Bushrangers were people in Australia who decided to live an outlaw life and took up robbery for a living, seeking refuge in the vast outback to evade the authorities.  Sometimes they murdered people robbing banks, merchants, and even stagecoaches. This was not the case with a bushranger named Ben Hall, as he did his raids kind of differently from the other bushrangers during their time. Since Australia was founded by the British Empire as a penal colony it should be surprising that a certain romanticism has grown around the story of Ben Hill, the Gentleman Bushranger of the outback.

It Runs In The Blood

Benjamin Hall was born in May 1937 in the Hunter Region of New South Wales in Maitland. His parents met each other as convicts before they settled and had children. When Ben grew up, he worked and helped his father on his farm on the Pages River near Murrurundi. In the 1950s, his father was charged with horse-stealing, although he was not detained as the witness did not show up for the trial.

Once old enough, Ben found his way to leave by working as a stockman(cattleman) on the Boyd Station for Mr. Hamilton and then for Mr. John Walsh of Wheogo. In 1858, he married Mr. Walsh’s daughter named Bridie Walsh. They settled on a farm that they purchased in Sandy Creek. It was a great beginning of their married life, but it did not last long as Bridie had a love affair with another stockman named John Taylor and decided to live with him, taking their two-year-old son with her. All these happened when Ben was away. Unbeknownst to her, he was already doing some bushranging behind the scene. In 1861, a warrant was officially issued for his arrest. It stated:

“It has been decreed by His Excellency the Governor in Council, that anyone who shall, or
shall be reasonably suspected to have harboured, fed, or in any way assisted bushrangers, the Police may without further notice, pull down, burn, or otherwise destroy their houses, out-houses, or other buildings.

This is to inform you, Benjamin Hall, that as you are so suspected, This Warrant has been issued by me, Frederick Morringer, Inspector of Police, in the Colony of New South Wales, for the destruction of all buildings on your land at Sandy Creek. You are warned not to interfere with the execution of This Warrant at your peril”.”

Apparently in those days the Courts burned down your house before you even went to trial. He was captured and spent four or five weeks in the jail. Once he was free, he went back to his farm in Sandy Creek only to discover that his horses either died or escaped and his property was reduced to ashes.

They didn’t give him much choice did they?

Into the Bushranger Life

Ben joined a bushranger named Patsey Daley, who had just robbed the police station at the Pinnacle. They both joined the Frank Gardiner’s gang and officially joined the outlaw, bushranger life. In a span of two years, they were associated with over 100 robberies, with Ben Hall specifically becoming one of the most prolific bushrangers during their time. Perhaps in all of the robberies, they have done, the most bizarre one was when they held up Robinson’s Hotel in Canowindra, New South Wales.

Ben Hall, the bushranger; print from a wood engraving. (Wikimedia Commons)

Robinson’s Hotel Hold up

Robinson’s Hotel was in Canowindra, New South Wales. When Ben’s gang declared hold up, they did not allow the travelers and the townspeople to leave. Instead of terrorizing or mistreating the people as you might expect, they instead threw a party complete with food and entertainment. In the end, when the forced party was over, and the hostages were set free, Ben’s group insisted on paying everyone’s tab to the hotelier. Basically, they just did the act to thumb their noses at the Peelers or policemen.

End of His Career… and Life

Shortly after, the gang raided the town of Bathurst, but one of their gangmates named Micky Burke, was killed at Dunns Plains. Their other colleague named John Vane surrendered to the authorities, while O’Meally was shot dead after an attack on Goimbla station.

The capture of Ben Hall. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ben’s last act in public was on January 2, 1865, when he, John Gilbert, and John Dunn went to the Flag Hotel at Binda. They didn’t rob or take any hostages but joined the dancing and other amusements. Later that year, he was killed by the authorities after one of their gang members named “Coobang Mick” ratted them out in exchange for a 1000-pound reward. On May 5 that year, Sub-Inspector James Henry Davidson shot Ben dead, ending his life and his bushranger career.

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