Our History: Ben Hall goes to the Binda Ball

The Flag Inn was the scene of the Binda Boxing Day Ball on December 26, 1864.

Bushranger Ben Hall, together with John Gilbert and John Dunn, had been visiting Hall’s girlfriend Christina McKinnon to celebrate Christmas and decided to go to the ball.  

The three men, together with Christina McKinnon and Margaret and Ellen Monks, rode into Binda and visited the Flagstaff Store, forcing Mr and Mrs Edward Morriss to dress and attend the ball at the Flag Hotel. 

GATECRASHERS: The uninvited Binda Boxing Day Ball guests, clockwise from main: Ben Hall, Christina McKinnon, John Dunne and John Gilbert.

GATECRASHERS: The uninvited Binda Boxing Day Ball guests, clockwise from main: Ben Hall, Christina McKinnon, John Dunne and John Gilbert.

They called into the home of Joseph Hadfield and forced him to join the party as well. 

Upon arrival they bailed up 100 people attending the ball, warning them the dance must continue, and that no one could leave the room to go and warn the troopers. 

Ben Hall had put £30 on the bar to shout everyone a drink (he had just stolen it from the store); people lined up to get free drinks.

The bushrangers mixed with the revellers, dancing and enjoying the atmosphere, until they got wind that Mr Morriss and Hadfield were planning to leave to warn the troopers.  

A warning was issued that anyone leaving would end up with lead in their feet. 

After a good many dances there was a commotion and a fight broke out, there was much yelling and shouting and three men slipped out the door. The three bushrangers were after them and Ben Hall yelled at Mr Morriss to come back or he would burn his store down.  Morriss took no notice and kept going. 

One man went back into the hotel and hid under a bench where the women were sitting, the other was forced inside. Ben Hall let his displeasure be known by announcing that he would burn Mr Morriss’ store to the ground. He warned everyone to stay inside the hotel.

They left the dance and proceeded to go back to the store where they threw papers and anything they could find that they thought would burn; they poured kerosene all over the floor and curtains.  

Mrs Morriss screamed and pleaded with them to save her dresses. Johnny Gilbert carried out an armful of dresses and placed them under a tree, then together with Dunn went inside and set the place ablaze.  

The store was burnt to the ground and it was thought that the store-keeper’s loss was over £1,000. His account books were also lost in the fire and he had no records that he could use to reclaim the debts owed to him.

Ben Hall and his gang headed out of Binda before the troopers could catch up with them.

However three women, Christina McKinnon, Margaret and Ellen Monks, were arrested and charged with having assisted in the burning of Morriss’ Store, and were committed for trial in Sydney.  

They were never convicted of any crime as no one in Binda would testify against them.

After one year and a number of attempts at trial, the charges were dropped and the girls were free.

BINDA BALL, 1864

By  John Manifold

 There was never a dance like our Boxing Day ball,

For we found, at the height of the fun,

That the Monks girls were dancing with Gilbert and Hall,

And Christina McKinnon with Dunn.

The bushranger’s gold in their candlelight flowed,

And we joined in their generous caprice;

But storekeeper Morris ran off down the road

To Bathurst, to warn the police.

“Bad scran to the blackguard!” cried Margaret Monks,

“There’s time for just one event more

“It’s a matter of teaching good manners to skunks-

“Come on, and we’ll burn down his store!”

When the traps and the traitor rode up with the dawn

The store had been burnt to the ground,

The dancing was over, the curtains were drawn,

And the bushrangers couldn’t be found.

They arrested Christina and Ellen and Peg,

But we heard the girls pluckily call,

“It’s cheap at the price to have shaken a leg

“With John Gilbert, Jack Dunn and Ben Hall!”.