Ben Hall

Ben Hall

The bushranger Ben Hall, is believed to have been born on 9 May 1837 at Maitland, New South Wales, son of Benjamin Hall and his wife Elizabeth; both parents were ex-convicts. He became a stockman and with his brother in law, John McGuire leased a run, Sandy Creek, near Wheogo.

On 29 February 1856 at Bathurst Ben Hall married Bridget Walsh of Wheogo. Her sister Kitty became Frank Gardiner‘s mistress. On the orders of Sir Frederick Pottinger, Hall was arrested in April 1862 at a race meeting for armed robbery but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. By then his wife had left him taking their infant son Henry. In July he was detained for his share in the infamous Eugowra gold escort robbery but again the case against Hall was dismissed for lack of evidence. Escalating legal costs probably forced Hall and McGuire to quit the lease of Sandy Creek. On 14 March 1863, Frederick Pottinger burnt down Hall’s home. Embittered, Hall joined John Gilbert and became leader of a gang of bushrangers.

Hall was probably the most efficient of the bushranger leaders. His men were well armed and superbly mounted, often on stolen racehorses, which easily outpaced the police nags. Some of their holdups seem designed only to defy the police: on their daredevil raid on Bathurst in October 1863 they took little loot and at Canowindra they offered food, drink and festivity to all for three days, but drank little themselves and left the town empty-handed. On 24 October in a raid on Henry Keightley’s homestead at Dunn’s Plains Mickey Burke, one of the gang was shot. Hall prevented Burke’s mate, John Vane from shooting Keightley in revenge and accepted the £500 ransom procured by Mrs Keightley. John Vane surrendered to the police soon after and in November at David Campbell’s Goimbla Station, John O’Meally; another member of the gang was shot dead.

Gilbert returned to Victoria to visit his family and Hall was joined by ‘The Old Man’ (James Mount) and John Dunleavy – neither of whom lasted particularly long. When Gilbert returned soon after, John Dunn joined the gang. In late 1864 they concentrated on the Sydney-Melbourne Road around Goulburn. On 15 November they held the road near Jugiong and robbed some sixty travellers; while holding up the Gundagai-Yass mail Gilbert shot Sergeant Parry. Then on 27 January 1865 Dunn shot Constable Nelson at Collector. Under the Felons Apprehension Act, which was soon passed by Parliament, meant that individuals named in the Act could be proclaimed an outlaw and any citizen was permitted to shoot without warning; proclamations declaring Hall and his companion’s outlaws were due to be gazetted on 10 May.  Their only safety was to keep on the move. It is said, that Hall with £1000 on his head, had decided to quit bushranging but was betrayed to the police by an informer.

On 5 May he was ambushed and shot by the police near Billabong Creek on the Lachlan plain. His body, riddled with gunshot wounds, was buried in the cemetery at Forbes. His funeral was ‘rather numerously attended’ for his reckless courage; courtesy to women, humour and hatred of informers had won him a sympathy not shared by his more bloodthirsty colleagues.