Part 3

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

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

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

ben hall
("young man with a pleasant disposition")

Continued from Part 2...


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

Reputed birthplace of 
Henry Hall.
Courtesy Carcoar Historical Society.
In due course, Ben Hall shifted bushranging operations to the Carcoar district. In the preceding years, Carcoar had been a place where Hall had enjoyed many good times in the company of his closest friend Daniel Charters. Insomuch, as it was here in August 1859 while staying over at the Charters' residence that Hall's former wife Bridget gave birth to their only son, Henry. Furthermore, in the eyes of the public while as a bushranger in this district Hall's bona fides as public enemy number one would be established. In the process, Ben's emerging lawless notoriety also incorporated a newfound celebrity amongst the broader colonial citizens highlighted by the many destructive and heinous assaults against storekeepers, settlers and wayfarers out in the troubled districts of western NSW. However, Hall's transfer of operations from Young had become necessary through the pressure being brought to bear by a resurgent NSW police. Resulting in the Blue-coats swamping deep into the Lachlan district and were enjoying moderate success. Therefore, this pressure and presence began affecting Hall's ability to hole-up safely at his many harbourers homesteads, such as his brother William, gold mining at the Pinnacle Range five miles from Hall's old run of Sandy Creek. This wide variety of friends were now continuously subjected too surprise visits and surveillance by the widely distrusted police.

This squeeze by the troopers had as well effectively inhibited Ben's ability to transit as he pleased the Queens roads surrounding the Lachlan district. Due mainly to a new regime adopted by the mounted police whereby the troopers had commenced wearing bushman's clothing. Whereby, dressed as an ordinary miner or stockman made it more difficult for the bushrangers to determine friend from foe. The relocation into the Carcoar district was also an opportunity to seek out aid through Ben's elder sister Mary. In 1851 Mary Hall had married an ex-convict, William Wright, and had settled in the Carcoar area first at Bulligal Station where Wright was employed shepherding sheep. Sadly, William Wright passed away near Forbes in 1861 and Mary would marry a George Huddy at Forbes.


Henry Hall.
c. 1895.

Penzig.
Furthermore, with a better effort in addressing harbourers via closer scrutiny and severe threats had however failed to break the 'Cone of Silence' of those sympathetic to Hall. Hall's ability to avoid capture had also brought his actions into political focus. These activities included the associated costs of administering (even with a new concerted effort) a luckless police force. Accordingly, in some quarters of the colony, the perceived lack of energy by the police was noted as scandalous. However, it was easy to criticise the police out on patrol and living rough in the wild bush from the comfort of an armchair hundreds of miles away in Sydney. 

Nevertheless, in a financial shock to the citizens of NSW, the overall cost of policing was estimated for the year ending 1863 to be £257,000 (today $21,588,000, £1=$84). Subsequently, in a still further shock, the vast amount of the expenditure was being diverted to fund the pursuit of Hall and Company. In turn, many members in the NSW parliament were roundly indignant over the costs incurred by a state with an approximate population of 61,000 inhabitants. Therefore, many in the press and parliament would not let the matter go unchallenged and continued to badger the Colonial Secretary over his leadership regarding these matters[sic]"How was it that Government could not manage to capture a half-dozen bushrangers? Whether five or fifty, they ought to be able to bring them to justice, considering the great expense of the present large police establishment. It is necessary that the head of the Government would devise some plan which would lead to the speedy capture of these robbers. It was, he thought, clearly incumbent upon the members of the Government, and on those who had supported them on the police question to take this matter in hand. It was but too true that the country was now in a great state of insecurity, so that something should be done at once." All the protestations in the parliament and newspapers were of no concern to Ben Hall as he continued to rob with impunity and hold the Queens roads in whatever district he was at that time holding to ransom. OUR GOLD-FIELDS.- "The heavy rains that have occurred at intervals during the past month have been a great drawback to the work of the miners, since every creek, and river has been flooded, and in many instances the work of months has been destroyed in a night by the resistless force of the torrents that rush down many of the mountain watercourses or creeks, in the beds or bunks of which so many of our diggers are employed. The accounts from the mines, taken as a whole, are consequently somewhat unencouraging. Gold is scarce, and the storekeepers are complaining of the little business doing. The only activity that prevails is that shown by the bushrangers, Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally, and their gang. Scarcely a day passes without their making themselves heard of, conducting their proceedings in the most open and wholesale manner. A store is bailed up, packhorses are brought to the door and laden with the proceeds of the robbery, unfortunates who come in to purchase are made to give up their cash without any return, and then the bushrangers ride gaily off, never to be heard of again until another robbery is committed, in the same manner. It is understood that the police in large numbers are scouring the country in every direction, and yet by some means the bushrangers manage to evade them, thus proving that they must be in possession of information of every movement of their pursuers."³

Campbell's River,
17th September 1863.
Moreover, for the NSW police, the bushranger hunt continued, budgetary overruns and all. Furthermore, the police were also continually hampered in their effort by locals intent on protecting the gang for a bounty. Money easily demanded for a safe harbour. As a result, the numerous hold-ups of the region's innocent country folk were often and rightly so attributed to Ben Hall. Every recent robbery was a victims cry of Ben Hall! Ben Hall! As it had earlier been Gardiner! Gardiner! However, this was not always the case. Subsequently, in amongst the populous flooding the gold districts of Lambing Flat and Forbes many rogues and vagabonds were prowling to and fro. A few of these vagabonds included luckless miners short of a quid or others having faced misfortune and failure in a variety of ways. Accordingly, some of those down and outs no doubt slid into criminal activities. Whereby the results of those criminal actions inevitably drew the spotlight on Hall and Co. However, there were also other well known local criminals. Such as the Druitt and Seary brothers who were also canvassing Hall's vast territory and who were often arrested but released under suspicious circumstances.

Furthermore, on occasions, some robberies were performed by travelling Chinese gold diggers. However, the Chinese faced constant abuse by the Europeans mining the gold districts. Whereby in 1861 hundreds of miners routed the Chinese from Lambing Flat, forcing them into the old disused areas and as such, they became easy targets for robbery, beatings and murder. As such the Chinese were rarely known to retaliate to attacks or to report them. Despite their general apathy, on occasion when the opportunity arose, some Chinese miners were not adverse to have ago at sticking-up. One notable Chinese miner Sam Poo did take to the roads, raiding travellers between Mudgee and Gulgong in February 1865. As with Hall and Co, Poo had extensive bush skills and evaded capture for some months. However, when surprised and cornered by a trooper named Ward, a chase and gunfight ensured, and Poo mortally wounded Ward. Within weeks of Wards death Poo was captured and hung at Bathurst Gaol.

Notwithstanding, both European and Chinese robbers much like dingos awaited to seize the moment and strike at unsuspecting travellers or stick-up a remote general store. At times some of these desperate itinerants committed cold-blooded murders out on the lonely back roads and byways of the broader districts. Therefore, the notoriety of Hall, Gilbert and Co had created more than enough suspicion in the public's mind to establish a link to them for the innumerable crimes. Thereby, at times often confusing citizens as to who was who. Henceforth, there is no doubt that others were thereupon taking the opportunity to have a crack at the sticking-up game. As a consequence, when under police investigation, people often claimed on being questioned by the authorities as to who the robbers were the inevitable reply, Ben Hall!; 'Bathurst Times'- BUSHRANGING IN THE WESTERN DISTRICT;-"Information was brought into Bathurst on Friday 19th September, 1863, that three bushrangers had made their appearance at Campbell's River, and had stuck-up and robbed three persons, besides committing other depredations. It is said that a Chinaman was shot and robbed of £40-but this has been contradicted. One rumour is to the effect that the men were Gilbert, Ben Hall and Burke while another assert’s that the delinquents are people hitherto supposed to be men of a far different stamp." A case in point is the Campbell River hold-up, as mentioned above. The locals on this occasion believed that the suspicion cast over Hall and Co was incorrect. This proved right when, subsequently, four Chinamen were nabbed for the Campbell River robbery, which also involved the sticking-up of Arthur Budden's store. In turn, of the four Chinese robbers arrested, two were later convicted. However, they claimed that the bushranger Hall had shot one of them. This proved to be false;[sic] Sticking-up at Rockley.— "The three men, whom we mentioned as having stuck-up several Chinamen at Campbell's River, also robbed Mr. Budden's store, taking away; the money they could find, and a large quantity of silks, clothing, blankets, and other goods."

While Ben Hall, John Gilbert and Micky Burke were undertaking operations in the vicinity of Rockley, Carcoar and Mount Macquarie. John O’Meally and Vane had lingered behind in the Weddin/Burrangong district. The pair having been ostracised over the murder of John Barnes. However, on the 14th September 1863, in a blow to John’s O’Meally his family's home had been put to the fire stick and incinerated after many warnings by the NSW police to clear out. Vane and O’Meally’s remaining in the area is evidenced and corroborated through John Vane’s biography. Clearly stating that the pair had not arrived in the neighbourhood of Carcoar until late September 1863;Vane op.cit. "we stayed together for several days on the Black Range, and then parted, Gilbert, Burke and Hall started for Borrowra, on the Yass side, and O'Meally and I remaining at James O'Meally's place at Black Range...” (James O’Meally is John’s uncle and was transported with his father.) Accordingly, sometime around the 19th September the pairs earlier sin-binning had come to an end and they set about seeking out their comrades at Carcoar. Commencing the 70 mile trek to rejoin their companions;op.cit. “leaving Spring Creek, we made for the mountain called Black Hill and there stayed for a day and a night, receiving shelter in the sawyer’s hut. We here made inquiries concerning Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke, but the sawyer had not seen them, although he had heard of the Carcoar-Bathurst coach having been recently stuck-up, and a policeman’s firearms taken from him; so we concluded they had not left the district which we were entering. We therefore pushed on for Teasdale Park, about six miles from Number One, and reaching there after nightfall decided to make our camp at the back of a cultivation paddock...” The above mentioned camp would roughly be a mile south from the southern extremity of the Carcoar Dam in the shadows of Mount Macquarie. (The coach robbery referred to is highlighted below and conducted by Gilbert, Hall and Burke.) Vane continues;op.cit. “but two days having passed without our hearing anything, we sent a messenger to Teasdale to make a few inquiries, not only about the police, but about Ben Hall, Gilbert and Burke who we felt sure were somewhere in that locality...” Their messenger returned with positive news of Ben Hall. However, in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity between the two parties when coming into contact created some confusion between them. Vane recounted that he and O'Meally had unknowingly stumbled upon the camp of Ben Hall and Gilbert's thinking it was a police camp. However, on the gang finally re-joining. It arose that both sets of bushrangers had feared each other was the police who had now resorted to the very effective wearing of bushman apparel. Championed by Sir Frederick Pottinger to confuse the bushrangers in determining friend from foe. The five bushrangers following much amusement between themselves, re-joined;op.cit. “we were not long in coming together, and full explanations followed as soon as we met, each laughing at the other’ but O’Meally and I claimed the best of it...” Reunited the five bushrangers went into camp some six miles north of the nondescript settlement of Number One (Neville) and prepared to mount new and daring activities. Now as a formidable gang they would ensnare some unsuspecting troopers.
Cowra Mail Robbery,
NSW Police Gazette
September 1863.
Note, Description of the 2nd
perpetrator fits that

of  Ben Hall.

Prior to the men’s reconciliation and within a stone’s throw of the hamlet of Blayney situated between Carcoar and Bathurst a brazen robbery transpired on Saturday 19th September 1863 of the mail coach from Cowra to Bathurst. 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 that the hold-up, in fact, did not involve John O’Meally nor Vane, but Gilbert, Hall and Burke. In turn, it is well established through historical records and memoirs that in the days leading up to the 19th September 1863 O’Meally with Vane were 70 miles away in the Weddin Mountains. Therefore, based on substantial evidence there is no doubt that the perpetrators of the robbery were John Gilbert, Ben Hall and Micky Burke. As noted by the au fait description’s provided to the police. The latter, in this case wearing a face mask. (See the description above)

The article transcribed below described in detail the days undertaking against the Coach and a passenger Mr Garland. As well as other victims including a trooper and a former magistrate who had initially issued the warrant for Frank Gardiner’s arrest in 1861, a Mr Beardmore. Already held under guard by Burke. The details in the article regarding the destruction of a police carbine was perpetrated, however, not by John O’Meally as espoused, but by Johnny Gilbert; EPITOME OF NEWS. We compile the following from the various journals to hand. The Bathurst Times of 23rd ult. says: — “As the coach from Carcoar was coming towards Bathurst, last Saturday afternoon, and when about a mile on the other side of Blayney, two men in drab-coloured coats galloped out of the bush on the right-hand side of the road, and shouted to the driver to "pull up," which he did. They were armed with carbines, and going up to the coach, ordered a passenger (the only one) named Garland to get out. Upon his doing so, one of them ordered him to "hand over" his money, which he declined, though they threatened to give him a "good hiding." He persisted in his refusal, telling them they might blow his brains out if they chose, when one of the men, who had got off his horse, went up and thrust his hands into his pockets, Garland, seeing four revolvers in his waist, and a carbine in his hand, thought it better to submit—more especially as the other villain was on his horse at the back of him. After rifling his pockets, and turning everything out on the ground, by which means they obtained five £1 notes and a sovereign, they ordered the coachman to drive into the bush, in the direction from which they had come, telling the passenger to follow them, which he did, after picking up the remainder of his property from the road. The place where the coach was stuck-up was in a hollow, and the direction the coachman took, when ordered to drive off the road, lay uphill. At a distance of 300 yards, on a ridge commanding a view of the road, the coach party came upon eight or nine individuals —one of them a trooper—who were sitting and lying on the ground. On guard over them was a man on horseback, with his face enveloped in a handkerchief—holes being cut in it for his mouth and eyes. He was heavily armed, having pistols in his holsters, besides revolvers and a carbine like the others. Garland mixed with the prisoners, and learned that they had all been subjected to the same treatment as himself. The bushrangers meanwhile unharnessed the coach-horses, of one of which they took particular notice. Seizing the mail-bags they sat down (the man on horseback remaining as sentry) and, cutting them, deliberately opened every letter and newspaper, the contents of which they tossed to one side, with the exception of bank notes, which they pocketed.

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

Another took up the policeman's carbine and pointing to a tree, said, "Now, see how I can shoot a man." He raised the piece, took aim, and pulled the trigger, but it missed fire, and on a second trial the same thing happened again. At this he became enraged, cursed the weapon, and, seizing it by the barrel, smashed it to atoms on the trunk of a tree. As the coach regained the road, the three bushrangers came up and "passed before it at a gallop, and went down the hill, in the direction of Blayney, at a rapid pace. The mail, however, on reaching the flat in sight of Blayney, was again stopped by the same men, they being engaged in the middle of the road in inspecting a valise belonging to Mr. Beardmore, of Forbes, who, it appears, they had fallen in with riding along, and ordered him to dismount. Mr. Beardmore appeared to be anything but a passive spectator of the scene, and offered to give the man who was turning over his things a cheque for £20, with the promise that he would not stop its payment, if he would stand up man to man at twelve paces and let him have a shot at him. The fellow eyed him, and asked what good it would do, as, if he chanced to shoot him, he (Mr. Beardmore) would be shot by his companions immediately after. There "was no money in the valise, but a ring was found, which Mr. Beardmore begged them not to take away as it had been a present from a friend. After looking at and passing it to each other they complied with his request, by handing it to him, and, mounting their horses, rode off. The coach then resumed its journey and arrived in Bathurst about nine o'clock in the evening. The description given of the men, and the fact of their recognising the coach as "the one they had formerly attacked, leaves no doubt but that they were O'Meally, Gilbert, and Burke. They were decently dressed, had watches, and one of them wore a large gold ring. Another had appropriated the trooper's cartouche-box. Throughout, it is said, they were remarkably cool, quiet, and determined. (Since the above was written, we have heard that the same gang, accompanied by Vane, stuck up three young men on Flood's Mount, later in the evening, and at sundown they were observed, " rounding up" some horses, who objected to their taking them; they said they were policemen, and that they had orders to take, on an emergency, the first horses they could lay their hands on. The one who acted as spokesman, when asked his name, replied "Sanderson." They were last seen passing Cheshire's public-house.”⁴ The Beardmore incident validates Ben Hall's presence. Where he reputedly talked Beardmore out of his notions of a duel with Gilbert by expressing, "that if he wanted a shooting match, he should have brought his own gun." There is also the Garland confrontation whereas, with Beardmore, Garland was a reluctant victim, whereby Gilbert threatened to "blow the gentleman's brains out" for not handing over the money promptly. However, Gilbert was again placated by Hall. Furthermore, later that evening at Flood's Mount the three were lifting horses where they were asked who they were and answered 'police' informing the interrogators that the man in charge was 'Sanderson.' Sanderson was the tenacious policeman stationed at Forbes the hero of the recovery of the Eugowra Gold in 1862 and was well known to Hall. Therefore, Ben often utilised his name to identify himself whenever questioned: "who was in charge".

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

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

A contemporary view
of the capture of the

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


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

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


Stanley Hosie.
c. 1872.

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


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

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


john loudon
Mr. John Loudon
c. 1863
Nevertheless, the wanton destruction at Hosie's store also included the heinous act by the gang of shooting, in some reports, horses dead, and other comments of only wounding helpless horses yarded at the time. However, again the bushrangers took what animals including Hosie's they wanted. The horses wounded were put down;[sic] "the best horses that could be found at the place they took possession of, making them carry a part of the swag; the rest they shot. Leaving the store, the bushrangers adjourned to an inn close by, and there caroused until a late hour..." Henceforth, in the wake of the gang’s devilment at Hosie’s, the bushrangers proceeded to cut across country crisscrossing their way towards another remote settlement the diminutive town of Canowindra roughly 44 miles to the west of Caloola. However, while en route to Canowindra and late on the night of Friday 25th September 1863. The bushrangers diverted to ‘Grubbenbong Station’ some 15 miles distant from Caloola reputedly accoutred in items of police clothing removed previously from the troopers at Marsh’s farm. 'Grubbenbong Station' was owned by Mr John Loudon J.P.. Loudon had recently been appointed by the NSW Government as a Magistrate of the Colony. Furthermore, en-route to Loudon’s, the bushrangers made contact with their telegraphs who provided valuable intelligence that several troopers were possibly lodged at the station. Without fear, the bushrangers descended upon the station invoking their well-practised modus operandi of gathering up the station hands first and securing them in the station’s store. With all the station hands secured the gang then proceeded on to the homestead to track down the reputedly visiting police. Subsequently, Ben Hall, knocking at the homestead door 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.” Fearing that the men were not as they had said, the Loudon’s retreated back into the living area. With the door unopened, the bushrangers fired a volley of shots peppering the inside of the house. Fortunately for the Loudon’s, there were no troopers present, and no one was injured by the barrage of shots; ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, 28th September, 1863; — "News has just reached here that Gilbert, O'Meally, Ben Hall, Burke, and Vane have stuck up Mr. John Loudon's house at Grubbenbong, near Carcoar. Grubbengbong, fourteen miles from here, had been stuck up about eleven o clock on the night previous (25th Sept), by Ben Hall, O'Meally, Gilbert, Vane, and Burke, who made up to the house and knocked at the door. Upon Mrs. Loudon inquiring who was there, they answered "Police." Mr. Loudon then inquired who was their officer-when they answered Sanderson." Mr. Loudon told them that he would not admit them, and the words were no sooner spoken when a piece was fired, sending six slugs through the door into the passage. The door being unpaneled the bushrangers immediately entered, and having bailed up Messrs. Loudon, Kirkpatrick (Mrs. Loudon's brother) and Wilson, putting handcuffs on them, they ordered Mrs. Loudon and her niece into another room. They then commenced ransacking the place, and searching the men, taking what they pleased. They demanded some supper, and Mrs. Loudon ordered some ham and eggs to be cooked for them, apologising for not having something better to offer them. However, they did ample justice to what was laid before them, ordering, as an additional zest, some wine, which was at once brought them. During the whole of this time the gentlemen were on the verandah handcuffed. After supper they had a smoke, Gilbert proposing to go outside as the smoke might be annoying to the ladies. After the villains bailed up the family and helped themselves to what they wanted, they obliged the young ladies to preside at the piano whilst they tripped it on the light fantastic, enjoyed themselves till two o’clock in the morning, and said "adieu! till next we meet," without, however, either robbing or abusing any of the family or inmates but before departing all, except Vane, returned what they had previously taken in the shape of jewellery and trinkets. After they had handcuffed all the inmates they searched the house for policeman they had been told were there. Finding none, they went to prosecute their search elsewhere. They said before leaving Mr. Loudon's house, that if any more troopers were sent from Bathurst, they would capture them, and take them in handcuffs to Carcoar. In conjunction with the newspaper report of the Grubbenbong attack this interesting notice also appeared; Portraits of Lowry, the bushranger, after his death, may be had of S. W. Fry and Co., 452, George Street, Sydney. (See Gallery page.)

In December 1863, Magistrate Loudon was called as a witness at the trial of John Vane held at Bathurst and testified to the events of that evening. The magistrate also describes how well armed the gang were. Carrying both revolvers and carbines and how, without any concern for the lives of those inside the home. The bushrangers fired indiscriminately into the house and that O'Meally on entering placed a gun to Loudon's head and threatened to blow his brains out. 'Illawarra Mercury' Friday 11th December, 1863; John Loudon, being duly sworn, said: “I am a magistrate of the colony, and reside at Grubbenbong, about fifteen miles from Carcoar; I have known the prisoner Vane from childhood; on the 26th of September last, about 10 o'clock in the evening, my house was attacked by bushrangers whilst I and some friends were sitting at supper, the servant called out "there are some police here " they were then at the backdoor; I called out who is in charge, and one of them replied "Saunders" Mrs, Loudon said "see it is not the bushrangers," "shut the door "the doors were all fast, and one of the men outside called out "open the door or we will shoot" Mr James Kirkpatrick opened  The overseer at the time of the audacious raid was Mr Charles Young who had arrived from Scotland in 1860 on board the ship 'Telegraph' and commenced work for his kinfolk Mr Loudon whereby in his later life Mr Young recounted how he attempted to fetch the police but was thwarted by Burke with a gun to his head; ''During the time Mr. Young lived at 'Grubbenbong' the place was stuck up one night by the Ben Hall gang. While Mrs. Young was preparing supper for the bushrangers, Mr Young endeavoured to get his horse to go for the police, but he was captured and brought back, Mick Burke holding a revolver to his head while the others had a high old time at the house."


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


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

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

A Dambrod Board.
Mrs Loudon also recounted first-hand years after Ben Hall had with his revolvers drawn walked through the doors of ‘Grubbenbong Station’ and Gilbert’s gunfire raking the inside of the house where upon entering the gang went about bailing up the hapless Loudon’s and their guests. The dramatic occasion was relived during an interview circa 1878 and later reprinted in 'The Sydney Morning Herald' on Tuesday 10th July 1923, titled 'The Women Pioneers', by J. Ward Harrison; "I sat one day at Grubbenbong, in the Carcoar district, five and forty years ago, and listened to the story which a member of the Kirkpatrick family, Mrs. John Loudon, told me of a visit from Ben Hall's gang. I had been looking at five holes in the door leading to the bedroom from the room in which I sat enjoying her hospitality. "That," she said, "was Gilbert's work. I mind it as though it were but yesterday. Mr Wilson and my niece were playing dambrod (A chess or checker-board) on a board which Loudon had just bought from town, and Loudon was lying down, a bit tired, on the sofa, there. My husband always said that he wouldna' knuckle-down to the knaves if they ever came his way, and Ben Hall had sent us a message through some of his scouts that he'd be along some night. I heard a knock at the back door, and went to see whom it might be. It was Ben Hall though I didna' ken. I opened the door, and there were three of them. They had just put a pair o' handcuffs on my brother James and the overseer, out in the store, that they had taken from two o' the police at the back o' the mount that day, and sent them walkin' into Carcoar without their boots, the villains! Ben Hall said, 'Good night, Mrs. Loudon, we're the police.' 'No,' said I, 'I dinna think ye're the police, ye're the bushrangers,' wl' that he laughed. 'Bail up, then,' said he. I let the door slam and came back. 'Loudon Loudon, the bushrangers are here, get your gun, man, get your gun.' Loudon ran in to the bedroom to get it, and I followed him in. Wilson came in to say he had had it out to shoot a native cat, and had left it in the store. Man! It was a pity. Burke and Vane stood on the verandah in front of the window, in the moonlight, it was a grand shot. With that Hall was calling out to us to come out, and Gilbert put his carbine up and fired shot after shot through the door. One bullet smashed my mirror, and another splintered a drawer. Wicked destruction, I called it. Some had to go out, and they handcuffed Loudon and Wilson together, and sat them on two chairs by the window. Then they said they were hungry, so my niece and I got them some supper, and put it on the table. 'There ye' are,' I said, 'and I'm sorry to say that for the 'first time in my house I canna' say yo're welcome to it.' And I must say the poor fellows were hungry. When the table was cleared, and they had turned the place fair inside out, looking for money, Burke lay down and put his dirty boots upon my sofa, and went to sleep. I told Ben Hall the little wretch would sell him yet. There's none of the breed was any good says I. Hall said if he had any suspicion he would shoot him like a dog. And sure enough he did, about three weeks after. Don't tell me Keightley shot him. Hall did it himself, I'm sure. But I was real sorry for Gilbert. I talked to him a long time that night. He told me he was sick of the life, and if he could get away from the country he would. But he said, 'there's not one of my mates who would stick at putting a bullet in me if he heard me say what I am telling you,' Poor boy! I used to pray for him every night till I heard that Dunn's grandfather had sold the pair to the police, and Johnny Gilbert was shot." But space is running out. This sketch of the bushrangers' visit to Grubbenbong is a picture of Helen Loudon. And Helen Loudon is but one of a regiment." J. Ward Harrison went on with this tribute to our valiant women of yesteryear; "These pioneers, they are the source from which has sprung the Light Horsemen who in the Holy Land can bare their heads in reverence as they stumble from out the conflict upon the sacred shrine, and value more than they can express the opportunity of casting forth the unbeliever from the land of holy memories, which their grandmothers hold so dear. And who can tell how much of the calm endurance of hardship, the cheerful facing of odds, the associations expressed the world over in the term "Anzac" found its origin. In the life of endurance and intelligent grappling with difficulties displayed in the life of Australia's woman pioneers, there you will find the Helen Loudon's of the nation." Interestingly! Mrs Loudon raised an issue in that interview that has long been held in contention. That is that in the dramatic attack to come in the following weeks at the station of Henry Keightley, where one of the bushrangers would be fatally wounded. Mrs Loudon was of the belief that the shot attributed to Keightley was, however, fired by another member of the gang?


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

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

Canowindra from
Blue Jacket Lookout, 2016.

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


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

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

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


William Robinson owner
of the Traveller's Rest Hotel,
situated on the Cowra side of
the Belubula River
12th July 1862.
For Lease.
After the tea things were cleared away, Gilbert very politely asked one of the young ladies to play him a tune on the piano. Some short time after, a dance was proposed, and commenced about nine o'clock, and continued till daylight next morning (Sunday). Constable Sykes being amongst the company, it was proposed by Ben Hall that he (Sykes) should act as M.C. and that Burke and O'Meally should receive any company that might arrive during the evening. The company, we are informed, numbered eighteen at 12 o'clock, and the numbers were not augmented after that hour. Gilbert and his companions called and paid for all they drank during the night; and the nights amusement is spoken of as one of the jolliest affairs that has ever taken place in that small town-not a low or improper word being spoken by the gang. Gilbert kept the crowd in roars of laughter, at intervals, during the night, by giving an account of the police, whom he designated as a lot of cowards and said when he left Rothery's he mentioned where he was going, so that it might be intimated to the police; knowing full well that they would not reach Canowindra until they (the bushrangers) had left. He said they never came till a day or two after. How fully borne out is this assertion, I will presently show. However, to finish my narrative: The bushrangers left Robinson's at five o'clock, and retired to a paddock opposite, where they had two hours' sleep, and left Canowindra unmolested at eight o'clock." In the aftermath of the festivities it was reported that O'Meally, who had many relatives throughout the district paid some of them a celebrity visit; "before leaving Canowindra, O'Meally visited some of this admiring relatives, about three or four miles off, and was most cordially received by them..."⁶ Furthermore, it should also be noted at this time that the majority of newspapers were still referring to the five bushrangers on and off as Gilbert's gang and in many instances continued to do so up until mid-1864. However, other observers had given Ben Hall the title such as Mrs Loudon had commented. Shortly after the holding of Canowindra a local resident in a letter to relatives gave this characterisation of the bushrangers;  —"The whole five are sober youngsters—none of them drink. They all have breech-loading rifles, and each has four revolvers. Gilbert is a very jolly fellow, of slight build and thin—always laughing. O'Meally is said by everyone to be a murderous-looking scoundrel. Ben Hall is a quiet, good-looking fellow, lame, one leg having been broken; he is the eldest of the party and the leader— I fancy about 28 years of age. Vane is a big, sleepy-looking man, upwards of 12 stone. Mick Burke is small. They seem at all times to be most thoroughly self-possessed and to perfectly understand each other, and being sober men are not likely to quarrel. They appear to be always talking of their exploits and of the different temperaments of the people they "bailup."   


Crossing the Belubula.
Contemporary Illustration
by Frank Dunne,
Smiths Weekly.
1935.
Courtesy NLA.
On the Sunday 27th September, a near tragedy occurred when the son of the Inspector-General of police Captain John M’Lerie, Sub-Inspector George McPherson McLerie came to grief whilst crossing the flooded Five Mile Creek near Carcoar, the result being that he almost lost his life while on patrol searching for Ben Hall; "Mr. Inspector M'Lerie had a narrow escape from drowning on Sunday night. He and his men were returning to Carcoar, and on attempting to cross the Five-mile Creek, he was swept down — his horse being turned over and over in the stream— and but for the assistance of some diggers encamped near the spot, he must have perished."⁷ Following the night’s entertainment at Robinson’s hotel information came to light regarding the gang’s movements following their morning’s departure. It appeared that the bushrangers had separated with O’Meally and Gilbert remaining close to town whereas Hall, Burke and Vane headed off to secure new mounts. However, the rain had been falling steadily, and the Belubula River was rising as Hall and the other two crossed over to the southern side. They rode on to ‘Bangaroo Station’ owned by Mr Icely. Here they obtained three good horses, then commenced their return to Canowindra. As the three bushrangers approached their previous crossing point, they were surprised and disconcerted to find the river had risen considerably. On the opposite bank, Gilbert appeared with O’Meally. Calling out that a party of troopers had camped across from the town on their side. Held up from crossing by the rising waters. Therefore, after consultation amongst themselves, the three bushrangers decided to swim the flooded river with Hall plunging in first;[sic] “it was decided that the three men on the south bank should swim their horses across. They dismounted, undressed, rolled their clothes round their revolvers, making each a compact bundle. These they strapped on their saddles, and, remounting, completely naked, they rode to the river bank, Ben Hall leading. His horse plunged into the flood-waters and sank to its neck and to its rider's waist. Swimming strongly, it reached the north bank…” Next to go was Vane but unfortunately, his horse stuttered and became unmanageable as it made the plunge into the raging waters. When the animal did so;[sic] ”it floundered helplessly, its clumsy attempt at natation being hampered by the fact that its rider was a big man and clumsy of build. This caused the animal to be top-heavy. When Vane made an effort to keep its head turned upstream, it swung round too abruptly, almost roiling over, and, as a result, unseating its rider. Vane struck out for the shore and joined Ben Hall…” As Vane’s horse floundered in the racing waters Micky Burke also naked attempted to retrieve the distressed animal. Where after a struggle Burke managed to save the horse from drowning, however, the panicked horse in its throes had lost Vane’s saddle including £25 in bank-notes, two revolvers, and other assorted possessions. By now the waters were too quick to cross, therefore;[sic] “Mickey Burke who was still on the south bank of the stream, still naked and seated sideways in the saddle, he held consultation across the yellow rush of water with his two dressed and two undressed comrades on the north bank. They decided that he should driver the two stolen horses across the stream, and this was done. But these, also, had such difficulty in fighting the current that it was thought unwise to take, any further risk, especially as the river was likely to go down, just as quickly as it had risen. It was arranged, therefore, that Burke should remain on the south side of the river during that day, while the other four should return to Canowindra, where Burke could rejoin them the following morning. He dressed and rode away to the hut of a sympathiser in the bush toward Mt Logan…” 'Sydney Mail', Saturday, 10th October, 1863;- [From a Correspondent.]- Carcoar, Saturday. October 3rd.- “I mentioned in my last that Gilbert and his gang were at Canowindra on Sunday morning, and left there at eight o'clock a.m. They then proceeded to Bangaroo (Mr. Icely's station), and took some horses. In crossing the race at Duffy's fall, they had to swim, and in doing so Vane lost his seat, and was precipitated into the water—the horse being carried down some distance, till he washed against a tree. The girths then breaking, the horse made for the bank, where he was secured by the others, who ran down for a mile on foot to catch him. The saddle and swag, containing three revolvers £25 in notes, and some clothing, were lost. They then returned to Canowindra, ran some horses into the town, and slept there on Sunday night. I may state that when they were within half-a-mile of the town, they (the bushrangers) sent a message by a man named Sullivan, an old resident of Canowindra, to the police, that they were prepared to meet them and would stop there for them, so long as no more than six came. That they would fight them man to man, and allow the police one extra to take the place of the first trooper that fell. Sullivan took his message, but the police said they could not cross the river. Sullivan offered to punt them across, but they declined!" Sullivan had been sympathetic to the bushrangers having punted them across the river on other occasions. He was a man that Hall trusted to pass on the offer of a duel to the NSW police. Crossing the swollen river, Sullivan fronted at the camp of the pursuing troopers and relayed the challenge from Ben Hall. To facilitate the proposed duel, Sullivan offered to ferry the police over to the bushrangers side. However, Sullivan's keenness in offering to help raised suspicion amongst the police. Who suddenly realised that Sullivan might be a Charon with a more sinister motive and hastily declined the offer.

With a near miss from drowning, John Vane recounted the event;Vane op.cit. “Hall, Burke and I rode down the river to Bangaroo Station hoping to get fresh horses; but there were no horses in the paddock, and we returned up the river again, only to find it in full flood. Shortly after we had reached the river, Gilbert rode up on the other side of the stream and said there were a lot of police higher up on the top crossing, waiting for the flood waters to subside, and they were camped just opposite the town; so we made up our minds to swim the river without delay. First stripping our clothes off we each folded our revolvers and ammunition inside, rolling them up securely, and strapping the bundle securely to the saddle. Hall was first in the water and I followed close behind; but my horse would not swim, and when he reached the strong part of the current he turned turtle and sank, raising only to be carried down the stream until he came near the bank on the side from which he started, which I reached in safety. When he reached the bank the horse got his head between two saplings that were growing close together and became fast, while his hind quarters remained in the stream. He remained in this position until Burke, who had not started to cross, ran down and pushed his head back, when the stream caught him again and carried him into the branches of an old oak tree that had fallen in the river. He sank once more and remained so long under water that I thought he was drowned; but he rose again, this time without the saddle, and made for the opposite bank, where I was standing, when I caught the bridle and assisted him out. With the saddle I lost my clothes and firearms and £19 in money. Burke did not cross the river till next morning, by which time the water had fallen; but Hall, Gilbert, O’Meally and I rode away from the river and camped for the night on a hill overlooking the town. We paddocked our horses there and re-saddled at day-break next morning, when Burke re-joined us...” However, a loss of weapons and devoid of suitable clothes the bushrangers returned to town to refresh their wardrobe;[sic] "Gilbert and O'Meally dismounted and assisted Johnny Vane to unstrap their reserve pack, from which Johnny was able to make up a set of clothing sufficient for the moment. They then remounted, and, with the two stolen animals on a lead, and with big Johnny Vane perforce riding bareback, returned to Canowindra and committed a breach of Sunday trading regulations by helping themselves to a new saddle and a suit of clothes at the general store. By that time it was afternoon, and they decided to make for the hill at the back of the town, where they could paddock and rest of their horses..."


"Bail- Up"
(Unknown artist)
In a buoyant mood after their recent jubilee at Canowindra as well as surviving the fording of the flooded river, the gang allowed Micky Burke to take his first opportunity for a solo performance in coach robbing. However, just in case the young bushranger was unable to handle the robbery, the remainder of the gang observed the proceedings from the nearby bush. Accordingly, Burke came through with flying colours; ‘The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser’, October 1863, published with a date of September 30.- “The mail was stuck up on Tuesday near the usual place. "Burke did the job himself, to the satisfaction of his comrades, who kept out of sight. About £10 was abstracted from the letters." Furthermore, the newspapers continued commenting on the ease with which the bushrangers robbed uninterrupted and editorialised the wide spread belief that the bushrangers had the police’s measure; 'Bathurst Times', 30th September 1863;-"In the Bathurst district, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Company appear to be as busy as ever, helping, themselves indiscriminately to whatever they choose. The police are in hot pursuit, but, so far, have not succeeded in apprehending any of the gang; and we cannot but regret to see the belief expressed that the constables are afraid of them. We certainly should be glad to see these offenders brought to justice, but the lawlessness of their pursuits, keeps them so constantly on the alert, that their capture is far easier to write about than to effect." “Afraid of them” rang out in the corridors of power. As the writers ink was drying Ben Hall was about to conduct one of the most daring raids in the annuals of NSW colonial history. An assault which would send shock-waves to the very heart of colonial power. Furthermore, in the ‘Queanbeyan Age and General Advertiser’ on Thursday 1st of October 1863 reprinted from an earlier article from the ‘Yass Courier’ once more referenced the incineration of John O’Meally’s family homestead and their notorious shanty. The incineration being arbitrarily meted out by the NSW Police in September 1863 under the auspices of the ‘Crown Lands Occupation Act of 1861.’ However, in spite of the police’s action. The writer’s sympathies appear to express empathy toward Ben Hall in his current circumstances as well as criticism over those actions of the police which the government approved; 'Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' Saturday 26th September 1863;   “within the last two years several bad characters have been captured at O'Meally's; therefore, this burning down looks like destroying the trap that ensnared the vermin. Such Culverhouse acts will never stop bushranging; they are more likely to increase it, as in the case of Ben Hall, who was rendered the desperate outlaw he now is principally through the police burning down his once comfortable homestead, and thrusting his wife and family into the shelter-less bush. At least one of the victims in Hall's case must have been innocent, for it was an infant at the breast. But acts of indiscriminate harshness have been, and always will be the distinguishing characteristic of a weak government. People around here say that as some police inspectors find themselves incompetent to take the leading bushrangers, they therefore vent their disappointment and rage upon the robbers' relatives, i.e., by rendering houseless their aged parents, wives, and children. Such retaliation indeed smacks of the medieval ages, and is unworthy of the enlightened nineteenth century..." However, the writer’s assumption’s have been proven to be entirely without foundation. What’s more the above ‘sympathetic’ article may have been composed by the same gentleman who had written (unlike today were almost every article will bear the journalist’s name whereas, in this period writers were only referred to as correspondents and therefore did not attach their name nor deem themselves as celebrities!) the earlier June 1863 article in the ‘Yass Courier’ on Ben Hall’s life. (See Ben Hall page.) Nonetheless, the above article may well have sought some empathy from the reader by conjuring up a view to the public unacquainted with Hall by encompassing, on the one hand, pity, and on the other somewhat perverse praise of Hall’s au courant actions. The general upsurge in Hall’s notoriety via the newspapers recalled in the article covered the purported injustices by authority wrought against Ben Hall as a settler, as well as those acquainted with him such as the O’Meally’s. A point of view, far from the truth. Remember that Hall’s ownership of his station had been relinquished voluntarily in September 1862. Where his former home was at the time illegally inhabited contrary to the new owner John Wilson’s wishes. Thereby under the auspices of the ‘Crown Lands Occupation Act of 1861,’ it too was incinerated to prevent its continued use as a bushranger base up to 14th March 1863. However, NSW Parliamentarian Joseph Jehoshaphat Harpur who personally knew Ben Hall through his mother Sarah Walsh often defended the affected settlers. Harpur was severely critical of the police’s heavy-handed practices against those settlers in the spotlight;[sic]"Mr. Harpur, Mr. Cummings, and Mr. Dalgleish censured the police generally, and especially denounced them for burning down the houses of Ben Hall and the elder O'Meally."

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

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

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


NSW Police Gazette
7th October 1863.
Unperturbed by all the press reports surrounding their atrocities that where possible 'The  Boy's' sought out newspapers to read of themselves with amusement. Unsurprisingly, with all their recent successes and narrow escapes, the gang had become utterly indifferent to the forces of the NSW police or their pursuit. The gang casually drifted from their jubilee at Canowindra and tracked back east towards the provincial town of Bathurst a mere 55 miles away. Moreover, without any fear of discovery though their presence was widely confirmed by locals. The bushrangers formed a camp close to Bathurst at a place called Swan Pond. Swan Pond ran alongside Evans Plains Creek. Furthermore, they as well setup another base camp further south at Long Swamp near 'Mulgunnia Station' in preparation for more outrages. However, these unruffled activities had many of the district asking just where were the police!; 'Sydney Morning Herald', 1st October, 1863; “Good information has just been received that the bushrangers were seen camped about fifteen miles from Bathurst three hours since. These scoundrels have been within twenty-five miles of this town, committing all kinds of depredations, during the last week, and it is firmly believed that the police, from their dilatory and sluggish proceedings, are afraid of them.” Where were they! the police? However, as the public debate continued to rage in and out of parliament over the gang’s round-the-clock reign of terror. October 1863 commenced with Ben Hall with John Vane breaking their camp at Long Swamp and proceeded on horseback in the direction of the Trunkey Diggings for some gold;op.cit. "leaving Long swamp early next morning, Hall and I decided to take a short run in the direction of the Trunkey Diggings, for gold had always had an attraction for us, although we didn't trouble to search for it as the diggers searched..." Consequently, while traversing a gully, the pair came across two young men whom they instantly ‘bailed up’. These unfortunate victims were revealed to be the sons of two of the most esteemed members of the local Bathurst community. The pair were Mr Randolph 'Dolph' Machattie, son of the well-known and highly respected Dr Machattie and the son of the courageous NSW Police Captain, Edward Battye. Edward Battye at the outbreak of Gardiner/Ben Hall’s bushranging activities in 1861/62 had been the officer in charge at Lambing Flat. Furthermore, during his tenure at Lambing Flat, Captain Battye had had moderate success in the suppression of both cattle duffing and bushranging. Now his second son, Charles Herbert ‘Bertie’ Battye was being held at gunpoint by one of his former adversaries. (In 1861 Charles was nominated for a commission in Her Majesty's land forces. His older brother Montague joined the NSW police in August 1863 and was posted to the Lachlan district. In 1865 he resigned.) However, through a verbal exchange in the form of a dare between young Machattie and Ben Hall. Where the young men goaded the bushrangers to display some real spunk and come and knock over the district capital west of the Blue Mountains, Bathurst.; 'Empire’, Tuesday, 6th October 1863; - The Bathurst Free Press of Saturday last publishes the following:On Thursday morning, at a place called One Eye, near Mulgunnia, young Messrs. Machattie and Battye were stuck up by Hall and Vane. The young gentlemen were out surveying, and had dismounted from their horses to roll up their cloaks, when two ruffians appeared, and ordered them to stand and give up what money they possessed, they had each twenty-two shillings, but the robbers returned the odd two shillings, they eased Mr. Machattie of his watch, and searched each, for pistols or revolvers. They detained both gentlemen as prisoners for two hours and a-half, during which time a continued "chaffing" was kept up. One other victim who passed along was stopped and taken prisoner, but as the robbers could only find a few shillings upon him they declined to take them. One of the bushrangers showed the young men how to take the shoes from a horse's hoofs with the help of a stirrup-iron, and by way of illustration pulled off the shoes of the two fore feet of Mr. Machattie’s horse in a few seconds. To relieve the monotony of their forced captivity several proposals were made to the bushrangers, one consisting of an offer to run Hall two hundred yards for the ownership of the horses, and another to have a little amusement in the shape of a fight. The bushrangers laughed, and said they would fetch "the toad," meaning Burke, as he and Battye would be about a match. On being asked where their three companions were, they said "close by," adding that they were going to get some horses out of Mr. Smith's paddock. They said they must take the young gentlemen's horses, but if they could get better, they would leave them where they could be easily recovered. A ring worn by Machattie in his scarf, attracted Hall's attention, but upon learning that it was prized as a maternal gift, the bushranger declined to appropriate it. Hall showed a revolver which he had taken from one of the three policemen at Marsh's, and said they did not offer the slightest resistance. As no one else appeared to becoming along the road, the prisoners were released and before they left Hall returned Machattie’s watch The two men are described as being very muscular, and to betray no symptoms of care and anxiety. Hall was continually laughing, but Vane was sullen and morose.” It is most interesting to note that the two bushrangers referred to their mate Burke as the "Toad", that might indicate that the portrait of Burke long in circulation maybe quite flattering.

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


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

As the bushrangers reigned supreme, in the NSW Parliament many of those members representing the troubled district's were feeling the disgruntlement of their constituents and remonstrated over the police's poor conduct as some members were facing political revolt in their seats. (Many seats were tenuous as compulsory voting only came into force after Federation in 1912.) The fear of loosing their status resulted in Mr Cowper facing sustained attacks in Parliament with many of those effected members wrestling with the call for change being agitated by Mr James Martin. This upheaval thereby forced Mr Cowper into publicly rebuking the Inspector-General of Police, Captain McLerie; “on Wednesday night the Colonial Secretary read several telegrams to and from the Inspector-General of Police. Captain M'Lerie was informed that the Government were disgusted at the behaviour of the police, and that he would be expected to resign if the five bushrangers, including Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Hall, were not captured within a month. And further, that a new force would be inaugurated. The House expressed its gratification at this decided step on the part of the Executive...” ⁹ Of course as with today's politicians talk is cheap! The 'Lachlan Miner', of September 30th 1863, highlighted the trial and tribulations of a police force under immense pressure to achieve results and for the first time the press referred to the contest between the bushrangers and the police as a 'Bushranger War'STILL THE BUSHRANGER.- “The aspect of the war. (for we can call it nothing else) between the bushrangers and the police, is becoming ever day more alarming to the peaceable inhabitants of New South Wales; and were it not for the imminent danger to which both properly and life are exposed, the performances of our defenders would be truly a farce of the broadest kind. Not satisfied with, attacking parties of police sent out to scour the country in search of offenders, the present "Overseers of Roads" have actually been searching premises, where they expected the "protectors of life and property" were concealed; and the rifles and handcuffs are now transferred from those who either could not or would not use them, to others who both can and, will. We are told by the Bathurst Times, in the most matter-of-fact manner, that when, two troopers went out from, Mr. Marsh's, near Carcoar, after hearing two shots, which they must have supposed to have been exchanged between bushrangers and one of their mates, who had accompanied Mr. Marsh to secure a stray horse, only one of them had taken the precaution to have his rifle with him. The one who had his arms, as a matter of course, gave them up, and these troopers were specially sent out to take bushrangers. No wonder the Times recommends make-believe fire-arms, so that the bushrangers may not be benefited. Why not have dummy troopers, who would benefit the country, by costing nothing for pay, and wearing out no shoe leather? While these accounts are reaching us every hour-while the district, from Bathurst, round Canowindra, Cowra, and Carcoar, is in a state of martial law-if the law of bushrangers can be called by such a name-we hear of but few efforts (beyond the old six-and-eight penny ones) being made by the police. The Lambing Flat papers, as well as those of the "Great City of the West," teem with reports of robberies, handcuffing’s, and murder's; enlivened at intervals by an account of a spirited, and usually successful resistances by some "private individual”, who does not receive Government pay for allowing himself to be shot at. The proceedings which have lately taken place in the Bathurst districts are a disgrace to the police officers, and men who are supposed to protect others, but cannot, in reality, take care of themselves. The same applies in a large degree to the Burrangong district; where it certainly appears that the inhabitants must look out for themselves. Such a stigma upon officialdom, we venture to say, has never been cast in any other British colony. But why should we waste more time and space upon a subject which we have worn threadbare, without the least advantage resulting to any one, or the slightest effort having been made by the Government?”


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

View of Bathurst from the
 bushrangers perspective on
the Bald Hill.

(Mount Panorama)

Courtesy NLA.
With the earlier words of the previously robbed surveyors ringing in their ears the bushrangers were only to game to create a sensation, and they appeared in force on the evening of Saturday the 3rd of October 1863. On this date one of the most audacious raids ever committed by bushrangers in the history of NSW took place. Ben Hall, John Gilbert, O’Meally, Vane and Micky Burke subsequently breezed into the social and cultural hub of the NSW Western Districts, Bathurst, a sprawling township and gateway to the western districts referred to as the 'City of the Plains'. In November 1813 Surveyor William Evans set out and successfully accomplished the task of completely transiting the Blue Mountains, consequently, reaching the Macquarie River some forty-two miles beyond Bathurst, thus Evans was the first European to cross the Great Dividing Range. However, faced with many trials and tribulations, the famous expedition led by Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth earlier in 1813 fell short of having traversed the Great Divide. Furthermore, after Evans struggled across those majestic ranges, it was noted"surveyor William Evans is gazing with a contented heart at the wonderful panoramic view of virgin country that lies below him. It was like a glimpse of Paradise after his strenuous journey over the Blue Mountains..." The founding of Bathurst occurred in 1815 and was established on the main trail to and from Sydney via the track cutout across the Blue Mountains and constructed by William Cox which was fully completed in 1815.[sic] "Governor and Lady Macquarie, the year after its formation, drove in a carriage over this road, which was highly spoken of by Surveyor Oxley in his published reports. For this service Mr. Cox received a grant of land on the Bathurst Plains, which he called Hereford." This crossing was the footnote that changed Australian History.


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

Courtesy E. Penzig.
Furthermore, Bathurst had been a town that Ben Hall was very familiar with. As in 1856, Ben married Bridget Walsh in St Michael's Catholic Church on William Street. The nuptials were performed by Father Jerome Keating, and where also in those pre-bushranging days Ben was known to visit on more than one occasion in the company of his older brother William and reputedly held his wedding party at the 'Bentinck and Piper Inn', licensed to Alexander Crilly. 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, who along with other NSW police officers including Inspector Pottinger were continually scouring the local area for the five elusive bushrangers. Consequently, with the arrival of the gang in town rumours began circulating of their presence and where alarmist cries rang out in the early evening of "bushranger" "bushranger", creating a sensation as well as panic. This, in turn, turned the resident’s thought's to the much publicised 'Bushranger War' which had now apparently arrived on their doorstep. As a result, many locals flooded on to the dimly lighted streets to catch a glimpse for themselves the mythical bushrangers in person. One such witness was the future author of the 'History of Australian Bushranging', Charles White. As the townsfolk gathered close by Ben Hall fired off a shot into the night air to clear a path, scattering the unbelieving crowd.

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

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

approached Pedrotta's shop
on the right from the south
c. 1880's
Courtesy RAHS. 
On that Saturday night the town was filling with farmers and such, in for an evening of dancing, shopping and catching up with friends, therefore, no one had expected the bushrangers to materialise. Thereby the five well dressed and superbly mounted men drew little attention as they casually walked their horses down William Street in to town. As they rode in Bathurst at that time;[sic] "was badly lighted, I. N. Wark not having at that time descended upon the city with his gas. The shops were dimly lighted with oil and candles so that the time was well chosen—the residents were at tea, and the town at peace." Making their way down William street the bushrangers reined their horses outside the Gun Shop of a Mr Pedrotta in search of the much heralded and sort after new type of weapon the Revolving Rifle. Furthermore, the reason for the bushranger bravado encompassing the Bathurst visit had developed a few days previously when the two local young men Dolph Machattie, and the fiery Charles 'Bertie' Battye had goaded them into it by throwing a parting taunt and sarcastically shouting to Ben Hall,[sic] “You are not game” they called “to come to Bathurst and take DeCloutt’s ‘Pasher’.” Incensed at the cheek of Battye, Ben Hall retorted[sic] “We’ll show you about that”. Below is a series of newspaper articles published in order of the events of the acclaimed raid on the town of Bathurst NSW and consequently, it's surrounding district regarding those first few days of October 1863, which had newspaper editors scrambling for the most sensational and up to date details as they were telegraphed in. The whole of the colony was thunderstruck as the telegraph wires crackled with the news.
     
View of Bathurst from cnr of
 Russell and Stewart St
 c. 1880's.

Frank Walker 1861-1948.
TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCHES. [FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS.] BATHURST. Sunday, 4th October 1863, 7 p.m. THE BUSHRANGERS IN BATHURST. - "Last night, about half-past seven, Gilbert, O'Meally, Ben Hall, Burke, and Vane came into the heart of the town and attempted to stick up the shop of Mr McMinn, jeweller, in William-street. Gilbert and O'Meally went into the shop, leaving the others outside, but the screaming of the females in the house raised the alarm, and they beat a retreat. Jumping on their horses, they galloped down William street, and, firing a shot in the air, passed down Howick street, then cantered up George-street, as if going out of town. In a little time, a troop of police were in pursuit, but by a manoeuvre of the bushrangers, they passed them, and so were outgeneralled. The bushrangers, ongoing up George-street, made for the rear of Mr De Clouet's, and entering the house, stuck up the inmates and remained there in cool conversation for fully twenty minutes. They wanted the racehorse Pasha, but at the request of De Clouet, in whose employ Gilbert had at one time been, they relinquished their design and left quietly. Several young men volunteered immediately to go in pursuit, but there was neither ammunition nor caps in the police barracks. It is said that later in the night the police afterwards came up with them and exchanged shots, but without any result. The townspeople are in a fearful state of excitement. It is impossible to describe the state of feeling caused by the visit of this notorious gang of bushrangers." 

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

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

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

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

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

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


NSW Police Gazette
14th October 1863.
As the dust settled as well as the fervour whipped up by the press a full account emerged of the gang's raid on Bathurst printed on the 9th October 1863. However, by now Ben Hall had well and truly passed through the Vale Road trailing the bounty of their raids'The Sydney Morning Herald', of that date; AUDACITY OF THE BUSHRANGERS: THE GANG IN BATHURST. (From the Bathurst Times of Wednesday 7th.) "THE shrieks of a woman in terror, a cry for "Help!" the trampling of horses, the report of a pistol, and the rapid galloping of a body of horsemen, whose figures as they shot through the darkness looked like shadows gliding down the main thoroughfares of the town, were productive of such a scene of consternation and amazement, on Saturday evening, as can never be forgotten by those who have witnessed what we have just described. In an instant, the bewildered inhabitants of the houses within the line of disturbance were at their doors, and almost as quickly the cry of "Bushrangers" passed from lip to lip. To say that astonishment or excitement prevailed does not convey an adequate notion of the stunned and appalling effect produced, as little by little the fact was gradually affirmed that the bushrangers had actually made a descent upon the town. Proceeding in the direction from which the bushrangers had come, we found a crowd assembled outside the shop of Mr M'Minn, the jeweller, in William-street, and there learnt that Gilbert and his gang had made a daring attempt to "stick up" that gentleman's shop. In order that the bushrangers' proceedings may be better understood, we must first inform our readers of the manner in which they were disposed so as to prevent surprise. There were in all five, being as is supposed, O'Meally, Ben Hall, Burke, and Vane - the fifth, Gilbert, having been positively identified.

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


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

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

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


In 1907 Charles White an eyewitness to the famous raid published ‘John Vane, Bushranger’, encompassing Vane’s reminiscence of his membership of the gang shortly after Vane’s death. White detailed Vane’s account of the famous raid, including his many experiences with the gang. However, much of the book is out of sequence in time and place. It is of interest to furtherance the bushrangers actions in the lead-up to all of the events mentioned above. Therefore, after Vane and Hall’s earlier encounter with Machattie and Battye. They returned to their camp re-joining Gilbert, O’Meally and Micky Burke informing them of what had transpired and the challenge the pair had laid out before them. John O’Meally, always game was ready to jump at the chance for action said;Vane op. cit.“We’ll show the beggars whether we’re game or not! It’s a pity one of you didn’t take on the cove that talked fight; either of you could have flattened him out,” However, Hall the cool-headed of the five brushed off O'Meally's taunt of failing to belt the boys, responded;op cit. “Oh, that’s nonsense, we got something better to do than fight with bragging school boys, and neither of them was much better. But, I’ll tell you what; if you are agreeable we will take up their challenge in earnest and go to Bathurst.” Subsequently, a quick discussion ensued on the topic of a run into Bathurst and the boldness of the idea of a challenge having been thrown down for the visit was unanimously accepted. Once more O’Meally said;op. cit. “Well, I’m agreeable to make the next trip to Bathurst the ‘go’ and as the police are all out from the head station we could have a free run in and out, and the affair would make a big sensation; besides which we ought to make a big haul from one of the jewellers. If we go at night the banks will be closed, or we might ‘touch’ one of them.” Accordingly, the run into Bathurst was agreed upon by them all. The raid settled. Vane claimed he expressed the view of maybe obtaining one of the much talked about ‘Revolving Rifles’. That Pedrotta’s gun-shop would most likely hold the modern weapon. Furthermore, Johnny Gilbert stated that he had desires on the thoroughbred racehorse ‘Pasha’ which could be lifted from his former employer De Clouet’s hotel. The gang prepared for the ride to Bathurst selecting their best horses from their stock. The journey which commenced early on Saturday morning the 3rd of October 1863. The bushrangers evading public roads. They travelled by way of Newbridge, Wimbledon, George’s Plains then crossed The Evan’s Plains arriving at the mount known as Bald Hill which overlooked Bathurst. Here the gang rested to wait out the day till the early evening. In the early dusk, the bushrangers prepared to enter the town. Saturday in Bathurst was re-stocking day a day when all the outlying residence attended for the replenishment of their groceries. After which they enjoyed a much needed festive night out. A time when trading hours were not defined. On that night, another five young men on horseback riding through the streets was not an unusual sight. (‘John Vane, Bushranger’, can be accessed from the Links Page, see pages 124-132 inclusive on the Bathurst raid.)

Howick Street, Bathurst.
c. 1871.

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

John Vane.
Reining their horses and unruffled by the sounds of excitement echoing through the town the gang entered De Clouet's via the back fence and made for the stables. Here they came across the hotel's Groom and demanded 'Pasha'. The Ostler informed the bushrangers that Mrs De Clouet had the keys for the stable of 'Pasha'. However, to expedite the snapping up of the horse one of the gang, no doubt O'Meally, said: "Blow out somebodies brains, you'll soon have the keys then". While O'Meally, Burke and Vane waited in the yard, Hall and Gilbert proceeded into the hotel and entered through the back door bailing up all those present. Mrs De Clouet had previously known of Gilbert had a heated exchange with the bushranger. However, Ben Hall became impatient after having heard the gallop of a body of mounted police pass close by told Gilbert to be quick about it. Gilbert frustrated with Mrs De Clouet no doubt through respect for her from his previous employment. Gilbert gave up his chance for the horse. The five bushrangers quickly remounted and headed off down George street towards Milltown. Accordingly, at the corner of George and Lambert street, the gang finally came in contact with the police. On spying the troopers they halted in the hope of not being spotted, but unfortunately, the police also stopped. The bushrangers realised the jig was up. The bushrangers to confuse the troopers in the darkness laid down upon their horse's necks and waited. The faint failed. Whereby the gang clapped their spurs in hard and started at full gallop down a steep fall of ground with the police now alerted instantly firing at the retreating horsemen. Police revolvers roared into action, and they were soon in pursuit of galloping bushrangers who heard the bullets whistle close by their heads. Quick as a wink, the fleeing bushrangers rode into a deep gully yanked their reins hard and turned quickly, hearing the troopers galloping horses pass by. John Vane declared;Vane op.cit. “congratulating ourselves that we had escaped so easily, we were talking and laughing as we rode Hall and I being almost twenty yards behind the other three, when suddenly one of the police galloped past us and when near O’Meally, Gilbert and Burke he commenced firing. The three at once scattered but as Hall and I followed the policeman pretty close he abandoned the chase...” Vane remarks that as the troopers got ahead of him, he and Hall rode hard after them when all of a sudden, a riderless horse passed him by which he believed belonged to Gilbert. Undeterred the pair followed the horse, which in its riderless fright jumped and cleared a creek. In the effort to grab the horse a galloping Vane also launched his horse at the stream but failed to make the jump unseating him. Vane injured said;Vane op.cit. “Hall came up just at this moment and after assuring him that I was not injured I began to search for my hat, striking matches for the purpose. While thus engaged we were startled at the sound of a revolver shot, and as the bullet whizzed rather close we cleared away without the hat, riding a short distance into the scrub, where we found O’Meally and Burke...” Remounting and without concern at their near-miss with the troopers the four turned into George street. Vane recollecting that;op cit. “we headed up that thoroughfare in the direction of the Bald Hill’s again, quietly laughing at the scare we had created, for we could see people running in all directions towards William street...”

Another view from
Bald Hill of  Bathurst.

Courtesy NLA.
After the adrenaline charge skirmish and upon re-grouping Burke informed them that Gilbert had come to a cropper while pursued by the firing police. However, he was sure that Gilbert was not captured, as Burke had seen him running away. Deciding to look for Gilbert, the four secured their horses and on foot went in search but could not find him. Remounting they pushed on and arrived at Bald Hill then headed to their camp near Evan’s Plain where they rested till daybreak. They then returned to their bush camp, and upon arrival, none other than Johnny Gilbert was already present. The wily Gilbert told them that he had jumped off his horse during the pursuit and claimed that the animal baulked at jumping the creek. Whereby O’Meally in disbelief reiterated his long-held view regarding Gilbert’s bravery and stated;Vane op.cit. “you were afraid of the bullets which were flying about; and I believe you will be shot yet when running away for you have no fight in you..," After some heated words between the two antagonists which lasted some ten minutes, Gilbert not liking the ridicule dished out by O’Meally sulked for some time like a spoilt child. However, Gilbert would not let the matter rest and still fuming declared he would separate from O’Meally and go off on his own asking who would join him. His impassioned plea fell on deaf ears as Hall, Burke and Vane declined. Soon after with peace restored, the camp settled down with Gilbert resting some distance off by himself. After Gilbert’s ride in fright, the police recovered the abandoned horse. ‘The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser’, Thursday 8th October 1863; Bathurst- “a horse thoroughly knocked up, supposed to belong to the bushrangers, was brought in by the police last night. It had a saddle with a poncho on it, and a leather buckle to hold a rifle, but was without a bridle...” Their successful escape achieved the bushrangers through their spies and telegraphs learnt that their ‘big sensation’ in Bathurst had created the jitters amongst the townsfolk and that the troopers were out in force searching the scrub. Unperturbed the boys headed for the unprotected Vale Road outside Bathurst to raid the stores and Inn’s scattered along that thoroughfare.

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

Night raid on Bathurst.
Painting by
  Patrick William Marony
  (1858-1939)
Furthermore, through their diligent bush telegraphs the gang remained in relative safety from discovery by the police. The sound information of the police movements saw the gang break camp and head towards the Vale Road leading towards Caloola. The gang transited the road unmolested. Commencing a series of robberies of storekeepers and hotels through the night. The goods acquired from the hard working store and hotel keepers were required often as payment to their various harbourers. The Vale Road raids commenced on the 6th October 1863, on a beautiful clear evening of 20°c. In one instance, during a robbery, the low act of stealing the pocket-money from a child's piggy bank took place; Empire’, Tuesday, 13th October, 1863; MORE BUSHBANGING OUTRAGES (From the Bathurst Free Press, Oct. 10. 1863)- “On Tuesday evening last the inhabitants of the town were again thrown into a state of great, excitement by the announcement that the bushrangers had paid a visit to Mrs. Mutton, who resides within half-a-mile of the town on the Vale road. It appears that Gilbert and his party were anxious to obtain, admission to the store of Mr. Edward Mutton, which is very near to his mother's residence, but the store was closed and all the doors fastened, so that they could not obtain an entrance. Mrs. Mutton heard them, trying to get in at the store door and as she had been anticipating a visit from them she was not surprised to hear them at her own door. She admitted them to the house, and they wanted to obtain possession of the key of the store; but as Mr. E. Mutton was not at hand the key was not forthcoming and Mrs. Mutton told them they might take anything she had, but certainly she would not allow them to rob her children, they then searched the house but could not succeed in finding anything of value to take with them except a small brooch; two shillings Mrs. M. had in her pocket they allowed her to keep. They went into the bed-room and whilst turning over the bedclothes one of them who was holding a candle accidentally set fire to the bed curtains they expressed their regret at the accident and exerted themselves to the utmost in endeavouring to extinguish the flames, in doing which, one of them burnt one of his hands severely, and Mrs. Mutton gave him some Holloway’s ointment with which to dress it. Mrs. Mutton talked seriously to them and they left the house without further interference. Information was immediately conveyed to her son, Mr. John Mutton, whose residence was but a short distance away, when that gentleman hastily rode in for the police, who went out at once, arriving at Mrs. Mutton's about half an hour after the bushrangers had left. It should be understood that Mrs. Mutton's residence is situated on the main road from Bathurst to Caloola, and that when the robbers left the house they proceeded right along, the same road, and turned into Walkers public-house, one mile and a half from Mrs. Mutton's, whereas the police turned at right angles up a lane between the places, and which leads only to a few farms and the ridge beyond. It was about half-past eight o'clock when Gilbert and his mates entered Walker's; the only inmates at the time were Mr Walker, his brother, a woman servant and two children. Three of the gang went into the house, two remaining outside with the horses. They were armed with rifles and revolvers. They searched Mr. Walker and his brother and told the servant and children to be quiet and they would not hurt them. They demanded firearms. Mr. Walker, replied they, had none excepting the fiddle and flute, with which he and his brother were then amusing themselves. The drawers were then searched, and the key of one that, was locked inquired for, from which they abstracted three notes, and took some silver from Mr. Walker himself. They proceeded quietly through the house, not speaking an angry word, and took an old revolver, which had been left at the house to be raffled for. They coolly walked to the blacksmith's opposite, and brought over the son of Vulcan, without trouble and without chains, found nothing upon him and of course couldn't take less. They inquired for horses, but obtaining none quietly left the place. Mr. Walker describes them as all young men, clean well dressed. They stayed there about twenty minutes. The police at this time must have been close at hand, as Captain McLerie with some of his men came up on foot very soon afterwards, having left their horses at some distance. Entering the inn, the gallant Captain seeing Walker smoking, at once ordered the pipe out of his mouth and perambulated the rooms of the house in search for bushrangers.

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

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

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

However, contrary to the above article regarding the Vale Road raid. John Vane recounted that it was he and not Gilbert who suffered the burnt hands when Mrs Mutton's bedroom curtains accidentally caught fire, and that O’Meally had remonstrated with Gilbert for setting the room on fire;op.cit.  “we turned down on to the Vale road and paid a visit to Mutton’s store, where Hall said we might get a little money. The only person in the store when we entered was old Mrs Mutton, and there wasn’t anything in the whole place that would be any use to us. Gilbert then asked Mrs Mutton for money, and she said she hadn't got any, whereupon he said he would look for some; and taking a candle he went into the bedroom to make search. While he was tossing things about the bed-curtains caught fire, and as they were flaring up O’Meally rushed in and rated Gilbert for trying to burn the place down. Gilbert protested that it was a pure accident. I rushed in at the same time, and got my hands well burnt when putting out the flames. The old lady was very kind when she saw what had happened, and got me some Holloway’s ointment to dress the burns, at the same time remonstrating with us for pursuing such evil courses. We took her sermon in good part, and shortly afterward took the road...” Vane goes on to described the raids at Walker’s, M’Diarmid’s and Butler’s, Hen and Chickens hotel, where they only acquired a few pounds, as well as the horse of a German traveller staying at the hotel which became a pack horse. As the evenings banditry ended and the gang had no doubt disposed of their trade, and the police seemingly confused as to the whereabouts of the bushrangers, they took their leave and headed on towards Caloola;op.cit."we made a start for home, and reached a place called the Rock Pond, where we camped till daybreak, laughing quietly with each other as we heard the police clatter along the road past our camping place. Shortly before dawn, rain set in and continued during the whole day, but we left the road and kept to the bush till we came to the 'Big Brother' mountain at the back of Caloola. Suspecting that the police were still ahead of us, we decided to make for the mountains after darkness set in, the office of pilot being given to me. We started a little after dark, keeping off the road, and at the foot of the range we came across fresh tracks of shod horses, which, we concluded, had been made by the party of Bathurst police who were out after us. We followed the tracks for some distance, and I then said to Hall: "They are going in the direction of Teasdale, and will probably stay at the pub there all night, as it is raining; let us push on and pass them there." We therefore pushed on, but had not gone more than four miles through the bush when the darkness became so intense that we could not see the trees. We then dismounted and tried walking, but kept stumbling over roots and logs, and Ben Hall stepped into a stump hole and hurt his back. He then advised waiting for daylight, but I said there was a small paddock not far ahead in which we could camp, although we would have to keep our horse's in hand-all night as the police were in the neighborhood. After a time we reached the paddock, and each man picked out a stout gumtree and crouched by its butt all night, holding the reins of our horses In our hands. There wasn't much poetry in that sort of camping out, but we were well used to roughing it by this time and didn't feel much concerned..."

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

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

Consequently, from the evidence, the police had ample time to pursue the gang. However, for some unknown reason, superintendent Morrisset appeared reluctant to press home his advantage. The lack of pursuit left Ben Hall and gang to ride off unmolested into the night.  However, Captain M’Lerie on hand at Bathurst took to the saddle in search, and with full nobleness, harassed the innocent victims of the gang’s raids. Demonstrating little or no respect or empathy for what they had endured at the point of a gun. The gang were soon after reported in camp, enjoying a very festive time and were not disturbed by any police although their presence was widely acknowledged and reported; ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, 13th October, 1863. HOW THE POLICE GO AFTER THE BUSHRANGERS. (From the 'Bathurst Times', October 10)- "During the whole of Thursday and Friday some very ugly rumours reflecting upon the conduct of the police who went in pursuit of the bushrangers on Tuesday night were in circulation in the town; and, in the exercise of our duty, we now lay before our readers the following statement of facts, as the result of special inquiries made amongst those who were principally concerned in the robberies committed. We do not intend to enter into the minutia of each depredation-our object being to throw some publicity upon the proceedings of the police rather than of the bushrangers-leaving our readers to form their own conclusions. In our last, it will be remembered, we reported that the bushrangers had "stuck up" Mr. Walker's public-house and that the police had been left tracking them on foot. From Mr. Walker's, the robbers proceeded to the store of Mr. M'Diarmid, where they forcibly entered the premises and packed on their horses a variety of goods, consisting of flannel, coats, waistcoats, trousers, woolen plaid, Crimean shirts, tobacco, and other stores, valued at between £40 and £50, besides about twenty-five shillings in silver. The bushrangers, five in number, remained on the premises about three-quarters of an hour, and left at a quarter past nine-the stolen goods being packed in front of their saddles and reaching waist high. They had one pack-horse and owing to there being incommoded by luggage, they (the robbers) were unable to go at a quick pace, so they left the store walking their horses. Ten minutes after they had disappeared a body of police on, foot, numbering twelve, made their appearance under the command of Superintendent Morrisset, and were told of what had occurred and the time that had elapsed since the bushrangers departed. It appeared the horses belonging to the troop had been left some distance down the road in Mr. Lane's paddock, so the police left the store to continue the pursuit on foot. After an absence of ten minutes they came back in a body, and held a consultation as to the propriety of sending for their horses, which course they ultimately decided upon, dispatching some men to bring them up.

Publican Licence
for Henry Butler's
Hen & Chickens
Hotel. 1860.
Whilst waiting, they borrowed four greatcoats, two other coats, and a pair of spurs from Mr M'Diarmid's, and, thus equipped, upon arrival of their horses, they followed the direction taken by the bushrangers. While the bushrangers were in Mr M’Diarmid’s store, a man in his employ distinctly heard the tramp of the police horses as they came up to Mr Lane's paddock. The next places visited by the gang were the butcher's shop belonging to Mr Harper, and the hotel opposite, kept by Mr Butler, called the Hen and Chickens; these being distant from M'Diarmid's over two miles. They arrived as Mr Harper's clock was sinking ten, but here their numbers had increased to nine-it is presumed by the accession of four bush telegraphs. They are described as coming along with the greatest leisure as if inconvenienced by the "swags" they bore before them. They did not search Mr Harper's house but ordered him to go over to the hotel, where they followed him, and took what money they could procure from the landlady- Mr Butler being from home. A lodger in the house (a German), who was asleep in one of the rooms, was woken up by Gilbert and asked if he had any money when he answered, "Only some silver." Not feeling satisfied, Gilbert searched him and found, besides the silver, four or five notes in one of his pockets. He then turned upon the man, accused him of telling a lie, and said it was not their custom to take silver, but as he hated liars, but should do so in his case. This man was a heavy sufferer, as, before going, the robbers took from the stable a horse belonging to him worth £15. The bushrangers treated everyone in the place and having been on the premises altogether about a half-an-hour left, taking the direction of the Native Home Hotel-at a walking pace.

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

What became of the troopers after this we do not know, but we are possessed of information that the bushrangers stopped about two hundred yards above Butler's Public- house, (it is presumed to re-adjust the stores packed on their saddles, as a quantity of sugar was found next morning spilled upon the road) that one of them was singing and another whistling, that a discussion was held as to whether they should go back or not, and that one of them said “if we go back we are sure to meet them" (the police) where upon they went forward. Between eleven and twelve o'clock the robbers are said to have reached the Native Home where it is also said five troopers were in bed, - being a party on their return to Bathurst. there were three drays camped close adjoining, and the bushrangers compelled one of the Teamsters to rise and make them some tea, which he did, and they partook of super, no police making their appearance until six o'clock the following morning. It will be in the recollection of our readers that the Inspector-General of Police himself went out on Tuesday night, and the account of the unwarrantably imperious manner in which he behaved towards several highly respectable inhabitants of the Vale Road is such as to make his conduct highly reprehensible. Of one gentleman, who did not know him, and who did not immediately tell his name upon being asked, he inquired how he "dared" to be so tardy in his reply. As the house of Mr. Roberts, who had received a visit from the bushrangers earlier in the evening, he threatened to have the door burst in, because that individual demurred to open it, as he was fearful the answer made to him upon his asking who was there, was merely a ruse of another pack of marauders. The crowning point was reached at Mr Walker's, where, after a considerable rattling at the door, the posse gained admittance, and Mr Walker was asked very arrogantly, "How dare you smoke in the presence of the Inspector-General of Police?" and ordered to take the pipe out of his mouth. He was then commanded to bring a light and had to submit to the indignity of having his house searched the police minutely inspecting the rooms and looking beneath the beds. Finding nothing worthy of remark, Captain M'Lerie came back to Bathurst. It must be borne in mind that the persons we have alluded to, had each been robbed that very evening. The bushrangers injured them. It was left to Captain M'Lerie to insult them." 

Remains of the Hen & Chicken
Hotel, corner of Vale Rd
and Hen & Chicken
Lane. 2018.

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

Side view of
Hen & Chicken
Hotel.

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

We walked into the bar, where Gilbert, Vane and O'Malley had eight or nine persons bailed up round the bar. Burke was outside with the horses as I went in. Gilbert came up to me, and, putting his hand in my vest pocket, wanted to know where my watch was. "Oh, she’s at home over the way, and watches me pretty closely sometimes." he laughed at the joke, and then went through the others. Gilbert then went into Mrs Butler's bedroom just off the bar, and called to her to come and unlock the drawers. "No, indeed! she said; "I am not coming in there with you—unless Mr. Harper comes too, “Oh,' said Gilbert; he can come if he likes.” I went in, and Mrs. Butler unlocked the drawers.  He turned everything over, looking for cash, but found nothing but wearing apparel, he seemed a bit disappointed, and asked: "Have you no notes or gold in the place?" "Well," said Mrs. Butler, "I would be a flat to keep a lot of cash for you to come and take." We returned to the bar, and he pulled out the till, which contained about 15/s, at the same time saying: "Here! I am going to shout for all hands with this," asking all round what they'd have. As each one named his drink Gilbert called Mrs. Butler to serve it. "No, indeed, I will not," she replied. "You are the bar man; serve them yourself." After we had finished the drinks I walked over home. When I went in O'Meally was sitting in my wife's rocking chair, quite unconcerned, telling them about the exploits of the gang. After talking with them awhile he, walked across to the hotel. On leaving my house O'Meally wished my wife and Miss Melville good-night, at the same time doffing his straw hat. As we went into the bar Gilbert was asking the ostler what sort of horses were in the stables. Going to the door Gilbert took the lantern to view the horses. When walking up to a fine looking colt just being broken in the ostler, grabbed him by the shoulder, exclaiming "Don't go near that brute; he'll kick your brains out." He had hardly said the words when the horse lashed out, kicking, a couple of slabs out of the walls of the stable. Coming up to the next one—a fine bay horse belonging to a man who had put up for the night on his way from Bathurst to Trunkey Creek goldfield he ordered the ostler to take him round to the front. When we got round all the men that had been in the bar were standing outside, among them the horse's owner (a German). On seeing his horse, he wanted to know what they were going to do with him. "Oh," said Gilbert, "I only just want the lend of him till morning; I'll send him back to-morrow." Of course we all laughed at the idea of him sending the horse back. "Now, don't forget to send him back early, as I want, to get home tomorrow," said the owner. (Six months after he had not seen his horse.) Well, after packing this horse with goods—such as tea, sugar, rice, tinned fish, clothing, etc.— which they had taken from M’Diarmid’s store, they had another shout, took a bottle of gin off the shelf, wished us good-night, and started to go. They had not gone far when one of them turned back and asked us to hand up three loaves of bread tied up in a bundle handkerchief, which they had left on a cask standing at the door.

When they left the house it was 20 minutes to 10 by the clock in the bar. They had not got out of sight when my faithful friend Judy (a powerful bitch of the bull-dog- breed, always at my side) set up barking and ran towards a large gum-tree that stood on the bank of the Vale Creek. Being certain that someone was there, f called out: “Who’s that?” A voice from behind the tree: “Is that you, Mr. Harper,” On going up to him I recognised him as a policeman. “Have you seen anything of 'the boys’”' he asked. “Have I seen anything of the boys? Here, come here! Do you hear that?” listening to the sound of the horse's as they tramped; “that's the boys — just left us about three minutes ago.” He ran back along the load, and in a few minutes the super, and eight or nine more rode up. They wanted to know about the boys. “Well, they have just paid us a visit, and just left us after hanging about for a while.” They then tried to induce me to go They then tried to induce? me to go with them, when my wife stopped me. Catching me by the arm, she said: “No; he will not go with you. You are paid to look after them, and he is not going.” That settled it. After further parleying they started, but had not gone far when they came back, and again asked me to go with them. Mrs. Butler tackled them this time with some pretty severe comments upon their shilly-shallying-. And when they finally started we stood for a while discussing why the police returned so soon. — we could not make it out — but on riding up the road the next morning I was shown where the boys had alighted to fix their plunder. A lot of rice and sugar had been spilled on the road, and their boot-tracks were plainly visible. They must have been fixing their swags on the horses when the police left us, the first time. However, we went, to, bed, the clock showing the time as 11.30.


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

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

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


NSW Police Gazette
21 October 1863.
The subject of a declaration of outlaw against the bushrangers had not been canvassed at all during Hall's former mentor Gardiner's reign. However, in frustration, Mr Martin, who would eventually make the future outlaw decision, was unsatisfied with the government's attitude. Therefore, Martin began the process of gathering his forces and moved another step closer to unseating the Colonial Secretary. Furthermore, to add salt into the wound, Martin accused the Premier of lying to the Parliament over his deception. As a result, Martin sought a vote of 'No Confidence' in the Premier;'The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News’, Saturday 10th October 1863; Mr Martin moved the adjournment of the House, with the view of bringing under notice the conduct of the Government, and especially of the Colonial Secretary, with reference to the disclosures just made, and which, if the newspaper statements were to be credited, showed that the honourable gentleman had been guilty of a suppression of the truth. Threatened, Cowper acted quickly to save the day and in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of the 8th of October, the government gazetted a new reward for the apprehension of the whole of the gang. This time Cowper hoped the new offer would sway a harbourer, although Gilbert's current value remained the same as his day's of riding with Gardiner, £500; BATHURST. Wednesday, 9 p.m. "The committee appointed to consider the best means for capturing the bushrangers have, with the sanction of the Government, issued placards, offering £2500 reward for the apprehension of the five Bushrangers-Gilbert, O'Meally, Bourke, Vane, and Ben Hall, or £500 each." ($207, 500 or $41,000 each in today's value.)


Sir James Martin
(1820-1886)
The increase of rewards for the bushrangers appeared to do little to appease the members of parliament. Consequently, moves were afoot to oust the Colonial Secretary. Many members were agitating for a change of direction over the trouble being caused by Ben Hall, John Gilbert, John O'Meally, John Vane and Micky Burke. The main protagonist was James Martin, a savvy lawyer and former defence counsel in the earlier Eugowra trials of February 1863. Mr Martin sought alliances with those opposed to the path that Cowper’s Secretaryship was leading the colony. Moreover, the much-heated debate on the bushranger debacle including the latest and most brazen raid on the town of Bathurst, as well as the unacceptable financial state of the colony. Mr Martin rallied his forces and struck. Cowper's Secretaryship ended in a call for an adjournment vote of the parliament. The Cowper government's inadequacies, not only in the matters of the NSW police but compounded by sharp criticism of the States diabolical financial position beset by the fiscal drain Ben Hall and gang were commanding on the coffers of the colony which ultimately saw Mr Cowper fall on his sword. Furthermore, a Mr Piddington, a staunch ally of Martin's, was another who vigorously attacked the government over these matters and encouraged members to support the demise of the Colonial Secretary; "the outrages of bushrangers were more flaring than had ever been known in the history of the colony. Ample power had been given for the repression of these outrages, and it was a disgrace to the colony, that four or five bushrangers could perpetrate these glaring enormities in the focus of a district furnished with such means of police protection. This state of affairs was the more reprehensible, when it was borne in mind that the colony was now incurring an annual police expenditure of upwards of a quarter of a million sterling..."¹³ On Wednesday 7th October, Mr Martin rose in the house and said; “as to conflicting statements as to the condition of the finances made by two of the leading members of the Government, and on the confused statements contained in the accounts presented to the house, from which it was almost impossible to collect the true financial position of the country...”¹⁴ Accordingly, Mr Martin's through this action achieved the resignation of Charles Cowper. The scuttled Premier complied and tendered his resignation to the Governor, Sir John Young on the 8th October, 1863;[sic] “Mr. Cowper announced that, in consequence of the vote of the House on the past night, he and his colleagues in office had tendered their resignation, and that they only held office until their successors were appointed, and he moved therefore that the House adjourn until Tuesday next.” This state of affairs created a scramble by those members led by Cowper’s former deputy Mr Forster, a former Premier, commence an attempt to hold on to power and form a government. However, this proved unachievable, and a disappointed Mr Forster informed the Governor, Sir John Young of the news whereby the Governor invited Mr Martin to form a government. After a short deliberation, Mr Martin went about recruiting a new minority government to be made up of unaligned members, which he duly achieved. The new ministry was sworn in on the 15th of October, 1863. Mr Martin gracious in victory retained Cowper's ally Mr Forster in the cabinet. The first order of business for Martin was Ben Hall;[sic] "on Monday last, the now Ministry were sworn in by his Excellency. The first official act was to take active measures to strengthen the hands of the police, with the hope of capturing the bushrangers..."

Nevertheless, the sudden changes in leadership with Mr Martin in control appeared to have little or no effect on Ben Hall and the gang. However, undeterred by the mass of New South Wales police traversing the Rockley-Bathurst-Carcoar district in search of them the bushrangers remained in their camp while the troopers floundered in the surrounding bush. Their partying was commented on by local residents stating that they were having the time of their life as they celebrated their recent successes with singing, dancing and target shooting and recounting their joy at the embarrassment they had inflicted; THE BUSHRANGERS — "Private information reached us last night that the gang of ruffians, who so lately made a raid upon our town, are camped, in a dense scrub, twelve miles from Rockley, in the direction of Carcoar. The intelligence is contained in a letter which states that the fires of the party can be seen for a considerable distance round. The writer says the bushrangers are enjoying a lengthy carousal— indulging in a variety of amusements such as singing, dancing, &c. &c, — and that no police have been seen in the neighbourhood. Considerable anxiety is naturally felt by the inhabitants in the vicinity, who look with alarm upon the close proximity of such desperadoes."¹⁵ In turn, throughout their recent triumph's the bushrangers were consolidating the public's long-held view regarding the ineptness of their constabulary. The recent sojourn by the gang would after a short period end and unmolested by police they broke camp and headed once more onto the Queens roads. However, news was about to break of a deed so audacious that their Bathurst raid would be considered a dull affair.  In conjunction with the success of Ben Hall's current gun blazing harassment and raids of the surrounding local settlements and towns which were often referred to as the 'Troubled Districts', further south in the Wagga Wagga surrounds the bushranger Daniel 'Mad Dog' Morgan's depredations were still reverberating in the press as well as Hall's with stories of Morgan perpetrating heinous deeds and vicious robberies, and in one particular case that could only be described as a very suspicious death of one of Morgan's cohorts named Clarke who was found dead in suspicious circumstances. The incident was reported as a dark affair, as Clarke had been discovered peppered with bullet wounds and dead as a door-nail. At first the killing appeared, it was said, as self-inflicted, but the death raised the macabre idea and quite possibly the scenario of Morgan doing the killing himself for his own survival. Morgan's psychotic reputation made Ben Hall look like a choir boy! MORGAN THE BUSHRANGER. - "The Wagga Wagga express hears that this miscreant has been seen about Piney Ridge within the last week but not engaged in depredation. There is a twofold rumour afloat of his mate Clarke, one as to his having shot himself from apprehension of falling into the hands of justice the other of a darker dye, that Morgan has made away with him a view to his own safety from discovery."¹⁶ However,  as Morgan raged Ben Hall and gang had not yet faced a situation where a falling out of the magnitude that saw Morgan often turn on his accomplices rise. However, as a sense of betrayal and paranoia had not at present reared its ugly head friction amongst the bushrangers was never far from the surface especially with Gilbert and O'Meally often at loggerheads over this and that, such as the following encounter in which O'Meally again jeeringly accused Gilbert of his lack of pluck;Vane op.cit “you were afraid of the bullets which were flying about; and I believe you will be shot yet when running away for you have no fight in you...” These outbursts were always followed by a very heated exchange between the two bushrangers which almost caused a fracture, however, Gilbert in his anger was never unable to convince Hall, Vane or Burke to leave O'Meally, therefore, Gilbert would go off and sulk for a short time. However these cat-fights would continue to become not uncommon amongst the five bushrangers that would ultimately see in the near future Vane kicked out. 

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

Nevertheless, the five bushrangers had departed their former area of operations around Bathurst following their 'Big Sensation' in a leisurely manner with recent newspaper reports stating that the gang appeared to be in genial spirits, as they traversed the country unperturbed by the large police presence scouring all points of the compass surrounding them. However, the gangs contumelious Bathurst raid was up to this time still the most brazen achievement by any bushrangers and the audacity of visiting that provincial town was still reverberating throughout the colony which would in the days ahead be surpassed.


Reputed photo of
Pierce's Canowindra

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


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


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

Bill Robinson, Publican
with daughter Beatrice.
c. 1880's
Departing Grant's the bushrangers rode on towards the nondescript sleepy township of Canowindra. Canowindra had been established in the mid-1840's and existed mainly as a centre for the remote stations and its crossing point over the Belubula river to the larger town of Cowra. The settlement was also crucial due to the permanence of a Post-Office then operated by a Nicholas Daly who also held the lucrative job of Poundkeeper for the Belubula district. The Post-Office benefited the small town through a weekly mail coach from Carcoar, but unfortunately, it was disadvantaged as a district centre of importance due to the lack of a proper and year-round crossing of the Belubula River. Therefore, for the bushrangers, the town was a perfect spot for a hiatus. Consequently, with the Belubula River commencing a flood, the rising waters created a natural blockade against any police arriving from the larger nearby town of Cowra 20 miles to the south and a main command post for the police and as such would prevent any attempt to snare the bushrangers. The unrelenting wet weather had also been another factor for the gang's visit. As it was reported that Ben Hall had had enough of sleeping rough and being cold, damp and miserable. Consequently, in the early morning hours of the 12th October 1863, (there are conflicting reports as to morning or night, but police evidence points to a.m.) Canowindra would be awakened with the arrival of the much-heralded bushrangers. They rode smoothly into the town just as folks began to stir for the day's labours and the encamped teamsters with their parked drays lined-up were preparing the bullocks and putting the billy on the boil for breakfast. Without undue notice, the bushrangers approached the hotel of Bill Robinson, dismounted and set about securing the town; "Ben Hall then remained on guard, and despatched Gilbert and O'Meally as messengers to the two sentinels at the township approaches. By that time, it was beginning to be sufficiently light for easy movement and the four men next went on pre-arranged sectors, galloping across paddocks and herding into the town all horses found within a mile of it. That was a precaution against news being taken to the police at Cowra, some twenty miles away. Shortly after the horses had been placed in a fenced paddock nearby, the hotel opened its doors in the normal way, but with the precaution that at each end of the verandah, leaning against a post, stood a bushranger. Another was inside the barroom. There were a number of teamsters camping in the town and most of them called along for an early-morning drink before resuming their journey. They were commanded to remain in the town until further orders. Ben Hall then announced that no one was to leave the town without a written permit, and stated that no harm would be done to anyone unless they attempted treachery...”¹⁹ This was the prequel too then the commencement of the afterwards much heralded 'Robbers Jubilee'. Furthermore, as the townsfolk were rounded up and assembled Ben Hall and Vane reputedly negotiated the fast-rising Belubula River entering the south side of Canowindra on a shared horse to a hotel reputedly 'The Travellers Rest', so as to ensure and prevent anyone capable of getting a message to the police in Cowra from doing so. The whole of the affair and its three day festivities are transcribed below;

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

On getting out O'Meally, who was present, saw a revolver in Mr. Kirkpatrick's possession and presenting one of his own weapons at that gentleman's head, he compelled him to give it up, remarking that they did not require it, but as it might be used against them it was as well to take the precaution of keeping it out of harm's way. He promised, however, to leave it at Mr. Loudon's residence at Grubbenbong, as they intended to pay him another visit before long. This, and the robbery of the £3 already mentioned, were the only items of violence committed during their stay. A first class dinner was ordered for the three gentlemen, and the cost of this as well as every thing else called for, was defrayed by the gang. Every dray and team that passed was stopped, and the men belonging to them were lodged, fed, and supplied with drink, free of expense. There were twelve or fourteen drays drawn up in a line, and not the slightest attempt was made to interfere with the loading they contained. Bundles of cigars, purchased by Gilbert, as required, were thrown loosely on one of the tables in the public-house, for all who cared about smoking them, and a huge pile of sweetmeats was also provided to suit the taste of others. Everyone was empowered to call for what he liked, but the bushrangers drank nothing but bottled ale and porter, the corks of which they insisted upon having drawn in their presence. Great festivities were kept up, and from the description given of the gang, they entertained not the slightest apprehension of being disturbed, and did not seem to think that they were incurring any risk.

World News illustration of
Ben Hall marching

Constable Sykes. c. 1950
Courtesy NLA.
Later that morning, various contests were organised, the most popular being shooting matches, and none of the participants even thought of using the bushrangers as a target, though a little excitement was caused at one point by someone dropping a carbine accidentally. It went off, the contents just missing O'Meally's leg. Laughing Johnnie Gilbert, as was his habit, saw much humour in the incident, especially in the way O'Meally leapt into the air, and no serious result arose. To some of the residents in the neighbourhood who desired to visit their homes, leave of absence of an hour's duration was granted, passes, being given to them, duly signed, in one or two instances, where the time allowed was exceeded by the pass holder Ben Hall went after them, but on meeting the individuals returning, he contented himself with admonishing them for their transgression. On one occasion, Ben Hall said he must go and look after the policeman, and getting on his horse he rode to the barracks, where it seems a constable is stationed, and ordering the man to fix the bayonet to his gun, and place his revolver in his waist, he drove him before his horse down to the hotel, where the others amused themselves with him for a little time, and taking his arms way, told him to go in and enjoy himself till he received further orders. There were about forty persons detained altogether, and the reason given for adopting this course was that they had a number of scouts out, who they were desirous should return before any one left the town, they recounted several of their exploits, and expressed a lively contempt for policemen generally, and their officers in particular-saying that when the police came all they had to do was to ride away. It is said that Messrs. Hibberson, Twaddell, and Kirkpatrick, were anxious to resume their journey, and, upon representing to Hall the fact that the river was rising, and unless they were allowed to go at once they might be detained for days before they could cross, they were allowed to take their departure at four o'clock in the afternoon. It is said that the bushrangers were in Canowindra at least three full days, during which they acted the parts of rollicking, good-tempered fellows, treating everybody they met, and paying for all they took."²⁰

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

Courtesy NLA.
For the settlers of Canowindra and district the occurrence of the gangs visit would later be reminisced in terms that could only be reviewed as a great distraction to the sometimes mundane and isolated life of the people of the remote town and stations as they danced the night way at the gangs expense; “but free drinks were not the only form of entertainment provided. During the morning, various people arrived in the settlement on business from outlying homesteads. Included among these was a young woman able to play the piano. She was requested, quite politely, to favour the company with dance music, and intermittent dancing helped to pass away the morning. All prisoners were next provided with a good lunch, also at the expense of the bushrangers, who were beginning to be quite popular. By afternoon all apprehension had evaporated. The citizens decided it was not every day their town was captured by outlaws, and that the occasion ought to be celebrated with due jollity. Another teamster had arrived. He had a concertina. This made a variation to the piano for dancing, so that by evening time the whole party was able to have a really fine time, the bushrangers (generally two at a time) participating and enjoying a thoroughly sociable interlude to their usually hazardous life. Altogether, this impromptu ball was such a success that it continued till dawn, as is the habit of the bush, after which the women and children were allowed to go to the bedrooms for a sleep. The men had to take what slumber they could get seated round the dining-room table, head in arms. The members of the gang seemed to be impervious to any such need...²¹ As the third day laboured on and following the request to get on the road by three of the detainees Hibberson, Twaddell, and Kirkpatrick Ben Hall agreed and they were allowed to depart. The bushrangers themselves also made preparation to move on“an hour later, Hall ushered all the guests onto the verandah. O'Meally was still on guard there and the bushrangers' horse’s, fine thoroughbreds stolen from rich squatters were tethered to the posts. Hall and Gilbert gravely thanked everyone for their attendance, paid Robinson the final reckoning for the party, and galloped off. As they rode off the three young outlaws waved gaily back at the crowd on the verandah. For nearly 60 hours they had held a whole township captive-five men against 40. They had danced with pretty women, eaten good food again, sung songs and laughed with other people-a change from the grim hide-and-seek they played with the police in the ranges..."²² Nevertheless, for the unfortunate constable Charles Sykes this had been his second time he had been accosted by Ben Hall, however, to Sykes credit he had at least made an attempt to cross the rising Belubula River to get word to Cowra, unfortunately, due to its fast flowing waters blocking his path he was soon discovered when Ben Hall had got wind of his leaving and rode quickly to intercept him on the road a short distance from Sykes' home, here Hall returned him at the point of a revolver marching him back to Robinson's Hotel; "While the morning was still reasonably young, Ben Hall strolled out of the hotel-bar, limping slightly, as usual, due to one of his legs having been broken, unhitched the reins of his horse from the hitching rail, and cantered away in the direction of the police barracks. After all, it is no use conquering a city and leaving its official defenders to wander free. Before long he returned. Ahead of him walked the one constable of the settlement, with rifle at the shoulder and bayonet fixed. The officer, thus armed, was then ordered to march up and down in front of the hotel, as though on parade, and, having no mistaken ideas, either of valour or duty, he obeyed. After a brief while Ben Hall strolled outside and relieved the constable of his arms, telling him to go and enjoy himself with the others..."

Later in January 1864, at the subsequent trial into Vane's bushranging rampage with Ben Hall and gang, Charles Sykes gave an account of both of his encounters with the bushrangers, first remarking on the encounter on the 26th September 1863, and then the October visit to Canowindra, from the 'Empire', Friday, 15th January, 1864: Constable Sykes, being sworn, said: "I am stationed at Canowindra, I saw prisoner on the 26th September last; he was in company with Hall, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Burke; I was going down the town about half-past seven in the evening, and they all stuck me up when near Robinson's public-house; I had no arms at the time; they took, me to Robinson’s public house, and kept me a prisoner until five o'clock the next morning; they were drinking during the night; I could not get away as they watched me closely; they went backwards and forwards to the store during the night; there were between twenty and thirty people in the house; the men were all well-armed at the time; I saw; Vane again on the 15th October with the same party; I was away for a short time, and when I returned I was informed by my wife that my arms had been taken away by Hall; I had a carbine and a horse pistol-they were both taken; I then left to go to Cowra, and was stuck-up by Hall near my own house; I saw Vane at the same time at some little distance away from Hall; Hall ordered me to stand, and I was taken to the public-house; that was about eight o'clock in the morning, and I was kept a prisoner until about four o'clock; Gilbert, O’Meally, and Burke were there; there were between twenty and thirty people there; when I left Vane told me he would get me the arms back, and they were afterwards given to me; I did not see the bushrangers any more after that time." After the constables ordeal Sykes expressed this comment his capture and treatment by the gang, especially Gilbert; “they detained the constable a close prisoner from the time of his arrest, until eight o’clock on Wednesday morning. The prisoner speaks very highly of the kindness he met with from Gilbert; and does not seem to have suffered any indignity at the hands of his captors. During the time of his captivity, Gilbert showed the constable a pistol taken from the police camp; and asked whether, in the event of its being returned loaded to him, he would shoot Gilbert; to which he replied, that "he might if he got a chance." "Then," said Gilbert, "to do away, with any chance you might have, I'll fire it off for you." After discharging the pistol, he handed it to the constable, remarking that such arms were useless to them, we learn from the constable, that they rode splendid nags, though rather light in condition, and that they took the police paddock fence like a bird...” ³⁰ Constable Sykes also attested to Gilbert's leadership of the five bushrangers, although this assumption could be disputed; "Gilbert is described as possessing the most unlimited authority over the rest of the band. His every command is law, no one daring to dispute it; and at night, while one of the five keeps watch, the other four slept soundly, and with the utmost confidence and reliance upon the watchfulness and good faith of their mate on sentry. The same men, on this visit to Canowindra, gave a look in at Mr. Pierce's, and took £12 in money; and about £30 worth of goods...”³¹ Gilbert's former position as Frank Gardiner's lieutenant appeared to still hold true under the new regime. However, at this stage Gilbert still wielded some influence with his bushranging fraternity, although this was obviously tenuous as Ben Hall appeared, as often reported, as the leader and that during the three day's of festivities at Canowindra the residents deferred to Hall for any matters to be resolved. Hall's leadership is also attested to and was noted as organising the bushrangers as guards at various points as well as mustering those about the town and allowing passes to be issued so residents could return home for a period of time; "Ben Hall next announced that no one was to leave the town without a written permit, and stated that no harm would be done to anyone unless they attempted treachery. Although Ben spoke in a quiet voice, there was such a stamp of authority about his presence, and such a tone of determination in his speech, that no one felt inclined to resist. Ben Hall was not only quiet of speech, but of appearance and behaviour. He wore a dark tweed suit, slouch hat, Wellington boots. There was nothing of menace, nothing of boastfulness in his manner, and had it not been for the points of two revolvers just showing below his coat, he would have passed for an ordinary, rather prosperous, squatter. His beard helped to hide his fine features, and also his youth, making him look more like 37 than his correct 27..." (Charles Sykes would retire from the force in 1872 on a pension of £126 per year) Consequently, with the festivities having concluded, this was illustrated regarding the bushrangers standing amongst some of the local farmers;[sic] "The bushrangers remained until evening, the town having been in their possession for three full days, three gala days, three days which established their popularity, announced to the world that they did not rob or kill as a pastime, and which served as a direct challenge to the police parties that during those three days were out searching the surrounding bush for the outlaws. It was a remarkable piece of audacity on the part of the bushrangers, whose resultant prestige was enhanced greatly by the fact that all the expenses of those three days of jollity were borne by them." It must also be mentioned that as gracious as Ben Hall and gang appeared, and the costs of the three days being covered by the gang, the funds provided, however, were not earned through hard toil, but from the point of a revolver on some hapless victim who on the occasion was no doubt terrified for his life.


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

Courtesy NLA.

Furthermore, the initial newspaper reports of the gang's arrival at Canowindra gave the impression that the publican Bill Robinson had been absent. However, this appears to be incorrect as once again at Vane's future court hearing, Bill Robinson gave a brief account of the situation, and where he does state that at the first raid in late September he was absent from Canowindra. Robinson's testimony in some instances varies from the newspaper accounts of the gangs doing over the three-day hiatus. John Vane, however, fails to recall any of the three-day's affairs in his Charles White narrated 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 Mogong. O'Meally took one of my horses, the others went away in about an hour. At about 8 o'clock at night Burke and O'Meally came back again, and at 10 o'clock Gilbert, Vane, and Hall came to look for them, the night was very wet, and Hall said they could not camp out without blankets, and he had no money, he asked the strangers in the house if they had any money, and on their saying no he turned to me and said I must have done well that day, and ordered me to turn out, my pockets that he might see what I had. I did so, there being £3 in notes and £2 in silver, he took the notes and returned the silver, he went over to Mr. Pierce's stores to get some blankets, they paid for everything they got at the store after the first time they robbed it. When the bushrangers left this time they did not return until after Burke was shot. I then asked them where Vane was, and they said they had left him behind, for since Burke had been shot he was no good, they had some drinks, and offered to pay, for them, but as I heard that the money was a portion of Mr. Keightley's ransom money I declined to take it; they then went away and I have not seen them since, before going away they told me not to give information to the police, as they wished to get away. I had given information on both the previous occasions. I know John Vane as one of the men who came to my house.”

View of Canowindra, c. 1901.
Taken from southside
looking north. In 1863 there
 was no bridge over the
Belubula River.
Hall and Vane crossed close
 to this point and
Robinson pitched his bottle
across.
Courtesy Canowindra
Historical Society.
Meanwhile, as Robinson's lay under siege of the bushrangers. The police were not without their own intelligence sources and were quite aware of the gang's presence in the district but at this stage not in the town. Even so, again the leadership of the NSW Police and its scene of action commander stationed at Cowra, Superintendent William Chatfield procrastinated and instead of following the orders of his superior bickered with the Inspector-General Captain McLerie over absurd administrative issues as the gang were carousing at Canowindra. Chatfield complaint regarded the transfer of many of his troopers into Sir Frederick Pottinger’s command. He argued that it diminished his effectiveness, and in brisk telegrams complained over his depleted forces. A situation that shortly would become diabolical for him.  The lack of reaction to the rangers presence would ultimately see him dismissed from the NSW police force; (I have placed a number of those memo's below to demonstrate the petty nature of their content as well as the infighting between the inspectors;) Telegram, 5th October 1863;"My dear sir, I have just seen a note from Mr. Orridge to Sir F. Pottinger, by which I am led to believe you wish me to proceed to Canowindra; I start accordingly tomorrow for that place; my party, however, only consists of three men besides myself. I do not think it quite fair, as Superintendent of a district, to have my best men taken away from me and to be sent about the country with a party so small. Had I a larger party I might perhaps have been able to do something, but with three I shall have enough to do to protect myself should I by chance meet the bushrangers." signed, Wm. Chatfield.²³ Consequently, Chatfield departed for Canowindra, but as the events demonstrated he was too late for any effective action. Regardless, after a fruitless search for the bushrangers in foul weather. Chatfield returned irate to Cowra. Therefore, with his mind on administrative issues once again, Chatfield again lamented to the Chief of the reduced size of his force and another telegram was fired off on the 12th October 1863. Meanwhile, simultaneously Ben Hall and entourage rode casually into Canowindra; Telegram, Cowra, 12th October 1863; "Sir, - I have the honour to report, for your information that I returned to Cowra yesterday and intend to retrace my steps towards Canowindra tomorrow. My party is so small, consisting of three constables besides myself, that I fear I could not do much towards the capture of the bushrangers should they again visit Canowindra. I beg, therefore, to request that, if possible, it may be strengthened by at least two, and this request I make with the more confidence, having brought nine constables with me from my own to the South-eastern district." signed, Wm. Chatfield.²⁴ The Inspector General who was at present in Bathurst taking control of the search for the gang after their success at Bathurst expedited a returned a telegram acknowledging Chatfield's circumstances and as requested had dispatched two constables, one of which was mounted to Cowra; Telegram from Inspector General; “reporting your arrival at Cowra on the 11th, and your intended return to Canowindra on the 13th, and to acquaint you, in reply, that a senior constable and, one constable (mounted) has been detailed for duty at Canowindra. The senior constable will hand you this communication; and if nothing is heard of the presence of the bushrangers in the vicinity of that township, you on will leave the party sent from Bathurst for permanent duty at Canowindra, and return with the party under your orders to Cowra, and there wait for further instructions..."²⁵ Furthermore, in the same telegram reply to Chatfield, and what could only be perceived as a rebuke, the Inspector-General he reminded Chatfield of what he had previously intended for Chatfield’s small party of police to achieve; "I may add, that it was not intended, with your small party, that you should have gone in pursuit of the bushrangers, but that you should have watched the Lachlan and have ascertained whether the gang had crossed that river towards the Young district." signed, Captain McLerie.²⁶

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

Canowindra, Wednesday,

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

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


Artist contemporary
impression of
Sir Frederick Pottinger with

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

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

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

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


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

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

Furthermore, with the Canowindra festivities concluded, the five bushrangers depart and after their brush with the flooded Belubula River, they rode northward towards Murga. Murga is situated on the fringe of the now named Nangar State Forest and where after accessing the Forbes to Orange road, the very same road which 16 months previously Hall Gilbert and O’Meally had participated in robbing the Eugowra Gold Escort in-company with Frank Gardiner, the bushrangers pushed on and formed a camp nearby. However, law-abiding citizens kept the NSW troopers appraised of the gang's whereabouts, unfortunately, this important intelligence appeared to produce no urgency except to have the police traversing from one reported sighting to another but not near the described camps. Even so, at times the searching troopers were overloaded with information and became completely confused. At times probably through frustration and possibly fear troopers often resorted to drinking spirits whilst on duty or in camp. No doubt for the Dutch courage required to confront the five desperadoes who had murder in their repertoire. This turning to booze had five troopers led by a senior constable Wright who following some complaints from citizens faced the wrath of Sir Frederick Pottinger who was furious over their lack of discipline and dragged the offenders in front of a magistrate charged with 'Neglect of Duty'; The case was brought by Sir Frederick Pottinger against five men of the police force, for neglect of duty, by being drunk and unfit for duty and that at a time when their energies were most required to track and apprehend the band of bushrangers that have lately been keeping this portion of the Western and South-western districts in a state of lawlessness and fear hitherto without precedent in the history of the colony. Senior Constable Wright, constable Mannix, constable Simpson, constable Hamilton and constable Cox were charged by Sir F. Pottinger with misconduct and neglect of duty They pleaded not guilty, and were defended by Mr James, solicitor, from Forbes.”³³


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a more comprehensive account of the correspondence between M'Lerie and Chatfield over the Ben Hall debacle see pages 2 and 3 in link below;

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


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


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


David Campbell
c. 1890's.

Courtesy NLA.
On the 16th October 1863, 'The Five' conducted several hold-ups in the neighbourhood of Murga one of the first hold-ups being the Forbes mail coach where earlier in the day an old friend of Ben Hall's and reputed bush telegraph had been sent out to canvass the scheduled passing of the outgoing Forbes coach. However, as the man observed the passing coach looking for police and seeing none present he quickly turned on his heels to report to Hall the situation including the coach driver's encounter with a local and influential landholder Mr David Campbell, who was the lessee of Goimbla station. Mr Campbell was a well-known advocate of suppressing bushranging and had a desire to see the end of Ben Hall. The Telegraph had seen Campbell pull-up the coach and inform the passengers to be on the alert for Hall and Co. Campbell saw it as his duty as with many other graziers to assist the police in the pursuit of the bushrangers. Campbell was also in-company with his brother;[sic]“David Campbell made no pretence as to his intentions with regard to the outlaws under discussion, and who did such desperate deeds along the Lachlan-side in those days—he stood out prominently, amongst a number of sympathisers, as one man at least who would show them no quarter.” 

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

Later the same day as Campbell rode on, with Ben Hall's old pal having reported the passing of the pursuers the bushrangers with the latest intelligence consequently descended on the town of Murga; “YESTERDAY morning, the bushrangers- we suppose them to have, been Gilbert and Co.-stuck up German Jack's well-known hostelries, at Murga. We did not hear that they took anything. They next visited Mr. Hanley, next door to German Jack's, where they possessed themselves of seven pounds, and then departed. They said they were going to Goimbla, and that they would “Shave.” Campbell, and "warm" Barnes. Fortunately, it was not our Barnes not the Barnes of Cobb and Co., -but, as we suppose, an overseer of Mr. Campbell. The next thing the maunders did was to stick up the coach- a feat they accomplished at a place about three miles on the Forbes side of Murgah. Jerry was driving, and the number of "rangers" five. These gentry asked for the mail, and found there was none. They then asked for firearms, when the same answer being returned-they left."⁴² In 1920, an eyewitness to the gangs visit to Murga, Mr Edmund Rymer then 15 yrs old, once more recounted that days activities. 'Forbes Advocate'"One morning early, Ben Hall, with his gang of men, including J Gilbert, J. O'Meally, J. Vane, and J. Burke, visited my father's hotel. After having two rounds of refreshment in the bar. Hall asked for my father, who was absent, at Molong on business. They informed my mother they had no intention of interfering with the hotel or the inmates, and not to be alarmed. They left two half-crowns on the counter for their refreshments, and went over to the other hotel about 100 yards distant, held up the inmates, took their money, and also took all the money the butcher possessed. The butcher, imagined there was something doing and was getting out the back door with his money when one of the gang came on the scene and demanded his roll of money. He took the gold and notes and returned the cheques to the butcher."⁴³


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


With limited success in the Murga region the gang conscious of the police searching in the vicinity broke camp and commenced the ride back towards Canowindra passing over Nyrang Creek, skirting the township and taking up the track parallel to the Belubula River, heading in the direction of Orange, and the rough country of nearby Mount Canoblis. As the gang arrived at a good reach of flat along the banks of the Belubula they once more made camp and here the bushrangers took advantage of the fine weather swimming in the cool waters of the river. However, always vigilant for signs of the NSW police, Ben Hall sent a scare through the group whilst they were stripped naked in the water upon hearing horses coming through the scrub called out to the others to scarper. Luckily the approaching horses after closing within 800 yards veered off as the gang were racing to gather their clothes and weapons;Vane op.cit. "as the weather was comfortably warm we let the horses feed on the flat till the next day and amused ourselves with swimming. We were all stripped, and had left our guns and revolvers on the bank of the river with our clothes, and while we were in the water Hall called out that he could hear the sound of horses coming through the bush. We at once ran to our clothes, but before we could dress we saw seven policemen riding up the flat. I grabbed my gun and ran to my horse, which was near at hand, but before I could mount the police had turned off and headed for the town. We concluded that they had not seen us, although we were not more than 800 yds distant..." The police party was no doubt led by the aforementioned Inspector Chatfield. Furthermore, dissension soon raised its head in the gang and a petty squabble erupted between Vane and Gilbert over some victuals that saw the two come to blows;op.cit. "After travelling over some very rough hills until about midday we halted to have a 'snack. Burke and I acted as cooks on the occasion, grilling slices of the bacon on the hot coals; but there was none for Gilbert, and when he saw this he coolly stepped over and took a slice of mine. I told him to put it down, but he commenced to laugh, and I at once struck him a blow in the mouth with my fist, and the row commenced in earnest. But before we could get fairly going Hall and O'Meally seized Gilbert, while Burke stood before me. Then Hall asked Gilbert if he was determined to flight, and he replied 'yes' 'Very well, then,' said Hall, give me your firearms;" and we at once handed over our revolvers to Hall and O'Meally. who took charge of them while, we tested the soundness of each other's heads and ribs. I, being the taller, gave Gilbert the higher ground, and for a time he laid it on to me fairly well, but I suddenly caught him one in the throat, and from that time could do pretty well what I liked with him until he gave in. But we were not allowed the firearms until we became friends again..." However, whether or not Vane had the better of Gilbert is up for debate as later Vane was reported carrying a significant black eye whereas Gilbert showed no signs of a scuffle.


As the bushrangers leisurely made their way toward Orange, it had been reported earlier that as Ben Hall had departed Canowindra and prior to the gang's descent on Murga and its surrounds there appeared to have been a malicious encounter with a local squatter named Grant and incinerated his home. However, it is unlikely to have been the home of Thomas Grant as the police charged earlier with Neglect of Duty had been on a number of occasions at Grant's 'Falls Station' after the raid on Canowindra and had observed no malice perpetrated by the gang. However, it had been reported in the newspapers that the gang reputedly had burnt down a homestead of a man named Grant over his suspected collusion with the police. "the same night the ruffians stuck-up Mr. Grant's place on the Belubula, and burnt it down, to wreak their vengeance on the owner, who had dared on a former occasion to give information to the police. They said they were overlooking him when he was directing the police, and saw him point out their tracks..."⁴⁴ However, exactly who suffered is unknown or if in fact it ever happened? Furthermore, the Grant family had been highly respected as longtime residents of the Canowindra district having been settled there for well over thirty years holding extensive property throughout the fertile reaches of the Belubula River. At the time of the Canowindra raid, there were recorded three Grant's all brothers who owned three properties on the outskirts of the town. They were George D Grant who held the ‘Grove’, John Grant ‘Belubula’ and Thomas Grant ‘The Falls’. Moreover, it is difficult to ascertain as to which home was burnt down. As prior to the arrival of Ben Hall at Canowindra on the 12th of October 1863 it had been reported that ‘The Boys' had paid a brief visit to the property of Thomas Grant’s ‘The Falls’ where it was said that[sic]“they committed no mischief there,” and after a short conversation departed. (see above) However, the incident regarding the destruction of one of the Grant's family homes may well be only Chinese Whispers, and not based on any other substantial evidence! 


Model 1855 .56 calibre
Colt Revolving Rifle.
Nevertheless, after a close shave with the police outside Canowindra the bushrangers broke camp trekking further along the river where their path became blocked by boulders, here the gang then headed through the rough ranges of "Old Man Canobilas" arriving at 'Errowanbang Station' the farm of Mr Lawson at Flyers Creek 9 miles from Carcoar and 18 miles from Canowindra. Lawson was the son of the famous explorer William Lawson who with Blaxland and Wentworth first crossed the Blue Mountains in 1813, opening up a new path to the west of NSW. Ben Hall had had a report that Lawson was in the possession of the much sought after revolving rifle which was rare and brought the gang to his doorstep however, it later transpired that the revolving rifle had been loaned to Inspector Davidson who was searching the surrounding bush for the bushrangersMORE ABOUT THE BUSHRANGERS -Writing on the 23rd instant, from Carcoar, the correspondent of the Bathurst Times says: -Gilbert, O'Meally, Ben Hall, Vane, and Burke paid a visit to Mr Lawson, at Flyers Creek, seven miles from this town, on Thursday, about two o'clock p. m. On Mr Lawson seeing them approaching the house he made off, and kept out of the way till they left. The bushrangers entered the house and asked the housekeeper, an elderly woman, where the keys were, when she replied she did not know. They brought an axe and broke open all the doors, and took out all the boxes on the floor, and appropriated what they pleased. They then ran the horses in from the paddock, and took away three, amongst which was "Mickey Free," the racehorse. After this they left and made for Messrs Welber and Francks, on the opposite side of the Creek, and bailed those gentlemen up, together with about thirty sheep washers and shearers that were in the shed at the time. They took a quantity of wearing apparel, two horses, saddles, and bridles, and when they left they had five horses, saddles, and bridles with them. About half an hour after they were gone six troopers can up, but though they were put on the bushranger’s tracks, they, as usual, lost them. The same evening a report came into town that the bushrangers were camped at Kerr's Station, about one mile from the town. The police did not believe the report, therefore, nothing was done, but it has been proved since that they were waiting for the report of the Flyer's Creek robbery to reach town, as they intended, so soon as the police left, to make their way into Carcoar.⁴⁵ The raid at Lawson's also disparages any thought of bravery on Lawson's part as various accounts state that upon the gang riding up, Lawson to save his own soul bolted into the bush leaving his servants to face the gang. Vane said that the gang were told the family had gone to Sydney;op.cit."we ran the top of a main range eastward till the country became broken and more level, and we continued in that direction till we reached Mr. Lawson's station on Flyer's Creek. We had been told some time previously that Mr Lawson kept a revolving rifle, a weapon which Hall desired greatly to possess, so we rode up to the station in hopes of securing it. But there were only two servant men at the place, and they told us the station people had all gone on a visit to Sydney, and that Mr. Lawson had lent his revolving rifle to Inspector Davidson, who was after us. Finding Mr. Lawson's favorite saddle horse in the stable, I appropriated it, and also a shot-gun which I found in the house..."


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

Accordingly, on leaving Lawson's the five bushrangers learnt that a government official named Keightley, whom they had not previously known, resided at Dunns Plains. Whereby they had been informed by a sympathiser that the gentleman had made it known around the district that he would riddle the bushrangers through if given half a chance. Furthermore, Keightley had a reputation as a good shot. Consequently, the gang made their way towards Dunns Plains believing that Keightley may also be apprised of a good stock of weapons, which were always in need and that they would hand him a lesson regarding threatening them. Therefore, the gang duly arrived on am on Friday the 23rd October and took up an advantage point 300 yards east from the house amongst a copse of trees and granite rocks on a small hill overlooking their quarry's residence. (see maps below) Taking up positions the men observed that a party of police headed by Inspector Davidson were camped in a paddock adjacent to Keightley's house. During the whole of the day and into the night the bushrangers paid attention to the comings and goings of the occupants which included sighting Keightley conversing with Davidson whom Keightley had invited to lodge at the house, but Davidson declined to remain encamped with his men;[sic] "The day before the occurrence took place which we have just described, Sub-inspector Davidson with some troopers were encamped near to Mr Keightley's house, and the bushrangers told Mr Keightley that they had been watching them through the night, and mentioned several little incidents that had transpired, in proof of their assertion. Mr Davidson, it appears, declined to accept the accommodation proffered by Mr Keightley, preferring to sleep out with his men, and Mr Keightley was told of what happened during 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..." The gang remained secluded and unnoticed and as day broke on Saturday the 24th the bushrangers observed Inspector Davidson and his party prepare to depart, unknowing that they were being watched by their quarry. However, for Henry Keightley and his wife the day leading into the evening was about to become most memorable.


William Crisp
Pechey.
Henry McCrummin Keightley was a Magistrate and Gold Commissioner for the Bathurst region who resided at Dunns Plains a property he leased close to the small hamlet of Rockley NSW. In the dying light near six o'clock of the 24th October 1863, Ben Hall and Co suddenly appeared at the station ready to give the Gold Commissioner a going over as on many occasions the commissioner had boasted that he would take the gang out if ever the opportunity arose. At first Keightley and his guest, Dr Peachy a cousin of Keightley's wife Caroline presumed the approaching riders were the returning party of Inspector Davidson who had also been a recent guest. However, in the twilight of the day the two men soon realised the riders were cut from a very different cloth altogether and although Keightley had heard that the gang had marked him he and Peachy were startled. Thereby with a previously planned thought of defence, the pair leapt to action as the bushrangers dismounted and instantly opened fire on the two men as they scattered around the homestead. Consequently, the two would show stubborn resistance and secreted themselves into the house and then onto the roof as the gang peppered the dwelling and back door with shot after shot which luckily did not injure the two men. 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, however, she was miraculously unharmed. Also unknown to the gang as they peppered the house with shots was that Mrs Keightley's four-month-old baby was inside under the protection of the housekeeper Mrs Baldock.


H.M. Keightley.
©Penzig.
Henry Keightley was noted as a strikingly handsome man of splendid physique standing 6ft 3in. In the year 1854 whilst Keightley was travelling from the port of Brisbane to Sydney he made an impression upon author Nehemiah Bartley who attested in his book titled ‘Opals and Agates’ published in 1854; “One of the first men I saw on my return to Brisbane attracted my notice by his really handsome face, with a heavy, long, brown moustache that seemed carved from mahogany, so compact and solid did it look, and with eyes as blue, arid richly blue, as any sapphires. I asked his name. It was Henry McCrummin Keightley." Henry had been born at Corfu, Greece in 1830 where his father had been Governor of several Greek islands controlled by Britain following the defeat of Napoleon. His father had also fought at the battle of Waterloo in the Fourteenth Regiment as a Major and afterwards, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Unfortunately, as the third son Henry was required to make his own way in the world wherein adulthood due to the constraints upon his father’s death of the law Primogeniture forced him to immigrate to NSW in 1853 the same year as his father’s death. Keightley was first employed by two brothers named Tindal who held extensive property on the Clarence River in far northern NSW. During his time there Keightley was involved in a variety of work that also incorporated an expedition to kill aboriginals who had been stealing cattle from his employer’s; “Blacks have been spearing our cattle here; and I only returned last night from the pursuit. We surprised two camps with the remains of beef in each. It was Keightley's first service we were camped out eight nights..."⁴⁶ It is here that Keightley develops his reputation of prowess with weapons. However, Keightley's striking frame and appearing very conscious of his attractiveness to women soon suffered a flirtatious setback whilst at the Clarence River when his subjective advances towards a female cook may have got the better of him as he was seen to argue with the female whose disinterest in the tall man was quickly made apparent through her reaction and rejection towards Keightley. “At 'Ramornie' they stand in awe of the cook since she threw a coal shovel at Keightley…”⁴⁷As a result the lady became the hero of her fellow workers. No doubt these actions were from a woman who perchance let it be known to Keightley that impropriety towards her would not be tolerated, as Keightley’s dashing good looks which no doubt the ladies of Sydney swooned at, but where the ladies of the bush stood firm to repel possible boarders. Keightley was also in the market for a lady of some social standing and was at one time rumoured to have been engaged, however, often noted as a jokester his fellow workers were amused and the prospective bride was never revealed. Consequently, upon leaving the Clarence River Keightley found a minor position in the NSW government and whereby a scandal soon arose over some misappropriation of funds and following an investigation Keightley was found guilty of general carelessness and subsequently transferred to the interior at Tamworth in 1858. In 1860 Henry Keightley married Caroline Rotton near Tamworth the daughter of an M.P. and wealthy landowner at Bathurst. With the right connections now in place Keightley prospered to become a Magistrate and Gold Commissioner for the Bathurst region. Henry and his wife were acclaimed by writer Cuthbert Featherstonehaugh who swooned;[sic] “the Keightley’s were the handsomest couple he had ever seen...” Earlier following Keightley's arrival in 1853, Brittan found itself caught up in the Crimean War against Russia through its alliance with France, The Ottoman Empire and Sardinia. The war was principally fought over the protection of the Christian minorities in the Holy Land which at the time was controlled by the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan, however, it also had a broader objective which was about denying Russia any new territory, and even posed a Russian threat to NSW at the time that had the construction of Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour expedited. The war itself was noted for its sheer butchery and where the 'Victoria Cross' medal for bravery was born. The Medal being cast out of the steel of the cannons from the war by order of Queen Victoria and where Florence Nightingale brought a revolution to medical care for the wounded. However, as with many British subjects Keightley at the time of the war had expressed a desire to enlist, but those who knew him, took it as a half-hearted proposal; “Keightley is principally occupied in horse dealing. He talks of going home to "serve his country” (in the Crimean War) but I question his being in earnest...”⁴⁸ However, in October 1863 as five bushrangers gunned for his life Keightley using the house as cover Keightley in company with his wife's cousin commenced his defence and for the first time the gang came up against a settler willing to fight for his life and liberty. (Sunset at Rockley on the 24th October 1863 was at 6.18 pm therefore the whole of the events regarding Burke's death were conducted during dusk and the early evening until Pechey's return on Sunday morning the 25th with Sunrise at 5.20 am.)
Layout of events at Dunns Plains 23rd, 24th, 25th October 1863.
DESPERATE ENCOUNTER WITH THE BUSHRANGERS.

(From the Bathurst Times of Wednesday.)

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

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


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

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

Painting by
 Patrick Willam
Marony 1858-1839.

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

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


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

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

Henry & Caroline
Keightley.

c. 1885.
In the years following the battle of Dunns Plains the murderous events have been analysed on and off. The attack is furnished with many conflicting accounts as to what actually transpired during first, the initial engagement in the dying light of Saturday evening 24th October 1863, and the subsequent detainment of Henry Keightley for ransom. In 1911 a short account of the famed happening was published, titled ‘The Lone Hand’ by Mr George Quickie through which the details of the whole affair are recounted by the son of Henry Keightley, Leo in an explicit light regarding his father's night of infamy at the hands of Ben Hall. However, be that as it may, the bulk of the 'The Lone Hand' narration is a solid historical record and relates in interesting detail how the gang passed the night away with their prisoner. Including the intense desire of both Vane and O’Meally to seek retribution on Keightley for the death of Micky Burke. It also shines a light on Hall's command over the gang. As well as that Mrs Keightley took the couple's baby with her upon departing Dunns Plains with Dr Peachy in the night and her arrival at her fathers home. The account is linked below and illuminates the behaviour of the remaining four bushrangers as well as demonstrating that contrary to the belief that the gang's inner relationships were harmonious Leo Keightley reveals through his father's account that a fracture was evident. A split that would see Hall, Gilbert and then O'Meally turn on John Vane who soon feared for his life whereby they shortly after expelled him from the gang:[sic]"followed by the death of Burke at Mr. Keightley's; Vane, being tired of a bushranger's life, and afraid of his associates, next gave himself up to the authorities..."
Keightley Testimonial.
S.M.H. 2nd November
1863.
Furthermore,  those events surrounding the death of young Micky Burke and including Burke's initial wounding reputedly by the shotgun of Mr Keightley become the subject of much rumour and gossip.  Whereby, the scrutiny cast suspicion over the long-held belief that Keightley had indeed fired the shot that wounded Burke. However, in a series of differing accounts from eyewitnesses the feeling was expressed that Ben Hall had instead been responsible for shooting his shotgun and hitting Burke accidentally. When Burke exposed himself from his hidden position thereby startling Hall, who pulled the trigger. Mrs Loudon of 'Grubbenbong Station' who on some occasions had suffered at the hands of the bushrangers also cast doubt over Keightley's wounding of Burke remarking; "When the table was cleared, and they had turned the place fair inside out, looking for money, Burke lay down and put his dirty boots upon my sofa, and went to sleep. I told Ben Hall the little wretch would sell him yet. There's none of the 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..."⁵⁰ However, the public euphoria over the stand of a settler against the bushranger insurgents began to reach fever pitch when Testimonials were initiated by leading citizens in praise of the the Gold Commissioners stand. These testimonials were of a monetary nature where donations of all denominations of currency where contributed by folks from all classes. (see article right.)  It was also reported on the 2nd November eight days after the encounter that the Commissioner had been paid by the government the outstanding reward for Burke; The Government has paid £500, the reward offered for the capture of Burke, to Mr Keightley, who shot him dead, when stuck up by Gilbert and his gang, the other day.

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

Mrs Isabella Baldock was the housekeeper whose husband, also an employee of Keightley, who had earlier on the infamous day been dispatched to Rockley with mail and carried with him a valuable pistol for self protection, held firm in her testimony that Hall admitted to her of having fired the shot; The bushranger replied, “You wretch, you shot my mate, and I'll blow your brains out." Mr. Keightley said, “On my soul, men, I never shot him, and if I did I never meant to.” The bushranger replied,"You’re a liar; if you didn't mean to shoot us what did you fire for?" The other bushranger, the shorter of the two (Hall, I believe), said to Mr. Keightley, “You didn't do it; I did it in mistake, when firing at you.” I then went out of the garden, thinking to get someone to fetch the troopers from Rockley, as there was neither constable nor trooper at Dunn's Plains. When I got outside the garden gate I saw a man lying on the ground, and another man standing by, looking at him; the man who was standing said to me, “Look what the wretch has done!” I replied, “Why don't you bring the doctor to him?” He answered, “The doctor! where am I to get a doctor?” I told him that it was the doctor who had just been knocked down in the garden..."⁵¹ The conversation soon turned to Burke and Pechey expressed a desire to help save the boy although in his mind he knew it was hopeless as did Ben Hall who expressed as Peachy prepared to depart Dunn's Plains;[sic] "it was decided that the doctor should ride into Rockley and get his surgical instruments, and return and attend to the wound as quickly as possible. Hall at first protested, on the ground that it was a hopeless case. 'What's the good?' asked he. 'Better shoot him and put him out of his misery.' But he withdrew his protest, and so the doctor went his way, though under strictest compact 'not to bring the traps' on them..." In the above extract from the letter sent to the press by Isabella Baldock's husband concluded with this appendage; "This is my wife's version of what occurred, and the reason why I ask its insertion is that there has been so much misrepresentation and suppression of facts, and assumption of credit by persons to whom very little belonged, that I think it is time the truth was known, I have no desire to bring my wife before the public-for I want nothing, and expect nothing; but when it is insinuated in Parliament that the story concerning her interference on behalf of Mr. Keightley is a fabrication, I do not think I ought to remain silent. In conclusion, I beg to say that Ben Hall himself told me on Sunday morning, that, had it not been for my wife, he should certainly have shot Keightley. Mr. Keightley said to me as he was leaving Dunn's Plains for Bathurst, after having been ransomed, "Be sure and take care of Isabella: she behaved like a brave girl to me last night." It is as well for me to note that I was absent at Rockley, for letters, &c., and did not return till late in the evening. I must not further trespass on your space, Mr. Editor, but cannot close without taking the opportunity of thanking Mr. J. Stewart, M.L.A., for his kindness in taking notice of the conduct of my wife in the unfortunate affair at Dunn's Plains." For the full account of Mrs Baldocks statement see link below.
Caroline Keightley.
c. 1865.
In 1898, Mrs Keightley passed away and over the preceding years had projected an image both in print and on the stage of herself as the heroic damsel in not only saving her husband’s life but her ride to obtain the £500 ransom nursing her four month old child, all of which usurped the true events in the public's mind and where fact and fiction became distorted, however, an unnamed NSW trooper out of respect for her whilst she lived now decided to reveal that he was one of the party of police who intercepted Burke's body from the two stockmen and transported it into Carcoar for the inquest and after sighting the many differing accounts wanted to put the record straight as he knew the details; “For certain reasons which he explained, our informant does not wish his name to become public but has, he asserts, implicit belief in the reliability of the information which he obtained concerning Burke's death, and his mind and memory, he states, are especially clear upon the matter, "I have never rushed into print with it," he said, "but my friends have all heard it, and now the chief actors in the tragedy are dead, I can see no objection to your publishing it..."⁵² The former trooper reiterated the long held version of Hall's confession and sorrow said; “That Ben Hall, who did not see the defenders go to the top of the house, made his way round by the kitchen in order to get a better opportunity to fire at them. On turning a corner of the kitchen, he suddenly saw a man, whom he took to be Keightley, but who afterwards proved to be 'True Blue' in a small recess between the kitchen chimney and the wall of the house, Hall fired, and the man dropped down, dangerously wounded in the loins. The remainder of the gang, being under the impression that he had been shot by Keightley, became so incensed that when he afterwards surrended to them, they announced their determination to execute him summarily. Hall, however, showed less animosity towards him, and, apparently actuated by the pleadings of the young wife, used his influence with the gang in the direction of mercy. This is the version of the affair as related to me by a man who was a friend of Ben Hall, and also a friend of mine. He told me the story years afterwards, when we had been travelling together in the bush for some time. He said that he was in the immediate vicinity of the place where the sticking-up occurred, which I knew to be a fact. He went on to say that, after Mrs. Keightley had gone away to Bathurst for the money, Hall left the others and went back to the house, where he appeared to be searching for something. My informant, who knew Ben intimately, said "Why, Ben, you look as miserable as if you had lost sixpence. What's up", Hall replied, "I have done the worst day's work I ever did, that's all." "You're not breaking your heart about sticking up old Keightley, are you?" he was asked. "No, it is not that," was the reply, "but I have shot little Micky, He never would go where I told him," he continued, "and the little devil, thinking he knew best, went and got into that niche by the chimney. I thought he was Keightley, and shot him." He told me that Ben Hall seemed greatly affected, and that he had no doubt whatever as to the truth of his statement." "This little story brought to my mind the inquest on Burke, which was held in Carcoar, and a peculiar circumstance connected with it. I remembered that the late Dr. Rowland conducted a post-mortem examination of the body, and that his evidence was to the effect that nine 'leaden slugs' were taken from the body of the young fellow. The Commissioner, who gave evidence subsequently, stated that the gun with which he is said to have shot the bushranger, was loaded with shot. No attention, however, was paid to this discrepancy at the time, as the whole colony was ringing with Keightley's praises. He was afterwards presented with a gold medal for his gallant conduct, and the Government paid him the reward of £500 which had been placed on Burke's head..."⁵³ 

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

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

Note the backdoor extreme
right and rear garden gate.
Courtesy Des Shiel.
During the heat of public scrutiny, much praise and compliments were expressed by both government and press over Keightley's stand in confronting the bushrangers, then surviving a threat of execution. Caroline Keightley in due course become a public favorite as the heroine of Dunns Plains, and the reward of £500 for Burke's death was granted to Keightley. However, the initial £500 laid out by Henry Rotton MLA appears to have not been reimbursed by the Government nor Keightley. Long after the events Mr R. J. Rotton  brother of Caroline would state that only Keightley was given the reward money; "My father was not then or any other time recompensed by the Government in any way whatever." As the dust settled the episode continued to come under closer examination. Questions began to appear regarding the shooting and defence of Dunns Plains. Subsequently, the first crack in the Keightley version of events was the weapon he admitted to firing, a double barrel shotgun and stated that it was only loaded in one barrel. Primed with birdshot, the smallest lead pellet out of all the shotgun ammunition types, therefore, was birdshot capable of disembowelling Burke to the extent evidenced by Dr Pechey even at close range, reputedly less than ten yards?[sic] "Upon going up to Burke, he found a large wound, in his abdomen, from which his bowels were protruding about two feet..." Accordingly, at the inquest into Burke's death, the physician, Dr Rowland reported that he removed nine Leaden Slugs from Burke which indicates that at ten feet, a rough estimate of the distance from the door to Burke. Remembering that Keightley stood 6ft 3in and Burke 5ft 6in. Birdshot would not cause the type of tearing injury inflicted on Burke's stomach when taking in to account the thickness of his clothes as the bushrangers were known to wear two shirts and at times two pairs of trousers while living rough against the cold. (see illustration of shot below) Therefore, Hall was reportedly armed with a shotgun during the siege and would no doubt have had it loaded with lead shot for full effect. Thereby providing a tight grouping of the lead ball's for accuracy when firing at victims. This draws the conclusion that based on Hall's position at the side of the house and Burke's concealment and the shotgun in Hall's hands, Hall was more than likely responsible for the wounding of Burke as alluded to previously where Hall had reputedly said;[sic] "the little devil, thinking he knew best, went and got into that niche by the chimney. I thought he was Keightley, and shot him." Furthermore, during the detainment of Keightley, the gang remained at the property into the early hours and then for safety shifted their position a short distance from the house at the request of Mr Keightley, as noted in the 'Lone Hand', to a spot known as the Black Stump. As the evening wore on and their nerves frayed the sound of horses galloping brought the men to their feet and guns were drawn covering Keightley. Hall exclaimed "By God, we are betrayed" levelling his revolver at Keightley's head. However, in the paddock at the rear of the house eight or nine horses had been startled and stampeded around the enclosure, fortunately, Keightley placated Hall and the bushrangers stating that they were his animals, this diffused the tension. The bushrangers returned to their places and continued to wait out the night dozing. In the early hours with daylight tingeing the sky, the Doctor arrived at the place noted as the Black Stump with the ransom. Notwithstanding, there is much contradictory evidence as to actual place the gang waited at, one named the Black Stump, and the other location named Dog Rocks. It maybe that the Black Stump and Dog rocks are virtually next to each other or one upon the other as noted; "at about daybreak the bushrangers, having arranged for the disposal of Burke's body, went off with Keightley to the Black Stump at the Dog Rocks; arise that gave a long view of the Bathurst Road." However, many small hills surround the property that fit the description of the places named the Black Stump or Dog Rocks. However, over time their significance and importance as local landmarks have been lost whereby much of what has been recorded as to the actual location of the bushrangers at daybreak while holding Keightley and awaiting Dr Pechey's return is pure conjecture. Therefore, it would be prudent for the gang under the circumstances to remain close to the home, within a few hundred yards at most, as Dr Peachy had limited knowledge of the local landscape, consequently the payment most probably occurred near the homestead. Following the passing of the ransom, Hall addressed Keightley and said; "you have been an excellent host, on a trying occasion." Then with a wave of Hall's hand and two of Keightley's finest horses the remaining bushrangers galloped off. Finally, within days of the battle at Dunns Plains, the Keightley's departed for Bathurst for his fathers-in-law home, Blackdown. Furthermore, Dr Pechey at no stage confirms that Keightley fired at Burke even though the two were ensconced together against the withering attack. (examples of the effects of both birdshot and lead shot (Leaden Slugs) are below. Source the NRA.)
Dr Pechey said; "I went to look at Burke's body, and saw that the bowels were protruding from the abdomen; I also saw blood coming from his mouth and nostrils; there was a wound in the head, and one of the bushrangers said Burke had shot his brains out. The shot must have been fired close - I should think within a yard or so..." This type of stomach wound is consistent with a discharge of Leadshot/Buckshot, not Birdshot, remembering that Keightley stated he fired around the door frame, and at 6' 3in and Burke 5' 6in, Keightley without aiming or blindly would have fired towards the head, not abdomen of Burke. Dr Rowland also stated that he removed nine lead balls from Burke. Therefore, it is most probable that Hall at near the same height as Burke most probably startled, shot the young man accidentally being within a yard of the young man at that time of night. At one yard the damage would have been enough to blow out Burke's intestines and stove his shirt into the wound. 
Rough height difference
between Keightley
and Burke.
John Vane himself afterwards also did not believe that Keightley fired the shot;Vane op.cit. "Keightley could not have shot Burke from the doorway in the position in which he was standing..." In his narration to Charles White, Vane expressed the thought that Gilbert was the guilty party as throughout his conversation with White Vane never puts Ben Hall in a bad light, therefore, Hall's possible complicity in shooting Vane's mate is passed over as a result Gilbert was often Vane's focus for a backhander. Accordingly, from the evidence there appeared to be much animosity between Gilbert and both Burke and Vane as Vane had had a stand-up fist fight earlier with Gilbert, although championing himself as victor over Gilbert, however, Gilbert could handle himself against all comers and no doubt Gilbert may have had in truth the better of Vane leaving him with serious bruising and black eyes. Nevertheless, Vane contends in his mind that Gilbert was the perpetrator of Burke's death as prior to their arrival some chaff passed between Burke and Gilbert;Vane op.cit. "Gilbert and O'Meally were riding in advance as we got near to the paddock fence, when suddenly Burke trotted forward. "Now then Jack" he called out as he reached Gilbert's side, "This man will shoot, and we will soon see who are the game men in the gang."What the  f--k do you mean?" growled Gilbert as he half turned to look at Burke. "Look out for your own skin, and don't be trying to throw anything out about me, for I won't have it." "Alright old boy," said Burke, as he laughingly fell back again; "you'll see what I mean if the 'boss' is at home and has his gun on hand." Gilbert made no reply to this and but rode sullenly on. He knew we all looked upon him as a bit of a coward, and he evidently resented Burke's little bit of pleasantry..." In conversation with Mrs Keightley, Vane exchanged the following over the shots fired as Burke lay dead upon the ground;op.cit. "While she was putting on her gloves she asked me "Did Mr Keightley really shoot that man" I replied briefly "I don't know who shot him." Well she said " there were nine shots fired, for I counted them.-Who fired them all?" I replied that I had fired three from a gun and Burke had fired four from a revolver; and I showed her that four of the chambers of one of the revolvers I had taken from Burke were empty. "Then" she said "perhaps some of you mates shot him by accident?" To which I replied, "Well, all I can say is that I didn't shoot him"; and as I did so I looked fair into Gilbert's eyes..." Vane also comments that O'Meally also pointed the finger at Gilbert, however, O'Meally and Vane were closer in friendship which may attribute to Vane's bias view;op.cit. "Hall interposed and told them to stop growling at each other, and then O'Meally heatedly said that Gilbert was the cause of Burke's death..." 

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


Rolf Bolderwood. The
pseudonym of Thomas
Alexander Browne.

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

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

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


'Empire' 27th October
1863.
However, one hundred and fifty-five years after one of the most audacious attacks perpetrated by bushrangers in the annals of Australian colonial history, the actual details of Keightley's defence are still a mystifying set of circumstances regarding who actually fired the shot heard around the country. The colonies citizens relished every account regarding the deeds of Ben Hall who had become a household name, overtaking the wild John Gilbert and John O'Meally and seen as the leader of the gang. Accordingly, the affray at Keightley's was at the forefront of the talk on every street corner. Many suggestions were subscribed to the press on how to suppress bushranging. Some quite bizarre; "A proposition has been made that those who are convicted of highway robbery shall be punished by the amputation of a leg so as effectually to bar any future exploits of the kind. Another correspondent has suggested that bloodhounds might be employed in hunting down the bushrangers."⁵⁷ However, there is sufficient historical evidence, to cast suspicion upon Ben Hall for shooting Burke, accidentally. In another account the conversation between Vane and Hall after Vane struck Pechey went thus;[sic] "Ben Hall, whom Vane regarded as his chief, came up and advised him to refrain, "and." said Hall, "in a scrimmage like that it is impossible to say who fired the fatal shot; I might have done it myself." Furthermore, in December 1863 this appeared in the 'Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser'; "Mrs Baldock came out of the house, and at the same instant Ben Hall ran into the garden by the night-gate, and, putting a pistol to Mr K's head, swore he would blow his brains out, as one of his men had been shot through him. Mrs Baldock (Mrs. Keightley was not present) rushed between them, caught the ruffian's arm, implored him to desist, and to think of Mrs Keightley and her little infant. Vane then passed them rapidly, and knocked the doctor down with his pistol, when the courageous woman turned to him and exclaimed 'Oh, for God's sake, don't hurt the doctor, for he never hurt you.' There was a pause, in which the explanation as to who Dr Pechey was took place, and then Ben Hall said he believed he had shot Burke himself, in mistake. Dr Pechey put an end to the scene by pointing out the necessity of immediate attention being paid to the wounded man, and so, for the time, their danger was over..." Shot through him suggests not by him? Nevertheless, the bushrangers were not yet finished by a long shot and would continue to have the police on the back foot, until another country squire held firm in the coming weeks. The Keightley attack had the government raise the stakes on their lives through which a timely increase in the reward from £500 to £1000 was made for the remaining four. However, Keightley was paid the £500 and retained the funds for himself. Money and honesty can be strange bedfellows!


Authors Note; Henry Keightley arrived in the colony of NSW on the 8th May 1853 on-board the 'Panthea' 511 tonnes under the command of Captain Hannant. Keightley's departure from England took place from 'The Downs' situated off the Kent Coast adjacent to the area of the southernmost part of the North Sea near the eastern entry to the English Channel. Whilst in England, Keightley, it appears was offered an opportunity of employment in NSW by Mr Charles Grant Tindal, who at the time was visiting relatives in England, and who, in conjunction with his brother Frederick Tindal owned two large cattle stations at the head of the Clarence River in northern NSW known as ‘Koreelah' and 'Ramornie', which at that time were managed by Charles' brother Frederick Tindal. Another gentleman and an acquaintance of Henry Keightley by the name of Baitman was also engaged by Tindal and soon after all three men sailed together on-board the 'Panthea', having departed on 26th January 1853. However, one of the brothers Tindal residing at ‘Koreelah’, kept a diary of his life and events of those with whom he worked and lived with including Henry Keightley.


Reproduced from Horsemen
of the Frontier, by
Keith Binney.
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 water colour sketches and knick knacks of great variety. 1854, January 31. — Baitman and Keightley are now called Jack and Jill. I don't think Charles gets much work out of either of them. Jill (Keightley) is more particularly celebrated for buying and selling horses, mixing punch and telling facetious stories. Jack (Baitman) is fond of a comfortable armchair. (F. C. Tindal). 1854, March 7. — Keightley, who is the more prominent of the two, is very clever and entertaining, what is termed 'good company,’ yet he is not a favourite altogether. He shows too much fondness for making money by games and sharp bets, etc., which is not pleasant, even to lookers-on. I dare say he will make a good enough settler whenever he has work of his own to attend to. Baitman, alias Jack, is devoted to the armchair. 1854, May 28. — Keightley has just started for Ipswich races. Both K. and B. are too old to do any good for themselves or to be of much service, but K. is the better of the two. 1854, September 8. — In my last I told you both Keightley and Baitman left us. The former has a small Government appointment, the latter intends sailing for England immediately. 1854, September 24. — Keightley is a clerk in Sydney. 1854, December 8. — Keightley is here low on leave of absence from his Rifle Corps duties. He is still connected with the Emigration Office in some way. 1854, December 10. — Writing in a noisy, room, Keightley and Charlie Porter detailing adventures. Keightley says he is on sick leave, but I have an idea he has been in some scrape in Sydney. Ramornie same date. — Keightley, who is here on a visit with C. E. Porter, has just returned from fishing. They frequently bring in from six to 14 dozen perch and fresh-water herrings. Keightley gives out that he is to be married in six weeks, but he is so given to joking that we do not know if this is so or not. He is in the Emigration Office, also a com. in the Rifles. All are employed writing letters, Keightley upon one to a Miss Palmer at Sydney, to whom he tries to persuade us he is engaged. Henry McCrummin Keightley passed away on the Saturday 8th January 1887; DEATH OF MR. KEIGHTLEY.- "The death is announced, at Sale, on Saturday last; of Mr. H. M. Keightley, for the past four years stipendiary magistrate at Albury. For some time past, the deceased gentleman had been a sufferer from Bright's disease, and it was during a tour to the Gippsland Lakes, undertaken for the benefit of his failing health, that the symptoms as summed a fatal character. On Thursday Mr. Keightley was obliged to take to his bed; on Saturday his illness had assumed such a character that Mrs. Keightley was hastily summoned by wire, and on the same night the end came. Mrs. Keightley, accompanied by one of her four sons; arrived in Sale on Monday, on which date the funeral took place privately, in the local cemetery." Upon the Commissioners death and his long service in public office the government allocated £1000 to Mrs Keightley in the recognition of his services. On June 22nd 1855 sadly Charles' brother Frederick Tindal drowned while fording the Clarence River at Smith's Falls.


Reward notes and
their numbers
paid by

Dr Pechey to
Ben Hall.
Burke dead and the £500 in their pocket, the four remaining bushrangers rode northwestward into an old familiar area, Eugowra, with its precipitous nooks and crannies, where eighteen months earlier Gilbert, O'Meally and Ben Hall had participated in the famous 1862 Gold Escort robbery led by their long-departed mate Frank Gardiner. Furthermore, there was disquiet amongst the four as they headed northwestwards and to compound their pensive mood the heavens had opened and heavy rains pounded the district, whereby, the local creeks and rivers flooded as the four negotiated their bush road in search of a suitable camp. The wildness of the bush surrounding Eugowra was perfect and had recently became a back-drop for seclusion. Four days after their departure from Keightley's on Thursday morning 29th of October, en-route to Eugowra and as they passed by Mt Canobolas the four were reported near the road from Forbes to Orange by a coach driver, after which he stated that the bushrangers appeared to separate; Forbes Friday. 6 p.m.-It is reported that Gilbert's gang were seen in this district yesterday morning by the driver of the coach, and that they have separated; Gilbert and Vane going by themselves, and Ben Hall and O'Meally nearly an opposite direction. -There is a great flood on the Lachlan, the river being near bank high.⁵⁸ However, contrary to the coachman's view the separation was no doubt O'Meally departing with Vane and Hall and Gilbert heading to their planned rendezvous site. Here Vane would take his leave from the gang after telling O'Meally he wished to see his father, O'Meally offered no objection saying they would wait at the appointed rendezvous site;Vane op.cit. "now that blood had been spilt I felt I had had enough of the game, and on the way back I suddenly told O'Meally that I wish to go to my fathers place that night, promising to return to the camp on the following day. He offered no objection and we parted. This was the last I saw of my mates, for I did not return to the camp and they did not come to look for me..." O'Meally on rejoining Hall and Gilbert the remaining three subsequently immersed themselves in the confines of the local bush cutting west into the rugged confines of the forests surrounding Eugowra and after covering 70 odd miles went into camp; The 'Illawarra Mercury' November 1863 said of the three; "they are now confined to the line of Country extending from Eugowra to Canowindra, their refuge in case of difficulty being the Eugowra ranges. These consist of short, broken, intricate ridges, crowned with out-cropping masses of granite, huge boulders of which lie about in all direction and in the most confused manner. They are very difficult to ride over, and provide amongst the vast rocks and boulders innumerable places of concealment. When hardly pressed they fall back upon those ranges, and are soon lost to sight amongst the short jumbled ridges. Once out of view, all pursuit of them is hopeless, as there are crevices and caves in every direction, in which they can lie concealed without the slightest fear of discovery. There they remain until pursuit is over, and it is only when the bush telegraph is set to work to inform them that danger no longer presses that they again emerge from the fastnesses of Eugowra, and once more enter upon the country..."  
Donald Cheshire's Return of Prisoners Tried at Different Courts 1864. 
Donald Cheshire and the
shopping list for the gang

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

Courtesy Penzig ©
However, unbeknownst to the gang the notes paid by Mr Rotton had had their serial numbers recorded and on the 31st October 1863 one of the gang's telegraphs and a cousin of John Vane's, Donald Cheshire was arrested in possession of some of the marked £5 ransom notes. Cheshire had used the money while embarking on a shopping spree for the bushrangers. 'Bathurst Times' 31st October 1863; THE RANSOM MONEY OF KEIGHTLEY.— Some of the notes paid by Mr Rotton to obtain the release of Mr Keightley, have been recovered. From what we have learned, it appears that on yesterday morning, a young man named Donald Cheshire— who is a cousin of the Vanes—came into Mr Webb's store, and there purchased a double trigger revolver (price £9), for which he paid two £5 notes —receiving in change £1. Shortly after Mr Webb took the notes into the Bank of New South Wales, when it was discovered that they corresponded with two of three paid to Gilbert. Cheshire thereupon was followed, arrested, and taken to the lock-up. On his person being searched, we believe, four more of the £5 notes were found, and also the following list of articles, which, it is supposed, he was commissioned to buy;- "Big fellow-revolver £8, crape, mother's medicine, caps; powder, and bullets." It has also transpired that this worthy visited the shop of Mr Pedrotta, the gunsmith, and Mr Craig, the saddler, and, at each place, succeeded in passing some of the money extorted for the ransom of the gallant commissioner. Cheshire would be convicted and sentenced to five years on the roads, however, he was released in 1868. Furthermore in December 1863 another person of dubious character James Coffee, who would claim to be robbed by Hall and Gilbert would also be arrested for passing funds from the Keightley ransom. However, this money was no doubt used by the bushrangers as payment for hospitality at Coffees Inn near Borrowra as he was a known harbourer to the police and was recorded on the 1862 Gardiner map of known harbourers; (see Ben Hall page.)[sic] "A man named Coffee, who was stuck up by, Gilbert and Hall lately, near Burrowa, was yesterday arrested and charged with endeavouring to pass some of the notes of the Keightley ransom." Coffee and his wife would be released on bail in January 1864 at £100 each to appear when called upon. However, for John Vane, it was the end of the road whereby the feelings within the gang between Vane and the other three had become unsettled since Burke's death as he struggled with the loss of his close mate. Furthermore, Vane had remained unconvinced that Keightley had fired the shot wounding his friend, as alluded to earlier and therefore, in an abrupt move quit the gang. Vane never returned;Vane op.cit. "having departed from O'Meally I made my way to the hut of some people who were friendly to me, reaching the place at about midnight. I told them I had left the gang and did not intend to rejoin it, and they cheerfully made room for me to stay with them for a time. I kept quite for several days, until I heard that Hall, O'Meally and Gilbert had left the old camp and gone toward Forbes..."

Donald Cheshire arrested with the notes from the ransom and the three bushrangers awaiting Vane's pending return Gilbert and O'Meally restless ventured out in search of Vane whereby they hailed a passing coach questioning the driver if they had seen their mate;[sic] STOPPAGE OF THE MAIL.- The mail from Forbes was stopped on Thursday, in the neighbourhood of Toogong, by two mounted men, said to be Gilbert and O'Meally. They inquired from the coachman if he had seen a young man, whom they described, upon the road. They passed on, offering no violence to the coachman or to the passengers. Consequently, the realisation that Vane was not returning Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally remained camped in the remoteness of the Eugowra bush. However, their earlier success in September against the three troopers at Marsh's Farm had the communique's between Superintendent Morrisset and the powers that be in Sydney come to light. These telegrams were released to the press on the 7th November 1863 in an attempt to appease the growing dissatisfaction of the public in the prowess of their police force. These police questions 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.)
Furthermore, the pursuing police were also enduring the rugged conditions as they slogged it out in the wild scrub;[sic] "The police constantly camping out at night under the most unfavorable circumstances — a country pretty nearly as large as Old England itself. No one knows or can suppose the hardships these men endure. They have been frequently seen to pull off their shirts and socks, go to a creek, turn to and wash them, sit down contentedly while the articles became half or one fourth dry, and then put them on again! Their food, too, is for the most part half-baked damper (large fires being prohibited) tea and sugar, procured at stations, of the very worst description, and for which they are charged the highest price; and beef, instead of being supplied, as might reasonably be expected, by large squatters, is sold to the police at exorbitant rates..." As the police dealt with their rough conditions, Ben Hall however, still had many settlers throughout the district prepared to offer aid and comfort such as Agnes Newell (sister of Dan Charters) of nearby Bandon who had a hotel from which Hall and Co could take some R&R as well as Tom Higgins at 'The Dog and Duck' hotel near Forbes. (Higgins mended Hall's broken leg when a youth.) This support for Hall in defiance of the efforts of the local police was highlighted when a correspondent attempted to fall in with the three bushrangers through throwing cash around in the Eugowra/Forbes district's shanty's in an attempt to be 'Bailed-Up'. Although he was unsuccessful his article exposes the depth of local knowledge of the inhabitants regarding Hall, Gilbert and O'Meally's movements and protection; "It is now very generally admitted that the only likely way of reaching the gang is through this bush telegraph. The term has made for itself a distinctive meaning in the Western district, "He is a bush telegraph," is now the ordinary mode by which a spy for the bushrangers is described. These telegraphs are scattered far and wide over the whole district, and, but for their assistance, the gang would have long since been extirpated. O'Meally, Vane, and Ben Hall, are all natives of that part of the country, and are connected by marriage or by family ties with very many of the small settlers around. The feeling of relation ship would cause many of these to provide the bushrangers with the means of evasion when they would not give them any co-operation. But, besides this, they have also been brought up in the district, have been employed as stockkeepers in riding over it, and know every inch of the bush as well as the citizens of Sydney know the streets and lanes whose intricacies puzzle the countryman. What is of more importance to them is that they have an acquaintance with every soul in the district, and more particularly with the stockkeepers, shepherds, and other hired men, whose information has been so valuable to them, and whose services they have, through old acquaintance, been able to command. My own experience has shown me how very widely in formation in regard to these bushrangers is spread, and how speedily it is circulated. "Anything about the bushrangers?' I heard one man ask of another. "No," said the other, "nothing new." "Where are they now," demanded the first, "Down at Eugowra," replied the second, "at least they were there last night." And this was said in such a way as to convey the impression that he knew it because he had seen them there. You will hardly meet a man upon the road,—I mean, of course, the loungers about the public's and shanties, and not the travellers—who has not some little explanation or experience to give, some last news to relate. How far this is correct you may yourself judge, when I tell you that the telegram I sent you from Forbes of the attack by the police, the escape of Ben Hall after his horse being bogged, the withdrawal of Vane from the gang, and the quarrel between Gilbert and Hall, was gathered by me on the road, from the narratives much more amply given, of some of these loafers. In fact the row between Gilbert and Hall was so graphically narrated with the "then says Gilbert," and "then says Hall," that I had a kind of lurking suspicion that the storyteller had actually been present on the occasion. Of course I did not spoil his tale by hinting any such suspicion, as nothing but the man's impression of my most profound ignorance and innocence would ever have induced him to say so much to me as he did. It is in this quarter, as I before said, that the gang may be most easily reached, and it is against these bush telegraphs that the police are now more particularly proceeding."⁵⁹ Following a short sabbatical and the absence of Vane, the three bushrangers returned to the fray. In the dead of night, they appeared at their old and familiar watering hole Canowindra. Arriving at the scene of their earlier successes, Robinson's Hotel. The men reined their horses, and as the cock crows after midnight, they knocked on the locked door of Bill Robinson's pub. On gaining entry they enquired of the police movements and ordered some booze. However, when it came time to pay, Bill Robinson had earlier been apprised that the bushrangers had the proceeds of the Henry Keightley ransom. Armed with that knowledge the publican declined to accept the £5 note offered by the bushrangers when paying for their grog. Following some conversation, the men departed with their unpaid-for grog. Subsequently, at daylight and upon arrival of the troopers, Robinson and Cummings informed the luckless sub-inspector Chatfield of the visit, then putting the police onto the trail of the gang; "Last Wednesday morning, at hall-past one o'clock, Gilbert, O'Meally, and Ben Ball, went to the hotel of Mr Robinson, and knocked at the door, replying, when asked, "Who's there?" that they were "Police." The door was opened by Mr Robinson, when he was confronted by Ben Hall, holding two revolvers levelled at him. The fellow asked whether there were any police in the house and was answered in the negative. He then inquired whether there were any in the neighbourhood; but as Mr Robinson had only that evening returned from Forbes, he told him he was unable to say. Gilbert and O'Meally were standing close by, and they all entered the bar and drank nobblers. They had some conversation with Mr Robinson, in the course of which they said Vane had left them, but they did not much regret his absence, as they felt more secure with the smaller party. They stopped altogether about a quarter of an hour, and as they left took two bottles of port wine and two of old tom, which they offered to pay for with a £5 note, but which Mr Robinson could not change. They cautioned him, however, not to mention anything about their visit, as they said they wanted, if possible, to "clear out" quietly. Mr Kerian Cummings, J.P., was sleeping in the house, it appears, and Mr Robinson considered it his duty to report to him what had occurred, and accordingly did so. It was then decided that as the only police assistance to be procured was that of a trooper stationed in the barracks, about half-a-mile off, it would scarcely be prudent to risk an encounter with the bushrangers in order to acquaint him with the circumstances, so the sending of a communication was deferred till the following day. At daylight a messenger was sent for the solitary policeman who lives about half a mile from Robinson's; on his arrival he was asked if he knew where to find Mr Chatfield, and while they were conversing about the affair Mr Superindent Chatfield and a party of policemen rode up to the house. Information was at once given to them of the occurrence and the road the bushrangers had taken being pointed out to them they shortly afterwards started in pursuit..."⁶⁰ On the query of Vane's whereabouts Hall confirmed and clarified to Bill Robinson that Vane; "that he had left them about ten days ago, promising to meet them at a particular rendezvous, and, as he had not kept the appointment, they supposed he had deserted the party..."  ⁶¹  

Publican Licences
1853-1899.
Departing Robinson's refreshed Inspector Chatfield and troop took the road in the direction of Cargo, also known as Davy's Plains Run. Cargo was principally a farming community with sporadic gold mining and situated on the track to Orange twelve miles North East of Canowindra and a known haven of Hall and his two companions. However, as luck would have it the police shortly after leaving the town spotted the three bushrangers in the company of another person also thought to be apart of the troupe. Here the troopers put spurs to their horses, and a pursuit ensued. The bushrangers on seeing the troopers galloping towards them suddenly took flight. Whereby in the panic, the accompanying stranger's horse also bolted along with the bushrangers. However, the rider instead of fleeing attempted to pull up his panicked horse as the others melted away into the bush. The bushrangers halted a short distance off to observe the scene as the police pounced upon the man who now became the focus and consequently their live target. The troopers were wound up, Chatfield had trouble maintaining discipline as they descended ferociously upon the then unknown rider which the blacktracker soon identified who the mystery person was. Frighteningly for the rider life hung in the balance whereby in the adrenaline-charged atmosphere with the troopers believing they had snared a bushranger, they attempted to kill the chap as they galloped towards him. 

The unfortunate man who suffered the police's wrath was Mr Henry Hurkett, a farmer and helper at the families 'Miners Arms' hotel at Cargo. For the remote settlers it was a period when every shilling counted too every inhabitant. Therefore, many publicans and prominent settlers regularly turned a blind eye to the needs of the bushrangers. As such many were beneficiaries of a bounty taken in return for both a warm bed a hot meal as well as information regarding police movements. Those few shillings went a long way! Hurkett may well have been one who was friendly with the three bushrangers on that basis. 

Incidentally, Henry Hurkett was well known in the Canowindra district and had a sound reputation amongst the populace, but, that reputation may well have been more nudge nudge wink wink as he was also well known to police and had had a brush with the ruthless Sir Frederick Pottinger some weeks earlier. However, for Hurkett, his presence with Hall he passed it off after almost dying claiming the meeting as not fraternisation but a hold-up and said the bushrangers had stuck him up and taken £2 12s 6d from him. Not satisfied and the police on edge they maintained their suspicions and clapped him in handcuffs. While Hurkett had suffered the police barrage, the three bushrangers casually retreated up a hill on foot leading their horses, occasionally turning to watch the proceedings; 'Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle' Saturday 14th November recounts the affray circa 4th November 1863; "After riding about 6 or 7 miles the tracker sighted them and cried out "there they are, sir." As they came in sight of the three villains, surrounding another horseman, a Mr Hurkett (well known in the locality), who had been just stuck-up by them. The command was given to follow and the chase commenced. Directly the bushrangers saw the police they started off at a gallop, Mr Hurkett's horse, as he afterwards related, joining the others in the rush, and carrying him with them some distance before he could pull up. As soon as he was able to stop his horse he jumped off; the tracker called out "that's Hurkett" as the police at the same moment came up and dismounted also, and without heeding what he said to them, they commenced to fire upon him. He called out "For God's sake don't shoot me," and held up his hands, He had no firearms, and two of the party made up to him,— one struck at him with a revolver, and the other aimed a blow at his head with the butt-end of his rifle, which Mr Hurkett warded off with his arm, crying, "Kill the b---dy wretch." Mr Chatfield, it appears, ordered them to desist when they handcuffed him, and taking his horse away, told him to remain in the road until some one came to fetch him away. They then went in pursuit of the bushrangers. It is necessary to mention that Mr Hurkett bears a highly respectable character in the neighbourhood, and those who know him indignantly scout the idea that there could be any complicity between him and the bushrangers, which is the only supposition that can be entertained as to the motives that actuated the police in their attack upon him, Moreover, it is said the police were well acquainted with him, and that he had breakfasted with them that morning, and, as can be proved by others, he did not leave the hotel until sometime after they took their departure, when it appears he went by the main road, while the police had taken to the bush. According to his own statement, he fell into the hand of the bushrangers, who at once recognised him, and accused him of having at one time gone out with Sir Frederick Pottinger, in order to effect their capture. They said they would "serve him out" for it, by taking him into the bush and tying him to a tree, and it was while they were conveying him along to execute their threat, that the police came insight. Mr Hurkett waited, in obedience to the orders he had received, for two or three hours, and then, weary of waiting any longer, he walked, handcuffed as he was, into Canowindra, bringing with him one of the trooper's revolvers, which, either through hurry or fright, had been dropped at his feet, he arrived in town about two p m., and related what had occurred, and mentioned the act that, while the police were surrounding him, he noticed the bushrangers walking leisurely up the hill, leading their horses, with their carbines thrown carelessly over their arms, turning occasionally round, as if watching what was going on. After the lapse of half-an-hour, by which time Hirkett had managed to rid himself of the handcuffs, Sir F. Pottinger and another party of police arrived, when he was told of what had happened, and Mr Hurkett mentioned that having been stuck up by the bushrangers. Sir Frederick is said to have turned upon him instantly with the remark—"You are a liar, Hurkett," which he followed up by the following sentence- "I had had a good mind to take him up three weeks before but I will give you three chances; either put me on the track of the bushrangers, stand your trial, or go with the bushrangers!" Mr Hurkett elected to show them the tracks, and after doing so was told that he might go, but that he must hold himself in readiness to appear when called on. Mr Hurkett remained in Canowindra that night, and till about two o'clock the next day (Thursday) when Superintendent Chatfield and party returned. They immediately re-arrested and handcuffed him; kept him prisoner that day and night, and until the following evening, when they sent him under escort to the lock-up at Cowra, where he was lying when our informant left the locality." Henry Hurkett's confrontation with both Chatfield and Pottinger, as well as their frustration of again failing to apprehend their quarry had Hurkett spend some weeks at the Cowra lock-up, where after failing to pin him to the gang he was released. Furthermore following his apprehension on the road Hurkett was ordered to stand fast until the police returned. However, after some hours and no sign of the troopers Hurkett handcuffed walked into town to await the police. Subsequently a search through government documents indicates that there is sufficient evidence to place Hurkett and his family in cahoots to some degree with the bushrangers. 


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

As Ben Hall and his two companions loitered in the vicinity of Canowindra. Sixty-three miles away as the crow flies was the small settlement of Binda situated on the road to the sprawling town of Goulburn. At Binda, an exhumation of a body was taking place. In conjunction with a reconstituted Coroners Inquest. It involved two persons who in the year ahead would play a prominent role in Ben Hall's life. Edward Morriss, a General Store proprietor, was a former police officer. Morriss had been discharged from the service as a result of a long-standing personal dispute between himself and a local named Pennington. A man to whom Morriss had earlier assaulted quite viciously. As a result of his dismissal and the dead body, Morriss had attempted to have Pennington charged with the murder of Mrs Pennington being exhumed who had died a few years previously. Caught in the middle of the feud was a lass named Christina McKinnon. A servant girl employed by Pennington over some years and a local lass who hailed from Cooks Vale Creek and who would form a romantic attachment to Ben Hall. These court proceedings created an ill-will between Morriss and Christina. However, the new inquiry instigated by Morriss upheld the original verdict. Finding that Mrs Pennington had died of fits brought about through intemperate habits. Christina had for a second time refuted Morriss' accusations of Pennington mistreating his wife. As a result, Morriss was heavily sanctioned by the jury for wasting the courts time. Although the storekeeper at Binda, Morriss was not a popular figure and often became quite officious towards the local populace. This attitude would in due course bring the wrath of Ben Hall against him spurred on by his inamorata.

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

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














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