Ben Hall (bushranger)
Ben Hall, circa 1862
May 9, 1837|
Murrurundi, NSW, Australia
|Died||May 5, 1865
Billabong Creek, NSW
|Cause||Shot by police and aboriginal trackers|
|Resting place||Forbes, NSW|
Ben Hall (9 May 1837 – 5 May 1865) was an Australian bushranger of the 19th century. Operating mainly in New South Wales, he was known as "Brave Ben Hall"; he has become part of Australian folklore. Ben carried out audacious raids, many of which were intended to taunt the police. Unlike many bushrangers of the era, he was not responsible for any deaths, but was nevertheless shot dead by police acting under the Felons Apprehension Act 1865, which allowed known bushrangers to be shot and killed rather than taken to trial. The legality of this killing remains controversial.
Ben Hall was born on 9 May 1837, at Wallis Plains, now E.Maitland, New South Wales (though there are reports saying on Samuel Clift's Breeza Station Breeza), in the Hunter Region of New South Wales. His parents were Benjamin Hall (born Bedminster, England 1805 ) and Eliza Somers (born Dublin, Ireland 1807), both convicted for minor stealing offences and was transported to New South Wales. They married in 1834 and had numerous children; Ben Junior was the fourth child and third son. After they received tickets of leave, they moved to the Hunter Region, where Benjamin Senior took charge of a station belonging to Mr. Hamilton, called Uah on the Duna run. In about 1839, Benjamin squatted on a small area of land in an isolated valley north of Murrurundi. Here Benjamin built a rough hut and began raising cattle and collecting any wild cattle and horses he could find in the hills. In 1842, he bought a small block of land near Murrurundi, where he established a butcher shop.
About the end of 1850, Benjamin Senior moved down to the Lachlan River area, taking with him the children Ben Junior, William, Mary and his stepson Thomas Wade. It appears that Ben Junior never returned to Murrurundi, although his father did in 1851. Young Ben spent his early years working with horses and cattle, developing his skills and expertise.
In 1856, at the age of 19, Hall married Bridget Walsh (1841–1923) at Bathurst. Kitty, one of Bridget's sisters became the mistress of Frank Gardiner; another sister married John Maguire. On 7 August 1859, Ben and Biddy (as she was called) had a son, whom they named Henry. It was not far from twelve months after the birth of this child, while he was absent attending a muster at Bland,, that his wife eloped with a Mr. James Taylor, In 1860, Ben Hall and John Maguire jointly leased the "Sandy Creek" run of 10,000 acres (40 km²) about 50 km south of Forbes.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (September 2012)|
What happened next in his life remains shrouded in mystery, but circumstances and chance caused Ben Hall to turn from a successful grazier to an infamous bushranger. By early 1862, his marriage was in trouble, and Biddy left to live with a man named James Taylor from Humbug Creek, which flows south from Lake Cowal. At this time, there were many bushrangers operating around the area where Ben Hall lived. After Biddy left, he began associating with the notorious Frank Gardiner. In April 1862, Ben was arrested on the orders of Police Inspector Sir Frederick Pottinger for participating in an armed robbery whilst in the company of Frank Gardiner. The charge was dismissed due to a lack of evidence. On 15 June 1862, Gardiner led a gang of eight men, including Hall, and robbed the gold escort coach near Eugowra, New South Wales Eugowra of banknotes and 2700 ounces of gold worth more than 14,000 pounds.
Hall and several others were arrested in July, but once again the police were unable to gain enough evidence to formally charge him. He was released about the end of August. However, he and his partner at Sandy Creek faced mounting legal costs and were forced to transfer the lease of the property to John Wilson, a Forbes publican.
From then on, estranged from his wife and young son, and with the property gone, Ben Hall gradually drifted into a life of crime.
In one instance, Hall and his gang bailed up Robinson's Hotel in Canowindra, New South Wales and held all the people of the town captive for three days. The hostages were allegedly not mistreated, and were provided with entertainment. The local policeman was subjected to some humiliation by being locked in his own cell. When the hostages were set free, the gang insisted on paying the hotelier and giving the townspeople "expenses". The aim, which was achieved, was to make public the gang's power and lampoon the police.
In late 1864, during the robbery of a mail coach near Jugiong, New South Wales, John Gilbert shot and killed Sgt. Parry. Then in January 1865 Constable Nelson was shot and killed by John Dunn when the gang raided a hotel in Collector. In early 1865, the authorities determined on radical legislation to bring an end to the careers of Ben Hall together with John Gilbert and John Dunn. The Felons Apprehension Act was pushed through the Parliament of New South Wales for the specific purpose of declaring Hall and his comrades outlaws, and meant that they could be killed by anyone at any time without warning.
From 1863 to 1865, Ben Hall and his gang had one of the most prolific periods of any bushranger or outlaw. Over 100 robberies are attributed to them in this time, including the holding up of 21 towns and the theft of 23 racehorses.
In May 1865, Hall decided to leave New South Wales. However, his whereabouts were reported to the police by a man who had previously given his gang assistance and protection. The police were waiting, and on May 5 Hall was ambushed by eight well-armed policemen. Hall was shot as he ran away.
Ben Hall's body was taken back to Forbes where an official inquest was held. He was buried at Forbes, New South Wales cemetery on Sunday 7 May 1865 and a headstone was erected in the 1920s.
On 5 May 1957, the Forbes Historical Society dedicated a plaque at Billabong Creek, where Hall had been shot. A memorial called "Ben Hall's Wall" is located in Breeza, New South Wales, south of Gunnedah, New South Wales. "Ben Halls Gap" is a small section of State Forest named in memory of the bushranger's father, and is located south of Nundle, New South Wales.
A number of folk songs recount Hall's life and exploits. The most notable is Streets of Forbes, which has been recorded by numerous singers and groups. Others include The Ballad of Ben Hall's Gang,The Death of Ben Hall and The Ghost of Ben Hall.
- Forbes Historical Society 1957 plaque at site of death
- "Ben Hall and the Outlaw Bushrangers". Australian Government Culture and Recreation Portal. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- "Family seeks justice for Bold Ben's demise", -- Meacham, Steve, The Age, 31 March 2007
- "Ben Hall". Interesting certificates: bushrangers. NSW Births Deaths and Marriages. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- Orr, Hazel K. (2003). "Ben Hall". Bushranger profiles. University of New England, School of Education - "The Bushranger Site". Archived from the original on 20 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- Family History Library Microfilm 1278891 Items 15-17
- "BIOGRAPHY OF BEN HALL.". The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893) (NSW: National Library of Australia). 18 May 1865. p. 2. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
- Bradley, Peter (2008), 'The Judas Covenant'. An examination of the circumstances leading to the death of Ben Hall. Peter Bradley. ASBN: 0-646-46772-7.(non-fiction)
- Bradley, Peter (2008), 'The Billabong Creek Study. An archaeological and archival study of the area near the Billabong Creek where Ben Hall was killed. Peter Bradley. (non-fiction)
- Bleszynski, Nick (2011), 'You'll Never Take Me Alive. The life and death of Bushranger Ben Hall. Random House Australia. ASIN: B0069HD0FK.(Novel)
- - www.benhallbushranger.com.au - Selected extracts from historical research by Peter Bradley
- Death certificate - New South Wales Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
- Ben Hall at the National Museum of Australia
- Pictures of where Ben Hall was shot, his grave and statue on the Ben Hall Page of the Forbes website
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