John Wilson Links Bushranger History and Cunnamulla

THE LATE BUSHRANGING ESCAPADE OF BEN HALL

Statement of John Wilson Sandy Creek Station,February 23rd, 1864

On Saturday, the 13th February 1864, I and my stockman, Walter Driver, was in the stockyard, going to brand some horses, I seen a man on a grey mare coming in the direction of the yard.

I asked the stockman wether he knew him, he said “I think it is Ben Hall;” he said no fear.

I told him to go to the dairy with the brand, and see wether it was him or not.

He came back, and told me it was not Ben Hall for his hair was too dark.

Ben Hall was leaning on his horses neck, talking to the dairyman; at the time I got up closer to see wether it was, him or not I found it was him.

I asked him to come and see wether a mare branded BB wether he knew it he said that was my mare, and told me where it was branded.

He and the stockman finished the branding, I went up to the house Ben Hall came up after me, Ben got off his horse hung it up to the garden fence.

He could scarcely put one of his feet to the ground, I asked him what ailed his foot. He told me it had been bitten in the bush.

He then told me to get him, some tea, as he wanted to go. I got tea for him, after tea, he gets on his horse, and wished me a good bye, saying it would be some time before he should see me again. He had only one boot on.

On Sunday Morning

Ben came to the kitchen, I was in the kitchen, he says good morning, I wish him a good morning.

He says, “come, get breakfast;” I said “all right.” I got the breakfast for him while he was eating breakfast, I went and told my stockman to get his horse ready, to go to muster at “Tin Pot” Station.

About half hour later the stockman comes up with his horse, put his saddle on the horse.

Ben Hall came out, and ask the stockman were he was going, he said “to muster”.

Then Ben tells him to take the saddle and bridle off, and stop what you are doing.

If I find you away when I come back I will track you up.

While the stockman was talking to Ben a man came up by the name of Barnes, a miner at Pinnacal Reef, and asked me if I would let the blackfellow go to track up his pony, as he had threw him and broke his collar bone.

Ben said where are you going, Barnes said to the doctor, Ben says, “no fear”! Stop were you are if you don’t I will track you up.

When I leave, you can leave. “I shall be back and let me find one of you away.” Ben came back again to dinner.

I was in the kitchen, he says “where’s your men?” I said “in the hut,” “then lets have a look at them.

” I went and fetched them, when he seen them he said “all right”.

After dinner he stops about two hours, goes away, before dusk he returns again to take tea.

The men and myself was in the kitchen, when he came in he says “I see you’re good boys, you do as your master tells you.

” Barnes says, “Ben I wish you would let me go.” He says “no fear! When I goes you can go.” After tea he says “good night all of you.”

On Monday Morning

I was in bed I heard someone hollow, “well is it time to get up.

” I said “all right.” Ben’s mare was hung up to the garden fence when I got up. Ben says “I wanted to shoe my mare, give me the shoeing tackle.

” I went and bought him out the shoeing tackle and gave it to him.

He put on one shoe, he comes into the kitchen and says to me “cook, make haste and get breakfast, then I will put on the other shoe.

” I was getting breakfast ready, he says you got plenty of eggs. I said “plenty.” I went to a hut where some hens lay and brought him eggs.

Ben was in the kitchen with myself, Barnes, the stockman, and Roebuck. A blackfellow named “Neddy” had been watching Ben shoe his mare and fell asleep under her neck.

Ben rushed to the mare, which awoke the darkey. While I was at the fire just going to cook the eggs, I heard a puppy of mine bark. Ben looked out and saw a strange dog.

He said “what strange dog is that?” This strange dog was bought by the police.

All at once he said “here they come!” I looked out and saw trooper Tooley coming from the slip panel up towards the house.

Mr Shadforth was at the slip panel. It appeared his horse did not like to jump. (The height of the rail from the surface twenty three inches.)

Ben went out of the kitchen, got his mare, and galloped towards the opposite slip rails to where Tooley and Shadforth were coming from.

As Ben was close to the garden fence making for the slip rail I heard a voice cry out “stop you wretch!” and then I saw  the smoke from the pistol from the opposite side to where Ben was.

As soon as possible Ben fired in the same direction as I saw the smoke of the pistol from.

The blackfellow fired at Ben, and Ben fired again at them. I should think that the trooper and blackfellow that Ben had to pass could not be more than five yards from Ben as he passed them. They followed Ben, but at a distance.

The trooper that fired at first told me he was that close to Ben that he saw No 4 on Ben’s revolver.

On account of the trooper galloping, the stockman’s horse broke his bridle and ran down the paddock.

He (the stockman) went after the horse, and then came to me in the kitchen.

He said “who do you think I saw coming along the fence?” I said “I don’t know.” He said “I saw Ben.

” I said “nonsense. He said “there he is just on the rise.” I looked up and saw Ben on his grey horse looking towards Wheogo.

I looked in the same direction and saw the trooper coming in the direction of my house.

I looked out at the back and saw Ben about the same place.

The troopers were not more than twenty-five yards from my place, that made the distance between Ben Hall and the troopers one hundred and seventy-five (175) yards. Shadforth said to me, “I want Ben’s rifle.

” I said he had no rifle.” He said he knew better.

Tooley and another trooper went and searched my place. Before I could scarce speak Shadforth said, “I arrest you in the Queen’s name for harbouring Ben Hall.

” He told me to get my horse ready. I got my horse.

Trooper Tooley had me on his right.

The blackfellow taking the lead. Shadforth and a trooper brought up the rear.

When we got about three hundred yards from my place, Trooper Tooley said to me “We sent Ben Hall a long way for his breakfast this morning.

” I said “You sent him about seventy yards from my place, for I saw him myself.

” Tooley said “you are telling infernal lies.” I said “I am  telling no lies.

” I said “send your tracker on the rise and see if he don’t see a track of a horse with one shoe on.

” He said “That is a lie, for we tracked him, he had no shoe on at all.

” I said “all right!” At the time I was going with troopers I saw Ben Hall.

He was following sideways, to the left, on the rise that runs down to where Ben Hall lived.

I stated to Tooley that where I saw Ben Hall was seventy fife yards. I measured it from his track, and  found it 150.

After Ben saw the troopers, he had to go from the kitchen, sixteen yards, to get on his mare.

The distance between where Ben’s mare was hung, and the slip rail where Tooley was over and coming up to the house, is fifty yards.

From where the blackfellow and trooper were planted, where Ben has to pass, is enclosed on one side with a fence.

The distance is about forty-eight yards. When Ben was opposite to the blackfellow and the trooper he was about five yards from them.

He had to make for the slip rail.

The Statement of William Roebuck

I was at Sandy Creek station on Monday when John Wilson was taken in charge for harbouring Hall.

After Wilson and the troopers were gone about twenty minutes, I heard the dogs bark.

I was in the kitchen at the time. I looked out and saw Ben Hall leading his grey mare through the slip-rail towards the house.

He came to the kitchen, and said to me. “good morning, old man.

I have been watching them take my cook; “He took and fried five eggs, drank two pints of coffee, and ate some bread and butter.

He hung his mare on the garden fence, where it was before the troopers chased him.

He told me to tell the troopers that he had been back, wished me good morning, and went.

Author’s Note: Ben Hall and McGuire were not the only people who owed monies to John Wilson, Mrs Sarah Walsh, Ben Hall’s mother- in- law also borrowed money from Wilson for legal representation associated with her stepson’s arrest after Pottinger’s failure to capture Frank Gardiner at Kitty Browns home and he took the boy instead, ( young John ‘Warrigal’ Walsh would die in the Forbes lock-up from Gaol fever in 1863) John Wilson would take legal action against the Walsh’s and would also become eventual owner of Wheogo Station.(See article left.)

John Wilson, Freemason’s Arms, Liverpool-street

The unfolding tragedy was Ellen’s Maguire’s younger brother ‘The Warrigal’, John Walsh long believed to be the groom of Gardiner, lay dying in a Forbes hotel The White Hart Inn’, owned by none other than John Wilson and at the time managed by John Maguire, Ellen’s husband. The tragedy unfolding was that the young ‘Warrigal’ had contracted Gaol Fever (There are several forms of Gaol Fever caused by infectious disease such as rickettsia, transmitted by fleas, lice, or mites, and characterized generally by severe headache, sustained high fever, depression, delirium, and the eruption of red rashes on the skin and death.) whilst being held in custody over his associations with Frank Gardiner and another tearaway John Jameison. An old timer who knew ‘The Warrigal’ in their youth recounted in a look back in the ‘Freeman’s Journal’, 10th November 1906, of the young ‘Warrigal’ and his skill as a hoseman and general demeanor as a happy go lucky lad; “little Jack Walsh was such a mischievous, dare-devil young lad that he was known to all as ‘The Warrigal’, and I can picture him now as clearly as in our school days. Rather short, with sharp features on a freckled face, and when he smiled, which was nearly always, he showed a large mouthful of good teeth when not stained by tobacco, and he simply did not know what fear was. He was generally with Gardiner, in fact he was known as ‘Gardiner’s Boy.’ While flying from the police with Gardiner on one occasion the pair separated, and little Jacky got caught in the pocket of a creek. To turn back meant capture, so ‘The Warrigal’ being mounted on a splendid bay pony called ‘Little John,’ dug in his spurs, sent the brave little horse flying over the creek, and got clear away, for none of the police would risk the jump. And no wonder, for when afterwards measured, it was found to be 20 feet wide. The police had to go round a quarter of a mile, and by that time ‘The Warrigal’ was ‘over the hills and far away.’ But poor little Jack was caught at last, and died of fever soon after…” Alas his painful and sad death was reported in the ‘Lachlan Observer’ on 23rd March 1863. For Ben Hall it was another blow; MAGISTERIAL INQUIRY.- “An inquiry was held on Monday afternoon, at two o’clock, at the White Hart Inn, Rankin street, touching the death of John Walsh, late prisoner in the gaol. There were present Commissioner Grenfell, Esq., J. P., Dr. J. J. Connell. Drs. Flatan and Nutt, and senior sergeant Rush. Senior sergeant Rush explained that the lad Walsh was lately a prisoner under his charge, and that in consequence of having been taken ill, Dr. J. J. Connell had been called in to attend him, which he did for about a week at the gaol, and that he treated him for colonial fever. The lad got worse, and senior sergeant Rush then had him removed by his mother, Mrs, Walsh, to the White Hart Inn, when Dr. Flatan and Nutt were called in, and these gentlemen pronounced the lad to have been suffering from gaol fever in the first instance, which at the time they were called had resolved itself into a violent congestion of the brain. Vigorous and prompt measures were at once adopted, and it was found necessary to open both temporal arteries, and the jugular vein, in order to relieve the congestion. In spite of every care, however, the boy gradually sank under the disease, till death put an end to his sufferings. The result of the inquiry was the finding that “the said John Walsh had died of the effects of gaol fever.” John ‘Warrigal’ Walsh was 16 yrs. old. (On the Warrigal’s death certificate his mother is stated as Julia Walsh, his step-mother was Sarah Walsh who was previously married to Joseph Harpur in 1814, who passed away. Sarah married John Walsh in 1847. She was also the mother of NSW poet Charles Harpur and NSW Parliamentarian, Josiah Harpur who was the member for Patrick Plains, and Sir Frederick Pottinger’s antagonist. The nickname of Warrigal stands for ‘wild or untamed horse’ or ‘Dingo.’)

However, the demise of young Walsh was recounted by an inmate also held at the Forbes lockup during the time of the young lads incarceration and  recounted the ‘Warrigal’s’ rapid demise; The ‘Empire’ on the 31st March 1863; “when our informant first saw Walsh, he was able to walk about, but complained of pains in his head and chest, and said that he had then been in confinement for eight weeks, during which time he had only left the lock-up for the purpose of being taken to the police court, to procure a remand, every seven days, and once when he was taken to Orange, where he remained five days. With these exceptions, he had been a close prisoner. The cell in which he was placed, is the one used as a general lock-up, measuring about twelve feet by twelve, and was occupied by four or five others. It is very dark, there being no light whatever, except that admitted through the chinks in the logs with which the building is constructed, and a small trap in the door, leaving an aperture about ten inches broad by eight deep. This, it seems, was closed at dusk every night, and accordingly there were no other means of ventilation except that afforded by the chinks. There was no exercise save that of walking up and down the cell.

Walsh asked for a doctor for two days before any apparent notice was taken. Our informant also spoke to the keeper of the lad’s illness, and was told, “He’s right enough, he only wants fresh air.” One night the boy said he felt very ill, and asked Mr. Rush to let him see a doctor; it was late, about ten o’clock. Mr. Rush said, “Johnny, a doctor can do you no good tonight, you’ll be all right in the morning.” Walsh said “I should like to have him tonight; I feel very ill.” Mr. Rush called a constable, and sent him to fetch Dr. Connell. The doctor came, and gave him some medicine. Next day Sir Frederick Pottinger gave orders that Walsh should be taken into the fresh air for two hours every day. Though ill, it appears no extra provision was made for the youth, as he had no bed to lie on, being, like the others, only allowed blankets to wrap himself in of a night. He was kept in the lock-up three days after the doctor first saw him, and grew so rapidly worse that he could not raise himself without help. One night the trap-door was opened, and the keeper called Walsh to come and take some medicine from a spoon which he held in his hand, but he had almost to be carried there by the other prisoners before he could take the physic. He was then taken to the women’s cell, where he was heard raving deliriously, starting up from his bed, and knocking himself against the logs. The hospital to which the boy was conveyed is a bark construction, about 10 feet by 8, with walls about six feet high. From this he was allowed eventually to be taken to the White Hart Inn, under the care of his mother, who called in Dr. Flatau and Nutt, who, it appears, were not more successful than Dr. Connell in the treatment of their patient, for he rapidly sank, and died on Sunday last.”

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