My Name is Ben Hall was published in Old Bush Songs; Composed and Sung in the Bushranging, Digging and Overlanding Days, edited by Banjo Paterson. It tells the story of Ben Hall, one of Australia’s best-known bushrangers.
Ben was born in May 1837 at Maitland, in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, the son of English and Irish parents who had both been convicted of minor offences and transported to Australia. They had married in 1834 and found work in the Murrurundi area. By 1842 Benjamin senior had bought a small block of land in Murrurundi where he set up a butcher shop and also sold fresh vegetables.
Young Ben spent his early years working with horses and cattle, developing his expertise in stockwork and bushcraft. These skills would later serve him well. In 1856, at age 19, he married Bridget Walsh, but during the summer of 1861–62, Biddy left, with their young son Henry, to live with a young stockman named James Taylor. From this time, Ben’s life entered a downward spiral as he began an association with the notorious bushranger Frank Gardiner.
It was perhaps on this account that the police arrested Hall on a trumped-up charge and, while he was in gaol, the authorities burnt down his homestead and left his cattle to starve. In anger and despair, Hall turned to bushranging and, for some three years, he and his gang terrorised the district between Bathurst and Forbes. But by early 1865, Hall and the others realised that to survive they would have to leave New South Wales. They first retreated to an isolated area northwest of Forbes, intending to gather fresh horses and provisions for a long journey north towards Queensland. But early in the morning of 5 May 1865, the police came upon Ben Hall alone and asleep by the banks of the Goobang Creek. The outlaw was shot to death.
This arrangement of My Name is Ben Hall is part of a larger collection of choral arrangements of 20 Australian folk song titles. The works were commissioned in 2022 by the Queensland Kodály Choir as a legacy project of Australian Choral Music and are collectively available in a two-part anthology titled On a Distant Shore.
The Queensland Kodály Choir has generously determined that these anthologies and all of their associated resources should be made freely available to anyone who would like to make use of them. To facilitate this, whilst each of the arrangements is copyright, the full set of project resources has been licensed under Creative Commons International Licence, meaning that they can be freely shared, copied and/or redistributed.
Conductors/choirs wishing to access the Anthology – Parts 1 & 2 – and/or the companion rehearsal tracks, can do so by following the link to the Cuskelly College of Music website. The complete individual titles (including cover title page, vocal score, piano accompaniment, extracted instrument parts, performance notes and glossary of terms) are available in the Anthology Catalogue on this website.
Perusal and download copies of this arrangement of My Name is Ben Hall are available below.
Featured Image: “Death of Ben Hall” by Patrick William Marony. Public domain, National Library of Australia.