Remembering Our Robin Hood: Ben Hall

The notorious bushranger was shot dead today in 1865.

Dargin he was chosen to shoot the outlaw dead;
The troopers then fired madly; filled him full of lead.
They rolled him in a blanket, and strapped him to 
his prad,
And led him through the streets of Forbes to show
The prize they had.


The Streets of Forbes, John McGuire (attrib.), 1865

On this day in 1865, one of our most loved bushrangers was shot dead. Ben Hall was the son of two convicts and was a skilled cattle wrangler and horse rider. One of the first generation of “Australians” he knew the country and the Bush well.

Hall was wrongfully arrested twice. The first time resulting in five weeks of jail time. If he wasn’t resigned to a life of crime by that stage, he sure was when he returned home to find his house burnt to the ground and his livestock dead. An aggressive act committed by corrupt coppers.

Ben HallImage: Wikipedia Commons, Ben Hall

Not long after, he joined Frank Gardiner and his gang. They robbed from Yass to Wedden Ranges. Hall took over leadership after Gardiner moved North in search of greener pastures.

In just a few years Hall had committed 600 robberies. All of them without killing a single person. For this reason, he was launched into international and national folklore as an Australian Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

He was so loved, townsfolk offered him and his gang a safe place to hide from the police.

The national paper lampooned the police referring to them as fashionable country ladies 'scouring the country after Bushrangers.’

Hall couldn’t be caught, and this frustrated the NSW government to no-end. So much so that they introduced a new law known as the Felons Apprehension Act of 1865. Essentially the act made it possible for anyone to shoot a bushranger- without trial or arrest.

Ben Hall was shot dead after his hiding place was betrayed to the police by an accomplice. Emerging from the bush, the police shot Hall in the shoulder and then again in the back.

Hall hit the ground, and a further 30 more bullets were emptied into him. The above ballad comes from his brother in-law’s work The Streets of Forbes, created after his brother saw Hall’s body paraded around the streets of Forbes.

Today we have mixed opinions about bushrangers. On the one hand, many of them were murderous robbers, and on the other, they were the underdog, Robin Hood –esque characters stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Though this may be true of many of the more notorious bushrangers (think Ned Kelly), Ben Hall was not a murderer. He stole to give to those who were poor, which earned him worldwide recognition.

Dargin he was chosen to shoot the outlaw dead;
The troopers then fired madly; filled him full of lead.
They rolled him in a blanket, and strapped him to 
his prad,
And led him through the streets of Forbes to show
The prize they had.

 

Header: The Capture of Ben Hall, Wikimedia Commons

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