[Editor: This song was published in Old Bush Songs: Composed and Sung in the Bushranging, Digging, and Overlanding Days (8th edition, 1932), edited by Banjo Paterson.]
My name is Ben Hall from Urunga I came,
The cause of my turn out you all know the same;
I was sent to the gaol, my cattle turned to the Crown,
I was forced to the bush my sorrow to drown.
I was always well mounted with a gun in my hand,
And I always spoke kindly when I bid them to stand,
I always acted fair to the female kind,
When I thought of the dear girl I left behind.
One day I met a squatter, I thought he had cash,
For the evening before he’d been cutting a dash;
With a hundred and fifty in notes and in gold,
And I thought he had more by what I’d been told.
With a pistol well loaded and a gun in my hand,
I boldly rode up and I bid him to stand,
He passed out his money without ever a word
And I gave him five pounds for his help on the road.
Here’s health to Frank Gardiner who’s closely confined,
Also young Jack Vane who is free from his time,
And I’ll go to the bush and fare on this wealth,
And then I’ll preserve the last shot for myself.
A. B. Paterson (editor), Old Bush Songs: Composed and Sung in the Bushranging, Digging, and Overlanding Days (8th edition), Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1932, p. 186
bush = bushland (areas in the country which have lots of bushes and trees; an area which is predominantly untamed wilderness)
Crown = the governing power of a land operating under a constitutional monarchy, which is said to govern on behalf of the Crown (i.e. on behalf of the ruling monarch); may refer to the government or elements acting on the behalf of government (e.g. a legal prosecuting service operating in the name of “the Crown”); monarchical, regal, or imperial power
cutting a dash = to “cut a dash”: to dress in an elegant, fashionable, or stylish manner, so as to impress people (to have a “dashing” or “showy” appearance); to behave in an elegant or stylish manner, so as to impress people; to make a prominent display or show of oneself
fare = to get along, to succeed, to manage well, to do well (to fare well); to dine or eat; food and drink; the money paid, or price charged, for a journey or voyage; (archaic) to journey, travel, go on a voyage
Frank Gardiner = (1830-1882), an Australian bushranger
Jack Vane = John (Jack) Vane (1842-1906), an Australian bushranger
pound = a unit of British-style currency used in Australia, until it was replaced by the dollar in 1966 when decimal currency was introduced in Australia
squatter = in the context of Australian history, a squatter was originally someone who kept their livestock (mostly cattle and sheep) upon Crown land without permission to do so (thus illegally occupying land, or “squatting”); however, the practice became so widespread that eventually the authorities decided to formalise it by granting leases or licenses to occupy or use the land; and, with the growth of the Australian economy, many of the squatters became quite rich, and the term “squatter” came to refer to someone with a large amount of farm land (they were often regarded as rich and powerful)
stand = come to a halt, stand still; used in the phrase “stand and deliver”: a phrase stereotypically used by bushrangers and highwaymen, as a way of demanding that their victims hand over their valuables; to stand (come to a halt, stand still) and deliver (hand over, surrender) one’s valuables
Urunga = a town on the northern coast of New South Wales, located south of Coffs Harbour and north of Nambucca Heads
[Editor: Added a comma after “I was sent to the gaol”, “my cattle turned to the Crown”, and “closely confined”.]