Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Streets of Forbes and the Australian radical tradition

image of the Streets of Forbes

Following yesterdays post (on Australia's radical traditions and Tony Moore's new book) I've been listening to the Australian traditional tune Streets of Forbes, a folk song in the radical Australian tradition about the death of bushranger Ben Hall.

Australian singer songwriters Mick Thomas and Paul Kelly have recorded a new version (on Mick Thomas new CD) and English folksinger June Tabor recorded a stunning version sometime ago. The traditional Australian band The Bushwackers recorded a different version here.

Streets of Forbes tells of the death of the bushranger Ben Hall who was shot (some say murdered) by police in 1865. Hall like many bush rangers of the time (1860-1880) reflected a tradition of rebelliousness and resistance to the authority of the rural ruling class (which included squatters who controlled most of the land and a corrupt police force and magistrates who were seen to act in the interests of the squatters).

Hall, who was the son of convicts transported to Van Diemens Land, was a small farmer, part of a group known as selectors, who were constantly in dispute with the powerful squatters who controlled most of the land. Hall took up bushranging aged 22, after a series of wrongful arrests and the trauma of losing his wife who ran off with a policeman, taking his young son. After the wrongful arrests Hall was forced to sell his small landholding to pay a large legal bill.

Hall's exploits became legendary and he became a folk hero to many, partly because of a "Robin Hood" style approach of taking from the rich, and partly because he challenged what many saw as an unjust rural power structure.
Ben Hall
lyrics traditional

Come all you Lachlan men and a sorrowful tale I'll tell,
The story of a decent man who through misfortune fell,
His name it was Ben Hall, a man of high renown,
Who was hunted from his station, and like a dog shot down.
Three years he roamed the roads, and he showed the traps some fun,
One thousand pounds was on his head, with Gilbert and John Dunn.
Ben parted from his comrades, the outlaws did agree,
To give away bushranging and to cross the briny sea.
Ben went to Goobang Creek, and that was his downfall
For riddled like a sieve was the valiant Ben Hall,
'Twas early in the morning upon the fifth of May
That the seven police surrounded him as fast asleep they lay.
Bill Dargin he was chosen to shoot the outlaw dead,
The troopers then fired madly and they filled him full of lead,
They rolled him in his blanket and strapped him to his prad
And they led him through the streets of Forbes, to show the prize they had.

7 comments:

craigresides said...

G'day Colin,

Ben Hall and the Kelly gang share the 'murdered' tag. When Hall was killed the Felons Apprehension Act, which allows police and citizens to shoot on sight and without warning, was not enforceable upon him until 10 May, 5 days after he died.

The coverage of the Act upon the Kelly gang ran out the day (26 June)they shot their associate Aaron Sherritt, 2 days before Glenrowan.

Cheers,

Craig

Colin Penter said...

Thanks Craig for your interest and comments on the post and sharing of knowledge about the Felons Apprehension Act.
The focus of my post was on the song Streets of Forbes and its subject- the death of Ben Hall, and although I had read about the Act was not completely aware of the time lines you mention. What are some of the best sources of information about Hall and the other bushrangers, particularly those who were driven by a political agenda? Would be happy to write a piece and put links to those sites on a future blog post. Thanks for your interest.

Colin Penter said...

Thanks Craig for your interest and comments on the post and sharing of knowledge about the Felons Apprehension Act.
The focus of my post was on the song Streets of Forbes and its subject- the death of Ben Hall, and although I had read about the Act was not completely aware of the time lines you mention. What are some of the best sources of information about Hall and the other bushrangers, particularly those who were driven by a political agenda? Would be happy to write a piece and put links to those sites on a future blog post. Thanks for your interest.

Mikiebreen said...

Ben Hall while in gaol was not able to feed his stock and rather than let them out of their yard the police left them there to starve. This was another factor in his disenchantment with the authorities.
Some years ago I read a lot about these characters and would recommend Frank Clune(from whom Tom Kennealy stole almost all of his Jimmy Governor material) As well as some hack stuff there is good historical material available.
I would be happy to write a piece about my conversations with two men who were in Dubbo when the Governors were active. I have one story which I doubt is in any of the records concerning a trial in Dubbo.
Cheers, Colin from Michael DB

Mikiebreen said...

Good stuff, Colin. Ben Hall was further enraged by the treatment of his stock while he was in prison. The traps left them in a yard without food nor water and they died.
Frank Clune has written good stuff about these days and lads. "Ben Hall Bushranger" 1947
Warren Fay also has recorded the song, "The Streets of Forbes".
Kenelly's "Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith" seems to lift huge slices of Clune's work on the Governor gang.
I would be happy to submit a piece on the Governor Gang 1900 and on and have some first hand stories about the gang and its treatment before they went on their rampage which brought on a State of Emergency in NSW.
Cheers, Michael D. Breen

Mikiebreen said...

Good stuff, Colin. Ben Hall was further enraged by the treatment of his stock while he was in prison. The traps left them in a yard without food nor water and they died.
Frank Clune has written good stuff about these days and lads. "Ben Hall Bushranger" 1947
Warren Fay also has recorded the song, "The Streets of Forbes".
Kenelly's "Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith" seems to lift huge slices of Clune's work on the Governor gang.
I would be happy to submit a piece on the Governor Gang 1900 and on and have some first hand stories about the gang and its treatment before they went on their rampage which brought on a State of Emergency in NSW.
Cheers, Michael D. Breen

Mikiebreen said...

Good stuff, Colin. Ben Hall was further enraged by the treatment of his stock while he was in prison. The traps left them in a yard without food nor water and they died.
Frank Clune has written good stuff about these days and lads. "Ben Hall Bushranger" 1947
Warren Fay also has recorded the song, "The Streets of Forbes".
Kenelly's "Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith" seems to lift huge slices of Clune's work on the Governor gang.
I would be happy to submit a piece on the Governor Gang 1900 and on and have some first hand stories about the gang and its treatment before they went on their rampage which brought on a State of Emergency in NSW.
Cheers, Michael D. Breen