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Streets of Forbes Traditional

Come all of you Lachlan men and a sorrowful tale I'll tell,
Concerning of a hero who through misfortune fell,
His name it was Ben Hall, a man of high renown,
He was hunted from his station, he was like a dog shot down.

For years he roamed the roads and he gave the traps some fun,
A thousand pounds placed on his head with Gilbert and Jackie Dunn,
Ben parted from his comrades, the outlaws did agree,
To give away bushranging, they would cross the briny sea.

Ben went to Goobang creek, where upon the 5th of May,
The troopers filled him full of lead, as in his sleep he lay,
They wrapped him in a blanket, and they rolled him like a swag,
They lead him through the streets of Forbes, to show what a price they had

Plaque dated 5 May 1957

Plaque dated 5 May 1957 image

"This marks the place where Ben Hall was shot by police and black trackers on the morning of 5th May, 1865."

In Memory of Ben Hall

Ben Hall Grave image

Ben Hall's grave, Forbes Cemetery

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Streets of Forbes

One of my favourite songs is a song called the Streets of Forbes.

Martyn Wyndham-Reid sings this song and many other Australian Bush songs, and I like listening to them. They are songs with stories about the bushrangers such as Ben Hall and Ned Kelly.

I won the LP in a face to face singing competition at the Gosforth Folk club. The club was in the Gosforth Hotel, Salters road and run by Jim Mageean. Great club!

Ben Hall was born in 1837, and shot by Police and Black trackers on the morning of 5th May, 1865. He was 27 years old.

Ben Hall's mother was Irish and his father English. They were convicted of stealing and transported as convicts. So Ben was born in Australia. The police force took a dislike to him. I think they thought he was English because they believed they could do anything they wanted to do.

He was shot by a posse of eight police at Goobang Creek. One of the police was an Aborigine called Billy Jurgen, and the others persuaded him to shoot so they themselves would not get the blame. That’s what I've heard said.

Ben Hall is famous and a hero in Australia. The gravestone marking his burial place in Forbes cemetery was erected in the 1920's. The Forbes Historical Society erected a plaque in 1957 marking where he was shot.

Tommy Hutton

Ben Hall

Ben Hall image

Portrait of bushranger Ben Hall
by Freeman Brothers Studio, 11863,
from original album print arte de visite,
State Library of New South Wales P1 / 693

More Information on Ben Hall

Before Ben Hall was born, his English father and Irish mother were convicted of minor thefts and sent to New South Wales, where they met as convicts and married.
"Ben Hall distanced himself from his father. By age 23, he was a successful landowner and cattleman, with a wife and son, well-regarded by all. However, the 1862 gold rush directly hit his area and brought the criminal element," Holmes says.

"Hall had no criminal record until his life fell apart - his wife ran away with his friend and took their young son with her," he adds. "He fell into depression and abandoned his work, becoming the friend of a highly-successful career criminal called Frank Gardiner, who lured him in. His descent is fascinating, as he was somewhat a reluctant criminal."

Often described as an Australian Jesse James or Billy the Kid, the Kid comparison seems unfair. "Ben Hall himself never killed anyone, even though he was involved in numerous gunfights and scrapes. He had a very firm position against taking human life unless his own was threatened," Holmes says. "Unfortunately, his companions didn't share that code and they killed policemen, for which Hall was considered an accomplice."

The range of the "Gentleman Bushranger" was vast. "The state of New South Wales is larger than California and New Mexico combined; the Hall Gang roamed over 20,000 square miles," Holmes says. "They were superb bushmen and riders, and since they were constantly stealing racehorses, catching them out in the wilderness was virtually impossible."

As with American outlaws, bushrangers were hard to catch in part because they enjoyed popular support. "Hall had a lot of allies who knew him before he was a criminal, and respected him. The bushrangers became 'poster boys' for those who hated the harsh and corrupt British system. One coach service from Sydney to the goldfields had a timetable with the clause, 'Ben Hall permitting,' on it," Holmes says.

Desperate to catch Hall, the Australian government passed an astonishing law in 1865 aimed directly at him. "The dreaded 'Felons Apprehension Act' declared Ben Hall [and his accomplices] John Gilbert and John Dunn outlaws who could be killed by any person, at any time, without question. This act was only brought out again against bushranger Ned Kelly and gang 13 years later," Holmes says.