The Irish in Australia/Chapter 4
A BIRTHPLACE OF FREEDOM.
AN EARLY IRISH EXPLORER—PRIMITIVE SQUATTERS—ESMOND'S DISCOVERY OF GOLD—FEVERISH EXCITEMENT—RUSH OF GOLD-SEEKERS FROM THE OLD WORLD—LARGE PERCENTAGE OF IRISHMEN—THE GOVERNMENT ISSUES LICENCES TO DIG—ARBITRARY AND BRUTAL MODE OF COLLECTING THE LICENCE-FEES—TWO ZEALOUS IRISH PRIESTS—THEIR TREATMENT BY INSOLENT TROOPERS—GROWING AGITATION FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES—MASS MEETING ON BAKERY HILL—12,000 DIGGERS BURN THEIR LICENCES—PETER LALOR CHOSEN COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF—THE DIGGERS OCCUPY THE EUREKA STOCKADE—ATTACKED BY THE MILITARY—THE STOCKADE CAPTURED—DIGGERS CHARGED WITH HIGH TREASON AND ACQUITTED—ABOLITION OF THE HATEFUL LICENCE-FEE—DEMOCRATIC FREEDOM WON BY THE DIGGERS—DEVELOPMENT OF MINING—DEEP SINKING—REMARKABLE CAREER OF THE BAND OF HOPE—FATHER DUNNE, THE PIONEER PRIEST—THE BALLARAT OF TO-DAY.
Situated at a height of 1,437 feet above the level of the sea, and at a distance of 70 miles from Melbourne, is Ballarat, the centre of the richest gold-field in the world. Ballarat is a compound native word, meaning in our language a camping or resting-place, "balla" being the aboriginal equivalent for elbow, or, in a figurative sense, reclining at one's ease with the hand supporting the head. No name could have been more suitable or appropriate during the decade that the locality remained a pastoral solitude, but it completely lost its significance when the mineral wealth of Ballarat became known to the world, and thousands of gold-seekers from every civilised country came rushing southwards like a mighty human avalanche. In every infant settlement it is only natural that adventurous spirits should be found forming themselves into exploring parties, with the object of ascertaining the capabilities of the back country. Such a party was organised by Mr. D'Arcy, an Irish surveyor, very soon after the settlement of Melbourne. With five kindred spirits he started to explore the country to the west. On the verge of the horizon they saw a solitary peak. Mount Buninyong, towards which they directed their steps. Ascending it, they gazed with delight on the splendid expanse of pastoral country all around them, little dreaming that they were looking on what was destined to be the greatest goldfield of the age, and the site of the future prosperous city of Ballarat. It would appear that the members of this expedition became separated in some manner, and only succeeded in reaching the coast after much danger and privation. But the intelligence they brought was too valuable to be overlooked. Several parties set out with the object of making a permanent settlement, and the rich natural pastures of the district were soon taken up by these early squatters, most of whom became immensely wealthy in later years through the discovery of gold on their lands. But, on their first occupation of the country, they dwelt in primeval simplicity, in the midst of their flocks and herds, without a thought of the golden treasures beneath their feet. A little township sprang into existence at the base of Mount Buninyong, and became the recognised centre of the district. Six miles to the west was the site of the present city of Ballarat, town of Ballarat East, and borough of Sebastopol, described by those who viewed the scene at the time as a "pleasantly-picturesque pastoral country. Mount and range, and table-land, gullies and creeks and grassy slopes, here black and dense forest, there only sprinkled with trees, and yonder showing clear reaches of grass, made up the general landscape. A pastoral quiet reigned everywhere. Over the whole expanse there was nothing of civilisation but a few pastoral settlers and their retinue—the occasional flock of nibbling sheep, or groups of cattle browsing in the broad herbage."
An early settler has given a graphic description of the quietness that reigned supreme: "I often passed," he says, "the spot on which Ballarat is built, and there could not be a prettier spot imagined. It was the very picture of repose. There was in general plenty of grass and water, and often have I seen the cattle in considerable numbers lying in quiet enjoyment after being satisfied with the pasture. One day I met the keeper of a shepherd's hut, and he told me the solitude was so painful that he could not endure it. He saw no one from the time the shepherds went out in the morning till they returned at night. I was the only person he had ever seen there who was not connected with the station." Mr. F. P. Labillière, barrister of the Middle Temple, says he "well remembers the neighbourhood of Ballarat for two or three years before gold was thought of. Some months before the discovery he passed near the field, if not over it, on the occasion of a day's excursion, which as a boy he made to Lake Burrumbeet with some friends from Buninyong. The whole country then was devoted to sheep pasture. There were no farms, and not a fence was to be seen along the bush road, or rather track between the lake and Mount Buninyong."
But a time was at hand when all this Arcadian stillness and simplicity would have to make way for the busy hum and strange ways of camping crowds of all nations, when the nibbling sheep and grazing cattle would have to retire before red-shirted and loud-spoken miners, and when the clear pellucid waters of the Yarrowee would be ruthlessly diverted and discoloured in the eager and all-absorbing search for gold. The scene was indeed to be changed. After ten years of silence and slumber, Ballarat was to become a name famous throughout the world. It is now a well-established fact that the existence of gold was known to several of the early squatters, but such was their horror of change, and their fear of seeing their properties overrun by hordes of lawless adventurers, that they succeeded in keeping the important secret to themselves for some time, and staving off the evil day as long as possible. Some of them certainly did communicate privately with various colonial governors on the subject, but these latter dignitaries were still more alarmed at the possible consequences and the increased responsibility of their position, if the exciting news became generally known and a rush of gold-seekers set in from the Old World. Sir Charles Fitzroy, in an official despatch to Earl Grey, informed the Secretary of State for the Colonies that he had been shown a large mass of golden quartz, but he feared "that any open investigation by the government would only tend to agitate the public mind and divert persons from their proper and more certain avocations." But when Hargreaves and Esmond returned from California, fully impressed with the conviction that Australia also was auriferous, it became a matter of impossibility to conceal the golden secret any longer. Hargreaves immediately commenced prospecting for the precious metal at Summerhill Creek, in the Bathurst district of New South Wales, and succeeded in finding several nuggets and a considerable quantity of gold dust. His success naturally produced the greatest excitement throughout New South Wales and Victoria, and a general movement of the population set in towards the "diggings" discovered by Hargreaves. Victoria was in danger of losing all her able-bodied men, when, at the critical moment, Esmond published his still more astonishing discoveries at Clunes, about 20 miles to the N.N.W. of Ballarat. This timely intimation had the effect of not only stopping the exodus to New South Wales, but of inducing a general rush to Victoria from the other colonies. The result was the gradual development of the famous Ballarat gold-field, "the riches unearthed there," according to the historian of the era, "not only quickly attracting all the other prospectors, but setting the colony on fire with excitement from end to end." Patrick Connor and Thomas Dunn—unmistakable Milesian names—were the leaders of the first two parties that commenced actual work on this, the most celebrated gold-field of our century. Mr. Withers, in his "History of Ballarat," expresses the opinion that "the honour of discovery seems to be tolerably evenly balanced between the two parties, though it may perhaps be held that the balance of priority inclines to the side of Connor's party, and it is said in support of Connor's claim that he was always regarded as leader of the diggers at the meetings held in those first days when the authorities made their first demand for license fees." Connor is dead, but Dunn still survives at a ripe old age, and steadfastly maintains his claim to the title of "Father of Ballarat." "I shall give you," he says, "a full and true account of our gold prospecting and the first discovery of Golden Point, Ballarat. Our party consisted of Richard Turner, James Merrick,George Wilson,Charles Gerrard, James Batty, and myself, Thomas Dunn. We started from town (Geelong") on Tuesday, August 5th, 1851, met with an accident on Batesford Hill, the loaded dray passing over the driver's stomach, proceeded on our journey to the Clunes, but stopped at Buninyong nearly a fortnight. The party getting dissatisfied, Wilson and I agreed to go in search of better diggings, so we started from Buninyong on Sunday morning, August 24th, 1851, between ten and eleven o'clock, with a tin dish and shovel, reached the Black Hill at about two o'clock, and left at about half-past three. In coming over Winter's Flat I said to George, 'There is a likely little quartz hill; let us try it before we go home.' It was pouring rain at the time. So with that I cut a square turf, then partly filled the dish, and went to the creek to wash it. Oh, what joy! there were about ten or twelve grains of fine gold. So we left off, covered up the turf, and made for home as fast as possible through the rain; reached home like two drowned rats; started next morning early for our discovery; reached there in the afternoon, and had the cradle at work next morning. I firmly believe that I, Thomas Dunn, and George Wilson were the first men, and got the first gold, on the little quartz hill now known as Golden Point."
Such is Dunn's homely narrative of the circumstances I surrounding the birth of Ballarat. The probability is that Dunn and Connor's parties were on the field almost simultaneously, but, at this distance of time, it is impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty which of them actually raised the first gold. First discoverers, as a rule, are singularly unlucky and unfortunate, and the story of Columbus is continually repeating itself. Having sown the seed amidst danger and difficulty, they find themselves unscrupulously elbowed aside, whilst others gather in the golden harvest. Such was the hard fate of Dunn and Connor, and the members of their parties. Their immediate followers were raised to rank and opulence by the riches of Ballarat, but they themselves were left in silence and neglect to earn a small and uncertain daily wage. Even in later years when the Victorian Legislature scattered thousands of pounds in rewards for the discovery of particular gold-fields, the undeniable claims of Dunn and Connor were completely overlooked, the prizes to which they were honestly entitled having been showered for the most part on obtrusive applicants, whose assertiveness, pertinacity and political influence constituted their chief claims to recognition. It was owing to the shrewdness of one Irish digger that the underground treasures of Ballarat came to be revealed in all their native richness. Speaking of this important discovery in his "History of Australia," Mr. Sutherland says: "The first comers began to work at a bend in the creek, which they called Golden Point. Here for a time each man could easily earn from twenty to forty pounds a day, and crowds of people hurried to the scene. Every one selected a piece of ground, which he called his claim, and set to work to dig a hole in it, but when the bottom of the sandy layer was reached, and there seemed to be nothing but pipe-clay below, the claim was supposed to be worked out and was straightway abandoned. However, a miner named Cavenagh determined to try an experiment, and having entered one of these deserted claims, he dug through the layer of pipe-clay, when he had the good fortune to come suddenly upon several large deposits of grain gold. He had reached what had been in long-past ages the bed of the creek, where in every little hollow, for century after century, the flowing waters had gently deposited the gold which had been carried with them from the mountains. In many cases these 'pockets,' as they were called, were found to contain gold to the value of thousands of pounds, so that very soon all the claims were carried down a few feet further, and with such success that, before a month had passed, Ballarat took rank as the richest gold-field in the world. In October i there were 10,000 men at work on the Yarrowee; acre after acre was covered with circular heaps of red and yellow sand, each with its shaft in the middle, in which men were toiling beneath the ground to excavate the soil and pass it to their companions above, who quickly hurried with it to the banks of the creek, where twelve hundred cradles, rocked by brawny arms, were washing the sand from the gold." The extraordinary excitement produced By the Ballarat discoveries is thus described in a despatch of the governor of the period, Mr. Latrobe, to Earl Grey: "It is quite impossible for me to describe to your lordship the effect which these discoveries have had upon the whole community. Within the last three weeks the towns of Melbourne and Geelong and their large suburbs have been in appearance almost emptied of many classes of their male inhabitants. Not only have the idlers to be found in every community, and day labourers in town and the adjacent country, shopmen, artisans and mechanics of every description thrown up their employments—in most cases leaving their employers and their wives and families to take care of themselves—and run off to the workings, but responsible tradesmen, farmers, clerks of every grade and not a few of the superior classes have followed; some unable to withstand the mania and force of the stream, but others because they were, as employers of labour, left in the lurch and had no other alternative. Cottages are deserted, houses to let, business is at a standstill, and even schools are closed. In some of the suburbs not a man is left, and the women are known, for self-protection, to forget neighbours' jars and to group together to keep house. The ships in the harbour are in a great measure deserted, and masters of vessels, like farmers, have made up parties with their men to go shares at the diggings. Both here (Melbourne) and at Geelong all buildings and contract works, public and private, are at a standstill."
When the exciting news was published in the Old World, the natural result was an exodus on a very large scale to the Golden Land of the south. All the nationalities of Europe were represented in this huge rush of gold-seekers. Every county in Ireland sent its thousands. Indeed, the large percentage of Irishmen on the gold-fields soon became a very noticeable feature. Mr. J. D'Ewes, who was the stipendiary magistrate in charge of Ballarat during the early period of its history, relates that on one occasion he witnessed a purchase, made by one of the banks, of five thousand four hundred ounces of gold, the produce of one claim at Eureka, discovered by a party of twelve Irishmen. The price paid by the bank to the lucky Hibernians was £4 2s. per ounce, so that each man received £1,845 as his share of the profits of this one golden hole.
For a time the Victorian Government, taken by surprise, was utterly powerless in the presence of this unexpected influx of population, but it eventually recovered its self-possession, proclaimed the right of the Crown to the gold, despatched officials to preserve order, and issued licenses to dig for the precious metal. At first the license fee was fixed at £1 10s. per month, but it was soon doubled in the hope of thinning the crowds that continued to travel to the gold-fields from all the points of the compass. In course of time this poll-tax, as it really was, assumed a most arbitrary and unjust character. It was levied alike on every digger, whether successful or unsuccessful, and the brutal and insulting manner in which it was enforced became an insupportable grievance, and led to a bloody conflict between the outraged diggers and the tyrannical authorities. The ridiculous idea seemed rooted in the minds of the governor and his advisers, that the gold-fields' population could only be ruled and regulated on military principles. Hence the diggers were allowed no representation whatever in the Victorian Parliament, although the great majority of them were respectable men of good family and education. They were tyrannised over by ignorant and insolent officials, many of whom were originally expatriated for their crimes, and were afterwards promoted into the ranks of the colonial constabulary. These ex-convicts took a demoniac delight in i annoying and insulting the free-born diggers, and straining their petty authority to the utmost. No sooner had an intending digger arrived on the field than he was compelled to appear before one of these insolent officials, hand over his first monthly payment of £3, and receive in return a license to the following effect:
No—— Date—— 185—
The bearer ——, having paid to me the sum of £3 sterling on account of the territorial revenue, I hereby license him to dig, search for, and remove gold on and from any such Crown lands as I shall assign to him for that purpose during the month of ——, 185—. This license is not transferable, and must be produced whenever demanded by me or any other person acting under the authority of the government.Signed ——,
It was the custom of the gold-fields' officials, supported by bodies of armed mounted troopers, to sally out unexpectedly, surround the diggers whilst at work, call upon them, with many oaths and insults, to produce their licenses, and arrest all who could not exhibit the necessary document. The prisoners would then be marched off to the "Government Camp," and kept chained to large logs within its fortified lines until such time as their friends came forward with monetary assistance to their relief. One incident out of hundreds that might be narrated will serve to show the coarse, reckless and unjustifiable manner in which these ignorant officials carried out the duties intrusted to them, and which eventually drove the gold-fields' population into open rebellion. Father Patrick Smyth was one of the first of the Irish priests to arrive on the Ballarat gold-fields. He had a devoted personal attendant named John Gregory, who was one day paying a visit of charity to some Catholic friends. A license-hunting party of troopers came up, surrounded the tent in which they were, and the officer in charge "commanded the —— wretches to come out of the tent and show him their licenses." Gregory quietly told him that he was the servant of Father Smyth, and had no such document. The troopers thereupon profusely damned both him and Father Smyth, and took him into custody. As Gregory was not a very able-bodied man, he asked his captors to take him to the Government Camp at once, and not drag him after them all over the diggings in their search for unlicensed miners. This reasonable request was refused with many curses and blows, and the poor fellow was compelled to follow the brutal troopers through the whole of the day's campaign. Next morning, although it was evident at a glance that Gregory was physically unable, to dig for gold, he was fined £5 for having no license, and an additional £5 for having committed an imaginary assault on one of the troopers! "In the whole affair," says a contemporary account, "the Rev. Father Smyth was certainly treated with but little courtesy, and the trumpery story of a cripple assaulting an able-bodied mounted trooper is too ridiculous to warrant serious attention." Treatment of this description naturally engendered a bitter feeling of resentment against the law and its local administrators. The late Venerable Archdeacon Downing, who came up to Ballarat almost simultaneously with Father Smyth, was frequently the victim of the harsh tyranny of the insolent officials of those early days. On one occasion Father Downing had pitched his tent at the Brown Creek diggings, and, with his coat off, was hard at work digging a trench round it to carry off the water, when a brutal trooper, coming up, insisted that the priest was a digger, bailed him up, demanded his license, and subjected him to the grossest indignities. Mr. William Kelly, author of "Life in Victoria," thus describes what happened to himself and his friends on the very day of their arrival in Ballarat: "While still sitting round the hole, musing and chatting; on the strange vicissitudes of life and the infinite mutability. of fortune, we were favoured with no very pleasing exemplification in our own persons by the unexpected appearance of a 'brace of traps' (police), who demanded our licenses; and, so far from being satisfied with our explanations, they were rude and insolent, and, pretending to discredit our statements, ordered us to march as prisoners to the camp, first to pay fines of £5, and then to take out our licenses. Expostulation was vain; promises were sneered at; nothing short of £20, that is £5 each, could procure our liberation; so off we marched in the worst of humour. The first mandarin before whom we were brought, took the cue from the captors, pretending to laugh at 'our ruse,' assuming at the same time an air of menace, in which he hinted at locking up in default; but on my asking 'if one of his brother-commissioners, to whom I had a letter of introduction from a certain person in authority at head-quarters, was in the camp,' the matter assumed another complexion. The other commissioner soon arrived, and, glancing at the signature, he grasped my hand and shook it almost to dislocation; but, had I not had the letter, the consequences would have been both expensive and disagreeable. Reflecting on this, I began for the first time to think that the diggers' outcry against official tyranny and exaction was not altogether a baseless grievance. I could well imagine the state of feeling likely to be generated by a persistence in such a system of arbitrary persecution, and I was not surprised when it reached its climax soon afterwards."
These are only samples of the intolerable wrongs the mining population was compelled to endure at the hands of an irresponsible régime, and when it is added that the diggers were not permitted to cultivate the smallest portion of land for the maintenance of themselves and their families, it may be supposed that they would have been more than human if they had remained quiet under such grievous oppression. They organised a peaceful and constitutional agitation, to which all the gold-fields of the colony unanimously gave their assent and support. Its object was twofold—the abolition of the oppressive monthly license-fee and the representation of the gold-fields in parliament—two very reasonable and the reverse of revolutionary requests. Nevertheless, they were contemptuously rejected by the new governor, Sir Charles Hotham, and his responsible advisers. Sir Charles succeeded Mr. Latrobe on June 21st, 1854, and soon showed himself to be eminently unfit for his position. A retired navy captain, he tried to rule the colony like a martinet, and, by his headstrong and senseless policy towards the exasperated diggers, he precipitated a collision with the authorities. He professed to regard the agitation on the gold-fields as the result of the machinations of foreigners and, in the true spirit of the quarter-deck, defiantly declared his intention to put down all seditious manifestations with a stern hand. The underlings bettered the instructions of their chief, and the raids by the troopers upon the diggers became more numerous and irritating than ever. At last the utmost limits of patience having been reached, the probability of a successful insurrection was openly discussed on the gold-fields, and the agitation came to a crisis on November 29th, 1854, when 12,000 diggers held a meeting on Bakery Hill, Ballarat, under the presidency of Mr. Timothy Hayes, one of the most genial and popular Irishmen on the diggings. After carrying a series of resolutions setting forth the grievances of the gold-fields' population, and the unavailing efforts to induce the authorities to redress them, the meeting unanimously determined then and there to burn all their licenses, and thus bid open defiance to the government. Amidst enthusiastic cheering a huge bonfires was made, and every digger consigned his Crown permit to the flames. The two Irish priests already mentioned, Father Patrick Smyth and Father Matthew Downing, were present at this historical meeting, and naturally exerted all their influence to induce the excited diggers not to take the irretrievable step of burning their licenses. But however willing the Irishmen, who constituted no small percentage of that crowd of 12,000 diggers, would be under ordinary circumstances to heed and obey the voice of their pastors, their blood was now boiling with indignation at the wrongs they had so long endured from their tyrannical oppressors, and whilst they listened to their priests with patience and respect, they could not be diverted from their fixed determination to summarily and decisively end such intolerable persecution. Messrs. Lalor, Quinn, Murnane and Brady were four of the principal speakers, and the most important resolution agreed to was couched in the following terms: "That this meeting being convinced that the obnoxious license-fee is an imposition and an unjustifiable tax on free labour, pledges itself to take immediate steps to abolish the same by at once burning all their licenses, and that, in the event of any party being arrested for having no licenses, the united people under all circumstances will defend and protect them."
Affairs on the gold-fields had now reached a crisis, but the governor and his advisers were resolved to pursue their tyrannical policy towards the diggers to the bitter end. According to them, what had just transpired in Ballarat was but a cloak to cover a democratic revolution, which must be stamped out at all hazards. The day following the burning of the licenses witnessed the last "digger hunt" on the Australian gold-fields. It was carried out with a great display of military force, in the hope of overawing the rebellious diggers and striking terror into their hearts. A large body of police, supported by the 12th and 40th regiments of the line, skirmishers in advance and cavalry on the flanks, advanced from the Government Camp on the diggers to demand the production of their licenses, knowing full well that those precious pieces of paper had been committed to the flames on the previous day. Not expecting this sudden attack, the diggers were unprepared for effective resistance. They retired as the troops advanced, rallying occasionally and receiving the enemy with a mingled fire of stones and bullets. The result of that day's work was open war between the gold-fields' population and the Crown. No sooner had the police and the military returned with a number of prisoners to the Government Camp, than the diggers assembled en masse on their old meeting-ground, Bakery Hill, appointed a council of war, and elected Peter Lalor (son of the late member for the Queen's County, and brother of the present member) as their commander-in-chief.
Up to this point, the diggers would seem to have had no designs of a revolutionary character. Their sole object was to secure a redress of their grievances and the abolition of an intolerable system of vulgar official tyranny. Now, however, when they found themselves treated as outlaws, the movement assumed a wider significance; a declaration of independence based on the American model was drawn up and signed, and a new silken flag—the Southern Cross—five silver stars forming a cross on a blue ground—was unfurled to the breeze. Beneath this diggers' standard, Lalor, as commander-in-chief, took his stand and administered the following oath to his men: "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties." It was in that portion of the gold-fields known as the Eureka and principally inhabited by Irish diggers, that the fortified camp of the "rebels," as they were now officially described, was erected. It consisted of an entrenched stockade, that was capable of being made a place of great strength if the diggers had had time to utilise its natural advantages, and place it in a proper state of defence. It occupied an area of about an acre, rudely enclosed with strong slabs. Within the stockade drilling now became the main business of the hour; the diggers' council of war sat almost continuously; blacksmiths were kept at work night and day forging pikes. "Let those who cannot provide themselves with firearms procure a piece of steel five or six inches long, attached to a pole, and that will pierce the tyrants' hearts," were the words of the commander-in-chief to his men. Patrick Curtain was the chosen captain of the pikemen, and Michael Hanrahan was their lieutenant. Meanwhile the authorities were grievously alarmed at the spectre their stupidity, barbarity, and truculent insolence had created. They had never reckoned on the persecuted diggers turning at bay and presenting an unbroken military front to their oppressors. Sir Charles Hotham and his ministers were in an agitated state of perplexity; Melbourne, the capital, was in a panic, and the mayor was swearing in citizens by the hundred as special constables to resist the victorious diggers, whom the wild rumours of the hour described as marching in a body from Ballarat to pillage the city. Hearing that the rebellion was spreading and that the men of the other gold-fields were hastening to the relief and assistance of their Ballarat comrades, the authorities of the Government Camp decided to attack the diggers' stronghold before any of these reinforcements could arrive. Early on the morning of Sunday, December 3rd, 1854, the assault was made by the combined forces of the military and the police under the command of Colonel Thomas, of the 40th regiment. The insurgent diggers, commanded by Mr. Peter Lalor, made a brave and desperate resistance; the pikemen (an almost exclusively Irish detachment) stood their ground in double file around the enclosure and repelled several charges of cavalry; volley after volley was poured into the stockade and answered by the diggers, until their want of ammunition and comparative unpreparedness became apparent. After half-an-hour's desperate hand-to-hand fighting, the Eureka stockade was surrounded and carried by storm.
The scene that followed was of a brutal and barbarous character. The ruffianly soldiers and troopers behaved towards their discomfited opponents in the most cowardly fashion. Not content with making a large number of them prisoners, they did not scruple in their savage glee even to shoot non-combatants down in cold blood. The official list of casualties on the diggers' side reports 22 killed, 12 wounded, and 125 taken prisoners; but these figures must not be accepted as literally accurate, as many lives were sacrificed and many persons wounded in the encounter, whose names were not officially recorded. Subjoined are some of the names of the Irishmen who fell or were wounded in this first struggle for freedom on Victorian soil:
|John Hynes||County Clare.|
|Patrick Gittings||" Kilkenny.|
|Patrick Mullens||" Kilkenny.|
|John Diamond||" Clare.|
|Thomas O'Neil||" Kilkenny.|
|George Donaghy||" Donegal.|
|Edward Qninn||" Cavan.|
|William Quinlan||" Cavan.|
|Thaddeus Moore||County Clare.|
|James Brown||" Wexford.|
|Edward M'Glynn||" Wexford.|
Wounded and Subsequently Recovered.
|Peter Lalor||Queen's County.|
|Patrick Hanofin||County Kerry.|
|Michael Hanly||" Tipperary|
|Michael O'Neil||" Clare.|
|Thomas Callanan||" Clare.|
|Patrick Callanan||" Clare.|
|James Warner||" Cork.|
|Luke Sheehan||" Galway.|
|Michael Morrison||" Galway.|
|Denis Dynon||" Clare.|
Lalor, commander-in-chief of the diggers, was in his place when the attack was made on the stockade, and fought with conspicuous bravery until he received a ball near the shoulder of the left arm. Some of his men placed him under some protecting slabs within the stockade, and there he was discovered after the engagement was over, lying in a pool of blood. Fortunately his friends, and not his foes, found out his place of concealment, and they carried him to a safe retreat in the neighbourhood, where the wounded arm was successfully amputated by a friendly surgeon. Then, under the protection of the good priest, Father Patrick Smyth, arrangements were made to have the rebel commander removed as speedily as possible from the hot and vengeful pursuit of the authorities. A few days after the storming of the stockade, Patrick Carroll, an Irish carrier, arrived in Ballarat with a load of goods from Geelong, and on the return trip he had a solitary passenger, the man for whose body, dead or alive, the government emissaries were scouring the country in all directions. Carroll did his best to conceal the fugitive leader under a tarpaulin and the boughs of trees, and, by keeping as far as possible from the frequented roads and driving through lonely bush tracks, he succeeded in reaching Geelong without having attracted any hostile notice. Camping outside the town until night came on, the faithful Irishman drove his distressed compatriot to the appointed place of refuge. Notwithstanding that a large money reward was offered by the government for Lalor's apprehension, and although his place of concealment was well-known to many, not a solitary scrap of information did the government receive, so loyal and hearty was the sympathy of the people at large with the oppressed diggers and the cause for which they had suffered. "It is a curious commentary on the events of those times," remarks one of the historians of the colony, "that whereas the Government of Victoria then offered so large a sum for Mr. Lalor's dead body, they are now glad to pay him £1,500 a year to live." This is an allusion to the fact that the erstwhile rebel of 1854, with a price on his head, is now the first commoner of Victoria and admittedly one of the ablest Speakers in the Australian colonies. The diggers captured in the stockade were brought to Melbourne to await their trial for high treason against Her Majesty. So determined were the authorities to convict at any cost, that they did not hesitate to resort to the hideous system of packed juries. Every Irishman, and every citizen suspected of sympathy with the miners, were promptly told to stand aside. Nevertheless the current of popular opinion was so powerful, and the sympathy with the persecuted diggers so widespread, that prisoner after prisoner was acquitted, amid the ringing cheers of a crowded court and the more boisterous demonstrations of satisfaction from the thousands outside. Eventually the State trials were wisely abandoned by the Crown; the proclamations of outlawry against Mr. Lalor and his fellow-leaders were unconditionally withdrawn; the concealed chiefs came forth into the light of day once more; a Royal Commission, with the late Sir John O'Shanassy as one of its principal members, was appointed to inquire into the grievances of the miners; the oppressive license-fee was soon abolished on their recommendation; parliamentary representation was given to the gold-fields, and before the first anniversary of the storming of the Eureka stockade came round, Mr. Lalor was one of the members for Ballarat, and the mining population was as quiet, law-abiding, and industrious as any other section of the community.
That the armed resistance of the diggers on the Eureka paved the way for democratic freedom in the Australian colonies, and abolished for ever a semi-military despotism over free-born men, is an historical feet that cannot be called into question. Irishmen played the most important part in that exciting episode, and to this day Irishmen continue to be the backbone and sinew of the flourishing city of Ballarat, that has developed from the thousands of diggers' tents that occupied its site in 1854. Nowhere could be found a more hospitable and patriotic people, a more enlightened community, a more intelligent body of electors. The Irishmen of Ballarat have not only been foremost in building up the Golden City and gathering its auriferous treasures, but they have always been found in the van of liberal progress and useful legislation. Their respected leader, Daniel Brophy, a sterling Celt from Castlecomer, Kilkenny, has been several times mayor of the city, and was for years one of their representatives in the Legislative Assembly.
In the early years of Ballarat, the operations of the diggers were confined to the surface workings, or the sinking of shallow shafts into the rich alluvial. Fabulous wealth was thus raised by thousands of men in a comparatively easy manner. Scientific mining for gold was not attempted at this early stage, the men merely digging and delving into the golden soil to the depth of a hundred or one hundred and fifty feet, when they were stopped by a huge layer of solid rock. Beneath this they did not attempt to penetrate, though their shrewd observation convinced them that if they could only succeed in piercing that rocky barrier, they would strike still richer leads of gold in the underground river-beds. Still, so long as the gold was to be procured within easy reach of the surface, there was no inducement to expend a large amount of capital and labour in the risky experiment of cutting several hundred feet through the underlying rock in the hope of striking another payable gold-field. It was only when the surface workings gave unmistakable signs of exhaustion, that the sanguine and speculative spirits of Ballarat turned their attention to the new and still untouched sources of wealth that lay deep down in the earth. The glorious result of this new development of antipodean enterprise soon became manifest. Individual mining gradually gave place to co-operative mining; companies were formed in which the shareholders provided the capital necessary for so much expensive deep-sinking; after many dangers and difficulties the rocky barrier was pierced at last, an extensive and permanent gold-field was opened up, and the prosperity of Ballarat was assured.
Perhaps the most remarkable of the companies that, by their energy, perseverance and pluck, contributed to this magnificent result, was the "Band of Hope," in which Irish enterprise and industry were very largely represented. Its history is of the most chequered character. Originally inaugurated by 120 working miners, it took no less than twelve months' continuous labour to get to the bottom of the hard basaltic rock. In the effort to sink their first shaft, an underground stream broke in upon them, and a powerful steam engine had to be employed to pump up an immense quantity of accumulated water. To keep out this enemy they built a wall of clay around the shaft, but the work was hardly finished before the water broke through and flooded them out again. A second time they rebuilt the wall, and once again it gave way to the pressure of the underground streams. Undaunted by their continued ill-luck, they erected it a third time and at last succeeded in keeping out the water. Continuing their descent through the rock, after being flooded out from time to time, they eventually reached a depth of 340 feet. Then they commenced to drive a tunnel to the south-east, and once again their old enemy, the water, came down upon them, accompanied this time by an immense quantity of sand. "It was now over six years since the starting of the company," remarks Mr. George Sutherland in one of his graphic descriptive sketches of the Victorian gold-fields. "Fortunes had been spent upon it; many shareholders had dropped out. But still the faithful few persevered under every disadvantage, determined to deserve their first adopted name of 'Band of Hope.' The miners retreated higher up the shaft, and opened up a new drive at a point beyond the level of the water. Profiting by their former experience, they carried their drive in the proper direction this time; and thus they arrived once more at the gold-drift. Again the water and sand poured in, and there was no chance of proceeding with the work until these enemies were subdued. Thick walls of clay were constructed, backed by immense barriers of beams and logs. And still the water burst through these obstacles and swept them away. So much sand and water had obtained access to the shaft, that it took two years' labour to clear it out again. It was now the middle of 1866, or over eight years from the date of the commencement; the sinking of the shaft had cost £30,000, and still the company was in a 'progressive' state—that is to say, the shareholders were continually putting money into it, instead of receiving any profit from it." Two years more of rebuff and disaster had to be experienced before this brave body of men secured the just reward of their persevering toil. As if to recompense them for their indefatigable industry in conquering obstacles that; would have overwhelmed any less determined band, the treasures for which they had been so long in search exceeded their most sanguine anticipations. "The amount of gold," says Mr. Sutherland, "collected in this famous mine astonished the world. In one day over £6,000 worth was obtained, and for a long time the weekly reckoning of the profits showed that the company was making over £1,000 per day." The total quantity of gold raised from this mine—a mine possessing the strange history thus summarily reviewed—has exceeded in value £4,000,000 sterling. It is no small compliment to the Irishmen of Ballarat that they formed the backbone of this great pioneer deep-sinking company, that they manfully continued the work when the faint-hearted fell away, that disaster following disaster only excited them to renewed exertion, and that after ten years' unflagging toil they reaped the reward of their extraordinary activity, and established fortunes for themselves and their families.
The Ballarat of to-day is one of the finest inland cities of Australia. Its main artery, Sturt Street, is admittedly one of the noblest thoroughfares in the Southern Hemisphere, being unusually wide and beautified by trees for nearly the whole of its length. Prominent amongst the many striking buildings that line this lengthy and lovely street, are the City Hall with its lofty tower, and St. Patrick's Cathedral, a splendid and capacious edifice that does credit to the Irish Catholics of the Golden City. Ballarat, formerly a deanery in the diocese of Melbourne, was, in 1874, erected into a separate bishopric. Its first prelate was the Right Rev. Dr. O'Connor, who at the time of his appointment was parish priest of Rathfarnham, Dublin. Bishop O'Connor was enthusiastically welcomed on his arrival, and very soon the enthusiasm of his people was manifested in a more practical form by the erection, at a cost of £10,000, of the handsome Bishop's Palace that now ornaments the margin of Lake Wendouree, in Ballarat West. Dr. O'Connor travelled through every part of his extensive diocese, and made himself personally conversant with the needs and requirements of every mission that was under his jurisdiction. For some years the Legislature of Victoria has given no aid whatever to Catholic schools, whilst lavishing thousands on thousands of pounds on godless secular schools, the teachers of which are sternly prohibited by legislative enactment against imparting religious instruction in any shape or form. By voice and pen Dr. O'Connor unceasingly denounced this iniquitous law, and, from the first day of his landing, he laboured energetically and successfully in the work of building up a sound Catholic system of education for the benefit of the little ones of his flock. During the eight years that he ruled the diocese of Ballarat, he raised no less a sum than £70,000 for educational purposes alone. He introduced a community of the Loretto Nuns from the parent house of Rathfarnham, and, with the willing assistance of his devoted people, built a commodious convent and schools for them, in close proximity to his own residence, at a cost of £15,000. The Loretto Nuns have proved themselves to be highly-successful teachers, a number of their pupils having passed the Civil Service Examination; and not a few have taken high honours at the Melbourne University. In Ballarat East there is a convent of Sisters of Mercy, who are doings noble service by undertaking the management of the girls' primary school in that populous portion of the city. Near the cathedral in Sturt Street the Christian Brothers have established themselves, and are conducting boys' schools in accordance with the excellent and well-known system of their order. Unfortunately, Dr. O'Connor did not live long. to supervise the efficient educational machinery he had set in operation. The health of the good bishop failed, and to the great regret of his flock, he died in 1883. His Vicar-General, Dr. James Moore, succeeded him and continues to carry on the good work that the first Bishop of Ballarat so devotedly and energetically initiated. Under the vigorous administration of Bishop Moore, the Diocese of Ballarat has become wonderfully well-equipped with all that is requisite for the active promotion of religion, morality, and Christian education.
At the consecration of Bishop Moore in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Ballarat, on April 27th, 1884, there was one amongst the number of clergy and dignitaries within the sanctuary, for whom the ceremony had a deep and pathetic interest, recalling to his memory, as it must needs have done, the marvellous days of thirty-three years before, when Ballarat was at its beginning, and when he was the first and only priest amongst its tent-living population of thousands of adventurous diggers. He had travelled a long distance to be present at the first consecration of a Bishop in Ballarat, for a generation had passed away and his eyes had not once beheld the place since he saw it in the first stage of its golden existence. This was the Very Rev. Patrick Dunne, D.D., Vicar-General of the Diocese of Goulburn, which embraces the great southern district of New South Wales. Father Dunne was the first priest who came direct from Ireland to the infant see of Melbourne. He was educated in the College of Maynooth, which has not only supplied Ireland for a century with a zealous and patriotic priesthood, but has nobly upheld the traditions of the island of saints by sending fearless missioners to preach the gospel and plant the Cross in almost every quarter of the habitable globe. Ordained a priest and appointed to a curacy in his native diocese, Kildare, during the terrible famine year of 1846, Father Dunne, in common with his brother-priests, did his duty manfully during that most trying time in the history of the country. When, in 1850, the Rev. Dr. Geoghegan, Vicar-General of the newly-founded diocese of Melbourne, came to Ireland as a delegate from the infant Australian Church, and feelingly represented the spiritual destitution of many of the Irish Catholic immigrants, for whom he had no means of providing the consolations of religion, Father Dunne was the first to volunteer to fill the breach, leave his native land, and follow his fellow-countrymen to the far distant south. At Liverpool there embarked with him for Australia another priest who had been stationed near that city for some time—Father Gerald Ward. This clergyman was not destined to labour long in his new sphere, but he left after him an enduring monument of his active zeal in the splendid orphanage of St. Vincent De Paul, in the populous city of South Melbourne. When these two good priests arrived in Hobson's Bay, the harbour of Melbourne, after a voyage of five months' duration, they were landed in one of the ship's boats on the sandy beach, which is now occupied by the busy town of Port Melbourne, but which then displayed only one outward sign of civilisation in the shape of a solitary public-house. After making their way over sandy hills and through silent wastes, they came to a punt on the river Yarra, by which they crossed over to the then little village of Melbourne. Away to the north in what was at that time considered the "bush," but which is now in the centre of the city, they found the humble four-roomed cottage in which the young Bishop of Melbourne had established himself. Dr. Goold was naturally delighted at the unexpected advent of two much-needed clergymen, and gave them a very cordial welcome. To Father Dunne was allotted the pastoral charge of the extensive Geelong district, and soon afterwards he was appointed to supervise the country stretching to the north of Melbourne. At Coburg he was engaged in building a church, when the exciting news of the gold discoveries at Ballarat was proclaimed. All the men employed on the building left at once for the gold-fields. As a priest was very much wanted amongst the digging population, Father Dunne lost no time in responding to the request of his ecclesiastical superiors. Mounting his horse and taking nothing with him save the clothes he wore and his sacred vestments, he started for the golden centre. In such a dreadful condition was the road, that some days elapsed before he reached the spot where ten thousand people were living in tents and digging for gold. He found shelter in the tent of Mr. John O'Sullivan, a timber merchant of Melbourne, who had come up with the rest in the hope of achieving a fortune more expeditiously than in the ordinary ways of trade.
On the Sunday after his arrival, Father Dunne celebrated the first mass that was offered up in what is now the episcopal city of Ballarat, and afterwards it became a familiar and a very edifying spectacle to see, every Sunday morning, hundreds of rough, red-shirted, long-bearded diggers devoutly kneeling outside in the open air, whilst the Holy Sacrifice was being offered up in the tent. The pioneer priest of the gold-fields made himself in all respects as one of the people around him. He slept on a sheet of bark with a blanket rolled about him; he often prepared and cooked his own meals, and every morning at six o'clock, he could be seen making his way to the nearest water-hole with two large bottles in order to secure a supply for the day. An hour later not a drop of clean water was to be had, every available hole and creek being surrounded by diggers, washing out the clay in search of the precious metal.
Dr. Dunne has kindly supplied the subjoined interesting recollections of his visit to early Ballarat: "The scenes on the first gold-field at Ballarat were something to be remembered. The camp fires at night, the echo of the songs and choruses in the tents after the evening black tea and damper, the barking of dogs, for every tent had its dog, the discharge of firearms, all resounding through the primeval forest, made up such a chaos of sounds as no words could describe. In the morning all were up and stirring at early dawn, the fires were lighted to prepare for the morning meal, the sound of the axe was heard, and the crashing of falling trees made those who were not early risers feel rather uncomfortable whilst sleeping under a frail canvas tent. After breakfast all were off to their different occupations, some sinking with pick and shovel, others carrying the auriferous clay to the nearest water-hole or creek to have it washed in some of the most primitive constructions imaginable. Tin dishes were most generally used, but cradles with perforated zinc were adopted by the most experienced. In the absence of anything better, old hats were sometimes called into requisition. The ten thousand people at Ballarat during the first two or three months after the discovery of gold were almost without an exception as intelligent, orderly and respectable a body of men as you would meet in any part of the world. Mr. Blair, the police magistrate from Portland, was there more as a spectator than in his official capacity. There were members of parliament, lawyers, doctors, and men of every class and grade in society, and during the two or three months that I remained at Ballarat I never saw a man the worse for drink. There were no rows or robberies, but everything went on in the very best order and good feeling. The Irish element at Ballarat was in the early days very considerable, and Irishmen fell in for their fair share of the gold. Melbourne and Geelong were nearly drained of their male population, agriculture was completely neglected, and flour, and hay and oats went up to fabulous prices. It was soon found that it was more profitable to keep to the ordinary occupations than to go gold seeking; so society soon began to find its level, and trade and commerce were again in a most flourishing condition."
- "History of Ballarat," by William Bramwell Withers.
- "Early History of Victoria", by F. P. Labillière.
- An eminence overlooking Ballarat. It was subsequently discovered to be literally a mountain of gold.
- Why it was so designated has been thus explained: Dr. Doyle was one day walking over the ranges when he came across a gully about two miles from Ballarat, in which he picked up a few stray nuggets of gold. The classical exclamation, "Eureka!" at once rose to his lips, and he resolved to give the place that name. A rush of diggers was the natural result of the doctor's discovery, and "The Eureka" soon became famous as one of the richest spots on the Ballarat field.