Spotlight: Gilbert (08/07/1865)

Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW : 1860 – 1938), Saturday 8 July 1865, page 4


THIS week we are able to give an illustration of the death of the notorious Johnny Gilbert, the bushranger, and accomplice with Hall, Dunn, and O’Meally in many an act of robbery and crime within the last few years. Gilbert was but twenty-five years old at time of his death, but was of a stout build and capable of undergoing great exertion. He was the son of respectable parents, and his father is now living Taradale, in Victoria where he has for some years resided, following the occupation of mining, and is stated to have been much grieved at the lawless habits of his unfortunate son. But little is known of the early life of Gilbert, except that he was engaged as stock rider in some stations about Forbes, and that at the end of the year 1862, he, like several other young men of loose habits, became inflamed with the passion and desire of becoming highwaymen, thinking it no doubt a grand thing and a noble pursuit instead of honestly and quietly working industriously for a livelihood. The violent end of Gilbert, coupled with the similar fate of two of his comrades and of Daniel Morgan, shows the fallacy of such a delusion. Throughout the year 1863, Gilbert, associated with either Ben Hall, O’Meally, and, Dunn, and, sometimes with the whole of them, perpetrated several daring crimes, such as robbing stores, stealing race-horses, stopping the mails and taking therefrom everything of value. Every thing was of late done by them in the most daring manner and in the most open way. They would ride up to places, bail up, as it is called, a whole village, adjourn to a hotel and compel those whom they pleased to join in all kinds of revelry and amusement and treat every one with the liquors, &c. of the landlord, who was forced to submit to this barefaced levy of black-mail. No one attempted to lay a hand on them, or if they did, the intended attempt was signalised to these freebooters and then vengeance was sure to fall upon the head of the person having the courage to endeavor to rid society of those who were making it their prey. The burning of the store of Mr. Morris, at Binda, is an instance in point, and it will be remembered that he nearly lost his life through attempting to secure Gilbert and Dunn. So matters went on every week, the list of crimes and offences swelling in magnitude until the 15th November last, when Gilbert, Hall, and Dunn stopped the mail from Gundagai to Yass at about four miles from Jugiong. The mail was escorted by two of the police, and on that occasion the bushrangers fired at them and Sergeant Edmund Parry was shot dead. Great excitement arose upon this and large parties of police were sent in pursuit and scattered about their haunts, but they were always “five minutes too late.” More robberies were committed, and on the 26th January last another police constable named Samuel Nelsen, was shot at Collector by these ruffians, it being believed that Dunn fired the shot which killed him, but both Gilbert and Hall were with him and were accessories to the murder. A reward of £1,000 was then put by Government on their heads, and the well known Felons’ Apprehension Act was passed into law, leading eventually to the breaking up of these gangs of robbers and murderers. At length in May the police got well on the trail of Gilbert and Dunn, Ben Hall having, been shot by a party of them near Forbes on the 29th April. On the 12th May, information was given that Dunn and Gilbert were in the neighborhood of Binalong, and that night Senior Constable Hales, with Constables Bright, King and others went to the hut of a man named Kelly and watched it all night. Kelly’s son came out in the morning, and, on being asked, denied that any one was inside. Hales, however, doubted him, and went up the door, when the elder Kelly called out, “here are some troopers surrounding the house.” King and Hales rushed inside and saw two men in another room, the door of which was shut to instantly, and a shot was fired at the police, who returned the fire, and called upon all to surrender, threatening to burn down the hut if they did not. Gilbert and Dunn thereupon jumped through a window at the back and commenced running to a paddock where their horses were, turning round and firing at their pursuers as they ran. Gilbert got into a creek, the bed of which was dry and ran along it, when Hales called on him to stand. This was unheeded, when Hales fired; Gilbert looked round and the next moment Bright aIso fired and Gilbert fell. King was close and was fired at by both Gilbert and Dunn and a shot from the latter hit him in the ankle and rendered him unable to give further assistance. Dunn got off in the scrub and was lost by the police, who, on their return, found Gilbert dead. On a post-mortem examination by Dr. Campbell, it was found that the bullet had passed through the left lung and the left ventricle of the heart, causing almost immediate death, and the jury, on the occasion of the inquest at Binalong the next day, immediately returned a verdict of “justifiable homicide.” Our illustration shows Gilbert falling from the wound, and Dunn firing at King. Dunn has not yet met his fate, which is, however, impending; and with him we hope there will be an end to our bushrangers.

Describing the Hall Gang

Does the popular image of the Hall Gang marry up with eyewitness descriptions? Unlike with many earlier bushrangers, witness descriptions of bushrangers in the gold rush era were often quite detailed. Many in the modern day are familiar with the studio portraits of Ben Hall before he became an outlaw, as well as the illustrations of Gilbert and Dunn produced for newspapers, but these images only give us a controlled glimpse. No verified photographs of Gilbert and Dunn exist (the man photographed with Gardiner never having been officially named, and quite possibly a son of Gardiner’s close associate William Fogg), and the only verified photographs of Hall were taken at a very different stage in his life.

Frank Gardiner and [John Gilbert ?] bushranger, c. 1860, by Charles Percy Pickering [Courtesy: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales; IE8852400, FL8852406]

The earliest verified description of Johnny Gilbert comes from his time with Frank Gardiner. In the wake of the escort robbery at Eugowra Rocks, the following description was published.

Source: Golden Age (Queanbeyan, NSW : 1860 – 1864): 19/02/1863, p.2

It must be remembered, of course, that the press often made errors. A prime example is the publishing of two descriptions of Patsy Daley in one article, albeit with one listed as “Maley”. Perhaps it speaks volumes about the harshness of frontier life that Ben Hall at 25 appeared to be close to 30 years old.

This description of Hall comes from early in his bushranging career. The description seems to match the traditional image of him.

While it is fascinating to look at the descriptions from different points in time to see how the men evolved, it is also intriguing to see if it is possible to recognise the men from description alone as the general population were expected to.

Sketch from description of Johnny Gilbert the bushranger, 1863, artist unknown [Courtesy: National Library of Australia; PIC Drawer 3651 #T2668 NK6892/B]

In mid-1864 Hall’s gang consisted of himself, Gilbert and James “Old Man” Gordon. The following descriptions only identify Hall by name, but the other two are easy enough to differentiate from one another.

Ben Hall [Courtesy: State Library of Queensland; 195452]

The following extract is from an 1864 article describing to the gang’s exploits at the Black Springs near Jugiong:

“My informant, who is a very intelligent young man, and who was for six hours a captive, during which time he paid the greatest attention to all that the gang said and did, says that Gilbert and Dunn seemed very cool and jolly, whereas, Hall’s manner was rather serious and anxious. Gilbert and Dunn’s waistcoats were festooned with gold watch-guards, and their general appearance was that of flash well-to-do young stockmen; but, on the contrary, Hall had a quiet and respectable air — by wearing nicely-shaped high boots and a well-fitting pair of brown cord pants, with fashionably cut cloth coat and vest of the same colour, and only one gold chain, and not much of that to be seen. […] Gilbert has not the fresh, clear expression of countenance he used to have. His features are now much embrowned by the sun, and the skin in many places is peeling off. He, in the course of conversation, admitted that he had not long returned from Queensland, and that when there he was three times chased by the police; and furthermore, that on one of these three occasions, upon his horse knocking up, he jumped off and challenged his two pursuers to come on, whereupon they halted and jawed a bit, and then turned tail. Hall is the only one of the three who cultivates any moustache or whiskers, and he is getting fat. Of his two companions in crime, one wears his hair so long as to touch his shoulders, and the other has it in short crisp curls. They all once or twice stated that they were determined never to surrender, but to fight to the last. Each had six large-sized revolvers in his belt.”

Empire (Sydney): 20/12/1864, p.3

The term “whiskers” in this period seems to have had a slightly vague meaning, but usually described what we would now refer to as sideburns. Based on the description given, it seems that while Gilbert and Dunn were clean-shaven, Hall had grown out his whiskers and moustache. This alone gives us quite a different view of Hall than what we’re familiar with.

Gilbert was known to remain clean-shaven with long hair so that he could disguise himself as a woman, which he supposedly did with some success on the New Zealand goldfields just after the Eugowra heist. With this knowledge in mind, it seems that John Dunn must have been the one with short, curly hair.

It is worth noting how the descriptions above informed the way the official descriptions were then given. The following description of Gilbert came three months after the incident at Jugiong. Oddly, it still describes him as about 22 years old as in the original descriptions published several years earlier.

Description of Gilbert from reward notice. Source: New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 – 1900): 21/03/1865, p.676

Perhaps the most detailed physical descriptions of Hall and Gilbert are those made post mortem. After Hall’s shooting by police in May 1865, the body was displayed in Forbes. Surprisingly, at the inquest into Hall’s death the body was not described, even in relation to the medical examination to determine cause of death. Thus, the only description we have of Hall in death comes from a report describing the scenes at the viewing of his body. Some have suggested the lack of description at the inquest to be evidence that there was an effort to obscure police culpability in what was, essentially, an illegal execution.

His body was lying upon a stretcher in the south-east corner room of the building appropriated to the foot police. There was nothing forbidding in the countenance of Ben Hall, as he lay there still in death. In fact, I heard the remark made several times, during the moment I was in the room, “What a handsome face.” He appeared to be a young man about twenty-eight, finely made, excellent features, lofty forehead, and fine brown hair. His whiskers and moustache were cut quite close and of a much lighter colour than the hair on his head. I heard many make the remark, “I have often seen that face somewhere, but cannot tell where.” I have myself seen the face, but have no idea when or where. The most remarkable feature in the countenance was a peculiar curl in the right side of the upper lip, indicating ordinarily a feeling of contemptuous scorn, produced by the action of the mind upon the muscles. In this case I am told that it is a constitutional feature, and may therefore indicate nothing.

“THE DEATH OF BEN HALL.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 13 May 1865: 7.

Not long after Hall’s death the law finally caught up with Gilbert and Dunn. Gilbert was shot while the pair attempted to flee from police, but only Dunn succeeded. Unlike Hall, Gilbert’s inquest included a detailed description of the body to verify the identity.

Post mortem description of Johnny Gilbert

Of the three, Dunn was the only member of the gang to stand trial. He had been badly wounded in his capture; a bullet becoming lodged in his spine. The description of him from his trial is far more evocative than previously seen.

Dunn, the bushranger, by Arthur Levett Jackson, 23/02/1866 [Courtesy: State Library Victoria; 1650721]

It is reasonable to suggest that part of the reason the gang were able to move freely for so long was due to the difficulty in recognising them from published descriptions.

These are mere snippets of the myriad descriptions published at the time, but go some way to explaining how the perception of bushrangers rarely matches the reality. Imagine how different our understanding of Hall, Gilbert and Dunn would be if there were more images to refer to apart from imagined ones used for newspaper etchings, or outdated photos of Hall from before his outlaw days.

Spotlight: Local & General Intelligence, Tumut and Adelong (11 May 1865)

Tumut and Adelong Times (NSW : 1864 – 1867; 1899 – 1950), Thursday 11 May 1865, page 2


Local & General Intelligence

The Araluen Escort Robbery. — Daniel Ryan, of Murrumburrah, lately arrested at that place, by Mr. Bray’s volunteer party, on a charge of being concerned with Ben Hall’s gang, in the attack on the Araluen escort, and who was remanded to Braidwood for identification, has being identified as being with the party on the Araluen mountain, and also when they stuck up Boyd’s store, at Tarago. — Goulburn Argus.

Expensive Gents. — The Yass Courier calculates that, during four years, it has cost the colony £200,000 to hunt Hall, Gilbert, and Dunn, in which all the efforts of the police have been ineffectual.

Captain Thunderbolt and his Gang. — The Tamworth Examiner says : — After various petty robberies this gang were surprised by the police whilst in possession of Mr. Walford’s inn at Millie. The police had been tracking them for four days, and reached Mr. Walford’s about an hour after the bushrangers had arrived there. The situation of this house is on an open plain, without a tree for miles in any direction. The bushrangers, four in number, were at the house, at the time, one being outside on guard, and on the latter seeing four men galloping across the plain to the house, a whistle was given to those inside, and all four came out to see who it might be. On learning that it was the police, they all mounted their horses, one of them holding up his revolver as a challenge to the police to come on, at the same time retreating from the house to the open plain at the rear. They had all drawn their revolvers, but the police, nothing daunted, gave chase, and came within firing distance a short way from the house. Tunderbolt fired the first shot, to which the police replied, at the same time endeavours were made to cut off the young lad from the rest of the gang, who seemed not to be so well mounted as the others, Firing was continued on both sides with great vigour, when a well directed ball from the revolver of constable Dalton, took effect on the young lad, entered the back and came out near the stomach. He fell from his horse, and Dalton shouted to constable Norris to take charge of him, while he went after the others. On leaving with that intention, he fortunately turned round and saw the young vagabond, while on the ground, presenting his revolver at him. He threw himself on his horse’s neck, and the ball luckily passed over him. Constable Norris came up at this moment, and again fired at the ruffian, the ball taking effect, having entered the jaw and escaped at the back of the neck. During the whole of the time constable Lynch was keeping the other three bushrangers at bay, and succeeded in doing so, notwithstanding that Ward, who was mounted on a fine chesnut horse, several times rode between the police and the youth, constantly discharging his revolver at the same time, in order to give his mate time to escape. He was, however, unsuccessful. About forty shots were fired by the police, and their ammunition was nearly all expended. After securing the youth, they proceeded a short distance after the others, but their horses were completely knocked up, having ridden them fully five hundred miles. The fight is described by eye witnesses as an exceedingly plucky affair, and highly creditable to the police engaged. The encounter lasted altogether about an hour, and the balls from the several revolvers flew about in all directions, one passing through the whiskers of one of the police, but not injuring him. The youth who was shot was at once taken to the inn, and a doctor sent for to Moree; but he is in a very weak state, and it is doubtful if he will recover. The head of the gang, who goes under the name of ‘Thunderbolt,’ is named Ward, and has been engaged in several robberies. He was at one time employed in breaking in horses at the Tareela station. The second is supposed to be a man named McIntosh, and is said to be a brother of McIntosh who was mixed up with Picton in a cattle stealing case some years ago. The bushranger who is shot is named John Thomson, a youth about sixteen years of age, and is described as a very dangerous vagabond. He had frequently expressed a wish to join the bushrangers. The fourth man is known by the name of ‘Bull’ or ‘Bully.’ Thomson and Ward are well acquainted with the part of the country on which they have been recently committing their depredations, and the former with his companions will doubtless make for his old haunts on the head of some of the creeks running into the Barwin, near Walgott. [Thomson has since died.]

Attempt on Wendlan’s Life. — Almost as might have been expected, the life of Wendlan, who shot Morgan, has become endangered through the spirit of revenge on the part of some of the scoundrel’s accomplices. A fellow named Thomas Maslen has been brought before the Bench at Wahgunyah, charged with threatening to avenge Morgan’s death by shooting Wendlan. He was found with arms, powder, balls, caps, and a bottle of strychnine. On Wednesday, Sergeant Hayes stated to the Bench that Maslen could be identified as an accomplice of Morgan, and the prisoner was remanded for a week. — Albury Banner.

A Good Chase and Capture. — The police in this colony have been so unfortunate in their attempts to capture the more notorious bushrangers, that the notion has become general that they are unequal to their duties. But such conclusion is very erroneous, as may be easily seen by reference to the list of captures recently made. The latest successful chase we hear of occurred at Uralla in the North. A man with blackened face robbed a shepherd’s hut, taking from him his only half-crown and everything else of value, and not for three days could information be conveyed to the police. There, however, two troopers started, and after riding 350 miles in five days, succeeded in surprising the robber with his mate in camp, and both of them were lodged safely in limbo. — Pastoral Times.

Morgan’s Legacies. — The Pastoral Times hears that Mr. Commissioner Lockhart is engaged in the district around Albury in trying to clear the country of the wretched villains who aided and abetted the recently slain murderer. Little mercy should be shown to those who, residing on Crown Lands illegally, gave shelter and food to Morgan while he went forth to rob and kill. It is to be hoped that the other Commissioners of Crown Lands in the Wellington districts, and the country where Messrs. Hall, Gilbert, and Co. carry on their avocations, will see that the powers invested in them are used to rid their districts of the aiders and abettors in these crimes.

Spotlight: Gilbert, Hall, and Dunn’s Raid on the Nubriggan (2 May 1865)

Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser (Grafton, NSW : 1859 – 1889), Tuesday 2 May 1865, page 3


GILBERT, HALL, AND DUNN’S RAID ON THE NUBRIGGAN.

A correspondent of the Western Examiner reports that on the evening of Sunday, as Mr. Brazier, land lord of the Nubriggan Inn, with some other gentlemen, were enjoying their pipes, four horsemen well mounted, three of them with every appearance of wealthy gentlemen, dashed up to the door. The stoutest immediately dismounted, entered the inn, and walking up to Mr. Brazier, ordered him to turn out his pockets, Mr. Brazier thinking it was making rather free, asked him sternly what he meant, and ordered him behind the bar, but the sight of a revolver in hand and a number round his waist caused him to unbend his brows, and submit with as good a grace as possible. Gilbert turned the pockets of Mr. Brazier inside out, and threw the few shillings they contained on the counter, and demanded to know where he kept his cash. He was told generally in the pockets of his pants. In the meantime Gilbert and Dunn placed all the men, women, and children that were about the house in one room, locking every door. Dunn went over to Mr. Peter’s house, and the house of Mr. Cousin’s shepherd, bringing all the inmates, and turning them in with the rest. Mr. G. West had just arrived from Wellington, and was putting his horse in the stables, when Gilbert walked in and asked if he was the groom. Not giving a satisfactory reply, Mr. West was immediately requested to walk into the parlour. The fourth party had his face masked and muffled, and walked as sentry on the outside of the house, nor did he once come in or allow his face to be seen during the night, he was armed with a revolving rifle and a revolver. All were now in the room, and Gilbert said he would be under the painful necessity of finding the cash.

He looked, over some drawers and disturbed the things in them very slightly. He then opened a little workbox, and taking out a parcel he said, “Ah, here is what I want “. On opening it there were six pounds in silver, some half-sovereigns and notes to the value of about 14 pounds. He was proceeding to examine the other boxes, when Mrs. Brazier told him they contained nothing but receipts and letters.

He immediately desisted, and said he would take her word for it. He then turned to the men in the room and said, “Now, my lads, I’m going to shout, but I wish to say a few words to you. Generally when we go to a public-house we are in the habit of making ourselves agreeable but those we meet with, after they get liquor in, get Dutch courage, and talk about mobbing us. Now if we hear anything of that kind, somebody is apt to get hurt, and I don’t think it will be us. And another thing, I will not allow any swearing, blackguard language, or obscene songs, before the females, and now, as we understand each other, let us liquor.” So the drink was called in fast and furious, before one round was drank another was called on. Dunn wanted, music and a dance, having found an accordion. Mr. Brazier objected on account of its being Sunday. In a short time, twelve o’clock struck. “Now” said Gilbert, “it’s Monday morning let’s have a dance.” A gentleman named Mr. Charles Gardiner was compelled to exert his talents in the music line, and the bushrangers had such a persuasive way with them, between brandy and bullets they soon had nearly all hands dancing. The dance and song went round, Gilbert and Dunn taking the principal parts, Hall remaining as a spectator, and the ranger incog still continuing to guard outside. Two of the parties confined had words and peeled to decide it with fists, but Gilbert instantly interfered, and threatened to tie up anyone who attempted to interrupt the harmony of the evening. In vinum Caillai veritas began to show itself. One gentlemen was silenced in a peremptory manner. In the midst of the hilarity they never for a moment relaxed their vigilance. Any person leaving the room for a moment was missed and brought back, and the sentinel at the door drove back with his rifle any person showing his head. Mr. Thomas Stephens, a contractor, spoke seriously to Gilbert on his course of life, pointing out to him not only the sinfulness, but the certain end sooner or later. After talking in a religious strain to him some time longer, Mr. Stephens said, “You have never had Morgan with you.” “No” said Gilbert, “we would not allow such a blood-thirsty wretch to have remained with us, we would have shot him long since.” The bushrangers paid for all the liquor they called for, also tea, sugar, tobacco, &c. They handed back a cheque for a pound which they had taken from Mr. Brazier and told him not to take pay out of that, handing him a note at the same time. Hall asked Brazier if he had a horse called Brandy P and was answered in the affirmative. He said we must have it, but that Brazier would get it back. They “shouted” back nearly all the money they took, and at daybreak, mounted their horses and started towards Shepherd’s Creek. They tried hard before leaving, to persuade Mr. Stephens to accompany them as chaplain, but he found his exortations were of no avail, so declined having anything to do with them. They threatened vengeance if anyone they left before two hours. They have stuck up Mookernwo and Junction and are hourly expected at the Barks.

THE SURRENDER OF JAMES BURKE.

Sydney Morning Herald’s correspondent says :–

This young man gave himself up to the Hon. Father McGuinn, on Sunday last, and is now in the look-up, under remand. He is a cousin of Mick Burke, who was shot by Mr. Keightley, and has been several times in gaol; He is suspected to be one of the party that lately took Mr. Burton’s racehorses.

With reference to the above the correspondent of the Bathurst Times says :–

I have great pleasure in informing your readers that this young desperado, who, in company with two others, has latterly been levying black mail in the Carcoar district was delivered up to the authorities on Tuesday, by the Rev. D. McGuinn. The following particulars respecting the surrender may be relied upon: Father McGuinn, it appears, had occasion to visit the Tuena gold-fields last week, and being informed that Burke and party had been in that quarter, he used every effort to come in contact with them, and persuade them to desist from the lawless career they were entering upon. He met young Burke on the Abercrombie Mountains, and, after vividly painting with true Christian earnestness the guilt and horror of a highwayman’s life, succeeded in prevailing on him to surrender, and throw himself on the mercy of the law. He then accompanied the rev. gentleman to the Long Swamp, where they remained for the night; and next day (Tuesday last) proceeded on to Carcoar, when the unfortunate – or perliaps fortunate – youth was formally handed over to the care of the ofllcer of police here, Mr. Sub-Inspector Roberts. It will be recollected, that this is the second bushranger whom Father McGuinn has, by his intermediation, induced to desist from his evil course, having given up Dunleavy some few months ago to Superintendent Lydiard, in Bathurst. The colony must owe a great debt of gratitude to the rev. gentleman for thus protecting. the public from the depredations of these characters, It Is not improbable, if what I hear be true, that some of Ben Hall’s gang may yet surrender themselves to justice, were a guarantee given that the extreme penalty of the law would not be carried into effect.

TESTIMONIAL TO MR EDWARD MORRISS.

About a dozen gentlemen at Wagga Wagga have raised the sum of £20 19s. as a token of the admiration with which they regard Mr. Morriss’s conduct on the occasion of the visit of the bushrangers to Binda, when his store was burnt down. The money was forwarded by the treasurer, Mr. George Forsyth, to the manager of the Joint Stock Bank at Goulburn, to be paid over to Mr. Morriss.

FELONS APPREHENSION BILL.

Reply of the bushrangers, Gilbert, Hall, and Dunn, to the judicial summons to surrender to take their trial for murder, on or before the 29th instant.— “We’ll be hanged if we do!” – Bell’s Life,

Spotlight: Ben Hall Wounded (22 March 1865)

Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880), Wednesday 22 March 1865, page 6


NEW SOUTH WALES.

BEN HALL WOUNDED

According to the “Goulburn Argus” of the 8th, there is no doubt that Ben Hall was wounded in the encounter at Mutbilly. That journal says :–

He seems to have lost blood on the spot where he fell, but be managed to make his way either on foot or horseback to the Gullen district, and being concealed in a house there, he obtained the assistance of a person, who knew something of surgery, and the ball, which had lodged in his arm, beneath the elbow, was extracted from it. He stayed several days at the place, and then left, some friend or sympathiser having in the meantime come into town and obtained some ointment for dressing the wound. The house in which he had been hid was searched by the police on Friday last, but he was then non est. It is stated that since the affair at Byrne’s, and whilst he had no other arms than revolvers, and was on foot, Hall was charged by three mounted policemen near Mr. Warne’s, at the Crookwell, but he managed to effect his escape. It is also reported that Gilbert and Dunn joined Hall somewhere in that neighbourhood, and they signalised their meeting by a round of firing. Another version is that the man now with Dunn and Gilbert, and supposed to be Hall, is not that individual, but some one personating him, and that Hall himself is still unable to join them, and has merely changed his place of concealment. This version states that Gilbert, Dunn, and the other man have been close to Collector ever since the affray at Mutbilly.

The present history of New South Wales seems to consist of a record of the murders, robberies, and other depredations perpetrated by gangs of marauding bushrangers, aided by the residents in the districts thus infested. Nothing more disgraceful to the people who tolerate this state, of things has ever existed in the worst bandit ruled fastnesses of Italy. In generalisation of this assertion we submit a few of the telegrams recently received at Sydney from the interior and from Sydney and Melbourne.

Sydney, Feb 24

News reached town today of a savage encounter between the police and Hall’s gang of bushrangers. The particulars to hand are as follows :– The police surprised the bushrangers early this morning, at Mutbilly, fifteen miles from Goulburn, when they were camping. A desperate fight ensued. Hall is reported as wounded The bushrangers eventually escaped, but were half naked. They left their arms and horses behind them. The police are in great hopes of capturing them tonight.

Feb. 27

The bushrangers, after having escaped from the police on Friday morning, procured fresh horses and firearms, and are still at large. The police have discovered notes, cheques, and drafts to the value of £1000 which had been planted by Ben Hall, near Goulburn.

March 6

Parliament assembled today. the Chief secretary, Mr. Cowper, made a statement to the effect that the Government intended the present session to be a brief one, and they would only introduce a few important measures. It was proposed to meet the existing deficiency by raising a loan and to provide for the current expenditure by the present tariff and direct taxation. Sir Frederick Pottinger, late inspector of police accidentally shot himself yesterday. The wound was pronounced mortal. Bushrangers were plundering near Berrima yesterday. Three bushrangers, not previously known to the police, have been arrested near Goulburn. A police telegram, respecting the escort robbery, states that the attack took place half a mile from Major’s Creek. The bushrangers were four in numbar, Hall, Gilbert, and Dunn had double-barrelled guns and revolvers. The gold was conveyed in an iron safe, on a coach. The bushrangers fired on the driver from behind some logs, but missed him and he fled; the police fired in return, when the bushrangers ran up the side of the mountain to their horses and disappeared. One constable kept close to the cart, and with some people that came out from the township, escorted the gold safe to Major’s Creek. Only one trooper is wounded. The ball entered his breast. Upon the receipt of the telegram troopers started from Braidwood, with Superintendent Orridge. About 200 armed diggers left Araluen to assist the police.

Goulburn, March 6

Richard Middleton, John Wilson, and Thomas Tracey, who yesterday committed highway robbery with arms near Paddy’s River, were apprehended this morning and committed for trial at the next assizes. Or Saturday afternoon, Ben Hall, Gilbert, and Dunn stopped the mail from here to Gundaroo; Mr. W. Davis, of Ginninderra, and some females were passengers. Mr. Davis was walking up the hill when the bushrangers came out and covered him with their revolvers. They took his gold watch and a revolver, and in the coach they found a revolving rifle and a double-barrelled gun, also belonging to Mr. Davis, which they took. They opened about half the letters, from which they got only £2. It has been reported since, that they have been seen at Gunning and Collector, and it is said that Hall was actually wounded in the latest encounter, and that the ball has since been extracted from his arm.

Wagga Wagga, March 9

A frightful case of suicide occurred here last night (Sunday), Mr. Renauf accountant of the Bank of New South Wales, in the most determined manner threw himself down the flue of a lime furnace — which was then in a white heat. The firemen present attempted to prevent him from doing so but failed. The body was horribly disfigured and charred. The caust which led to this terrible catas-trophe is at present unknown.

6 p.m.

News has just reached here that another victim has been shot by the ruffian Morgan, at Wollondool. The information is reliable; but it is not certain that the unfortunate man is dead.

March 11

Ben Hall’s gang paid a visit to Gunnings on Thursday night, and helped themselves to three horses, with which they got clear away.

March 12

has been committed for trial on a charge of personation at the late elections. The inquest on the body of Castor (of the Christy’s Minstrels), who poisoned himself, has resulted in a verdict of temporary insanity. The Maitland telegram reports that about noon to day D. Cohen and Co.’s store took fire. The flames spread thence to the Commercial Bank, and Mullen’s, Lipscomb’s, and Hines’s stores, all of which were destroyed. The bank saved the books and valuables, but the loss is supposed to be very heavy, probably about £80,000, which is covered by insurance, of which Cohen’s amounts to £50,000 The manager of the Victoria Insurance Office goes up tonight to protect the interests of the insurance offices. The total damage is estimated at about £170,000. Sir Frederick Pottinger is recovering.

Sydney, March 15

The total loss by the Maitland fire is estimated at £170,000. The bushrangers continue their depredations in the southern districts. Arrived: Agnes and Jessie, from Launceston.

Spotlight: THE ESCAPE AND RECAPTURE OF DUNN, THE BUSHRANGER (1866)

Australian News for Home Readers (Vic. : 1864 – 1867), Friday 23 February 1866, page 12


THE ESCAPE AND RECAPTURE OF DUNN, THE BUSHRANGER.

This notorious bushranger, the last of Ben Hall’s gang, after a series of robberies in the northern district of New South Wales, was apprehended about the end of December last and lodged in the lock-up of Dubbo. The police effected his capture entirely by their own exertions; not having received any information of his whereabouts. They took him by surprise, but he did not surrender, until after a most desperate resistance, and until he was unable from his wounds to continue the contest. McHale, the policeman whose bullet disabled Dunn, was, also wounded. When Dunn was secured he treated the affair with the greatest jocularity, remarking that he was tired of bushranging, and had thrown away his gun. On the 14th January he effected his escape in the manner described in the following communication addressed to the Bathurst Times:— “Dunn had been getting so strong that it was deemed advisable to put him in irons. He got sulky at this, and refused to take food, and expressed his determination to die rather than be hanged; and when he was informed by Dr. Ramsay that if even he did escape the rope he would be paralysed, he became firmer than ever in his determination. His groans during the time the irons were on him prevented McHale, whose case is most dangerous from the fact that the wound has closed prematurely — his groans, I say, prevented McHale from getting any sleep. Instead of being removed into another room, McHale was left in the same apartment with Dunn, and this prevented his getting the sleep so required. The van had arrived from Bathurst for his removal. He heard of this, and shammed dying. On Saturday evening Mr. Hogg had prepared a stretcher for him at the gaol, in order to allow McHale to sleep but Dunn was considered too bad to be able to be removed, and he was suffered to remain where he was, as he was thought to be dying, and the irons were knocked off by Dr. Ramsay’s order. Between one and three on Sunday morning he made his exit through the window while five or six troopers lay in the next room, some of them having kept watch until twelve o’clock. I may here mention that Walton, the harborer of Dunn on the Marthaguy Creek, had been brought into town by Hawthorn and another policeman. He was brought before the bench on Saturday, and as McHale, who had most material evidence to give in consequence of ferreting out information from a sly-grog seller he had apprehended provious to his gallant capture of Dunn, was required to be present at the examination, he had to be brought from the barracks to the court house, where he was detained the greater part of the day. This exertion so fatigued McHale that he was scarcely able to get back. The consequence was that he slept much better than he had done since his arrival in Dubbo; and this accounts for Dunn escaping unheard and unobserved by McHale. Why one of the troopers in the next room did not keep watch, especially as one hour from each would have prevented the escape, is a mystery. Towards early dawn McHale awoke, and on looking towards Dunn’s bed he called the outlaw by name, and, on receiving no reply, concluded he was dead. He crawled over to his bed and found Dunn gone; his handkerchief was spread cunningly out where his head ought to be, as if he had spread it over his face to keep off the flies, and the pillow was placed in the centre of the bed, to induce McHale, should he accidentally awake, to fancy that his man was there. McHale kicked and knocked at the door of the men’s room, and shouted out that Dunn was gone, but they thought he was hoaxing and only playing them a joke. McHale limped out as well as he could, to inform Mr. Hogg, who lived next door, but was prevented from his design and persuaded to go into his room. He again crawled out in a pitiable state of mind, and tracked Dunn from the window for some yards, where he found the poultices which had dropped off. All the police were out in an instant, but it was of no avail, although there were black and white trackers, and volunteers. Various were the rumors and surmises as to how he effected his escape. Some said Thunderbolt had been seen that day in the neighborhood of the town, and some four or five young men (strangers) had been in town, whose movements were suspicions; that a stranger, who represented himself as a photographer, had been seeking an interview with Dunn about twelve o’clock. A horse had been seen close to where the tracks were lost. That night (Sunday) a meeting was held in the streets, and several enrolled themselves as volunteers for that night and the next day. On Monday morning most of the troopers returned, but could find no traces of the fugitive. About six o’clock in the evening, a young man who had been in the scrub about a mile and a half at the back of the river and town, saw emerging from under a log the wasted and emaciated form of Dunn, who supplicated him for a drink of water. This he gave him; and after chatting for a quarter of an hour, he asked the young man if he would take him in his cart to the river, for the wound McHale gave him disabled him from riding for ever. The young man fortunately rejected the proposal, and drove into Dubbo and informed constable McKeown of his meeting with Dunn and the attending circumstances, and went back with McKeown, who at once took him into custody. Meanwhile an immense crowd had congregated, some bringing water, others brandy, and other stimulants, an the unfortunate misguided creature was in the last stage of exhaustion from exposure, hunger, thirst, and the effects of his almost fatal wound. He was brought into town on a vehicle and placed this time where he should have been first — in the gaol — and this morning he was sent off under escort to Wellington to join McHale, who had started in the Bathurst police van on the day previous for your good “city of the plains.” A telegram had been received, on Monday, from the Government, authorising a reward of £50 for information and £100 for the capture of Dunn. This, no doubt because the Government should give the original reward to the captors who handed their man over to the higher powers. There is no small amount of dissatisfaction at the manner in which McHale’s paramount claims to the major part of the £750 have been grossly ignored, his bullet— and his alone — having disabled Dunn, and rendered his apprehension by the other two a matter of certainty. Besides, to his fortunate shot we may attribute the recapture, as Dunn himself admits he could have escaped only for its disabling effects.. Besides, it is probable McHale will be a cripple for life, if, indeed, his life is secure at all.

Saturday’s Times thus records Dunn’s arrival at Bathurst:— “At four o’clock yesterday, Dunn was brought into Bathurst by Mr. Superintendent Lydiard and a strong escort. He was conveyed in the police van, a bed being placed on the floor of the vehicle for his accommodation. With him were Murphy, the boy bushranger, and the old shepherd belonging to the hut in which Dana was hiding when surprised by the police, both having been committed for trial — the first for bushranging, and the latter for harboring Dunn. As soon as the van was espied going towards the gaol, there was a rush from all directions of persons anxious to catch a glimpse of the outlaw; but they were doomed to disappointment, for the gaol gates swung open to admit the vehicle and then closed, shutting out all but the escort. In appearance Dunn is a small spare-built man, about twenty two years, old, anything but ferocious in aspect. The wound which disabled him is in the loins, about two inches to the right of the spine, the sinews connected with which appear to be injured and to have caused a loss of power in the right leg. He complains of a tingling sensation along the entire limb at the back, but does not appear to suffer much from the wounds itself. The injury caused by the shot which struck him on the toes of the right foot is of a very trifling nature. We are informed that over since his disappearance from the Southern districts he has been engaged on the Macquarie breaking in horses. He kept very quiet and was unknown, and but for his own fears, which led him to take to his heels when he saw the police, he might still have been at large, for the constables had no idea that he was in the neighborhood. No danger is expected to result from his wound, and it is considered that he will recover. He has been brought down to Sydney that he may be tried by a more impartial jury than would most likely be obtainable in that part of the colony where he has made himself so notorious. He was taken to Darlinghurst gaol, and will be tried at the next criminal sessions, which will commence on the 12th inst.

Spotlight: Robberies by Hall & Co. (November 1864)

Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Wednesday 16 November 1864, page 3


STICKING-UP OF ROSSIVILLE AND ROBBERY OF THE SYDNEY MAIL BY HALL, DUNN, AND GILBERT.

The town of Goulburn was thrown into a state of great excitement on Wednesday morning last, by a report that Mr. Rossi’s house at Rossiville, only two and a half miles from town had been stuck up the previous night by Hall, Gilbert, and young Dunn. It was at first stated that the robbers had their faces covered when committing the outrage, and this led to the rumour being discredited as to the identity of the men, as it was well known the three individuals named never resort to concealment of their faces; it proved, however, that there had been no concealment.

On inquiry we learnt that about eight o’clock on Tuesday evening three men entered the back yard of Rossiville with revolvers in their hands, and the servant girl seeing them, immediately cried out that there were bushrangers. There were at the time on the premises only William Cushing, the coachman; an old man named Jim; and the servant girl – Mr. and Mrs. Rossi being absent with the Right Rev. Dr. Thomas on his diocesan tour. The inmates were all obliged to go into the kitchen, and the girl was made to fry some eggs for the robbers’ supper. They aIso made them fetch wine, of which, as well as the eggs, they, obliged the servants to partake before touching themselves. Gilbert told them they ought to feel highly honoured at their taking the meal in the kitchen, as it was a thing they never did before, being always accustomed to use the dining room or drawing room for that purpose. They complained of the quality of the bread, saying the flour was very dark, and asked, if that was Mr. Rossi’s fault. Being informed that it was the miller’s, they requested that their compliments should be presented to Mr. Conolly, with the request that he should send a couple of bags of his best flour before their next visit. The bushrangers made a thorough search of the premises at Rossiville and broke open boxes and drawers, but fortunately, all the plate and jewellery had been removed into town for safe custody before Mr. Rossi’s departure. Gilbert, however, selected a pair of new Bedford cord trousers and a new pair of Napoleon boots, and having arrayed himself in them, asked if they did not suit him admirably. They stopped at the house until about ten o’clock, when they left, taking with them three horses — viz., a pair of carriage horses which had been lately sold to Mr. Augustus Morris, M.P., but had not been removed, and Mr. Rossi’s grey Arab — a rifle, a couple of saddles, and some smaller articles. As the inmates of the house, however, were not sure about their departure, it was near eleven before Mr. Jordan, the overseer, who lives close by, could be communicated with and informed of the affair. He immediately accompanied by a young lad, came into town and gave information at the lock-up, viz., at about a quarter before midnight. Owing to our splendid system which leaves the troopers’ barracks two miles away from the centre of the town, it wast near one o’clock before four troopers started for Rossiville senior constable Paget and the lad having gone down to the Old Township to make their report, whilst Mr. Jordan, went to acquaint the Rev. Mr. Sowerby with what had happened. The boy eloquently and forcibly explained how the robbers were armed, by saying that they had “bushels of revolvers,” a not very inapplicable simile, when, as it appeared next morning, Hall alone had no less than eight revolvers in his belt.

Having now stated what occurred at Rossiville, we must turn to the robbery of the Sydney mail. Latterly, owing to the fine weather and excellent state of the roads, Messrs. Cobb and Co.’s coach from Picton with the Sydney mails has arrived punctually to its time, nine o’clook a.m., if not a little earlier. Its non-arrival, therefore, at ten o’clock on Wednesday morning coupled with the previous night’s proceedings, gave reason to believe that the coach had been stuck up, a suspicion that was changed into certainty by the arrival on horseback of Mr. William Sidwell, from Towrang, at a quarter past ten o’clock. Mr. Sidwell stated that a man passing through the bush had seen the coach bailed up and driven off the road, that the man had hastened to let him know, whereupon he had mounted his horse and galloped into town through the bush as hard as be could ride. To make the matter more explicit to our readers, we will give a narrative of the bushrangers’ proceedings, so far as is ascertained.

After leaving Mr. Rossi’s, their proceedings and whereabouts are unknown, until at early dawn they were seen skirting the outside of the town, though there was then no suspicion who they were. They then appear to have proceeded to Towrang, and remained in the vicinity of the toll-bar till they saw Mr. Thomas Parr, clerk to Mr. C. H. Walsh, the solicitor, who had been driving an invalid lady down to Sydney, in Mr. Walsh’s carriage, and was returning with a female friend who had accompanied her. On seeing Mr. Parr they bailed him up, made him stop the carriage and get out; telling him to go to the horses’ heads, which he did. They then asked him if there were any firearms in the carriage, to which he replied in the negative. Not content with the answer, the junior of the party, young Dunn — who they said they had engaged as apprentice for five years, although he had only served four months — was ordered to search the carriage, which he did, and reported Mr. Parr’s statement to be correct. Mr. Parr was then told he might leave the horses. One of the animals attracted the robbers’ fancy, and they took the harness off it. Mr. Parr attempted to decry it as a saddle horse, but Gilbert seemed inclined to take it, so much so that Mr. Parr said, if they did he hoped they would use it well. They then asked whose horse it was, and being told that it was “Lawyer Walsh’s,” they left it alone, but said that if they could get hold of Mr. Walsh they would make him give them a cheque for a good amount, and keep him in their custody till it was cashed. From Mr. Parr they took £2. Having left Shelly’s Flats that morning, and having had no breakfast, Mr. Parr’s female companion felt the want of it, whereupon the bushrangers obligingly made her some tea, and offered her part of a turkey and some cakes obtained from a traveller.

Soon after Mr. Parr was stuck up, a person named Nye who was riding, and who is a brother to a man who was arrested some twelve months back at Sutton Forest on suspicion of being Gilbert, to whom he bears a great resemblance — was stuck up by them. The bushrangers seem to have known who he was for they would not take his money (£1 11s ), and Gilbert laughingly said he might keep it as some compensation for the inconvenience his brother had suffered.

Some other parties having been stuck up, at eight o’clock the mail was slopped about fifty yards this side of the Towrang toll-bar. Johnny Daly, the coachman, saw a couple of men ride out of the bush, and one of them called out to him to bail up, and told him to drive into the bush which he had to do for a distance of some two hundred yards on the Boxer’s Creek side. The passengers in the coach were Mr. and Mrs. Hoskins and daughters, of Foxlowe, near Bungendore; a Mr. Iredale, from Sydney; and a man named Lee, a Yorkshireman; just arrived in the colony, who had been engaged by Mr. Campbell, of Duntroon. The robbers offered no violence whatever, and told the ladies not to be alarmed, as they would not be interfered with. From the males they demanded their money and valuables. Mr. Hoskins had twenty sovereigns in his purse, and these they took, but returned to him his watch. From Mr. Iredale they took £7 10s.; and from Lee £3, although they gave each back when leaving, 10s. in silver. From Daly they took nothing. They boasted of their doings of the preceding evening, and said that they intended giving Mr. Rossi fifty lashes if they had caught him at home for impounding poor men’s cattle. They observed, however, that the servants had told them Mr. Rossi wasn’t as bad as he was painted! They also said that they had seen the police magistrate, Mr. Allman, out near Rossiville the previous evening. They intimated to the persons stuck up that they intended to keep them there until after the arrival of the mail from Goulburn, as they intended to bail that up. Somehow or other they learnt that the gold escort would be coming down in the mail, but this did not appear at first to alter their determination, as they said they would put the first coach across the road at a turn, and thus blockade the path and take the escort unawares. The mailbags were taken down from the coach and all opened, Gilbert and Hall showing that they were well used to the work of “sorting” the letters. Cheques and bills of exchange they thrust aside with contempt, except in one case when they found, as an eye-witness expressed it, a “fistful” of notes in a letter, and a couple of cheques, which Gilbert remarked he could get cashed. There were a number of photographs in the letters, all of which they looked at and expressed their opinion on. In one case there was the photograph of a policeman, whom they apparently receognised, for one of them, pointing his revolver at the photograph said to the other “Wouldn’t I like to have the original here!” Of their findings generally they expressed their opinion by saying that it wasn’t an over and above good morning’s work. There was a large quantity of stamps going from the Postmaster-General to country postmasters, and these they scattered about in all directions, besides appropriating a few to themselves. Shortly after ten o’clock Dunn, who was acting as scout, gave the alarm that a man bad ridden off through the bush towards Goulburn after seeing them. This led to an immediate abandonment of their prisoners. One of Mr. Rossi’s horses, they said, didn’t suit them, and after saying that any one might take it into town, they left it, and made off.

It appears that the freebooters were at Mummell on Tuesday afternoon, had dinner at Mr. McAIeers; and shouted for all hands, but of course they were not known. Their coats were buttoned up, and there were no signs of arms about them, which is the more remarkable, as when seen “professionally” afterwards, they had each, in addition to an apparently almost unIimited stock of revolvers, a short rifle or carbine.

There can be no doubt now, from what we have since heard, that it was Ben Hall’s party or their accomplices that put the logs across the culvert near the Redhouse, on the Yass road, on Tuesday morning, as it is positively stated that the party working on the roads had nothing to do with it. A Mr. Griffiths, who was passing, had them removed immediately that they were seen. Very probably they intended to stick up the mail from Yass on that day, unaware of the fact that it being escort day, the mail came down in a buggy, which probably passed them without particular notice. A curious coincidence, if it be nothing more, may also be remarked in connection with this barricading of the Yass road, and that is, that although when the driver of the Braidwood mail passed a particular spot about three miles this side of the Shoalhaven, at six o’clock p.m., on Tuesday evening the road was clear, yet on his return by the same spot at two o’clock a.m., towards Goulburn, it was barricaded with branches of trees, quite newly cut down, at the time, the coach was among them before the driver had observed them. He immediately dismounted, however, and removed the obstruction, expecting every moment to be stuck up; having put the branches on one side, however, be proceeded on his route and reached town in safety.

On Thursday morning, a rumour prevailed, that the three bushrangers had been at Collector and had stuck up a store there. The sticking up turned out not to be correct, and it is doubtful if any of the trio were concerned in the affair, though if they were not, there is no doubt some of their confederates were. The facts appear to be these. Two men, well mounted on horses somewhat resembling those ridden by two of the bushrangers, and dressed very similarly, rode up to Mr. Wheatley’s store, in Collector, about 6 p.m. One of them having dismounted, entered the shop and made some purchases including a pair of spurs, the latter he put on, but the other things were put in a bundle, and he gave £5 note in payment, then went outside with the bundle and mounted. Mr. Wheatley, on looking at the note, saw that it consisted of two different halves joined together. Immediately suspecting the character of his visitors, he ran outside, and showing the note to the man, who had the bundle, he pointed out the error. The man replied, taking the note, “Well, you won’t get any other,”, and the two rode off. Mr. Wheatley, however, made a snatch at the bundle and secured it. No arms were seen on either of the men, but these might easily have been concealed by their coats, and if it was two of the three bushrangers, the third, we may be sure, was with the other horses, and guns, not far distant in the bush.

Since the preceding was written, we have heard that the gang were seen at the back of the Governor’s’ Hill, near Boxer’s Creek, about 11 o’clock on Wednesday after the mail was robbed, which would lead probably to the supposition that they were at Collector that evening.

Goulburn Argus


ROBBERY OF THE YASS MAIL.

YESTERDAY morning at half past eight o’clock the mail from Yass, Young, Tumut, Albury, &c., an unusually heavy one, was stuck up by Hall, Gilbert and Dunn, about a mile on the Gunning side of Mr, T. J. Lodge’s, on the Breadalbane Plains, some sixteen miles from Goulburn.

There was only one passenger in the coach a Mr. William Dawson, a messenger in the Insolvent Court. From him they took his watch, a silver one, Gilbert saying be wanted one. Thinking from the appearance and costume of Mr. Dawson — he being dressed in dark blue, and wearing high boots — that he was, a member of the police force, they searched him closely for firearms, and it was only on production of his warrant as insolvency messenger, that they believed his assertions that he was in no ways connected with the “blues.” This time they did not oblige the driver to take the coach off the road, nor did they examine the letters there; but all of the bags were opened, and the letters, thrust indiscriminately into a couple of bags, which were strapped on in front of their saddles and took away with them. Hall was mounted on one of Mr. Rossi’s bays, Dunn on the same gentleman’s grey, and Gilbert on a very dark iron grey. Having taken what they wanted, they told Thomas Jenkins, the coachman, to drive on to Lodge’s, where they also went. There they treated all hands, including six or seven men belonging to a road party, and Gilbert, in payment, threw down a one pound note, declining to take any change. In reply to a question whether they had not been at Collector on Wednesday evening, Hall said “No, the fellows there were two chaps in our employ, whom we give £3 10s. a week to, and in six months’ time they can go on their own hook.” In all probability, however, the two men at Collector were part of the gang. When the news of this last mail robbery reached town, it did not cause the slightest astonishment, as everyone had been expecting to hear of another outrage ere the week was out. The bushrangers are evidently intending to pay frequent visits to this district. Mail robberies are already a constant occurrence, and no doubt, when it is seen that they can be accomplished with such ease, and that they go where they like with but with little chance of interference from the police, these robberies will become even more frequent. Respecting the movements of the police, all we can say is that “they are out.”

Yesterday afternoon, between one and two o’clock the bushrangers were seen at Mummell; going apparently in the direction of Laggan. — Goulburn Argus.

Spotlight: How Gilbert Died by A. B. “Banjo” Paterson

There’s never a stone at the sleeper’s head,
There’s never a fence beside,
And the wandering stock on the grave may tread
Unnoticed and undenied;
But the smallest child on the Watershed
Can tell you how Gilbert died.

For he rode at dusk with his comrade Dunn
To the hut at the Stockman’s Ford;
In the waning light of the sinking sun
They peered with a fierce accord.
They were outlaws both – and on each man’s head
Was a thousand pounds reward.

They had taken toll of the country round,
And the troopers came behind
With a black who tracked like a human hound
In the scrub and the ranges blind:
He could run the trail where a white man’s eye
No sign of track could find.

He had hunted them out of the One Tree Hill
And over the Old Man Plain,
But they wheeled their tracks with a wild beast’s skill,
And they made for the range again;
Then away to the hut where their grandsire dwelt
They rode with a loosened rein.

And their grandsire gave them a greeting bold:
“Come in and rest in peace,
No safer place does the country hold –
With the night pursuit must cease,
And we’ll drink success to the roving boys,
And to hell with the black police.”

But they went to death when they entered there
In the hut at the Stockman’s Ford,
For their grandsire’s words were as false as fair –
They were doomed to the hangman’s cord.
He had sold them both to the black police
For the sake of the big reward.

In the depth of night there are forms that glide
As stealthily as serpents creep,
And around the hut where the outlaws hide
They plant in the shadows deep,
And they wait till the first faint flush of dawn
Shall waken their prey from sleep.

But Gilbert wakes while the night is dark –
A restless sleeper aye.
He has heard the sound of a sheep-dog’s bark,
And his horse’s warning neigh,
And he says to his mate, “There are hawks abroad,
And it’s time that we went away.”

Their rifles stood at the stretcher head,
Their bridles lay to hand;
They wakened the old man out of his bed,
When they heard the sharp command:
“In the name of the Queen lay down your arms,
Now, Dunn and Gilbert, stand!”

Then Gilbert reached for his rifle true
That close at hand he kept;
He pointed straight at the voice, and drew,
But never a flash outleapt,
For the water ran from the rifle breech –
It was drenched while the outlaws slept.

Then he dropped the piece with a bitter oath,
And he turned to his comrade Dunn:
“We are sold,” he said, “we are dead men both! –
Still, there may be a chance for one;
I’ll stop and I’ll fight with the pistol here,
You take to your heels and run.”

So Dunn crept out on his hands and knees
In the dim, half-dawning light,
And he made his way to a patch of trees,
And was lost in the black of night;
And the trackers hunted his tracks all day,
But they never could trace his flight.

But Gilbert walked from the open door
In a confident style and rash;
He heard at his side the rifles roar,
And he heard the bullets crash.
But he laughed as he lifted his pistol-hand,
And he fired at the rifle-flash.

Then out of the shadows the troopers aimed
At his voice and the pistol sound.
With rifle flashes the darkness flamed –
He staggered and spun around,
And they riddled his body with rifle balls
As it lay on the blood-soaked ground.

There’s never a stone at the sleeper’s head,
There’s never a fence beside,
And the wandering stock on the grave may tread
Unnoticed and undenied;
But the smallest child on the Watershed
Can tell you how Gilbert died.

The Araluen Escort Robbery

By March 1865 the Hall Gang were struggling. The murders of Sergeant Parry and Constable Nelson had elevated these highwaymen to murderers and thus the hunt for them had ramped up. Because of the lowered success from highway robbery, the gang decided to take a crack at the big game: a gold escort.

In 1861 Frank Gardiner had successfully robbed the Orange gold escort at Eugowra Rocks. Among his gang were members of what would come to be popularly known as the Gilbert Gang, then later the Hall Gang. While Hall’s involvement in the heist is questionable, Gilbert’s was undeniable and thus it is possible that it was his idea to attempt another escort robbery in the bush at Araluen. Araluen, near Braidwood, was outside the gang’s usual beat, but its gold diggings were yielding much treasure even though most of the other goldfields had stopped rewarding diggers. The gang’s plan seemed to be as simple as ambushing the escort in the bush en route from the diggings. To achieve this they had to recruit at least one man more for the job.

Historians have debated over who the mysterious fourth gang member was, but there are two leading theories. The first is that it was up and coming bushranger Thomas Clarke, whose stomping ground encompassed the very spot where the heist was to happen. Clarke, despite being the popular suspect as far as the police were concerned, was not known to have worked with the gang on any other occasions, nor indeed with any of the other notable bushrangers in the region apart from those in his own gang. The second, most likely theory, is that it was Daniel Ryan, a friend of John Dunn with a criminal history of his own who went unaccounted for at the time of the robbery. While he wasn’t positively identified at the time, he was later arrested for his suspected involvement with the gang.

The gang descended upon Paul Burke’s Jinglemoney station on the Sunday night and swapped their horses for three of his. With fresh horses at the ready the gang headed for their point of attack at Major’s Creek. The hiding place the gang chose was a large, hollow tree at a bend where four paths converged. Two years previously a gold escort had been attacked in a similar fashion. The gang were equipped with a sledgehammer, an axe and a chisel to enable them to get the lockbox open once they had it in their possession.

Just after 8:00am on 13 March, 1865, the wagonette carrying the gold from the Araluen diggings left on it’s journey to Braidwood, rattling along the road. Riding ahead of the escort was a man named Payne who worked for a company called Rodd and bros. Unfortunately for Payne, he was bailed up by Gilbert who kept him covered with his Tranter revolving carbine. Payne was ordered to dismount and stay quiet as he was taken to the gang’s hiding place. With Payne’s being horse unrestrained, it naturally wandered off. Soon others were added to the collection of prisoners: a man named Nairn, another named Griffin, and a woman named Mrs. Jonas. The prisoners were restrained and kept on an embankment between the gang’s horses and the road. While held prisoner, the captives got a good look at their captors. Gilbert was in control, calling the shots to the other three and interrogating the captives regarding the escort. Hall remained, as always, quiet and subdued. Dunn concerned himself with preparing for the incoming escort while the mystery man kept well back from the group with his face hidden behind a red scarf or handkerchief. Gilbert declared to the captives that if the driver of the coach were to be unarmed he would not be targeted.

As the gang went about bailing up travellers, a local splitter noticed what they were up to and upon finding Payne’s horse, mounted up and went straight in to Major’s Creek to report the activity. This news quickly spread and within minutes a posse of thirty armed men had gathered and begun heading towards the scene of the crime. Unfortunately by the time they would reach the spot it would be too late, though they would gather more to their number as they passed through Araluen.

The wagonette bearing the gold was being driven by a man named John Blatchford, a gold buyer and owner of the vehicle, and was being escorted by constables MacEllicott, Byrne and Kelly, and Senior Constable Stapylton. Byrne rode abreast of the escort, acting as a kind of pilot. In the lockbox stored on the coach was 1,900oz, or £4000 worth, of gold.

Blatchford’s wagonette carrying the gold, as depicted in ‘The Legend of Ben Hall’.

At ten o’clock the escort descended into the bend. When the escort was within four yards of the gang, heading up to the ridge, Constable Byrne was allowed passage, however Gilbert ordered the others to open fire on Constable Kelly, who was shot in the chest above the heart. It was estimated that eight shots were fired, two striking the coach, two striking Stapylton’s horse in the rump. The firing spooked Kelly’s horse and it bucked the rider off before galloping away back the way the escort had come. Likewise, the coach horses became spooked and tore away from the escort. Blatchford lost his balance and tumbled from the vehicle, also receiving a bullet wound when one of the projectiles ricocheted off the wagonette. Constable Byrne managed to halt the coach as it climbed the rise. He then proceeded to set up a spot next to the wagonette from which to defend the gold.

Illustration of the attack by Braidwood artist George Lacy. [Source]

Kelly remained wounded on the road as Blatchford attempted to fetch the fallen constable’s horse. Kelly used the strength he could muster to call out, “for God’s sake, Mr. Blatchford, don’t leave me here to die!” Blatchford helped drag Kelly to the embankment and propped him up before grabbing the terrified horse and riding it full pelt back towards Araluen.

Daniel Ryan fires at the wagonette in ‘,The Legend of Ben Hall’.

With Constable Kelly down for the count, and Blatchford riding away, the remaining police dismounted and crept into the bush in an effort to flank their attackers. Gilbert ordered the gang to double back to their prisoners. Payne asked if anyone had been injured, which Gilbert responded to by stating that the gang were fine but the police were “bloody well licked”. The gang continued over the embankment and mounted their horses to pursue the runaway coach, one of Burke’s greys in exchange for Mr. Nairn’s horse. Gilbert barked at the gang to hurry but Hall’s stirrup leather had fallen out and he was attempting to fix it. As this was transpiring, Stapylton and MacEllicott had dismounted and come up behind the bushrangers. They opened fire and a shot from Stapylton nearly clipped Gilbert’s ear, to which he called out “That was a bloody fine shot, mark that man!”

The bushrangers locked on to Constable Byrne and rode furiously towards him but realised that the spot where the coach had come to rest was too open and would leave them vulnerable if they attempted to grab the lockbox. They cut their losses and bolted without the booty. They left behind their “safe-cracking” kit and a shotgun worth £30 with a broken stock.

Blatchford’s flight had not merely been a terrified escape. He stopped at Mr. Nelson’s and gave instructions on how to retrieve Constable Kelly, then continued into Redbank where he went straight to the telegraph office and reported the attack to the Braidwood police. It had only taken around twenty minutes for him to accomplish the task. As soon as the news reached Braidwood, the police geared up and took off with Superintendent Orridge leading the way.

Orridge and Dr. Pattison were the first to arrive in the scene and they retrieved Constable Kelly and rode him back to Norman’s. Pattison immediately went to work, noting that despite there being two bullet holes in Kelly’s waistcoat there was only one wound. The bullet that had struck Kelly passed through his body without hitting any organs before lodging at his back just below the skin. Dr. Pattison extracted the bullet straight away. The wound was, fortunately, not life-threatening but just in case Rev. O’Brien was sent for.

The community was up in arms over the affair and in particular over the shooting of Constable Kelly, who had been serving in the New South Wales police for three years. This was his first time on escort detail for the Araluen line and would have been his last action as a New South Wales trooper as he was due to head to Queensland to be with his parents.

As for the bushrangers, the failure seemed to do little to deter them from crime and very soon they would re-emerge to continue their nefarious trade. Little did they know that things were aligning to bring in new legislation that would be known as the “felons apprehension act”. This act would enable the government to declare certain individuals “outlaws” and deny them access to the protection of the law. Anyone could shoot them for the reward money and not suffer any negative consequences.

It was only a matter of time before their days on the run would come to an abrupt and violent end.

Spotlight: Execution of Dunn the Bushranger

Kilmore Free Press and Counties of Bourke and Dalhousie Advertiser (Kilmore, Vic. : 1865 – 1868), Thursday 29 March 1866, page 4


 
EXECUTION OF DUNN THE BUSHRANGER.Sydney Herald, 20th March

 

A sadder scene was never enacted in that when John Dunn, the last of the notorious trio who, setting religion and law at defiance, excited feelings of indignation, insecurity, and terror throughout the colony — died an ignominious death upon the scaffold. Sad was it indeed to see a young man cut off in the flower of his youth, before twenty summers had passed over his head, and steeped to the eyes in crimes at which humanity may well shudder; and yet it was evident from the calm fortitude displayed by the young outlaw when the awful hour of execution came, that with proper training he would have proved himself worthy of a better fate.

More fortunate than his two quondem friends, Hall and Gilbert, who fell by the avenging bullet. Dunn had the advantage of a trial, with all the solemn forms of law ; and with a levity which he accorded not to his victims he was allowed time to prepare for his appearance before the Great Judge; he was permitted, moreover, to avail himelf of the services of a clergyman of the faith which he professed, to instruct and direct him in his appeals for mercy to an ever merciful God. It is satisfactory to know that these services were not rendered in vain, but that the guilty man, whose short life had been stained with outrages and blood, gave proofs of the sincerity of his repentance, and a desire to atone for his past sins. We understand that from the time of his conviction he was most attentive to the admonitions of his religious instructor, giving no trouble to his keepers and questioning not for a moment the justice of his sentence, and was perfectly resigned to his fate. Judging from the improved physical condition which he exhibited as he left the condemned cell yesterday, morning, his mind could not have been much disturbed by the thought of his impending doom for he was much more robust than when he first arrived in Sydney. He gained in weight upwards of a stone during his incarceration in the gaol. We are informed that the Roman Catholic chaplain of the gaol, the Rev. J. Dwyer, and the Rev T. McCarthy of St Benedict’s (to whom the bushranger Vane surrendered) were with the con-demned culprit until half-past 11 o’clock on Sunday night, and that soon after they left he fell into a deep slumber and remained asleep until half-past six o’clock yesterday morning when he awoke and perforned his ablutions. He ate a hearty breakfast and having smoked a pipe of tobacco, and to all appearance enjoyed it, he was prepared to receive two of the sisters of charity, who now, paid him a visit. Between 7 and 8 o’clock the two clergymen who were with him over night again presented themselves and the two sisters bade him a final adieu. The clergymen now endeavoured by the usual religious exercises to prepare the mind of the wretched man for his approaching end, and at a few minuted to 9 o’clock the Sheriff proceeded to the cell, and with the customary formality demanded Dunns body. The two executioners then pinnioned the culprit, and the mournful cortege moved slowly from the wing of the gaol towards the gallows erected at the eastern side of the yard. Dunn who limped slightly from the effect of the wound in his leg, walked between the two clergymen and repeated after them the solemn words of prayer which they uttered. Arrived at the foot of the grim instrument of death, the condemned man proceeded without assistance to mount the steps, followed by the Rev. Dwyer, in his clerical robes, and the executioners. Upon the platform the rev gentleman read a short prayer, shook hands with the poor misguided youth who was about to pay the penalty of his crimes with his life and left the scaffold. The fatal rope was speedily adjusted, the white cap was drawn over the condemned man’s face the bolt was withdrawn, and, with the heavy thud which immediately followed, the young outlaw ceased to live.

The neck was evidently broken by the fall, for there was not the slightest movement of the muscles to indicate any life remained. After hanging about twenty minutes the body was cut down, and subsequently given to a Mrs. Picard, (who, when the dead man was an innocent infant, stood as his godmother), for private interment. Thus perished in the scaffold, by the hands of the common hangman, the last at large, and the most bloodthirsty of Gardiner’s gang. Of this once formidable band of highwaymen, which for so many years kept the colony in awe, it may not be out of place to mention, that four still survive, viz., Gardiner, the chief, who is undergoing a sentence of thirty two years’ penal servitude ; Vane, who surrendered through the instrumentality of Father McCarthy, and was sentenced to fifteen years in the roads ; Bow and Fordyce, sentenced to death, which afterwards commuted to fifteen years’ penal servitude. Peisley and Manns were hung ; the other five, namely Lowrie, Burke, O’Meally, Ben Hall and Gilbert were shot dead – Burke and O’Meally by private hands, and the remainder by the police. The last who joined the gang was the “Old Man,” who gave himself up to the police and is now in penal servitude. We understand that a short time before his execution, Dunn write a letter to the governor of the gaol, thanking him and the warders also for his and their kindness. The were between sixty and seventy persons present to witness the execution.