in the Assembly this evening, Mr Martin called the attention of the House to the recent exploit of the bushrangers at Bathurst. In the course of a warm debate which ensued. Mr Cowper denied any intention on the part of the government to outlaw the gang and refused to offer additional rewards for their capture. He also stated that he did not intend to dismiss Captain M'Lerie; and informed the House that the police had encountered the bushrangers near the Bathurst racecourse, that shots had been exchanged, and the police were still in pursuit...”

Night raid on Bathurst.
Painting by
  Patrick William Marony
  (1858-1939)
Furthermore, through their diligent bush telegraphs the gang remained in relative safety from discovery by the police. The sound information of the police movements saw the gang break camp and head towards the Vale Road leading towards Caloola, transiting the road unmolested. En-route they commenced a series of robberies of storekeepers and hotels through the night. The goods acquired from the hard-working store and hotel keepers were required as payment to their various harbourers. The Vale Road raids commenced on the 6th October 1863, on a beautiful clear evening of 20°c. In one instance, during a robbery, the low act of stealing the pocket-money from a child's piggy bank took place; Link to the events attached below.
Empire
Tuesday 13th October 1863
MORE BUSHRANGING OUTRAGES

However, contrary to the above article regarding the Vale Road raid. John Vane claimed that it was he and not Gilbert who suffered the burnt hands when Mrs Mutton's bedroom curtains accidentally caught fire and that O’Meally had remonstrated with Gilbert for setting the room on fire; Vane op.cit.  “we turned down on to the Vale road and paid a visit to Mutton’s store, where Hall said we might get a little money. The only person in the store when we entered was old Mrs Mutton, and there wasn’t anything in the whole place that would be any use to us. Gilbert then asked Mrs Mutton for money, and she said she hadn't got any, whereupon he said he would look for some; taking a candle he went into the bedroom to make a search. While he was tossing things about the bed-curtains caught fire, and as they were flaring up O’Meally rushed in and rated Gilbert for trying to burn the place down. Gilbert protested that it was a pure accident. I rushed in at the same time and got my hands well burnt when putting out the flames. The old lady was very kind when she saw what had happened, and got me some Holloway’s ointment to dress the burns, at the same time remonstrating with us for pursuing such evil courses. We took her sermon in good part, and shortly afterwards took the road...”
     Vale Road and countryside, outside Bathurst, filmed by Craig Bratby.
Publican Licence
Henry Butler's
Hen & Chickens Hotel
1860.
Vane goes on to describe the raids at Samuel Walker’s Sportsman's Arms Hotel, Queen Charlotte's Vale (Perthville) then M’Diarmid’s and on to Butler’s Hen and Chickens hotel, previously licenced and owned by Samuel Walker. Here they only acquired a few pounds, as well as the horse of a German traveller staying at the hotel which became a pack-horse. Prior to Butler operating the Hen and Chickens he held the Carriers Arms in Bathurst from 1859-1860. As the evening's banditry ended whereby the gang disposed of their trade, and the searching police seemingly confused as to their whereabouts the bushrangers took their leave and headed on towards Caloola;op.cit."we made a start for home and reached a place called the Rock Pond, where we camped till daybreak, laughing quietly with each other as we heard the police clatter along the road past our camping place. Shortly before dawn, rain set in and continued during the whole day, but we left the road and kept to the bush till we came to the 'Big Brother' mountain at the back of Caloola. Suspecting that the police were still ahead of us, we decided to make for the mountains after darkness set in, the office of pilot being given to me. We started a little after dark, keeping off the road, and at the foot of the range, we came across fresh tracks of shod horses, which, we concluded, had been made by the party of Bathurst police who were out after us. We followed the tracks for some distance, and I then said to Hall: "They are going in the direction of Teasdale, and will probably stay at the pub there all night, as it is raining; let us push on and pass them there." We, therefore, pushed on but had not gone more than four miles through the bush when the darkness became so intense that we could not see the trees. We then dismounted and tried walking, but kept stumbling over roots and logs, and Ben Hall stepped into a stump hole and hurt his back. He then advised waiting for daylight, but I said there was a small paddock not far ahead in which we could camp, although we would have to keep our horse's in hand-all night as the police were in the neighbourhood. After a time we reached the paddock, and each man picked out a stout gumtree and crouched by its butt all night, holding the reins of our horses In our hands. There wasn't much poetry in that sort of camping out, but we were well used to roughing it by this time and didn't feel much concerned..."

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

Captain M'Lerie,
c. 1863.
In keeping with the recent criticism of the New South Wales Police, the bushrangers raids along the Vale Road brought the actions or more succinctly the scantiness of the police’s efforts once more under scrutiny including their recent lack-lustre efforts in capturing the gang or at least engaging in a confrontation. Consequently, a correspondent for the ‘Bathurst Times’ ventured out to the scene of the gang’s latest robberies and took firsthand accounts from those people attacked. The correspondent came away with a more in-depth view of how the bushrangers had proceeded during the night, including the number of stores and equipment stolen at gunpoint. Moreover, an exciting development came to light. Where on this occasion a report appeared that four other men were in company with the gang during the last part of the robberies. They were believed to be local bush telegraphs. Demonstrating how up to date and informed Ben Hall was of the police movements. Enabling the gangs slow and easy progress without a care in the world. Furthermore, the writer describes how the gang then transported the stolen property. With all the goods strapped to the front of their saddles, reported as reaching waist-high, including a pack-horse taken from a Hen and Chickens hotel guest.

Consequently, from the evidence, the police had ample time to pursue the gang. However, for some unknown reason, superintendent Morrisset appeared reluctant to press home his advantage. The lack of pursuit left Ben Hall and gang to ride off unmolested into the night.  However, Captain M’Lerie on hand at Bathurst took to the saddle in search, and with full nobleness, harassed the innocent victims of the gang’s raids. Demonstrating little or no respect or empathy for what they had endured at the point of a gun. The gang were soon after reported in camp, enjoying a very festive time and were not disturbed by any police although their presence was widely acknowledged and reported; Attached link below.
Sydney Morning Herald
13th October 1863
HOW THE POLICE GO AFTER THE BUSHRANGERS.

In 1912, Forty-nine years after Ben Hall’s raid along the Vale Road, John Harper, an old resident and former butcher was an eyewitness to the gang's appearance on that October evening 1863. Harper was the person Superintendent Morrissett had had a conversation with and who was asked to "go with them" in their search. However, Harper declined. Harper recalls the excitement of that evening, and cast his mind back in an interview for 'The Bathurst Times';
The Bathurst Times
Tuesday 16th July 1912
BUSHRANGING DAYS.

NSW Police Gazette
October 1863.
However, the Vale road robbery and most of the goods stolen by the gang were recovered some weeks later stashed at Cheshire's hotel by Superintendent Morrisset. The Cheshire's were related to John Vane.

Nevertheless, as the audacity of Ben Hall's raid at Bathurst continued to reverberate throughout New South Wales. The Colonial Secretary Mr Cowper faced a grilling over the brazen attack. In the vigorous questioning, many parliamentarians raised the possibility of an 'Outlaw' proclamation against Ben Hall, Gilbert and Co. In the extreme climate generated by the bushrangers, the Premier faced an onslaught of continued ridicule. However, as a defence. The Premier counted his critics by laying blame at the feet of the good citizens of the town, as well as those in the broader districts thought to be protecting the gang and not supporting the police; (I have placed below one of the verbal encounters from the Parliament Hansard relating to the ridicule faced by Slippery Charley.)'The Empire’ Wednesday, 7th October 1863 page 3; THE BUSHRANGERS IN BATHURST. (Government Hansard)

Mr. Cowper, five-time
Colonial Secretary
( 1856-1870)
Photo c. 1863.
Mr. HART (without notice) asked the Colonial Secretary-"Whether the Government was aware that on Saturday last a party of bushrangers had come into Bathurst? Whether means had been taken for the special protection of the Western District?"
Mr. COWPER said, on Sunday morning he received a telegram informing him that a party of bushrangers had gone into Bathurst and entered two houses. They were pursued by the police and speedily made their exit.
Mr. PIDDINGTON: The police or the robbers (A laugh.)
Mr. COWPER: Both-one running away, the other pursuing.
Mr. LUCAS: Which running away? (A laugh.)
Mr. COWPER: "Those that usually do so-the bushrangers. No doubt the bushrangers had friends and admirers in all the country; he would not say in that House. (Oh!) The following steps had been taken:-He (Mr. Cowper) dispatched three constables who arrived in Bathurst on Saturday at 7 o'clock. The only policeman in Bathurst-a sergeant placed himself at the head of these three men and pursued the bushrangers to the racecourse, where they exchanged shots. Neither party had been heard of since. He hoped they would soon hear that the police had been successful. At all events, it was evident that the police had not been wanting in their duty on this occasion. By a telegram received last night, he found that a public meeting was held yesterday in Bathurst, at which the inhabitants proposed certain resolutions offering to take measures for self-protection. He had answered that the Government would willingly co-operate with parties acting in the way suggested. (Hear, hear.) As to the proposition that the Government should proclaim these robbers as outlaws, and offer a large reward for them, dead or alive, -that was under the consideration of the Crown Law Officers."
Mr. MARTIN asked how long the Crown Law Officers took to consider this question, -whether there was the power in the Government to proclaim a person an outlaw, and to hand over the protection of the Western districts to a committee of the Bathurst people?
Mr. COWPER: Crown Law Officers now answer questions much more speedily than in the honourable member’s time, (Hear, hear.) And it ill-became him especially when the Attorney-General had been engaged in the performance of a sad duty for a relative-to complain of the time thus occupied? He would have the opinion of the Crown Law Officers in a few minutes. He (Mr. Cowper) had not read the telegram in the newspaper referred to."

NSW Police Gazette
21 October 1863.
The subject of a declaration of outlaw against the bushrangers had not been canvassed at all during Hall's former mentor Gardiner's reign. However, in frustration, Mr Martin, who would eventually make the future outlaw decision, was unsatisfied with the government's attitude. Therefore, Martin began the process of gathering his forces and moved another step closer to unseating the Colonial Secretary. Furthermore, to add salt into the wound, Martin accused the Premier of lying to the Parliament over his deception. As a result, Martin sought a vote of 'No Confidence' in the Premier; 'The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News’, Saturday 10th October 1863; Mr Martin moved the adjournment of the House, with the view of bringing under notice the conduct of the Government, and especially of the Colonial Secretary, with reference to the disclosures just made, and which, if the newspaper statements were to be credited, showed that the honourable gentleman had been guilty of a suppression of the truth.

Threatened, Cowper acted quickly to save the day and in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of the 8th of October, the government gazetted a new reward for the apprehension of the whole of the gang. This time Cowper hoped the new offer would sway a harbourer, although Gilbert's current value remained the same as his day's of riding with Gardiner, £500; BATHURST. Wednesday, at 9 p.m. "The committee appointed to consider the best means for capturing the bushrangers have, with the sanction of the Government, issued placards, offering £2500 reward for the apprehension of the five Bushrangers-Gilbert, O'Meally, Bourke, Vane, and Ben Hall, or £500 each." ($207, 500 or $41,000 each in today's value.)

Sir James Martin
(1820-1886)
The increase of rewards for the bushrangers appeared to do little to appease the parliament. Consequently, moves were afoot to oust the Colonial Secretary. Many members were agitating for a change of direction over the trouble being caused by Ben Hall, John Gilbert, John O'Meally, John Vane and Micky Burke. The main protagonist was James Martin, a savvy lawyer and former defence counsel in the earlier Eugowra trials of February 1863. Mr Martin sought alliances with those opposed to the path that Cowper’s Secretaryship was leading the colony.

Moreover, the much-heated debate on the bushranger debacle including the latest and most brazen raid on the town of Bathurst, as well as the unacceptable financial state of the colony. Mr Martin rallied his forces and struck. Cowper's Secretaryship ended in a call for an adjournment vote of the parliament. The Cowper government's inadequacies, not only in the matters of the NSW police but compounded by sharp criticism of the States diabolical financial position beset by the fiscal drain Ben Hall and gang were commanding on the coffers of the colony ultimately saw Mr Cowper fall on his sword. Furthermore, Mr Piddington, a staunch ally of Martin's was another who vigorously attacked the government over these matters and encouraged members to support the demise of the Colonial Secretary; "the outrages of bushrangers were more flaring than had ever been known in the history of the colony. Ample power had been given for the repression of these outrages, and it was a disgrace to the colony, that four or five bushrangers could perpetrate these glaring enormities in the focus of a district furnished with such means of police protection. This state of affairs was the more reprehensible, when it was borne in mind that the colony was now incurring an annual police expenditure of upwards of a quarter of a million sterling..."¹³

Colonial Secretary
Charles Cowper.
(b. 1807-d. 1875)
On Wednesday 7th October, Mr Martin rose in the parliament and stated; “as to conflicting statements as to the condition of the finances made by two of the leading members of the Government, and on the confused statements contained in the accounts presented to the house, from which it was almost impossible to collect the true financial position of the country...”¹⁴ Accordingly, Mr Martin's through this action achieved the resignation of Charles Cowper. The scuttled Premier complied and tendered his resignation to the Governor, Sir John Young on the 8th October 1863;[sic] “Mr. Cowper announced that, in consequence of the vote of the House on the past night, he and his colleagues in office had tendered their resignation, and that they only held office until their successors were appointed, and he moved therefore that the House adjourn until Tuesday next.” The state of affairs created a scramble by those members led by Cowper’s former deputy Mr Forster, a former Premier, commence an attempt to hold on to power and form a government.

However, this proved unachievable, and a disappointed Mr Forster informed the Governor, Sir John Young of the failure whereby the Governor invited Mr Martin to form a government. After a short deliberation, Mr Martin went about recruiting a new minority government to be made up of unaligned members, which he duly achieved. The new ministry was sworn in on the 15th of October, 1863. Mr Martin gracious in victory retained Cowper's ally, Mr Forster, in the cabinet. The first order of business for Martin was Ben Hall;[sic] "on Monday last, the now Ministry were sworn in by his Excellency. The first official act was to take active measures to strengthen the hands of the police, with the hope of capturing the bushrangers..."

Hen & Chickens Hotel
Vale Road 2019.
Nevertheless, the sudden changes in Government leadership with Mr Martin in control appeared to have little or no effect on Ben Hall and the gang. However, undeterred by the mass of New South Wales police traversing the Rockley-Bathurst-Carcoar district in search of the bushrangers. They remained in camp while the troopers stumbled in the surrounding bush. The relaxation was commented on by local residents. Stating that they were having the time of their life as they celebrated their recent successes with singing, dancing and target shooting and recounting their joy at the embarrassment they had thrust on the powers that be and the demise of Cowper regime to some of the invited locals; THE BUSHRANGERS — "Private information reached us last night that the gang of ruffians, who so lately made a raid upon our town, are camped, in a dense scrub, twelve miles from Rockley, in the direction of Carcoar. The intelligence is contained in a letter which states that the fires of the party can be seen for a considerable distance round. The writer says the bushrangers are enjoying a lengthy carousal— indulging in a variety of amusements such as singing, dancing, &c. &c, — and that no police have been seen in the neighbourhood. Considerable anxiety is naturally felt by the inhabitants in the vicinity, who look with alarm upon the close proximity of such desperadoes."¹⁵

In turn, throughout the recent triumph's the bushrangers consolidated the public's long-held view of the ineptness of their constabulary. The recent sojourn by the gang after a short period ended and unmolested by police broke camp and headed once more onto the Queens roads. However, the news was about to break regarding a deed so audacious that their Bathurst raid would be considered a dull affair. In conjunction with the success of Ben Hall's current gun-blazing harassment and raids of the surrounding local settlements and towns often referred to as the 'Troubled Districts', further south in the Wagga Wagga surrounds the bushranger Daniel 'Mad Dog' Morgan's depredations were still reverberating in the press with stories of Morgan perpetrating heinous deeds and vicious robberies, and in one particular case that could only be described as a very suspicious death of one of Morgan's cohorts named Clarke who was found dead under suspicious circumstances. The incident was reported as a dark affair, as Clarke had been discovered peppered with bullet wounds and dead as a door-nail. At first the killing appeared, it was said, as self-inflicted, but the death raised the macabre idea and quite possibly the scenario of Morgan doing the killing himself for his own survival. Morgan's psychotic reputation made Ben Hall look like a choir boy! MORGAN THE BUSHRANGER. - "The Wagga Wagga express hears that this miscreant has been seen about Piney Ridge within the last week but not engaged in depredation. There is a twofold rumour afloat of his mate Clarke, one as to his having shot himself from the apprehension of falling into the hands of justice the other of a darker dye, that Morgan has made away with him a view to his own safety from discovery."¹⁶

However,  as Morgan raged in the Riverina. Ben Hall and gang had not yet faced a situation where a falling out of the magnitude that saw Morgan often turn on his accomplices rise. Although a sense of betrayal and paranoia had not reared its ugly head. Friction amongst the bushrangers was never far from the surface especially with Gilbert and O'Meally often at loggerheads over this and that, such as the following encounter in which O'Meally again jeeringly accused Gilbert of his lack of pluck; Vane op.cit “you were afraid of the bullets which were flying about; I believe you will be shot yet when running away for you have no fight in you...” These outbursts were always followed by a very heated exchange between the two bushrangers which almost caused a fracture, however, Gilbert in his anger was never able to convince Hall, Vane or Burke to leave O'Meally, therefore, Gilbert would go off and sulk for a short time. However, these cat-fights would continue to become not uncommon amongst the five bushrangers that would ultimately see in the future Vane kicked out. 

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

Nevertheless, the five bushrangers departed their former area of operations around Bathurst following their 'Big Sensation' riding in a leisurely manner with fear or favour. Newspaper reports highlighted that the gang appeared to be in genial spirits as they traversed the countryside. However, the gangs contumelious Bathurst raid was up to this time still the most brazen achievement by any bushrangers. The audacity of visiting a provincial town was still reverberating throughout the colony, which in the days ahead be surpassed.

Reputed photo of
Pierce's Canowindra

General Store.
c. 1860's
Once again the gang drifted back to their old stomping ground west of Carcoar and unexpectedly reappeared at the small hamlet of Canowindra. Canowindra consisted of an assortment of sparse wooden buildings, incorporating a butcher’s shop and a blacksmith shop as well as a small police station located a stone’s throw from the ford across the Belubula River, where today stands the current John Grant Bridge. Canowindra at the time of the September raid had only one substantial brick building having been built by a Mr Collits (Colletts), an extensive landholder and businessman in the Canowindra district. However, the building had been rented to Mr Pearce (Pierce), who operated his business there as a General Store in partnership with a Mr Hilliar and were victims of the gang on a number of previous occasions.

Mr James Collits, aged 74.
Courtesy NLA.
Consequently, the hotel at Canowindra patronised by the gang on the evening of their September visit and was on that occasion the subsequent night's festivities were held was owned by Mr. Collits and named as the 'Canowindra Hotel', leased under license to a Mr William Robinson a 21 yr old and his wife Rose also 21. Bill Robinson was also the owner of the 'Traveller's Rest Hotel' on the south side of Canowindra separated by the Belubula River and accessed by a ford across the river. Robinson had inherited the 'Traveller's Rest' on the death of his father William Robinson Sr in 1860. Furthermore, for country hotels, it was the practice in the 1800s by de rigueur publicans were required to display prominently at the front of the establishment the name of the licensee. Therefore, hotels were colloquially known by the licensee's name, i.e. in this case, 'Robinson’s Hotel'. There was also a requirement by law for the licensee to have displayed outside the hotel a prominent light to be lit during the night as a guide for travellers. Robinson’s Hotel was reputedly situated on Gaskell street. (There are some conflicting views as to the right spot where the bushrangers held both their jubilee's.)

Consequently, the five bushrangers arrived on the outskirts of Canowindra where early on the morning of the 12th October 1863, the five rode nonchalantly into the station 'The Falls' owned Mr Thomas Grant J.P. some four miles east of Canowindra. Ben Hall and Mr. Thomas Grant may have crossed paths with each other in the years prior to Hall's current activities, due to a possible link between Ben Hall's late father-in-law John Walsh and the father of Thomas Grant, John Grant Sr a former convict who by 1863 continued to be a large landholder in the district. The late John Walsh had been an assigned convict to John Grant's father during the late 1830s. John Grant Sr upon receiving his 'Ticket Of Freedom' had set about establishing his large holdings in the late 1820s. Stretching from Emu Plains to Hartley and into the rich Belubula district. Therefore, the initial conversation between the two could well have been cordial, although more than likely the subject matter related the police movements as well as the penalties to be meted out by relaying any information of Hall's current presence or in assisting the police in their search with severe consequences if any news of Grant's betrayal reached the bushrangers. Shortly afterwards the bushrangers casually remounted and departed, riding the short distance onto Canowindra; “On Sunday or Monday morning, the robbers - Gilbert, O'Meally, Hall, Vane, and Burke - paid a visit to the residence of Mr. T. Grant, near Belubula; we have not ascertained the nature of their vagaries at that place...."¹⁸

Bill Robinson, Publican
with daughter Beatrice.
c. 1880's
Departing Grant's the bushrangers rode on towards the nondescript sleepy township of Canowindra. Canowindra had been established in the mid-1840s and existed mainly as a centre for the remote stations and its crossing point over the Belubula river to the larger town of Cowra. The settlement was also crucial due to the permanence of a Post-Office then operated by a Nicholas Daly who also held the lucrative job of Poundkeeper for the Belubula district. The Post-Office benefited the small town through a weekly mail coach from Carcoar, but unfortunately, it was disadvantaged as a district centre of importance due to the lack of a proper and year-round crossing of the Belubula River. Therefore, the town was a perfect spot for a hiatus.

Consequently, the Belubula River as the gang arrived heavy rain fell causing the river to rise whereby the flooding created a natural blockade against any police crossing from the larger nearby town of Cowra 20 miles to the south. Cowra was the main command post for the police and as such the waters of the Belubula would prevent any attempt to snare the bushrangers. The unrelenting wet weather had also been another factor for the gang's visit. It was reported that Ben Hall had had enough of sleeping rough and being cold, damp and miserable. Consequently, in the early morning hours of the 12th October 1863, (there are conflicting reports as to morning or night, but police evidence points to a.m.) Canowindra would be awakened with the arrival of the much-heralded bushrangers. They rode smoothly into the town just as folks began to stir for the day's labours and the encamped teamsters with their parked drays lined-up were preparing the bullocks and putting the billy on the boil for breakfast. Without undue notice, the bushrangers approached the hotel of Bill Robinson, dismounted and set about securing the town; "Ben Hall then remained on guard, and despatched Gilbert and O'Meally as messengers to the two sentinels at the township approaches. By that time, it was beginning to be sufficiently light for easy movement and the four men next went on pre-arranged sectors, galloping across paddocks and herding into the town all horses found within a mile of it. That was a precaution against news being taken to the police at Cowra, some twenty miles away. Shortly after the horses had been placed in a fenced paddock nearby, the hotel opened its doors in the normal way, but with the precaution that at each end of the verandah, leaning against a post, stood a bushranger. Another was inside the barroom. There were a number of teamsters camping in the town and most of them called along for an early-morning drink before resuming their journey. They were commanded to remain in the town until further orders. Ben Hall then announced that no one was to leave the town without a written permit, and stated that no harm would be done to anyone unless they attempted treachery...”¹⁹

Reputed photo of
Canowindra Inn.
c. 1860's
This was the prequel to the commencement of the afterwards much-heralded 'Robbers Jubilee' where over the next three days the town was spoilt with plenty of eating and drinking, cigars, games, such as shooting at targets, etc. Whilst the bushrangers themselves drank only bottled ale and porter, there were all kinds of items of food for those who were guests by compulsion. Furthermore, as the townsfolk were rounded up and assembled including the lock-up keeper Sykes, Ben Hall and Vane reputedly negotiated the fast-rising Belubula River crossing to the south side of Canowindra on a shared horse to a hotel reputedly 'The Travellers Rest', so as to ensure and prevent anyone capable of getting a message to the police in Cowra from doing so. The whole of the affair and its three-day festivities are transcribed below;
World News illustration of
Ben Hall marching

Constable Sykes. c. 1950
Courtesy NLA.
For the settlers of Canowindra and its district the occurrence of the gang's visit would later be remembered in terms that could only be reviewed as a great distraction to the sometimes mundane and isolated life of the people of the remote town and stations as they danced the night way at the gang's expense; “but free drinks were not the only form of entertainment provided. During the morning, various people arrived in the settlement on business from outlying homesteads. Included among these was a young woman able to play the piano. She was requested, quite politely, to favour the company with dance music, and intermittent dancing helped to pass away the morning. All prisoners were next provided with a good lunch, also at the expense of the bushrangers, who were beginning to be quite popular. By afternoon all apprehension had evaporated. The citizens decided it was not every day their town was captured by outlaws, and that the occasion ought to be celebrated with due jollity. Another teamster had arrived. He had a concertina. This made a variation to the piano for dancing, so that by evening time the whole party was able to have a really fine time, the bushrangers (generally two at a time) participating and enjoying a thoroughly sociable interlude to their usually hazardous life. Altogether, this impromptu ball was such a success that it continued till dawn, as is the habit of the bush, after which the women and children were allowed to go to the bedrooms for asleep. The men had to take what slumber they could get seated round the dining-room table, head in arms. The members of the gang seemed to be impervious to any such need...²¹

A contemporary
illustration of Vane
 at the Canowindra
3 day Jubilee.
c. 1932.

Courtesy NLA.
As the third day laboured on requests were made to get on the road again by three of the detainees Hibberson, Twaddell, and Kirkpatrick. Ben Hall agreed and they were allowed to depart. The bushrangers themselves also made preparation to move on“an hour later, Hall ushered all the guests onto the verandah. O'Meally was still on guard there and the bushrangers' horse’s, fine thoroughbreds, stolen from rich squatters were tethered to the posts. Hall and Gilbert gravely thanked everyone for their attendance, paid Robinson the final reckoning for the party, and galloped off. As they rode off the three young outlaws waved gaily back at the crowd on the verandah. For nearly 60 hours they had held a whole township captive-five men against 40. They had danced with pretty women, eaten good food again, sung songs and laughed with other people-a change from the grim hide-and-seek they played with the police in the ranges..."²²

Nevertheless, for the unfortunate constable Charles Sykes this was his second time he had been accosted by Ben Hall, however, to Sykes credit he had at least made an attempt to cross the rising Belubula River to get word to Cowra. Unfortunately, due to its fast-flowing waters, he was discovered when Ben Hall got wind of his leaving riding quickly to intercept him on the road a short distance from Sykes' home. Hall returned him at the point of a revolver, marching him back to Robinson's Hotel; "While the morning was still reasonably young, Ben Hall strolled out of the hotel-bar, limping slightly, as usual, due to one of his legs having been broken, unhitched the reins of his horse from the hitching rail, and cantered away in the direction of the police barracks. After all, it is no use conquering a city and leaving its official defenders to wander free. Before long he returned. Ahead of him walked the one constable of the settlement, with rifle at the shoulder and bayonet fixed. The officer, thus armed, was then ordered to march up and down in front of the hotel, as though on parade, and, having no mistaken ideas, either of valour or duty, he obeyed. After a brief while, Ben Hall strolled outside and relieved the constable of his arms, telling him to go and enjoy himself with the others..."

Later in January 1864, at the subsequent trial into Vane's bushranging rampage with Ben Hall and gang, Charles Sykes gave an account of both of his encounters with the bushrangers, first remarking on the encounter on the 26th September 1863, and then the October visit to Canowindra, from the 'Empire', Friday, 15th January, 1864: Constable Sykes, being sworn, said: "I am stationed at Canowindra, I saw prisoner on the 26th September last; he was in company with Hall, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Burke; I was going down the town about half-past seven in the evening, and they all stuck me up when near Robinson's public-house; I had no arms at the time; they took, me to Robinson’s public house, and kept me a prisoner until five o'clock the next morning; they were drinking during the night; I could not get away as they watched me closely; they went backwards and forwards to the store during the night; there were between twenty and thirty people in the house; the men were all well-armed at the time; I saw; Vane again on the 15th October with the same party; I was away for a short time, and when I returned I was informed by my wife that my arms had been taken away by Hall; I had a carbine and a horse pistol-they were both taken; I then left to go to Cowra, and was stuck-up by Hall near my own house; I saw Vane at the same time at some little distance away from Hall; Hall ordered me to stand, and I was taken to the public-house; that was about eight o'clock in the morning, and I was kept a prisoner until about four o'clock; Gilbert, O’Meally, and Burke were there; there were between twenty and thirty people there; when I left Vane told me he would get me the arms back, and they were afterwards given to me; I did not see the bushrangers any more after that time." After the constable's ordeal, Sykes expressed this comment his capture and treatment by the gang, especially Gilbert; “they detained the constable a close prisoner from the time of his arrest, until eight o’clock on Wednesday morning. The prisoner speaks very highly of the kindness he met with from Gilbert and does not seem to have suffered any indignity at the hands of his captors. During the time of his captivity, Gilbert showed the constable a pistol taken from the police camp; and asked whether, in the event of its being returned loaded to him, he would shoot Gilbert; to which he replied, that "he might if he got a chance." "Then," said Gilbert, "to do away, with any chance you might have, I'll fire it off for you." After discharging the pistol, he handed it to the constable, remarking that such arms were useless to them, we learn from the constable, that they rode splendid nags, though rather light in condition, and that they took the police paddock fence like a bird...” ³⁰ Constable Sykes also attested to Gilbert's leadership of the five bushrangers, although this assumption could be disputed; "Gilbert is described as possessing the most unlimited authority over the rest of the band. His every command is law, no one daring to dispute it; and at night, while one of the five keeps watch, the other four slept soundly, and with the utmost confidence and reliance upon the watchfulness and good faith of their mate on sentry. The same men, on this visit to Canowindra, gave a look in at Mr. Pierce's, and took £12 in money; and about £30 worth of goods...”³¹

Gilbert's former position as Frank Gardiner's lieutenant appeared to still hold true under the new regime. However, at this stage, Gilbert still wielded some influence with his bushranging fraternity, although this was obviously tenuous as Ben Hall appeared, as often reported, as the leader and that during the three day's of festivities at Canowindra the residents deferred to Hall for any matters to be resolved. Hall's leadership is also attested to and was noted as organising the bushrangers as guards at various points as well as mustering those about the town and allowing passes to be issued so residents could return home for a period of time;[sic] "Ben Hall next announced that no one was to leave the town without a written permit, and stated that no harm would be done to anyone unless they attempted treachery. Although Ben spoke in a quiet voice, there was such a stamp of authority about his presence, and such a tone of determination in his speech, that no one felt inclined to resist. Ben Hall was not only quiet of speech, but of appearance and behaviour. He wore a dark tweed suit, slouch hat, Wellington boots. There was nothing of menace, nothing of boastfulness in his manner, and had it not been for the points of two revolvers just showing below his coat, he would have passed for an ordinary, rather prosperous, squatter. His beard helped to hide his fine features, and also his youth, making him look more like 37 than his correct 27..." (Charles Sykes would retire from the force in 1872 on a pension of £126 per year) Consequently, with the festivities having concluded, this was illustrated regarding the bushrangers standing amongst some of the local farmers;[sic] "The bushrangers remained until evening, the town having been in their possession for three full days, three gala days, three days which established their popularity, announced to the world that they did not rob or kill as a pastime, and which served as a direct challenge to the police parties that during those three days were out searching the surrounding bush for the outlaws. It was a remarkable piece of audacity on the part of the bushrangers, whose resultant prestige was enhanced greatly by the fact that all the expenses of those three days of jollity were borne by them." It must also be mentioned that as gracious as Ben Hall and gang appeared, and the costs of the three days being covered by the gang, the funds provided, however, were not earned through hard toil, but from the point of a revolver on some hapless victim who on the occasion was no doubt terrified for his life.

Canowindra c. 1905.
Note, General Store
of C.L.T. McDonagh's.

Courtesy NLA.
Furthermore, the initial newspaper reports of the gang's arrival at Canowindra indicated that the publican Bill Robinson had been absent. However, this appears to be incorrect as once again at Vane's future court hearing, Bill Robinson gave a brief account of the situation. Robinson states that at the first raid in late September he was absent from Canowindra. Robinson's testimony varies from the newspaper accounts of the gangs gala over the three-day hiatus.

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

View of Canowindra, c. 1901.
Taken from south-side
looking north. In 1863 there
 was no bridge over the
Belubula River.
Hall and Vane crossed close
 to this point and
Robinson pitched his bottle
across.
Courtesy Canowindra
Historical Society.
Meanwhile, as Robinson's Hotel lay under siege of the bushrangers. The police were not without their own knowledge of the gang's presence in the district but not at the township. Even so, the leadership of the NSW Police and its scene of action commander stationed at Cowra, Superintendent William Chatfield procrastinated and instead of following the orders of his superior bickered with the Inspector-General Captain McLerie over absurd administrative issues as the gang were carousing at Canowindra. Chatfield's complaint canvassed the transfer of many of his troopers into Sir Frederick Pottinger’s command. Chatfield was a Superintendent and Pottinger an Inspector. He argued that any transfer of men diminished his effectiveness. Through brisk telegrams, he complained of his depleted forces. A situation that would become diabolical for him. The lack of reaction to the presence of the rangers would ultimately see him dismissed from the NSW police force; (I have placed a number of those memo's below to demonstrate the petty nature of their content as well as the infighting between the inspectors;) Telegram, 5th October 1863;"My dear sir, I have just seen a note from Mr. Orridge to Sir F. Pottinger, by which I am led to believe you wish me to proceed to Canowindra; I start accordingly tomorrow for that place; my party, however, only consists of three men besides myself. I do not think it quite fair, as Superintendent of a district, to have my best men taken away from me and to be sent about the country with a party so small. Had I a larger party I might perhaps have been able to do something, but with three I shall have enough to do to protect myself should I by chance meet the bushrangers." signed, Wm. Chatfield.²³

Consequently, Chatfield departed for Canowindra, but as events demonstrated he was too late for any effective action. Regardless, after a fruitless search for the bushrangers in foul weather. Chatfield returned irate to Cowra. However, with his mind on administrative issues once again Chatfield lamented to the Chief of Police over the reduced size of his force fired off another telegram on the 12th October 1863. Meanwhile, simultaneously Ben Hall and entourage rode casually into Canowindra; Telegram, Cowra, 12th October 1863; "Sir, - I have the honour to report, for your information that I returned to Cowra yesterday and intend to retrace my steps towards Canowindra tomorrow. My party is so small, consisting of three constables besides myself, that I fear I could not do much towards the capture of the bushrangers should they again visit Canowindra. I beg, therefore, to request that, if possible, it may be strengthened by at least two, and this request I make with the more confidence, having brought nine constables with me from my own to the South-eastern district." signed, Wm. Chatfield.²⁴ 

The Inspector-General who was at present in Bathurst taking command of the search for the gang after the success at Bathurst expedited a telegram acknowledging Chatfield's circumstances and as requested dispatched two constables, one of which was mounted to Cowra; Telegram from Inspector General; “reporting your arrival at Cowra on the 11th, and your intended return to Canowindra on the 13th, and to acquaint you, in reply, that a senior constable and, one constable (mounted) has been detailed for duty at Canowindra. The senior constable will hand you this communication; and if nothing is heard of the presence of the bushrangers in the vicinity of that township, you on will leave the party sent from Bathurst for permanent duty at Canowindra, and return with the party under your orders to Cowra, and there wait for further instructions..."²⁵ Furthermore, in the same telegram to Chatfield and what could only be perceived as a rebuke the Inspector-General reminded Chatfield of what he had previously intended for Chatfield’s small party of police to achieve; "I may add, that it was not intended, with your small party, that you should have gone in pursuit of the bushrangers, but that you should have watched the Lachlan and have ascertained whether the gang had crossed that river towards the Young district." signed, Captain McLerie.²⁶ Chatfield demonstrates the lack of courage in fronting the gang man for man.

However, police squabbling gave the bushrangers free reign in the township. Therefore, as the bushranger’s departed Canowindra sometime around 1 pm on Wednesday 14th October 1863, the publican, William Robinson took the initiative and dispatched a desperate message to the police at Cowra addressed to Sir Frederick Pottinger. Furthermore, with the Belubula River now in flood and to swift to cross, Robinson flung his message in a bottle across to the other side, where it was sent on by a flying messenger on horseback to Cowra who subsequently placed the message into Pottinger's hands; Robinson's letter is transcribed here.

Canowindra, Wednesday,

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

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

Artist contemporary
impression of
Sir Frederick Pottinger with

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

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

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

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

Charles Lydiard
c. 1860's
Consequently, the floundering of the western patrol and their lack of success forced the Inspector-General of the NSW police to cast his net further afield for efficient officers. As a result, McLerie ordered an officer based at Maitland and recruited from the neighbouring state of Victoria, Superintendent Charles Lydiard to the battlefield of western NSW.

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

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

The Canowindra festivities concluded, the bushrangers departed. Following their brush with the flooded Belubula River, they rode northward towards Murga. Murga is situated on the fringe of the Nangar State Forest and where after accessing the Forbes to Orange road, the very same road which 16 months previously Hall, Gilbert and O’Meally had participated in robbing the Eugowra Gold Escort in-company with Frank Gardiner. The bushrangers pushed on and formed a camp near the town. However, law-abiding citizens kept the NSW troopers appraised of the gang's whereabouts, unfortunately, this important intelligence appeared to produce no urgency except to have the police traversing from one reported sighting to another but not near the described or marked camps.

Even so, at times the searching troopers were overloaded with bushranger sightings and information often becoming completely confused. The deluge of local counsel also contributed to frustration and nervousness whereby troopers often resorted to drinking spirits whilst either on duty or in camp. No doubt for the Dutch courage required to confront the five desperadoes who had murder in their repertoire. The frequent turning to booze brought five troopers led by a senior constable Wright to be outed for drinking on the job by some complaints from citizens and faced the wrath of Sir Frederick Pottinger who was furious over their lack of discipline dragging the offenders in front of a magistrate charged with 'Neglect of Duty'; The case was brought by Sir Frederick Pottinger against five men of the police force, for neglect of duty, by being drunk and unfit for duty and that at a time when their energies were most required to track and apprehend the band of bushrangers that have lately been keeping this portion of the Western and South-western districts in a state of lawlessness and fear hitherto without precedent in the history of the colony. Senior Constable Wright, constable Mannix, constable Simpson, constable Hamilton and constable Cox were charged by Sir F. Pottinger with misconduct and neglect of duty They pleaded not guilty, and were defended by Mr James, solicitor, from Forbes.”³³

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

Trooper's dismissal.
NSW Police Gazette
16th December 1863.
 
However, the actions of the troopers exposed in court were indicative of the locals view regarding the weak effort of the NSW troopers, including those who were working at the coal face hunting bushrangers. Furthermore, many of that police faced their fear with a strong drink where the prospect of being shot dead in a gun battle if confronted by heavily armed banditry was very real. Therefore, most no doubt took some solace in the bottle which of course led to slovenliness and dereliction in their duty. Moreover, during the evidence presented against the troopers one of their own, constable Burk reportedly did not participate in the binge drinking in court stated;[sic] “that on the 21st day of October last he was on duty with the defendants, we were under the charge of senior constable Wright; we left Robinson's public-house at Canowindra and went to Mrs. Hartigan's house, some short distance from Canowindra: constable Wright was drunk, but not so drunk as he had been an hour previous: we left Hartigan's and went to the Falls across the Belubula, and while there we were drinking, having heard at Hartigan's that the bushrangers had been there and were then only a short distance ahead. We proceeded to the Falls in search of them. Early in the day Wright was drunk, the others, with the exception of constable Hamilton were drunk in the afternoon, and my reasons for believing the defendant to be drunk were, first, that constable Wright could not walk straight, and said it was the only day he had seen double, and that he had lost a horse pistol. My reason for believing constable Mannix to be drunk was, that as he was trying to get on his horse he fell down. Cox and Simpson were not so drunk as the others but were the worse for liquor. There was some contention between senior constable Wright and Hamilton wanting to go to the Falls, and he (Wright) said he would not allow of his parting from his company, and said he should not go. When we left Robinson's inn the defendants were sober, but I believe they had had a few glasses or rum before they left: this was at eight o'clock in the morning: when leaving they took with them a spare bottle of rum; about one o'clock the same day we returned to Robinson's: we remained there till three o'clock when we again left; when on the road constable Cox asked a shilling a man from each of the party, as he said to pay for the grog-the second bottle they had had that day; when we came to Hartigan's in the morning we heard that the bushrangers had been there, and had only left five minutes; after going to the Falls we went in search of them; we had then ridden some twelve or fifteen miles that day; we returned to Robinson's about one o'clock, and stayed there till three in the afternoon; before starting I saw Hamilton, Cox, and the other three drinking in the bar; I was not drinking...³⁵ The outcome for Sir Frederick Pottinger on this occasion was that the troopers were fined accordingly, £5 for Wright and £3 for the others, however, the severity of the charges including Pottinger's fury resulted in the troopers dismissal from the NSW police service. (see above right.)

The whereabouts of the bushrangers after departing Canowindra had been difficult to ascertain whereby Chatfield provided a detailed statement to the Inspector-General of his latest trek through the Belubula district for Ben Hall. Noting that at some point the bushrangers separated to visit some of their local sympathisers. One of which was a settler named Mrs Catherine Hartigan who had provided sustenance for two of the gang, (unnamed but most probably Gilbert and O'Meally as Hall, Vane and Burke at about this time were out securing horses) at her residence prior to the police arriving in search of information; Catherine Hartigan, a farmer, residing near Canowindra, later said: “some time in October last the five defendants come to my place on a Tuesday evening, and had some tea; about sundown they all went away, and returned next morning about nine o'clock; they asked me if the bushrangers had been at my place the night before; I said yes— two of them (that is, two of the bushrangers); the police asked me what direction they had taken when they went away; I pointed it out to them, and then the police galloped away together; about twelve o'clock the same day two of them returned; the two were Mannix and Cox; shortly after senior constable Wright also rode up to my place: I asked him to stop and have some dinner; he said he had not time, and that he had only come to see the other two policemen; they then went away together...”³⁸ However, Catherine’s friendliness offered by many of the settlers to Ben Hall was typical of the disenchanted with the  behaviour of the local troopers. Confirmed when she was accused of the following comment, which she later denied; “I would sooner see the bushrangers at my house than a party of police...”³⁹

Looking toward the hill
that overlooks Grant's
'The Falls', that Hall camped on
with the Belubula
treeline in the foreground.
Chatfield collated the latest expedition into the bush and ascertained the whereabouts of Ben Hall referring to the belief that the gang were heading back towards the Bathurst district possibly No 1 Swamp. The letter below also demonstrates the continued friction between the two inspector's operating in the Belubula district where Chatfield again complains of Sir Frederick Pottinger's abrasive attitude towards himself; The Inspector-General of Police, Sydney, Canowindra, 23rd October 1863; Sir, - I have just returned to Canowindra, I am sorry to say, without success. Last night I camped at Nyrang Creek and discovered a hill known as "Bald Hill," where the tracks of the bushrangers were very distinct and some horse dung so fresh that they must have been there on Tuesday last. This day I proposed attempting to pick up and follow the tracks, but heavy rain falling from 4 until 9 o'clock this morning rendered it impossible, the spoor being destroyed, and the ground so soft that the horses could not carry their riders without danger of straining.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a more comprehensive account of the correspondence between M'Lerie and Chatfield over the Ben Hall debacle see pages 2 and 3 in the link below;
Empire
Monday 11th April 1864 
PARLIAMENTARY PAPER.

Consequently, once more constable Sykes attempted to make his way to Cowra only to be again thwarted by Ben Hall. Hall once more sent him back to town. However, Sykes was not to be put off and again set course for help only this time Sykes reversed course and made a northerly exit for the police stationed at Toogong 15 miles away arriving there successfully; "on regaining his liberty, the peeler tried to make for Cowra; but the gentry of the road put a veto on his journey in that direction. He then headed another way and came to Toogong, where he secured the co-operation of two troopers. The army then marched to the homestead of Mr. Campbell, of Goimbla, who, being a J.P., very wisely thought he was bound to join in the chase; and taking with him his brother and Mr. Barnes (an agent of Cobb and Co., who was driving the coach nearer Bathurst at the time) and at a moment's notice, sounded his bugle "to horse!" That party returned next morning, and issued the usual bulletin; - Results nil..." - Empire, 23rd October 1863.

However, as inspector's Pottinger and Chatfield traipsed through the rain-sodden scrub Ben Hall left the immediate area of Canowindra heading north along the road (Longs Corner) towards another of the many small settlements of the district, Murga. Murga, NSW in 1863 was known as a horse changing station for the many un-contracted coaches plying travellers from Orange to Forbes. With the fever associated with the gold rush at Forbes the town principally serviced the multitudes of passing bullock drays and miners in transit to and from Forbes. Former resident Mr Edmund Rymer reflected in the 'Forbes Advocate' in 1920 on early life in Murga and the memory of his father's hotel when a 15-year-old; "In 1861 my father built and conducted a hotel at Murga, about midway between Orange and Forbes, where all goods were taken by carriers on horse and bullock teams from Orange and Forbes, and the Western country. Little townships sprang up along the line of route. There were 17 or 18 hotels between Orange and Forbes, all doing good business. Cobb & Co. were the mail contractors from Orange to Forbes, receiving two thousand pounds per year, the coach drivers being Ted Workman, Ted Smith, Jack Fagan."

Near Murga, with Nangar Range
in view. The camping area
of Ben Hall, October 1863.
The trail to Murga from Canowindra would take the gang into the confines of the Nangar Range passing the northern cliff's running parallel to Mandagery Creek. To the east were the villages of Toogong, Cudal and Orange to the west the road to Forbes thru Eugowra. Murga for many years was also known as a timber town with a mill and post office and importantly a school, as well as two hotel's where travellers could stop for accommodation and refreshments, one hotel was known as 'German Jack's'. Murga at the height of the gold rush had some 100 residents scattered in and around the township. The route from Toogong to Eugowra was highlighted in an 1878 'Sydney Mail' article 'Notes of a Journey Westward'; "Toogong, Murga, and Eugowra are just the beginnings of small towns, which we passed through on our way; but however small a place may be, we are sure to find it possessed of two or three public-houses, which always manage to secure a fair share of patronage. There is nothing worthy of mention on this road until we reach Murga, where we changed horses. Here we see a grand country—several ranges of very steep picturesque hills of metamorphic slate, their forest-clad sides a pleasure to the eye. Dark green coniferous trees here begin to relieve the sight from the dusky line of the gum trees. As we proceed on our journey these become more numerous and of larger size, so that at last they become even more numerous than the eucalypti. Afterwards, we lose them almost altogether, but they reappear again at intervals."

With the deeds of the bushrangers Jubilee at Canowindra spreading throughout the district the residents of Murga soon become aware that the bushrangers had arrived in the vicinity of their town and their old haunts. News circulated of the gang having formed a camp well positioned so as they could hold the road from Forbes to Orange.(Today's Escort Way) 15th of October, 1863;[sic] It was reported in town on Thursday night that the bushrangers had been seen at Murga on that day, amusing themselves by firing at targets. They were expected iOrange yesterday, and preparations were made to give them a warm reception.”

David Henry
Campbell,
1829-1885.

Private Source never
before published.
On the 16th October 1863, 'The Five' conducted several hold-ups in the neighbourhood of Murga one of the first hold-ups being the Forbes mail coach where earlier in the day an old friend of Ben Hall's and reputed bush telegraph had been sent out to canvass the scheduled passing of the outgoing Forbes coach. However, as the man observed the passing coach looking for police and seeing none present he quickly turned on his heels to report to Hall the situation including word of the coach driver's encounter with a local and influential landholder Mr David Campbell, who ran Goimbla Station. Mr Campbell was a well-known advocate of suppressing bushranging and had a desire to see the end of Ben Hall. The bush telegraph had seen Campbell pull-up the coach informing the passengers to be on the alert for Hall and Co. Campbell saw it as his duty as with many other graziers to assist the police in the pursuit of the bushrangers. Campbell was also in company with his brother William;[sic]“David Campbell made no pretence as to his intentions with regard to the outlaws under discussion, and who did such desperate deeds along the Lachlan-side in those days—he stood out prominently, amongst a number of sympathisers, as one man at least who would show them no quarter.” 

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

Later the same day as Campbell rode on and Ben Hall's old pal having reported the passing of the pursuers the bushrangers with the latest intelligence descended on the town of Murga; “YESTERDAY morning, the bushrangers- we suppose them to have, been Gilbert and Co.-stuck up German Jack's well-known hostelries, at Murga. We did not hear that they took anything. They next visited Mr. Hanley, next door to German Jack's, where they possessed themselves of seven pounds and then departed. They said they were going to Goimbla, and that they would “Shave.” Campbell, and "warm" Barnes. Fortunately, it was not our Barnes not the Barnes of Cobb and Co., -but, as we suppose, an overseer of Mr. Campbell. The next thing the maunders did was to stick up the coach- a feat they accomplished at a place about three miles on the Forbes side of Murga. Jerry was driving, and the number of "rangers" five. These gentry asked for the mail and found there was none. They then asked for firearms, when the same answer being returned-they left."⁴²

In 1920, an eyewitness to the gangs visit at Murga, Mr Edmund Rymer then 15 yrs old, recounted the day's activities. 'Forbes Advocate'"one morning early, Ben Hall, with his gang of men, including J Gilbert, J. O'Meally, J. Vane, and J. Burke, visited my father's hotel. After having two rounds of refreshment in the bar. Hall asked for my father, who was absent, at Molong on business. They informed my mother they had no intention of interfering with the hotel or the inmates, and not to be alarmed. They left two half-crowns on the counter for their refreshments, and went over to the other hotel about 100 yards distant, held up the inmates, took their money, and also took all the money the butcher possessed. The butcher imagined there was something doing and was getting out the back door with his money when one of the gang came on the scene and demanded his roll of money. He took the gold and notes and returned the cheques to the butcher."⁴³

A dry Nyrang Ck, summer 2016,
with Nangar Range
in background.
The foray into Murga was corroborated by John Vane in his narrative. However, Vane states that the coach they held-up following the bush telegraph's observing its passing was empty of passengers; Vane op.cit.that night we camped in very rough country, and on the following morning started for the Forbes-Orange road, which we reached about ten o’clock. Having heard that it was escort day, when the coach from Forbes would be carrying a good sum of gold under police protection, we determined to vary the proceedings by sticking-up the mail. So, we rode in the direction of Forbes, with the object of meeting the escort. The day proved full of adventures, some amusing, some disappointing. A mile further along the road we met a horse with hobbles on and Hall caught him and rode him on to Murga township, giving his other animal a rest. There were two public houses and one general store there, and as we dismounted in front of one of the hotels, a man came out and said to Hall, “Why are you riding my horse?” to which Hall made reply “It’s my horse now and don’t you touch him.” The man opened his eyes at what he, no doubt, a cool piece of impudence, but he speedily realised that we were out for more than a single horse."

Vane describes the raid on Murga; Vane op.cit. “Gilbert and I went over to the other pub and found an old woman in charge. When we made known our mission she said, “There’s no money here boys, but you can have all those youngsters if you like”- pointing to a number of children of varied ages that surrounded her. Not being in want of such spoil we passed on to the store, to find this also in charge of a woman. As we approached she ran out at the back door, and I followed her in time to see her throw something into a tub of dirty water. I at once picked up a broom that was handy and stirred the water, fishing up a pickle bottle containing twenty- two £1 notes. We were more fortunate than our mates who got no money, and after Hall had returned the horse to its owner we proceeded along the road to meet the coach. But here we met with great disappointment. The coach was empty, not having a single passenger or mail-bag aboard. We turned back in the direction of Canowindra, and camped that night at a place called Nyrang Creek.”

The limited success at Murga and conscious of the police and landowners searching the gang broke camp and commenced the ride back towards Canowindra passing over Nyrang Creek skirting the township and taking up the track parallel to the Belubula River, heading in the direction of Orange, and the rough country of nearby Mount Canoblis. As the gang arrived at a good reach of flat along the banks of the Belubula they once more made camp and here the bushrangers took advantage of the fine weather swimming in the cool waters of the river. However, always vigilant for signs of the NSW police, Ben Hall sent a scare through the group whilst they were stripped naked in the water whereupon hearing horses coming through the scrub called out to the others to scarper. Luckily the approaching horses after closing within 800 yards veered off as the gang were racing to gather their clothes and weapons; Vane op.cit. "as the weather was comfortably warm we let the horses feed on the flat till the next day and amused ourselves with swimming. We were all stripped and had left our guns and revolvers on the bank of the river with our clothes, and while we were in the water Hall called out that he could hear the sound of horses coming through the bush. We at once ran to our clothes, but before we could dress we saw seven policemen riding up the flat. I grabbed my gun and ran to my horse, which was near at hand, but before I could mount the police had turned off and headed for the town. We concluded that they had not seen us, although we were not more than 800 yds distant..."

The police party was no doubt led by the aforementioned Inspector Chatfield. Furthermore, dissension soon raised its head in the gang and a petty squabble erupted between Vane and Gilbert over some victuals that saw the two come to fisticuffs;op.cit. "after travelling over some very rough hills until about midday we halted to have a 'snack. Burke and I acted as cooks on the occasion, grilling slices of the bacon on the hot coals; but there was none for Gilbert, and when he saw this he coolly stepped over and took a slice of mine. I told him to put it down, but he commenced to laugh, and I at once struck him a blow in the mouth with my fist, and the row commenced in earnest. But before we could get fairly going Hall and O'Meally seized Gilbert, while Burke stood before me. Then Hall asked Gilbert if he was determined to flight, and he replied "yes" "Very well then," said Hall, "give me your firearms;" and we at once handed over our revolvers to Hall and O'Meally who took charge of them while we tested the soundness of each other's heads and ribs. I being the taller, gave Gilbert the higher ground, and for a time he laid it on to me fairly well, but I suddenly caught him once in the throat, and from that time could do pretty well what I liked with him until he gave in. But we were not allowed the firearms until we became friends again..." However, whether or not Vane had the better of Gilbert is up for debate as later Vane was reported carrying a significant black eye whereas Gilbert showed no signs of a scuffle.

The angst between Vane, Burke and Gilbert was never far from the surface. As the bushrangers leisurely made their way toward Orange, it had been reported earlier that as Ben Hall had departed Canowindra and prior to the gang's descent on Murga there appeared to have been a malicious encounter with a local squatter named Grant. The report was to the effect that the gang incinerated his home. However, it is unlikely to have been the home of Thomas Grant as the police charged earlier with 'Neglect of Duty' had been on a number of occasions at Grant's 'Falls Station' and observed no destruction by the gang. However, a report in a newspaper commented that the gang reputedly had burnt down a homestead of a man named Grant over his suspected collusion with the police. "the same night the ruffians stuck-up Mr. Grant's place on the Belubula, and burnt it down, to wreak their vengeance on the owner, who had dared on a former occasion to give information to the police. They said they were overlooking him when he was directing the police, and saw him point out their tracks..."⁴⁴

However, exactly which Grant may have been a victim is unknown or if in fact it ever happened? Furthermore, the Grant family had been highly respected longtime residents of the Canowindra district having been settled there for well over thirty years holding extensive property throughout the fertile reaches of the Belubula River. At the time of the Canowindra raid, there were recorded three Grant's all brothers who owned three properties on the outskirts of the town. They were George D Grant who held the ‘Grove’, John Grant ‘Belubula’ and Thomas Grant ‘The Falls’. Moreover, it is difficult to ascertain as to which home was burnt down. As prior to the arrival of Ben Hall at Canowindra on the 12th of October 1863 it had been reported that ‘The Boys' had paid a brief visit to the property of Thomas Grant’s ‘The Falls’ where it was said that[sic]“they committed no mischief there,” and after a short conversation departed. (see above) However, the incident regarding the destruction of one of Grant's homes may well be only Chinese Whispers, and not based on any other evidence!

Model 1855 .56 calibre
Colt Revolving Rifle.
Nevertheless, after a close shave with the police outside Canowindra while swimming the bushrangers broke camp trekking further along the river where their path became blocked by boulders. Here the gang headed through the rough ranges of "Old Man Canobilas" arriving at 'Errowanbang Station' the farm of Mr Lawson at Flyers Creek 9 miles from Carcoar and 18 miles from Canowindra. Lawson was the son of the famous explorer William Lawson who with Blaxland and Wentworth first crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813, opening up a new path to the west of NSW. Ben Hall had had a report that Lawson was in the possession of the much sought after revolving rifle which was rare therefore bringing the gang to his doorstep. However, it later transpired that the revolving rifle had been loaned to Inspector Davidson who was searching the surrounding bush for the bushrangers. The bushrangers also nabbed a fine racehorseMORE ABOUT THE BUSHRANGERS -Writing on the 23rd instant, from Carcoar, the correspondent of the Bathurst Times says: -Gilbert, O'Meally, Ben Hall, Vane, and Burke paid a visit to Mr Lawson, at Flyers Creek, seven miles from this town, on Thursday, about two o'clock p. m. On Mr Lawson seeing them approaching the house he made off and kept out of the way till they left. The bushrangers entered the house and asked the housekeeper, an elderly woman, where the keys were when she replied she did not know. They brought an axe and broke open all the doors, and took out all the boxes on the floor, and appropriated what they pleased. They then ran the horses in from the paddock, and took away three, amongst which was "Mickey Free," the racehorse. After this, they left and made for Messrs Welber and Francks, on the opposite side of the Creek, and bailed those gentlemen up, together with about thirty sheep washers and shearers that were in the shed at the time. They took a quantity of wearing apparel, two horses, saddles, and bridles, and when they left they had five horses, saddles, and bridles with them. About half an hour after they were gone six troopers can up, but though they were put on the bushranger’s tracks, they, as usual, lost them. The same evening a report came into town that the bushrangers were camped at Kerr's Station, about one mile from the town. The police did not believe the report, therefore, nothing was done, but it has been proved since that they were waiting for the report of the Flyer's Creek robbery to reach the town, as they intended, so soon as the police left, to make their way into Carcoar.⁴⁵

The raid at Lawson's also throws scorn on any thought of bravery on Lawson's part as various accounts state that upon seeing the gang riding up. Lawson to save his own soul bolted into the bush leaving his servants to face the gang. Vane said that the gang were told the family had gone to Sydney; Vane op.cit." we ran the top of the main range eastward till the country became broken and more level, and we continued in that direction till we reached Mr. Lawson's station on Flyer's Creek. We had been told some time previously that Mr Lawson kept a revolving rifle, a weapon which Hall desired greatly to possess, so we rode up to the station in hopes of securing it. But there were only two servant men at the place, and they told us the station people had all gone on a visit to Sydney, and that Mr. Lawson had lent his revolving rifle to Inspector Davidson, who was after us. Finding Mr. Lawson's favourite saddle horse in the stable, I appropriated it, and also a shot-gun which I found in the house..."

Melbourne Punch,
22nd October
1863.
 
However, while at Lawson's, John Vane in his narrative again provides an insight into the gang's conduct as well as the subject of burning homes of those settlers who aided the police and Gilbert's desire to use it as a punishment. Ben Hall was at first against the action but would eventually support the action. Subsequently, this brings into question the Grant episode and where it would be reported that the gang did burn some property, not at Grant's but at Flyers Creek and only a haystack. Therefore, Grant's suffrage at the loss of his home appears to have been seriously confused with a burning haystack. The burning subject brought about a heated exchange of words between Gilbert and the othersVane op.cit."but Gilbert appeared very dissatisfied, and before long his dissatisfaction found vent in very strong language. "I don't care what you say," he declared, addressing us all, his language being liberally punctuated with oaths; "you are too easy-going with the wretches who are so fond of helping the police. Here's Lawson gives Davidson, one of the smartest men out here after us one of the best rifles in use, and the like of which we can't get, and yet you let him off. I say burn the bloody station! and give them something to remember us by." Burke was the first to speak up: ''You're a fool, Johnny," said he. "If we start burning, the country will get too hot to hold us and we'll be roasted in the very fires we raise. I won't be a party to using the fire-stick against anyone, and certainly not against Lawson, who I know is a good sort." Hall and I also denounced his proposal, and shortly afterwards we left. That night we arrived under Mount Macquarie, near Carcoar, and camped at a waterfall. While we were lying down, Gilbert again opened the subject of burning, arguing that we should destroy the property of everyone who assisted the police. Then Hall, who was generally very quiet, spoke up. Leaning upon his elbow he called out: "Now. look here. Gilbert, you had better stop that talk at once. Once for all, I tell you I won't have any of that sort of work, and if I hear any more of it you will have to reckon with me in a way you won't like. Even if we were inclined to that game and started it, we would come off second best, and we wouldn't last long, for every settler would turn out and help to hunt us down. I don't want to quarrel with you, but by God, if I hear you say anything more about burning. I'll bore a hole through you!" Then Gilbert, who seemed in a terribly surly mood, growled out: "I don't care what you do, but I mean to shoot every-man I find helping the police against me.'' Hall then replied in a quieter tone: "You had better not try shooting either. I am determined not to shoot anyone unless I am compelled to do so in defence of my own life. I mean to hold out until I am shot if I can't get away, but I won't take the life of another man who doesn't try to take mine." The discussion dropped at that and quietness reigned during the remainder of the night..."

The sentiment above expressed by Ben Hall regarding the burning of their victims' property or the shooting dead of the same was fanciful. However, these imminent threats of incineration to property in due course become a reality. Regardless, burning out threats were continuously thrown down as a means of intimidation against any resistance. Furthermore, the intimidation of incineration was about to transpire a few days after the robbery of Lawson's homestead. Within days they appeared at the home of a government official, and magistrate of the colony, Mr Keightley and his wife Caroline at their Dunns Plains home where a battle royal would ensue taking the life of one of the gang.

Accordingly, on leaving Lawson's the five bushrangers learnt that a government official named Keightley, whom they had not previously heard of, resided at Dunns Plains near Rockley. Keightley they had been informed by a sympathiser had made it known around the district that he would riddle the bushrangers through if given half a chance. Furthermore, Keightley had a reputation as a good shot. Consequently, the gang made their way towards Dunns Plains believing that Keightley may also be apprised of a good stock of weapons, which were always in need and that they would hand him a lesson over threatening them.

The gang duly arrived am Friday 23rd October and took up an advantage point 300 yards east from the house amongst a copse of trees and granite rocks on a small hill overlooking their quarry's residence. (see maps below) Taking up positions the men observed that a party of police headed by Inspector Davidson were camped in a paddock adjacent to Keightley's house. During the whole of the day and into the night the bushrangers paid attention to the comings and goings of the occupants which included sighting Keightley conversing with Davidson whom Keightley had invited to lodge at the house, but Davidson declined so as to remain encamped with his men;[sic] "The day before the occurrence took place which we have just described, Sub-inspector Davidson with some troopers were encamped near to Mr Keightley's house, and the bushrangers told Mr Keightley that they had been watching them through the night, and mentioned several little incidents that had transpired, in proof of their assertion. Mr Davidson, it appears, declined to accept the accommodation proffered by Mr Keightley, preferring to sleep out with his men, and Mr Keightley was told of what happened during a visit he had paid the party, and also that they (the bushrangers) had been watching both him and the neighbourhood the whole day through..." The gang remained secluded and unnoticed and as day broke on Saturday the 24th the bushrangers observed Inspector Davidson and his party prepare to depart, unknowing that they were being watched by their prize. However, for Henry Keightley and his wife, as daylight dwindled into dusk life was about to become most memorable.

William Crisp
Pechey.
Henry McCrummin Keightley held the post of Magistrate and Gold Commissioner for the Bathurst region. He and his family leased property at Dunns Plains close to the small hamlet of Rockley NSW. In the dying light near six o'clock of the 24th October 1863, Ben Hall and Co rode into the back yard of the station ready to give the Gold Commissioner a going over. At first glance Keightley and his guest, Dr Peachy a cousin of Keightley's wife Caroline presumed the approaching riders were the returning party of Inspector Davidson. However, in the dimming light, the two men realised the riders were cut from a very different cloth altogether and although Keightley had heard that the gang had marked him, he and Peachy were startled.

Aware that the gang were in the vicinity a plan of defence had been prepared. The bushrangers dismounted instantly opening fire on the two men as the gang scattered around the homestead. Consequently, the two under fire would show stubborn resistance secreting themselves into the house then onto the roof as the gang peppered the dwelling and back door with shot after shot which luckily did not course either men injury. As the gunfight erupted, it was reported that Mrs Keightley's four-year-old step-sister Lily had been left outside and wandered about with bullets flying in the twilight hour, however, she was miraculously unharmed. Also unknown to the gang as they peppered the house with shots was that Mrs Keightley's four-month-old baby Henry b. June 1863 was inside under the protection of the housekeeper Mrs Baldock. (There was a daughter Caroline who passed away in 1863 however, at present her 1863 date is unknown. She was born in 1862.)

H.M. Keightley.
©Penzig.
Henry Keightley was noted as a strikingly handsome man of splendid physique standing 6ft 3in. In the year 1854 whilst Keightley was travelling from the port of Brisbane to Sydney he made an impression upon author Nehemiah Bartley who attested in his book titled ‘Opals and Agates’ published in 1854; “One of the first men I saw on my return to Brisbane attracted my notice by his really handsome face, with a heavy, long, brown moustache that seemed carved from mahogany, so compact and solid did it look, and with eyes as blue, arid richly blue, as any sapphires. I asked his name. It was Henry McCrummin Keightley."

Henry had been born at Corfu, Greece in 1830 where his father had been Governor of several Greek islands controlled by Britain following the defeat of Napoleon. His father had also fought at the Battle of Waterloo in the Fourteenth Regiment as a Major and afterwards, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Unfortunately, as the third son, Henry was required to make his own way in the world wherein adulthood due to the constraints of the law of Primogeniture that upon his father’s death Henry was compelled to immigrate to NSW in 1853 the same year as his father’s death.

Keightley was first employed by two brothers named Tindal who held extensive property on the Clarence River in far northern NSW. During his time there Keightley was involved in a variety of work that also incorporated an expedition to dispose of aboriginals who had been stealing cattle from his employer’s; “Blacks have been spearing our cattle here, and I only returned last night from the pursuit. We surprised two camps with the remains of beef in each. It was Keightley's first service we were camped out eight nights..."⁴⁶ It is at this time that Keightley develops his reputation of prowess with weapons.

However, Keightley's striking frame and conscious of his attractiveness to women soon suffered a flirtatious setback whilst at the Clarence River when his subjective advances towards a female cook may have got the better of him as he was seen to argue with the female whose disinterest in the tall man was quickly made apparent through her reaction and rejection towards Keightley. “At 'Ramornie' they stand in awe of the cook since she threw a coal shovel at Keightley…”⁴⁷

As a result, the lady became the hero of her fellow workers. No doubt these actions were from a woman who perchance let it be known to Keightley that impropriety towards her would not be tolerated, as Keightley’s dashing good looks which no doubt the ladies of Sydney swooned at, but where the ladies of the bush stood firm in repelling possible boarders. Keightley was also in the market for a lady of some social standing and was at one time rumoured to have been engaged, however, often noted as a jokester his fellow workers were amused and the prospective bride talked of was never revealed.

Consequently, upon leaving the Clarence River, Keightley found a minor position in the NSW government and whereby a scandal arose over some misappropriation of funds. Following an investigation, Keightley was found guilty of general carelessness and subsequently transferred to the interior at Tamworth in c. 1858. In 1860 Henry Keightley married Caroline Rotton at Kelso Bathurst the daughter of an M.P. and wealthy landowner at Bathurst. With the right connections now in place, Keightley prospered to become a Magistrate and Gold Commissioner for the Bathurst region. Henry and his wife were acclaimed by writer Cuthbert Featherstonehaugh who swooned;[sic] “the Keightley’s were the handsomest couple he had ever seen...”

Earlier following Keightley's arrival in 1853, Brittan found itself caught up in the Crimean War against Russia through its alliance with France, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia. The war was principally fought over the protection of the Christian minorities in the Holy Land which at the time was controlled by the Ottoman Empire’s Islamic Sultan, however, it also had a broader objective which was about denying Russia any new territory, and even posed a Russian threat to NSW. The construction of Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour was expedited in-regard of the Russian threat. The war itself was noted for its sheer butchery and where the 'Victoria Cross' medal for bravery was born. The Medal being cast out of the steel of the cannons from the war by order of Queen Victoria and where Florence Nightingale brought a revolution to medical care for the wounded. However, as with many British subjects in NSW, Keightley at the time of the war had expressed a desire to enlist, but those who knew him took it as a half-hearted proposal; “Keightley is principally occupied in horse dealing. He talks of going home to "serve his country” (in the Crimean War) but I question his being in earnest...”⁴⁸

However, in October 1863 as five bushrangers gunned for his life Keightley using the house as cover in company with his wife's cousin commenced his defence and for the first time the Ben Hall came up against a settler willing to fight for his life and liberty. The newspaper report below gives an account of the whole of the events. (Sunset at Rockley on the 24th October 1863 was at 6.18 pm, therefore, the whole of the events regarding Burke's death were conducted during dusk and the early evening until Pechey's return on Sunday morning the 25th with Sunrise at 5.20 am.)
The layout of events at Dunns Plains 23rd, 24th, 25th October 1863.
DESPERATE ENCOUNTER WITH THE BUSHRANGERS.

(From the Bathurst Times of Wednesday.)

The Back Door peppered
with the bullet holes
fired by the gang.

Can Be viewed at the
Bathurst Historical Museum.

My photo.
On Saturday evening, between six and seven o’clock, Gilbert, O’Meally, Ben Hall, Vane, and Burke made their appearance at the house of Mr. Keightley, assistant gold commissioner, at Dunns Plains Rockley. Mr. Keightley was at the door at the time, outside the house, and, seeing the men advancing, thought at first they were policemen in disguise. On their coming up they called out to him to “bail up,” but, without paying any attention to the command, he ran into the house-about thirty yards off – with the intention of arming himself- four or five shots being fired at him as he went. It seems Mr. Keightley had been expecting a visit from the gang and had provided himself with the necessary means of defence; but, owing to a most unfortunate circumstance, they were beyond his reach at the very moment he required to use them. Having occasion shortly before to send a letter to the post, he had dispatched it by a manservant, who bears the character of being a trustworthy and courageous fellow, and he, it appears, had taken a brace of revolvers with him for his own protection. Snatching up a double-barrelled gun (only one barrel of which was loaded), and also a revolver, Mr. Keightley, accompanied by a guest, Dr Pechey, took his station at the door, where a shower of bullets greeted his appearance, some of them passing within a hair’s breadth of their bodies, and burying with a "ping" in the woodwork about the threshold.

Burke lays dead.
Highlighted from the painting by
Patrick William Marony
1858-1939.
Courtesy NLA.
The plan pursued by the bushrangers was to keep undercover as much as possible, Burke from time to time creeping up at the side of the house, and suddenly swinging his arm around, managed in that way to fire at the gentlemen as they stood in the doorway. Vane is mentioned as coming out in full view, and deliberately taking aim. Unwilling to risk a shot at him, Mr. Keightley waited for the next approach of Burke, who came up shortly afterwards in the way described, and incautiously exposing his body, he was instantly shot in the abdomen, whereupon he was seen to reel like a drunken man and stagger to the side of the house. Leaning with one hand against the wall, he cried out, “ I’m done for, but I’ll not be taken alive;” and then with the other hand he pulled out a revolver, and placing it to his head, endeavoured to blow out his brains. The first shot appears to have merely grazed the skin on his forehead, but the next blew away a portion of his skull. He then fell to the ground. The bushrangers, seeing what had happened, still continued to conceal themselves, while they kept up a constant fire upon the house. Dr Pechey at this juncture, made a rush across the yard towards a kitchen, in the endeavour to obtain possession of a gun placed there, belonging to the servant, William Baldock, whom we have mentioned as having been dispatched to Rockley. He was, however, encountered by Vane, who, presenting a revolver, ordered him back, at the same time firing at him. The doctor accordingly retraced his steps. The two gentlemen unable, by reason of the tactics pursued, to get a shot at their assailants, now resolved to effect a change in their position, and with this object in view, they walked out of the door, and, by means of a ladder, deliberately mounted to a loft above the house, being exposed the whole time to an incessant fire; but although tho bullets passed around them in a shower-some cutting through Mr. Keightley’s beard and hat-miraculous to say, they reached their destination unhurt. The bushrangers still kept undercover, and fired about twenty shots at the loft, when Gilbert called out to them to come down, and Ben Hall said if they did not they would burn the house. Mr. Keightley, fearing that they would carry their threat into execution, and perhaps murder his wife and child, who were below, determined to give himself up and accordingly called out his intention to surrender. 
Saturday evening 24th October 1863, Ben Hall lays siege to H.M. Keightley's home.
On reaching the ground, Vane ran up to Dr Pechey, and struck him with the butt end of his revolver a violent blow on the forehead, immediately above the left eyebrow which knocked him down. Mr. Keightley remonstrated, asking him why he treated him in that manner when Vane made some answer, which showed that he mistook the doctor for Mr. Keightley, whom they believed to have been the instigator of the resistance they had experienced. Just at this moment some persons in the employment of Mr. William Bowman, whose station is in close proximity, were observed standing on a rise of ground. (Injustice to these, it must be mentioned that, through private means, we are possessed of information which exonerates them from the charge of standing coldly by while the murderous assault was going on.) It seems Mr. Keightley has been in the habit of firing for practice, accordingly the reports of the firearms created no surprise, and it was not until the voice of Ben Hall was heard, threatening to burn the house down, that their attention was aroused, and they came up the hill to see what was going on. Ben Hall at once fetched them down in a body to where the others were standing, and such a scene was presented as we trust it will never be our fate to chronicle again. In one corner of the yard lay the boy highwayman, while on a portion of the well frame sat Mr Keightley, under sentence of death,- Vane standing close to him loading the gun with which Burke had been shot. Mrs Keightley turned to the others and implored them to spare her husband’s life, but seemingly without avail. Vane said doggedly that Burke and he had been brought up as boys together, that they had been mates ever since, and that the gun that had deprived him of life would, in turn, take the life of the man who killed him. The gun being loaded, he threw it over his arm and turning to Mr. Keightley told him to follow him down the paddock.

Mrs' Keightley and Baldock
pleading for
Henry Keightley's life.

Painting by
 Patrick William
Marony 1858-1839.

Courtesy NLA.
In frantic agitation Mrs. Keightley ran up to Ben Hal!, and clutching him by the coat collar, said “I know you are Ben Hall- and they say you are the most humane, respectable, and best of them all; for God’s sake do not let them murder my husband – save his life!’’ She then turned to Gilbert, and addressing him in similar terms, begged him to interfere (O’Meally, it appears, was away looking after the horses); Gilbert and Hall appeared to be moved, and the latter called out Vane to desist. A parley ensued, when Gilbert and Hall dictated the terms upon which Mr. Keightley’s life should be spared, viz., that as the Government had placed five hundred pounds upon Burke’s head, the amount of the reward should be handed over to them, and they agreed to allow a certain time (till two o’clock the following day, Sunday) for the production of the money.

Dr Pechey then examined Burke and discovered a large wound in the abdomen, through which his entrails, in a frightfully torn and lacerated condition, were protruding. He was still breathing, although unconscious, and the doctor said he could do very little for him without his instruments. He asked, if one of them would go into Rockley, and fetch what he required, but they said it would be of no use, and that it would be better to shoot him at once and so end his misery. The doctor thought something ought to be done, and at length prevailed upon them to let him go and obtain such things as he wanted, having first pledged his honour that he would not raise an alarm. Before he returned the man was dead. We have said O’Meally was absent, and Mrs. Keightley, fearing lest he might not agree to accept the ransom, prevailed upon one of the party to fetch him. When he came, he at first refused to listen to the proposal, and declared his intention to revenge the death of his companion; but he was, however, eventually pacified by the others. They then went into the house, and remained there for a considerable time, awaiting Dr Pechey‘s return, and drank some spirits and wine, Mrs. Keightley having first tasted it, in order to assure them the liquor was not drugged Some conversation passed, in which the bushrangers said that the reason Burke was so daring, arose from the fact that they had just previously been twitting him with the want of courage, and seemingly he was determined to convince them to the contrary. In answer to a question from Mrs. Keightley, as to what could induce them to pursue the course they did, when, by the many robberies they commuted, they must possess considerable wealth, Gilbert replied – that, with all their depredations, they had not so much as would keep them a week.
Following the night flight to Bathurst, Dr Peachy alone pays the ransom to the gang on Sunday morning 25th October 1863. The exact place may have been any one of the small hills in close proximity to the homestead. Dunns Plains elevation above sea level is 850 m.
Arrangements were next made for the payment of the ransom. Mr Keightley was taken to a place called the Dog Rocks, on a hill near, and Mrs Keightley was warned that if any information was given by which the police might be brought down upon them they would shoot her husband immediately. She was to go into Bathurst with Dr Pechey, and fetch the money, and if any treachery was attempted, after shooting Mr Keightley, they said they would come down and fight those who approached for the £500. The position they took upon the hill enabled them to overlook the road so that they could see whoever might arrive, and it was stipulated that Dr Pechey should alone approach them with the money. Burke being dead, two of the men, engaged at Mr Bowman’s, were hired to take the body in a spring cart to the house of his father, being paid £2 each for the service by the bushrangers. On the return of Dr Pechey, Mrs Keightley, under his escort, rode into Bathurst, where she sought out her father, Mr Rotton, M.L.A. That gentleman instantly repaired to the Commercial Bank (it being about four o’clock in the morning) and procured the sum required, with which, accompanied by Dr Pechey, he started to Dunn’s Plains, whereupon it's being handed over to the party by the brave doctor, Mr. Keightley was set at liberty, and soon after arrived in safety at Bathurst. A body of police had, however, some lime previously started in pursuit of the gang.

Mr. Keightley speaks most favourably of the manner in which he was treated during his captivity, and it seems he had a long conversation in the night with one or two of them, in which he was told that the gang would never have come into Bathurst, or visited him, had it not been for the taunts received from two individuals who ought to have known better than to spur them to the enterprise. They denied ever having threatened to use any violence towards him, but being told that he (Keightley) was a splendid shot, and would riddle them through, as he was in the habit of practising at a target, they imagined he must be possessed of first-class weapons, and the desire to possess these, as well as to test his courage, had induced them to make the attack they had. Personally, they did not know him. Once in the night, the galloping of horses was heard, and as for some time the bushrangers had taken it in turns to rest – two sleeping while the others watched – Gilbert, who was standing sentry over the prisoner, went up to the sleepers, and touched them gently with his foot, calling them quietly by name. They jumped up without noise and held their weapons in readiness, but as the sound drew nearer, it was discovered to emanate from a passing mob of bush horses.

The day before the occurrence took place which we have just described, Sub-inspector Davidson with some troopers were encamped near to Mr. Keightley’s house, and the bushrangers told Mr. Keightley that they had been watching them through the night, and mentioned several little incidents that had transpired, in proof of their assertion. Mr. Davidson, it appears, declined to accept the accommodation proffered by Mr. Keightley, preferring to sleep out with his men, and Mr. Keightley was told of what happened during a visit he had paid the party, and also that they (the bushrangers) had been watching both him and the neighbourhood the whole day through. There are one or two circumstances which we have omitted to mention, but we believe the narrative we have given contains everything connected with the matter which can be relied upon."⁴⁹

Henry & Caroline
Keightley.

c. 1885.
In the years following the battle of Dunns Plains the murderous events have been analysed on and off. The attack is riddled with many conflicting accounts regarding what actually transpired during first initial engagement in the dying light of Saturday evening 24th October 1863, along with the subsequent detainment of Henry Keightley for ransom.

In 1911 a short account of the famed battle was published, titled ‘The Lone Hand’ by Mr George Quickie whereby the details of the whole affair are recounted by the son of Henry Keightley, Leo in an explicit light regarding his father's night of infamy at the hands of Ben Hall. However, be that as it may, the bulk of the 'The Lone Hand' narration is a solid historical record and relates in interesting detail how the gang passed the night away with their prisoner. Including the intense desire of both Vane and O’Meally to seek retribution on Keightley for the death of Micky Burke. The book also shines a light on Hall's command over the gang as well as Mrs Keightley cradling the couple's baby son upon departing Dunns Plains with Dr Peachy at night and her arrival at her fathers home 'Blackdown' outside Bathurst.

The 'The Lone Hand' is linked below and illuminates the behaviour of the remaining four bushrangers as well as demonstrating that contrary to the belief that the gang's inner relationships were harmonious Leo Keightley reveals through his father's account that a fracture was evident. A split that would see Hall, Gilbert and then O'Meally turn on John Vane who soon feared for his life. Whereby shortly after they expelled him from the gang:[sic] "followed by the death of Burke at Mr. Keightley's; Vane, being tired of a bushranger's life, and afraid of his associates, next gave himself up to the authorities..."
Furthermore,  the events surrounding the death of Micky Burke, including Burke's initial wounding reputedly by the shotgun of Mr Keightley become the subject of much rumour and gossip. Whereby, scrutiny cast suspicion over the long-held belief that Keightley had indeed fired the shot that wounded Burke. However, in a series of differing accounts from eyewitnesses the feeling was expressed that Ben Hall, who himself reputedly admitted to firing the fatal shot, had instead of Keightley been responsible for shooting his shotgun and hitting Burke accidentally. Therefore, it appears that when Burke exposed himself from his hidden position his presence in the darkness startled Hall whose reaction was to pull the trigger. There is no doubt that the bushrangers lost sight of each other as they moved around the homestead in the darkness. A later victim of a Ben Hall robbery while held-up canvassed the Keightley subject directly with Hall;[sic] "I asked them how Keightley shot Burke, and with what weapon. Neither of them spoke for a few seconds, and then Hall said in a gloomy way, "Keightley didn't shoot Burke; I shot him myself by mistake," and then he related how Burke was dodging behind a water-butt or tank, and Hall seeing but indistinctly fired and mortally wounded him, supposing him to be a foe...". Mrs Loudon of 'Grubbenbong Station' who on differing occasions suffered at the hands of the bushrangers also cast doubt over Keightley's wounding of Burke, remarking; "When the table was cleared, and they had turned the place fair inside out, looking for money, Burke lay down and put his dirty boots upon my sofa, and went to sleep. I told Ben Hall the little wretch would sell him yet. There's none of the breeds was any good says I. Hall said if he had any suspicion he would shoot him like a dog. And sure enough, he did, about three weeks after. Don't tell me Keightley shot him. Hall did it himself, I'm sure..."⁵⁰ Let us make no mistake. Ben Hall shot Michael Bourke!

Keightley Testimonial.
S.M.H. 2nd November
1863.
However, the public euphoria over the stand of a settler against the bushranger insurgents reached fever pitch when Testimonials were initiated by leading citizens praising the Gold Commissioners stand. These testimonials were of a monetary nature where donations of all denominations of currency were contributed by folks from all classes. Allegedly some hundreds of pounds. (see article right.)  It was also reported on the 2nd November eight days after the encounter that the Commissioner had been paid by the government the outstanding reward for Burke; The Government has paid £500, the reward offered for the capture of Burke, to Mr Keightley, who shot him dead, when stuck up by Gilbert and his gang, the other day.

With the reward paid and testimonials gathering pace, some doubt continued to appear in the NSW press over hearsay as to whether or not Keightley had indeed actually fired the fatal shot. In the 'Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser', 8th December 1863, the subject was raised at Vane's subsequent court appearance following his surrender to Father McCarthy in November 1863; "Vane is to stand his trial for the attack on Commissioner Keightley. One object to be attained by this procedure is the discovery of the truth in regard to the circumstances of that occurrence. We shall soon know whether Keightley has entitled himself to a monument for his "heroism" or not. It is rather a suspicious circumstance that he should have lost no time after receiving the £500, in packing up his traps and making his way down to Sydney. He reported himself to the Lands Department, and represented that he left the scene of his duty because "his life was in danger." He was told that he might please himself with regard to his movements so that he is still displaying plumes in the promenades of the metropolis. Now, is this "heroism?''

However, one person overlooked in the wildness of the events was Mrs Isabella Baldock the housekeeper whose husband was also an employee of Keightley's. Earlier that day Mrs Baldock's husband had been dispatched to Rockley with mail and carried with him a pistol for self-protection. In her later testimony, Mrs Baldock held firm that Hall admitted to her of having fired the shot that dropped Burke; The bushranger (Vane) replied, “You wretch, you shot my mate, and I'll blow your brains out." Mr Keightley said, “On my soul, men, I never shot him, and if I did I never meant to.” The bushranger replied, "You’re a liar; if you didn't mean to shoot us what did you fire for?" The other bushranger, the shorter of the two (Hall, I believe), said to Mr. Keightley, “You didn't do it; I did it in mistake when firing at you.” ⁵¹

At the time the conversation turned to the still alive Burke where Pechey expressed a desire to help save the boy, although he knew it was hopeless, as did Ben Hall who expressed as Peachy prepared to depart Dunn's Plains to shot Burke and end his misery;[sic] "it was decided that the doctor should ride into Rockley and get his surgical instruments, and return and attend to the wound as quickly as possible. Hall at first protested, on the ground that it was a hopeless case. "What's the good?" asked he. "Better shoot him and put him out of his misery." But he withdrew his protest, and so the doctor went his way, though under strictest compact 'not to bring the traps' on them..."

The above extracts from the letter sent to the press by Isabella Baldock's husband concluded with this appendage; "I have no desire to bring my wife before the public-for I want nothing, and expect nothing; but when it is insinuated in Parliament that the story concerning her interference on behalf of Mr. Keightley is a fabrication, I do not think I ought to remain silent. In conclusion, I beg to say that Ben Hall himself told me on Sunday morning, that, had it not been for my wife, he should certainly have shot Keightley. Mr Keightley said to me as he was leaving Dunn's Plains for Bathurst, after having been ransomed, "Be sure and take care of Isabella: she behaved like a brave girl to me last night." It is as well for me to note that I was absent at Rockley, for letters, &c., and did not return till late in the evening. I must not further trespass on your space, Mr. Editor, but cannot close without taking the opportunity of thanking Mr. J. Stewart, M.L.A., for his kindness in taking notice of the conduct of my wife in the unfortunate affair at Dunn's Plains." For the full account of Mrs Baldock's statement see link below.
Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle
Saturday 6th March 1869
COMPENSATION TO MR. KEIGHTLEY.
Caroline Keightley.
c. 1865.
In 1898, Mrs Keightley passed away and over the preceding years had projected an image both in print and on the theatre stage of herself as the heroic damsel in not only saving her husband’s life but her ride to obtain the £500 ransom nursing her four-month-old child. All of which usurped the true events in the public's mind and where fact and fiction became distorted. However, an unnamed NSW trooper out of respect for her whilst she lived decided to reveal that he was one of the parties of police who intercepted Burke's body from the two stockmen and transported it into Carcoar for the inquest and after sighting the many differing accounts over the years wished to put the record straight as he knew the details; “for certain reasons which he explained, our informant does not wish his name to become public but has, he asserts, implicit belief in the reliability of the information which he obtained concerning Burke's death, and his mind and memory, he states, are especially clear upon the matter, "I have never rushed into print with it," he said, "but my friends have all heard it, and now the chief actors in the tragedy are dead, I can see no objection to your publishing it..."⁵²

The former trooper reiterated the long-held version of Hall's confession and sorrow said; “that Ben Hall, who did not see the defenders go to the top of the house, made his way round by the kitchen in order to get a better opportunity to fire at them. On turning a corner of the kitchen, he suddenly saw a man, whom he took to be Keightley, but who afterwards proved to be 'True Blue' in a small recess between the kitchen chimney and the wall of the house, Hall fired, and the man dropped down, dangerously wounded in the loins. The remainder of the gang, being under the impression that he had been shot by Keightley, became so incensed that when he afterwards surrendered to them, they announced their determination to execute him summarily. Hall, however, showed less animosity towards him, and, apparently actuated by the pleadings of the young wife, used his influence with the gang in the direction of mercy. This is the version of the affair as related to me by a man who was a friend of Ben Hall, and also a friend of mine. He told me the story years afterwards when we had been travelling together in the bush for some time. He said that he was in the immediate vicinity of the place where the sticking-up occurred, which I knew to be a fact. He went on to say that, after Mrs. Keightley had gone away to Bathurst for the money, Hall left the others and went back to the house, where he appeared to be searching for something. My informant, who knew Ben intimately, said "Why, Ben, you look as miserable as if you had lost sixpence. What's up", Hall replied, "I have done the worst day's work I ever did, that's all." "You're not breaking your heart about sticking up old Keightley, are you?" he was asked. "No, it is not that," was the reply, "but I have shot little Micky, He never would go where I told him," he continued, "and the little devil, thinking he knew best, went and got into that niche by the chimney. I thought he was Keightley and shot him." He told me that Ben Hall seemed greatly affected and that he had no doubt whatever as to the truth of his statement." "This little story brought to my mind the inquest on Burke, which was held in Carcoar, and a peculiar circumstance connected with it. I remembered that the late Dr Rowland conducted a post-mortem examination of the body and that his evidence was to the effect that nine 'leaden slugs' were taken from the body of the young fellow. The Commissioner, who gave evidence subsequently, stated that the gun with which he is said to have shot the bushranger was loaded with shot. No attention, however, was paid to this discrepancy at the time, as the whole colony was ringing with Keightley's praises. He was afterwards presented with a gold medal for his gallant conduct, and the Government paid him the reward of £500 which had been placed on Burke's head..."⁵³ 

Burke dead, the bushrangers seconded two stockmen from the neighbouring station and gave the men £1 each to deliver Burke's remains to his father. However, as the two were transporting the body in a cart along the road and unaware to the men, Burke's body fell from the cart to the roadway where it lay in the dirt until a body of troopers intercepted the cart to take possession and finding the dead bushranger missing; "Another incident worthy of note is in connection with the recovery of the dead man's body. The bushrangers had hired two men to convey it in a cart to his father's residence. A detachment of police, including myself, met them, but the cart was then empty. The body had dropped out further back along the road, as a subsequent search showed, and we then removed it to the Carcoar Hospital, where the inquest was held..."⁵⁴

The back of the homestead
at Dunns Plains
as it was in 1863 when
occupied by the Keightley's.
Henry Keightley was perched
 on the roof between the two
buildings while returning
the bushrangers' fire.

Note the backdoor extreme
right and rear garden gate.
Courtesy Des Shiel.
Caroline Keightley in due course become a public favourite as the heroine of Dunns Plains, and the reward of £500 for Burke's death was granted to Keightley. However, the initial £500 laid out by Henry Rotton MLA appears to have not been reimbursed by the Government nor Keightley. Long after the events Mr R. J. Rotton brother of Caroline would state that only Keightley was given the reward money; "My father was not then or any other time recompensed by the Government in any way whatever."

As the dust settled the episode continued to come under closer examination. Questions began to appear regarding the shooting and defence of Dunns Plains. In a review of the circumstances, the first crack in the Keightley version of events was the weapon he admitted to firing, a double-barrel shotgun and stated that it was only loaded in one barrel. Primed with birdshot, the smallest lead pellet out of all the shotgun ammunition types, therefore, was birdshot capable of disembowelling Burke to the extent evidenced by Dr Pechey even at close range, reputedly less than ten yards?[sic] "Upon going up to Burke, he found a large wound, in his abdomen, from which his bowels were protruding about two feet..."

Accordingly, at the inquest into Burke's death, the physician, Dr Rowland reported that he removed nine Leaden Slugs from Burke which indicates that at ten feet, a rough estimate of the distance from the door to Burke. Remembering that Keightley stood 6ft 3in and Burke 5ft 6in. Birdshot would not cause the type of tearing injury inflicted on Burke's stomach when taking in to account the thickness of his clothes as the bushrangers were known to wear two shirts and at times two pairs of trousers while living rough against the cold. (see the illustration of the shot below) Therefore, Hall was reportedly armed with a shotgun during the siege and would no doubt have had it loaded with lead shot for full effect. Thereby providing a tight grouping of the lead ball's for accuracy when firing at victims at very short range. This draws the conclusion that based on Hall's position at the side of the house and Burke's concealment and the shotgun in Hall's hands, Hall was more than likely responsible for the wounding of Burke as alluded to previously where again Hall had reputedly said;[sic] "the little devil, thinking he knew best, went and got into that niche by the chimney. I thought he was Keightley and shot him."

Furthermore, during the detainment of Keightley, the gang remained at the property into the early hours and then for safety shifted their position a short distance from the house at the request of Mr Keightley, as noted in the 'Lone Hand', to a spot known as the Black Stump. As the evening wore on and their nerves frayed the sound of horses galloping brought the men to their feet and guns were drawn covering Keightley. Hall exclaimed "By God, we are betrayed" levelling his revolver at Keightley's head. However, in the paddock at the rear of the house eight or nine horses had been startled and stampeded around the enclosure, fortunately, Keightley placated Hall and the bushrangers stating that they were his animals, this diffused the tension. The bushrangers returned to their places and continued to wait out the night dozing. In the early hours with daylight tingeing the sky the Doctor arrived at the place noted as the Black Stump with the ransom. Notwithstanding, there is much contradictory evidence as to the specific place the gang waited, one named the Black Stump, and the other location named Dog Rocks. It may be that the Black Stump and Dog rocks are virtually next to each other or one upon the other or the same place as noted; "at about daybreak the bushrangers, having arranged for the disposal of Burke's body, went off with Keightley to the Black Stump at the Dog Rocks; arise that gave a long view of the Bathurst Road." However, many small hills surround the property that fit the description of the places named the Black Stump or Dog Rocks. However, over time their significance and importance as local landmarks have been lost whereby much of what has been recorded as to the actual location of the bushrangers at daybreak while holding Keightley and awaiting Dr Pechey's return is pure conjecture. Therefore, it would be prudent for the gang under the circumstances to remain close to the home, within a few hundred yards at most, as Dr Peachy had limited knowledge of the local landscape, consequently, the payment most probably occurred near the homestead. Following the passing of the ransom, Hall addressed Keightley and said; "you have been an excellent host, on a trying occasion." Then with a wave of Hall's hand and two of Keightley's finest horses, the remaining bushrangers galloped off. Finally, within days of the battle at Dunns Plains, the Keightley's departed for Bathurst for his fathers-in-law home, Blackdown. Furthermore, Dr Pechey at no stage confirms that Keightley fired at Burke even though the two were ensconced together against the withering attack. (examples of the effects of both birdshot and lead shot (Leaden Slugs) are below. Source the NRA.)
Dr Pechey said; "I went to look at Burke's body, and saw that the bowels were protruding from the abdomen; I also saw blood coming from his mouth and nostrils; there was a wound in the head, and one of the bushrangers said Burke had shot his brains out. The shot must have been fired close - I should think within a yard or so..." This type of stomach wound is consistent with a discharge of Leadshot/Buckshot, not Birdshot, remembering that Keightley stated he fired around the door frame, and at 6' 3in and Burke 5' 6in, Keightley without aiming or blindly would have fired towards the head, not abdomen of Burke. Dr Rowland also stated that he removed nine lead balls from Burke. Therefore, it is most probable that Hall at near the same height as Burke most probably startled, shot the young man accidentally being within a yard of the young man at that time of night. At one yard the damage would have been enough to blow out Burke's intestines and stove his shirt into the wound. 
Rough height difference
between Keightley
and Burke.
John Vane himself in his reminiscence also did not believe that Keightley fired the shot; Vane op.cit. "Keightley could not have shot Burke from the doorway in the position in which he was standing..."

In his narration to Charles White, Vane to add more confusion expressed the thought that Gilbert was the guilty party as throughout his conversation with White Vane never puts Ben Hall in a bad light, therefore, Hall's possible complicity in shooting Vane's mate is passed over, as a result, Gilbert was often Vane's focus for a backhander. Accordingly, from the evidence there appeared to be much animosity between Gilbert and Burke and Vane as Vane had had had a stand-up fistfight earlier with Gilbert, although championing himself as the victor over Gilbert, however, Gilbert could handle himself against all comers and no doubt Gilbert may have had in truth the better of Vane leaving him with serious bruising and black eyes. Nevertheless, Vane contends in his mind that Gilbert was the perpetrator of Burke's death as prior to their arrival some chaff passed between Burke and Gilbert; Vane op.cit. "Gilbert and O'Meally were riding in advance as we got near to the paddock fence when suddenly Burke trotted forward. "Now then Jack" he called out as he reached Gilbert's side, "This man will shoot, and we will soon see who are the game men in the gang."What the f--k do you mean?" growled Gilbert as he half turned to look at Burke. "Look out for your own skin, and don't be trying to throw anything out about me, for I won't have it." "Alright old boy," said Burke, as he laughingly fell back again; "you'll see what I mean if the 'boss' is at home and has his gun on hand." Gilbert made no reply to this and but rode sullenly on. He knew we all looked upon him as a bit of a coward, and he evidently resented Burke's little bit of pleasantry..." In conversation with Mrs Keightley, Vane claims he exchanged the following over the shots fired as Burke lay dead upon the ground;op.cit. "While she was putting on her gloves she asked me "Did Mr Keightley really shoot that man" I replied briefly "I don't know who shot him." Well, she said " there were nine shots fired, for I counted them.-Who fired them all?" I replied that I had fired three from a gun and Burke had fired four from a revolver, and I showed her that four of the chambers of one of the revolvers I had taken from Burke were empty. "Then," she said, "perhaps some of you mates shot him by accident?" To which I replied, "Well, all I can say is that I didn't shoot him"; and as I did so I looked fair into Gilbert's eyes..." Vane also comments that O'Meally also pointed the finger at Gilbert, however, O'Meally and Vane were closer in friendship which may attribute to Vane's bias view;op.cit. "Hall interposed and told them to stop growling at each other, and then O'Meally heatedly said that Gilbert was the cause of Burke's death..." 

The close examination that was swirling around the Keightley's brought one of the few statements from Dr Pechey, but only in defence of his cousin Caroline who had been accused of varnishing her efforts following the surrender of her husband and Pechey. He also confirms Mrs Baldock's intercedence after Vane dropped him with a blow from a pistol; THE BUSHRANGERS AT MR. KEIGHTLEY’S. —The following letter has been addressed by Dr Pechey, to the Editor of the Bathurst Times in answer to an article published in that paper claiming a share of the public honours accorded Mrs. Keightley for her servant, Mrs. Baldock:— " To the Editor of the Bathurst Times. — Sir— An article appeared in your last Saturday's paper, concerning "Mr. Keightley and the Bushrangers," and I feel it my duty to reply by the simple statement of a few facts. If it concerned myself I should not condescend to notice it, as I should not set the least value on what any person in the colony said or thought of me, but as it makes everything that has been previously said on the subject false (even down to the sworn evidence), as one of the two eyewitnesses, I should be doing wrong if I let it pass. The following facts I had a good opportunity of observing, as perhaps after the first minutes I was the least in peril of the party: — When I came down from the top of the house and was standing in the garden, Mrs. Keightley came out of the front door, while Mr. K was still on the roof. Gilbert came first into the garden, and Mrs. Keightley went up and caught hold of him, imploring him not to shoot her husband. Mrs. Baldock did the same to Hall when he appeared, and when Vane knocked me over, she called out "Oh, for God's sake, don't hurt the doctor, he never hurt you!" This caused the explanation which saved my life, and I was then allowed to go to the body. While I was bending over Burke, Mrs. Keightley again came up to me and asked me to do all I could for him, and if there was any hope. I replied that there was no hope, but I must pretend there was to gain time. After I had caught my horse, Mr. and Mrs. Keightley were sitting together, on the frame of the well. Mrs. Keightley got up and tried to hasten Gilbert's departure, who was going to accompany me, and told him that Burke could be kept there and attended to till he recovered; Gilbert then let me go alone. It is some time after this that your article makes Mrs. Keightley appear on the scene. Here I may conclude, as I did, not intend to write a description of the affair, but merely to prove that Mrs. Keightley was there and was as active as possible from the very beginning in saving her husband's life. Let the questionable praise of the people around us, by all means, be awarded to anyone who may care to have it, but let the truth be spoken concerning all. Before I conclude, I cannot but express my surprise, that a gentleman should base an article which directly impeaches the truth of a lady, on the testimony of those who were not present. You say you have two authentic documents, while Mrs. Baldock and myself were the only eyewitnesses of the first part of the attack. I am, Sir, yours truly, W.C. Pechey. P.S. — If the value you set on truth is anything more than a profession, insert this in your next. Rockley, December, 1863.⁵⁵

Rolf Bolderwood. The
pseudonym of Thomas
Alexander Browne.

c. 1891.
Rolf Bolderwood, author of 'Robbery Under Arms' and the pseudonym of Thomas Alexander Browne, penned an expose of the events at the Dunns Plains homestead as recounted to him by Mr Keightley while both were on the board of the Albury Land Board in 1886. It was on an occasion where the two were travelling together on business and while returning from Germantown, today's Holbrook. Bolderwood persuaded Keightley to describe the attack made upon him in October 1863 by the bushrangers Ben Hall and gang. Mr Keightley obliged. Some years later armed with Keightley's account and a former reporters instinct for a story Bolderwood would pen the renowned novel 'Robbery Under Arms' published in 1888 twelve months after Mr Keightley passed away. Keightley recounted to Thomas much of what was already general knowledge regarding the lead-up to and the attack, capture and the threat to his life by Vane and O'Meally as well as the pleading of both Mrs Keightley and Mrs Baldock in the prevention of Keightley's execution. Bolderwood conveys as in the 1911 account of Leo Keightley's evocation 'The Lone Hand' penned by George Quicke the events following Mrs Keightley and Dr Pechey's departure for her father's property Blackdown. What follows is that conversation between the two men in a coach ride from Germantown (Holbrook) to Albury. In this extract, there is no mention of Keightley being detained away from the homestead. Extract, 'Kalgoorlie Western Argus' Tuesday 28th March 1905: "However, they ran up the horses, and Mrs Keightley and Dr Peechey went off to Bathurst. When they were fairly away and out of sight, Mr Keightley lit a cigar. "Now, boys," he said, "we've had a hard day. I think we all stand in need of refreshment. I'll order supper, and we'll take it together." Ben Hall laughed, and said he "rather thought we were due for a square meal." Mr Keightley's man, who returned from the post after the surrender, got supper ready, and they all sat down, Mr Keightley, of course at the head of the table, when he and his strange guests had supper together. Keightley and his four friends at supper enjoying themselves. Ha, ha! The whisky had gone round more than once or twice; their host—for this night only—urging them to make themselves at home, as they might not for years, indeed never, have such a chance of meeting under the same circumstances. Under the same circumstances? Not the good cheer, not the glasses so freely filled and passed round, not the jests, which, in spite of the serious situation, from time to time "set the table in a roar," could take the frown from O'Malley's face. It was well into the small hours when the revellers went off to their rooms. They slept till the sun was high when Ben Hall sounded the "Reveille." Whisky and milk were thoughtfully provided by their host; their horses had been fed and watered. And when the abundant breakfast was despatched, they expressed themselves as feeling very fit and willing, but for pressing engagements, to stay another week in such good quarters. Dr Peechey returned, in company with Mr Rotton, Mrs Keightley's father, bringing a hundred five-pound notes, which were carefully counted and fairly divided, Burke's share being kept separate and given, in trust, to Hall for his relatives. One of them said, "I suppose Mr Keightley, we part friends, and you'll give us your word of honour not to follow us up again ?" "If my wife has suffered any injury," replied Mr Keightley, grimly, "I'll hunt you all to the gates of hell; so don't deceive yourselves." "If that's the talk," said Vane, "we'd better shoot him and have no more bother." O'Malley agreed, but Ben Hall, as before, interfered and persuaded Mr Keightley to promise. Gilbert sided with Hall, and Bourke, being a non-voter, parties were equal." From this account, it concurs the Lone Hand statement that the gang and Keightley remained in close proximity to the homestead the entire time while awaiting the return of Dr Pechey on Sunday morning.

Mural at Binalong depicting
a new reward of £4000
for the remaining four.
2018.

My Photo
Later in December 1863 following John Vane's departure from the gang under strained circumstances the bushranger surrendered to Father McCarthy on the 19th November 1863 and was conveyed to Bathurst Gaol to stand his trial. During those December proceedings, Dr Pechey presented the following testimony on Vane's actions and Burke's death leaving out any reference under oath to Keightley having fired the wounding shot; William Crisp Pechey, being sworn, deposed that; "He was a medical practitioner residing at Rockley, and on the evening of the 24th October, he remembered five men coming to Mr. Keightley's house, where he was staying. Vane was present. When they approached, they called to witness and his companion to stand. They ran back, witness endeavouring to reach the servants' room, where there were some firearms, but he was confronted by one of the bushrangers, and he then retreated towards the house and took his position near Mr Keightley. While doing so, he heard the report of firearms all round. Shortly after they made for the roof when the bushrangers commenced firing on them again, and a bullet passed through Mr. Keightley's hat. The hat produced was the one worn by Mr. Keightley. The men were then screening themselves behind posts and other things. They shouted out to witness and Mr. Keightley to surrender, which they consented to do, and came down. The bushrangers, finding by that time that their mate was wounded, rushed up to them, and Vane knocked witness down with his hand, in which he had a revolver, producing the cut of which the scar now remained on his temple. He asked them to let him attend to the wounded man, telling them he was a doctor. Upon going up to Burke, he found a large wound, in his abdomen, from which his bowels were protruding about two feet. He asked them to let him go into Rockley and fetch his instruments, which they did, upon his promising not to give the alarm. When he came back, he learned that Mr. Keightley had been taken prisoner, and was to be kept until £500 was paid. He heard so from Mrs. Keightley, who had made the arrangement with Gilbert and Hall. The witness came into Bathurst, procured the money, and handed it to the bushrangers, Vane being one of the party. Mr. Keightley was then liberated."⁵⁶ Pechey the next day elaborated further on Burke;  "I gave evidence in the case against Vane yesterday; when Mr. Keightley was in the passage I was behind him: he said he had fired; after I came down from the roof I went to look at Burke's body, and saw that the bowels were protruding from the abdomen; I also saw blood coming from his mouth and nostrils; there was a wound in the head, and one of the bushrangers said Burke had shot his own brains out; after I saw the body I went to Rockley to get my instruments, and when I came back Burke was dead; I afterwards assisted to put the body in a cart, and it was taken away; I heard it was to go towards Carcoar; a German and one of Mr. McDonald's men went with it; about two feet of the bowels were out; that would have ultimately caused death; I think the wound was of that character that it must have caused death; a portion of the shirt was driven into the wound; the shot must have been fired close-I should think within a yard or so." Here again, Pechey fails to corroborate Keightley's claim of hitting Burke. Therefore, it may be a cryptic hint that Keightley did not inflict the wound as he fired blindly from the door frame!

'Empire' 27th October
1863.
However, one hundred and fifty-five years after one of the most audacious attacks perpetrated by bushrangers in the annals of Australian colonial history, the actual details of Keightley's defence are still a mystifying set of circumstances regarding who actually fired the shot heard around the country. The colonies citizens relished every account regarding the deeds of Ben Hall who had become a household name, overtaking the wild John Gilbert and John O'Meally and was seen as the leader of the gang. Accordingly, the affray at Keightley's was at the forefront of the talk on every street corner. Many suggestions were subscribed to the press on how to suppress bushranging. Some quite bizarre; "A proposition has been made that those who are convicted of highway robbery shall be punished by the amputation of a leg so as effectually to bar any future exploits of the kind. Another correspondent has suggested that bloodhounds might be employed in hunting down the bushrangers."⁵⁷ 

However, there is sufficient historical evidence, to cast suspicion upon Ben Hall for shooting Burke, accidentally. In another account, the conversation between Vane and Hall after Vane struck Pechey went thus;[sic] "Ben Hall, whom Vane regarded as his chief, came up and advised him to refrain, and said Hall, "in a scrimmage like that it is impossible to say who fired the fatal shot; I might have done it myself." Furthermore, in December 1863 this appeared in the 'Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser'; "Mrs Baldock came out of the house, and at the same instant Ben Hall ran into the garden by the night-gate, and, putting a pistol to Mr K's head, swore he would blow his brains out, as one of his men had been shot through him. Mrs Baldock (Mrs. Keightley was not present) rushed between them, caught the ruffian's arm, implored him to desist, and to think of Mrs Keightley and her little infant. Vane then passed them rapidly, and knocked the doctor down with his pistol, when the courageous woman turned to him and exclaimed 'Oh, for God's sake, don't hurt the doctor, for he never hurt you.' There was a pause, in which the explanation as to who was Dr Pechey took place, and then Ben Hall said he believed he had shot Burke himself, in mistake. Dr Pechey put an end to the scene by pointing out the necessity of immediate attention being paid to the wounded man, and so, for the time, their danger was over..." Nevertheless, the bushrangers were not yet finished by a long shot and would continue to have the police on the back foot, until another country squire held firm in the coming weeks. The Keightley attack had the government raise the stakes on their lives through a timely increase in the reward from £500 to £1000 was made for the remaining four. However, Keightley was paid the £500 and retained the funds for himself. Money and honesty can be strange bedfellows!
Authors Note; Henry Keightley arrived in the colony of NSW on the 8th May 1853 on-board the 'Panthea' 511 tonnes under the command of Captain Hannant. Keightley's departure from England took place from 'The Downs' situated off the Kent Coast adjacent to the area of the southernmost part of the North Sea near the eastern entry to the English Channel. Whilst in England, Keightley, it appears was offered an opportunity of employment in NSW by Mr Charles Grant Tindal, who at the time was visiting relatives in England, and who, in conjunction with his brother Frederick Tindal owned two large cattle stations at the head of the Clarence River in northern NSW known as ‘Koreelah' and 'Ramornie', which at that time in Charles' absence were managed by Frederick Tindal. Another gentleman and an acquaintance of Henry Keightley by the name of Baitman was also engaged by Tindal and soon after all three men sailed together on-board the 'Panthea', having departed on 26th January 1853. However, one of the brothers Tindal residing at ‘Koreelah’, kept a diary of his life and events of those with whom he worked and lived with including Henry Keightley.

Tindal Diary Entries; 1853, July 29. — Baitman has arrived, leaving Keightley to follow by next vessel. 1853, August 11. — Blacks have been spearing our cattle here, and I only returned last night from the pursuit. We surprised two camps with the remains of beef in each. It was Keightley's first service; we were camped out eight nights. He is a lively, amusing fellow. I prefer him to Baitman, but they’re both too old. (C. G. Tindal, from Ramornie). 1853, October 20 (from Fred Tindal, at Koreelah). — 'The unexpected arrival here of K. and B. prevented my finishing my letter. They created an immense commotion here, the former especially, bullying the shearers in English, Scotch, and Irish by turns, till he was voted fit to travel anywhere. 1854, January 3. — Private races have come off at Eatonsville (Mylne's), opposite Ramornie, at which Keightley was the principal winner. The new chums certainly make the place (Ramornie) very noisy and gay, but I don't think they work very hard. Keightley's room is hung with a profusion of his father's watercolour sketches and knick-knacks of great variety. 1854, January 31. — Baitman and Keightley are now called Jack and Jill. I don't think Charles gets much work out of either of them. Jill (Keightley) is more particularly celebrated for buying and selling horses, mixing punch and telling facetious stories. Jack (Baitman) is fond of a comfortable armchair. (F. C. Tindal). 1854, March 7. — Keightley, who is the more prominent of the two, is very clever and entertaining, what is termed 'good company,’ yet he is not a favourite altogether. He shows too much fondness for making money by games and sharp bets, etc., which is not pleasant, even to lookers-on. I dare say he will make a good enough settler whenever he has work of his own to attend to. Baitman, alias Jack, is devoted to the armchair. 1854, May 28. — Keightley has just started for Ipswich races. Both K. and B. are too old to do any good for themselves or to be of much service, but K. is the better of the two. 1854, September 8. — In my last, I told you both Keightley and Baitman left us. The former has a small Government appointment, the latter intends sailing for England immediately. 1854, September 24. — Keightley is a clerk in Sydney. 1854, December 8. — Keightley is here low on leave of absence from his Rifle Corps duties. He is still connected with the Emigration Office in some way. 1854, December 10. — Writing in a noisy, room, Keightley and Charlie Porter detailing adventures. Keightley says he is on sick leave, but I have an idea he has been in some scrape in Sydney. Ramornie same date. — Keightley, who is here on a visit with C. E. Porter, has just returned from fishing. They frequently bring in from six to 14 dozen perch and fresh-water herrings. Keightley gives out that he is to be married in six weeks, but he is so given to joking that we do not know if this is so or not. He is in the Emigration Office, also a com. in the Rifles. All are employed writing letters, Keightley upon one to a Miss Palmer at Sydney, to whom he tries to persuade us he is engaged.

Henry McCrummin Keightley passed away on the Saturday 8th January 1887; DEATH OF MR. KEIGHTLEY.- "The death is announced, at Sale, on Saturday last; of Mr. H. M. Keightley, for the past four years stipendiary magistrate at Albury. For some time past, the deceased gentleman had been a sufferer from Bright's disease, and it was during a tour to the Gippsland Lakes, undertaken for the benefit of his failing health, that the symptoms as summed a fatal character. On Thursday Mr. Keightley was obliged to take to his bed; on Saturday his illness had assumed such a character that Mrs. Keightley was hastily summoned by wire, and on the same night the end came. Mrs. Keightley, accompanied by one of her four sons; arrived in Sale on Monday, on which date the funeral took place privately, in the local cemetery." Upon the Commissioners death and his long service in public office, the government allocated £1000 to Mrs Keightley in the recognition of his services. On June 22nd 1855 sadly Charles' brother Frederick Tindal drowned while fording the Clarence River at Smith's Falls.

Reward notes and
their numbers
paid by

Dr Pechey to
Ben Hall.
With Burke dead and £500 in their pocket. The four remaining bushrangers rode northwestward into an old familiar area, Eugowra. A rugged country with its precipitous nooks and crannies, where eighteen months earlier Gilbert, O'Meally and Ben Hall participated in the famous 1862 Gold Escort robbery led by their long-departed mate Frank Gardiner. Furthermore, disquiet hovered amongst the four as they headed northwestwards. To compound their pensive mood the heavens had opened. Heavy rains pounded the district, whereby, the local creeks and rivers flooded as the four negotiated their bush road in search of a suitable camp. The wildness of the bush surrounding Eugowra was perfect and had recently become a back-drop for seclusion. Four days after their departure from Keightley's on Thursday morning 29th of October, en-route to Eugowra as they passed Mt Canobolas the four were reported near the road from Forbes to Orange by a coach driver. The driver stated that the bushrangers appeared to separate; Forbes Friday. 6 p.m.-It is reported that Gilbert's gang were seen in this district yesterday morning by the driver of the coach and that they have separated; Gilbert and Vane going by themselves, and Ben Hall and O'Meally nearly an opposite direction. -There is a great flood on the Lachlan, the river being near bank high.⁵⁸

However, contrary to the coachman's view the separation was no doubt O'Meally departing with Vane, Hall and Gilbert heading to their planned rendezvous. Here Vane would take his leave from the gang, telling O'Meally he wished to see his father. O'Meally offered no objection saying they would wait at the appointed rendezvous site; Vane op.cit. "now that blood had been spilt I felt I had had enough of the game, and on the way back I suddenly told O'Meally that I wish to go to my fathers place that night, promising to return to the camp on the following day. He offered no objection and we parted. This was the last I saw of my mates, for I did not return to the camp and they did not come to look for me..." O'Meally rejoined Hall and Gilbert and the remaining three subsequently immersed themselves in the confines of the local bush cutting west further into the rugged confines of the forests surrounding Eugowra and after covering 70 odd miles went into camp; The 'Illawarra Mercury' November 1863 said of the three; "they are now confined to the line of Country extending from Eugowra to Canowindra, their refuge in case of difficulty being the Eugowra ranges. These consist of short, broken, intricate ridges, crowned with out-cropping masses of granite, huge boulders of which lie about in all direction and in the most confused manner. They are very difficult to ride over and provide amongst the vast rocks and boulders innumerable places of concealment. When hard pressed they fall back upon those ranges, and are soon lost to sight amongst the short jumbled ridges. Once out of view, all pursuit of them is hopeless, as there are crevices and caves in every direction, in which they can lie concealed without the slightest fear of discovery. There they remain until pursuit is over, and it is only when the bush telegraph is set to work to inform them that danger no longer presses that they again emerge from the fastnesses of Eugowra, and once more enter upon the country..."  
Donald Cheshire's Return of Prisoners Tried at Different Courts 1864. 
Donald Cheshire and the
shopping list for the gang

& receipts in his possession
when arrested.
Photo of Cheshire
c. 1890's.

Courtesy Penzig ©
However, unbeknownst to the gang the notes paid by Mr Rotton had had their serial numbers recorded and on the 31st October 1863, one of the gang's telegraphs and a cousin of John Vane's, Donald Cheshire was arrested in possession of some of the marked £5 ransom notes. Cheshire had used the money while embarking on a shopping spree for the bushrangers at Bathurst. 'Bathurst Times' 31st October 1863; THE RANSOM MONEY OF KEIGHTLEY.— Some of the notes paid by Mr Rotton to obtain the release of Mr Keightley have been recovered. From what we have learned, it appears that on yesterday morning, a young man named Donald Cheshire— who is a cousin of the Vanes—came into Mr Webb's store, and there purchased a double trigger revolver (price £9), for which he paid two £5 notes —receiving in change £1. Shortly after Mr Webb took the notes into the Bank of New South Wales when it was discovered that they corresponded with two of three paid to Gilbert. Cheshire thereupon was followed, arrested, and taken to the lock-up. On his person being searched, we believe, four more of the £5 notes were found, and also the following list of articles, which, it is supposed, he was commissioned to buy;- "Big fellow-revolver £8, crape, mother's medicine, caps; powder, and bullets." It has also transpired that this worthy visited the shop of Mr Pedrotta, the gunsmith, and Mr Craig, the saddler, and, at each place, succeeded in passing some of the money extorted for the ransom of the gallant commissioner.

Vane to be kept separate
from Cheshire.
New South Wales, Australia,
 Sheriff's Papers, 1829-1879.
Arrested, Cheshire would be convicted and sentenced to five years on the roads, however, he was released in 1868. Furthermore, in December 1863 another person of dubious character James Coffey, who would claim to be robbed by Hall and Gilbert would also be arrested for passing funds from the Keightley ransom. However, this money was no doubt used by the bushrangers as payment for hospitality at Coffey's Inn near Borrowra as he was a known harbourer to the police and was recorded on the 1862 Gardiner map of known harbourers; (see Ben Hall page.)[sic] "A man named Coffee, who was stuck up by, Gilbert and Hall lately, near Burrowa, was yesterday arrested and charged with endeavouring to pass some of the notes of the Keightley ransom." Coffey and his wife would be released on bail in January 1864 at £100 each to appear when called upon.

However, for John Vane, it was the end of the road whereby the feelings within the gang between Vane and the other three had become unsettled since Burke's death as he struggled with the loss of his close mate. Furthermore, Vane had remained unconvinced that Keightley had fired the shot wounding his friend, as alluded to earlier and therefore, in an abrupt move quit the gang. Vane never returned; Vane op.cit. "having departed from O'Meally I made my way to the hut of some people who were friendly to me, reaching the place at about midnight. I told them I had left the gang and did not intend to rejoin it, and they cheerfully made room for me to stay with them for a time. I kept quiet for several days until I heard that Hall, O'Meally and Gilbert had left the old camp and gone toward Forbes..."

Vane & Cheshire separated at
Darlinghurst Gaol. As well

as Frank Gardiner.
New South Wales, Australia,
Sheriff's Papers, 1829-1879.
Donald Cheshire arrested with the notes from the ransom and the three bushrangers awaiting Vane's pending return Gilbert and O'Meally restless ventured out in search of Vane whereby they hailed a passing coach questioning the driver if they had seen their mate;[sic] STOPPAGE OF THE MAIL.- The mail from Forbes was stopped on Thursday, in the neighbourhood of Toogong, by two mounted men, said to be Gilbert and O'Meally. They inquired from the coachman if he had seen a young man, whom they described, upon the road. They passed on, offering no violence to the coachman or to the passengers. Consequently, the realisation that Vane was not returning Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally remained camped in the remoteness of the Eugowra bush.

On 28th October as Hall and the others retreated to the wilds of Eugowra from Keightley's another bushranger was commencing his run. He was Fred Ward who in due course would become known as Captain Thunderbolt. Ward originally from Windsor made the New England region of NSW his district from Tamworth to Murrurundi. One of Ward's first forays was noted in 'The Sydney Morning Herald' Monday 2nd November 1863. The small entry also remembers Hall's link to Murrurundi;- "Sergeant Granger and Reynolds, with a black tracker, again started on Tuesday night but returned to-day (Wednesday) being unable to find a further trace of them. I should not be surprised to hear more of these desperadoes further down the northern line before long. The whole affair either appears to be a great bungle on the part of the bushrangers in alarming the whole neighbourhood by robbing the hut of a gun and a flitch of bacon or else it is only a feint for more desperate notion in another quarter. It behoves the gold escort to be vigilant, and to be prepared for any contingency, especially between Tamworth and Murrurundi; the Northern escort is completed at Tamworth, and it should be remembered that one of the bushrangers at least is well acquainted with the Northern bush. I allude to Ben Hall who resided for some years in the district of Murrurundi. I may mention that sergeants Granger and Reynolds were attired in plain clothes, and appear to have used every effort to capture the men herein alluded to, although they were unsuccessful in doing so..."

However, the gangs earlier success in September against the three troopers at Marsh's Farm resulted in the communique's between Superintendent Morrisset and the powers that be in Sydney came to light. These telegrams were released to the press on the 7th November 1863 in an attempt to appease the growing dissatisfaction of the public in the prowess of their police force. These police questions centred around effort and needed answers for their unpardonable actions! (The to and fro may be viewed through the attached link. The telegrams note the firepower at that time which had fallen into the hands of the gang.)
The Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday 7th November 1863
To the Editor of the Herald.
Furthermore, as Hall, O'Meally and Gilbert sat snug in the bush, the pursuing police were also enduring the rugged conditions as they slogged it out in the wild scrub in search of Hall;[sic] "The police constantly camping out at night under the most unfavourable circumstances — a country pretty nearly as large as Old England itself. No one knows or can suppose the hardships these men endure. They have been frequently seen to pull off their shirts and socks, go to a creek, turn to and wash them, sit down contentedly while the articles became half or one-fourth dry, and then put them on again! Their food, too, is for the most part half-baked damper (large fires being prohibited) tea and sugar, procured at stations, of the very worst description, and for which they are charged the highest price; and beef, instead of being supplied, as might reasonably be expected, by large squatters, is sold to the police at exorbitant rates..."

While the police dealt with their rough conditions. Ben Hall, however, still had many settlers throughout the district prepared to offer aid and comfort such as Agnes Newell (sister of Dan Charters) of nearby Bandon who had a hotel from which Hall and Co could take some R&R as well as Tom Higgins at 'The Dog and Duck' hotel near Forbes. (Higgins mended Hall's broken leg when a youth.) This support for Hall in defiance of the efforts of the local police was highlighted when a correspondent attempted to fall in with the three bushrangers by throwing cash around the Eugowra/Forbes district's shanty's in an attempt to be 'Bailed-Up' by the boys. Although he was unsuccessful his article exposes the depth of local knowledge of the inhabitants regarding Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally's movements and protection; "It is now very generally admitted that the only likely way of reaching the gang is through this bush telegraph. The term has made for itself a distinctive meaning in the Western district, "He is a bush telegraph," is now the ordinary mode by which a spy for the bushrangers is described. These telegraphs are scattered far and wide over the whole district, and, but for their assistance, the gang would have long since been extirpated. O'Meally, Vane, and Ben Hall are all natives of that part of the country and are connected by marriage or by family ties with very many of the small settlers around. The feeling of relationship would cause many of these to provide the bushrangers with the means of evasion when they would not give them any co-operation. But, besides this, they have also been brought up in the district, have been employed as stockkeepers in riding over it, and know every inch of the bush, as well as the citizens of Sydney, know the streets and lanes whose intricacies puzzle the countryman. What is of more importance to them is that they have an acquaintance with every soul in the district, and more particularly with the stockkeepers, shepherds, and other hired men, whose information has been so valuable to them, and whose services they have, through an old acquaintance, been able to command. My own experience has shown me how very widely information in regard to these bushrangers is spread, and how speedily it is circulated. "Anything about the bushrangers?' I heard one man ask of another. "No," said the other, "nothing new." "Where are they now," demanded the first, "Down at Eugowra," replied the second, "at least they were there last night." And this was said in such a way as to convey the impression that he knew it because he had seen them there. You will hardly meet a man upon the road,—I mean, of course, the loungers about the public's and shanties, and not the travellers—who has not some little explanation or experience to give, some last news to relate. How far this is correct you may yourself judge, when I tell you that the telegram I sent you from Forbes of the attack by the police, the escape of Ben Hall after his horse being bogged, the withdrawal of Vane from the gang, and the quarrel between Gilbert and Hall, was gathered by me on the road, from the narratives much more amply given, of some of these loafers. In fact, the row between Gilbert and Hall was so graphically narrated with the "then says Gilbert," and "then says Hall," that I had a kind of lurking suspicion that the storyteller had actually been present on the occasion. Of course, I did not spoil his tale by hinting any such suspicion, as nothing but the man's impression of my most profound ignorance and innocence would ever have induced him to say so much to me as he did. It is in this quarter, as I before said, that the gang may be most easily reached, and it is against these bush telegraphs that the police are now more particularly proceeding."⁵⁹

Following a short recess and Vane departure, the trio returned to the fray. Whereby in the dead of night they appeared back at the scene of their earlier triumph, Canowindra. Between the hours of two and three o'clock in the morning, the men reined their horses outside Robinson's Hotel knocking on the locked door. Bill Robinson opened the door to the barrel of Hall's revolver after Hall claimed they were police. On gaining entry Hall inquired about police movements to which Robinson replied in the negative. Hall turned to Gilbert and O'Meally "All right-come on" ordering some grog. Although Robinson commented on not seeing any troopers there was a magistrate was lodging overnight, this Robinson kept to himself. After a few drinks, the bushrangers departed. On leaving the hotel Ben Hall wished to pay Bill Robinson for the drinks but the hotelier had been informed that the bushrangers carried the proceeds of the Henry Keightley ransom. Robinson declined to accept the £5 note offered for the grog. Hall said he must do without payment as they had no other money. They then rode away.

Subsequently, at daylight troopers arrived led by Inspector Chatfield. Robinson and a magistrate lodging for the night named Cummings informed sub-inspector Chatfield of the visit. They then pointed out the road which the gang left by; "last Wednesday morning, at half-past one o'clock, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Hall went to the hotel of Mr Robinson and knocked at the door, replying when asked, "Who's there?" that they were "Police." The door was opened by Mr Robinson when he was confronted by Ben Hall, holding two revolvers levelled at him. The fellow asked whether there were any police in the house and was answered in the negative. He then inquired whether there were any in the neighbourhood; but as Mr Robinson had only that evening returned from Forbes, he told him he was unable to say. Gilbert and O'Meally were standing close by, and they all entered the bar and drank nobblers. They had some conversation with Mr Robinson, in the course of which they said Vane had left them, but they did not much regret his absence, as they felt more secure with the smaller party. They stopped altogether about a quarter of an hour, and as they left took two bottles of port wine and two of old tom, which they offered to pay for with a £5 note, but which Mr Robinson could not change. They cautioned him, however, not to mention anything about their visit, as they said they wanted, if possible, to "clear out" quietly. Mr Kerian Cummings, J.P., was sleeping in the house, it appears, and Mr Robinson considered it his duty to report to him what had occurred, and accordingly did so. It was then decided that as the only police assistance to be procured was that of a trooper stationed in the barracks, about half-a-mile off, it would scarcely be prudent to risk an encounter with the bushrangers in order to acquaint him with the circumstances, so the sending of communication was deferred till the following day. At daylight a messenger was sent for the solitary policeman who lives about half a mile from Robinson's; on his arrival, he was asked if he knew where to find Mr Chatfield, and while they were conversing about the affair Mr Superindent Chatfield and a party of policemen rode up to the house. Information was at once given to them of the occurrence and the road the bushrangers had taken being pointed out to them they shortly afterwards started in pursuit towards Eugowra..."⁶⁰ On the query of Vane's whereabouts Ben Hall confirmed to Bill Robinson that Vane; "had left them about ten days ago, promising to meet them at a particular rendezvous, and, as he had not kept the appointment, they supposed he had deserted the party..."  ⁶¹

The attached link is a map which covers the area during John Vane's membership of the gang. It was meticulously constructed by Craig Bratby author of John Vane; Bushranger. Vane was an active member from August 1863 to November 1863.

Publican Licences
1853-1899.
Inspector Chatfield departed Robinson's, headed in the direction of Cargo, also known as Davy's Plains Run. Cargo was principally a farming community with sporadic gold mining, situated 20 miles from Orange and its locals are known to be sympathetic to Hall. However, as luck would have it the police after leaving the town the came across the three bushrangers in the company of another person the police thought was apart of the troupe. On sighting, the troopers put spurs to their horses in pursuit. Hall on seeing the troopers galloping towards them took flight. In the panic, the stranger's horse also bolted giving an impression of partnership. However, the rider instead of fleeing attempted to pull up his panicked horse as Hall and Co melded into the bush. As the police pounced upon the man who had become their focus the bushrangers halted a short distance off and observed the scene.

Consequently, in the chase, the unknown rider became a live target. To save himself, he called out; "For God's sake don't shoot me," throwing up his hands.  The troopers wound up, descended ferociously upon the rider and without hesitation fired away as they galloped towards him. The accompanying blacktracker 'Albert' soon identified the man as Henry Hurkett a local.

Henry Hurkett was a farmer and assisted at the families 'Miners Arms' hotel/shanty at Cargo. For the remote settlers, it was a period when every shilling counted too every inhabitant. Therefore, many publicans and prominent settlers often turned a blind eye to the needs of the bushrangers. Resulting in many of them beneficiaries of remuneration for a warm bed and hot meal and information regarding police movements. Those few shillings went a long way! Hurkett may well have been one who on that basis was friendly with the three bushrangers.

Furthermore, Hurkett was well known in the Canowindra district and had a reputedly sound reputation amongst the populace, but, that reputation may well have been more, nudge nudge wink wink, as he was also well known to police and had had a brush with the ruthless Sir Frederick Pottinger earlier. However, for Hurkett his presence in-company with Hall he passed it off, after almost dying, as not fraternisation but a hold-up and said the bushrangers had stuck him up and taken £2 12s 6d from him.

Not satisfied, the police pumped up, maintained their suspicions clapping Hurkett in handcuffs. As Hurkett suffered ill-treatment in the barrage, the three bushrangers casually retreated up a hill on foot leading their horses, occasionally turning to watch the proceedings. For details see link below;
The Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 13th November 1863
The Bushrangers at Canowindra
Hurkett's confrontation with the police saw him spend some time at the Cowra lock-up. After failing to pin him to the gang, he was released. Furthermore, during his apprehension on the road, Hurkett was ordered to stand fast until the police returned. However, after some hours and no sign of the troopers Hurkett, handcuffed walked into town to await their return. (Mr Penzig in his book refers to Hurkett as Urquhart.)

NSW Police Gazette
9th May 1866.
The brothers of which there were three Henry, Charles and Thomas, would all spend considerable time in various NSW Gaol's for a variety of offences predominately cattle stealing. (In 1869 Henry would be sought by police over cattle stealing offences and bolt to Hay NSW under an assumed name of James Wood. NSW Police Gazette 1869 page 143. In 1871 Hurkett would be convicted and sent to Berrima gaol for 2 years hard labour. However, he was paroled in November 1872.)

Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally loitered around Canowindra. The celebrity of being a high profile bushranging relative drew this article from the Melbourne 'Herald' regarding a brother of John Gilbert, Charles;  "It may not be uninteresting to many of our readers to learn (says the Daylesford Express), that within a few miles of Daylesford, resides a veritable brother of Gilbert, the bushranger. He is engaged in tilling a farm upon the banks of the Caliban, not far from the Farmer's Arms  Hotel, on the Malmsbury road. We have been informed that Mr Gilbert expresses considerable regret at the course of life his brother is leading..."⁶²  

However, while Henry Hurkett was fumbling around handcuffed. Subsequently, after covering some forty miles with night falling, the police rode towards Mr Icely's 'Bangaroo Station' to stop for the night. Consequently, when passing a nearby settler's hut they were seen by a small half-cast child, who alerted the occupants in the hut of their approach. The child calling out "there's some men coming." 

Unbeknown to the approaching police Hall and O'Meally were inside the home relaxing; however, their respite suddenly ended at the voice of the child. Consequently, the troopers were startled when all of a sudden, the two bushrangers bolted out from the hut with items of their clothing in hand and under the cover of darkness jumped into their saddles and galloped off. The troopers were dumbstruck at missing an opportunity to capture Hall and O'Meally and a short time later Gilbert as he approached hut unaware; We understand that Mr Chatfield and his party followed the bushrangers in a circuitous route about 40 miles when they made in the direction of Bangaroo, and then as the darkness came on they could no longer follow the tracks; however, they went on to Bangaroo and on riding up to the hut a little half-caste girl called out "there's some men coming." O'Meally and Hall were then in the hut at tea; O'Meally went to the door and said: "it's them blasted peelers coming to hunt us again." They were resting themselves in the hut when the police appeared insight and had to get out in a hurry. Hall not having time to put on his boots carried them under his arm which appears to have been wet and placed at the fire to dry, and going outside with O'Meally, they barely had time to jump in their saddles and make off before the police rode up. In the meantime Gilbert had been in an adjoining paddock it is supposed looking for some horses, and when he rode back for his mates he found the policemen in the hut; one of the policemen called out "who's there" and Gilbert turning his horse round rode away; the policeman fired at him, but the result was nil. The bushrangers were not seen by the police anymore, but we have heard that on Thursday morning they breakfasted a the station of Mr Icely's 3 miles below Canowindra and that on Friday morning they were at a station of Mr Grant's not far from Carcoar. So sudden was the departure of Hall and O'Meally that they had not time to take all their things with them but left a coat belonging to Gilbert which is now in the possession of the police and in the pocket of which was found with other things a bag containing a quantity of revolver bullets and a bullet mould.⁶³
Icely's Bangaroo Station. Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer and Road Guide 1866.
A narrow escape! A dash to freedom, the bushrangers after taking horses and breakfasting the following morning at 'Bangaroo Station' headed northward in the direction of Eugowra and its wild scrub. While riding towards today's Nangar-Murga Range between Toogong and Canowindra the three bushrangers happened across some bullock drays whose whip-men were preparing the morning meal before the new day commenced. In a leisurely manner, the bushrangers rode up demanding food for themselves and ordering feed for their horses. As they parlayed with the draymen a mounted troop headed by Sir Frederick Pottinger appeared forcing a hasty retreat for the bushrangers; THE BUSHRANGERS AT EUGOWRA: The Bushrangers near Eugowra.—The Lachlan correspondent of the Bathurst Times writes to that journal as follows:— The three draymen who were favoured with an interview with Messrs. Gilbert, O'Meally, and Hall, near Eugowra, on Thursday! arrived in Forbes yesterday. The account they give of the meeting is as follows. They were on the road from Carcoar to Forbes, In charge of three teams laden with potatoes, corn, and chaff, and had camped on Wednesday night seven miles the other side of Eugowra Creek, or about thirty-five miles from this place. On Thursday morning at about six o'clock, they had just kindled a fire and put on the billy preparatory to breakfasting when the three bushrangers galloped up to them. One of the draymen immediately recognised them, and accosted the chief with "Good morning Mr Gilbert!" Good morning," was the reply, "Get us some breakfast, and be quick about it!' This peremptory order was obeyed with the utmost alacrity; when the bushrangers had commenced active operations on the bush fare set before them—which they lost no time in doing—the order was given to feed their horses. But before the order was complied with, and ere they had finished their breakfast, seven troopers were seen coming down the road. "To saddle!" shouted Gilbert, and a minute after the three men were galloping fiercely across the bush, with the police in hot pursuit. Before the police had advanced far, however. Ben Hall's horse got bogged in a swamp that crossed the line of retreat. Hall immediately dismounted, while the other two desperadoes drew up beside their comrade, and with a revolver in each hand awaited the onset of the 'force.' Hall, on unhorsing, lost no time, but drew a bayonet pistol from his belt, and 'prodded' his horse with the point of it, at the same time lifting the animal with the bridle. After a short struggle, the horse extricated itself; but in the meantime, the troopers had approached within (so it is reported) twenty yards and opened fire with their breech-loaders but without effect, Gilbert and O'Meally standing in the position above stated, but without returning the fire. As a matter of course, none of the shots were effective, and on Hall leaping into the saddle the gang started off afresh, the troopers following. My informant states that he watched the progress of the belligerents for a great distance, and could observe that the police lost ground at every stride, It has since been made known that the police after a prolonged chase lost sight of the freebooters, as usual, and returned with their horses considerably blown. If these are the actual facts of the case—and there appears no reason for doubting them—we have another illustration of the peculiar construction of the New South Wales 'military' police.⁶⁴

In light of the fiasco and embarrassment of the Canowindra siege Superintendent Chatfield became the fall guy of the NSW government. While the bushrangers returned to the district robbing unabated the superintendent was relieved of his position in February 1864. In Chatfields defence the superintendent highlighted his efforts and hardships in the hunt for Ben Hall;[sic] "Between the 1st January' and the 15th November 1863 when I was suspended, I have gone over upwards of 3000 miles on horseback-have constantly visited my stations- have managed the office work, so that it was never in arrear-and during the period I was out after the bushrangers I was nearly always in camp, frequently experiencing very bad weather, and sometimes with out tent or other covering and that from the length of time I had been on bush service my clothes and those of my men were worn out and we were without ammunition. Dating the whole of this period I have had no complaint in regard to my conduct in office; I refer more particularly to my conduct as superintendent of police in my own district, in respect to the charge of absenting myself from my post at Canowindra in October last; the explanation, forwarded the same month was, as I understood from you personally, considered satisfactory. I have always exerted myself to render the police employed under me efficient, and if the absence of complaints and the harmony existing between the various local benches of magistrates and myself be any criterion I may confidently appeal to these results as proof of it. Had it been desired, I could have produced ample proof in support of the fact from most respectable testimony in writing from various parts of the colony." Although Chatfield launched a spirited defence of his command and attributes he was unable to hold office.

Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally escaping from their close shave camped in the bush close to Toogong. Toogong had two hotels the 'Toogong' and 'Travellers Rest' a Post office and was inhabited by farm workers. The town's population in 1863-20. One of those locals was Ellen Chandler who had been a passenger on the coach where Cst Havilland had died following the Eugowra Gold Robbery in June 1862. It was reported that while camped Hall and Gilbert had a falling out whereby it was said the two almost came to pistol shots;[sic] "Ben Hall and Gilbert were nearly coming to pistol shots, but the disagreement was patched up..." 

However, the exact cause of the scuffle is unknown. As the bushrangers rested and the angst between Hall and Gilbert settled. A local wrote stating that on occasion the police were often compared to be more dastardly than bushrangers by locals when seeking information and many a time harassed even children when parents were absent. 'Goulburn Herald' Wednesday 18th November 1863; "the police have insulted more females than the robbers. The cowardly farce enacted, and the official insolence used, in connection with the memorable Vale-road affair, though not more than half made public could not be publicly replied to. But only within the last few days one of these pauper puppies (Police) ordered a settler's wife on the roadside to bring out to him and his man two cups of tea, as they sat on their horses. She very properly refused. Again, a few days since--and this is known to the authorities-three policemen came to a sheep station at George's Plain, and finding that the shepherd and his wife were out, demanded from the children the whereabouts of their mother's rings and brooches, then ransacked the house but found none. Taking into consideration the well-known fact that members of the force, immediately after leaving it, have been convicted of robbery, and that even while receiving pay have been guilty of the most barefaced lies in describing false encounters with robbers, it is not very uncharitable to suppose that had the shepherd's hut contained any valuables-considering the clothes worn are the same--another robbery by the bushrangers would have been reported. I unhesitatingly say that the police, both officers and men, are at the present time inflicting as great an injury on society as the lawless bands of robbers. The profound contempt that is at present felt for the police, and which pervades all classes and ages, is fraught with interest, especially to the rising youth...". More often than not the bushrangers were welcomed into the homes of the small farmers rather than the police.

David Henry
Campbell. (1829-1885)

Private Source.
A prominent settler who resided in the area of Hall and Co's retreat near Toogong was one, who as with Henry Keightley, wished to bring the bushrangers to heal. His name was David Campbell J.P., who along with his brother William held the station 'Goimbla', a mixed farming enterprise set in the lee of Mandagery creek 12 miles from Eugowra NSW and 7 miles from Toogong. Campbell had made it well known in the district his loathing of the bushrangers and their antics and on several occasions led parties into the wilds in an attempt to apprehend the gang. More often than not unsuccessfully.

When Ben Hall seized the town of Canowindra hostage in early October 1863 news reached Campbell whereby the squatter organised a party of neighbours to take the field in search of Ben Hall;[sic] "it will be recollected by those who have perused your columns, that Mr Campbell has made no secret of his abhorrence of these lawless freebooters, and that, stimulated by their repeated outrages in this neighbourhood, he some time ago started out in pursuit of them, accompanied by a few of his immediate friends. This was a sufficient cause of offence to the "gentlemen of the road," and their fiendish resentment has been on more than one occasion openly expressed...".

Campbell's marriage.
19th Feb 1856.
David Campbell was born at Jellasore, Bengal, India 21st November 1829. Thomas Alexander Browne (Rolf Bolderwood) noted; "Campbell was Scottish by descent. A keen sportsman, a high couraged, chivalrous gentleman, he was justly indignant that he should be menaced by the lawless men who were then terrorising the country..."On the 19th February 1856, Campbell married Sydney society lass Amelia Breillat. Amelia was the daughter of a wealthy merchant Thomas Chaplin Breillat who resided at "Thurnby House" Enmore Road, Newtown. Amelia was a refined, delicately nurtured woman, but nonetheless fearless in times of trial.

Amelia Campbell
1835-1870.

Private Source. 
However, having no luck in confronting Ben Hall, Campbell had been apprised of the intentions of the bushrangers after Hall at Murga said "they were going to Goimbla, and that they would “Shave.” Campbell." Hall had in mind to visit Campbell and correct the error of his ways in the pursuit of them. Therefore, the bushrangers following their recent activities, in which Micky Burke died and Vane departed, decided to go through with their attentions and on Sunday the 15th of November the three rode towards Goimbla. However, as they approached in the afternoon, gunfire was heard coming from the property, as unknown to Hall, Campbell with his brother and a friend were out practising on targets when hearing of the gang's presence in the vicinity of Goimbla;[sic] "the bushrangers had planned to attack the Campbell homestead on the previous Sunday, but Mr Campbell and a friend were at target practice that day, and the bushrangers, hearing the shooting rode away..."

Contemporary illustration
of Hall approaching
Goimbla.

Courtesy NLA.
However, not wishing to let the matter of Campbell's desire to finish them stand, Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally approached Goimbla Station in the early evening of Thursday 19th November 1863 from Murga riding along the banks of Mandagery (Eugowra) Creek. Arriving they trio stealthily made their way up to the homestead. Goimbla was a 12,800-acre property rated to hold 640 head of cattle with one of the finest homes in the district. The walls of the home were of pisé, (rammed earth) with a shingle roof, lengthy verandah, a garden in the front, enclosed by a picket fence. The property included a yard with a well, 3-stall stable with loft. Fowl and pig houses. Men's huts, and every requisite-for a first-class head-station. Woolshed 50 x 15 with drafting yards and pens attached. Two cultivation paddocks of 8 and 5 acres. As well as a grass paddock of 150 acres. Stock and milking yards, 8 sheep station huts, with large-yards. All standing at the foot of a large mountain overshadowing the property. At around 8.45 pm, David Campbell was relaxing after the families evening meal. Mrs Campbell and their maid Miss Mary Taylor were putting their three children to bed, Thomas b.1857, David b.1860 and two-year-old Percy b.1861.

David Campbell sat in the dining room in the quiet of the evening near nine pm, night sounds filtering through the house. Campbell suddenly became alerted as a noise of unfamiliarity caught his ear. Footsteps on the verandah. Earlier fearing some reprisal Campbell had prepared and placed against the fireplace, two double-barrelled shotguns already loaded as well as other arms at various places in the house. Arising Campbell picked-up one of the shotguns moving to the passage near the backdoor whereby at the end he saw a man standing there who immediately fired twice, one of the rounds entering the wall on the right of where Campbell stood, and the other, the left. Campbell instantly returned fire from his gun but was ineffective. The stranger retreated, at the same time a volley of shots crashed into the house front shattering some windows and embedding into the front door frame. Campbell knew his moment had come.

Ben Hall and Co. after leaving their horses hobbled some distance from the homestead made his way with his two companions through an oat field to a fence line beside one of the outbuildings and listened for life inside the dwelling. All seeming quiet, Hall brazenly moved to the back of the home shotgun in hand, the same gun that had earlier mortally wounded Micky Burke, entered via an open backdoor into the rear passage. An occupant with a weapon in hand suddenly appeared, and Hall fired. The other person fired as well, the shots missing. Hall retreated to the back of the house as Gilbert and O'Meally discharged their revolvers into the front of the home. As Hall stood on the back verandah another man emerged on to the porch from the back door. Ben Hall fired again having reloaded hitting the man in the chest who staggered and collapsed. Hall unknowing if the man was dead or alive quickly retreated to the front yard rejoining Gilbert and O'Meally.

Goimbla Homestead.
c. 1930.
William Campbell sitting in his bedroom was startled as the deafening sound of gunfire reverberated, splintering the quiet of the evening rushed from his room heading for the dining-room well-lit by a strong kerosene lamp as shots smashed through the front windows. Fearing the worst "Bushrangers" William made for the back porch where near his bedroom window he saw a man standing who raised his weapon and fired two shots hitting William in the chest. Darkness enveloped William as he stumbled from the shots and collapsed beside the rear steps. Coming too William crawled out through the back gate. Here he lay for some time bleeding in the field of oats behind the house.

Amelia Campbell in the act of putting her three children to bed with her servant when suddenly the terrifying sound of gunfire erupted. Amelia told Mary Taylor to watch the children made her way to the dining room to join her husband in defence of her home. Here the couple moved to a bedroom at the end of the passage next to the children's rooms then altering to various positions to confuse their enemies' fire. Without a word spoken Amelia made for the dining-room passing the windows already shattered when gunfire again erupted whereby some fragments of wood slightly grazed her as she retrieved a powder flask and bullets. Returning to her husband's side shots rang out again peppering the walls. Once again at her husband's side, she commenced reloading the discharged shotgun. O'Meally and Gilbert on seeing shadows passing the window fired, not knowing whether they reflected male or female.

Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally failing to dislodge their quarry by the barrage of shots. Hall called out, "If you don't immediately surrender, we will burn your place down." Hall's demand was met with a response from Campbell who called, "Come on-I'm ready for you," this was met with the reply of "Oh, is that it!" As the bushrangers waited. Amelia had unknowingly left the house covering a distance of some 150 yds in an effort to recruit the farmhands holed up in their quarters for support. Arriving Amelia could not convince the men to support her husband, distressed she commenced to make her way back to the house when suddenly flames from the adjoining barn and stable licked the night sky. Amelia's presence in the yard had brought her under the aim of Gilbert's gun, who later commented; "that he could have shot Mrs Campbell if he had wanted to, as he was planted in a bush close by which she passed on her way to the gardener's hut..." Mary Taylor went to assist Campbell in Amelia's absence.

In returning to the house Amelia without realising two of the gang Hall and O'Meally had made their way to the barn and stables which were filled with fresh-cut hay and a large number of wool bales. The two bushrangers set fire to the buildings. Meanwhile, as the fire took hold Amelia had returned to the house. On seeing the flames she clutched her throat in fear and with the assistance of the maid again ventured out as the fires took hold to clear the ground strewn with fresh cut hay as there was a dray loaded with hay standing between the stable and the back of the house. Amelia and Mary courageously covered the hay with a tarpaulin, saving the house from destruction. Amelia later commented, "I was in such deadly fear of its catching at this point, that I rushed out and succeeded in getting the road cleared with the assistance of the cook..." The intensity of the fire turned night into day, where within a short while the roofs of the fired buildings collapsed.

As the fire raged, in the stables as they became engulfed in flames was trapped a favourite horse of Campbell's, Highflyer. The heat of the flames increased, whereby the terrified animal galloped to and fro desperately seeking a way of escape. Its kicks for freedom and its heart-rending cries were heard by the family inside the house as Campbell ground his teeth in despair. Helpless, Campbell shouted to the bushrangers to let it go but they ignored him instead calling out taunts and jeers as the fire raged. Campbell again called for mercy yelling "I will have one of you for poor Highflyer," then suddenly the horse's whinnying died out as it was roasted in the flames. All went quiet for some thirty minutes.

The flames roaring Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally placed themselves behind the paling fence at the front of the house some 40 yds distant. The fence the bushrangers had grouped behind consisted of stout pine stakes, pointed and driven into the ground affording good cover. Inside the house Mary Taylor had the children scramble under their beds the eldest Thomas comforting the youngest Percy as indiscriminate gunfire reverberated around the house hitting various walls, doors, and picture frames, whereby Campbell as well returned fire with fire. Time marched on with Hall calling occasionally for Campbell to give up. Campbell did not reply.

William Campbell recovering his senses and seeing the flames engulfing the out-buildings decided to make for Eugowra and assistance, staggered off. William at 2 a.m. arrived delirious at Hanbury Clements Station, Eugowra, with a gunshot in his chest and covered with blood. Mr Clements in the dim light of the lamp extracted the bullet later producing the leaded slug which had been taken out of Mr Campbell's chest at a testimonial gathering for the Campbell's.

The flames burning brightly enabled Campbell to have a good view of the surrounds. Campbell and Amelia placed themselves between two parallel walls which formed a passage between the house and the kitchen, moving to alternate positions to confuse the bushrangers gunfire when Amelia pointed out in the light one of the bushrangers heads wearing a cabbage-tree hat occasionally appearing over the fence looking at the burning buildings. Alerted Campbell bolted around to the end of the house, wherefrom the corner of the building, which fortunately was cast into shadow by the blazing buildings at the opposite end, took deliberate aim level with the throat as the man once more rose from behind the fence. Campbell fired. The crack of the gun boomed in the night air.

The Death of John O'Meally.
By
Patrick William Marony
1858-1939
The bushrangers were leaning backs against the paling fence watching as the burning buildings glowed in the night. John O'Meally occasionally peeked over mesmerised by the fire ravaging the out-buildings. Hall cautioned O'Meally to stay down and again called on Campbell to give in but elicited no reply. While contemplating their next move to unseat Campbell, O'Meally once more stood up to check the house when suddenly his head snapped back, the neck shattered as his carotid artery pumped his lifeblood out soaking his rich reddish auburn hair. O'Meally crashed to the ground dead as the report of the blast echoed in the still night. Completely startled at seeing O'Meally lifeless, his head lolling at an awkward angle Gilbert and Hall opened up a barrage of shots at the house.

At the house, Campbell was sure he had hit one of the bushrangers with his shot, retreated again into the interior to join his wife as bullet after bullet raked the front of their home where they maintained their cover. All became quiet except for shouts and threats and obscenities cast at the house but they too became silent with the night sounds returning and the acrid smell of smoke permeated the air.

Mural at Binalong.
Hall & Gilbert
kneeling over a
dead O'Meally.
2018.
Hall and Gilbert dragged O'Meally a few yards into the adjacent oat field and near a tree stripped off O'Meally's jewellery which would later be returned to O'Meally's sister Kate. The two then approached the worker's hut where they were cursing and swearing profusely, stating that they would yet have their revenge. Their angry voices carrying in the night where Mary Taylor heard one of them, Gilbert say he regretted that he had not shot the woman. Hall, however, turned to him telling him to "hold his tongue and mind what he was about." Returning to O'Meally's lifeless body for one last look the pair made back to their horse's and departed Goimbla.

The sound of the grandfather clock clunked loudly as every second ticked by and all but the bush sounds once more drifted on the night air joined by the faint crackling of the outbuildings as they collapsed sending embers into the dark sky and the charred remains of 'Highflyer', swollen to nearly double its natural size lay inside the crumbling enclosure. Listening intently David Campbell cautiously emerged from his home alert for any sudden occurrence, approached the spot where he believed his shot had taken effect. Reaching the scene of his target at the paling fence Campbell was surprised to only find a carbine and cabbage-tree hat but no-body, thinking that the shot may have only wounded the bushranger. The hour had past eleven-thirty in the evening and the two hour battle for life and limb had ended. Unsure he returned to the house to await daybreak.

As the night wore on the farmhands from the huts now found some courage, ventured up to see what was going on. Campbell then stationed them at various posts, whereby they stood sentry till morning. Amelia stated as the men kept watch that "it was by this time three o'clock. I was very tired, went to bed, and managed to sleep a little, but was awoke before dawn by the arrival of the police...".

William Campbell wounded and having managed to make for a neighbour relayed the news of the siege taking place at Goimbla. Here the news was carried to Eugowra where Snr Cst Fagan was apprised of the battle at two o'clock in the morning. Fagan and two constables immediately set off for Goimbla arriving at three-thirty in the morning. Fagan was informed that the bushrangers had departed. Together as light was breaking Campbell and the Fagan returned to the fence. At O'Meally's inquest, Fagan stated; "Mr Campbell showed me a place in the direction of which he fired, and where also he had found a carbine and a cabbage-tree hat. I found the spot to be in front of the dwelling, beyond a paling fence about forty yards from the house, near to which Mr Campbell informed me he had found a carbine and a cabbage-tree hat. On this ground was a crop of oats-six feet in height. On examining the ground, I discovered a fresh track, which I followed up into the oats, and I found the body of the deceased about ten yards from the fence. I searched the body and found two silk handkerchiefs thereon, which I produce. I found a bullet wound on the right side of the neck, the carbine produced I identify as a police carbine, and it is the same carbine which was pointed out to me by Mr Campbell as the one found by him near to the spot where I found the deceased. I produce the cabbage-tree hat, aforesaid, which was handed to me by Mr Campbell. I also produce a Colt's revolver, which was handed to me by constable Hogan, who stated that he found it near the body, The revolver has six chambers, five of which were loaded." At the conclusion of the inquest a finding of "Justifiable Homicide" was returned. On the same date as O'Meally fell former gang member John Vane surrendered to police at Bathurst.

NSW Police Gazette
2nd December 1863.
By Saturday word had spread far and wide as people commenced arriving on Friday to view the body of John O'Meally laid out under a veranda, a towel draped across his face. One of those who viewed the bloodied corpse wrote; "under the verandah of an outbuilding hard by lay the disfigured corpse of the dead bushranger; the body covered by part of a woolpack, and the face by a towel. It was clad in corduroy buckskin, high boots with spurs, and three Crimean shirts; underneath his neck lay a white comforter. Underneath the ear on the right side of the neck was a gaping wound extending through the vertebra, which was completely shattered by the ball. Decomposition had set in, and the wound was discharging freely. The hair, which was dark auburn, was saturated with blood, as was also the beard under the chin. The features wore a scowl, and the mouth an expression as if the man had died uttering curses and imprecations. As he had been detestable in life his figure was hideous in death. At twenty-two years of age, his features were small but coarse and betokened habitual indulgence in the brutal passions. His frame was athletic, his arms muscular, his hands as small and delicate as a lady's. His lower limbs were light and apparently well-knit, and his figure as a whole gave the impression of activity and strength combined in more than an ordinary degree..." The cruelty associated with the burning alive of the horse Highflyer drew this comment of damnation; "their brutality to that noble animal whose claims upon mankind are rarely disallowed, save by the most cruel heart. Fancy men standing by while a horse was roasted to death, enjoying its cries and preventing its escape..!"

Plaque Forbes Cemetery.
By Saturday afternoon gawkers abounded at the Campbell's home to see the body of the wild colonial boy. Those present reputedly cut memento's of O'Meally's rich blood-soaked Auburn hair, later displayed on command at local hotels;[sic] "nearly every publican and sundry of the storekeepers of Forbes, besides other parties within a radius of several miles of Forbes, have possessed themselves of locks of the hair of Johnny O'Meally, the bushranger killed at Goimbla, which they display to their friends and patrons generally. The request to see O'Meallys hair can apparently be everywhere complied with instanter..." However, it may well have been a business ploy to generate sales. As the question was asked;[sic] "seriously speaking, there is something remarkable as to how such a desecration of the body could have been perpetrated..." One observer sarcastically noted;[sic] "few cared to interfere with O'Malley's hair when alive. Probably, Pottinger and the whole army of troopers that swarmed round Goimbla after the work had been done, each took a lock-in Memoriam, when their enemy lay prostrate and dead! Mr Charles Cropper a long time advocate as with Mr Campbell in the destruction of bushranging and was very active in the pursuit of Ben Hall, frequently in company with Sir Frederick Pottinger was one who retained some hair from O'Meally as a  souvenir;[sic] "Mr Cropper has also cuttings of the hair of O'Meally the bushranger shot by the late Mr. D. Campbell at Goimbla station in the Carcoar district, with the blood from his death wound on it."

The bloodied body with decay setting in, in the heat of a November day, and the inquest completed. The fast turning putrid body of O'Meally was thrown unceremoniously in a hole near Mandagery Creek (Eugowra) coffinless. However, O'Meally's body would be exhumed by the family after an application to the court and consequently placed reputedly in an unmarked grave at Forbes close to or alongside John "Warrigal" Walsh and where later Ben Hall would be laid; "the brother of the deceased left Forbes for that place this morning with a conveyance, in order to bring it to this town, and the reburial of the body will take place to-morrow evening, in the burial-place near the Red Streak. The spot chosen is close to the grave of young Walsh ("Gardiner's page") with whom O'Meally was well acquainted..."
Henry Knight.
NSW Police Gazette
4th November 1863.
While the crowds had gathered at Goimbla taking a last look at one of the terror's of the district. Sir Frederick Pottinger observed a lad of seventeen amongst the crowd. The lad's appearance and actions raised the suspicions of the inspector who suspected the young man of being a bush telegraph of Hall and Gilbert's. His name was Henry Knight often known, as young John Walsh had been, as the 'Warrigal'. Knight's presence may well have been for the gathering of information on the day's activities of the police and the inquest results for communicating to Hall and Gilbert believed to be still in the area. 'The Golden Age' 10th December 1863; CAPTURE OF A "BUSH TELEGRAPH."--The Herald's Forbes correspondent, referring to the death of O'Meally, says:--"Amongst a large concourse who visited Mr. Campbell's station to take a look at the departed bushranger was a youth named Henry Knight, who rejoices in the soubriquet, "The Warrigal" apparently about seventeen or eighteen years of age. His style and appearance at a single glance bespoke the bush telegraph, and attracted the attention of Sir Frederick Pottinger, who had him arrested in the belief that a warrant was out against him. Fortunately, a copy of the lately published Gazette had been taken out by the police magistrate, and a reference thereto disclosed the fact that two warrants had been issued for his apprehension by the Burrangong bench--one for horse-stealing, and the other for absconding from hired service. A bench was extemporised in the person of the police magistrate, and after the formal remand of the accused to Young, he was placed between two troopers, and sent on his way sorrowing over his experiences at Goimbla."

The death of O'Meally rekindled the memory of John 'Warrigal' Walsh and the cruelty of Pottinger who held the lad of 16 in custody until the confines of the Forbes lock-up brought about his death. 'The Argus' 12 December 1863; "young Walsh, it will be remembered, was "captured" by Sir Frederick Pottinger and eight troopers, at Mrs. Brown's, Wheogo, at the time of the futile "attempt" by the party to arrest Gardiner. The boy was imprisoned so long within the confined walls of the noisome lock-up at Forbes, that at last, he fainted from mere weakness when brought into court to be remanded for the hundredth time, and then followed the gaol fever, various surgical operations, and, three days subsequently, death. The death of the poor boy was the only practical result attending all the military operations of Sir Frederick Pottinger and the men under his immediate charge against the bushrangers up to that period. Since then Sir Frederick Pottinger has sworn to the identity of O'Meally, after death, at Goimbla. His next feat of arms is anxiously looked for." 

The crowds having dispersed and O'Meally exhumed from the banks of Mandagery (Eugowra) Creek by his brother Patrick and father for reburial at Forbes. The settlers hero of Goimbla Mr Campbell received the gracious good wishes of the government for the actions that disposed of one of the men who had held the state to ransom for three years. The reward for O'Meally was £1,000 and after positive identification David Campbell received the reward and letter of appreciation from the Colonial Secretary; The late Bushranger, John O'Meally.Mr. Campbell, who shot this desperate man, has received the following letter from the Colonial Secretary. At first, he hesitated to receive the promised reward, although property of more value than £1,000 was destroyed by the bushrangers: but, after consulting his friends, Mr. Campbell has very properly consented to accept it:— "Colonial Secretary s Office. Sydney, Sydney, Nov. 23. 1863. Sir— It has been reported to me that John O'Meally, for whose apprehension a reward of £1,000 has been recently offered by the Government, was shot dead by you on the night of Thursday, the 19th instant, during an attack made upon your residence by a band of armed bushrangers. I have therefore the honour to inform you that on the identification of the body by the proper authorities, you will be entitled to the reward in question, which will be paid forthwith, in such manner as you may direct. In making this communication, I am happy at the same time to be the further means of conveying to you the very high appreciation entertained by the Government of the spirit and personal courage exhibited by both yourself and Mrs. Campbell on the occasion above referred to.— I have, &c, William Forster.   

However, as early as December 1863 soon after the exhumation of John O'Meally it was rumoured that his brother Patrick placed in the coffin interned at Forbes rocks or such materials as a form of duping the authorities and instead buried his brother at Gooloogong, where he tended the grave on the banks of the Lachlan River up unto his death in September 1923 sixty years after his older brothers death. Patrick plyed the trade of Baker in Gooloogong. 'The Sydney Morning Herald' Tuesday 1st December 1863: "in your Monday's telegram, it was stated that O'Meally's remains were interred on the bank of the Eugowra Creek. Since then on an application has been made to the Police Magistrate, by his brother, Patsey O Meally, for his body. The matter, I understand, was referred to the Government, and as permission was given for the removal, it is to be inferred that the reply was favourable to the application. The remains were brought into Forbes today (Thursday), and interred in the Roman Catholic Cemetery..."

Having loitered near Goimbla following their mate's death the two bushrangers were next heard of on Saturday 28th November 1863 nine days after the Goimbla disaster crossing the Lachlan River at the Kirkpatrick and Twaddell's toll bridge half a mile from Forbes. The toll keeper brought the two men to a halt demanding the required payment. The two in an attempt not to draw attention to themselves paid the amount due and proceeded on into Forbes. Within minutes a party of police rode up to the bridge identifying themselves as troopers from Goimbla and enquired of the toll keeper if he knew the two men that passed moments earlier as they believed them to be Hall and Gilbert whom they were pursuing but had been unable to overtake. Having lost the trail the police rode into Forbes. Suspicion fell on Hall and Gilbert as the apparel both wore were ponchos a favourite article of attire amongst the bushrangers, and their appearance generally bore out the idea that they were the men.

Hall and Gilbert cautiously sought refuge at Forbes and soon relayed the death of O'Meally to their touts and harbourers; 'The Sydney Morning Herald' Tuesday 1st December 1863; "the news of O'Meally' s death caused great excitement in Forbes and throughout the surrounding country, and created no little consternation amongst the whole tribe of horse and cattle thieves, touts, and telegraphs with whom these regions abound. The social and commercial aspect of Forbes was considerably enlivened on Saturday last, by the arrival and departure and to and fro movements of bipeds of this genus, and not a few were the laments expressed in some of the holes and corners of the place, upon the "brave boy" who had been to suddenly dispatched to his last account..."  

The raid on Goimbla brought to the forefront the vulnerability of the surrounding stations. Station owners who were known to assisted Campbell in the search for Hall, subsequently took steps to prepare their properties for defence against the marauders. An unannounced arrival could prove perilous;[sic] The Reign of Terror."we feel called upon to make it known that several squatters resident in this neighbourhood (two of whom have been threatened) have converted their homesteads into something like fortified camps, and are ever on the qui vive. It would be well, therefore, if travellers would adopt the precaution of not approaching these places after, nightfall for fear of accident which might terminate seriously. We cannot particularise but are in a position to assert that a disposition to resist the ruffians, in the event of an attack, is now pretty general. Since the raid upon Goimbla, several narrow escapes have occurred, in which life was nearly being sacrificed owing to the existing necessity for vigilance..."

However, Hall and Gilbert's shock at the loss of O'Meally left Forbes and retired to the familiar grounds of their old station the Borrowra (Burrowa) district. The pair as well sought out the O'Meally's and with the jewellery of their dead comrade in hand presented it to O'Meally's sister Kate aged 17 who was close to John Gilbert. Kate herself was a feisty young lass who in late 1862 led the NSW police a merry chase, over hill and dale, riding like the wind dressed as a boy resembling her brothers. Whereby to confound the police Kate and her friend Elizabeth Mayhew also wearing the same, quickly changed into their dresses at home, as the fooled police led by trooper Clark became the butt of many a joke. So great was their humiliation of the police that a song appeared in the girl's honour called THE MAIDS OF MARENGO.

Birth of Ambrose Stonham,
1867.
Susan Prior mother to Ben Hall's daughter Mary was as well in the Burrowa district employed as a housemaid at a local station at nearby Tangmangaroo 8 miles south of Burrowa. Therefore it is conceivable that Hall was taking respite at various periods in the company of Susan and his daughter. The home in which Susan may have been employed belonged to one Alfred Stonham, an immigrant from England who married Mahalah Dengate at Gundaroo near Gunning, New South Wales in 1853. However, in 1864 Susan Prior gave birth to a son Alfred. The birth was registered at Yass with Alfred Stonham named as the father, however, interestingly Alfred was still married to Mahalah, and in 1867 the couple had another child, Ambrose Stonham. By 1875 the marriage of Alfred and Mahalah collapsed. Therefore, it may well be that Alfred could in all probability be another son of Ben Hall and that the birth was attributed to Alfred to deflect any link to Ben Hall. Stonham would marry Susan Prior in 1882, and the couple had several children. When Alfred died in 1932, he was interned with his mother, Susan.

Mahalah Stonham.
Penzig.
Arriving in the confines of Borrowa, Hall and Gilbert returned to the road and the rich pickings of the tracks within the gold district. On the 26th November 1863 O'Meally was reported as reburied at Forbes in heavy rain and thunder; The Lachlan correspondent of the 'Bathurst Times writes; "The of the remains O'Meally:—The body of this notorious criminal was brought to Forbes by coach on Thursday, the 26th ultimo, about 5 p.m. and was buried in the general cemetery. It was escorted by his brother, who rode a little ahead, and another horseman. There were three persons in the coach with the coffin, and another sat by the driver. It rained heavily at the time of the arrival of the cortege in the town, and the sullen thunder which reverberated with an almost thunderous roll was a fitting requiem for so such criminal." 

There on the outskirts of Burrowra, a family known as Coffey owned a blacksmith and general store with a school attached on the road passing a creek of the same name. Coffey immigrated to NSW in 1841 from Ireland onboard the 'Pearl' as a free single male, occupation blacksmith. In 1842 Coffey married Honora Ryan, another immigrant from Ireland and the pair produced ten children. The store was well-known to police as a retreat of rogues and vagabonds linked to Hall and Gilbert. Coffey's were as well a source of converting stolen cheques to cash for Gilbert and Hall. As such it was a safe harbour. In the last days of November or thereabouts, Hall and Gilbert allegedly conducted several robberies including the purported robbery of the Coffey's themselves at home.

However, in conjunction with the famous bushrangers riding the paddocks of Burrowa, another band of longtime scoundrels had as well been robbing all comers between Binalong, Bowning and Borrowra during the December 1863 period. These men was reported with one of the party sporting a police tunic. Two of whom were known to Hall and Gilbert. They were George Lynham and Michael Corcoran who at this juncture were robbing travellers with longtime mate, Micheal Seary. These three had come to prominence during Hall, Gilbert and Co's activities in the Carcoar-Bathurst region and had conducted a hold-up at Dalton forcing entry into the home of William Townsend, Wm Brown and John Wheatley stealing £80 on 12th November 1863. Cocoran was described as 5ft 9in, fair hair and complexion. Similar to Gilbert; 'Yass Courier' "a number of travellers were stuck up yesterday between Bowning, Binnalong, and Burrowa. Two teams loaded from Messrs. Davis, Alexander, and Co., of Goulburn, were also stuck up. From one of the teamsters, the bushrangers took £35. A woman was bailed up from seven in the morning till late in the evening; and a newly married couple, travelling from Burrowa, were robbed of everything they possessed worth taking. One of the bushrangers had on a policeman's jacket. They did not belong to Gilbert's gang. The police have been out all night in search of the bushrangers..." So common was the claims of locals in being confronted by Ben Hall that it elicited this observation by Yass businessman Edward Watts; "It is a fact, daily becoming better known, and to none more patent than to the police of Gunning and of Yass, that under cover of Ben Hall's name and reputation many outrages have been committed by parties of whom, the law has not taken cognizance, and who never saw Ben Hall in their lives, and, judging from the experience of the last three years, it by no means follows that no bushrangers are in a district because the police do not come across them."

Coffey arrested with Keightley
ransom paid by Hall
 for lodgings.
Newspaper correspondents were soon appraised of Hall, and Gilbert roaming the district of Borrowa and broke the news of the Coffey's plight under the gun's of Hall and Gilbert. However, the widely reported robbery was an ill-conceived attempt by the shady Coffey's in concealing that Hall and Gilbert were guests at their home. Whereby, as payment for a nights sleep and ablutions the bushrangers remitted to the Coffey's cash which had been part of the ransom from the October 1863 Keightley raid.

The fake robbery of Coffey attributed to Hall, and Gilbert was in effect an attempt to recover the cost of a spring cart recently purchased by Coffey for £35 from Mr Aaron Steenbhom a Hawker and paid for out of the Keightley money. Coffey got word to Hall and Gilbert to then rob Mr Aaron Steenbhom who had arrived at the Coffey's 27th November 1863, and recover his funds. Thereby, Coffey could claim the spring cart payment to Steenbolm as lost and in the process deflect any subsequent connection to the ransom money. For Coffey, it was a win-win. For Steenbolm is was a lose lose. The fact that Coffey was a harbourer and close friend of the bushrangers was highlighted in Mrs Steenbhom later evidence where she commented on Ben Hall reprimanding Gilbert for spilling the beans Gilbert said to me, "Give me up the money;" I said. "I have not a shilling;" he then said, "That I may be taken this minute, and (using an imprecation) if you say that again," "I will blow your brains out. I know to the shilling what you have and where and from whom you got it;" I asked him, "Who told you?" He was just uttering the word when Hall interposed, "You fool don't tell, or they'll split, and tell where we are harboured," every person who came by Coffey's were bailed up in the house..."

The Coffey's ruse was soon uncovered and Coffey and his wife were bought before the court at Burrowa, the magistrates being Messrs. Bernard and Hayes.  They were charged and bailed to be called upon. AIDING BUSHRANGERS.—"At the Burrowa police court on Monday, the 28th,—Coffey and his wife were brought up charged with aiding and abetting two bushrangers, supposed to be Ben Hall and Gilbert. The charge, in fact, was that the prisoners had circulated some of the notes received by the bushrangers as the ransom money of Mr. Keightley and that they had aided bushrangers who had robbed about forty persons at their place on the 2nd of last month. After hearing the evidence, the bench discharged the prisoners on their own recognizance of £100 each, to appear when called for." Many of those connected to Hall and arrested were never short of a quid. Bails and sureties often deposited in the hundreds of pounds always appear ready at hand. Whatever associations between the local harbourers or recipients of stolen goods had a positive cash flow. In today's terms, £1 in 1863 equates to $84 in 2020. Therefore the £200 paid to the court by the Coffey's would amount to $16,800.00, even today still a considerable sum.

Honora (Nora) Coffey.
NSW Police Gazette
December 1863.
The Coffey escapade was graphically illustrated in detail by Mrs Rachael Steenbohm at the Borrowra Court; Rachael Steenbhom was sworn. Her evidence has not yet been published. It is as follows:- "We arrived at Coffey's on Saturday, 29th November; we had some conversation with the Coffey's about the sale of a spring cart; we left Coffey's on Sunday, and returned on Monday, 1st December; next day (Tuesday) we had another conversation about the cart; the ( Coffey's seemed anxious to buy the cart, but said they considered it too dear at £37; my husband offered the cart at £35, but Coffey would not give it; ultimately Mrs. Coffey agreed to give £33 for it, and said, "If I buy the cart, you must not leave here till tomorrow, as have not got a shilling to pay for the cart till I change a £50 cheque in Burrowa; my husband agreed to wait; Mrs. Coffey, her daughters, my mother, and I went on the spring cart to Burrowa; my husband came to see us across the river; Mrs. Coffey never left my sight from the time we left until we returned home, except while she was in Webb and Crego's store; my mother was in her company all the time; when on our way home Mrs. Coffey told me she changed a cheque for £50 in Crego's; we got home by dark between ten and eleven o'clock Mrs. Coffey called my husband, and said "I want to pay you for the cart;" my husband said, "l am in no hurry till morning, you are not going to leave the country;" Mrs. Coffey replied, "I always wish to pay my debts before I go to bed; we then went to the schoolmasters room; the schoolmaster wrote a receipt for the money, my husband signed it and gave it to Coffey; Mrs Coffey gave my husband seven five pound notes; they were new notes and quite clean; Coffey, his wife, my husband, were present when she gave my husband the notes; the schoolmaster was reclining on a bed about five feet from where we were in the corner of the room; Coffey said, "I would not give more than £30 for the cart," and said to his wife, "You may give what you like for it;" in a short time after my mother remarked two men behind the cart in the yard; she pointed them out to Mrs. Coffey and said they looked suspicious; Mrs. Coffey said "Never mind them"; my mother slept in Coffey's; my husband and I slept in a tilted cart outside Coffey's; my husband left early next morning; he was only a few minutes gone when I heard men talking in Coffey's; one of the men, whom I supposed to be Hall, came to the cart and ordered me to get out I said, go about your business; he said "I will soon make you turn out; "I then told him to stand aside while I dressed myself; I was then ordered into Coffey's.

Gilbert I believe, searched the cart; when he came back he and Mrs. Coffey went into the room and had a long conversation; Gilbert said "Never mind, I will take good care I'll find the money; "my mother and I went to the room door, but Gilbert ordered me back; they then came out of the room, and Mrs. Coffey began lamenting and said Gilbert got the key of the cupboard under the bed-tick and took £37 10s. and a gold chain out of the cupboard; she asked me, "Where have you your money planted, they may take it from you as they have done from me;" I said "It is all right in the cart unless they have mislaid it in the searching; "shortly afterwards Gilbert and Mrs. Coffey went into the room again and had some conversation; when they came out Mrs. Coffey said, in the presence and hearing of the bushranger, "Mrs. Steenbohm, I may thank you for being robbed, as I changed a £50 cheque in Burrowa yesterday to pay you for the cart; if I had not, I would not have had any money to lose; I said it is not my fault; Gilbert then called Hall into the yard, and Hall said, "It is I think that we ought to have searched the dray, you did not half search it; "Hall then searched the dray; when he came back, Gilbert said to me, "Give me up the money;" I said. "I have not a shilling;" he then said, "That I may be taken this minute, and (using an imprecation) if you say that again "I will blow your brains out. I know to the shilling what you have and where and from whom you got it; "I asked him, "Who told you?" He was just uttering the word when Hall interposed, "You fool don't tell, or they'll split, and tell where we are harboured," every person who came by Coffey's were bailed up in the house; Mrs. Coffey said to her daughters "why don't you go and milk the cows and mind your work sure the bushrangers don't want ye;" Coffey's daughters went to the river and were in and out the house, but no other persons were permitted to go in or out; as soon as my husband arrived from Cade's, one of the bushrangers met him and presented a revolver at him and demanded his money; I said, "For God's don't take the last pound we're got to support our poor children; he said ''you have other money." I said "No, but I will go into Burrowa and borrow some for you. He said "No fear, you would go to the police on us;'' we were then moved into Coffey's; Mrs.Coffey asked the bushrangers to have some breakfast; they said, "No fear, you might hocus us;" she replied, ''No, you see us using it ourselves;" they then, ordered fresh tea, and one of them had breakfast while the other stood sentry; they laid their revolvers on a side table; they appeared quite unconcerned and merry; they were in no way disguised.

Gilbert had a comforter round his neck; Gilbert went and collected our horses and ordered my husband to harness them he did so and as they were going away Mrs. Coffey said, "don't burn the dray'. Gilbert said, 'Yes, and himself and the _____dray;" Mrs. Coffey said to me, "If I were you I would give up the money, if I had a thousand pounds I would give it sooner than see my husband taken away; When they went away I said to Mrs. Coffey, ''Send a messenger for the police;" she said, "No they can see over the hill, and would soon overtake any messenger;" I said, "If you lend me a side-saddle, I will go;" she said, "No;" I then asked her to go and see what they had done with my husband, but she would not; a young man who was present said, "I will go;'' on our way Mrs. Coffey overtook us; I said, "I fear they will hang my husband;'' she said, "They will tie him to a tree near the dray to make him tell where the money is; "when my husband returned to Coffey's, Mrs Coffey said she would give back the cart and harness and £30 if my husband would return the notes; he said, he could not; She then requested me to persuade him to lend her the money for a month, and she would give him a pound interest; my husband said he could not give her all but if she was badly in need of it he would lend her five or ten pounds; she said, "Unless I get all it is no use to me, I will borrow money in Burrowa;" I have never seen any money taken from Mrs. Coffey; she said, while my husband was in the bush, "Ben Hall is a nice fellow, but Gilbert is a rough fellow."

NSW Police Gazette
12th Dec 1863.
While at Coffey's anyone passing along the road was challenged and directed to come in. A young gentleman named Campbell objected to the order and galloped off. Hall jumped on his horse, pursued him for some distance but without overtaking him. The next day Gilbert and Hall still at Coffey's chased a son of Mr James Poplin, Charles, who was mounted on a magnificent Grey horse. Charles beat his pursuers and got away. One of the detainees later commented that Gilbert was very playful with some, but Hall appeared to be of a more sullen and reserved deportment. Hall' sullenness may possibly have been from the effects of seeing O'Meally's head blown apart still playing on his mind and the perilous environment where death could come from any direction and by anyone. After-all, £1000 could change a life!

Furthermore, rumours indicated that Hall and Gilbert while canvassing Burrowa had got wind of the possibility that the recent compensation to be paid by the government to the Chinese miners routed at Lambing Flat after the 1861 riots said to be about £4,000 was to pass through Burrowa en-route to the Flat;[sic] "it is supposed by many here that in consequence of the Chinese claim, amounting to upwards of £4000, being now in course of payment, that this neighbourhood will be again the rendezvous of Gilbert and his party..." However, there were more wily protagonists than Hall and Gilbert seeking the Chinese compensation monies when it was reported by; The 'Burrangong Star'; "that some of the compensation money granted to Chinese for losses sustained by the Lambing Flat riots has passed into wrong hands, through one Chinese personating another..." The Chinese ruse was however, foiled; Chinese Compensation Money. -— The Burrangong Star of 5th instant says; "Some of the Chinese have during the week endeavoured to deceive Mr Campbell and the commissioners by answering when their names were called, and to pass themselves off for those mentioned in the Government lists as being entitled to receive the compensation money for loss sustained during the Burrangong riots. One of them succeeded in doing so and obtained a cheque from those gentlemen. One report last night stated for upwards of £300— others for £104. The Chinaman we understand is in the lock-up, but the cheque cannot be found. It is supposed he has passed it away amongst his country men. As it has no doubt been reported to the bank and payment stopped, it will of coarse be useless to the holder. Others of the celestial's who tried to work the dodge with the authorities are also in custody. It is a very difficult thing to identity the real Simon Pures, many of these fellows are so mush alike that it is not a very easy matter to tell one from the other besides there are so many of the same name." The bushrangers instead turned to another interrogating a shearer about the man who bolted Campbell, questioning when the men of the station would be paid;[sic] "they left the house with a shearer of Mr Campbell's, whom they asked when the men were going to be paid. On being told the following day, they left the man within a short distance of the house."

The whole of the affair at Coffey's hinged on the recovery of the five-pound notes from Keightley's ransom whereas with Donald Cheshire the Coffey's faced possible incarceration. Soon after the facade of the robbery Hall and Gilbert in an effort to protect one of the few who would give them safe harbour, denied ever being present when the Steenbohm's were robbed; GILBERT AND HIS MATE.- The Bathurst Times says- "Apropos of "sticking up," we have it upon the authority of one who has had the misfortune to come lately in contact with Gilbert and Ben Hall, that they indignantly repudiate any connection with the party who with blackened faces recently attacked and robbed the residence of Mrs Coffey, near Burrowa. In fact, said Gilbert, there was, no necessity for any disguise on their part as "the milk was spilt, and they must abide by it..."

Hall and Gilbert remained in the confines of the district surrounding Binalong, Bowning, Borrowra. (Burrowa) Spending possibly some nights with Susan Prior. Some of the sighting noted that Gilbert and Hall were mounted on very ill-conditioned horses. On Thursday morning the third of December the bushrangers were seen between Burrowa and Bendenine (Bendinne), the station of Mr. C. O'Brien. They came out of the bush close to the road and reconnoitred a traveller, but did not meddle with him. Ben Hall having replaced his knocked up horse "was then mounted on a remarkably fine horse," and that since leaving Coffey's, Hall acquired his mount at the expense of Mr. Poplin. The troopers from Burrowa, Marengo and Yass, set out in pursuit, but they had no success in locating the bushrangers. Hall and Gilbert next appeared at the station of Mr Smellie of Taringo;[sic] "we have been informed that the bushrangers previously visited Mr. Smellie's house, at Taringo, and were disappointed at not getting any money there. They also stated that on the previous day they noticed the police in a paddock near Burrowa, but did not care for that, as they knew the police never intended to take them..."

NSW Police Gazette.
16th December 1863.
The newspapers were inundated with new outrages against those travelling the roads. A few days after the Coffey occurrence on Saturday, December 5th Hall and Gilbert held up the Binalong to Yass mail five miles from Burrowa on the Binalong road. Ben Hall and Gilbert walked out of the scrub adjacent to the road and waited patiently for the approaching coach. A passenger Mr Handley observed the pair as "being exceedingly clean and well dressed." As the coach approached they ordered the driver to pull up, Gilbert presenting a revolver at the time, and Hall now mounted rested a double-barrelled gun on his knee. Order's given by Gilbert, who appeared throughout the robbery to have acted with some authority over his companion directed the Whip to a spot 300yds off the road where-upon four other persons were sitting on the ground. The three mailbags were thrown out. Hall took one and Gilbert searched the other two. Ripping open the bags, they proceeded to examine the contents of each letter, taking what notes and cheques found. One of the letters contained a cheque where Gilbert asked Handley if he could cash it for him; "on coming to one that contained a cheque for £37, asked Handley if he could give them change for it. On being told that he could not, Gilbert said he supposed they would have to go into Yass and cash them themselves..." Hall seemed rather disgusted at the useless bounty which would be difficult to cash.

As such, Ben Hall contemplated destroying the mail. Mr Handley interjected requesting him not to do so, as it would be useless destruction of property Gilbert joined in, placating Hall. Hall threw the cheques down with the remark, "If I thought it would do the bastards an injury, I would burn the lot." One of the other four captives asked if he might go now, and Gilbert said "Yes, you may all go except the mailman" The four men left. Handley remained to continue in the coach with the mail. At one stage as the letters were opened, Hall came across a piece of wedding cake. Hall looked at it very wistfully and was half inclined to eat it, but at last threw it down, "No, damn it; it may be a trap." Gilbert also found a letter in a black-bordered envelope this he put carefully on one side, without touching it, expressing his intention always to pay due respect to death.

During the activities, Mr Handley asked Gilbert about a stolen watch, asking Gilbert if he remembered taking a gold watch from Murphy some time previously. He answered that he did. Mr Handley then said, "Are you aware that the watch belonged to Mrs Scott, of Burrowa, and that Murphy was only fetching it out to her from the Flat." Gilbert replied that he was not aware of that and that if he had known it to be hers, he would not have taken it. He also said that if Mr Handley were so inclined, he would give it to him to return to Mrs Scott. Handley expressed his will to do so, and Gilbert took it off a gold chain, adorned with four or five others worn around his neck, handing it to Handley. Subsequently, the watch was given to the mailman by Handley. Arriving at Binalong, the mailman handed the watch over to the police.

The two bushrangers laughed and chatted freely while they were opening the letters. Gilbert remarked that it would give the newspapers something to talk about again, and show them that he and his mate were still game enough to stick up the mails whenever they wanted money. Searching the newspapers Gilbert read one that contained the latest account of John Vane giving himself up—giving their opinion of the cowardice of their former companion in terms that were by no means complimentary. Handley commented to Gilbert that he could inform him further of Vanes situation stating;[sic] "that Vane, on surrendering himself, had told the clergyman that he believed that Gilbert was prepared to do the same. Gilbert appeared indignant at what he was told and opening his peajacket placed his hands on a brace of revolvers which hung on each side of his belt in enamelled leather pouches, saying he would never do as Vane had done so long as he carried these. During the time that the bags were being searched the parties appear to have become very loquacious..." Gilbert was asked of what became of the local race champion 'Jacky Morgan' whom Gilbert stole from its jockey Harry Wilson some months prior;[sic] "Gilbert was asked about Jacky Morgan, Mr. Hancock's race-horse, and which, it will be remembered, was taken from the jockey the day before the last Burrowa races. Gilbert said it died long ago of the disease, and that when he next met Harry Wilson (the jockey) he would serve him out..."  Earlier while at Coffey's store the subject of Vane's surrender came up after Arron Steenbhom canvassed Hall on his wayward life and that like Vane he should consider following that path. Eliciting this reply; "I remonstrated, with Hall; about the dangerous life he led, and told him he ought to leave the country or give himself up like Vane; he said "he would shoot himself first;" Coffey then remarked, "Vane deserves to be hung for being such a coward as to give himself up he ought to have, shot himself first..."

NSW Police Gazette
December 16th, 1863.
Ben Hall was finished first with his bag. As a dray was seen on the road, Gilbert told him to go down and get something to drink from it. Hall went, leaving Gilbert alone with Handley and the mailman. Hall returned after a few minutes and reported that the man had nothing but a load of flour on his dray and that there was nothing else in it but an empty keg. Having gone through all the letters, they left them scattered on the ground, wished their late prisoners a "good day," and rode off.

In a sad epitaph of the robbing of the Binalong mail on the 9th whereby Hall and Gilbert made off with cash from the many letters destroyed, one of particular significance was brought to the forefront when a young hardworking woodsplitter from the 20,000 acre Calabash Station who in the finest traditions of taking care of his invalided mother 200 miles away in Sydney fell victim to the callous work of the two bushrangers. From the S.M.H 18th December 1863; A HARD CASE- "The Marengo correspondent of the Yass Courtier complains that one of his communications of six or eight pages of closely written foolscap on bushranging matters had fallen into the clutches of Gilbert and Ben Hall. This, he adds is vexing, yet that vexation is trivial compared to that of other sufferers by the late mail robberies. To give an illustration I know an honest young fellow, who is a splitter near the Calabash station. By strict frugality he is enabled about four times a year to remit a certain sum to an aged mother near Sydney-her sole support. Anxious that she should experience no delay in getting it, knowing how urgently it was required, he, contrary to the advice, of the postmaster, sends the money in whole notes by the mail from Marengo, on the 9th instant Gilbert and Hall ransacked that mail-appropriated the said notes. How is this decrepid mother to exist for the next three months? Conceive the anguish of her dutiful son, he well knowing his mother's destitution, and his own inability to send more money until it is earned. I say again, let anyone conceive this and think if Gilbert and Hall deserve the names so frequently given to them in this district, of "bold, dashing jolly fellows," "gentlemen of the road," &c. No, rather let them be called paltry, sneaking hounds, too lazy to work So, mean scum as they are, they rob and enjoy themselves at the expense of the poor and aged." The correspondent was on the money considering that this would just be one sample of the pain of loss of much hard won wages often transported by coach seized without due consideration by Ben Hall. Furthermore the loss of the reports of the same correspondent totalling eight pages would have been invaluable to the authorities.

Mr John J Garry
Mylora Station,
Binalong.
c. 1900.
Never before published.
On the 6th December a spurious report of arson was mentioned in the newspaper concerning Hall and Gilbert at Demondrille Station;[sic] "A few days since Gilbert and Hall stuck up some forty persons at Burrowa, and, on Sunday last, the same ruffians burned down Mr M'Austin's house at Demondrille. Of course the troopers are still after them. All sorts of rumours appeared to prevail on the subject. It was said that the place had been destroyed by Gilbert and Ben Hall as a sort of bushrangers punishment to Mr. Edmonds, the resident superintendent, having given evidence against the Toodles. It was also said that the new wool-shed on Cunningham Plains, which is one of the finest buildings of the kind in the colony, and has just been finished at a cost of more than £2000 was the subject of these wicked men's 'spite." - Yass Courier. However all proved inaccurate, nevertheless the claim made newspapers as far as Victoria and Tasmania but was not covered in the NSW police gazette. A few day's later the arson was discredited;[sic] "A private message was, however, received from that place during the afternoon, and as it mentioned nothing of the circumstance, it is that the story is not true." On the 9th December, the pairs horses were reported as knocked up whereby they forcibly stole two replacements from a Mr John Garry at Mylora Station near Binalong, a grey and a bay one being the solid runner and hurdler 'Willy the Weazle' who had won numerous races in the district from 1858(Murrumburrah July 1858; Mr. Garry's Willy the Weazle...(Stone) 1 Mr. Connors Napoleon.... 2 Willy the Weazle won this easily, which brought the sports to a close.) However, the grey was recovered on the 16th December knocked up and 'Willy' in late January 64' as well knocked up at Smellies Station. Mylora station consisted of 18,000 acres, well-watered by the Bogolong, Illalong, Jugiong, and Bushranger's Creeks. The run carried 13,000 sheep and a large number of cattle.

In the wake of the Binalong hold-up. 'The Yass Courier' commented on the personal appearance of the two bushrangers prompting this observation and the audacity of their actions;[sic] "it would appear that the last mail robbery was committed with as cool a determination as could be possibly be imagined. On the morning of the day upon which the offence was committed, two young men of the name of Kelly fell in with Gilbert and Hall near Binalong, and conversed with them for some time, and were allowed to proceed on their journey on promising not to give information to the police until the robbery of the mail was effected..." The Kelly's were cousins of a later gang member, John Dunn. The paper further stated;[sic] "the reckless life which Gilbert and Hall have led for the last two years is plainly telling on their constitution. Those who knew them before they took to the road, and who have recently seen them, speak of the premature old age which is making rapid advances on their appearance. Of the two, Hall has evidently suffered the most. He is considerably the senior of Gilbert in age, and does not appear to be possessed of such a hardy constitution as enjoyed by his more youthful companion..." 

Following the Handley incident of the 5th a few days later on the 8th, the coach from Forbes via Young to Yass was trundling along when Hall and Gilbert emerged from the scrub at twilight and held it up 12 miles north of Yass. As the coach came into view, there was riding along with it a woman on horseback called on as well to stand fast by Hall. However, showing as much courage as Mrs Campbell at Goimbla the unknown lady set her horses head and galloped off whereby Gilbert with a chuckle called "Oh, let her go."; 'Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' Saturday 12th December 1863; STICKING UP OF THE FORBES MAIL (By ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH.) YASS. Thursday, 11.30. A.M- "Gilbert and Hall stuck up the mail from Forbes and Young last night, about six o'clock, about twelve miles from here. They opened the mail bags, took all the money and left the cheques and drafts untouched. A woman riding on horseback in company with the mail, on being told to pull up, galloped off when Gilbert laughed and said: "Oh, let her go." When sticking up the mail, Gilbert took it quite cool, sat down, and read the paper, while Hall rifled the bags. Gilbert opened a newspaper containing Vane's examination, which he read, and said Vane was a bloody liar. After Hall reported progress, Gilbert ordered Hall to pitch the letters back into the bags, stating his objections at the number of cheques and drafts which were of no use to him. He told the mailman that it would be extra work to the Yass postmaster to sort the letters." However, before the Forbes coach's appearance two-horse teams and a bullock dray carting goods along the same road north of Yass were bailed-up and searched, accompanying the drays on horseback was Mr Patterson owner of Illalong Sheep Station, 8320 acres. Once again, the bushrangers rifled the drays. From Bell's; Thursday, 2.45. P.M. "Gilbert and Hall stuck up two-horse teams, one bullock team, and Mr Patterson, overseer at Illalong. Sub-Inspector Brannan and party are in pursuit of the bushrangers, and great hopes are entertained by the latter that they will not be captured!"

The current activities of Hall and Gilbert drew this summary in the 'Sydney Mail' 12th December 1863 noting that if the police did not step up to the task then no doubt private citizens such as Campbell and Keightley would continue to benefit in the large rewards; "Gilbert and Ben Hall have not taken warning by the fate of their comrades. They are either too desperate to think of withdrawing from a freebooter's life, or too in grained in crime to care to abandon evil courses. They have been sticking-up the mails and passengers near Burrowa. The gang does not appear to have enlisted any new recruits, but now that it is reduced to two the police ought to be able to make short work of it. None of the gang as yet have been captured by the police, and if they do not look sharp all the honour and glory of ridding the country of these miscreants will be enjoyed by private individuals."

There can be no doubt that families such as the Kelly's and Coffey's and many others in the area of Borrowra, Binalong and Bowning were providing shelter for the two bushrangers. Another person and longtime close friend of Ben Hall, Elen Maguire Hall's former sister in law as well lived within the district and would be arrested in the near future for receiving a stolen watch from the Binalong mail robbery of the 9th December. A correspondent of the 'Goulburn Herald,' from Marengo wrote on the 21st of a meeting between Gilbert and a former colleague working cattle near Marengo. Gilbert was spoken of in gracious terms and that Gardiner contributed to Gilbert's present ills; — "Last night the bushrangers camped at the junction of the Marengo Gap and Calabash runs, near the Middle Station, and early this morning, as an acquaintance of mine was tailing cattle near there they rode up to him, and Gilbert, who knew him, said "How are you?" got off his horse and had a long talk (offering not the slightest violence), and asked after many whom he had formerly known when he was an honest, light-hearted stock keeper at the Gap and Mullhollands, but from whom, through his present vile career, he is now widely separated. Whenever any of the good folks around here talk of Gilbert— or "Johnny," as they generally term him— the conversation nearly always winds up with a shake of the head, and saying, "Well, well, whoever would have dreamt of that quiet, civil-spoken, respectable-looking young fellow turning out as he has; oh! it is all through that villain Gardiner" — the finale to which remark I fully endorse. It is a thousand pities that the arch tempter and founder of this desperate gang were ever permitted to escape and that too with the lion's share of the unrecovered portion of the escort robbery in his possession, valued at more than £9000. The gang is not camping around here without an object; that object is either to intercept the mail between here and Young or to pounce upon some of the horses now in training for the various races. Gilbert and Ben Hall were seen near Burrowa on the previous day. We believe that Gilbert, Hall, and a third party were seen crossing the bridge at Burrowa on Monday last." (Gardiner lost his share of the escort robbery, recovered by Sgt Sanderson, June 1862.)

The 22nd December, Hall and Gilbert were believed connected to the robbery of one Henry Morgan proprietor of the 'Burrangong Star' and his wife as they travelled along the Bowning-Binalong road on the 16th December 1863. Morgan was a shrewd newspaperman. Whereby having been held up reputedly by the two infamous bushrangers Hall and Gilbert in company with two other lowlifes George Lynham and Michael Corcoran while on their way to Burrowa. However, all was not as it seemed like the whole affair with Morgan appeared concocted or a case of mistaken identity. The confrontation ran as front-page headlines in Morgan's Lambing Flat paper. As the dust settled the assailants were, in fact, Michael Seary, George Lynham and Michael Corcoran. No doubt as was often done the men passed themselves off as Hall and Gilbert. Sydney papers picked up the story and published the purported events lavishly.
On the 25th December 1863 Christmas day, Morgan's brush with Ben Hall came unstuck when on an investigation by other correspondents from the 'Goulburn Herald' revealed that Michael Seary (Seery) and Lynham and Cocoran perpetrated the robberies attributed to Hall and Gilbert. The hold-up of Morgan was not reported to the police and never published in the Gazette. Once again the notoriety attributed to being held-up by Hall played a hand in the falseness of the accusations.

NSW Police Gazette,
23rd December 1863.
Not Hall nor Gilbert.
Furthermore, goods carriers camped at the scene overnight were as well raided by the three men as reported to the local police whereby the whole of the affair was published in the NSW Police Gazette. The police confirmed that Hall and Gilbert were not present. (See Police Gazette right.) 'Goulburn Herald' Friday 25th December 1863; "although it was stated that Gilbert and Hall, in conjunction with two others, were the persons who stuck-up and robbed several teamsters between Bowning and Binalong, on Wednesday and Thursday last, we are under the impression that such was not the case, and that the persons who committed the depredations were other parties. The statements that then reached us plainly showed the improbability of Ben Hall and Gilbert, after robbing the Binalong mail, and taking two race-horses from Mylors, waiting about Emu Flat, and stealing from a child his cabbage-tree hat, and from old women their few pieces of silver. Our subsequent information goes to show that the parties who committed these robberies were neither Gilbert nor Hall. We are confident the persons that stuck-up Lake, Morgan, and others were Seary, Lynham, and Corcoran, We might as well state that Seary and Lynham are natives of the Pejar River and that Corcoran is a native of Cook's Vale, a few miles distant from Pejar. They are all able young men, Corcoran being the youngest, about twenty-three years of age, and Seary and Lynham about thirty. Corcoran is described as an admirable horseman. His father was (if not now) the occupier of a splendid farm at Cook's Vale, and is the parent of a large family." In May 1864 Seery and Lynham's run came to an end and they were convicted for robbery under arms and sentenced to 12 and 15yrs respectfully. They were released in 1871.

John Southgate.
NSW Police Gazette,
January 1864.
The goldfields of both Lambing Flat and Forbes and the tracks of Burrowa, Yass, Binalong had drawn others besides the three mentioned above. All vying for the easy pickings from the unsuspecting travellers and residents going about their business. Another who was ranging in the Burrowa/Yass district as Ben Hall plyed his trade was John Southgate. Also known to the police as John Daly and was conducting many station and individual robberies and horse thefts. In November 1863 Southgate was linked to a James Crookwell in robberies near Towrang and Little River in the vicinity of Yass as well as to having a partnership with Lynham and Seary. In late 1863 Crookwell would be snared by Capt Zouch while in a bush hut and Southgate nearby on horseback between Goulburn and Yass. S.M.H. 5th January 1864; "Crookwell was committed, and Southgate discharged.- Southgate was then, on the application of Mr. Zouch, remanded to Yass, on a charge of being one of three men who on the 17th instant committed several high way robberies between Burrowa and Yass. Mr. Erby, of Murray's Flats, has since identified the saddle on which Southgate was riding at the time of his apprehension, which was stolen a day or two before the highway robberies at Towrang." However, Southgate aged 22 and was 5ft 11in evaded conviction in the short term but his luck ran out in May 1864 whereby convicted for a third offence of horse stealing he was sent down for 12yrs. Crookwell aged 22 and 5ft 9in was sentenced to 15yrs. Others as well haunting the district were George Birmingham, Daniel Matthews, Frank Stanley, Charles Jones and William Dunn. Horse theft and robbery under arms were the majority of the charges. There can be no doubt that all these men had at some stage linked up with Hall and Gilbert but in the main Hall and Gilbert rarely worked in conjunction with others.  

As 1863 drew to a close there was one last report of Hall and Gilbert near Binalong; Sydney Mail 2nd January 1864; The Bushrangers. — "The Yass Courier of the 26th ultimo reports that on Tuesday night last, while the police were at Bowning, the Binalong mail passed through, and shortly afterwards the approach of that from Gundagai was heard. As it came in view of the Bowning Hotel the galloping of horsemen was heard, as if two or three parties were in pursuit. Suddenly the horsemen turned and galloped back on the same road they had come. The police were quickly in saddle and gave chase, suspecting that the men were bushrangers but after proceeding for some distance they lost their 'birds,' who turned off into the bush. It is supposed that if the parties were bushrangers, their flight was caused by spying the police who had their horses hung up at the hotel. A rumour prevailed in town on Thursday that a party of eight bushrangers, headed by Gilbert and Ben Hall, were seen near Burrowa on the previous day. We believe that Gilbert, Hall, and a third party were seen crossing the bridge at Burrowa on Monday last, and proceeding in the direction of Binalong." However, Hall and Gilbert left the scene of action laying low amongst their family, friends and harbourers, emerging late January 1864 with a new member. Evidence depicts that Ben Hall would return to his brother William's hut at the Pinnacle Range where William had relocated too following the March 1863 incineration of Ben Hall's home at Sandy Creek situated five miles from the rugged Pinnacle Range.

Christmas-New Year arrived and Ben Hall's son Henry then four and half years old would be in attendance at the Pinnacle Range as William had taken the child from Bridget Hall to see his father. The acrimony between William and his wife Anne and Bridget was long-standing. However, whether by demand of Ben or of an arrangement with Bridget. Henry would live with William for some weeks. (In the years ahead Henry would spend time residing with William at Parkes, NSW.) Even though Hall left the field of conflict to enjoy some family time reports still surfaced of his presence at various towns and districts. Most sheer invention; BEN HALL, IN BRAIDWOOD.- "On Thursday evening last a rumour gained currency, that the notorious knight of the road, Ben Hall, had been in Braidwood during the day. A person in the town who knew him in other, and no doubt, to him, happier days, is said to have recognised him at a public-house. There are, however, so many recognitions of these outlaws taking place every day in various parts of the country that they are beginning not to "go down," and the cry of the wolf passes unheeded."- Braidwood Dispatch, January 2.

While Hall sojourned at William's with his son Henry, 'Happy Jack' Gilbert as well disappeared from the scene and is reputed to have returned to Victoria amongst his family not appearing again till early 1864. However, in 1913 a story surfaced in the reminiscence of an old local that Gilbert reputedly had not ventured to Victoria but retired to the popular retreat of the gang in the wild confines of Bogan Gate north-west of Forbes and its many remote ranges such as Monumea Gap, Nelungaloo Range and Jemalong Range also know by Garland Range a long pencil thin range stretching from near the Carawandool State Forest meandering north as far as Bogan Gate. All these mountains were littered with caves and ridges that provided good cover for Hall and Gilbert. This range also enabled the bushrangers to steal horses and victuals from the surrounding stations such Bundaburrah, Billibong and Carrawobbity. It was said of Gilbert that as Hall remained close to the Pinnacle, Gilbert headed further north 40 miles where he recovered from Typhoid Fever under the care of a drover named Botfield. 'The Forbes Advocate' Friday 28th February 1913; "a drover named Botfield was taking a mob of sheep across that part of the country and coming to a creek that contained good water, he decided to camp to rest his mob. He camped on there for such a long time that people began to speak of it as Botfield's Creek. One day Gilbert, one of Ben Hall's gang, rode up to the camp, suffering from typhoid fever, and Mr and Mrs Botfield made a bunk under their wagon and nursed him right through his illness. The police often rode up making inquiries about the bushrangers and even went so far as to look under the wagon round which the tarpaulin was hung, but Botfield put them off by telling them that it was only a sick drover under there..." To add weight to the claim of fever there was an entry in the paper of Ben Hall seen in his old haunt of Burrorwa in late January suffering fever. This may well have been Hall mistaken for Gilbert; "Ben Hall was seen about a fortnight ago on his old beat. He was suffering from colonial fever."

However, on the 22nd of January 1864 Hall's short time with his son came to an abrupt end as Bridget Hall applied to the Forbes Court for the return of young Henry. Whereby accompanied by Jim Taylor the pair took out a summons against William Hall for the illegal detention of Henry. The matter never made court as the issue was settled and Henry surrendered to his mother and Taylor; FORBES. Friday, 5 pm. "Mrs Hall, wife of Ben Hall the bushranger, accompanied by the notorious Jim Taylor, recently took out a summons against Bill Hall, the brother, for the illegal detention of Ben Hall's child. The case was to have come off on Thursday, but the parties concerned made no appearance, the child having been surrendered to Taylor, who assumes its guardianship."

NSW Police Gazette.
3rd February 1864.
Having left the field of pillaging for some weeks Hall reputedly chummed up with Gilbert appearing on the 28th January 1864 at the farm of the Dowd's at Kangarooby north of Orange where on entering the homestead demanded supper. On completion of dinning the pair made the three ladies present play music and dance with them for over two hours. However, the companion of Ben Hall's appears to be not Gilbert but James Mount alias Gordon who as well used other alias'. Mount was a career criminal having received a Ticket-of-Leave in September 1862 for the Mudgee district. Mount was 47 years of age and stood 5ft 11in with brown hair and grey eyes. (See gang Page.) The coming together of Hall and Mount is vague and may have occurred while Mount was a farm Labourer in the Forbes area. In one report Mount was thought to be the terror of the Riverina 'Mad Dog' Morgan;[sic] "Hall's present confederate in-arms is a long legged, slop-made, middle aged, black whiskered truculent-looking vagabond, supposed by many to be Morgan" Morgan it was not. 

Ben Hall's notoriety as bushranger supreme drew some to believe that the chance to join Hall was an easy process whereby over the next few months a few would avail themselves to the idea of becoming apart of the gang. As such one incident of a rouge who talked of joining Hall was one John M'Kail, an American who had given himself the nickname of the 'Flying Barber'. M'Kail was a married man who had been sent down for six months at Bathurst in March 1863 for beating is wife unmercifully. To escape his clutches on release from prison, Mrs M'Kail commenced work for a Mrs Folkard of the Franklyn Hotel, Billabong outside Forbes. M'Kail's wife believed his conduct toward her had became so violent that she believed M'Kail to be insane. Undeterred M'Kail sought his wife out whereby an altercation ensued between her employer Octavius Folkard and M'Kail. Folkard refused to allow M'Kail's wife to leave for her own safety. M'Kail then threatened vengeance against her and those who harboured her. A few days after his threat, M'Kail appeared at the hotel's bar in an excited state calling out "Folkard, Folkard, look!" M'Kail then drew a pistol from his trousers pocket and as in doing so was followed immediately by a loud explosion putting the bar into darkness. A candle was sought, and on lighting, M'Kail was found laying on the floor bleeding a gunshot wound to his right side. Within ten minutes, the would-be assassin was dead. Before his confrontation, M'Kail had made it known that had he succeeded in shooting Folkard; he intended to join Gilbert and Hall.

While Hall commenced a new partnership with Mount, rumours arose that Hall and Gilbert had a significant falling out. One allegedly spread that the pair again quarrelled over a woman resulting in Hall shooting Gilbert dead. Another which captured the imagination was that Gilbert's revolver exploded while skylarking in front of female admirers. However, all was not as it seemed. However, Gilbert had not as yet made a reappearance in Hall's company thereby soliciting the nature of the rumours as Hall was now seen in-company with an unknown. 'The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser' Thursday 11th February 1864; Ben Hall And Gilbert.- The Marengo correspondent of the Yass Courier, writing on the 1st says:-"For some weeks past various rumours have been current as to the whereabouts or fate of Gilbert; some say that he is gone north, to what is called the new country, others that he and Hall had quarrelled about a woman, the rupture culminating in Hall pistolling Gilbert dead on the spot. But yesterday a settler told me for a fact, that Gilbert was not only dead but buried, and that he and Hall never quarrelled, for no one was more "cut up" at Gilbert's fate than Hall himself, and that Gilbert's death was purely accidental; for while he was what is vulgarly termed skylarking with the daughters of a settler not a hundred miles off, one of his numerous revolvers exploded, the contents entering his abdomen, and he would not allow a doctor to be sent for, saying "it was no ---- use, as he knew it was a case;" so after lingering for ten or twelve hours, he died, and was buried "on the quiet." Though all this may be only a canard or a ruse to "wet blanket" the ardour of the police, yet it is the general belief around here that something of the kind has occurred. One thing is certain, that, as far as highway robbery is concerned, Hall and Gilbert are now-in thieves vernacular- "pals no longer;"as Hall's present confederate in-arms is a long legged, slop-made, middle aged, black whiskered truculent-looking vagabond, supposed by many to be Morgan "

The disappearance of Gilbert and the comment of his having gone north provides some authenticity to his being ill and that he laid low in the back-country of Bogun Gate while recuperating from Typhoid Fever. Therefore, it was no doubt that;[sic] "all this may be only a canard or a ruse to "wet blanket" the ardour of the police."













#-Reference notes and source material can be accessed on the EndNote page except where the book, author or newspaper title are named. Publications referred to can be found on the Links Page. For any research assistance no charge, contact is on the Home Page under Contact details or Email to benhallbushranger@gmail.com. For an enhanced view of photographs, click right mouse button and select 'open in new tab'. To read the full context of some articles just highlight the first few lines and go to Trove and paste in the search section.


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