Spotlight: The not unfriendly biography of Ben Hall

Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880), Saturday 27 May 1865, page 2


The Forbes correspondent of the Western Examiner (Orange), of May 13th, furnishes the following not unfriendly biography of Ben Hall :—

In estimating the character of this man, who has obtained such an unenviable notoriety throughout the colonies during the past three years an insight into his early life may be of some assistance, and I have therefore, taken some pains to collect the following brief history of certain incidents concerning him. I can assure the reader that the facts were obtained from what I believe to be the most authentic sources. He was born at Breeza, Liverpool Plains, in February, 1837, and was therefore twenty-eight years old last February. His parents are still living at Murrurundi, where his father is a freeholder and well-to-do farmer. It was at Breeza and Murrurundi, where the elder Hall had charge of a station (Duna) that young Hall lived until he was about ten years old. While in Murrurundi he attended school for about two years and a half, and learned to read and write, and obtained sufficient knowledge of arithmetic to enable him to conduct his own business. Thus early in life and while assisting his father upon the station, it is related that he evinced a remarkable degree of perception and aptness in regard to stock. If he saw a calf dropped, he could in a year afterwards identify the cow and the calf, and locate them. When this lad was about ten years old, his father, Benjamin Hall, senior, who is a native of Bedminster, Devonshire, and who has resided in New South Wales more than forty years, removed to the Lachlan district, and took charge of a station belonging to Mr. Hamilton, called Uah. This station is about fifteen miles from Forbes, on the road to the Pinnacle. The son resided with his father upon this station until he was about eighteen years old, and was almost exclusively engaged in stock-keeping, looking after the stock of Mr. Hamilton, as well as that belonging to himself and father. About 13 years ago, the elder Hall returned to Murrurundi, purchased a farm, and has since cultivated the land. The father and son have never seen each other since. It was very much against the father’s desire that the son remained behind. The young man, however, had formed an intimacy with Bridget Walsh, the second daughter of Mr. John Walsh, of Wheogo, and nothing could induce him to leave. The father, intent upon separating his son from this connexion, not only removed his own, but the cattle belonging to his son, to the other side of the country. A short time previous to his father’s departure, Ben surreptitiously left home, and went into the employment of Mr. Walsh, at Wheogo, as stock-keeper. In about one year after, he was married to Miss Bridget Walsh. Two children were born to him by this marriage; the youngest, Henry, is still living, and about six years old. It was not far from twelve months after the birth of this child, and while he was yet in arms, that his wife eloped with a Mr. James Taylor, with whom she has continued to live since. They reside somewhere on the Fish River. Shortly after his marriage, he, in company with Mr. John Maguire, obtained a lease of a run adjoining Wheogo, called Sandy Creek, which they stocked with cattle and horses. Sandy Creek, Wheogo, and Bundaburra are estimated to be among the very best runs in the Lachlan district. Up to this period Ben Hall was held in high esteem by the settlers throughout the district, not only for his generous, open-hearted qualities — always showing a disposition to assist his neighbours —but for the enterprise and energy he displayed in conducting his business affairs. Very shortly after the elopement of his wife with Taylor, which occurred while he was absent attending a muster at Bland — and after he had taken a most affectionate leave of her, without for one moment entertaining the slightest suspicion of her infidelity — he was arrested by Sir Frederick Pottinger at the Wowingragong racecourse, charged with highway robbery under arms. The surprise that was expressed by the residents of this district that such a charge should be made against Ben Hall is well remembered. However, after lying in the lock-up four or five weeks, and being taken to Orange and undergoing trial, the jury acquitted him without leaving their seats. He then returned to his station, Sandy Creek, and commenced mustering his horses. This was during the latter part of May, 1862. Mustering necessarily required several weeks, and the business was still progressing, and before the mustering was completed, during the latter part of July, 1862, he was again arrested by Sir Frederick Pottinger and Sub-inspector Saunderson, charged with being in some way implicated in the celebrated escort robbery. He remained in Forbes lock-up six or seven weeks, being brought before the bench of magistrates from time to time, and remanded at the instance of Sir F. Pottinger and Inspector Saunderson, for the production of further testimony. He was ultimately admitted to bail, himself in £500, and two sureties of £250 each, to appear when called upon. He was not committed. When he returned to Wheogo and Sandy Creek, he found that all his labour in mustering his horses was in vain. The horses had all dispersed. Some had perished in the yards. After looking about to see if he could recover them, he found they were hopelessly scattered, and gave up the idea of collecting them that season. About this time the police station at the Pinnacle was stuck up and robbed of firearms and other things by Patsey Daley. The same night this was done, Ben Hall, unfortunately for himself, happened to be stopping, by mere chance, at the house of a Mr. Allport, on the Lambing-flat road. It was to this house that Patsey Daley went after robbing the police station. It was further unfortunate that Ben Hall left Allport’s in company with Daley. The police tracked the single horseman to Allport’s, and from that point they tracked two horsemen, Daley and Hall. It may be remarked that when the police station at the Pinnacle was stuck up, only one constable (Knox) was in charge, and he had gone to Mrs. Fechley’s for his breakfast, and was thus engaged when Daley took the firearms. It should also be remembered that Frank Gardiner, Gilbert, and O’Meally were at that time operating rather extensively upon the road between Lambing Flat and Forbes. It is supposed that Daley intended to join Gardiner and company — in fact he had joined them, but it was unknown to the police, and was making himself acceptable to that fraternity by this preliminary exploit by which he supplied himself with arms. Hall knew at this time that Daley was compromised with Gardiner and Co., but the police did not. But Hall did not know that Daley had just robbed the police station. When he discovered that they were being pursued by the police, knowing that he was in company with one of Gardiner’s gang, he fled, and from that time took to the roads, and made his name notorious. The police pursued and fired upon them, but they escaped. From that time both were lost to all and everything desirable in life. Some two or three months afterwards, Patsey Daley was captured, having secreted himself in a shaft at the Pinnacle. Upon being tried, he was convicted at Bathurst and sentenced to 15 years. Hall was not taken, but continued to pursue a daring and desperate career, the particulars of which are too well known to need comment. But with all his crimes, I believe he has never been accused of being bloodthirsty, nor did he directly kill any of the victims he robbed. It is claimed by his relatives and those who knew him best that he was affectionate and generous. It is said that the miniature found upon his person by the police after his death is that of a favourite sister, now living on the Maitland side, and that he has constantly worn it upon his person during the last three years. Such then, in brief, are some of the incidents connected with the early life of a most desperate bushranger, who has eluded the grasp of a strong and active police force for three years, and who was ultimately captured, but not until his body was pierced by bullets and slugs from his feet to the crown of his head. The Forbes correspondent of the Western Examiner communicates the subjoined description of the funeral of Ben Hall :—

“The corpse of Ben Hall, after being enclosed in a coffin, remained at the police barrack until 10 o’clock on Sunday morning. In the meantime his relations had arrived from the Pinnacle, and were allowed to take charge ot it. From the barracks it was removed to the residence of Mr. J. Smith Toler, undertaker, Templar street. A very handsome coffin, covered with black cloth and trimmed with gilt ornaments, was here substituted. At about 2 o’clock in the afternoon individuals began to collect in the neighbourhood, and soon after the face of the corpse was exposed, so that those who had not seen it on Saturday now had the privilege. A great many availed themselves of the opportunity. When his brother’s wife was turning from a last look, it is said she remarked that, ”had it not been for Ben Hall’s wife, he would not have been lying there.” The funeral procession started for the cemetery at 4 o’clock, and consisted of hearse, ornamental with black plumes in profusion, and drawn by a black horse, driven by Mr. Toler. Immediately following were his brother William Hall and wife, two three carriages, and 40 or 50 persons on foot. In this way they passed into Lachlan street on their way to the grave. The procession turned by Jones’s store, and passed by the head of the North Lead. Arrived at the cemetery, where about 100 persons, from motives of curiosity or otherwise, had collected, the coffin was taken from the hearse and placed over the grave. A bottle of holy water was then sprinkled over it by Mr, Toler, and the burial service of the Roman Catholic Church was read by Mr. Jas. K. Montgomery. The coffin was then lowered into the ground and covered with earth. Amongst the spectators there were between 40 and 50 females, young and old.”

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