The January entry in the new Goulburn Post’s 2018 Famous and Infamous Calendar is bushranger Ben Hall.
Goulburn was right in the thick of Ben Hall country in the 1860s.
He and his gang were involved in famous robberies and shootouts in the district – at Springfield, Araluen, Wandi, Boorowa, Breadalbane, Yass, Binalong and Collector.
His gang was involved in over 100 robberies between 1863 and 1865, including the holding up of several villages, dozens of mail coach robberies and the regular theft of prized racehorses.
Despite this staggering amount of crime, Ben Hall never killed anyone and had a reputation as a ‘gentleman bushranger.’
Born in 1837, Hall started out life with a bright future. By the age of 24 he had his own lands and cattle. He was married with a young son.
His life came apart when his wife, Biddy, ran off with Hall’s treacherous friend, Jim Taylor, taking son Henry with them.
Despondent, Hall left for the Central West NSW goldfields and fell under the influence of bushranger Frank Gardiner.
With others, they planned and robbed the gold escort coach at Eugowra, on June 15, 1862, taking 2700 ounces of gold worth more than 14,000 pounds. It was the largest gold heist in history to that point and still the largest gold robbery in Australia.
With the departure of Gardiner, Hall took over the gang, which eventually dwindled to him, John Gilbert and John Dunn.
Some notable Hall Gang exploits in the district follow.
They held up the village of Binda on December 26, 1864 and kept the townsfolk captive in the Flag Hotel while celebrating with dancing. When the storekeeper escaped, they burned down his store and fled.
On January 26, 1865, the gang descended on Collector and held up the Commercial Hotel (now the Bushranger Hotel).
John Dunn was left to keep watch while the others ransacked the hotel. While outside he shot dead Constable Samuel Nelson.
The killing of Constable Nelson led the NSW Government to outlaw the Hall Gang, passing the Felons Apprehension Act. This meant they could be killed by anyone at any time. They also put a reward of £1000 for the capture of Ben Hall.
With such a high price on his head, it did not take long for him to be betrayed by a friend – Mick ‘Goobang’ Coneley.
The gang members had parted ways prior with the intention of meeting up near Forbes and leaving NSW for good.
At dawn on May 5, 1865, Hall was ambushed by police and shot dead.
The Famous and Infamous Calendar is on sale at the Goulburn Post.