Faithfull Brothers Shoot Out

In February 1865 four of the Faithfull brothers were attacked by bushrangers Ben Hall and his gang members, John Gilbert and Johnnie Dunn. To the bushrangers’ surprise, the teenage boys fired back. It was a short but harrowing battle during which many shots were fired.  The Faithfull boys escaped and Ben Hall and his gang retreated, with the only casualty being John Gilbert’s horse.


Monty and Reginald Faithfull were returning to The King’s School in Sydney after their summer holidays, and their older brothers William Percy and George were taking them to Goulburn to see them off by coach. As the boys turned out of Springfield’s drive and on to the main road in their four-in-hand carriage, they were bailed up and shot at by the gang.

The below article was published in the Goulburn Herald 8 February 1865.


On Thursday morning Ben Hall, Gilbert and Dunn, called at the house of a settler named Osborne, on the Wollondilly, about eight miles from Goulburn. Mr. Osborne was from home. They compelled Mrs. Osborne to get them breakfast, and they then produced some cold poultry, part of which they gave to the children. They took great notice, and spoke very kindly to Mrs. Osborne’s infants (twins). After having had breakfast they left, without having attempted to take anything or to search the place.

On Friday night the gang paid a visit to Paddy’s River, a small village of about a dozen houses, eighteen miles from Berrima and thirty from Goulburn. Here they bailed up the entire population. But scanty particulars have reached us; but we have heard that Mrs. Murray, a store-keeper, was robbed of goods and money to a considerable amount.

The following day, Saturday, the bushrangers appear to have visited the Ploughed Ground, where they stole some money and jewellery from Mr. Kelly, the landlord of the Black Horse Inn. They also visited Mr. Brenan’s inn at the Cross-road. It may be mentioned that no one from this neighbourhood has been in Goulburn since the occurrence, so that the particulars gleaned have been very scanty.

Between three and four o’clock in the afternoon, Mr. William Taylor, of this city, overtook the gang a little way on the Goulburn side of the Ploughed Ground. They searched him and took a half sovereign from him, leaving him 3s. 6d. in silver. As he and they were going in the same direction, all rode in company for some time.

Presently they came to an elderly man who was camped on the roadside, and from him the bushrangers got £8. On his representing that he had not a shilling left, one of the robbers gave him a few shillings in silver. Soon after Mr. Taylor was allowed to go on ahead, and saw no more of his late captors. On the following evening, Mr. John O’Donnell, butcher of this town, accompanied by his son, a little boy, was on his way to Mr. Styles’s at Bullamalita, for the purpose of buying sheep.

When near the house of a settler named Brassington, he met the bushrangers. They asked him if he had any money. Mr. O’Donnell, who recollected Ben Hall, having met him before he became a bushranger, treated the matter jocularly, producing a box of matches, and saying that was part of his means. The fellows did not take this amiss. Accompanied by Mr. O’Donnell they went to Brassington’s where they stayed all night, feeding themselves and their horses. One of them had one glass of grog, the others refused. Great part of the night was spent in amusements of one kind or other, and in recounting past adventures.
The recent burning of Mr. Morriss’s premises at Binda was related, the version of the bushrangers agreeing with that already published. They said that they had heard that some volunteers were accompanying the police in search of them, and that they would write to the papers and notify a place and time where they would be willing to meet them. During the night one of the gang would keep watch while the others slept.
In the morning Mr. O’Donnell was allowed to de- part, the bushrangers stating that they were sorry they had been obliged to detain him, and that they had not wished to meet anybody. They cautioned him to say nothing about them until about two o’clock, after which they said he would be at liberty to talk as much as he liked.

The same morning a man driving a bullock team, and in the employ of Mr. Faithfull, of Springfield, was stopped nearly opposite his master’s gate, and de- tained. It may be mentioned that this gate is at a considerable distance from Mr. Faithfull’s house, which stands back about three quarters of a mile, and can scarcely be seen from the road. One or two men and a girl, all on horseback, were also stopped about the same time ; but whether anything was taken from them or not we have been unable to learn.

About ten o’clock, the mail from Braidwood, driven by the contractor’s son, Owen Malone, came along. The bushrangers stopped it. From Malone they took £9, a sum which he can ill afford to lose. There were no passengers. The bushrangers then took the mail-bags and opened the letters, from two of which they took a £5-note and three £1-notes. They did not take cheques ; and after examining the letters allowed them to be taken charge of by the coachman. They looked at Malone’s watch, but allowed him to retain it, and said that they had broken their own, and had taken them to pieces for amusement. The coach from Goulburn to Braidwood, which on Monday carries no mail-bags, now approached, driven by Richards, better known as Brummy. Richards was accompanied only by his son, a boy of twelve or fourteen. They got nothing from him.

We now come to on affray which deserves particular mention, and which redounds greatly to the credit of the young man—or rather lads—engaged, who have set an ex- ample to others which it is to be hoped will be imitated. Mr. Faithfull’s break, with four horses, shortly after, drove out of his gate. It contained four of that gentleman’s sons— two who were leaving home for Sydney, and and their two brothers, who were about to accompany them to Goulburn, and see them off by the coach. After passing along the road for about a quarter of a mile, one of the bush- rangers galloped alongside the break, shouted, “look out,” immediately fired a blank shot, and passed on. The other two bushrangers were then distant about a hundred yards, and also commenced firing. One of the Messrs. Faithfull had a single-barrelled rifle, with which he had hoped perhaps to shoot a wild turkey on his way home, and another had a revolver, and they at once returned the fire. The other two were unarmed.

The bushrangers seeing this resistance, galloped off to a distance ; but wheeled round and returned to the charge, Gilbert, who was mounted on the racehorse Young Waverley, leading. When within twenty or thirty yards of the carriage he checked his horse while he presented his revolver to fire. The horse threw up his head, and the revolver going off at the same moment the bullet en- tered the back of the animal’s head, and he fell dead. The horse will be remembered by many as having contested several private matches in the district, and as having run on the Goulburn course in 1863.

The dismounted bushranger then took to the fence, and got behind a post. He and one of the Messrs. Faithfull aimed deliberately at each other. The bushranger missed, and Mr. Faithfull’s bullet lodged in the protecting post, passing almost through it. The Messrs. Faithfull had now fired nine shots, five from the rifle and four from the revolver ; and having all but exhausted their ammunition, they abandoned the break, and getting through the fence com- menced a retreat to the house. One of the bushrangers, supposed to be Hall, mounted on Barebones, a racer stolen some short time back, leaped the fence and followed them, re- peatedly firing. Mr. Faithfull, however, every now and then presented his rifle, and kept the bushranger at a respectful distance ; and thus the four lads reached home, fortunately unhurt. It is supposed that altogether between thirty and forty shots were fired by the bushrangers.

The Messrs. Faithfull, on reaching home, armed themselves thoroughly, and three of them then started, with the de- termination of having a fair fight with the bushrangers—an example of courage in men so young, or rather in lads, that is beyond all praise ; but when they got to the scene of action, Hall and his comrades had gone.

When the carriage was abandoned, the horses bolted, and galloped about the plains until they were completely winded, when Hall caught them, and brought them to where the coaches were detained. He here gave them and the break, which was not injured, into the care of Mr. Faith- full’s bullock-driver. The bushrangers then cut open the carpet bags and portmanteaus, and took a pair of boots and a quantity of clothing, as well as some fruit, of which they ate some and gave the rest to the people they were detaining.

The dismounted bushranger went to the dead horse, took off the saddle, and put it on a spare horse they had with them. They then went away, their horses being evidently very much jaded, and took an easterly direction, towards Quialigo, stating that they were going to Braidwood. Malone at once drove into town, where he arrived an hour and a quarter behind his time, and too late to catch the coach for Sydney, which, after being detained for some time, had been despatched shortly before. The same night three horses of Mr. Faithfull were stolen from one of the paddocks.

It is rumoured that the bushrangers vow vengeance against the Messrs. Faithfull. It is worthy of mention, too, that these young men had no valuables with them—nothing really worth fighting for—and that their re- sistance was based solely on principle. This shows an example to many older men ; and their success, it is to be hoped, may afford encouragement to others to do likewise. Mr. Faithfull has reason to be proud of such sons ; and had he heard the praise with which their conduct is everywhere spoken of, he would probably feel still prouder.

Eleven years later the New South Wales government recognised the bravery of the Faithfull brothers by awarding them a gold medal.

Gold was scarce at the time but William Pitt Faithfull had three more made – one for each of the boys.

The Springfield-Faithfull family collection includes several other objects linked to the incident, including a Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver and a ‘Welcome home noble brothers’ banner.


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