One of the (Three) Bushranging Periods

24 May 1947 Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld.)

There were three distinct phases in the history of Australian bush-ranging.

In the first the bushrangers were escaped convicts; in the second they were adventurers who had adopted what was widely known as a 'manly method of taking property'; and in the third phase they were simply lawless gangsters.

One of the most famous bushrangers of the second period - the 1860s - was Ben Hall, who as a young hardworking settler, had bought a small station near Forbes, N.S.W where he was known as a steady citizen.

He had no thought of taking to the bush until unwarranted persecution by the police literally forced him to join a bushranging gang whose leader he became at the age of 29.

In those days bandits did not need to have ferocious manners to do profit-able 'trade.'

On one occasion (October 1863), Hall's gang took pos-session of an hotel at Canowindra, captured 14 bullock drivers and a number of travellers, all of whom they relieved of their valuables, and then settled down to a couple of days of jollification.

Their prisoners became their guests at this party, the bush ranger paying the hotelkeeper for all food and drink consumed, and spending far more money than they had taken from their captives.

To make the incident even more bizarre.

Hall sent for the local constable, armed him with a musket, and ordered him to march up and down outside the hotel as a sentry.

The contempt in which the police were held at this time is indicated by a paragraph in a Sydney publication, which read:

Narrow Escape Of The Police

'Last evening three bushrangers espied a large body of troopers and immediately gave chase.

The darkness favoured the escape of the troopers and baffled the bushrangers.

The appetites of the two police superintendents continue in undiminished vigour.'

For nearly three years Hall's gang found the police almost harmless, and, except for one occasion, when three members of the gang and two police men exchanged shots at 40 yards, hit-ting nothing between them but a hat ad a bar room; and another occasion, when a half-hearted battle took place at Jugiong, the bushrangers were able to roam N.S.W. at ease.

In the Jugiong affair the gang stationed themselves at the side of the road and captured more than 60 prisoners!

When the mail coach arrived with a police escort, one bushranger guarded the 60 captives (among whom were several police), while the others chased the escort away after firing a few shots.

Life for the bandits was so quiet that many of them grew careless of human life and began killing recklessly.

The police quickly retaliated, and nearly every man engaged in the bushranging business died by violence. Ben Hall was eventually shot down without mercy by a posse of troopers, and his death marked the end of the 'romantic' adventurers of the bush.