NMA collection record

Coffee urn, 1863

Description

This is an ornate pear-shaped, silver-plated, three-legged coffee urn engraved with 'The ladies of Upper & Middle Adelong / present this token of esteem / To Mrs Campbell as an appreciation of her heroic conduct displayed during the attack at Goimbla by bushrangers on 19th Nov. 1863.' It has a domed lid and a small tap and stands on its own silver-plated drip tray. It is an intricately worked piece engraved with classical motifs such as beastly forms, acanthus and fish scales.

Educational value

This urn is more than the work of a craftsman, it is also a reminder of a bloody battle between a gang of bushrangers and a pastoral family. On the evening of 19 November 1863, bushrangers John Gilbert (about 1842-1865), Ben Hall (about 1837-1865) and John O'Meally (1840-1863) attacked Goimbla homestead in central New South Wales. Inside were the brothers David and William Campbell (outspoken critics of the Gilbert-Hall gang), David's wife Amelia and a servant girl. During the gun battle William Campbell was wounded, but escaped and raised the alarm in nearby Eugowra. By the time the police arrived the battle was over and O'Meally had been shot dead. The 'battle of Goimbla' lasted about two hours.

The Campbells were well rewarded for killing O'Meally. They received, amongst other things, about 2000 pounds plus a silver coffee urn and two testimonials from the grateful citizens of surrounding towns. The death of O'Meally, the 'remorseless and bloodthirsty ruffian', was described as 'a public relief' by the Sydney Morning Herald.

John O'Meally was probably the most violent member of the famous Gilbert-Hall Gang. The son of an ex-convict, O'Meally apparently operated a butchering business and sold sly grog in partnership with John Gilbert. O'Meally's serious bushranging career, however, lasted only 20 months, from about March 1862 until his death on 19 November 1863. He was involved in armed robberies, an attack on Gold Commissioner Keightley's home at Dunn's Plains and allegedly killed at least two people.

John Gilbert and Ben Hall led one of the most notorious bushranging gangs of the 1860s. Ranging freely over the Lachlan Valley, New South Wales, between February 1863 and April 1865 the Gilbert-Hall Gang reputedly robbed 10 mail coaches, held up 21 stores and homesteads, stole 23 racing horses, took over the village of Canowindra three times and killed two policemen. They also attacked the homesteads of prominent government officials and squatters.

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