|The Charters' former home,|
now Fern Hill. c. 1970's.
Reputed birthplace of
Courtesy Carcoar Historical Society.
Forced to decamp his previous stomping ground of Lambing Flat and the round-the-clock pressure of the police combing Hall's various haunts at the Weddin and Pinnacle mountains initiated a new dress code, in dispensing with standard police uniforms replaced by troopers wearing bushman's apparel of a stockman or miner making it difficult for the bushrangers to determine friend from foe. The latest efforts by the police brought reassurance to the isolated locals that the gangs days were numbered, 'The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser' Saturday 5th September 1863:
Nevertheless, the police failed to break the 'Cone of Silence' of those favourable to Hall. Even though a reward of £500 was on offer. Carcoar also allowed an opportunity for Hall to seek shelter with 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 shepherding sheep. William Wright passed away near Forbes in 1861, and Mary married George Huddy at Forbes. In her last years, Mary settled in Charters Towers Queensland.
Hall's avoidance of capture continued to bring his activities dead centre of government debate. Accordingly, the parliament's discord centered on the costs of administering what presented as a jinxed police force. Many in the legislature held the view that the police's lack of effort and energy was scandalous.
The cost of policing for the year ending 1863 was £257,000 (today $21,588,000, £1=$84) was an economic shock to New South Wales citizens. Many NSW parliamentarians were understandably critical over the costs to a population of some 350,000. The parliament and press would not let the matter rest and continued to badger the Colonial Secretary Charles Cowper over the impunity that allowed Hall to conduct his terror attacks. The badgering was loudest by those parliamentarians whose districts were harassed by the bushrangers. In turn, putting their parliamentary seat in jeopardy; 'Sydney Morning Herald' 1st October 1863:
Regardless of parliamentary outrage, Ben Hall continued scot-free holding sway over the Queen's roads. Easing into the Carcoar district, Ben Hall accompanied by Gilbert and Burke, began their raids where even the onslaught of inclement weather as the spring rains fell failed to hamper their activities nor assist the police. Newspaper's reported that the only ones making a go of it under the turbulent weather were Hall, Gilbert and Burke and their spies:
By late-1863, every suspected robbery became a victims cry of Ben Hall! Ben Hall! As it had earlier been Gardiner! Gardiner! However, this was not always the case. Subsequently, amongst those thousands flooding the gold districts of Forbes and Lambing Flat there were many rogues and vagabonds in their ranks—a significant number of those were luckless miners short of a quid or on the lam—accordingly, a few committed one-off robberies and murder. As highlighted:
Similarly, occasional robberies were performed by the much-despised Chinese gold diggers. Since the uprisings at Lambing Flat in 1861, the Chinese continued to face attacks and abuse by the Europeans.
Meanwhile as Ben Hall, John Gilbert, and Micky Burke settled into operations in the Rockley, Carcoar, and Mount Macquarie area. Their compatriots John O'Meally and Vane had lingered behind the Weddin/Burrangong district. 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 the 21st of September 1863.
Hall operating in the Carcoar district, the police continued to be on edge searching the Weddin Mountains for Hall. However, on one occasion some youthful boys from the Weddin Mountains chastised a patrol of mounted troopers giving the impression they were bushrangers. The troopers were determined to capture them, and the possible windfall of reward attached to their capture gave chase covering eight miles, finally overhauling the youths. The police, not at all amused to find that some recalcitrant boys made fools of them. Furious the police dealt out a thrashing to the mischievous lads, S.M.H. 3rd October 1863:
On the 19th of September, O'Meally and Vanes imposed sin-binning came 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 a few days. Vane writes:
The camp mentioned above would roughly be within a mile south of the southern extremity of today's Carcoar Dam in the confines of Mount Macquarie. (The coach robbery referred to is highlighted below and conducted by Gilbert, Hall and Burke.) Vane continues:
The messenger returned with positive news of Ben Hall. However, what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity between the two parties upon contact created confusion between them. Vane recounted that he and O'Meally had unknowingly stumbled upon Ben Hall's camp thinking it was a police camp. However, on the gang finally re-joining. It arose that both sets of bushrangers feared each other as the police who were now wearing bushman apparel, championed by Sir Frederick Pottinger. The five bushrangers, following much amusement between themselves, reunited:
|Cowra Mail Robbery,|
NSW Police Gazette
Note, Description of the 2nd
perpetrator matches that
of Ben Hall.
Before their reconciliation and a stone's throw from the town of Blayney, a 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 new research indicates, the hold-up did not involve John O'Meally or Vane but Gilbert, Hall and Burke. It is well established through historical records and memoirs leading up to 19th September 1863 demonstrates that O'Meally and Vane were transitioning from the Weddin Mountains.
Therefore, the evidence puts beyond doubt that the perpetrators were John Gilbert, Ben Hall and Micky Burke. They were noted by the au fait descriptions of the mail coach perpetrators in the NSW Police Gazette September 1863. The latter, in this case, Burke wearing a face covering. (See the description right.)
In Charles White's John Vane Bushranger, narrated by John Vane and published after Vane's death in 1906, the Cowra Mail robbery is not recalled. Only the later episodes at Marsh's Farm as well as the Stanley Hosie raid at Caloola. The Cowra mail was a success, and Vane often recounted his successes and bravado. On many occassions the bushrangers deliberately confused their victims as to their identities by either claiming to be police or each other. Even in some instances stating that Gardiner was observing. However, it must be emphasised that Ben Hall's description holds that he was short 5ft 6/7in and stout in stature, even considered overweight, roughly 190 lbs-13½ stone as per police gazettes. The other members were all taller and lithe.
|NSW Police Gazette|
30th September 1863.
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 (Trumble), Evenden and Cromie, were also out patrolling in the scrub searching for the elusive bushrangers.
The troopers had been searching in the vicinity of Long Swamp unsuccessfully and were returning to Carcoar. However, eight miles from Long Swamp in the mid-afternoon, the three troopers arrived at a local farm owned by Mr & Mrs Marsh and their five children with Mrs Marsh also pregnant with their sixth child. Their farm sat in the shadow of Mt Macquarie southeast of Carcoar. On arrival, the troopers made inquiries regarding any sighting of the bushrangers. They 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, namely Micky Burke, whom Marsh knew well. Armed with this information and a quick discussion, trooper Cromie was sent accompanied by Marsh to investigate and retrieve the animal. In the process, unfortunately, the pair were suddenly confronted by those for whom the police were seeking, 'Golden Age' of October 1863,
On Tuesday afternoon three troopers left the Long Swamp on route for Carcoar, and called at George Marsh's farm, distant about 8 miles, where they had. some refreshment, and were informed by Mr Marsh that he had seen a horse, with saddle and bridle on, and he believed that it had got away from the bushrangers who were in the neighbourhood, and he offered to go with one of them to get the horse. After being out about half an hour, the two troopers at the house heard two shots fired a short distance from the place, and went in the direction of the reports when they met two mounted men who ordered them to stand. Only one of them had taken the precaution to carry his rifle with him, and he was told that if he attempted to fire he would get his b--- brains blown out and, that they would go to the place, where Marsh and the other trooper were handcuffed to a tree, and shoot them. As a matter of course, the trooper gave up his rifle and revolver. The two bushrangers were then joined by three more of their gang, and after liberating Marsh and the captive trooper, they went into the house and had something to eat and then secured the three revolvers, three rifles, and all other traps belonging to the police. The gang are O'Meally, Gilbert, Burke, Vane, and Ben Hall. When the troopers first saw them they thought they were some of the Carcoar police, having carbines at their side, with buckets to hold the muzzles in. They informed the troopers that they would like to fall in with McLerie and his men, for they would strip and handcuff them to trees for the night, having handcuffs with them for the purpose.
The confrontation saw all three troopers charged by their commander Superintendent Morrissett with Neglect of Duty. Furthermore, it was an expensive day for the police. The kidnapping of the troopers enabled the bushrangers to rearm with new and devastating firepower. The equipment loss was noted as:
Four breech-loading carbines, and four revolvers, and all the holsters, straps, breastplates, and other lumber that make up the total of a trooper's accoutrements.
|A contemporary view|
of the capture of the
troopers by Ben Hall.
The offensive comment, "never expected to be called upon to pursue bushrangers," from the three troopers blighted the broader police effort. However, it did paint a picture of the men being terrified by their encounter. Making such scandalous statements concerning their lack of pluck (Guts) brought great discredit to the government and the police. Incensed at the capitulation brought the ire of the townsfolk of Carcoar who through a correspondent of the 'Bathurst Times' expressed the following view:
|NSW Police Gazette|
for Daley and Jameison
|NSW Police Gazette|
Never before published.
by Brenda Simmons.
|Hosie's store Hill End. |
Hosie standing middle.
by Brenda Simmons
|Mr John Loudon|
'Grubbenbong Station' was owned by Mr John Loudon J.P. Loudon, had been recently 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. The Telegraphs provided intelligence that several troopers were 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. Then, with all the station hands stabled, the gang proceeded 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, "Sanderson."
1810 - 1895.
Kindly provided by
During John Vane's December 1863 trial at Bathurst for bushranging, Loudon was called as a witness. Loudon's describes how well armed the gang were—carrying both revolvers and carbines. Stating the bushrangers opened fire indiscriminately without any concern for those in the house. The 'Illawarra Mercury' Friday 11th December 1863:
Loudon's overseer Mr Charles Young 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:
|Mrs Helen Loudon|
22nd October 1863.
A depiction of
Ben Hall & Co.'s evening
Note the papers use
of satire with the artist name.
|A Dambrod Board.|
A game of Draughts.
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.
Aside from Mrs Loudon's thrilling encounter, J. Ward Harrison went on with this tribute to our valiant women of yesteryear:
|Cliefden c., 1900.|
Never before published.
Blue Jacket Lookout, 2016.
|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.|
Ben Hall, following the raids at both Loudon's and Rothery's, arrived in the town of Canowindra. Whereby, appraised by their telegraphs that the troopers stationed there were currently out in the bush, Hall and his companions rode in. The hamlet of Canowindra was one of the many nondescript places positioned on the roads and tracks between Bathurst, Forbes, Orange. However, it was comparable to those surrounding it, such as Woodstock, Cargo, Cudal and Billimari. At reported noted at the time the comment of blink, and you would miss it:
|William Robinson owner|
of the Travellers Rest Hotel,
situated on the Cowra side of
the Belubula River
12th July 1862.
Moreover, the evening turned into a welcoming distraction for the town's inhabitants as the bushrangers rounded up its folk for a night of dancing. The evening was conducted in a friendly and festive atmosphere. As such, the night became legendary and was widely reviewed as a thoroughly enjoyable jubilee. The bushrangers were footing the bill at their own expense. No doubt via their ill-gotten gains; 'Empire', 6th October 1863:
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:
Newspapers continued to refer to the five bushrangers as Gilbert's gang and continued to do so until mid-1864. Then, however, local observers gave the title to Ben Hall, as Mrs Loudon commented. Shortly after the festivities at Canowindra, a resident's letter to relatives characterised the bushrangers appearance:
On 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. Where he almost lost his life while on patrol searching for Ben Hall:
|Crossing the Belubula.|
by Frank Dunne,
From a Correspondent. Carcoar, Saturday, October 3rd:
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 camped NSW police. Crossing the swollen river, Sullivan fronted at the camp of the pursuing troopers and relayed Ben Hall's challenge. 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 retells the event:
However, with a loss of weapons and devoid of suitable clothes, the bushrangers returned to Canowindra to refresh their wardrobe. From a correspondent:
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 Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle, John O'Meally's family homestead's was incinerated. The O'Meally subject demonstrated a certain sympathy toward Ben Hall in his current circumstances and a strong criticism of the police's actions, seemingly condoned by the NSW government. Saturday 26th September 1863:
Courtesy of Harpur Critical
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 the earlier June 1863 article in the 'Yass Courier' on Ben Hall's life.
Nonetheless, the above article may well have sought out some empathy from the reader toward Hall. By conjuring up a view in the public mind for those unacquainted with Hall's background by encompassing, on the one hand, pity and 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. A point of view, far from the truth.
Hall relinquished his property voluntarily in September 1862. Under the 'Crown Lands Occupation Act of 1861,' Hall's home was incinerated on 14th March 1863 to prevent its continued use as a bushranger base. However, New South Wales Parliamentarian Joseph Jehoshaphat Harpur, who no doubt personally knew Ben Hall through his mother Sarah Walsh nee Harpur nee Chidley, often defended the affected settlers and to an extent the bushrangers. Drawing severe criticism and in turn, Harpur pointed the finger at the police's heavy-handed practices against those settlers in the spotlight:
|NSW Police Gazette|
7th October 1863.
Unperturbed by all the press reports surrounding their atrocities, The Boy's, whenever possible, sought newspapers to obtain their latest antics, viewing the stories with amusement and ridicule. Unsurprisingly, the gang had become utterly indifferent to the NSW police force and their floundering pursuit regarding their most recent successes and narrow escapes. Ben Hall, knowing he held the upper hand, the gang casually drifted from their jubilee at Canowindra, tracking east towards Bathurst's a mere 55 miles distant.
Moreover, though locals widely confirmed their presence in the area, many enjoyed visiting without fear of discovery. The bushrangers made the provincial town's outskirts, forming a camp close to Bathurst at Swan Pond. Swan Pond ran alongside Evans Plains Creek 4 miles from the town centre. Furthermore, they 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:
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 activities had many of the districts asking just that! Where were the police! The question of the polices' inability to corral the gang following the Canowindra party brought more severe criticism from the 'Sydney Morning Herald', 7th October 1863 expressing disdain at the response to the gang's Canowindra, Rothery and Loudon outrages:
Of course, in 1863, as with the 21st-century, politicians' talk is cheap! Obfuscation, an art form. The 'Lachlan Miner', of September 30th 1863, owned by H.P. Williamson, who later in the year would be called upon by Hall and Gilbert, highlighted the trial and tribulations of a police force under immense pressure to achieve success and for the first time the press referred to the contest between the bushrangers and the police as a 'Bushranger War':
|NSW Police Gazette,|
30th September 1863.
The citizens of Burrowa and its surroundings, who for some time suffered the pillaging and plunder of Ben Hall, we're gratified by the news of two bushrangers being captured and incredibly 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 captured survivor was described so:
|View of Bathurst from|
With Machattie and Battye's dare in the back of their minds, the bushrangers were game to create a big sensation, appearing in force at Bathurst on the evening of Saturday the 3rd of October 1863, marking one of the most audacious raids ever committed by bushrangers in the history of NSW. As a result, Ben Hall, John Gilbert, O'Meally, Vane and Micky Burke breezed into the social and cultural centre of the Western Districts. A sprawling township and gateway to the rich western plains oft referred to as the 'City of the Plains'.
Bathurst grew following the 1813 crossing of the Blue Mountains by Surveyor William Evans. The latter accomplished the task of completely transiting the Blue Mountains, reaching the Macquarie River 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, Evans, after struggled across the majestic ranges, noted:
To the surveyor, it was like a glimpse of paradise after his strenuous journey over the Blue Mountains.
Bathurst's founding soon followed in 1815 and established on the main track to and from Sydney via the road cut-out across the Blue Mountains constructed by William Cox, and hundreds of convicts completed in late 1815:
|Father Jerome Keating,|
who married Ben & Bridget
as well as her sisters Ellen
and Catherine Walsh.
Courtesy E. Penzig.
Furthermore, Bathurst was a town that was very familiar to Ben Hall. 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 visit often. These stayovers were also in the company of his older brother William. Hall reputedly held his wedding party at the 'Bentinck and Piper Inn', licensed to Alexander Crilly after his marriage. 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 and other NSW police officers, including Inspector Pottinger, continually scoured the local area for the five elusive bushrangers.
|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
In 1907 Charles White, an eyewitness to the famous Bathurst raid, published 'John Vane, Bushranger', highlighting Vane's membership. However, much of Vane's story is out of sequence regarding time, place and events. However, Vane's account is worthwhile regarding the bushrangers' actions in the lead-up to all of the events related to the Bathurst phenomenon. Vane rode with Hall from August 1863 till November 1863.
Therefore, in the lead up to the Bathurst raid, Vane recounts the gang's attitude on his and Hall's return to camp, re-joining Gilbert, O'Meally and Micky Burke. Here the pair outlined the conversation with 'Dosh' Machattie and the fiery Charles 'Bertie' Battye's and their challenge to them:
You are not game they called to come to Bathurst and take DeCloutt’s ‘Pacha’:
Vane stated to the group that Ben was incensed at the cheek of Battye, where Hall remarked:
We’ll show you about that.
John O’Meally, always game was ready to jump at a chance for action stated:
Accordingly, the run into Bathurst was agreed upon by all. The raid settled. Vane claimed he might obtain one of the 'Revolving Rifles' or the 'Double-Trigger revolvers saying Pedrotta's gun-shop would most likely hold the fancy weapon. Furthermore, Johnny Gilbert stated that he had desires on the thoroughbred racehorse 'Pacha' which could be stolen from his former employer 'Dublin Jack' DeClouet'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.
Bathurst, "a big sensation."
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 to replenish their groceries, they enjoyed a much needed festive night out. In 1863 trading hours were not defined. That night another five young men on horseback riding through the streets was not an unusual sight.
Note: Vanes book 'John Vane, Bushranger', can be accessed from the Source Page, see pages 124-132 inclusive on the Bathurst raid.
The hustle and bustle of a Saturday in town were in full swing with farmers and such; the sounds of the city permeated the night air, and music from the dance hall's filtered across the city as others shopped or caught up with friends. No one had expected the bushrangers to materialise. As those mingling and went about their affairs, five well dressed and superbly mounted men drew little attention as they casually walked then jogged their horses down William Street into the dimly lite town centre:
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
Frank Walker, 1861-1948.
All hell was breaking loose as the audacity of the gang's fearless 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 scarcity of the rewards; (See link below from the Bathurst Times, October 5th 1863)
1800 - 1883.
|NSW Police Gazette|
14th October 1863.
|Pedrotta's Gunshop located|
in William St. It was situated
next to Rachel Leed's
Great Western Hotel,
seen here on the
|Howick St & William St|
St Michael's in the
background. John Staines
and William Matthews
Having lit up Bathurst. As dictated to Charles White, John Vane looked back on Bathurst's events before his death in 1906 and provided an overview of the sensation that brought about the downfall of Cowper premiership's.
John Vane opened his narrative as they entered the town; "The night was bright and clear and calm." Riding first in a single file as they rode down William street, grouping closer, nudged their horses into a jog to avert any undue suspicion. Giving the appearance of five local lads in town for an evening out, tipping their hats at the ladies as they passed, they made their way towards Pedrotta's gunshop. Reining their horses outside entered, seeking the much-heralded new type of weapon, the Revolving Rifle. The gang's historic invasion commenced. Dismounting in front of Pedrotta's Gunshop here Hall, Gilbert and Vane entered but were disappointed that Pedrotta had no 'Revolving Rifles' in stock and his quality firearms not to their liking. Without fanfare, they left promising to return another time. Re-mounting, they rode on with Gilbert spying a fruiterers shop wishing to grab some oranges dismounted and ordered two dozen but was soon called away by O'Meally to "come on quick" riding with Ben Hall reached the jewellery shop of Mr McMinn's.
At McMinn's, their much-heralded 'Lark' commenced with Ben Hall entering the store first. The family were at tea. Hall walked in, revolvers presented, ordering the family to be quiet. However, the ladies, McMinn's wife Mary and daughter Frances believing their, "last hour had come", began to scream, which startled the bushrangers, one of whom threatened to, "Blow their brains out" if they did not cease. The unrest forced a hasty retreat. However, emerging from the store, a crowd had now formed con-fuddled by the noise and uproar from the store. The bushrangers leapt into their saddles as the public became more excited by the McMinn women's continued screaming. Finally, Mr McMinn rushing to the door of his shop crying out, "Police! Bushrangers! Bushrangers! Police!"
|Charles De Clouet,|
son of 'Dublin Jack'
The gang turned into Piper street, reigning their horses at the rear of the 'Sportsman Arms Hotel' and the public house of the thoroughbred racehorse 'Pacha' owner, Mr DeClouet, aka 'Dublin Jack'.
Unruffled by the sounds of excitement excited city echoing through the night, the gang entered DeClouet's via the back fence and made for the stables. Here they came across the hotel's Groom and demanded 'Pacha'. The Ostler named Mark informed the bushrangers that Mr DeClouet had the keys for the stable. 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.
'The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News' Wednesday 14th October 1863:
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.
|Woodcut of DeClouet's|
Piper St, Bathurst.
The five bushrangers re-mounted and headed off down George street towards Milltown.
However, on leaving the Sportsman's Arms, Hall left a message for Machattie that both his and young Battye's horses were in Mrs Mutton's paddock on the Vale Road about a mile from town. Sure enough, on the following morning, Machattie horse was located in the spot indicated. Unfortunately, however, someone nicked Battye's horse as it was not there. They also told John DeClouet that if the two young men had not dared them to come to Bathurst, they would never have thought of coming or pass up a chance of "having a lark" when the opportunity offered.
It appears that they had according to a promise made to Mr Licensed Surveyor Machattie and young Battye a few days before on occasion of sticking them up in the neighbourhood of Mulgonnia, brought both the horses of the young gentlemen with the and left them in Mutton s paddock on the outskirts of the town they left word at the Sportsman's Arms that the horses would be found there remarking at the same time, that if young Machattie had not said they were not game to come into town, they would not have paid that Saturday evening visit. The whole time they stayed at this house was about 20 minutes.
|Bathurst streetscape at|
the time of the Ben Hall
|Another view from|
Bald Hill of Bathurst.
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. Finally, 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. Then, with peace restored, the camp settled down, with Gilbert resting some distance off by himself. After Gilbert rode in fright, the police recovered the abandoned horse. The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Thursday 8th October 1863:
|James Martin, MLA.|
|Night raid on Bathurst.|
Patrick William Marony
Hen & Chickens Hotel
Criticism by the citizens of New South Wales over the polices' ineptness regarding the bushrangers raids along the Vale Road was resounding. Bringing their actions or, more succinctly, the continued dereliction of duty again under closer scrutiny. Highlighted by their most recent lack-luster efforts at Marsh's Farm or at least a willingness to engage in a confrontation only added to the headaches of the inspector general and colonial secretary.
In the wake of the bushrangers triumph's, with the Bathurst visit, and the ease of the robberies along the Vale Road. A correspondent for the 'Bathurst Times' ventured out to the scene, taking first-hand accounts from the victims.
Gave a detailed view of how the bushrangers proceeded in the night, the number of stores robbed, and stolen property. The correspondent reported that four other men were in company with the gang during the last stage of the robberies. He believed them to be local bush telegraphs. These telegraphs showed how well informed Ben Hall was of the police movements. The intelligence enabled the gang to proceed with their business without a care in the world.
The writer clarified as well how the gang carried away the stolen property. Writing that, the goods were strapped to the front of their saddles. They reached waist-high, with the boys even dropping items in their retreat. Their well-observed movements demonstrate that the police had ample time to pursue the gang. Even capture them.
However, for reasons unknown, superintendent Morrisset was reluctant to press home his advantage. However, from Sydney, Captain M'Lerie rushed to the scene of action, took to the saddle in search, and harassed the gang's innocent victims as if they were responsible. McLerie exhibited little respect or empathy for what the locals had endured under the gun. Like Pottinger, McLerie had a low opinion of the country folk or 'that class of people.' Shortly after and in jubilation of their success, the gang made camp, enjoying a very festive time and were not disturbed by police. Although it was widely reported of their presence; Attached link below.
|NSW Police Gazette|
NSW Parliament. Bathurst aftermath.
The gang's raid on Bathurst achieved little reward. Apart from the few pounds taken at De Clouets. However, for Ben Hall. The boldness of the incursion into the heart of the largest town west of the Blue Mountains validated the ease with which an armed gang could humiliate the government and police. The dare by the two young lads set forth a chain of events that brought the colony's leadership to its knees.
Nevertheless, Ben Hall's raid on Bathurst and its audacity reverberated throughout Australia. The Colonial Secretary, Mr Cowper, was badgered and grilled incessantly over the brazen attack. Vigorous questioning by many parliamentarians raised the acceptance of Mr Martin's call for an 'Outlaw' proclamation against Ben Hall, Gilbert and Co. However, Cowper counted his critics by blaming the good citizens of the town and those in the broader districts protecting the gang and not supporting the police. (I have placed below one of the verbal encounters from the Parliament Hansard relating to the debate by Slippery Charley on the Bathurst raid.); 'The Empire’ Wednesday, 7th October 1863 page 3; THE BUSHRANGERS IN BATHURST. (Government Hansard)
|Mr. Cowper, five-time|
Photo c. 1863.
|NSW Police Gazette|
21 October 1863.
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 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.:
|Sir James Martin|
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. Martin's first order of business was Ben Hall:
|Hen & Chickens Hotel|
Vale Road 2019.
However, Ben Hall and the gang had not yet countenanced a situation of that magnitude. As such, that heightened sense of betrayal and paranoia had not yet entirely reared its ugly head. Still, friction amongst the five bushrangers was never far from the surface, especially between Gilbert and O'Meally, often at loggerheads with O'Meally repeatedly accusing Gilbert of his lack of pluck:
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 very heated between the two bushrangers— often creating a fracture amongst the men. However, Gilbert's outbursts never convinced Hall, Vane or Burke to abandon O'Meally; therefore, Gilbert would go off and sulk alone for a short time. However, these cat-fights would become not uncommon amongst the five bushrangers where on one occasion, fisty cuffs saw Gilbert flatten Vane as Burke also questioned Gilbert's courage. The remark from Burke drew the ire of Gilbert, who told him to watch his back.
While Mad Dog Morgan wreaked havoc in the Wagga Wagga district and the likes of the Seery's and the Druitt's taking control of the Yass/Burrowra surrounds, Ben Hall and the gang did as they pleased. Many settlers continued to aid and abet the bushrangers. The 'Cone of Silence' held fast; MONDAY, OCTOBER 12, 1863:
Canowindra return, "The bushrangers, who were beginning to be quite popular."
Having departed Bathurst and its surroundings after their 'Big Sensation.' The gang, without fear or favour, made for the town of an earlier visit, Canowindra. Reports filtered in that the men appeared to be in genial spirits as they crossed the countryside. However, the bushrangers' Bathurst raid was still the most daring achievement since Australia's foundation in 1788. The audacity of raiding a provincial town continued reverberating throughout the country—an event which they would surpass in the coming days.
|Reputed photo of|
|Mr James Collits, aged 74.|
Consequently, the Hotel at Canowindra patronised by the gang on the evening of their September visit and were 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 was also 21.
Bill Robinson also operated the 'Traveller's Rest Hotel' owner on the south side of Canowindra, separated by the Belubula River and accessed by a ford. Robinson had inherited the 'Traveller's Rest' upon his father William Robinson Sr passing in 1860. Furthermore, for country hotels, it was the practice in the 1800s by de rigueur that publicans were required to display prominently at the front of the establishment the licensee's name. Therefore, hotels were colloquially known by the licensee's name, i.e., 'Robinson's Hotel'. Furthermore, a law requirement was for the licensee to display a light prominent during the night to guide travellers to the Hotel. Robinson's Hotel was reputedly situated on Gaskell street. (There are some conflicting views on the right spot where the bushrangers held both their jubilee's.)
Consequently, the five bushrangers arrived on the outskirts of Canowindra on the morning of the 12th of October 1863. Before entering Canowindra, the five rode nonchalantly into Mr Thomas Grant J.P. 'The Falls' station four miles east of Canowindra. Like many other well-off squatters, Thomas Grant held strong views in supporting the police and welcomed the destruction of the bushranger scourge.
However, while at the homestead, Hall entered into a conversation with Thomas Grant and being suspicious, Hall questioned him for information on police. No doubt notifying Mr Grant of the penalties to be meted out by him to relay any knowledge of their current whereabouts or assist the police in their search. It had been many landowners' practice to either accompany the police or search independently for the bushrangers. Shortly afterwards, the bushrangers casually remounted and departed:
Tuesday 20th October 1863
CANOWINDRA HELD BY THE BUSHRANGERS FOR THREE DAYS.
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
On 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 the second time Ben Hall had accosted him. However, to Sykes's credit, he attempted 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. Described by witness:
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.
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.
In January 1864, at Vane's bushranging trial, his presence with Ben Hall was recounted by Charles Sykes. Sykes provided an account of both of his encounters with the bushrangers. First remarking on the meeting 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 as per another view below of Ben Hall's stamp of authority:
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
John Gilbert's position as Frank Gardiner's former lieutenant appeared to carry some weight in the public's eyes. However, at this stage, whether Gilbert still wielded some influence with his bushranging fraternity is questionable, as Ben Hall was often reported as the leader. During the three periods of festivities at Canowindra, the residents deferred to Hall to resolve any matters. Hall's leadership is also attested to and noted as organising the bushrangers as guards at various points and gathering those about the town, and allowing passes to be issued so residents could return home for a while:
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.
Note: Charles Sykes would retire from the force in 1872 on a pension of £126 per year.
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. However, the funds provided for the three days being covered by the men were not earned through hard toil, but from the point of a revolver on some hapless victim who on occasion was, no doubt, terrified for his life.
Furthermore, the initial newspaper reports of the gang's arrival at Canowindra indicated that Bill Robinson's publican 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, in an odd way, fails to recall one of the greatest triumphs in bushranging history by passing over 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.
A Police Debacle, "With three, I shall have enough to do to protect myself should I by chance meet the bushrangers." - Superintendent William Chatfield
|View of Canowindra, c. 1901.|
Taken from south-side
looking north. In 1863 there
was no bridge over the
Hall and Vane crossed close
to this point and
Robinson pitched his bottle
Eventually, Chatfield departed for Canowindra, but he was too late for any effective action as the bushrangers once again melded into the bush. Regardless, after a fruitless search for the bushrangers in foul weather. Chatfield returned to Cowra irate. However, Chatfield again complained again to McLerie about his force's reduced size. Firing off another telegram on the 12th October 1863. Meanwhile, on the same date, Ben Hall and entourage rode into Canowindra, Telegram, Cowra, 12th October 1863;
|Canowindra c. 1900.|
Note Robinson Newsagency.
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.
Sir Frederick Pottinger with
Consequently, the western patrol's lack of success prompted the Inspector-General to seek more efficient officers. Accordingly, McLerie ordered an officer based at Maitland and recruited from Victoria, Superintendent Charles Lydiard, to the battlefield of western NSW.
Charles Lydiard 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 rapidly rise to an Assistant Gold Commissioner at the Mount Alexander gold diggings on a salary of £250 per yr. Then he enlisted into the Victorian police force.
Lydiard also commanded the Victorian Native Police Force of twelve highly skilled and disciplined Aboriginals and commanded various Victorian gold escorts. Including the first escort from Ballarat to Geelong. However, Lydiard's quick rise to prominence may well result from nepotism. (reportedly rife throughout the colonies) A family connection to the highly placed cousin Evelyn Sturt of the Victorian police. Sturt was Superintendent of the Victorian police force. Lydiard was also the cousin of Australian explorer Charles Sturt. Superintendent Charles Lydiard transferred to the NSW Police and was seconded from Maitland. At Bathurst, he was directed to hunt independently with his select party of police. Lydiard's handpicked police departed Newcastle on the 13th October 1863:
Lydiard took to the field, as Sir Frederick Pottinger received Robinson's message in a bottle, gathered his troops, and departed Cowra. A departure that had the newspapers speculating, even ridiculing, the polices' movements. Observing that a force from Bathurst was en route with orders not to return without Ben Hall:
The five surviving their brush with the flooded Belubula River rode northward towards Murga. The town of Murga is situated on the fringe of the Nangar State Forest. The settlement lies on the road from Forbes to Orange. The same highway where 16 months previously Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally had robbed the Eugowra Gold Escort in-company with Frank Gardiner. The bushrangers pushed on from Canowindra, forming a camp near the town. However, law-abiding citizens kept the NSW troopers appraised of the gang's whereabouts; unfortunately, this critical 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. Was it the cold, salty taste of fear that held the troopers back?
The searching troopers at times were overloaded with bushranger sightings and information, often becoming wholly bewildered. The deluge of local reports also contributed to frustration and nervousness, whereby troopers often resorted to drinking hard spirits whilst either on duty or camped—no doubt for the Dutch courage required to confront the five desperadoes who had murdered in their repertoire. The frequent use of booze gave rise to five mounted troopers, led by a senior constable Wright to be outed for drinking on the job. Complaints from citizens reached Sir Frederick Pottinger, who was furious over their lack of discipline and did not hesitate in dragging 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,|
NSW Police Gazette
16th December 1863.
|Looking toward the hill|
that overlooks Grant's
'The Falls', where Hall camped
with the Belubula
treelined in the foreground.
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 nowhere.
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.
For a more comprehensive account of the mass of correspondence between M'Lerie and Chatfield over the Ben Hall debacle, see pages 2 and 3 in the link below;
|Near Murga, with Nangar|
Range in view.
The camping area
of Ben Hall, October 1863.
Private Source never
On the 16th October 1863, 'The Five' conducted several hold-ups in the neighbourhood of Murga. One of the first hold-ups was the Forbes mail coach. Earlier that day, an old friend of Ben Hall's and reputed bush telegraph had been sent out to canvass the outgoing Forbes coach.
Furthermore, the presence of Hall's suspected bush telegraph, who had been openly observing the encounter and conversation, was also reported to Campbell, who unfortunately ignored the information. However, Campbell's presence would do little to deter the bushrangers next actions. Furthermore, Campbell's presence may well have been the catalyst for a future encounter with Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally, which turned deadly for one. As reported:
Later the same day as Campbell rode on, Ben Hall's old pal Gallen reported the pursuers' passing. The bushrangers with the latest intelligence descended on the town of Murga:
In 1920, an eyewitness to the gang's visit to Murga, Mr Edmund Rymer, then 15 yrs old, recounted the day's activities. 'Forbes Advocate':
|A dry Nyrang Ck, summer 2016,|
with Nangar Range
Vane describes the raid on Murga:
The police party was no doubt led by Inspector Chatfield. Furthermore, friction 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:
Spurious maybe? However, if any may have been a victim, exactly which Grant is unknown or if it ever happened? Burning down someone's home would not be seen lightly. At this juncture, the gang still had many harbourers where if the gang started this type of attack, their welcome would undoubtedly wane rapidly. Furthermore, the Grant family had been highly respected, and long-time residents of the Canowindra district having been settled there for well over thirty years holding extensive property throughout the fertile reaches of the Belubula River. At the Canowindra raid, three of Grant's brothers owned three properties on the town's outskirts. George D Grant held the 'Grove', John Grant' Belubula' and Thomas Grant' The Falls'.
Moreover, it is difficult to ascertain to which home was believed burnt down. As before 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 "they committed no mischief there," and after a short conversation departed. (see above) However, the incident regarding the destruction of one of the brothers' homes may well be only Chinese Whispers, not based on any solid evidence!
|Model 1855 .56 calibre|
Colt Revolving Rifle.
Original home with
some minor upgrades.
|View of Lawson's|
The gang arrived at Dunns Plains 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 police party was camped in a paddock adjacent to Keightley's house headed by Inspector Davidson. During the whole day and into Friday night, the bushrangers paid attention to the occupants' comings and goings. Including sighting Keightley conversing with Davidson whom Keightley had invited to lodge at the house, but Davidson declined to remain encamped with his men:
Aware that the gang were in the vicinity, a plan of defence had been prepared. The bushrangers dismounted near the rear stables opening fire on the two men who made for their defence position as the bushrangers scattered around the homestead. Consequently, the two men 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 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. (Lily Rotton was Elizabeth Clive Rotton, born in 1859 to Henry Rotton and Mary Ann Ford's second wife. Caroline's mother, Lorn, passed away in 1843. ) Unknown to the gang as they peppered the house with shots, Mrs Keightley's four-month-old baby Henry b. June 1863 was inside under the housekeeper, Mrs Baldock's protection. (There was a daughter Caroline who passed away in 1863; however, her 1863 date is unknown. She was born in 1862.) In the melee, Micheal Burke, aged 19, would be mortally wounded and, in fear of his capture, placed a revolver to his head and pulled the trigger not once but twice. The young bushranger lay dying for some time before life departed.
Henry had been born at Corfu, Greece, in 1830, where his father had been Governor of several Greek islands controlled by Britain following Napoleon's defeat. Henry's father had also fought at the Battle of Waterloo in the Fourteenth Regiment as a Major and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Unfortunately, as the third son, Henry was required to make his way in the world wherein adulthood due to the constraints of Primogeniture's law 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 employed by two brothers named Tindal, who held extensive property on the Clarence River in far northern NSW. During his time, Keightley was involved in a variety of work. Work that incorporated an expedition to dispose of aboriginals who had been stealing cattle from his employer’s;
However, Keightley's striking frame and consciousness of his attractiveness to women soon suffered a flirtatious setback whilst at the Clarence River. When his desire for a female cook may have got the better of him. In turn, the female made known her disinterest in the tall man, made apparent through her reaction and rejection towards Keightley following an argument of a fiery nature.
When Keightley's arrived in NSW 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 protecting the Christian minorities in the Holy Land, controlled by the Ottoman Empire's Islamic Sultan, Omar Pasha. Although the war also had a broader objective. Denying Russia any new territory, the war even posed a Russian threat to NSW, creating Fort Denison's construction in Sydney Harbour. The conflict itself was noted for its sheer butchery and where the 'Victoria Cross' Medal for bravery was born. The Medal was cast out of the cannons' steel from the war by the 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's outbreak had expressed a desire to enlist, but those who knew him took it as a half-hearted proposal:
|The layout of events at Dunns Plains 23rd, 24th, 25th October 1863.|
(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.
|Burke lays dead.|
Highlighted from the painting by
Patrick William Marony
|Saturday evening, 24th October 1863, Ben Hall lays siege to H.M. Keightley's home.|
|Mrs's Keightley and Baldock|
Henry Keightley's life.
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 Pechey 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 close to the homestead. Dunns Plains elevation above sea level is 850 m.
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.
|Henry & Caroline|
In the years following the battle of Dunns Plains, the hellish events have been analysed on and off. The harrowing experiences of Dr Pechey and the Keightley's are riddled with multiple and conflicting accounts regarding what transpired during the first initial engagement in the dying light of Saturday evening, 24th October 1863 and the subsequent detainment of Henry Keightley for ransom. In Keightley evidence at Vane's later trial, he said under oath describing his initial observation of the bushrangers, Empire 4th December 1863:
On the evening of Saturday, the 24th October, between the hours of six and seven, he was standing in the yard of his house at Dunn's Plains, when he saw five horsemen coming over a hill at a walking pace, towards the house. The moment he saw them he called out to Dr Pechey to come and look at them. He thought they were a party of police who had camped in the paddock the night previously, headed by Mr Davidson.
They passed the gate, which is the only entrance into witness's place, and as they still came on at a walk, he was still under the impression they were police. But he told Dr Pechey who was standing by his side (if they should prove to be bushrangers), to make a rush for the campkeeper's room and prepare some firearms placed there. It was in consequence of this that he afterwards retreated to the roof, being under the impression that Dr Pechey had assured the weapons, which, however, as subsequently transpired, he had been unable to do. The party came up slowly until within thirty yards when they simultaneously jumped off their horses and then lept over the fence.
He ran by the back door into the house furthest from where he stood. As they jumped off, they cried out "stand," but he did not heed them. In his bedroom, he picked up a revolver. As he was entering the house, two or three shots were fired. From the glance he caught of them, he thought they were a parcel of lads, so young was their appearance.
William Pechey provided his account under oath and the wound inflicted upon Burke:
Towards evening, Mr Keightley, who was in the yard, called him out, and he then saw five men who rode up to the house. 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 to fire 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. They did so, and 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 held 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.
In 1911 an account of the battle was published, titled 'The Lone Hand' by Mr George Quickie. In it, the son of Henry Keightley, Leo Keightley, recounts the details of the passing night. Whereby shining a light on his father's night of infamy at the hands of the gang. The bulk of 'The Lone Hand' is a solid historical account and relates how the gang passed the night away. Including the intense desire of both Vane and O'Meally to seek retribution for the death of Micky Burke. Hall's command over the gang is also evident. The events surrounding Mrs Keightley departure at midnight, cradling the couple's baby son, and her 4 yr old half-sister Elizabeth and Dr Peachy are recounted as well as her arrival at her father's home 'Blackdown' outside Bathurst.
The 'The Lone Hand' is linked below and exposes 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. Where Hall, Gilbert and then O'Meally long time mates afterwards left Vane in the cold and became in fear of his life. As such shortly after, he left the gang:
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.
The truest account of the siege at Dunns Plains.
|Sgt Michael Hanley|
S.M.H. 2nd November
With the reward paid and testimonials gathering pace, doubt continued to appear in the NSW press regarding whether or not Keightley indeed fired the fatal shot. The Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser, 8th December 1863, noted the subject raised at Vane's court appearance following his surrender to Father McCarthy in November 1863:
However, one person overlooked in the events' rush to heroism 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 one of Keightley's pistols for self-protection. In her later testimony, Mrs Baldock held firm that Hall admitted to her of having fired the shot that dropped Burke, saying:
At the time the conversation turned to the still alive Burke. Here Pechey expressed a desire to help save the boy, although he had assessed it was hopeless, as did Ben Hall, who expressed as Peachy prepared to depart Dunn's Plains a desire to shoot Burke and put an end his misery:
The above extracts from the letter sent to the press by Isabella Baldock's husband concluded with this addendum:
The former trooper reiterated the long-held version of Hall's confession and sorrow said:
|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.
Burke hid near chimney
in foreground left.
Courtesy Des Shiel.
Caroline Keightley went on to become a public favourite as the heroine of Dunns Plains. 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, stated that only Keightley was given the reward money:
As the dust settled on the events, the talk in the colony continued a closer examination. Questions regarding the shooting and defence of Dunns Plains constantly appeared. In reviewing 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 snipe (birdshot.) Snipe is the smallest lead pellet used out of all the shotgun ammunition types of the period. Was snipe capable of disembowelling Burke to the extent evidenced by Dr Pechey? Even at close range, reputedly less than ten yards?
Accordingly, at the inquest into Burke's death, the physician, Dr Rowland, reported that he removed nine Leaden Slugs (Buckshot) from Burke, indicating that at ten feet, a rough estimate of the distance from Keightley at the door to Burke. Remembering that Keightley stood 6ft 3in and Burke 5ft 6in, snipe would not cause the massive gut-tearing injury inflicted on Burke. But lead slugs would rip him apart. Therefore, when considering Burke's clothes' and their thickness, where the bushrangers were known to wear two or three thick Crimean shirts also two pairs of trousers while living rough against the cold nights. (See the illustration of the shot effect below.)
During the detainment of Keightley, the gang remained at the property till the early hours. As the evening wore on and their nerves frayed, the sound of horses galloping brought the men to their feet, guns drawn covering Keightley. Hall exclaimed, "By God, we are betrayed", leveling his revolver at Keightley's head. Fortunately for Keightley, the alarm was only his horses galloping around the home paddock. Commenting so, Keightley placated Hall and the bushrangers stating that they were his animals, which diffused the tension. On initial detainment Keightley says before his wife and Pechey left they suppered and afterwards, Vane and O'Meally ransacked the house taking various items:
Before doing so, however, they had supper, and Vane with O'Meally (to the best of witness's belief) went into his bedroom and took some clothes, rings, his arms, and a few other things which he had since missed.
The bushrangers returned to their places and continued to wait out the night dozing. As day dawned and for safety, the bushrangers 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. With daylight tingeing the sky in the early hours, the doctor arrived at the Black Stump location with the ransom:
Witness was then taken upon a hill about half a mile distant, where, upon his parole, that he would not attempt to escape, little restraint was imposed upon him till the morning, when the ransom was paid and he was released.
Notwithstanding, there is contradictory evidence about the gang's specific place, 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 (I was there in 2019) of the places named the Black Stump or Dog Rocks. However, over time, their significance and importance as local landmarks have been lost. Much of what has been recorded as to the bushrangers' actual location 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. It must be noted as well that upon the gang's arrival they told Keightley that;
The day before the occurrence took place which we have just described, Sub-inspector Davidson with some troopers were encamped near 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 it visit he had paid the party, and also that they (the bushrangers) had been watching both him and the neighbourhood the whole day through.
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. At 6' 3in and Burke 5' 6in, Keightley, 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. The damage would have been enough to blow out Burke's intestines at one yard and stove his shirt into the wound.
|Rough height difference|
In his narration to Charles White, Vane, to add more confusion, expressed that Gilbert was the guilty party. As throughout his conversation with White, Vane never places 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 a stand-up fistfight earlier with Gilbert. Although championing himself as the victor over Gilbert, however, Gilbert could handle himself against all comers. No doubt Gilbert may have had in truth the better of Vane, leaving him with severe bruising and black eyes. Nevertheless, Vane contends that Gilbert was the perpetrator of Burke's death as before their arrival, some chaff passed between Burke and Gilbert:
The close examination swirling around the Keightley's brought one of the few statements from Dr Pechey, but only in defence of his cousin Caroline. She 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 pistol blow:
|Rolf Bolderwood. The|
pseudonym of Thomas
|Mural at Binalong depicting|
a new reward of £4000
for the remaining four.
|'Empire' 27th October|
|The reward for the remaining|
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|
Dr Pechey to
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 stated:
|Donald Cheshire's Return of Prisoners Tried at Different Courts 1864.|
|Donald Cheshire and the|
shopping list for the gang
& receipts in his possession
Photo of Cheshire
|Vane to be kept separate|
New South Wales, Australia,
Sheriff's Papers, 1829-1879.
For John Vane, it was the end of the road. The feelings between Vane and the other three had become unsettled since Burke's death as he struggled with losing his close mate. There was talk of a dispute between Vane and the others over the £500 paid for Burkes death and in the dividing up of the money Burke's share was set aside for his family, but Vane was excluded. On one report stated:
|Vane & Cheshire separated at|
Darlinghurst Gaol. As well
as Frank Gardiner.
New South Wales, Australia,Sheriff's Papers, 1829-1879.
Meanwhile on 28th October as Hall retreated into the wilds of Eugowra 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:
However, the gangs' success in September against the three troopers at Marsh's Farm. Saw the communique's on the matter between Superintendent Morrisset and the government made public. These telegrams were released to the press on the 7th November 1863 to appease the continued public's dissatisfaction with their police force's prowess. These police questions centered 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.)
While the police dealt with their rough conditions, Ben Hall still had many settlers prepared to offer aid and comfort throughout the district. 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 local police's efforts was highlighted when a correspondent attempted to fall in with the three bushrangers by throwing cash around the Eugowra/Forbes districts' 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:
The attached link is a map that covers the area during John Vane's membership in 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.
Superintendent Chatfield departed Robinson's, heading in Cargo's direction, also known as Davy's Plains Run. Cargo was principally a farming community with sporadic gold mining, situated 20 miles from Orange, and the locals were known to be sympathetic to Hall.
However, as luck would have it, after leaving the town, the police came across the three bushrangers in the company of another person whom the lawmen thought was part of the troupe. On sighting, the troopers put the spurs to their horses. Hall seeing the troopers galloping towards him took to flight. In the panic, the stranger's horse also bolted, giving an impression of partnership. However, instead of fleeing, the rider attempted to pull up his panicked horse as Hall and Co. melded into the bush. As the police pounced upon the man, 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 adrenaline-charged descended ferociously upon the rider and, without hesitation, fired away as they galloped towards him. In a rush to clobber the unknown, the accompanying black tracker 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 to every inhabitant. As such, many publicans and prominent settlers often turned a blind eye to the needs of the bushrangers. Consequently, those beneficiaries of remuneration for a warm bed and hot meal and information regarding police movements enjoyed the notoriety of the bushrangers friendship. The few shillings went a long way! Hurkett may well have been one who, on that basis, was undoubtedly friendly with the three rogues.
Furthermore, Hurkett was well known about the Canowindra district with a reputedly sound reputation amongst the populace. However, that reputation may well have been more nudge-nudge-wink-wink. He was also well known to the police and brushed with the ruthless Sir Frederick Pottinger earlier. However, for Hurkett, his presence in-company with Hall, he passed 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 was suffering 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 the link below;
|NSW Police Gazette|
9th May 1866.
There were three brothers Hurkett they were Henry, Charles and Thomas. All three would spend considerable time in various NSW Gaol's for various offences, predominately cattle stealing.
Note: In 1869 Henry would be sought by police over cattle stealing crimes 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 two years hard labour. However, he was paroled in November 1872.
Dismissive of the troopers Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally loitered around Canowindra. The celebrity of being a high profile bushrangers relative drew this article from the Melbourne 'Herald' regarding a brother of John Gilbert, Charles:
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 mixed-race child, who alerted the occupants in the cabin of their approach. The child calls out, "there's some men coming."
Unbeknownst to the approaching police, Hall and O'Meally was relaxing inside the home; however, their respite suddenly ended at the child's voice. Consequently, the troopers were startled when suddenly, the two bushrangers bolted out from the hut with items of their clothing in hand and, under 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 the hut unaware:
|Icely's Bangaroo Station. Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer and Road Guide 1866.|
Chatfield became the fall guy for the NSW government regarding the Canowindra siege. Causing embarrassment over failing to capture the bushrangers. Chatfield's inability to act as the bushrangers returned to the district and continued to rob unabated culminated in the Superintendent's dismissal from his position in February 1864. In his defence, Superintendent Chatfields communicated his efforts to the Inspector-General of police and the hardships hunting Ben Hall:
Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally escaping from their close shave camped close to Toogong. Toogong had two hotels, the 'Toogong' and 'Travellers Rest', a Post office and was inhabited by farmworkers. The town's population in 1863-20. One of those locals was Ellen Chandler, a passenger on the coach where Cst Havilland had died following the Eugowra Gold Robbery in June 1862 and with blood-covered hands, Ellen helped prop the dead constable up in his seat. It was reported that while camped, Hall and Gilbert had a falling out whereby it was said the two almost came to pistol shots:
However, the exact cause of the scuffle is unknown. As the bushrangers rested and the angst between Hall and Gilbert settled. A local wrote that the police were often more dastardly than bushrangers when seeking information and repeatedly harassed even children when parents were absent. 'Goulburn Herald' Wednesday 18th November 1863:
When Ben Hall seized the town of Canowindra in early October 1863, news reached David Campbell whereby the squatter organised a party of neighbours to take the field in search of Ben Hall:
19th Feb 1856.
Never before published.
of Hall approaching
However, in not wanting to let stand the threat of David Campbell's desire to finish them off. Ben Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally approached Goimbla Station in the early evening of Thursday 19th November 1863, arriving from Murga along Mandagery (Eugowra) Creek. The trio, unobserved, 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 district's finest homes. The house walls were pisé (rammed earth) with a shingle roof, long verandah, and a garden enclosed by a picket fence. The property included a yard with a water-well, 3-stall stable with a 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, eight sheep station huts, with large yards. All overshadowed by a large mountain.
David Campbell relaxed after the evening meal as his wife and their maid Miss Mary Taylor settled their three children down for the night. Thomas b.1857, David b.1860 and two-year-old Percy b.1861. Also present was David's brother William Campbell who retired to his bedroom.
David Campbell sat in the lounge room, enjoying the quiet. The only sounds filtering in the house were the children fusing and boisterous as they prepared for bed. A silence descended in the home. The night sounds of the bush insects were all that flowed through the house. As the old grandfather clock chimed a bell marking 8.45 pm, Campbell suddenly became alerted as a noise of unfamiliarity caught his ear. Footsteps on the verandah. Earlier, fearing some reprisal from Ben Hall, which had been passed on to him. Campbell had prepared and placed against the fireplace two double-barrelled shotguns ready loaded and 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 round entering the wall on the right of where Campbell stood the other, the left. Campbell instantly returned fire from his gun but was ineffective. Simultaneously, the stranger retreated as 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.
After leaving the horses hobbled some distance from the homestead, Ben Hall with his two companions made his way through an oat field to a picket fence beside one of the outbuildings listening for life inside the home. Then, all quiet, Ben Hall brazenly walked to the back of the house, shotgun in hand, the same gun that had earlier by his hand 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 home's front. As Hall stood on the back verandah, another man emerged on the porch from the back door. Ben Hall fired again, having reloaded hitting the man in the chest who staggered and collapsed. Unknowing if the man was dead or alive, Hall quickly retreated to the front yard re-joining Gilbert and O'Meally.
Sitting in his bedroom, William Campbell was startled by the sound of gunfire echoing through the house, ending the quiet solitude of the evening. Subsequently, he rushed from his bedroom and headed for the dining room, then well-lit by a strong kerosene lamp when at that moment, gunshots smashed through the front windows. Fearing the worst "Bushrangers", William made for the back porch where on exiting and near his bedroom window noticed a man standing in the shadow who raised his weapon and fired two shots hitting William in his chest, four wounds in all. Darkness enveloped William as he stumbled from the impact and collapsed beside the rear steps. Coming too moments later, William crawled bloodied out through the back gate. Fortunately, the slugs had not penetrated too deep. Nevertheless, he lay bleeding in a field of oats behind the house at the gate for some time.
Amelia Campbell was in the act of putting her three children to bed with help from her maid Mary Taylor when suddenly the terrifying sound of gunfire erupted. Amelia told Mary to watch the children making her way to the dining room to join her husband and defend their home. The couple joined after David had fired at the intruder and together moved to a bedroom at the end of the passage adjacent to the children's rooms, then altered to various positions to confuse their enemies' fire.
Amelia made for the dining room without a word spoken, passing the front windows already shattered when more gunfire erupted, whereby some fragments of wood from the bullets slightly grazed her as she retrieved a powder flask and bullets. On returning to her husband's side, shots rang out again, peppering the walls. Once again, by her husband's side, she commenced reloading the discharged shotgun.
O'Meally and Gilbert crouched by the front fence saw shadows passing the windows fired, not knowing whether they reflected male or female. Mary Taylor secured the children, and the cook hid himself under a table in the kitchen. Campbell would later praise Mary's calmness. Mary Taylor was a native-born Australian from Tumut. Campbell, in complementary terms, said how cheerful and composed Mary was and whereby at half-past nine, thirty minutes into the battle, Mary brought a tray— with the glasses of refreshment—as usual to the Campbell's. Campbell later mused that he couldn't help laughing as the situation was so severe that their lives hung in the balance.
Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally in 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." The demand was met with Campbell's response calling back, "Come on-I'm ready for you." Hall then replied, "Oh, is that it!"
As the bushrangers waited, Amelia had unknowingly left the house, covering a distance of some 150 yds 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 making 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:
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, without fear, went to assist David Campbell in Amelia's absence.
In her rush back to the house, Amelia, without realising two of the gang Hall and O'Meally had made their way to the barn and stables, stacked with fresh-cut hay and many bales of wool, the bushrangers set fire to the buildings. As the fire took hold, Amelia had returned to the house. 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 about the house strewn with harvested hay and a dray loaded standing between the burning stable and the rear of the house. If caught on fire, it would catch on to the back verandah and the house, ensuring their current position would become untenable.
Together, Amelia and Mary courageously covered the dray with hay by a tarp, 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 maid.
The fire's intensity turned night into day, where the roof of the fired buildings collapsed sparks like fireflies bellowing into the night sky.
As the fire raged in the stables, Campbell's favourite horse Highflyer became trapped and engulfed in flames. The fire's heat increased, whereby the terrified animal raced and to and fro, desperately seeking a way of escape. The family heard its kicks for freedom and the animal's heart-rending cries 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 of calling out taunts and jeers as the fire took hold. Finally, Campbell again called for mercy, yelling, "I will have one of you for poor Highflyer," then, suddenly, the horse's terrified whinnying died out as it was roasted in flames. Soon after, 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 bushrangers' position was behind thick pine stakes, pointed and driven into the ground affording good cover. The house saved from incineration Mary Taylor returned to the children who hid under their beds. The eldest Thomas comforted the youngest Percy as random gunfire reverberated through the house, hitting various walls, doors, picture frames, and the children's bedroom wall as stray bullets hit just above the boy's beds. Campbell, all the time undaunted, returned fire with fire. Time marched on, with Hall occasionally calling for Campbell to give up. Campbell did not reply.
William Campbell recovering his senses and seeing the flames engulfing the outbuildings decided to head to Eugowra and assistance, staggered off. William, at 2 am, arrived delirious at Hanbury Clements Station, Eugowra, with gunshots in his chest and covered with blood. Mr Clements, in the dim light of the lamp, extracted the bullets, later producing a leaded slug which had been removed from William Campbell's chest during a testimonial gathering for the Campbell's. Clements sent a runner into Eugowra to alert the police.
The flames from the barn burned brightly, enabling Campbell to have a good view of the surroundings. In the lull, Campbell and Amelia placed themselves between two parallel walls, which formed a passage between the house and the kitchen. Watching for movement, Amelia pointed out one of the bushrangers heads with a cabbage-tree hat occasionally pop up, peering over the fence, looking at the burning buildings. Alerted, Campbell shifted for a better look at the corner of the house. Which fortunately was cast into shadow by the burning buildings at the opposite end. Kneeling Campbell brought his gun to his shoulder aimed deliberately at a spot 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.|
Patrick William Marony
|Mural at Binalong.|
Hall & Gilbert
kneeling over a
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 Ellen 'Kate' O'Meally (1845-1908). The two then approached the worker's hut, cursing and swearing profusely, stating that they would have their revenge. Their angry voices carrying on the night where Mary Taylor heard one of them, Gilbert said he regretted not shooting the woman. However, Hall turned to him, telling him to "hold his tongue and mind what he was about." Then, 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 along. The bush sounds once more drifted on the night air, joined by the faint crackling of the outbuildings as they collapsed, sending more embers into the dark sky and the charred bloated 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 at the paling fence Campbell was surprised to find a carbine and cabbage-tree hat but nobody, thinking that the gunshot may have wounded the bushranger. The hour had passed 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.
|NSW Police Gazette|
2nd December 1863.
|Plaque Forbes Cemetery.|
In the heat of a November day, the bloodied body whose decay had set in from the heat and O'Meally's inquest completed. The fast-turning putrid body 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:
NSW Police Gazette
4th November 1863.
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 and the confines of the Forbes lock-up brought about his death. 'The Argus' 12 December 1863:
The crowd dispersed, O'Meally was exhumed from the banks of Mandagery (Eugowra) Creek by his father and brother Patrick for reburial at Forbes. At Goimbla, Mr Campbell, the settlers hero, received the government's warm good wishes for the actions in disposing of one of the men who had held the state to ransom for three years. The reward for O'Meally was £1,000. After identification, David Campbell received the reward and a letter of appreciation from the Colonial Secretary:
When the gawkers were gone a final word on the Battle of Goimbla noted Davidson's apprehension:
Having loitered near Goimbla following their mate's death, the two bushrangers were next heard of on Saturday 21st November 1863, two 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 attempted not to draw attention to themselves, paid the amount due, and proceeded to Forbes. Within minutes a party of police rode up to the bridge identifying themselves as troopers from Goimbla. The police inquired if he knew the two men who passed moments earlier as they believed them to be Hall and Gilbert, whom they were pursuing but had been unable to overtake. 'Empire' 1st December 1863, Lachlan correspondent Bathurst Times:
The police had lost the scent. Meanwhile, 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:
While in Forbes, Ben Hall visited the editor of the 'Miner' Mr H.P. Williamson arriving at three in the morning on 23rd November 1863 for an interview. The contents of which have not been revealed. For Hall to visit Mr Williamson demonstrates a friendship of some type possibly due to Williamson's position as Secretary of the Forbes Racing Club; 'Sydney Mail' 24th November 1863. FORBES. Monday, 4 p.m.
However, Hall and Gilbert's shock at the loss of O'Meally left Forbes and retired to the familiar grounds of their old haunt, the Burrowa district. They as well sought out the O'Meally's, presenting their dead comrade's jewellery to O'Meally's sister, Ellen, aged 17. Ellen 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. To confound the police Ellen and her friend Elizabeth Mayhew was also similarly attired. On reaching home, the two girls changed into their dresses, as the fooled police led by trooper Clark became the butt of many a joke. So great was their humiliation of the law that a song appeared in the girl's honour called 'THE MAIDS OF MARENGO'.
|Birth of Ambrose Stonham,|
1867. Son of Alfred and
Arriving in the confines of Burrowa, Hall and Gilbert returned to the road and the rich pickings of the tracks within the gold district. 'The Burrangong Star' ran this headline that Hall and Gilbert were in their old quarters again highlighting the pairs resurgence in the district:
However, on the outskirts of Burrowa, 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. However, 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.
|Coffey was arrested|
with some Keightley ransom
money paid by Hall
Coffey's fake robbery was attributed to Hall. Gilbert was in effect an attempt to recover the cost of a spring cart recently purchased by Coffey for £35 from Mr Aaron Steenbohm, a Hawker paid for out of the Keightley ransom money. Coffey got word to Hall and Gilbert to rob Mr Aaron Steenbohm, who had arrived at the Coffey's 27th November 1863, and recover his funds. Thereby, Coffey could claim the spring cart payment to Steenbohm as lost and, in the process, deflect any subsequent connection to the ransom money. For Coffey, it was a win-win. For Steenbhom, it was a lose-lose. The fact that Coffey was a harbourer and close friend of the bushrangers was highlighted in Mrs Steenbohm later evidence where she commented on Ben Hall reprimanding Gilbert for spilling the beans:
|Honora (Nora) Coffey.|
NSW Police Gazette
|NSW Police Gazette|
12th Dec 1863.
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:
The whole of the affair at Coffey's hinged on the recovery of the five-pound notes from Keightley's ransom, whereas happened with Donald Cheshire, the Coffey's faced possible incarceration. Soon after, the facade of the robbery Hall and Gilbert to protect one of the few who would give them safe harbour denied ever being present when the Steenbohm's were robbed. The headline read GILBERT AND HIS MATE.- The Bathurst Times says:
Hall and Gilbert remained in the confines of the district surrounding Binalong, Bowning, Burrowa. Spending possibly some nights with Susan Prior. On the 21st November, Hall was seen camped at The Marengo Gap;
|NSW Police Gazette.|
16th December 1863.
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 who had just completed an engagement with Mr Scott, of Burrowa, as a miller, and was proceeding to Sydney, observed the pair as "being exceedingly clean and well dressed."
As the coach approached, they waved the driver down and ordered him to pull up, Gilbert presenting a revolver at the time, with Hall mounted resting a double-barrelled gun across his knee. Gilbert, who appeared throughout the robbery, to have acted with some authority over his companion. Ordered the Whip to a spot 300yds off the road where four other persons were sitting on the ground. Three mailbags were thrown out. Hall took one, and Gilbert searched the other two. Ripping open the bags, they examined each letter's contents, taking what notes and cheques were found. One of the letters contained a cheque where Gilbert asked Handley if he could cash it for him: