A Lady's Visit to the Gold Diggings of Australia in 1852-53
by Ellen Clacy
Chapter I. Introductory Remarks
IT may be deemed presumptuous that one of my age and sex should venture to
give to the public an account of personal adventures in a land which has so often
been descanted upon by other and abler pens; but when I reflect on the many
mothers, wives, and sisters in England, whose hearts are ever longing for
information respecting the dangers and privations to which their relatives at the
antipodes are exposed, I cannot but hope that the pre-sumption of my
undertaking may be pardoned in consideration of the pleasure which an accurate
description of some of the Australian Gold Fields may perhaps afford to many; and
although the time of my residence in the colonies was short, I had the advantage
(not only in Melbourne, but whilst in the bush) of constant intercourse with many
experienced diggers and old colonists -- thus having every facility for acquiring
information respecting Victoria and the other colonies.
It was in the beginning of April, 185 -- , that the excitement occasioned by the
published accounts of the Victoria "Diggings," induced my brother to fling aside
his Homer and Euclid for the various "Guides" printed for the benefit of the
intending gold-seeker, or to ponder over the shipping columns of the daily papers.
The love of adventure must be contagious, for three weeks after (so rapid were
our preparations) found myself accompanying him to those auriferous regions.
The following pages will give an accurate detail of my adventures there -- in a lack
of the marvellous will consist their principal faults but not even to please
would I venture to turn uninteresting truth into agreeable fiction. Of the few
statistics which occur, I may safely say, as of the more personal portions, that
they are strictly true.
Chapter II. The Voyage Out
EVERYTHING was ready -- boxes packed, tinned, and corded; farewells taken, and
ourselves whirling down by rail to Gravesend -- too much excited -- too full of the
future to experience that sickening of the heart, that desolation of the feelings,
which usually accompanies an expatriation, however voluntary, from the dearly
loved shores of one's native land. Although in the cloudy month of April, the sun
shone brightly on the masts of our bonny bark, which lay in full sight of the
windows of the "Old Falcon," where we had taken up our temporary quarters. The
sea was very rough, but as we were anxious to get on board without farther
delay, we entrusted our valuable lives in a four-oared boat, despite the dismal
prognostications of our worthy host. A pleasant row that was, at one moment
covered over with salt-water -- the next riding on the top of a wave, ten times
the size of our frail conveyance -- then came a sudden concussion -- in veering
our rudder smashed into a smaller boat, which immediately filled and sank, and our
rowers disheartened at this mishap would go no farther. The return was still
rougher -- my face smarted dreadfully from the cutting splashes of the
salt-water; they contrived, however, to land us safely at the "Old Falcon," though
in a most pitiable plight; charging only a sovereign for this delightful trip -- very
moderate, considering the number of salt-water baths they had given us gratis. In
the evening a second trial proved more successful, and we reached our vessel
A first night on board ship has in it something very strange, and the first
awakening in the morning is still more so. To find oneself in a space of some six
feet by eight, instead of a good-sized room, and lying in a cot, scarce wide
enough to turn round in, as a substitute for a four-post bedstead, reminds you in
no very agreeable manner that you have exchanged the comforts of Old England
for the "roughing it" of a sea life. The first sound that awoke me was the
"cheerily" song of the sailors, as the anchor was heaved -- not again, we trusted,
to be lowered till our eyes should rest on the waters of Port Philip. And then the
cry of "raise tacks and sheets" (which I, in nautical ignorance, interpreted
"hay-stacks and sheep") sent many a sluggard from their berths to bid a last
farewell to the banks of the Thames.
In the afternoon we parted company with our steam-tug, and next morning, whilst
off the Isle of Wight, our pilot also took his departure. Sea-sickness now became
the fashion, but, as I cannot speak from experience of its sensations, I shall
altogether decline the subject. On Friday, the 30th, we sighted Stark Point; and as
the last speck of English land faded away in the distance, an intense feeling of
misery crept over me, as I reflected that perchance I had left those most dear to
return to them no more. But I forget; a description of private feelings is, to
uninterested readers, only so much twaddle, besides being more egotistical
than even an account of personal adventures could extenuate; so, with the
exception of a few extracts from my "log," I shall jump at once from the English
Channel to the more exciting shores of Victoria.
Wednesday, May 5, lat. 45¡ 57' N., long. 11¡ 45' W. -- Whilst off the Bay of
Biscay, for the first time I had the pleasure of seeing the phosphoric light in the
water, and the effect was indeed too beautiful to describe. I gazed again and
again, and, as the darkness above became more dense, the silence of evening
more profound, and the moving lights beneath more brilliant, I could have believed
them the eyes of the Undines, who had quitted their cool grottos beneath the sea
to gaze on the daring ones who were sailing above them. At times one of these
stars of the ocean would seem to linger around our vessel, as though loth to leave
the admiring eyes that watched its glittering progress. * * * *
Sunday, 9, lat. 37¡ 53' N, long. 15¡ 32' W. -- Great excitement throughout the
ship. Early in the morning a homeward-bound sail hove in sight, and as the sea was
very calm, our captain kindly promised to lower a boat and send letters by
her. What a scene then commenced; nothing but scribes and writing-desks met
the view, and nought was heard but the scratching of pens, and energetic
demands for foreign letter-paper, vestas, or scaling-wax; then came a rush on
deck, to witness the important packet delivered to the care of the first mate, and
watch the progress of the little bark that was to bear among so many homes the
glad tidings of our safety. On she came -- her stunsails set -- her white sails
glittering in the sun -- skimming like a sea-bird over the waters. She proved to be
the Maltese schooner 'Felix,' bound for Bremen. Her captain treated the visitors
from our ship with the greatest politeness, promised to consign our letters to the
first pilot he should encounter off the English coast, and sent his very last
oranges as a present to the ladies, for which we sincerely thanked him; the
increasing heat of the weather made them acceptable indeed.
Wednesday, 12, lat. 33¡ 19' N, long. 17¡ 30 W. -- At about noon we sighted
Madeira. At first it appeared little more than a dark cloud above the horizon;
gradually the sides of the rocks became clearly discernible, then the wind
bore us onward, and soon all traces of the sunny isle were gone.
Friday, 28, lat. 4¡ 2' N., long. 21¡ 30' W. -- Another opportunity of sending
letters, but as this was the second time of so doing, the excitement was
proportionately diminished. This vessel was bound for the port of Liverpool, from
the coast of Africa; her cargo (so said those of our fellow-travellers who boarded
her), consisted of ebony and gold-dust, her only passengers being monkeys and
Sunday, June 6, long. 24¡ 38' W. -- Crossed the Line, to the great satisfaction of
all on board, as we had been becalmed more than a week, and were weary of gazing
upon the unruffled waters around us, or watching the sails as they idly flapped to
and fro. Chess, backgammon, books and cards, had ceased to beguile the hours
away, and the only amusement left was lowering a boat and rowing about within a
short distance of the ship, but this (even by those not pulling at the oars) was
considered too fatiguing work, for a tropical sun was above us, and the heat was
most intense. Our only resource was to give ourselves up to a sort of dolce
far niente existence, and lounge upon the deck, sipping lemonade or lime-juice,
beneath a large awning which extended from the fore to the mizen masts.
Tuesday, August 17, lat. 39¡ 28' S., long. 136¡ 31' E. -- Early this morning one of
the sailors died, and before noon the last services of the Church of England were
read over his body; this was the first and only death that occurred during our long
passage, and the solemnity of committing his last remains to their watery grave
cast a saddening influence over the most thoughtless. I shall never forget the
moment when the sewn-up hammock, with a gaily coloured flag wrapped round it,
was launched into the deep; those who can witness with indifference a funeral on
land, would, I think, find it impossible to resist the thrilling awe inspired by such an
event at sea.
Friday, 20, lat. 38¡ 57 S., long. 140¡ S' E. -- Sighted Moonlight Head, the next day
Cape Otway; and in the afternoon of Sunday, the 22nd, we entered the Heads, and
our pilot came on board. He was a smart, active fellow, and immediately anchored
us within the bay (a heavy gale brewing); and then, after having done colonial
justice to a substantial dinner, he edified us with the last Melbourne news. "Not a
spare room or bed to be had -- no living at all under a pound a-day -- every one
with ten fingers making ten to twenty pounds a-week." "Then of course no one
goes to the diggings?" "Oh, that pays better still -- the gold obliged to be quarried
-- a pound weight of no value." The excitement that evening can scarcely be
imagined, but it somewhat abated next morning on his telling us to diminish his
accounts some 200 per cent.
Monday, 23. -- The wind high, and blowing right against us. Compelled to remain at
anchor, only too thankful to be in such safe quarters.
Tuesday, 24. -- Got under weigh at half-past seven in the morning, and passed
the wrecks of two vessels, whose captains had attempted to come in without a
pilot, rather than wait for one -- the increased number of vessels arriving,
causing the pilots to be frequently all engaged. The bay, which is truly splendid,
was crowded with shipping. In a few hours our anchor was lowered for the last
time -- boats were put off towards our ship from Liardet's Beach -- we
were lowered into the first that came alongside -- a twenty minutes' pull to the
landing-place -- another minute, and we trod the golden shores of Victoria.
Chapter III. Stay in Melbourne
AT last we are in Australia. Our feet feel strange as they tread upon terra
firma, and our sea-legs (to use a sailor's phrase) are not so ready to leave us
after a four months' service, as we should have anticipated; but it matters little,
for we are in the colonies, walking with undignified, awkward gait, not on a
fashionable promenade, but upon a little wooden pier.
The first sounds that greet our ears are the noisy tones of some watermen, who
are loitering on the building of wooden logs and boards, which we, as do the good
people of Victoria, dignify with the undeserved title of pier. There they
stand in their waterproof caps and skins -- tolerably idle and exceedingly
independent -- with one eye on the look out for a fare, and the other cast
longingly towards the open doors of Liardet's public-house, which is built a few
yards from the landing-place, and alongside the main road to Melbourne.
"Ah, skipper! times isn't as they used to was," shouted one, addressing the
captain of one of the vessels then lying in the bay, who was rowing himself to
shore, with no other assistant or companion than a sailor-boy. The captain, a
well-built, fine-looking specimen of an English seaman, merely laughed at this
"I say, skipper, I don't quite like that d -- d stroke of yours."
No answer; but, as if completely deaf to these remarks, as well as the insulting
tone in which they were delivered, the "skipper" continued giving his orders to his
boy, and then leisurely ascended the steps. He walked straight up to the
waterman, who was lounging against the railing.
"So, my fine fellow, you didn't quite admire that stroke of mine. Now, I've
another stroke that I think you'll admire still less," and with one blow he sent him
reeling against the railing on the opposite side.
The waterman slowly recovered his equilibrium, muttering, "that was a safe
dodge, as the gentleman knew he was the heaviest man of the two."
"Then never let your tongue say what your fist can't defend," was the cool retort,
as another blow sent him staggering to his original place, amidst the unrestrained
laughter of his companions, whilst the captain unconcernedly walked into Liardet's,
whither we also betook ourselves, not a little surprised and amused by this our
first introduction to colonial customs and manners.
The fact is, the watermen regard the masters of the ships in the bay as sworn
enemies to their business; many are runaway sailors, and therefore, I suppose,
have a natural antipathy that way; added to which, besides being no customers
themselves, the "skippers," by the loan of their boats, often save their friends
from the exorbitant charges these watermen levy.
Exorbitant they truly are. Not a boat would they put off for the nearest ship
in the bay for less than a pound, and before I quitted those regions, two and three
times that sum was often demanded for only one passenger. We had just paid at
the rate of only three shillings and sixpence each, but this trifling charge was in
consideration of the large party -- more than a dozen -- who had left our ship in
the same boat together.
Meanwhile we have entered Liardet's en attendant the Melbourne omnibus, some
of our number, too impatient to wait longer, had already started on foot. We were
shown into a clean, well-furnished sitting-room, with mahogany dining-table and
chairs, and a showy glass over the mantelpicce. An English-looking barmaid
entered, "Would the company like some wine or spirits?" Some one ordered
sherry, of which I only remember that it was vile trash at eight shillings a bottle.
And now the cry of "Here's the bus," brought us quickly outside again, where we
found several new arrivals also waiting for it. I had hoped, from the name, or
rather misname, of the conveyance, to gladden my eyes with the sight of
something civilized. Alas, for my disappointment! There stood a long,
tumble-to-pieces-looking waggon, not covered in, with a plank down each side to sit
upon, and a miserable narrow plank it was. Into this vehicle were crammed a dozen
people and an innumerable host of portmanteaus, large and small, carpet-bags,
baskets, brown-paper parcels, bird-cage and inmate, &c., all of which, as is
generally the case, were packed in a manner the most calculated to contribute the
largest amount of inconvenience to the live portion of the cargo. And to drag this
grand affair into Melbourne were harnessed thereto the most wretched-looking
objects in the shape of horses that I had ever beheld.
A slight roll tells us we are off.
"And is this the beautiful scenery of Australia?" was my first melancholy
reflection. Mud and swamp -- swamp and mud -- relieved here and there by some
few trees which looked as starved and miserable as ourselves. The cattle we
passed appeared in a wretched condition, and the human beings on the road
seemed all to belong to one family, so truly Vandemonian was the cast of their
"The rainy season's not over," observed the driver, in an apologetic tone.
Our eyes and uneasy limbs most feelingly corroborated his statement, for as we
moved along at a foot-pace, the rolling of the omnibus, owing to the deep ruts and
heavy soil, brought us into most unpleasant contact with the various packages
before-mentioned. On we went towards Melbourne -- now stopping for the unhappy
horses to take breath -- then passing our pedestrian messmates, and now
arriving at a small specimen of a swamp; and whilst they (with trowsers tucked
high above the knee and boots well saturated) step, slide and tumble manfully
through it, we give a fearful roll to the left, ditto, ditto to the right, then a regular
stand-still, or perhaps, by way of variety, are all but jolted over the animals'
heads, till at length all minor considerations of bumps and bruises are merged in
the anxiety to escape without broken bones.
"The Yarra," said the conductor. I looked straight ahead, and innocently asked
"Where?" for I could only discover a tract of marsh or swamp, which I fancy must
have resembled the fens of Lincolnshire, as they were some years ago,
before draining was introduced into that county. Over Princes Bridge we now
passed, up Swanston Street, then into Great Bourke Street, and now we stand
opposite the Post-office -- the appointed rendezvous with the walkers, who are
there awaiting us. Splashed, wet and tired, and also, I must confess, very cross,
right thankful was I to be carried over the dirty road and be safely deposited
beneath the wooden portico outside the Post-office. Our ride to Melbourne cost us
only half-a-crown a piece, and a shilling for every parcel. The distance we had
come was between two and three miles.
The non-arrival of the mail-steamer left us now no other care save the
all-important one of procuring food and shelter. Scouts were accordingly
despatched to the best hotels; they returned with long faces -- "full." The
second-rate, and in fact every respectable inn and boarding or lodging-house were
tried but with no better success. Here and there a solitary bed could be obtained,
but for our digging party entire, which consisted of my brother, four shipmates,
and myself, no accommodation could be procured, and we wished, if possible,
to keep together. "It's a case," ejaculated one, casting his eyes to the slight
roof above us as if calculating what sort of night shelter it would afford. At this
moment the two last searchers approached, their countenances not quite so
woe-begone as before. "Well?" exclaimed we all in chorus, as we surrounded them,
too impatient to interrogate at greater length. Thank Heavens! they had been
successful! The house-keeper of a surgeon, who with his wife had just gone up to
Forest Creek, would receive us to board and lodge for thirty shillings a week each;
but as the accommodation was of the indifferent order, it was not as yet une
affaire arrangŽe. On farther inquiry, we found the indifferent accommodation
consisted in their being but one small sleeping-room for the gentlemen, and myself
to share the bed and apartment of the temporary mistress. This was vastly
superior to gipsying in the dirty streets, so we lost no time in securing our new
berths, and ere very long, with appetites undiminished by these petty anxieties,
we did ample justice to the dinner which our really kind hostess quickly placed
The first night on shore after so long a voyage could scarcely seem
otherwise than strange, one missed the eternal rocking at which so many grumble
on board ship. Dogs (Melbourne is full of them) kept up an incessant barking;
revolvers were cracking in all directions until daybreak, giving one a pleasant idea
of the state of society; and last, not least, of these annoyances was one
unmentionable to ears polite, which would alone have sufficed to drive sleep away
from poor wearied me. How I envied my companion, as accustomed to these
disagreeables, she slept soundly by my side; but morning at length dawned, and I
fell into a refreshing slumber.
The next few days were busy ones for all, though rather dismal to, me, as I was
confined almost entirely within doors, owing to the awful state of the streets; for
in the colonies, at this season of the year, one may go out prepared for fine
weather, with blue sky above, and dry under foot, and in less than an hour, should
a colonial shower come on, be unable to cross some of the streets without a
plank being placed from the middle of the road to the pathway, or the alternative
of walking in water up to the knees.
This may seem a doleful and overdrawn picture of my first colonial
experience, but we had arrived at a time when the colony presented its worst
aspect to a stranger. The rainy season had been unusually protracted this year, in
fact it was not yet considered entirely over, and the gold mines had completely
upset everything and everybody, and put a stop to all improvements about the
town or elsewhere.
Our party, on returning to the ship the day after our arrival, witnessed the
French-leave-taking of all her crew, who during the absence of the captain, jumped
overboard, and were quickly picked up and landed by the various boats about. This
desertion of the ships by the sailors is an every-day occurrence; the diggings
themselves, or the large amount they could obtain for the run home from another
master, offer too many temptations. Consequently, our passengers had the
amusement of hauling up from the hold their different goods and chattels; and so
great was the confusion, that fully a week elapsed before they were all got to
shore. Meanwhile we were getting initiated into colonial prices -- money did indeed
take to itself wings and fly away. Fire-arms were at a premium; one instance will
suffice -- my brother sold a six-barrelled revolver for which he had given
sixty shillings at Baker's, in Fleet Street, for sixteen pounds, and the parting with
it at that price was looked upon as a great favour. Imagine boots, and they very
second-rate ones, at four pounds a pair. One of our between-deck passengers who
had speculated with a small capital of forty pounds in boots and cutlery, told me
afterwards that he had disposed of them the same evening he had landed, at a net
profit of ninety pounds -- no trifling addition to a poor man's purse. Labour was at
a very high price, carpenters, boot and shoemakers, tailors, wheelwrights, joiners,
smiths, glaziers, and, in fact, all useful trades, were earning from twenty to thirty
shillings a day -- the very men working on the roads could get eleven shillings per
diem, and, many a gentleman in this disarranged state of affairs, was glad to fling
old habits aside and turn his hand to whatever came readiest. I knew one in
particular, whose brother is at this moment serving as colonel in the army in India,
a man more fitted for a gay London life than a residence in the colonies. The
diggings were too dirty and uncivilized for his taste, his capital was quickly
dwindling away beneath the expenses of the comfortable life he led at one of
the best hotels in town, so he turned to what as a boy he had learnt for
amusement, and obtained an addition to his income of more than four hundred
pounds a year as house carpenter. In the morning you might see him trudging off
to his work, and before night might meet him at some ball or soirŽe among the
Žlite of Melbourne.
I shall not attempt an elaborate description of the town of Melbourne, or its
neighbouring villages. A subject so often and well discussed might almost be
omitted altogether. The town is very well laid out; the streets (which are all
straight, running parallel with and across one another) are very wide, but are
incomplete, not lighted, and many are unpaved. Owing to the want of lamps, few,
except when full moon, dare stir out after dark. Some of the shops are very fair;
but the goods all partake too largely of the flash order, for the purpose of suiting
the tastes of successful diggers, their wives and families; it is ludicrous to see
them in the shops -- men who, before the gold-mines were discovered, toiled hard
for their daily bread, taking off half-a-dozen thick gold rings from their
fingers, and trying to pull on to their rough, well-hardened hands the best white
kids, to be worn at some wedding party; whilst the wife, proud of the novel
ornament, descants on the folly of hiding them beneath such useless articles as
The two principal streets are Collins Street and Elizabeth Street. The former runs
east and west, the latter crossing it in the centre. Melbourne is built on two hills,
and the view from the top of Collins Street East, is very striking on a fine day
when well filled with passengers and vehicles. Down the eye passes till it reaches
Elizabeth Street at the foot; then up again, and the moving mass seems like so
many tiny black specks in the distance, and the country beyond looks but a little
piece of green. A great deal of confusion arises from the want of their names
being painted on the corners of the streets: to a stranger, this is particularly
inconvenient, the more so, as being straight, they appear all alike on first
acquaintance. The confusion is also increased by the same title, with slight
variation, being applied to so many, as, for instance, Collins Street East; Collins
Street West; Little Collins Street East; Little Collins Street West, &c. &c.
Churches and chapels for all sects and denominations meet the eye; but the
Established Church has, of all, the worst provision for its members, only two small
churches being as yet completed; and Sunday after Sunday do numbers return
from St. Peter's, unable to obtain even standing room beneath the porch. For the
gay, there are two circuses and one theatre, where the "ladies" who frequent it
smoke short tobacco-pipes in the boxes and dress-circle.
The country round is very pretty, particularly Richmond and Collingwood; the
latter will, I expect, soon become part of Melbourne itself. It is situated at the
fashionable -- that is, east -- end of Melbourne, and the buildings of the city and
this suburban village are making rapid strides towards each other. Of Richmond, I
may remark that it does possess a "Star and Garter," though a very different
affair to its namesake at the antipodes, being only a small public-house. On the
shores of the bay, at nice driving distances, are Brighton and St. Kilda. Two or
three fall-to-pieces bathing-machines are at present the only stock in trade of
these watering-places; still, should some would-be fashionables among my
readers desire to emigrate, it may gratify them to learn that they need not
forego the pleasure of visiting Brighton in the season.
When I first arrived, as the weather was still very cold and wet, my greatest
source of discomfort arose from the want of coal-fires, and the draughts, which
are innumerable, owing to the slight manner in which the houses are run up; in
some the front entrance opens direct into the sitting-rooms, very unpleasant, and
entirely precluding the "not at home" to an unwelcome visitor. Wood fires have at
best but a cheerless look, and I often longed for the bright blaze and merry
fireside of an English home. Firewood is sold at the rate of fifty shillings for a
The colonists (I here speak of the old-established ones) are naturally very
hospitable, and disposed to receive strangers with great kindness; but the present
ferment has made them forget everything in the glitter of their own mines, and all
comfort is laid aside; money is the idol, and making it is the one mania which
absorbs every other thought.
The walking inhabitants are of themselves a study: glance into the streets
-- all nations, classes, and costumes are represented there. Chinamen, with
pigtails and loose trowsers; Aborigines, with a solitary blanket flung over them;
Vandemonian pickpockets, with cunning eyes and light fingers -- all, in truth, from
the successful digger in his blue serge shirt, and with green veil still hanging round
his wide-awake, to the fashionably-attired, newly-arrived "gent" from London, who
stares around him in amazement and disgust. You may see, and hear too, some
thoroughly colonial scenes in the streets. Once, in the middle of the day, when
passing up Elizabeth Street, I heard the unmistakeable sound of a mob behind, and
as it was gaining upon me, I turned into the enclosed ground in front of the Roman
Catholic cathedral, to keep out of the way of the crowd. A man had been taken up
for horse-stealing and a rare ruffianly set of both sexes were following the
prisoner and the two policemen who had him in charge. "If but six of ye were of my
mind," shouted one, "it's this moment you'd release him." The crowd took the
hint, and to it they set with right good will, yelling, swearing, and pushing, with
awful violence. The owner of the stolen horse got up a counter
demonstration, and every few yards, the procession was delayed by a trial of
strength between the two parties. Ultimately the police conquered; but this is not
always the case, and often lives are lost and limbs broken in the struggle, so weak
is the force maintained by the colonial government for the preservation of order.
Another day, when passing the Post-office, a regular tropical shower of rain came
on rather suddenly, and I hastened up to the platform for shelter. As I stood
there, looking out into Great Bourke Street, a man and, I suppose, his wife passed
by. He had a letter in his hand for the post; but as the pathway to the
receiving-box looked very muddy, he made his companion take it to the box, whilst
he himself, from beneath his umbrella, complacently watched her getting wet
through. "Colonial politeness," thought I, as the happy couple walked on.
Sometimes a jovial wedding-party comes dashing through the streets; there they
go, the bridegroom with one arm round his lady's waist, the other raising a
champagne-bottle to his lips; the gay vehicles that follow contain company
even more unrestrained, and from them noisier demonstrations of merriment may
be heard. These diggers' weddings are all the rage, and bridal veils, white kid
gloves, and, above all, orange blossoms are generally most difficult to procure at
At times, you may see men, half-mad, throwing sovereigns, like halfpence, out of
their pockets into the streets; and I once saw a digger, who was looking over a
large quantity of bank-notes, deliberately tear to pieces and trample in the mud
under his feet every soiled or ragged one he came to, swearing all the time at the
gold-brokers for "giving him dirty paper money for pure Alexander gold; he
wouldn't carry dirt in his pocket; not he; thank God! he'd plenty to tear up and
Melbourne is very full of Jews; on a Saturday, some of the streets are half closed.
There are only two pawnbrokers in the town.
The most thriving trade there, is keeping an hotel or public-house, which always
have a lamp before their doors. These at night serve as a beacon to the stranger
to keep as far from them as possible, they being, with few exceptions, the
resort, after dark, of the most ruffianly characters.
On the 2nd of September, the long-expected mail steamer arrived, and two days
after we procured our letters from the Post-office. I may here remark, that the
want of proper management in this department is the greatest cause of
inconvenience, to fresh arrivals, and to the inhabitants of Melbourne generally.
There is but one small window, whence letters directed to lie at the office are
given out; and as the ships from England daily discharged their living cargoes into
Melbourne, the crowd round this inefficient delivering-place rendered getting one's
letters the work, not of hours, but days. Newspapers, particularly pictorial ones,
have, it would appear, a remarkable facility for being lost en route. Several
numbers of the "Illustrated London News" had been sent me, and, although the
letters posted with them arrived in safety, the papers themselves never made
their appearance. I did hear that, when addressed to an uncolonial name, and with
no grander direction than the Post-office itself, the clerks are apt to
apropriate them -- this is, perhaps, only a wee bit of Melbourne scandal.
The arrival of our letters from England left nothing now to detain us, and made us
all anxious to commence our trip to the diggings, although the roads were in an
awful condition. Still we would delay no longer, and the bustle of preparation began.
Stores of flour, tea, and sugar, tents and canvas, camp-ovens, cooking utensils,
tin plates and pannikins, opossum rugs and blankets, drays, carts and horses,
cradles, &c. &c., had to be looked at, bought and paid for.
On board ship, my brother had joined himself to a party of four young men, who
had decided to give the diggings a trial. Four other of our shipmates had also
joined themselves into a digging-party, and when they heard of our intended
departure, proposed travelling up together and separating on our arrival. This was
settled, and a proposal made that between the two sets they should raise funds
to purchase a dray and horses, and make a speculation in flour, tea, &c., on which
an immense profit was being made at the diggings. It would also afford the
convenience of taking up tents, cradles, and other articles impossible to carry up
without. The dray cost one hundred pounds, and the two strong cart-horses ninety
and one hundred pounds respectively. This, with the goods themselves, and a few
sundries in the shape of harness and cords, made only a venture of about fifty
pounds a-piece. While these arrangements were rapidly progressing, a few other
parties wished to join ours for safety on the road, which was agreed to, and the
day fixed upon for the departure was the 7th of September. Every one, except
myself, was to walk, and we furthermore determined to "camp out" as much as
possible, and thus avoid the vicinity of the inns and halting-places on the way,
which are frequently the lurking-places of thieves and bushrangers.
On the Sunday previous to the day on which our journey was to commence, I had a
little adventure, which pleased me at the time, though, but for the sequel, not
worth mentioning here. I had walked with my brother and a friend to St. Peter's
Church; but we were a few minutes behind time, and therefore could find no
unoccupied seat. Thus disappointed, we strolled over Princes Bridge on to the
other side of the Yarra. Between the bridge and the beach, on the south side of
the river, is a little city of tents, called Little Adelaide. They were inhabited by a
number of families, that the rumour of the Victoria gold-mines had induced to
leave South Australia, and whose finances were unequal to the high prices in
Government levies a tax of five shillings a week on each tent, built upon land as
wild and barren as the bleakest common in England. We did not wander this
morning towards Little Adelaide; but followed the Yarra in its winding course
inland, in the direction of the Botanical Gardens.
Upon a gentle rise beside the river, not far enough away from Melbourne to be
inconvenient, but yet sufficiently removed from its mud and noise, were pitched
two tents, evidently new, with crimson paint still gay upon the round nobs of the
centre posts, and looking altogether more in trim for a gala day in Merry England
than a trip to the diggings. The sun was high above our heads, and the day
intensely hot; so much so, that I could not resist the temptation of tapping at the
canvas door to ask for a draught of water. A gentleman obeyed the summons, and
on learning the occasion of this unceremonious visit, politely accommodated me
with a camp-stool and some delicious fresh milk -- in Melbourne almost a luxury.
Whilst I was imbibing this with no little relish, my friends were entering into
conversation with our new acquaintance. The tents belonged to a party just
arrived by the steamer from England, with everything complete for the diggings,
to which they meant to proceed in another week, and where I had the pleasure of
meeting them again, though under different and very peculiar circumstances. The
tent which I had invaded was inhabited by two, the elder of whom, a
powerfully-built man of thirty, formed a strong contrast to his companion, a
delicate-looking youth, whose apparent age could not have exceeded sixteen years.
After a short rest, we returned to Melbourne, well pleased with our little
The next day was hardly long enough for our numerous preparations, and it was
late before we retired to rest. Six was the hour appointed for the next
morning's breakfast. Excited with anticipating the adventures to commence on the
morrow, no wonder that my dreams should all be golden ones.
Chapter IV. Camping Up -- Melbourne To The Black Forest
THE anxiously-expected morning at length commenced, and a dismal-looking
morning it was -- hazy and damp, with a small drizzling rain, which, from the
gloomy aspect above, seemed likely to last. It was not, however, sufficient to
damp our spirits, and the appointed hour found us all assembled to attack the last
meal that we anticipated to make for some time to come beneath the shelter of a
ceiling. At eight o'clock our united party was to start from the "Duke of York"
hotel, and as that hour drew nigh, the unmistakeable signs of "something
up," attracted a few idlers to witness our departure. In truth, we were a goodly
party, and created no little sensation among the loungers -- but I must regularly
introduce our troop to my readers.
First then, I must mention two large drays, each drawn by a pair of stout horses
-- one the property of two Germans, who were bound for Forest Creek, the other
belonged to ourselves and shipmates. There were three pack-horses -- one (laden
with a speculation in bran) belonged to a queer-looking sailor, who went by the
name of Joe, the other two were under the care of a man named Gregory, who was
going to rejoin his mates at Eagle Hawk Gully. As his destination was the farthest,
and he was well acquainted with the roads, he ought to have been elected leader,
but from some mis-management that dignity was conferred upon a stout old
gentleman, who had taken a pleasure-trip to Mount Alexander, the previous
Starting is almost always a tedious affair, nor was this particular case an
exception. First one had forgotten something -- another broke a strap, and a new
one had to be procured -- then the dray was not properly packed, and must
be righted -- some one else wanted an extra "nobbler" -- then a fresh, and still a
fresh delay, so that although eight was the appointed hour, it was noon ere we
bade farewell to mine host of the "Duke of York."
At length the word of command was spoken. Foremost came the gallant captain
(as we had dubbed him), and with him two ship doctors, in partnership together,
who carried the signs of their profession along with them in the shape of a most
surgeon-like mahogany box. Then came the two Germans, complacently smoking
their meerschaums, and attending to their dray and horses, which latter, unlike
their masters, were of a very restless turn of mind. After these came a party of
six, among whom was Gregory and two lively Frenchmen, who kept up an incessant
chattering. Joe walked by himself, leading his pack-horse, then came our four
shipmates, two by two, and last, our own particular five.
Most carried on their backs their individual property -- blankets, provisions for
the road, &c., rolled in a skin, and fastened over the shoulders by leathern straps.
This bundle goes by the name of "swag," and is the digger's usual
accompaniment -- it being too great a luxury to place upon a dray or pack-horse
anything not absolutely necessary. This will be easily understood when it is known
that carriers, during the winter, obtained £120 and sometimes £150 a ton for
conveying goods to Bendigo (about one hundred miles from Melbourne). Nor was
the sum exorbitant, as besides the chance of a few weeks' stick in the mud, they
run great risk of injuring their horses or bullocks; many a valuable beast has been
obliged to be shot where it stood, it being found impossible to extricate it from
the mud and swamp. At the time we started, the sum generally demanded was
about £70 per ton. On the price of carriage up, depended of course the price of
provisions at the diggings.
The weight of one of these "swags" is far from light; the provender for the road
is itself by no means trifling, though that of course diminishes by the way, and
lightens the load a little. Still there are the blankets, fire-arms, drinking and eating
apparatus, clothing, chamois-leather for the gold that has yet to be dug, and
numberless other cumbersome articles necessary for the digoer. In every
belt was stuck either a large knife or a tomahawk; two shouldered their guns (by
the bye, rather imprudent, as the sight of fire-arms often brings down an attack);
some had thick sticks, fit to fell a bullock; altogether, we seemed well prepared to
encounter an entire army of bushrangers. I felt tolerably comfortable perched
upon our dray, amid a mass of other soft lumber; a bag of flour formed an easy
support to lean against; on either side I was well walled in by the canvas and poles
of our tent; a large cheese made a convenient footstool. My attire, although well
suited for the business on hand, would hardly have passed muster in any other
situation. A dress of common dark blue serge, a felt wide-awake, and a
waterproof coat wrapped round me, made a ludicrous assortment.
Going along at a foot-pace we descended Great Bourke Street, and made our first
halt opposite the Post-office, where one of our party made a last effort to obtain
a letter from his lady-love, which was, alas! unsuccessful. But we move on again --
pass the Horse Bazaar -- turn into Queen Street -- up we go towards
Flemington, leaving the Melbourne cemetery on our right, and the flag-staff a little
to the left; and now our journey may be considered fairly begun.
Just out of Melbourne, passing to the east of the Benevolent Asylum, we went
over a little rise called Mount Pleasant, which, on a damp sort of a day, with the
rain beating around one, seemed certainly a misnomer. After about two miles, we
came to a branch-road leading to Pentridge, where the Government convict
establishment is situated. This we left on our right, and through a line of country
thickly wooded (consisting of red and white gum, stringy bark, cherry and other
trees), we arrived at Flemington, which is about three miles and a half from town.
Flemington is a neat little village or town-ship, consisting of about forty houses, a
blacksmith's shop, several stores, and a good inn, built of brick and stone, with
very fair accommodation for travellers, and a large stable and stock-yards.
After leaving Flemington, we passed several nice-looking homesteads; some are on
a very large scale, and belong to gentlemen connected with Melbourne, who
prefer "living out of town." On reaching the top of the hill beyond Flemington there
is a fine view of Melbourne, the bay, William's Town, and the surrounding country,
but the miserable weather prevented us at this time from properly enjoying it.
Sunshine was all we needed to have made this portion of our travels truly
The road was nicely level, fine trees sheltered it on either side, whilst ever and
anon some rustic farm-house was passed, or coffee-shop, temporarily erected of
canvas or blankets, offered refreshment (such as it was), and the latest news of
the diggings to those who had no objection to pay well for what they had. This
Flemington road (which is considered the most Pleasant in Victoria, or at least
anywhere near Melbourne) is very good as far as Tulip Wright's, which we now
Wright's public-house is kept by the man whose name it bears; it is a rambling
ill-built, but withal pleasing-looking edifice, built chiefly of weather-board and
shingle, with a verandah all round. The whole is painted white, and whilst at
some distance from it a passing ray of sunshine gave it a most peculiar effect. In
front of the principal entrance is a thundering large lamp, a most conspicuous
looking object. Wright himself was formerly in the police, and being a sharp fellow,
obtained the cognomen of "Tulip," by which both he and his house have always
been known; and so inseparable have the names become, that, whilst "Tulip
Wright's" is renowned well-nigh all over the colonies, the simple name of the owner
would create some inquiries. The state of accommodation here may be gathered
from the success of some of the party who had a penchant for "nobblers" of
brandy. "Nothing but bottled beer in the house." "What could we have for dinner?"
inquired one, rather amused at this Hobson's choice state of affairs. "The
eatables was only cold meat; and they couldn't cook nothink fresh," was the curt
reply. "Can we sleep here?" "Yes -- under your drays." As we literally determined
to "camp out" on the journey, we passed on, without partaking of their "cold
eatables," or availing ourselves of their permission to sleep under our own
drays, and, leaving the road to Sydney on our right, and the one to Keilor straight
before us, we turned short off to the left towards the Deep Creek.
Of the two rejected routes I will give a very brief account.
The right-hand road leads to Sydney, vi‰ Kilmore, and many going to the diggings
prefer using this road as far as that township. The country about here is very
flat, stony and destitute of timber; occasionally the journey is varied by a
water-hole or surface-spring. After several miles, a public-house called the "Lady
of the Lake" is reached, which is reckoned by many the best country inn on this or
any other road in the colonies. The accommodation is excellent, and the rooms well
arranged, and independent of the house. There are ten or twelve rooms which, on
a push, could accommodate fifty or sixty people; six are arranged in pairs for the
convenience of married persons, and the fashionable trip during the honey-moon
(particularly for diggers' weddings) is to the "Lady of the Lake." Whether Sir
Walter's poem be the origin of the sign, or whether the swamps in the rear, I
cannot say, but decidedly there is no lake and no lady, though I have heard
of a buxom lass, the landlord's daughter, who acts as barmaid, and is a great
favourite. This spot was the scene last May of a horrible murder, which has added
no little to the notoriety of the neighbourhood.
After several miles you at length arrive at Kilmore, which is a large and thriving
township, containing two places of worship, several stores and inns. There is a
resident magistrate with his staff of officials, and a station for a detachment of
mounted police. Kilmore is on the main overland road from Melbourne to Sydney,
and, although not on the confines of the two colonies, is rather an important
place, from being the last main township until you reach the interior of New South
Wales. The Government buildings are commodious and well arranged. There are
several farms and stations in the neighbourhood, but the country round is flat and
The middle road leads you direct to Keilor, and you must cross the Deep Creek in a
dangerous part, as the banks thereabouts are very steep, the stream (though
narrow) very rapid, and the bottom stony. In 1851, the bridge (an ordinary
log one) was washed down by the floods, and for two months all communication
was cut off. Government have now put a punt, which is worked backwards and
forwards every half-hour from six in the morning till six at night, at certain fares,
which are doubled after these hours. These fares are: for a passenger, 6d.; a
horse or bullock, 1s.; a two-wheeled vehicle, ls. 6d.; a loaded dray, 2s. The punt
is tolerably well managed, except when the man gets intoxicated -- not an
unfrequent occurrence. When there was neither bridge nor punt, those who wished
to cross were obliged to ford it; and so strong has been the current, that horses
have been carried down one or two hundred yards before they could effect a
landing. Keilor is a pretty little village with a good inn, several nice cottages, and a
store or two. The country round is hilly and barren -- scarcely any herbage and
that little is rank and coarse; the timber is very scarce. This road to the diggings
is not much used.
But to return to ourselves. The rain and bad roads made travelling so very
wearisome, that before we had proceeded far it was unanimously agreed that we
should halt and pitch our first encampment. "Pitch our first encampment!
how charming!" exclaims some romantic reader, as though it were an easily
accomplished undertaking. Fixing a gipsy-tent at a fŽte champtre, with a smiling
sky above, and all requisites ready to hand, is one thing, and attempting to sink
poles and erect tents out of blankets and rugs in a high wind -- and pelting rain, is
(if I may be allowed the colonialism) "a horse of quite another colour." Some sort
of sheltering-places were at length completed; the horses were taken from the
dray and tethered to some trees within sight, and then we made preparations for
satisfying the unromantic cravings of hunger -- symptoms of which we all, more
or less, began to feel. With some difficulty a fire was kindled and kept alight in the
hollow trunk of an old gum tree. A damper was speedily made, which, with a
plentiful supply of steaks and boiled and roasted eggs, was a supper by no means
to be despised. The eggs had been procured at four shillings a dozen from a
farm-house we had passed.
It was certainly the most curious tea-table at which I had ever assisted. Chairs, of
course, there were none, we sat or lounged upon the ground as best suited
our tired limbs; tin pannicans (holding about a pint) served as tea-cups, and plates
of the same metal in lieu of china; a teapot was dispensed with; but a portly
substitute was there in the shape of an immense iron kettle, just taken from the
fire and placed in the centre of our grand tea-service, which being new, a lively
imagination might mistake for silver. Hot spirits, for those desirous of imbibing
them, followed our substantial repast; but fatigue and the dreary weather had so
completely damped all disposition to conviviality, that a very short space of time
found all fast asleep except the three unfortunates on the watch, which was
relieved every two hours.
Wednesday, September 8. -- I awoke rather early this morning, not feeling
over-comfortable from having slept in my clothes all night, which it is necessary
to do on the journey, so as never to be unprepared for any emergency. A small
corner of my brother's tent had been partitioned off for my bed-room; it was
quite dark, so my first act on waking was to push aside one of the blankets,
still wet, which had been my roof during the night, and thus admit air and light into
my apartments. Having made my toilette -- after a fashion -- I joined my
companions on the watch, who were deep in the mysteries of preparing something
eatable for breakfast. I discovered that their efforts were concentrated on the
formation of a damper, which seemed to give them no little difficulty. A damper is
the legitimate, and, in fact, only bread of the bush, and should be made solely of
flour and water, well mixed and kneaded into a cake, as large as you like, but not
more than two inches in thickness, and then placed among the hot ashes to bake.
If well-made, it is very sweet and a good substitute for bread. The rain had,
however, spoiled our ashes, the dough would neither rise nor brown, so in despair
we mixed a fresh batch of flour and water, and having fried some rashers of fat
bacon till they were nearly melted, we poured the batter into the pan and let it fry
till done. This impromptu dish gave general satisfaction and was pronounced a
cross between a pancake and a heavy suet pudding.
Breakfast over, our temporary residences were pulled down, the drays
loaded, and our journey recommenced.
We soon reached the Deep Creek, and crossed by means of a punt, the charges
being the same as the one at Keilor. Near here is a station belonging to Mr.
Ryleigh, which is a happy specimen of a squatter's home -- everything being
managed in a superior manner. The house itself is erected on a rise and
surrounded by an extensive garden, vinery and orchard, all well stocked and kept;
some beautifully enclosed paddocks reach to the Creek, and give an English
park-like appearance to the whole. The view from here over the bay and Brighton
is splendid; you can almost distinguish Geelong. About a quarter of a mile off is a
little hamlet with a neat Swiss-looking church, built over a school-room on a rise of
ground; it has a most peculiar effect, and is the more singular as the economizing
the ground could not be a consideration in the colony; on the left of the church is
a pretty little parsonage, whitewashed, with slate roof and green-painted
I still fancy, though our redoubtable captain most strenuously denied it, that
we had in some manner gone out of our way; however that may be, the roads
seemed worse and worse as we proceeded, and our pace became more tedious as
here and there it was up-hill work till at length we reached the Keilor plains. It was
almost disheartening to look upon that vast expanse of flat and dreary land
except where the eye lingered on the purple sides of Mount Macedon, which rose
far distant in front of us. On entering the plains we passed two or three little
farm-houses, coffee-shops, &c., and encountered several parties coming home
for a trip to Melbourne. For ten miles we travelled on dismally enough, for it rained
a great deal, and we were constantly obliged to halt to get the horses rested a
little. We now passed a coffee-shop, which although only consisting of a canvas
tent and little wooden shed, has been known to accommodate above forty people
of a night. As there are always plenty of bad characters lounging in the
neighbourhood of such places, we kept at a respectful distance, and did not make
our final halt till full two miles farther on our road. Tents were again pitched, but
owing to their not being fastened over securely, many of us got an
unwished-for shower-bath during the night; but this is nothing -- at the antipodes
one soon learns to laugh at such trifles.
Thursday, 9. -- This morning we were up betimes, some of our party being so
sanguine as to anticipate making the "Bush Inn" before evening. As we proceeded,
this hope quickly faded away. The Keilor plains seemed almost impassable, and
what with pieces of rock here, and a water-hole there, crossing them was more
dangerous than agreeable. Now one passed a broken-down dray; then one's ears
were horrified at the oaths an unhappy wight was venting at a mud-hole into which
he had stumbled. A comical object he looked, as, half-seas-over, he attempted to
pull on a mud-covered boot, which he had just extricated from the hole where it
and his leg had parted company. A piece of wood, which his imagination
transformed into a shoe-horn, was in his hand. "Put it into the larboard side,"
(suiting the action to the word), "there it goes -- damn her, she won't come on!
Put it into the starboard side there it goes -- well done, old girl," and he
triumphantly rose from the ground, and reeled away.
With a hearty laugh, we proceeded on our road, and after passing two or
three coffee-tents, we arrived at Gregory's Inn. The landlord is considered the
best on the road, and is a practical example of what honesty and industry may
achieve. He commenced some nine months before without a shilling -- his tarpaulin
tent and small stock of tea, sugar, coffee, &c., being a loan. He has now a large
weather-board house, capable of making up one hundred beds, and even then
unable to accommodate all his visitors, so numerous are they, from the good
name he bears. Here we got a capital cold dinner of meat, bread, cheese, coffee,
tea, &c., for three shillings a-piece, and, somewhat refreshed, went forwards in
better spirits, though the accounts we heard there of the bad roads in the Black
Forest would have disheartened many.
Mount Macedon now formed quite a beautiful object on our right: a little below that
mountain appeared a smaller one, called the Bald Hill, from its peak being quite
barren, and the soil of a white limestone and quartzy nature, which gives it a most
peculiar and splendid appearance when the sun's rays are shining upon it. As
we advanced, the, thickly-wooded sides of Mount Macedon became more distinct,
and our proximity to a part of the country which we knew to be auriferous,
exercised an unaccountable yet pleasureable influence over our spirits, which was
perhaps increased by the loveliness of the spot where we now pitched our tents
for the evening. It was at the foot of the Gap. The stately gum-tree, the
shea-oak, with its gracefully drooping foliage, the perfumed yellow blossom of the
mimosa, the richly-wooded mountain in the background, united to form a picture
too magnificent to describe. The ground was carpeted with wild flowers; the
sarsaparilla blossoms creeping everywhere; before us slowly rippled a clear
streamlet, reflecting a thousand times the deepening tints which the last rays of
the setting sun flung over the surrounding scenery; the air rang with the cawing
of the numerous cockatoos and parrots of all hues and colours who made the
woods resound with their tones, whilst their restless movements and gay plumage
gave life and piquancy to the scene.
This night our beds were composed of the mimosa, which has a perfume like the
hawthorn. The softest-looking branches were selected, cut down, and flung
upon the ground beneath the tents, and formed a bed which, to my wearied limbs,
appeared the softest and most luxuriant upon which I had slept since my arrival in
Friday, 10. -- With some reluctance I aroused myself from a very heavy slumber
produced by the over fatigue of the preceding day. I found every one preparing to
start; kindly considerate, my companions thought a good sleep more refreshing
for me than breakfast, and had deferred awakening me till quite obliged, so taking
a few sailors' biscuits in my pocket to munch on the way, I bade farewell to a spot
whose natural beauties I have never seen surpassed.
Proceeding onwards, we skirted the Bald Hill, and entering rather a scrubby tract,
crossed a creek more awkward for our drays than dangerous to ourselves; we
then passed two or three little coffee-shops, which being tents are always shifting
their quarters, crossed another plain, very stony and in places swampy, which
terminated in a thickly-wooded tract of gum and wattle trees. Into this wood we
now entered. After about five miles uncomfortable travelling we reached
the "Bush Inn."
I must here observe that no distinct road is ever cut out, but the whole country
is cut up into innumerable tracks by the carts and drays, and which are awfully
bewildering to the new-comer as they run here and there, now crossing a swamp,
now a rocky place, here a creek, there a hillock, and yet, in many cases, all leading
bon‰ fide to the same place.
The "Bush Inn" (the genuine one, for there are two) consists of a large, well-built,
brick and weather-board house, with bed-rooms for private families. There is a
detached weather-board, and stone kitchen, and tap-room, with sleeping-lofts
above, a large yard with sheds and good stabling. A portion of the house and
stables is always engaged for the use of the escort. About two hundred yards off
is the "New Bush Inn," somewhat similar to the other, not quite so large, with an
attempt at a garden. The charges at these houses are enormous. Five and six
shillings per meal, seven-and-sixpence for a bottle of ale, and one shilling for half a
glass or "nobbler" of brandy. About half a mile distant is a large station
belonging to Mr. Watson; the houses, huts and yards are very prettily laid out,
and, in a few years he will have the finest vineyard in the neighbourhood. Two miles
to the east is the residence of Mr. Poullett, Commissioner of Crown Lands, which
is very pleasantly situated on the banks of an ever-running stream. The paddock,
which is a large one (10 square miles, or 6400 acres), is well wooded. Some new
police barracks and stabling yards are in the course of erection.
We did not linger in the "Bush Inn," but pursued our way over a marshy flat,
crossed a dangerous creek, and having ascended a steep and thickly wooded hill on
the skirts of the Black Forest, we halted and pitched our tents. It was little more
than mid-day, but the road had been fearful -- as bad as wading through a mire;
men and beasts were worn out, and it was thought advisable to recruit well before
entering the dreaded precincts of the Black Forest. Fires were lit, supper was
cooked, spirits and pipes made their appearance, songs were sung, and a few of
the awful exploits of Black Douglas and his followers were related. Later in
the evening, an opossum was shot by one of us. Its skin was very soft, with rich,
Saturday, 11 -- A dismal wet day -- we remained stationary, as many of our
party were still foot-sore, and all were glad of a rest. Some went out shooting, but
returned with only a few parrots and cockatoos, which they roasted, and
pronounced nice eating. Towards evening, a party of four, returning from the
diggings, encamped at a little distance from us. Some of our loiterers made their
acquaintance. They had passed the previous night in the Black Forest, having
wandered out of their way. To add to their misfortunes, they had been attacked
by three well-armed bushrangers, whom they had compelled to desist from their
attempt, not, however, before two of the poor men had been wounded, one rather
severely. Hardly had they recovered this shock, than they were horrified by the
sudden discovery in a sequestered spot of some human bones, strewn upon the
ground beside a broken-down cart. Whether accident or design had brought these
unfortunates to an untimely end, none know; but this ominous appearance
seemed to have terrified them even more than the bushrangers themselves.
These accounts sobered our party not a little, and it was deemed advisable to
double the watch that night.
Chapter V. Camping Up -- Black Forest To Eagle Hawk Gully
Sunday, 12. -- A LOVELY summer morning, which raised our spirits to something
like their usual tone, with the exception of our gallant (?) captain, who resigned his
post, declaring it his intention to return to Melbourne with the four returning
diggers. Poor fellow! their awful account of the Black Forest had been too much
for his courage. Gregory was elected in his place, and wishing him a pleasant trip
home, our journey was resumed as usual, and we entered the forest. Here the
trees grow very closely together; in some places they are so thickly set
that the rear-guard of the escort cannot see the advance-guard in the march.
There is a slight undergrowth of scrub. We saw some of the choicest of the Erica
tribe in full bloom, like a beautiful crimson waxen bell-blossom, and once whilst
walking (which I frequently did to relieve the monotony of being perched on the
dray by myself) I saw a fine specimen of the Oreludiae at the foot of a tree
growing from the wood; it was something like a yellow sweet-pea, but really too
beautiful to describe. The barks of the trees, and also the ground, have a black,
charred appearance (hence the name of the forest); this is said to have been
caused by its having once been on fire. Many of the ambuscades of the noted
Douglas were passed, and the scenes of some most fearful murders pointed out.
We only halted once -- so anxious were we to leave behind us this dreaded spot --
and at sunset reached the borders of the Five Mile Creek.
Monday, 13. -- Another fine day. Crossed the Five Mile Creek by means of a
rickety sort of bridge. There are two inns here, with plenty of accommodation for
man and beast. We patronized neither, but made the best of our way
towards Kyneton. Our road lay through a densely wooded country till we arrived at
Jacomb's Station; this we left, and turning to the right, soon reached Kyneton,
which lies on the river Campaspe.
Carlshrue lies to the right, about three miles distant, on rather low land; this is
the chief station of the Government escort; the barrack accommodation is
first-rate, with stabling and paddocks for the horses, &c.
Kyneton is about sixty-one miles from Melbourne. There are two large inns, with
ample accommodation for four hundred people between them, several stores, with
almost every needful article. A neat little church, capable of holding nearly three
hundred persons, with a school and parsonage. There is a resident magistrate and
constabulary, with a police-court and gaol in progress of erection. The township is
rather straggling, but what houses there are have a very picturesque appearance.
The only draw-back to this little town is the badness of the streets. Although it is
rather on an elevated spot, the streets and roads, from the loamy nature of the
sod, are a perfect quagmire, even abominable in summer time. The charges here
are high, but not extortionate, as, besides the two inns alluded to, there are
several coffee-shops and lodging-houses; so competition has its effect even in the
The Campaspe is a large river, and is crossed by a substantial timber bridge.
We still adhered to our original plan of camping out; a few necessaries were
purchased in the town, and after continuing our journey to a little distance from
it, we halted for the night.
Tuesday 14. -- This morning commenced with a colonial shower, which gave us all
a good drenching. Started about eight o'clock; returned to Kyneton; crossed the
bridge, and passed several farm-houses. The country here is very changeable,
sometimes flat and boggy, at others, very hilly and stony. We were obliged to ford
several small creeks, evidently tributaries to the Campaspe, and at about ten
miles from Kyneton, entered the Coliban range, which is thickly wooded. The river
itself is about fourteen miles from Kyneton. Here we camped, in the pouring rain.
Some of our party walked to the town of Malmsbury, about a mile and a half from
our camping place. The town consisted of about three tents, and an inn
dignified by the appellation of the "Malmsbury Hotel". It is a two-storied,
weather-board, and pale house, painted blue, with a lamp before it of many
colours, large enough for half-a-dozen people to dine in. It (the inn, not the lamp,)
is capable of accommodating two hundred people, independent of which there is a
large tent, similar to the booths at a fair, about 100 feet long by 30 wide, for the
convenience of those who prefer sleeping under cover when the house is full. Being
hungry with their walk, our comrades dined here, for which they paid 3s. 6 d.
a-piece ; ale was 1s. 6 d. a glass; brandy 2s. per half glass, or "nobbler;"
cheese, 4s. 6d. a pound; bread, 5s. the four-pound loaf; wine, 25s. a bottle. By
the time they returned, we had struck our tents, intending to cross a
muddy-banked creek that lay in our road that evening, as we were told that the
waters might be too swollen to do it next day. The water reached above their
waists, and as my usual post was very insecure, I was obliged to be carried over
on their shoulders, which did not prevent my feet from being thoroughly soaked
before reaching the other side, where we remained all night.
Wednesday, 15. -- Rainy day again, so much so, that we thought it advisable not
to shift our quarters. In the afternoon, three returning diggers pitched their tents
not far from ours. They were rather sociable, and gave us a good account of the
diggings. They had themselves been very fortunate. On the same day that we had
been idly resting on the borders of the Black Forest, they had succeeded in taking
twenty-three pounds weight out of their claim, and two days after, two hundred
and six ounces more, making, in all, gold to the value (in England) of about eighteen
hundred pounds. They were returning to Melbourne for a spree, (which means to
fling their gains away as quickly as possible,) and then as soon as the dry season
was regularly set in, they meant to return to Bendigo for another spell at work. On
representing to them the folly of not making better use of their hard-earned
wages, the answer invariably was, "Plenty more to be got where this came from,"
an apt illustration of the proverb, "light come, light go." Two of these diggers had
with them their licences for the current month, which they offered to sell for ten
shillings each; two of our company purchased them. This, although a
common proceeding, was quite illegal, and, of course, the two purchasers had to
assume for the rest of the month the names of the parties to whom the licences
had been issued. As evening approached, our new acquaintances became very
sociable, and amused us with their account of the diggings; and the subject of
licensing being naturally discussed, led to our being initiated into the various
means of evading it, and the penalties incurred thereby. One story they related
amused us at the time, and as it is true I will repeat it here, though I fancy the
lack of oral communication will subtract from it what little interest it did possess.
Before I commence, I must give my readers some little insight into the nature of
the licence tax itself. The licence, (for which thirty shillings, or half an ounce of
gold, is paid per month) is in the following form:
VICTORIA GOLD LICENCE.
No. 1710, Sept. 3, 1852.
The Bearer, Henry Clements, having paid to me the Sum of One Pound, Ten Shillings,
on account of the Territorial Revenue, I hereby Licence him to dig, search for,
and remove Gold on and from any such Crown Land within the Upper Lodden District,
as I shall assign to him for that purpose during the month of September, 1852, not
within half-a-mile of any Head station.
This Licence is not transferable, and to be produced whenever demanded by me or any
other person acting under the Authority of the Government, and to be returned when
another Licence is issued.
(Signed) B. BAXTER, Commissioner.
At the back of the Licence are the following rules :
Regulations to be observed by the Persons digging for Gold, or otherwise
employed at the Gold Fields.
1. Every Licensed Person must always have his Licence with him, ready to be
produced whenever demanded by a Commissioner, or Person acting under his
instructions, otherwise he is liable to be proceeded against as an Unlicensed person.
2. Every Person digging for Gold, or occupying Land, without a Licence, is
liable by Law to be fined, for the first offence, not exceeding £5; for a second offence,
not exceeding £15; and for a subsequent offence, not exceeding £30.
3. Digging for Gold is not allowed within Ten feet of any Public Road, nor are the Roads
to be undermined.
4. Tents or buildings are not to be erected within Twenty feet of each other, or within
Twenty feet of any Creek.
5. It is enjoined that all Persons at the Gold Fields maintain and assist in maintaining a
due and proper observance of Sundays.
So great is the crowd around the Commissioner's tent at the beginning of the
month, that it is a matter of difficulty to procure it, and consequently the
inspectors rarely begin their rounds before the 10th, when (as they generally vary
the fine according to the date at which the delinquency is discovered), a
non-licensed digger would have the pleasure of accompanying a crowd of similar
offenders to the Commissioners, sometimes four or five miles from his
working-place, pay a fine of about £3, and take out a licence. After the 20th of
the month, the fine inflicted is generally from £5 to £10 and a licence, which is
rather a dear price to pay for a few days' permission to dig, as a licence, although
granted on the 30th of one month, would be unavailable for the next. The
inspectors are generally strong-built, rough-looking customers, they dress like the
generality of the diggers, and are only known by their carrying a gun in lieu of a
pick or shovel. Delinquents unable to pay the fine, have the pleasure of working it
out on the roads.
Now for my story -- such as it is.
Mike and Robert were two as good mates as any at the Mount Alexander diggings.
They had had a good spell of hard work, and, as is usually the way, returned to
Melbourne for a holiday at Christmas-time; and then it was that the bright eyes of
Susan Hinton first sowed discord between them. Mike was the successful wooer,
and the old man gave his consent; for Mike, with one exception, had contrived to
make himself a favourite with both father and daughter. The exception was this.
Old Hinton was a strict disciplinarian -- one of what is called the "good old
school" -- he hated radicals, revolutionists, and reformers, or any opposition to
Church or State. Mike, on the contrary, loved nothing better than to hold forth
against the powers that be; and it was his greatest boast that Government had
never pocketed a farthing from him in the way of a licence. This, in the old man's
eyes, was his solitary fault, and when Mike declared his intention of taking another
trip to the "lottery fields" before taking a ticket in the even greater lottery of
marriage, he solemnly declared that no daughter of his should ever marry a man
who had been openly convicted of in any way evading the licence fee.
This declaration from any other man, who had already promised his daughter in
marriage, would not have had much weight; but Mike knew the stern, strict
character of Hinton, and respected this determination accordingly. The day of
their departure arrived, and with a tearful injunction to bear in mind her father's
wishes, Susan bade her lover farewell, and Robert and he proceeded on their
journey. Full of his own happiness, Mike had never suspected his comrade's
love for Susan, and little dreamt he of the hatred against himself to which it had
given birth -- hatred the more to be dreaded since it was concealed under a most
For the first month Mike behaved to the very letter of the law, and having for the
sum of £1 10s. purchased his legal right to dig for gold, felt himself a most
exemplary character. Success again crowned their efforts, and a speedy return
to Melbourne was contemplated. In the ardour of this exciting work another month
commenced, and Mike at first forgot and then neglected to renew his licence. "The
inspector rarely came his rounds before the 14th; the neighbourhood was
considered deserted -- fairly 'worked out;' he'd never come round there." Thus
argued Mike, and his friend cordially agreed with him. "Lose a day's work standing
outside the Commissioner's tent broiling in a crowd, when two days would finish
the job? Not he, indeed! Mike might please himself, but he shouldn't get a licence;"
and this determination on the part of his "mate" settled the matter.
In one respect Mike's self-security was not unfounded; the gully in which
their tent was now pitched was nearly deserted. Some while previous there had
been a great rush to the place, so great that it was almost excavated; then the
rush took a different direction, and few now cared to work on the two or three
spots that had been left untouched. Like many other localities considered "worked
out," as much remained in the ground as had been taken from it, and as each day
added to their store, Mike's hilarity increased.
It was now the 10th of the month; their hole had been fairly "bottomed," a nice
little nest of nuggets discovered, their gains divided, and the gold sent down to
the escort-office for transit to Melbourne. A few buckets-full of good
washing-stuff was all that was left undone.
"To-day will finish that," thought Mike, and to it he set with hearty good-will, to
the intense satisfaction of his comrade, who sat watching him at a little distance.
Suddenly Mike felt a heavy hand upon his shoulder: he looked up, and saw before
him -- the inspector. He had already with him a large body of defaulters, and Mike
little doubted but that he must be added to their number. Old Hinton's determined
speech, Susan's parting words and tears, flashed across his mind.
"You've lost your bonnie bride," muttered Robert, loud enough to reach his rival's
Mike glanced at him, and the look of triumph he saw there roused every spark of
energy within him, and it was in a tone of well-assumed composure that he replied
to the inspector, "My licence is in my pocket, and my coat is below there;" and
without a moment's hesitation sprang into his hole to fetch it. Some minutes
elapsed. The inspector waxed impatient. A suspicion of the truth flashed across
Robert's mind, and he too descended the hole. There was the coat and the licence
of the past month in the pocket; but the owner had gone, vanished, and an
excavation on one side which led into the next hole and thence into a complete
labyrinth underground, plainly pointed out the method of escape. Seeing no use in
ferreting the delinquent out of so dangerous a place, the inspector sulkily
withdrew, though not without venting some of his ill-humour upon Robert, at whose
representations, made to him the day previous, he had come so far out of his
But let us return to Mike. By a happy thought, he had suddenly remembered
that whilst working some days before in the hole, his pick had let in daylight on one
side, and the desperate hope presented itself to his mind that he might make a
passage into the next pit, which he knew led into others, and thus escape. His
success was beyond his expectation; and he regained the open air at a sufficient
distance from his late quarters to escape observation. Once able to reflect calmly
upon the event of the morning, it required little discrimination to fix upon Robert
his real share in it. And now there was no time to lose in returning to Melbourne,
and prevent by a speedy marriage any further attempt to set his intended
father-in-law against him. The roads were dry, for it was the sultry month of
February; and two days saw him beside his lady-love.
Although railroads are as yet unknown in Australia, everything goes on at railroad
speed; and a marriage concocted one day is frequently solemnized the next. His
eagerness, therefore, was no way remarkable. No time was lost; and when, three
days after Mike's return, Robert (with his head full of plots and machinations)
presented himself at old Hinton's door, he found them all at a well-spread
wedding breakfast, round which were gathered a merry party, listening with a
digger's interest to the way in which the happy bridegroom had evaded the
inspector. Mike had wisely kept the story till Susan was his wife.
Thursday 16. -- With great delight we hailed the prognostications of a fine day,
and, after having eaten a hearty breakfast on the strength of it, we
recommenced our travels, and crossed the Coliban Bridge. The Coliban is a fine
river running through a beautiful valley bounded with green trees; the bridge is a
timber one, out of repair, and dangerous. A township called Malmsbury has been
laid out here in small allotments with the expectation of a future city; but as yet
not a house has been erected, with the exception of the "hotel" before mentioned,
putting one in mind of the American Eden in "Martin Chuzzlewit." A mile beyond
the Coliban are the washing huts of John Orr's Station, and about three miles to
the left is his residence; the house is stone, with verandahs, the garden and
vineyards are prettily laid out.
After passing the bridge, we took the right-hand road, which led us through
a low country, and across two or three tributary creeks; we then reached the
neighbourhood of Saw-pit Gully, so called from the number of saw-pits there,
which formerly gave employment to numerous sawyers, whose occupation -- it is
almost needless to state -- is now deserted. It is surrounded with fine large
timber; there are several coffee-shops, a blacksmith's and wheelright's, and a
neat little weather-board inn.
At this part, our German friends bade us farewell, to follow out their original plan
of going to Forest Creek; they had persuaded four others to accompany them, so
our number was reduced to fifteen, myself included. The scenery now became
very beautiful, diversified with hill and dale, well wooded, with here and there a
small creek, more agreeable to look at than to cross, as there were either no
bridges or broken-down ones. The loveliness of the weather seemed to impart
energy even to our horses; and we did not pitch our tents till we had travelled full
sixteen miles. We were now close beside Mount Alexander, which is nearly
covered with timber, chiefly white gum, wattle and stringy bark.
Friday, 17. -- A lovely morning; we proceeded in excellent spirits, passing some
beautiful scenery, though rather monotonous. During the first few miles, we went
across many little creeks, in the neighbourhood of which were indications that the
diggers had been at work. These symptoms we hailed with intense delight. Gregory
told us the history of a hole in this neighbourhood, out of which five people cleared
£13,000 worth of gold each in about a few hours. In lieu of sinking a shaft, they
commenced in a gully (colonial for valley), and drove a hole on an inclined plane up
the side of the hill or rise. However wet the season, they could never be
inconvenienced, as the very inclination would naturally drain the hole. Such a
precaution was not needed, as the whole party were perfectly satisfied with the
success they had had without toiling for more. The country between here and the
"Porcupine Inn" is exceedingly beautiful -- not unlike many parts in the lowlands of
Wales. About eight miles on the road we pass Barker's Creek, which runs through
a beautiful vale.
We camped this evening about four or five miles from Bendigo, and some
miles from the "Porcupine Inn," which we left behind us. The "Porcupine" is a
newly built inn on an old spot, for I believe there was an inn in existence there
before the diggings were ever heard or thought of. The accommodation appears
on rather a small scale. Near it is a portion of the station of the Messrs. Gibson,
through which the public road runs; some parts are fine, others wooded and
Saturday, 18. -- Fine day; we now approached Bendigo. The timber here is very
large. Here we first beheld the majestic iron bark, Eucalypti, the trunks of which
are fluted with the exquisite regularity of a Doric column; they are in truth the
noblest ornaments of these mighty forests. A few miles further, and the diggings
themselves burst upon our view. Never shall I forget that scene, it well repaid a
journey even of sixteen thousand miles. The trees had been all cut down; it looked
like a sandy plain, or one vast unbroken succession of countless gravel pits -- the
earth was everywhere turned up -- men's heads in every direction were
popping up and down from their holes. Well might an Australian writer, in speaking
of Bendigo, term it "The Carthage of the Tyre of Forest Creek." The rattle of the
cradle, as it swayed to and fro, the sounds of the pick and shovel, the busy hum
of so many thousands, the innumerable tents, the stores with large flags hoisted
above them, flags of every shape, colour, and nation, from the lion and unicorn of
England to the Russian eagle, the strange yet picturesque costume of the diggers
themselves, all contributed to render the scene novel in the extreme.
We hurried through this exciting locality as quickly as possible; and, after five
miles travelling, reached the Eagle Hawk Gully, where we pitched our tents, supped,
and retired to rest -- though, for myself at least, not to sleep. The excitement of
the day was sufficient cure for drowsiness. Before proceeding with an account of
our doings at the Eagle Hawk, I will give a slight sketch of the character and
peculiarities of the diggings themselves, which are of course not confined to one
spot, but are the characteristics that usually exist in any auriferous
regions, where the diggers are at work. I will leave myself, therefore, safely
ensconced beneath a tent at the Eagle Hawk, and take a slight and rapid survey of
the principal diggings in the neighbourhood from Saw-pit Gully to Sydney Flat.
Chapter VI. The Diggings
OF the history of the discovery of gold in Australia I believe few are ignorant; it is
therefore necessary that my recapitulation of it should be as brief as possible.
The first supposed discovery took place some sixty years ago, at Port Jackson. A
convict made known to Governor Phillip the existence of an auriferous region near
Sydney, and on the locality being examined, particles of real gold-dust were found.
Every one was astonished, and several other spots were tried without success.
Suspicion was now excited, and the affair underwent a thorough examination,
which elicited the following facts. The convict, in the hope of obtaining his
pardon as a reward, had filed a guinea and some brass buttons, which, judiciously
mixed, made a tolerable pile of gold-dust, and this he carefully distributed over a
small tract of sandy land. In lieu of the expected freedom, his ingenuity was
rewarded with close confinement and other punishments. Thus ended the first
idea of a gold-field in those colonies.
In 1841 the Rev. W. B. Clarke expressed his belief in the existence of gold in the
valley of the Macquarie, and this opinion was greatly confirmed by the
observations of European geologists on the Uralian Mountains. In 1849 an
indisputable testimony was added to these opinions by a Mr. Smith, who was then
engaged in some iron works, near Berrima, and who brought a splendid specimen of
gold in quartz to the Colonial Secretary. Sir C. A. Fitzroy evinced little sympathy
with the discovery, and in a despatch to Lord Grey upon the subject, expressed his
opinion that "any investigation that the Government might institute with the view
of ascertaining whether gold did in reality exist to any extent or value in
that part of the colony where it was supposed from its geological formation that
metal would be found, would only tend to agitate the public mind, &c."
Suddenly, in 1851, at the time that the approaching opening of the Crystal Palace
was the principal subject of attention in England, the colonies of Australia were in
a state of far greater excitement, as the news spread like wild-fire, far and wide,
that gold was really there. To Edward Hammond Hargreaves be given the honour of
this discovery. This gentleman was an old Australian settler, just returned from a
trip to California, where he had been struck by the similarity of the geological
formation of the mountain ranges in his adopted country to that of the
Sacramento district. On his return, he immediately searched for the precious
metal; Ophir, the Turon, and Bathurst well repaid his labour. Thus commenced the
gold diggings of New South Wales.
The good people of Victoria were rather jealous of the importance given by these
events to the other colony. Committees were formed, and rewards were offered
for the discovery of a gold-field in Victoria. The announcement of the Clunes
Diggings in July, 1851, was the result; they were situated on a tributary of the
Loddon. On September 8, those of Ballarat, and on the 10th those of Mount
Alexander completely satisfied the most sceptical as to the vast mineral wealth
of the colony. Bendigo soon was heard of; and gully after gully successively
attracted the attention of the public by the display of their golden treasures.
The names given to these gullies open a curious field of speculation. Many have a
sort of digger's tradition respecting their first discovery. The riches of Peg Leg
Gully were brought to light through the surfacing of three men with wooden legs,
who were unable to sink a hole in the regular way. Golden Gully was discovered by a
man who, whilst lounging on the ground and idly pulling up the roots of grass within
his reach, found beneath one a nest of golden nuggets. Eagle Hawk derives its
name from the number of eagle-hawks seen in the gully before the sounds of the
pick and shovel drove them away. Murderer's Flat and Choke'em Gully tell their own
tale. The Irish clan together in Tipperary Gully. A party of South Australians gave
the name of their chief town to Adelaide Gully. The Iron Bark is so called
from the magnificent trees which abound there. Long, Piccaninny, and Dusty Gully
need no explanation. The Jim Crow ranges are appropriately so called, for it is only
by keeping up a sort of Jim Crow dancing movement that one can travel about
there; it is the roughest piece of country at the diggings. White Horse Gully
obtained its name from a white horse whose hoofs, whilst the animal in a rage was
plunging here and there, flung up the surface ground and disclosed the treasures
beneath. In this gully was found the famous "John Bull Nugget," lately exhibited in
London. The party to whom it belonged consisted of three poor sailors; the one
who actually discovered it had only been a fortnight at the diggings. The nugget
weighed forty-five pounds, and was only a few inches beneath the surface. It was
sold for £5000; a good morning's work that!
Let us take a stroll round Forest Creek -- what a novel scene! -- thousands of
human beings engaged in digging, wheeling, carrying, and washing, intermingled with
no little grumbling, scolding and swearing. We approach first the old
Post-office Square; next our eye glances down Adelaide Gully, and over the
Montgomery and White Hills, all pretty well dug up; now we pass the Private Escort
Station, and Little Bendigo. At the junction of Forest, Barker, and Campbell Creeks
we find the Commissioners' quarters -- this is nearly five miles from our starting
point. We must now return to Adelaide Gully, and keep alongside Adelaide Creek, till
we come to a high range of rocks, which we cross, and then find ourselves near
the head-waters of Fryer's Creek. Following that stream towards the Loddon, we
pass the interesting neighbourhood of Golden Gully, Moonlight Flat, Windlass and
Red Hill; this latter which covers about two acres of ground is so called from the
colour of the soil, it was the first found, and is still considered as the richest
auriferous spot near Mount Alexander. In the wet season, it was reckoned that on
Moonlight Flat one man was daily buried alive from the earth falling into his hole.
Proceeding north-east in the direction of Campbell's Creek, we again reach the
The principal gullies about Bendigo are Sailors's, Napoleon, Pennyweight, Peg
Leg, Growler's, White Horse, Eagle Hawk, Californian, American, Derwent, Long,
Picaninny, Iron Bark, Black Man's, Poor Man's, Dusty, Jim Crow, Spring, and Golden
-- also Sydney Flat, and Specimen Hill -- Haverton Gully, and the Sheep-wash. Most
of these places are well-ransacked and tunnelled, but thorough good wages may
always be procured by tin dish washing in deserted holes, or surface washing.
It is not only the diggers, however, who make money at the Gold Fields. Carters,
carpenters, storemen, wheelwrights, butchers, shoemakers, &c., usually in the
long run make a fortune quicker than the diggers themselves, and certainly with
less hard work or risk of life. They can always get from £1 to £2 a day without
rations, whereas they may dig for weeks and get nothing. Living is not more
expensive than in Melbourne: meat is generally from 4d. to 6d. a pound, flour
about 1s. 6d a pound, (this is the most expensive article in house-keeping there,)
butter must be dispensed with, as that is seldom less than 4s. a pound, and only
successful diggers can indulge in such articles as cheese, pickles, ham, sardines,
pickled salmon, or spirits, as all these things, though easily procured if you
have gold to throw away, are expensive, the last-named article (diluted with water
or something less innoxious) is only to be obtained for 30s. a bottle.
The stores, which are distinguished by a flag, are numerous and well stocked. A
new style of lodging and boarding house is in great vogue. It is a tent fitted up with
stringy bark couches, ranged down each side the tent, leaving a narrow passage
up the middle. The lodgers are supplied with mutton, damper, and tea, three times
a day, for the charge of 5s. a meal, and 5s. for the bed; this is by the week, a
casual guest must pay double, and as 18 inches is on an average considered ample
width to sleep in, a tent 24 feet long will bring in a good return to the owner.
The stores at the diggings are large tents, generally square or oblong, and
everything required by a digger can be obtained for money, from sugar-candy to
potted anchovies; from East India pickles to Bass's pale ale; from ankle jack boots
to a pair of stays; from a baby's cap to a cradle; and every apparatus for mining,
from a pick to a needle. But the confusion -- the din -- the medley -- what
a scene for a shop walker! Here lies a pair of herrings dripping into a bag of sugar,
or a box of raisins; there a gay-looking bundle of ribbons beneath two tumblers,
and a half-finished bottle of ale. Cheese and butter, bread and yellow soap, pork
and currants, saddles and frocks, wide-awakes and blue serge shirts, green veils
and shovels, baby linen and tallow candles, are all heaped indiscriminately together;
added to which, there are children bawling, men swearing, store-keeper sulky, and
last, not least, women's tongues going nineteen to the dozen.
Most of the store-keepers are purchasers of gold either for cash or in exchange
for goods, and many are the tricks from which unsuspecting diggers suffer. One
great and outrageous trick is to weigh the parcels separately, or divide the whole,
on the excuse that the weight would be too much for the scales; and then, on
adding up the grains and pennyweights, the sellers often lose at least half an
ounce. On one occasion, out of seven pounds weight, a party once lost an ounce
and three quarters in this manner. There is also the old method of false beams --
one in favour of the purchaser -- and here, unless the seller weighs in both
pans, he loses considerably. Another mode of cheating is to have glass pans
resting on a piece of green baize; under this baize, and beneath the pan which
holds the weights, is a wetted sponge, which causes that pan to adhere to the
baize, and consequently it requires more gold to make it level; this, coupled with
the false reckoning, is ruinous to the digger. In town, the Jews have a system of
robbing a great deal from sellers before they purchase the gold-dust (for in these
instances it must be dust): it is thrown into a zinc pan with slightly raised sides,
which are well rubbed over with grease; and under the plea of a careful
examination, the purchaser shakes and rubs the dust, and a considerable quantity
adheres to the sides. A commoner practice still is for examiners of gold-dust to
cultivate long finger-nails, and, in drawing the fingers about it, gather some up.
Sly grog selling is the bane of the diggings. Many -- perhaps nine-tenths -- of the
diggers are honest industrious men, desirous of getting a little there as a
stepping-stone to independence elsewhere; but the other tenth is composed of
outcasts and transports -- the refuse of Van Diemen's Land -- men of the
most depraved and abandoned characters, who have sought and gained the lowest
abyss of crime, and who would a short time ago have expiated their crimes on a
scaffold. They generally work or rob for a space, and when well stocked with gold,
retire to Melbourne for a month or so, living in drunkenness and debauchery. If,
however, their holiday is spent at the diggings, the sly grog-shop is the last scene
of their boisterous career. Spirit selling is strictly prohibited; and although
Government will license a respectable public-house on the road, it is resolutely
refused on the diggings. The result has been the opposite of that which it was
intended to produce. There is more drinking and rioting at the diggings than
elsewhere, the privacy and risk gives the obtaining it an excitement which the
diggers enjoy as much as the spirit itself; and wherever grog is sold on the sly, it
will sooner or later be the scene of a riot, or perhaps murder. Intemperance is
succeeded by quarrelling and fighting, the neighbouring tents report to the police,
and the offenders are lodged in the lock-up; whilst the grog-tent, spirits, wine,
&c., are seized and taken to the Commissioners. Some of the stores,
however, manage to evade the law rather cleverly -- as spirits are not sold, "my
friend" pays a shilling more for his fig of tobacco, and his wife an extra sixpence
for her suet; and they smile at the store-man, who in return smiles knowingly at
them, and then glasses are brought out, and a bottle produced, which sends forth
not a fragrant perfume on the sultry air.
It is no joke to get ill at the diggings; doctors make you pay for it. Their fees are
-- for a consultation, at their own tent, ten shillings; for a visit out, from one to
ten pounds, according to time and distance. Many are regular quacks, and these
seem to flourish best. The principal illnesses are weakness of sight, from the hot
winds and sandy soil, and dysentery, which is often caused by the badly-cooked
food, bad water, and want of vegetables.
The interior of the canvas habitation of the digger is desolate enough; a box on a
block of wood forms a table, and this is the only furniture; many dispense with
that. The bedding, which is laid on the ground, serves to sit upon. Diogenes in his
tub would not have looked more comfortless than any one else. Tin plates and
pannicans, the same as are used for camping up, compose the breakfast,
dinner, and tea service, which meals usually consist of the same dishes -- mutton,
damper, and tea.
In some tents the soft influence of our sex is pleasingly apparent: the tins are as
bright as silver, there are sheets as well as blankets on the beds, and perhaps a
clean counterpane, with the addition of a dry sack or piece of carpet on the
ground; whilst a pet cockatoo, chained to a perch, makes noise enough to keep the
"missus" from feeling lonely when the good man is at work. Sometimes a wife is
at first rather a nuisance; women get scared and frightened, then cross, and
commence a "blow up" with their husbands; but all their railing generally ends in
their quietly settling down to this rough and primitive style of living, if not without
a murmur, at least to all appearance with the determination to laugh and bear it.
And although rough in their manners, and not over select in their address, the
digger seldom wilfully injures a woman; in fact, a regular Vandemonian will, in his
way, play the gallant with as great a zest as a fashionable about town -- at any
rate, with more sincerity of heart.
Sunday is kept at the diggings in a very orderly manner; and among the
actual diggers themselves, the day of rest is taken in a verbatim sense. It is not
unusual to have an established clergyman holding forth near the Commissioners'
tent and almost within hearing will be a tub orator expounding the origin of evil,
whilst a "mill" (a fight with fisticuffs) or a dog fight fills up the background.
But night at the diggings is the characteristic time: murder here -- murder there
-- revolvers cracking -- blunderbusses bombing -- rifles going off -- balls
whistling -- one man groaning with a broken leg -- another shouting because he
couldn't find the way to his hole, and a third equally vociferous because he has
tumbled into one -- this man swearing -- an other praying -- a party of
bacchanals chanting various ditties to different time and tune, or rather minus
both. Here is one man grumbling because he has brought his wife with him, another
ditto because he has left his behind, or sold her for an ounce of gold or a bottle of
rum. Donnybrook Fair is not to be compared to an evening at Bendigo.
Success at the diggings is like drawing lottery tickets -- the blanks far
outnumber the prizes; still, with good health, strength, and above all
perseverance, it is strange if a digger does not in the end reap a reward for his
labour. Meanwhile, he must endure almost incredible hardships. In the rainy season,
he must not murmur if compelled to work up to his knees in water, and sleep on
the wet ground, without a fire, in the pouring rain, and perhaps no shelter above
him more waterproof than a blanket or a gum tree; and this not for once only, but
day after day, night after night. In the summer, he must work hard under a
burning sun, tortured by the mosquito and the little stinging March flies, or feel
his eyes smart and his throat grow dry and parched, as the hot winds, laden with
dust, pass over him. How grateful now would be a draught from some cold
sparkling streamlet; but, instead, with what sort of water must he quench his
thirst? Much the same, gentle reader, as that which runs down the sides of a dirty
road on a rainy day, and for this a shilling a bucket must be paid. Hardships such
as these are often the daily routine of a digger's life; yet, strange to say, far
from depressing the spirits or weakening the frame, they appear in most
cases to give strength and energy to both. This is principally owing to the climate,
which even in the wet season is mild and salubrious.
Perhaps nothing will speak better for the general order that prevails at the
diggings, than the small amount of physical force maintained there by Government
to keep some thousands of persons of all ages, classes, characters, religions and
countries in good humour with the laws and with one another. The military force
numbers 130, officers and men; the police about 300.
The Government escort is under the control of Mr. Wright, Chief Commissioner; it
consists of about forty foot and sixty mounted police, with the usual complement
of inspectors and sergeants; their uniform is blue -- with white facings, their
head-quarters are by the Commissioners' tent, Forest Creek.
The private escort uniform is a plain blue frock coat and trowsers. It is under the
superintendence of Mr. Wilkinson; the head-quarters are at Montgomery Hill,
Forest Creek. Both these escorts charge one per cent for conveying gold.
For the Victoria diggings, there is a Chief Commissioner, one Acting
Resident Commissioner; one Assistant Commissioner at Ballarat, one at Fryer's
Creek, five at Forest Creek, and six at Bendigo.
Provision is made by Government for the support, at the mines, of two clergymen
of each of the four State paid churches of England, Scotland, Rome, and
Wesleyan, at a salary of £300 a year.
Chapter VII. Eagle Hawk Gully.
BEFORE commencing an account of our operations at the Eagle Hawk, it will be
necessary to write a few words in description of our gold-digging party there;
their Christian names will be sufficient distinction, and will leave their incognito
This party, as I have said before, consisted of five gentlemen, including my
brother. Of the latter I shall only say that he was young and energetic, more
accustomed to use his brains than his fingers, yet with a robust frame, and
muscles well strengthened by the various exercises of boating, cricketing, &c.,
with which our embryo collegians attempt to prepare themselves for
keeping their "terms."
Frank ---- (who, from being a married man, was looked up to as the head of our
rather juvenile party) was of a quiet and sedate disposition, rather given to
melancholy, for which in truth he had cause. His marriage had taken place without
the sanction--or rather in defiance of the wishes--of his parents, for his wife was
portionless, and in a station a few grades, as they considered, below his own;
moreover, Frank himself was not of age. Private income, independent of his
parents, he had none. A situation as clerk in a merchant's office was his only
resource, and during three years he had eked out his salary to support a delicate
wife--whose ill health was a neverfailing source of anxiety and expense--two
infants, and himself. An unexpected legacy of £500 from a distant relative at last
seemed to open a brighter prospect before them; and leaving his wife and children
with their relatives, he quitted England to seek in a distant land a better home
than all his exertions could procure for them in their own country. I never felt
surprised or offended at his silent and preoccupied manner, accompanied
at times by great depression of spirits, for it was an awful responsibility for one
so young, brought up as he had been in the greatest luxury, as the eldest son of a
wealthy merchant, to have not only himself but others nearest and dearest to
maintain by his own exertions.
William ----, a tall, slight, and rather delicate looking man, is the next of our party
whom I shall mention. His youth had been passed at Christ's Hospital. This he
quitted with the firm conviction (in which all his friends of course participated)
that he had been greatly wronged by not having been elected a Grecian; and a rich
uncle, incited by the beforementioned piece of injustice, took him under his care,
and promised to settle him in the world as soon as a short apprenticeship to
business had been gone through. A sudden illness put a stop to all these schemes.
The physicians recommended change of air, a warmer climate, a trip to Australia.
William had relatives residing in Melbourne, so the journey was quickly decided
upon, a cabin taken; and the invalid rapidly recovering beneath the exhilarating
effects of the sea-breezes.How refreshing are they to the sick! how
caressingly does the soft sea-air fan the wan cheeks of those exhausted with a
life passed amidst the brick walls and crowded, noisy streets of a city; and
William, who at first would have laughed at so ridiculous a supposition, ere the four
months' voyage was terminated, had gained strength and spirits sufficient to
make him determine to undertake a trip to the diggings.
He was a merry light-hearted fellow, fonder of a joke than hard work, yet ever
keeping a sharp eye to the "main chance," as the following anecdote will prove.
One day during our stay in Melbourne he came to me, and said, laughing:
"Well! I've got rid of one of the bad habitsI had on board the--."
"Which?" was my reply.
"That old frock-coat I used to wear in the cold weather whilst we rounded the
Cape. A fellow down at Liardet's admired the cut, asked me to sell it. I charged him
four guineas, and walked into town in my shirt-sleeves; soon colonized, eh?"
Richard ---- was a gay young fellow of twenty, the only son of a rich member of
the stock Exchange. In a fit of spleen, because the parental regulations
required him always to be at home by midnight, he shipped himself off to
Australia, trusting that so energetic a step "would bring the govenor to his
senses." He was music-mad, and appeared to know every opera by heart, and
wearied us out of all patience with his everlasting humming of "Ciascun lo dice"
"Non pi mesta," &c.
Octavius ---- was the eighth son of a poor professional man, who, after giving him
a good general education, sent him with a small capital to try his fortune in the
colonies. For this he was in every way well fitted, being possessed of a strong
constitution, good common sense, and simple inexpensive habits; he was only
nineteen, and the youngest of the male portion of our party.
The day after our arrival at the diggings, being Sunday, we passed in making
ourselves comfortable, and devising our future plans. We determined to move
from our present quarters, and pitch our tents higher up the gully, near
Montgomery's store. This we accomplished the first thing on Monday morning and
at about a hundred yards from us our four shipmates also fixed
themselves, which added both to our comfort and security.
A few words for their introduction.
One of them was a Scotchman, who wished to make enough capital at the mines to
invest in a sheep-run; and as his countrymen are proverbially fortunate in the
colonies, I think it possible he may some time hence be an Australian millionaire.
Another of these was an architect, who was driven, as it were, to the diggings,
because his profession, from the scarcity of labour, was at the time almost
useless in Melbourne. The third was, or rather had been, a house-painter and
decorator, who unfortunately possessed a tolerably fine voice, which led him
gradually to abandon a good business to perform at concerts. Too late he found
that he had dropped the substance for the shadow; emigration seemed his only
resource; so leaving a wife and large family behind, he brought his mortified vanity
and ruined fortunes to begin the world anew with in Australia. He was the only one
whose means prevented him from taking a share in our venture; but to avoid
confusion, the Scotchman subscribed twice the usual sum, thus securing
double Profits. The fourth was a gentleman farmer, whose sole enemy, by his
account, was Free Trade, and who held the names Cobden and Bright in utter
As soon as the tents were pitched, all set to work to unpack the dray: and after
taking out sufficient flour, sugar, tea, &c., for use, the remainder of the goods
were taken to the hearest store, where they were sold at an average of five
times their original costs: the most profitable portion of the cargo consisted of
some gunpowder and percusion-caps. The day after, by good fortune, we disposed
of the dray and horses for £250, being only £40 less than we paid for them. As
the cost of keeping horses at the diggings is very great (sometimes two or three
pounds a day per head), besides the constant risk of their being lost or stolen, we
were well satisfied with the bargain; and never did mind young speculators, who
five months previous had been utter strangers, accomplish their undertaking to
themselves, or less disagreement one with another.
This business settled, the next was to procure licences, which was a walk
of nearly five miles to the Commissioners' tent, Bendigo, and wasted the best part
Meanwhile we were Seriously debating about again changing our quarters. We found
it almost impossible to sleep. Never before could I have imagined that a woman's
voice could utter sounds sufficiently discordant to drive repose far from us, yet
so it was.
The gentlemen christened her "the amiable female."
The tent of this "amiable" personage was situated at right angles with ours and
our shipmates, so that the annoyance was equally felt. Whilst her husband was at
work farther down the gully, she kept a sort of sly grog-shop, and passed the day
in selling and drinking spirits, swearing, and smoking a short tobacco-pipe at the
door of her tent. She was a most repulsive looking object. A dirty gaudy-coloured
dress hung unfastened about her shoulders, coarse black hair unbrushed,
uncombed, dangled about her face, over which her evil habits habits had spread a
genuine bacchanalian glow, whilst in a loud masculine voice she uttered the most
awful words that ever disgraced the mouth of man ten thousand times
more awful when proceeding from a woman's lips.
But night was the dreadful time; then, if her husband had been unlucky, or herself
made fewer profits during the day, it was misery to be within earshot; so much
so, that we decided to leave so uncomfortable a neighbourhood without loss of
time, and carrying our tents, &c., higher up the gully we finally pitched them not
far from the Portland Stores.
This was done on Thursday, and the same evening two different claims were
marked out ready to commence working the next day. These claims were the usual
size, eight feet square.
Friday, 24.--Early this morning our late travelling companion, Joe, made his
appearance with a sack (full of bran, he said,) on his shoulders. After a little
confidential talk with William, he left the sack in our tent, as he had no other safe
place to stow it away in till the bran was sold. This gave rise to no suspicion, and in
the excitement of digging was quite forgotten.
About noon I contrived to have a damper and a large joint of baked mutton ready
for the "day labourers," as they styled themselves. The mutton was baked in a
large camp oven suspended from three iron bars, which were fixed in the ground in
the form of a triangle, about a yard apart, and were joined together at the top, at
which part the oven was hung over a wood fire. This grand cooking machine was,
of course, outside the tent. Sometimes I have seen a joint of meat catch fire in
one of these ovens, and it is difficult to extinguish it before the fat has burnt
itself away, when the meat looks like a cinder.
Our butcher would not let us have less than half a sheep at a time, for which we
paid 8s. I was not good housekeeper enough to know how much it weighed, but the
meat was very good. Flour was then a shilling a pound, or two hundred pounds
weight for nine pounds in money. Sugar was 1s. 6d., and tea 3s. 6d. Fortunately
we were Well provided with these three latter articles.
The hungry diggers did ample justice to the dinner I had provided for them. They
brought home a tin-dish full of surface soil, which in the course of the
afternoon I attempted to wash.
Tin-dish-washing is difflcult to describe. It requires a watchful eye and a skilful
hand; it is the most mysterious department of the gold-digging business. The tin
dish (which, of course, is round) is generally about eighteen inches across the top,
and twelve across the bottom, with sloping sides of three or four inches deep. The
one I used was rather smaller. Into it I placed about half the " dirt"--digger's
technical term for earth, or soil--that they had brought, filled the dish up with
water, and then with a thick stick commenced making it into a batter; this was a
most necessary commencement, as the soil was of a very stiff clay. I then let
this batter--I know no name more appropriate for it--settle, and carefully poured
off the water at the top. I now added some clean water, and repeated the
operation of of mixing it up; and after doing this several times, tile "dirt," of
course, gradually diminishing, I was overjoyed to see a few bright specks, which I
carefully picked out, and with renewed energy continued this by no means elegant
work. Before the party returned to tea I had washed out all the stuff, and
procured from it nearly two pennyweights of gold-dust, worth about 6s. or 7s.
Tin-dish-washing is generally done beside a stream, and it is astonishing how large
a quantity of "dirt" those who have the knack of doing it well and quickly can knock
off in the course of the day. To do this, however, requires great manual dexterity,
and much gold is lost by careless washing. A man once extracted ten pounds
weight of the precious metal from a heap of soil which his mate had washed too
In the evening Joe made his re-appearance, carrying another sack on his
shoulders, which contained a number of empty bottles, and now for the first time
we became initiated into the bran mystery which had often puzzled us on the
road--it seemed so strange a thing to carry up to the diggings. Joe laughed at our
innocence, and denied having told us anything approaching a falsehood; a slight
suppression of the truth was all he would plead guilty to. I verily believe William had
put him up to this dodge, to make us smile when we should have felt annoyed.
Being taxed with deceit, said he: "I told you two-thirds truth; there wanted
but two more letters to make it brandy," and with the greatest sang-froid he
drew out a small keg of brandy from the first sack and half-filled the bottles with
the spirit, after which he filled them all up to the neck with water. The bottles
were then corked, and any or all of them politely offered to us at the rate of 30s
a piece. We declined purchasing, but he sold them all during the evening, for which
we were rather glad, as, had they been discovered by the officials in our tent, a
fine of £50 would have been the consequence of our foolish comrades good-nature
and joke-loving propensities.
We afterwards found that Master Joe had played the same trick with our
shipmates and with the two doctors, who had bought a tent and settled
themselves near our old place by Montgomery's store.
Saturday, 25.--The two holes were "bottomed" before noon with no paying result.
It had been hard work, and they were rather low-spirited about it. The rest of the
day they spent in washing some surface-soil, and altogether collected about I
ounce and a half of gold-dust, counting the little I had washed out on the
Friday. In the evening it was all dried by being placed in a spade over a quick fire.
We had before determined to square accounts and divide the gold every Saturday
night, but this small quantity was not worth the trouble, so it was laid by in the
digger's usual treasury, a German match-box. These round boxes hold on an
average eight ounces of gold.
These two unproductive holes had not been very deep. The top, or surface soil, for
which a spade or shovel is used, was of clay. This was succeeded by a strata
almost as hard as iron-- technically called " burnt stuff,"--which robbed the pick
of its points nearly as soon as the blacksmith had steeled them at a charge of 2s.
6d. a point. Luckily for their arms, this strata was but thin, and the yellow or blue
clay which followed was comparatively easy work--here and there an awkward
lump of quartz required the use of the. pick. Suddenly they came to some
glittering particles of yellow, which, with heartfelt delight they hailed as gold. It
was mica. Many are at first deceived by it, but it is soon distinguished by its
weight, as the mica will blow away with the slightest puff. After a little
useless digging among the clay, they reached the solid rock, and thus having fairly
"bottomed," the holes to no purpose, they abandoned them.
Sunday, 26.--Although impossible at the diggings to keep this day with those
outward observances which are customary in civilized life, we attempted to make
as much difference as possible between the day of rest and that of work. Frank
performed the office of chaplain, and read the morning service in the calm and
serious manner which we expected from him.
I was rather amused to see the alacrity with which, when this slight service was
over, they all prepared to assist me in the formation of a huge plum-pudding for
the Sunday's dinner. Stoning plums and chopping suet seemed to afford them
immense pleasure -- I suppose it was a novelty; and, contrary to the fact implied
in the old adage, "too many cooks spoil the broth" our pudding turned out A 1.
In the afternoon we strolled about, and paid a visit to our shipmates. I was
certainly most agreeably surprised by the quiet and order that everywhere
Monday, 27.-- Today our party commenced "sinking" in a new spot at some little
distance. The first layer of black soil was removed, and on some being washed in a
tin dish, it was found to contain a tolerable portion of gold, and was pronounced to
be worth transporting to the tent to be regularly cradled. My first official notice
of this fact was from Richard, who entered the tent humming "Suona la tromba,"
with a bucket full of this heavy soil in each hand. He broke off in the middle of his
song to ask for some water to drink, and grumbled most energetically at such
dirty work. He then gave me an account of the morning's doings. After a thin layer
of the black surface soil, it appeared they had come to a strata of thick yellow
clay, in which gold was often very abundant. This soil, from being so stiff, would
require "puddling," a work of which he did not seem to relish the anticipation.
Before the day was over, a great number of buckets full of both soils were
brought up and deposited in heaps near the tents. All, with the exception of the
"operatic" Richard, seemed in good spirits, and were well satisfied with what had
been done in so short a time.
In the evening the other party of our shipmates arrived, and were busy fixing their
tent at a distance of about forty yards from us. Frank and the other four, though
pretty tired with the days labour, lent a helping hand, the united efforts of nine
speedily accomplished this business, after which an immense quantity of cold
mutton, damper, and tea made,a rapid disappearance, almost emptying my larder,
which, by the bye, was an old tea-chest.
We asked our friends their motive for leaving the old spot, and they declared they
could stand the "amiable female" no longer; she grew worse and worse. "Her
tongue was sich" observed the Scotchman, "as wad drive ony puir beastie wild."
She had regularly quarrelled with the two doctors because they would not give her
a written certificate, that the state of her health the constant use of spirits. She
offered them two guineas for it,which they indignantly refused, and she then
declared her intention of injuring their pracitce as much as possible, which she had
power to do, as her tent was of an evening quite the centre of attraction and her
influence proportionaly great. Pity 'tis that such a woman should be able to mar or
make the fortunes of her fellow creatures.
Tuesday, 28.--The holes commenced yeserday were duly "bottomed," but no nice
pocket-full of gold was the result; our shipmates, however, met with better
success, having found three small nuggets weighing two to four ounces each at a
depth of not quite five feet from the surface.
Wednesday, 29.--To-day was spent in puddling and cradling.
Puddling is on the same principle as tin-dish-washing, only on a much larger scale.
Great wooden tubs are filled with the dirt and fresh water, and the former is
chopped about in all directions with a spade, so as to set the metal free from the
adhesive soil and pipe-clay. Sometimes 1 have seen energetic diggers tuck up their
trowsers, off with their boots, step into the tub, and crush it about with their
feet in the same manner as tradition affirms that the London bakers knead their
bread. Every now and again the dirtied water is poured off gently, and with a fresh
supply, which is furnished by a mate with a long-handled dipper from the stream or
pool, you puddle away. The great thing is, not to be afraid Of over-work, for
the better the puddling is, so much the more easy and profitable is the cradling.
After having been well beaten in the tubs,the "dirt" is put into the hopper of the
cradle, which is then rocked gently, whilst another party keeps up a constant
supply of fresh water. In the right hand of the cradler is held a thick stick, ready
to break up any clods which may be in the hopper, but which a good puddler would
not have sent there.
There was plenty of water near us, for a heavy rain during the light had filled
several vacated holes, and as there were five pair of hands, we hoped, before
evening, greatly to diminish our mud-heaps.
Now for an account of our proceedings.
Two large wooden tubs were firmly secured in the ground and four set to work
puddling, whilst Frank busied himself in fixing the cradle. He drove two blocks into
the ground; they were grooved for the rockers of the cradle to rest in, so as to
let it rock with ease and regularity. The ground was lowered so as to give the
cradle a slight slant, and thus enable the water to run off more quickly. If a cradle
dips too much, a little gold may wash off with the light sand. The cradling
machine, though simple in itself, is rather difficult to describe. In shape and size it
resembles an infant's cradle, and over that portion of it where, if for a baby, a
hood would be, is a perforated plate with wooden sides, a few inches high all round,
forming a sort of box with the perforated plate for a bottom; this box is called
the hopper. The dirt is here placed, and the constant supply of water, after well
washing the stuff, runs out through a hole made at the foot of the cradle. The
gold generally rests on a wooden shelf under the hopper, though sometimes a good
deal will run down with the water and dirt into one of the compartments at the
bottom, and to separate it from the sand or mud, tin-dishwashing is employed.
As soon as sufficient earth was ready, one began to rock, and another to fill the
hopper with water. Richard continued puddling, William, enacted Aquarius for him,
whilst a fifth was fully occupied in conveying fresh dirt to the tubs, and taking the
puddled stuff from them to the hopper of the cradle. Every now and then a,
change of hands was made, and thus passed the day. In the evening, the
products were found to be one small nugget weighing a quarter of an ounce, and in
gold-dust eight pennyweights, ten grains, being worth, at the digging price for
gold, about thirty-five shillings. This was rather less than we hard less calculated
upon, and Richard signified his intention of returning to Melbourne, "He could no
longer put up with such ungentlemanly work in so very unintellectual a
neighbourhood, with bad living into the bargain." These last words, which were
pronounced sotto voce, gave us a slight clue to the real cause of his dislike to
the diggings, though we, did not thoroughly understand it till next morning. It
originated in some bottles of mixed pickles which he had in vain wanted Frank, who
this week was caterer for the party, to purchase at four shillings a bottle, which
sum, as we were all on economical thoughts intent, Frank refused to expend on
any unnecessary article of food. This we learnt next morning at breakfast, when
Richard congratulated himself on that being the last meal he should make of tea,
damper and muton, without the latter having something to render it eatable. The
puddling and cradling work had, I fancy, given the finishing stroke to his
disgust. Poor Dick! he met with little commiseration: we could not but remember
the thousands in the old country who would have rejoiced at the simple fare he so
much despised. William, in his laughing way, observed, "that he was too great a
pickle himself, without buying fresh ones."
Richard left us on Thursday morning, and with him went one of the other party,
the house-painter and decorator, who also found gold-digging not so Pleasant as
he had expected. We afterwards learnt that before reaching Kilmore they
separated. Richard arrived safely in Melbourne, and entered a goldbroker's office
at a salary of three pounds a week, which situation I believe he now fills; and as
"the governor," to use Richard's own expression, "has not yet come to his senses,"
he must greatly regret having allowed his temper to be the cause of his leaving
the comforts of home. His companion, who parted with Richard at Kilmore, was
robbed of what little gold he had, and otherwise maltreated, whilst passing through
the Black Forest. On reaching Melbourne, he sold everything he possessed, and
that not being sufficient, he borrowed enough to pay his passage back to
England, where, doubtless, he will swell the number of those whose lack of success
in the colonies, and vituperations against them, are only equalled by their
unfitness ever to have gone there.
Thursday was past in puddling and cradling, with rather better results than on the
first day, still it was not to our satisfaction, and on Friday two pits were sunk. one
was shallow, and the bottom reached without a speck of gold making its
appearance. The other was left over till the next morning. This was altogether
very disheartening work, particularly as the expenses of living were not
small.There were many, however, much worse off than ourselves, though here and
there a lucky digger excited the envy of all around him. Many were the tricks
resorted to in order to deceive new-comers. Holes were offered for sale, in which
the few grains that were carefully placed in sight was all that the buyer gained by
A scene of this description was enacted this. Friday evening, at a little distance
from us. The principal actors in it were two in number. One sat a little way from
his hole with a heap of soil by his side, and a large tin dish nearly full of dirt
in his hand. As he swayed the dish to and fro in] the, process of washing, an
immense number of small nuggets displayed themselves, which fact in a loud tone
he announced to his " mate," at the same time swearing at him for keeping at
work so late in the evening. This digger, who was shovelling up more dirt from the
hole, answered in the same elegant language, calling him an "idle good-for-nought."
Every now and then he threw a small nugget to the tin-dish-washer, loudly
declaring, "he'd not leave off while them bright bits were growing thick as taters
"Then be d----d if I don't!" shouted the other;" and I'll sell the hole for two hundred
yeller boys down."
This created a great sensation among the bystanders, who during the time had
collected round, and among whom was a party of three, evidently "new chums."
"It shall go for a hundred and fifty!" again shouted the washer, giving a glance in
the direction in which they stood.
"Going for a hundred, tin-dish as well!" letting some of the water run off,
and displaying the gold.
This decided the matter, and one of the three stepped forward and offered the
"Money down," said the seller; "these here fellers 'll witness it's all reg'lar."
The money was paid in notes, and the purchasers were about to commence
possession by taking the tin-dish out of his hand.
"Wait till he's emptied. I promised yer the dish, but not the stuff in it," and turning
out the "dirt into a small tub the two worthies departed, carrying the tub away
Not a grain of gold did the buyers find in the pit next morning.
Saturday, October 2.-- This day found the four hard at work at an early hour,
and words will not describe our delight when they hit upon a (9 pocket" full of the
precious metal. The "pocket was situated in a dark corner of the hole, and William
was the one whose fossicking-knife first brought its hidden beauties to light.
Nugget after nugget did that dirty soil give up; by evening they had taken out five
pounds weight of gold. Foolish Richard! we all regretted his absence at this
As the next day was the Sabbath, thirty-six hours of suspense must elapse
before we could know whether this was but a passing kindness from the fickle
goddess, or the herald of continued good fortune.
This night, for the first time, we were really in dread of an attack, though we had
kept our success quite secret, not even mentioning it to our shipmates; nor did we
intend to do so until Monday morning, when our first business would be to mark
out three more claims round the lucky spot, and send our gold down to the
escort-office for security. For the present we were obliged to content ourselves
with "planting" it -- that is, burying it in the ground; and not a footstep passed in
our neighbourhood without our imagining ourselves robbed of the precious
treasure, and as it was Saturday night--the noisiest and most riotous at the
diggings--our panics were neither few nor far between. So true it is that riches
entail trouble and anxiety on their possessor.
Chapter VIII. An Adventure.
Sunday 3.--A FINE morning. After our usual service Frank, my brother, and
myself, determined on an exploring expedition, and off we went, leaving the dinner
in the charge of the others. We left the busy throng of the diggers far behind us,
and wandered into spots where the sound of the pick and shovel, or the noise of
human traffic, had never penetrated. The scene and the day were in unison; all
was harmonious, majestic, and serene. Those mighty forests, hushed in a sombre
and awful silence; those ranges of undulating hill and dale never yet trodden by the
foot of man; the soft still air, so still that it left every leaf unruffled, flung
an intensity of awe over our feelings, and led us from the contemplation of nature
to worship nature's God.
We sat in silence for some while deeply impressed by all around us, and, whilst still
sitting and gazing there, a change almost imperceptibly came over the face of
both earth and sky. The forest swayed to and fro, a sighing moaning sound was
borne upon the wind, and a noise as of the rush of waters, dark massive clouds
rolled over the sky till the bright blue heavens were completely hidden, and then,
ere we had recovered from our first alarm and bewilderment, the storm in its
unmitigated fury burst upon us. The rain fell in torrents, and we knew not where
Taking me between them, they succeeded in reaching an immense shea-oak, under
which we hoped to find some shelter till the violence of the rain had diminished;
nor where we disappointed, though it was long before we could venture to leave
our place of refuge. At length however, we did so, and endeavoured to find our
way back to Eagle Hawk Gully. Hopeless task! The ground was so slippery, it was as
much as we could do to walk without falling; the mud and dirt clung to our
boots, and a heavy rain beat against our faces and nearly blinded us.
"It is clearing up to windward," observed Frank; "another half-hour and the rain will
be all but over; let us return to our tree again."
We did so. Frank was correct; in less than the time he had specified a slight
drizzling rain was all of the storm that remained.
With much less difficulty we again attempted to return home, but before very long
we made the startling discovery that we had completely lost our way, and to add
to our misfortune the small pocket-compass, which Frank had brought with him,
and which would have now so greatly assisted us, was missing, most probably
dropped from his pocket during the skirmish to get under shelter. We still
wandered along till stopped by the shades of evening, which came upon us--there
is little or no twilight in Australia.
We seated ourselves upon the trunk of a fallen tree, wet, hungry, and, worst of
all, ignorant of where we were. Shivering with cold, and our wet garments
hanging most uncomfortably around us, we endeavoured to console one another by
reflecting that the next morning we could not fail to reach our tents. The rain had
entirely ceased, and providentially for us the night was pitch dark--I say
providentially, because after having remained for two hours in this wretched plight
a small light in the distance became suddenly visible to us all, so distant, that but
for the intensity of the darkness it might have passed unnoticed. "Thank God!"
simultaneously burst from our lips.
"Let us hasten there," cried Frank, "a whole night like this may be your sister's
death and would ruin the constitution of a giant."
To this we gladly acceded, and were greatly encouraged by perceiving that the
light remained stationary. But it was a perilous undertaking. Luckily my brother
had managed to get hold of a long stick with which he sounded the way, for either
large stones or water-holes would have been awkward customers in the dark;
wonderful to relate we escaped both, and when within hailing distance of the light,
which we perceived came from a torch hold by some one, we shouted with
all our remaining strength, but without diminishing our exertions to reach it.
Soon--with feelings that only those who have encountered similar dangers can
understand--answering voices fell upon our ears. Eagerly we pressed forward, and
in the excitement of the moment we relinquished all hold of one another, and
attempted to wade through the mud singly.
"Stop! halt!" shouted more than one stentorian voice; but the warning came too
late. My feet slipped--a sharp pain succeeded by a sudden chill-- a feeling of
suffocation--of my head being ready to burst--and I remembered no more.
When I recovered consciousness it was late in the morning, for the bright sun
shone upon the ground through the crevices of a sail cloth tent, and so different
was all that met my eyes to the dismal scene through which I had so lately passed,
and which yet haunted my memory, that I felt that sweet feeling of relief which we
experience when, waking from some horrid vision, we become convinced how
unsubstantial are its terrors, and are ready to smile at the pain they excited.
That I was in a strange place became quickly evident, and among the distant hum
of voices which ever and anon broke the silence not one familiar tone could I
recognize. I endeavoured to raise myself so as to hear more distinctly, and then it
was that an acute pain in the ankle of the right foot, gave me pretty strong
evidence as to the reality of the last night's adventures. I was forced to lie down
again, but not before I had espied a hand-bell which lay within reach on a small
barrel near my bed. Determined as far as possible to fathom the mystery, I rang a
loud peal with it, not doubting but what it would bring my brother to me. My
surprise and delight may be easier imagined than described, when, as though in
obedience to my summons, I saw a small white hand push aside the canvas at one
corner of the tent, and one of my own sex entered.
She was young and fair; her step was soft and her voice most musically gentle.
Her eyes were a deep blue, and a rich brown was the colour of her hair, which she
wore in very short curls all round her head and parted on one side, which almost
gave her the appearance of a pretty boy.
These little particulars I noticed afterwards; at that time I only felt that her
gentle voice and kind friendliness of manner inexpressibly soothed me.
After having bathed my ankle, which I found to be badly sprained and cut, she
related, as far as she was acquainted with them, the events the previous evening.
I learnt that these tents belonged to a party from England, of one of whom she
was the wife, and the tent in which I lay was her apartment. They had not been
long at the diggings, and preferred the spot where they were to the more
The storm of yesterday had passed over them without doing much damage, and as
their tents were well painted over the tops, they managed to keep themselves
tolerably dry; but later in the evening, owing to the softness of the ground, one of
the side-posts partly gave way, which aroused them all, and torches were lit, and
every one busied ill trying to prop it up till morning. Whilst thus engaged they
heard our voices calling for help. They answered, at the same time getting ready
some more torches before, advancing to meet us, as there were several
pit-holes between us and them. Their call for us to remain stationary came too
late to save me from slipping into one of their pits, thereby spraining my ankle and
otherwise hurting myself, besides being buried to my forehead in mud and water.
The pit was not quite five feet deep, but, unfortunately for myself in this
instance, I belong to the pocket edition of the feminine sex. They soon extricated
me from this perilous situation, and carried me to their tents, where, by the
assistance of my new friend, I was divested of the mud that still clung to me, and
placed into bed.
Before morning the storm, which we all thought had passed over, burst forth with
redoubled fury; the flashes of lightning were succeeded by loud peals of thunder,
and the rain came splashing down. Their tents were situated on a slight rise, or
they would have run great risk of being washed away; every hole was filled with
water, and the shea-oak, of whose friendly shelter we had availed ourselves the
evening before, was struck by lightning, shivered into a thousand pieces. After a
while the storm abated, and the warm sun and a drying wind were quickly removing
all traces of it.
Frank and my brother, after an early breakfast, had set out for Eagle Hawk Gully
under the guidance of my fair friend's husband, who knew the road thither very
well; it was only three miles distant. He was to bring back with hin, a change of
clothing for me, as his wife had persuaded my brother to leave me in her charge
until I had quite recovered from the effects of the accident, "which he more
readily promised," she observed, "as we are not quite strangers, having met once
This awakened my curiosity, and I would not rest satisfied till fully acquainted with
the how, when, and where. Subsequently she related to me some portion of the
history of her life, which it will be no breach of confidence to repeat here.
Short as it is, however, it is deserving of another chapter.
Chapter IX. Harriette Walters.
HARRIETTE WALTERS had been a wife but twelve months, when the sudden failure
of the house in which her husband was a junior partner involved them in
irretrievable ruin, and threw them almost penniless upon the world. At this time
the commercial advantages of Australia, the opening it afforded for all classes of
men, and above all, its immense mineral wealth, were the subject of universal
attention. Mr. Walters' friends advised him to emigrate, and the small sum saved
from the wreck of their fortune served to defray the expenses of the journey.
Harriette, sorely against her wishes, remained behind with an old maiden
aunt, until her husband could obtain a home for her in the colonies.
The day of parting arrived; the ship which bore him away disappeared from her
sight, and almost heart-broken she returned to the humble residence of her sole
Ere she had recovered from the shock occasioned by her husband's departure, her
aged relation died from a sudden attack of illness, and Harriette was left alone to
struggle with her poverty and her grief. The whole of her aunt's income had been
derived from an annuity, which of course died with her; and her personal property,
when sold, realized not much more than sufficient to pay a few debts and the
funeral expenses; so that when these last sad duties were performed, Harriette
found herself with a few pounds in her pocket, homeless, friendless, and alone.
Her thoughts turned to the distant land, her husband's home, and every hope was
centred in the one intense desire to join him there. The means were wanting, she
had none from whom she could solicit assistance, but her determination did
not fail. She advertized for a situation as companion to an invalid, or nurse to
young children, during the voyage to Port Philip, provided her passage-money was
paid by her employer. This she soon obtained. The ship was a fast sailer, the winds
were favourable, and by a strange chance she arrived in Melbourne three weeks
before her husband. This time was a great trial to her. Alone and unprotected in
that strange, rough city, without money, without friends, she felt truly wretched.
It was not a place for a female to be without a protector, and she knew it, yet
protector she had none; even the family with whom she had come out, had gone
many miles up the country. She possessed little money, lodgings and food were at
an awful price, and employment for a female, except of a rough sort, was not
In this dilemma she took the singular notion into her head of disguising her sex,
and thereby avoiding much of the insult and annoyance to which an unprotected
female would have been liable. Being of a slight figure, and taking the usual colonial
costume--loose trowsers, a full, blue serge shirt, fastened round the waist
by a leather belt, and a wide-awake--Harriette passed very well for what she
assumed to be-- a young lad just arrived from England. She immediately obtained
a light situation near the wharf, where for about three weeks she worked hard
enough at a salary of a pound a week, board, and permission to sleep in an old
tumbledown shed beside the store.
At last the long looked-for vessel arrived. That must have been a moment of
intense happiness which restored her to her husband's arms--for him not
unmingled with surprise; he could not at first recognize her in her new garb. She
would hear of no further separation, and when she learnt he had joined a party for
the Bendigo diggings, she positively refused to remain in Melbourne, and she
retained her boyish dress until their arrival at Bendigo. The party her husband
belonged to had two tents, one of which they readily gave up to the married
couple, as they were only too glad to have the company and in-door assistance of
a sensible, active woman during their spell at the diggings. For the sake of
economy, during the time that elapsed before they could commence their journey
up, all of them lived in the tents which they pitched on a small rise on the
south side of the Yarra. Here it was that our acquaintance first took place;
doubtless, my readers will, long ere this, have recognized in the hospitable
gentleman I encountered there, my friend's husband, and, in the delicate-looking
youth who had so attracted my attention, the fair Harriette herself.
But--revenons ˆ nos moutons.
On the third day of my visit I was pronounced convalescent, and that evening my
brother and William came to conduct me back to Eagle Hawk Gully. It was with no
little regret that I bade farewell to my new friend, and I must confess that the
pleasure of her society had for the time made me quite careless as to the
quantity of gold our party might be taking up during my absence. Whilst walking
towards our tents, I heard the full particulars of their work, which I subjoin, so as
to resume the thread of my digging narrative in a proper manner.
Monday.--Much upset by their anxiety occasioned by the non-appearance the
previous evening of Frank, my brother, and myself. The two former did not
reach home till nearly noon, the roads were so heavy. After dinner all set to work
in better spirits; came to the end of the gold-- took out nearly four Pounds
Tuesday and Wednesday.--Digging various holes in the vicinity of the lucky spot,
but without success. The other party did the same with no better result.
Such were the tidings that I heard after my three days' absence.
Thursday.--To-day was spent in prospecting -- that is, searching for a spot
whose geological formation gives some promise of the precious metal. In the
evening, William and Octavius returned with the news that they had found a place
at some, distance from the gully, which they thought would prove "paying," as they
had washed some of the surface soil, which yielded well. It was arranged that the
party be divided into two, and take alternate days to dig there.
Friday.--In pursuance of the foregoing plan William and Octavius set off, carrying
a good quantity of dinner and their tools along with them. They worked hard
enough during the day, but only brought back three pennyweights of
gold-dust with them. My brother and Frank gained a deal more by surface washing
Saturday.--Changed hands. Frank and my brother to the new spot, digging.
Octavius and William surface washing. There results were much the same as the
Sunday, October 10--We took advantage of the fine weather to pay a visit to
Harriette and her party. We found them in excellent spirits, for at last they had
hit upon a rich vein, which had for three days been yielding an average of four
pounds weight a day, and was not yet exhausted. I sayat last, for I have not
before mentioned that they had never obtained more than an ounce of gold
altogether, up to the day I left them. We were sincerely pleased with their good
fortune. Harriette hoped that soon they might be able to leave this wild sort of
life, and purchase a small farm, and once again have a home of their own. This
could not be done near Melbourne, so they meant to go to South Australia, where
any quantity of land may be bought. In this colony no smaller quantity than a
square mile--640 acres--is sold by the Government in one lot;
consequently, those whose capital is unequal to purchase this, go to some other
colony, and there invest the wealth they have acquired in Victoria.
As we had some idea of leaving Eagle Hawk Gully, I bade Harriette farewell. We
never expected to meet again. It chanced otherwise; but I must not anticipate.
Monday and Tuesday were most unprofitably passed in digging holes; and on
Tuesday night we determined to leave the Eagle Hawk, and try our fortune in some
of the neighbouring gullies.
Wednesday was a bustling day. We sold our tent, tools, cradle, &c., as we knew
plenty were always to be bought of those who, like ourselves, were changing their
place. Had we known what we were about, we should never have burdened
ourselves by bringing so many goods and chattels a hundred and twenty miles or
more up the country; but "experience teaches." Having parted with all
encumbrances, myself excepted, we started for the Iron Bark Gully. All the gold
had been transmitted by the escort to Melbourne, and one fine nugget, weighing
nearly five ounces, had been sent to Richard. We could not resist the
pleasure of presenting him with it, although by our rules not entitled to any of the
The following are the rules by which our affairs were regulated. They were drawn
up before leaving Melbourne, and signed by all. Though crude and imperfect, they
were sufficient to preserve complete harmony and good fellowship between five
young men of different character, taste, and education--a harmony and good
fellowship which even Richard's withdrawal did not interrupt.
The rules were these:
1. No one party to be ruler; but every week by turn, one to buy, sell, take charge
of gold, and transact all business matters.
2. The gold to be divided, and accounts settled every Saturday night.
3. Any one voluntarily leaving the party, to have one-third of his original share in
the expense of purchasing tent and tools returned to him, but to have no further
claim upon them or upon the gold that may be found after his withdrawal. Any one
dismissed the party for misconduct, to forfeit all claim upon the joint property.
4. The party agree to stand by one another in all danger, difficulty, or illness.
5. Swearing, gambling, and drinking spirits to be strictly avoided.
6. Morning service to be read every Sunday morning.
7. All disputes or appeals from the foregoing rules to be settled by a majority.
Chapter X. Ironbark Gully.
I HAVE said little in description of the Eagle Hawk, for all gullies or valleys at the
diggings bear a strong external resemblance one to another. This one differed
from others only in being much longer and wider; the sides, as is usually the case
in the richest gullies, were not precipitous, but very gradual; a few mountains
closed the background. The digging was in many places very shallow, and the soil
was sometimes of a clayey description, sometimes very gravelly with slate
bottom, sometimes gravelly with pipeclay bottom, sometimes quite sandy; in fact,
the earth was of all sorts and depths.
At one time there were eight thousand diggers together in Eagle Hawk Gully. This
was some months before we visited it. During the period of our stay at Bendigo
there were not more than a thousand, and fewer still in the Iron Bark. The reasons
for this apparent desertion were several.
The weather continued wet and uncertain, so that many who had gone down to
Melbourne remained there, not yet considering the ground sufficiently recovered
from the effects of the prolonged wet season, they had no desire to run the risk
of being buried alive in their holes. Many had gone to the Adelaide diggings, of
which further particulars hereafter, and many more had gone across the country
to the Ovens, or, farther still, to the Sydney diggings themselves. According to
digging parlance, "the Turon was looking up," and Bendigo, Mount Alexander, and
Forest Creek were thinned accordingly. But perhaps the real cause of their
desertion arose from the altered state of the diggings. Some time since one party
netted £900 in three weeks; £100 a week was thought nothing wonderful. Four
men found one day seventy-five pounds weight; another party took from
the foot of a tree gold to the value of £2000. A friend of mine once met a man
whom he knew returning to Melbourne, walking in dusty rags and dirt behind a dray,
yet carrying with him £1500 worth of gold. In Peg Leg Gully, fifty and even eighty
pounds weight had been taken from holes only three or four feet deep. At Forest
Creek a hole produced sixty pounds weight in one day, and forty more the day
after. From one of the golden gullies a party took up the incredible quantity of one
hundred and ninety-eight pounds weight in six weeks. These are but two or three
instances out of the many that occurred to prove the richness of this truly
auriferous spot. The consequence may be easily imagined; thousands flocked to
Bendigo. The "lucky bits" were still as numerous, but being disseminated among a
greater number of diggers, it followed that there were many more blanks than
prizes, and the disappointed multitude were ready to be off to the first new
discovery. Small gains were beneath their notice. I have often heard the miners
say that they would rather spend their last farthing digging fifty holes, even if
they found nothing in them, than "tamely" earn an ounce a day by washing
the surface soil; on the same principle, I suppose, that a gambler would throw up a
small but certain income to be earned by his own industry, for the uncertain
profits of the cue or dice.
For ourselves, we had nothing to complain about. During the short space of time
that we had been at Eagle Hawk Gully, we had done as well as one in fifty, and
might therefore be classed among the lucky diggers; but "the more people have,
the more they want;" and although the many pounds weight of the precious metal
that our party had "taken up" gave, when divided, a good round sum a-piece, the
avaricious creatures bore the want of success that followed more
unphilosophically than they had done before the rich "pocketful" of gold had made
its appearance. They would dig none but shallow holes, and a sort of gambling
manner of setting to work replaced the active perseverance they had at first
Some days before we left, Eagle Hawk Gully had been condemned as a "worthless
place," and a change decided on. The when and the where were fixed much
in the following manner:
"I say, mates," observed William on the evening of the Sunday on which I had paid
my last visit to Harriette, "I say, mates, nice pickings a man got last week in the
Iron Bark--only twenty pounds weight out of one hole; that's all."
"Think it's true?" said Octavius, quietly.
"Of course; likely enough. I propose we pack up our traps, and honour this said
gully with our presence forthwith."
"Let's inquire first," put in Frank; "it's foolish to change good quarters on such
"Good quarters! slight grounds!" cried William; "what next? what would you have?
Good quarters! yes, as far as diggings concerned--whether you find anything for
your digging is another matter. Slight grounds, indeed! twenty pounds weight in
one day! Yes, we ought to inquire; you're right there, old boy, and the proper place
to commence our inquiries is at the gully itself. Let's be off tomorrow."
"Wait two days longer," said Octavius "and I am agreeable."
And this, after a little chaffing between the impatient William and his more
business-like comrades, was satisfactorily arranged.
Behold us then, on Wednesday the 13th, after having sold all our goods that were
saleable, making our way to the Iron Bark Gully. William enacted the part of
auctioneer, which he did in a manner most satisfactory to himself, and amusing to
his audience; but the things sold very badly, so many were doing the same. The
tents fetched only a few shillings each, and the tools, cradles, &c., en masse,
were knocked down for half a sovereign.
The morning was rather cloudy, which made our pedestrian mode of travelling not
so fatiguing as it might have been, had the sun in true colonial strength been
shining upon us. This was very fortunately not the case, for we more than once
mistook our way, and made a long walk out of a short one--quite a work of
supererogation--for the roads were heavy and tiring enough without adding an
extra quantity of them.
We passed in the close neighbourhood of Sailor's, Californian, American,
Long, and Piccaninny Gullies before reaching our destination. Most of these gullies
are considered ransacked, but a very fair amount of gold-dust may be obtained in
either by the new comer by tin-dish fossicking in deserted holes. These deserted
gullies, as they are called, contained in each no trifling population, and looked full
enough for comfortable working. What must they have resembled the summer
previous, when some hundreds of people leaving a flat or gully was but as a
handful of sand from the sea-shore!
Before evening we arrived at the Iron Bark. This gully takes its name from the
splendid trees with which it abounds; and their immense height, their fluted trunks
and massive branches gave them a most majestic appearance. We paused beneath
one in a more secluded part, and there determined to fix our quarters for the
night. The heavy "swags" were flung upon the ground, and the construction of
something resembling a tent gave them plenty to do; the tomahawks, which they
carried in their belts, were put into immediate requisition, and some branches of
the trees were soon formed into rough tent-poles. The tent, however, though
perhaps as good as could be expected, was nothing very wonderful after
all, being made only of some of the blankets which our party had brought in their
swags. Beneath it I reposed very comfortably; and, thanks to my fatiguing walk,
slept as soundly as I could possibly have done beneath the roof of a palace. The
four gentlemen wrapped themselves in their blankets, and laid down to rest upon
the ground beside the fire; their only shelter was the foliage of the friendly tree
which spread its branches high above our heads.
Next morning William was for settling ourselves in the gully. He wanted tents,
tools, &c., purchased, but by dint of much talking and reasoning, we persuaded him
first to look well about, and judge from the success of others whether we were
likely to do any good by stopping there. We soon heard the history of the
"twenty-pound weight" story. As Frank and Octavius had at once surmised, it
originated in a party who were desirous to sell their claims and baggage before
starting for Melbourne. I believe they succeeded--there are always plenty of "new
chums" to be caught and taken in--and the report had caused a slight rush of
diggers, old and new, to the gully. Many of these diggers had again
departed, others stayed to give the place a trial; we were not among the latter.
The statements of those who were still working were anything but satisfactory,
and we were all inclined to push on to Forest Creek.
Meanwhile, it is Thursday afternoon. All but Frank appear disposed for a siesta; he
alone seems determined on a walk. I offer myself and am accepted as a
companion, and off we go together to explore this new locality.
We proceeded up the gully. Deserted holes there were in numbers, many a great
depth, and must have cost a vast amount of manual labour. In some places the
diggers were hard at work, and the blows of the pick, the splash of water, and the
rocking of the cradle made the diggings seem themselves again. There were
several women about, who appeared to take as active an interest in the work as
their "better halves." They may often be seen cradling with an infant in their
arms. A man and a cart proceeded us up the gully. Every now and again he shouted
out in a stentorian voice that made the welkin ring; and the burden of his cry was
"'Ere's happles, happles, Vandemonian happles, and them as dislikes the hiland
needn't heat them."
The admirers of the fertile island must have been very numerous, for his
customers soon made his pippins disappear.
We passed a butcher's shop, or rather tent, which formed a curious spectacle.
The animals, cut into halves or quarters, were hung round; no small joints
there--half a sheep or none; heads, feet, and skins were lying about for any one
to have for the trouble of picking up, and a quantity of goods of all sorts and
sizes, gridirons, saucepans, cradles, empty tea-chests, were lying scattered
around in all directions ticketed "for sale." We quickly went on, for it was not a
particularly pleasant sight, and at some distance perceived a quiet little nook
rather out of the road, in which was one solitary tent. We hastened our steps, and
advanced nearer, when we perceived that the tent was made of a large blanket
suspended over a rope, which was tied from one tree to another. The blanket was
fastened into the ground by large wooden pegs. Near to the opening of the tent,
upon a piece of rock, sat a little girl of about ten years old. By her side was
a quantity of the coarse green gauze of which the diggers' veils are made. She
was working at this so industriously, and her little head was bent so fixedly over
her fingers that she did not notice our approach. We stood for some minutes
silently watching her, till Frank, wishing to see more of her countenance, clapped
his hands noisily together for the purpose of rousing her.
She started, and looked up. What a volume of sorrow and of suffering did those
pale features speak!
Suddenly a look of pleasure flashed over her countenance. She sprang from her
seat, and advancing towards Frank, exclaimed:
"Maybe you'll be wanting a veil, Sir. I've plenty nice ones, stronger, better, and
cheaper than you'll get at the store. Summer dust's coming, Sir. You'll want one,
won't you? I havn't sold one this week," she added, almost imploringly, perceiving
what she fancied a "no-customer" look in his face.
"I'll have one, little girl," he answered in a kindly tone, "and what price is it to be?"
"Eighteen pence, Sir, if you'd please be so good."
Frank put the money into her hand, but returned the veil. This action seemed not
quite to satisfy her; either she did not comprehend what he meant, or it hurt her
self-pride, for she said quickly:
"I havn't only green veils--p'raps you'd like some candles better--I makes them
"You make them?" said Frank, laughing as he glanced at the little hands that were
still holding the veil for his acceptance. "You make them? Your mother makes the
candles, you mean."
"I have no mother now," said she, with an expression of real melancholy in her
countenance and voice. "I makes the candles and the veils, and the diggers they
buys them of me, cos grandfather's ill, and got nobody to work for him but me."
"Where do you and your grandfather live?" I asked. "In there?" pointing to the
She nodded her head, adding in a lower tone:
"He's asleep now. He sleeps more than he did. He's killed hisself digging for the
gold, and he never got none, and he says 'he'll dig till he dies.'"
"Dig till he dies." Fit motto of many a disappointed gold-seeker, the finale of many
a broken up, desolated home, the last dying words of many a husband, far away
from wife or kindred, with no loved ones near to soothe his departing
moments--no better burial-place than the very hole, perchance, in which his last
earthly labours were spent. These were some of the thoughts that rapidly chased
one another in my mind as the sad words and still sadder tone fell upon my ear.
I was roused by hearing Frank's voice in inquiry as to how she made her candles,
and she answered all our questions with a child-like naovetŽ, peculiarly her own.
She told us how she boiled down the fat--how once it had caught fire and burnt
her severely, and there was the scar still showing on her brown little arm--then
how she poured the hot fat into, the tin mould, first fastening in the wicks, then
shut up the mould and left it to grow cold as quickly as it would; all this, and many
other particulars which I have long since forgotten, she told us; and little
by little we learnt too her own history.
Father, mother, grandfather, and herself had all come to the diggings the summer
before. Her father met with a severe accident in digging, and returned to
Melbourne. He returned only to die, and his wife soon followed him to the grave.
Having no other friend or relative in the colonies, the child had been left with her
aged grandfather, who appeared as infatuated with the gold-fields as a more hale
and younger man. His strength and health were rapidly failing, yet he still dug on.
"We shall be rich, and Jessie a fine lady before I die," was ever his promise to her,
and that at times when they were almost wanting food.
It was with no idle curiosity that we listened to her; none could help feeling deeply
interested in the energetic, unselfish, orphan girl. She was not beautiful, nor was
she fair--she had none of those childish graces which usually attract so much
attention to children of her age; her eyes were heavy and bloodshot (with work,
weeping, cold, and hunger) except when she spoke of her sick grandfather, and
then they disclosed a world of tenderness; her hair hung matted round her
head; her cheek was wan and sallow; her dress was ill-made and threadbare; yet
even thus, few that had once looked at her but would wish to look again. There was
an indescribable sweetness about the mouth; the voice was low and musical; the
well-shaped head was firmly set upon her shoulders; a fine open forehead
surmounted those drooping eyes; there was almost a dash of independence; a
"little woman" manner about her that made one imperceptibly forget how young
she was in years.
A slight noise in the tent -- a gentle moan.
"He's waked; I must go to him, and," in a lower, almost a deprecating tone, "he
doesn't like to hear stranger folks about."
We cheerfully complied with the hint and departed, Frank first putting some
money into her hand, and promising to call again for the candles and veils she
seemed quite anxious we should take in return.
Our thoughts were as busy as our tongues were silent, during the time that
elapsed before we reached home. When we entered, we found a discussion going
on, and words were running high. My brother and Octavius were for going
somewhere to work, not idle about as they were doing now; William. wanted to go
for a "pleasure trip" to Forest Creek, and then return to Melbourne for a change.
Frank listened to it all for some minutes, and then made a speech, the longest I
ever heard from him, of which I will repeat portions, as it will explain our future
"This morning, when going down the gully, I met the person whom we bought the
dray-horses of in Melbourne. I asked him how he was doing, and he answered, 'badly
enough; but a friend's just received accounts of some new diggings out Albury
way, and there I mean to go.' He showed me also a letter he had received from a
party in Melbourne, who were going there. From these accounts, gold is very
plentiful at this spot, and I for one think we may as well try our fortune in this new
place, as anywhere else. The route is partly along the Sydney road, which is good,
but it is altogether a journey of two hundred miles. I would therefore propose
(turning to my brother), that we proceed first to Melbourne, where you can leave
your sister, and we can then start for the Ovens; and as provisions are at an
exorbitant price there, we might risk a little money in taking up a dray-full
of goods as before. And as we may never chance to be in this part of Victoria
again, I vote that we take William's 'pleasure trip' to Forest Creek, stop there a
few days, and then to Melbourne."
This plan was adopted.
Friday morning.--Frank stole out early after breakfast, for a visit to little
Jessie. I learnt the full particulars afterwards, and therefore will relate them as
they occurred, as though myself present. He did not find her sitting outside the
tent as before, and hesitated whether to remain or go away, when a low moaning
inside determined him to enter. He pushed aside the blanket, and saw her lying
upon an old mattress on the ground; beside her was a dark object, which he could
not at first distinguish plainly. It was her grandfather, and he was dead. The
moaning came from the living orphan, and piteous it was to hear her. It took Frank
but a few minutes to ascertain all this, and then he gently let down the blanket,
and hastened to the butcher's shop I have already mentioned. He learnt all that
there was to know: that she had no friends, no relatives, and that nothing
but her own labour, and the kindness of others, had kept them from starvation
through the winter. Frank left a small sum in the butcher's hands, to have the old
man buried, as best could be, in so wild and unnatural a place, and then returned to
the mourning child. When he looked in, she was lying silent and senseless beside
the corpse. A gentle breathing--a slight heaving of the chest, was all that
distinguished the living from the dead. Carefully taking her in his arms, he carried
her to our tent. As I saw him thus approaching, an idea of the truth flashed
across me. Frank brought her inside, and laid her upon the ground--the only
resting-place we had for her. She soon opened her eyes, the quick transition
through the air had assisted in reviving her, and then I could tell that the whole
sad truth returned fresh to her recollection. She sat up, resting her head upon
her open hands, whilst her eyes were fixed sullenly, almost doggedly, upon the
ground. Our attempts at consolation seemed useless. Frank and I glanced at one
another. "Tell us how it happened," said he gently.
Jessie made no answer. She seemed like one who heard not.
"It must have been through some great carelessness -- some, neglect," pursued
Frank, laying a strong emphasis on the last word.
This effectually roused her.
"I never left him--I never neglected him. When I waked in the morning I thought
him asleep. I made my fire. I crept softly about to make his gruel for breakfast,
and I took it him, and found him dead--dead," and she burst into a passion of
Frank's pretended insinuation had done her good; and now that her grief found its
natural vent, her mind became calmer, and exhausted with sorrow, she fell into a
We had prepared to start before noon, but this incident delayed us a little. When
Jessie awoke, she seemed to feel intuitively that Frank was her best friend, for
she kept beside him during our hasty dinner, and retained his hand during the walk.
There was a pleasant breeze, and we did not feel over fatigued when, after having
walked about eight miles, we sat down beneath a most magnificent gum tree, more
than a hundred feet high. Frank very wisely made Jessie bestir herself, and
assist in our preparations. She collected dry sticks for a fire, went with him to a
small creek near for a supply of water; and so well did he succeed, that for a while
she nearly forgot her troubles, and could almost smile at some of William's gay
Next morning, very early, breakfast rapidly disappeared, and we were marching
onwards. An empty cart, drawn by a stout horse, passed us.
Frank glanced at the pale little child beside him. "Where to?" cried he.
"Take us for what?"
"A canary a-piece."
"Agreed." And we gladly sprung in. For the sake of the uninitiated, I must explain
that, in digger's slang, a "canary" and half-asovereign are synonymous.
We passed the "Porcupine Inn." We halted at noon, dined, and about two hours
after sighted the Commissioners' tent. In a few minutes the cart stopped.
"Can't take yer not no further. If the master seed yer, I'd cotch it for taking yer
We paid him and alighted.
Chapter XI. Forest Creek.
IN my last chapter we were left standing not far from the Commissioners' tent,
Forest Creek, at about three o'clock in the afternoon of Saturday, the 16th. An
air of quiet prevailed, and made the scene unlike any other we had as yet viewed
at the diggings. It was the middle of the month; here and there a stray applicant
for a licence might make his appearance, but the body of the diggers had done so
long before, and were disseminated over the creek digging, washing, or cradling, as
the case might be, but here at least was quiet. To the right of the Licensing
Commissioners' tent was a large one appropriated to receiving the gold to
be forwarded to Melbourne by the Government escort. There were a number of
police and pensioners about.
Not many months ago, the scarcity of these at the diggings had prevented the
better class of diggers from carrying on their operations with any degree of
comfort, or feeling that their lives and property were secure. But this was now
altered; large bodies of police were placed on duty, and wooden buildings erected in
various parts of the diggings for their accommodation. Assistant Commissioners
(who were also magistrates) had been appointed, and large bodies of pensioners
enrolled as police, and acting under their orders. Roads were also being made in all
directions, thereby greatly facilitating intercommunication.
But I must not forget that we are standing looking about us without exactly
knowing where to turn. Suddenly William started off like a shot in pursuit of a man
a little way from us. We could not at first guess who it was, for in the diggers'
dress all men look like so many brothers; but as we approached nearer we
recognised our late captain, Gregory.
"Well, old fellow, and where did you spring from?" was Frank's salutation. "I
thought you were stuck fast in the Eagle Hawk."
"I may say the same," said Gregory, smiling. "How got you here?"
This was soon told, and our present dilemma was not left unmentioned.
"A friend in need is a friend indeed," says the proverb, and William echoed it, as
Gregory very complaisantly informed us that, having just entered upon a store not
far distant, he would be delighted to give us a shelter for a few nights. This we
gladly accepted, and were soon comfortably domiciled beneath a bark and canvas
tent adjoining his store. Here we supped, after which Gregoryy left us, and
returned with mattresses, blankets, &c., which he placed on the ground, whilst he
coolly ordered the gentlemen to prepare to take their departure, he himself
presently setting them the example.
"I'm certain sure the young leddy's tired," said he; "and that little lassie there
(pointing to Jessie) looks as pale and as wizened as an old woman of seventy--the
sooner they gets to sleep the better."
We followed the kindly hint, and Jessie and myself were soon fast asleep in spite
of the din close beside us. It was Saturday night, and, the store was full; but the
Babel-like sounds disturbed us not, and we neither of us woke till morning.
It was Sunday. The day was fine, and we strolled here and there, wandering a good
way from Gregory's store. As we returned, we passed near the scene of the
monster meeting of 1851. The following account of it is so correct, that I cannot
do better than transcribe it.
"The exceeding richness of the Mount Alexander diggings, and extraordinary
success of many of the miners, led the Government to issue a proclamation,
raising the licence from thirty shillings to three pounds. As soon as these
intentions became known, a public meeting of all the miners was convened, and
took place on the 15th of December, 1851. This resolve of the Governor and
Executive Council was injudicious, since, in New South Wales, the Government
proposed to reduce the fee to 15s.; and among the miners in Victoria,
dissatisfaction was rife, on account of the apparent disregard by the Government
of the wants and wishes of the people engaged in the gold diggings, and
because of the absence of all police protection, while there appeared to be no
effort made to remedy this defect. Indignation was, therefore, unequivocally
expressed at the several diggings' meetings which were held, and at which it was
resolved to hold a monster meeting. The 'Old Shepherd's Hut,' an out station of Dr.
Barker's, and very near the Commissioners' tent, was the scene chosen for this
display. For miles around work ceased, cradles were hushed, and, the diggers,
anxious to show their determination, assembled in crowds, swarming from every
creek, gully, hill, and dale, even from the distant Bendigo, twenty miles away. They
felt that if they tamely allowed the Government to charge £3 one month, the
licensing fee might be increased to £6 the next; and by such a system of
oppression, the diggers' vocation would be suspended.
"It has been computed that from fifteen to twenty thousand persons were on the
ground during the time of the meeting. Hundreds, who came and heard, gave place
to the coming multitude, satisfied with having attended to countenance the
proceedings. The meeting ultimately dispersed quietly, thereby disappointing the
anticipations of those who expected, perhaps even desired, a turbulent
termination. The majority determined to resist any attempt to enforce this
measure, and to pay nothing; but, happily, they were not reduced to this
extremity, since his Excellency wisely gave notice that no change would be made in
the amount demanded for licence."
The trees up which the diggers had climbed during the meeting are still pointed
The "Old Shepherd's Hut" was standing. It seemed a most commodious little
building compared to the insecure shelter of' a digger's tent. The sides of the hut
were formed of slabs, which were made mostly from the stringy bark, --a tree
that splits easily -- the roof was composed of the bark from the same tree; the
chimney was of stones mortared together with mud. This is the general style of
building for shepherds' huts in the bush. As we passed it I could not but mentally
contrast the scene that took place there on the important day of the monster
meeting, to the deep tranquillity that must have reigned around the spot
for centuries before the discovery of gold drew multitudes to the place.
The trees in this neighbourhood are mostly stringy bark; almost all are peeled of
their covering, as many diggers, particularly those who have their families with
them, keep much to one part, and think it, therefore, no waste of time or labour
to erect a hut, instead of living in a comfortless tent.
On Monday morning we determined to pursue our travels, and meant that day to
pay a flying, visit to Fryer's Creek. It was a lovely morning, and we set out in high
spirits. A heavy rain during the night had well laid the dust. On our way we took a
peep at several flats and gullies, many of which looked very picturesque,
particularly one called Specimen Gully, which was but thinly inhabited.
We had hardly reached Fryer's Creek itself when we saw a vast concourse of
people gathered together. Frank and my brother remained with me at a little
distance, whilst Octavius and William went to learn the occasion of this
commotion. It arose from an awful accident which had just occurred.
Three brothers were working in a claim beside the stream, some way apart from
the other diggers. The heavy rain during the night had raised the water, and the
ground between the hole where they were working and the Creek, had given way
imperceptibly underneath. One brother, who was early in the hole at work, fancied
that the water at the bottom was gradually rising above his knees; he shouted to
his comrades, but unfortunately they had gone, one, one way, one, another, in
quest of something, and it was some minutes ere they returned.
Meanwhile the water in the hole was slowly but surely rising, and the slippery sides
which were several feet high defied him to extricate himself. His cries for help
became louder--he was heard, and his brothers and some neighbours hastened to
his assistance. Ropes were procured after some further delay, and thrown to the
unhappy man --but it was too late. None dared approach very near, for the ground
was like a bog, and might at any moment give way beneath their feet; the water
was nearly level with the top of the hole, and all hope of saving him was gone. The
brothers had often been warned of the danger they were running.
Shuddering at the thoughts of this awful death we turned away, but no change of
scene could dissipate it from our minds --the remembrance of it haunted me for
many a night.
Jessie seemed pleased to see us on our return-- we had left her behind with
Gregory to his great delight--we abstained from mentioning before her the fearful
accident we had but witnessed.
That evening we wandered about Forest Creek. We had not gone far before a
digger with a pistol in his hand shot by us; he was followed by an immense mob,
hooting, yelling, and screaming, as only a mob at the diggings can. It was in full
pursuit, and we turned aside only in time to prevent ourselves from being knocked
down in the confusion.
"Stop him--stop him," was the cry. He was captured, and the cry changed to,
"String him up-- string him up--it's useless taking him to the police-office."
"What has he done?" asked my brother of a quiet by-stander.
"Shot a man in a quarrel at a grogshop."
"String him up--string him up--confront him with the body," vociferated the mob.
At this moment the firmly-secured and wellguarded culprit passed by, to be
confronted with the dead body of his adversary. No sooner did he come into his
presence than the ci-devant corpse found his feet, "showed fight," and roared
out, "Come on," with a most unghostlike vehemence. The fury of the mob cooled
down; the people thought the man had been murdered, whereas the shot,
fortunately for both, had glanced over the forehead without doing any serious
injury. Taking advantage of this lull, the fugitive declared that the wounded man
had been robbing him. This turned the tables, and, inspired by the hootings of the
now indignant mob, the "dead man" took to his heels and disappeared.
The diggers in Pennyweight Flat, Nicholson's Gully, Lever Flat, Dirty Dick's Gully,
Gibson's Flat, at the mouth of Dingley Dell, and in Dingley Dell itself, were tolerably
contented with their gains, although in many instances, the parties who
were digging in the centre of the gullies, or what is called "the slip," experienced
considerable trouble in bailing the water out of their holes.
Some of the names given to the spots about Forest Creek are anything but
euphonious. Dingley Dell is, however, an exception, and sounds quite musical
compared to Dirty Dick's Gully. The former name was given to the place by a
gentleman from Adelaide, and was suggested by the perpetual tinkling of the
bullock's bells, it being a favourite camping place for bullock drivers, offering, as it
did, an excellent supply of both wood, water, and food for their cattle. From whom
the latter inelegant name originated I cannot precisely tell--but there are plenty
of "dirty Dicks" all over the diggings.
The current prices of this date at Forest Creek were as follows : flour, £9 to £10
per hundred-weight; sugar, 1s. 6d. a pound, very scarce ; tea, 3s. ; rice, 1s. ;
coffee, 3s. ; tobacco, 8s.; cheese, 3s. ; butter, 4s.; - honey, 3s. 6d.; candles, 1s.
6d ; currants, 1s. 6d., very scarce; raisins, 1s. 6d.; figs, 2s. 6d. ; salt, Is. 6d.
Picks, spades, and tin dishes, 10s. each. Gold 64s. per ounce.
Tuesday, 19.--Before breakfast we were busily employed in packing the "swags"
when Octavius suddenly dropped the strap he held in his hand for that purpose,
and darted into the store. Thinking that we had omitted something which he went
to fetch, we continued our work. When everything was ready and the last strap in
its place, we again thought of our absent comrade, making all sorts of surmises
regarding his disappearance, when, just as Frank was going after him, in he walked,
accompanied by a stranger whom he introduced as his uncle. This surprised us, as
we were ignorant of his having any relatives in the colonies. He then explained that
a younger brother of his father's had about eight years ago gone to South
Australia, and that never having heard of him for some years they had mourned
him as dead. After many adventures he had taken a fancy to the diggings, and had
just come from Melbourne with a dray full of goods. He went to Gregory's store to
dispose of them. Octavius had heard them in conversation together, and
had mistaken his uncle's for his father's voice. Hence the precipitation of his exit.
The uncle was a tall sunburnt man, who looked well-inured to hardship and fatigue.
He stayed and took breakfast with us, and then having satisfactorily arranged his
business with Gregory, and emptied his dray, he obligingly offered to convey Jessie
and myself to Melbourne in it. Accordingly after dinner we all started together.
Our new companion was a most agreeable person, and his knowledge of the
colonies was extensive. With anecdotes of the bush, the mines, and the town, he
made the journey pass most pleasantly. Before evening we reached the Golden
Point near Mount Alexander. This term of "Golden" has been applied to a great
many spots where the deposits have been richer than, usual. There was a Golden
Point at Ballarat, and when the report of the Alexander diggings drew the people
from there, they carried the name with them, and applied it to this portion of the
mount. To the left of the Point, which was still full of labourers, was the store of
Mr. Black, with the Union-Jack flying above it. It is a most noted store, and
at one time when certain delicacies were not to be had in Melbourne they were
comparatively cheap here.
We passed by this busy spot and encamped at sunset at the foot of Mount
Alexander. It was a lovely evening and our eyes were feasted by a Most glorious
sight. All the trees of the forest gradually faded away in the darkness, but beyond
them, and through them were glimpses of the granite-like walls of the mount,
brilliantly shining in and reflecting the last glowing rays of the setting sun. Some
of the gorgeous scenes of fairy-land seemed before us -- we could have imagined
that we were approaching by night some illuminated, some enchanted castle.
That evening we sat late round our fire listening to the history which the uncle of
Octavius related of some of his adventures in South Australia. The posts he had
filled formed a curious medley of occupations, and I almost forget the routine in
which they followed one another, but I will endeavour to relate his story as much
as possible in his own words.
"When I started from England, after having paid passage-money, &c., I found
myself with about £200 ready money in my purse--it was all I had to
expect, and I determined to be very careful of it; but by a young man of
five-and-twenty these resolutions, like lady's promises, are made to be broken.
When I landed in Adelaide with my money in my pocket--minus a few pounds I had
lost at whist and cribbage on board ship--I made my way to the best inn, where I
stayed some days, and ran up rather a longish bill. Then I wanted to see the
country, which I found impossible without a horse, so bought one, and rode about
to the various stations, where I was generally hospitably received, and thus
passed a few months very pleasantly, only my purse was running low. I sold the
horse, then my watch, and spent the money. When that was gone, I thought of the
letters of introduction I possessed. The first that came to hand was directed to a
Wesleyan minister. I called there, looking as sanctimonious as I could. He heard my
story, advised me to go to chapel regularly, 'And for your temporal wants,' said
he, 'the Lord will provide.' I thanked him, and bowed myself off.
"My first act was to burn my packet of introductory letters, my next was
to engage myself to a stock-holder at 15s. a week and my rations. He was going
up to his station at once, and I accompanied him. We travelled for about two
hundred miles through a most beautiful country before we reached his home. His
house was, in my ideas, a comical-looking affair -- made of split logs of wood, with
a bark roof, and a barrel stuck on the top of the roof at one end by way of a
chimney-pot. His wife, a pale sickly little woman, seemed pleased to see us, for
she had been much alarmed by the natives, who were rather numerous about the
neighbourhood. There was only a young lad, and an old shepherd and his wife upon
the station, besides herself. Before I had been there six weeks she died, and her
new-born little baby died too ; there was not a doctor for miles, and the
shepherd's wife was worse than useless. I believe this often happens in the
bush--it's not a place for woman-folks.
"I was here eighteen months--it was a wild sort of life, and just suited my fancy;
but when I found I had some money to receive, I thought a spree in town would be a
nice change, so off I marched. My spree lasted as long as my money, and
then I went as barman to a public-house at Clare, some way up the country--here I
got better wages and better board, and stopped about half-a-year. Then I turned
brewer's drayman, and delivered casks of good Australian ale about Adelaide for
30s. a week. The brewer failed, and I joined in a speculation with an apple dealer to
cart a lot up to the Kapunda copper mines. That paid well. I stopped up there as
overseer over four-and twenty bullock-drays. Well, winter came, and I had little to
do, though I drew my 30s. a week regularly enough, when the directors wanted a
contract for putting the small copper-dust into bags, and sewing them up. I
offered to do the job at 2d. a bag, and could get through a hundred and fifty a
day. How much is that? Oh! 12s. 6 d. a-piece. I forgot to tell you I'd a mate at the
work. That was good earnings in those days; and me and my mate, who was quite a
lad, were making a pretty penny, when some others offered to do them a
halfpenny a bag cheaper. I did the same, and we kept it to ourselves for about
four weeks longer, when a penny a bag was offered. There was competition for
you! This roused my bile--I threw it up altogether--and off to Adelaide
again. Soon spent all my cash, and went into a ship-chandler's office till they
failed; then was clerk to a butcher, and lost my situation for throwing a quarter of
his own mutton at him in a rage; and then I again turned brewer's man. Whilst
there I heard of the diggings--left the brewer and his casks to look after
themselves, and off on foot to Ballarat.
"Here I found the holes averaging some thirty feet--which was a style of hard
work I didn't quite admire; so hearing of the greater facility of the Alexander
diggings, I went through Bully Rook Forest, and tried my luck in the Jim Crow
Ranges. This paid well; and I. bought a dray, and bring up goods to the stores,
which I find easier work, and twice as profitable as digging. There's my story; and
little I thought when I went into Gregory's store to-day, that I should find my
curly-pated nephew ready to hear it."
Next day we travelled on, and halted near Saw-pit Gully; it was early in the
afternoon, and we took a walk about this most interesting locality. The earth was
torn up everywhere --a few lucky hits had sufficed to re-collect a good
many diggers there, and they were work ing vigorously. At dusk the labour
ceased--the men returned to their tents, and for the last time our ears were
assailed by the diggers' usual serenade. Imagine some hundreds of revolvers
almost instantaneously fired--the sound reverberating through the mighty
forests, and echoed far and near--again and again till the last faint echo died
away in the distance. Then a hundred blazing fires burst upon the sight--around
them gathered the rough miners themselves--their sun-burnt, hair-covered faces
illumined by the ruddy glare. Wild songs, and still wilder bursts of laughter are
heard; gradually the flames sink and disappear, and an oppressive stillness follows
(sleep rarely refuses to visit the diggers' lowly couch), broken only by some
midnight carouser, as he vainly endeavours to find his tent. No fear of a "peeler"
taking him off to a police-station, or of being brought before a magistrate next
morning, and "fined five shillings for being drunk."
Early on Tuesday morning I gave a parting look to the diggings--our dray went
slowly onwards--a slight turn in the road, and the last tent has vanished
from my sight. "Never," thought I, "shall I look on such a scene again!"
Chapter XII. Return to Melbourne.
BEFORE the evening of Wednesday the 20th, we passed through Kyneton, and
found ourselves in the little village of Carlshrue, where we passed the night. Here
is a police-station, a blacksmith's, a few stores and some cottages, in one of
which we obtained a comfortable supper and beds. A lovely view greeted us at
sunrise. Behind us were still towering the lofty ranges of Mount Alexander, before
us was Mount Macedon and the Black Forest. This mountain, which forms one of
what is called the Macedon range, is to be seen many miles distant, and on a clear,
sunny day, the purple sides of Mount Macedon, which stands aloof as it
were, from the range itself, are distinctly visible from the flag-staff at
We had intended to have stopped for the night in Kyneton, but the charges there
were so enormous that we preferred pushing on and taking our chance as to the
accommodation Carlshrue could afford, nor did we repent the so doing.
The following are the Kyneton prices. A meal or bed--both bad--4s; a night's
stabling, £1 10s per horse; hay at the rate of 9d. a pound; this is the most
exorbitant charge of all.
Hay was somewhere about £20 a ton in Melbourne. The carriage of it to Kyneton,
now that the fine weather was setting in, would not exceed £8 a ton at the
outside, which would come to £28. The purchaser, by selling it at Kyneton at the
rate of 9d. a pound, or £75 per ton, cleared a profit of £47--not quite 200 per
cent. If this is not fortune-making, I should like to know what is. It beats the
Next morning we looked our last at "sweet Carlshrue," and having crossed
the Five Mile Creek, camped for our mid-day meal beside the Black Forest. Here a
slight discussion arose, as to whether it would be more advisable to proceed on
our journey and camp in the Black Forest that night, or whether we should remain
where we were outside, and recommence our journey in good time the next
morning so as to get through this most uncomfortable portion of our travels in
one day. Frank and Octavius were for the latter plan, as the best and safest, but
the rest (thinking that, having once travelled through it without encountering any
thing resembling a bushranger, they might safely do so again) protested against
wasting time, and were for entering those dark shades without further delay. The
uncle of Octavius whom, in future, for the sake of convenience, I shall call Mr.
L----, was also of this mind, and as he was in some sort our leader during the
journey, his advice decided the matter. Danger to him was only a necessary
excitement. He was naturally fearless, and his merry laugh and gay joke at the
expense of the bushranger fearing party gradually dissipated the unaccountable
presentiment of danger which I for one had in no small degree experienced.
On we went, up hill and down dale, sometimes coming to a more open piece of
ground, but more generally threading our way amid a very maze of trees, with
trunks all black as the ground itself, whilst the dingy foliage and the few rays of
sunshine that lit up those dark, deep glades served only to heighten the
After walking for about six miles--I preferred that mode of getting along to the
joltings of the dray--we all felt disposed to rest ourselves. We selected a spot
where the trees were less thickly clustered, and taking the horses out of the
dray, tethered them by strong ropes to some trees near. The dray itself was
turned up, and a blanket thrown over the up-raised shafts formed a most
complete and cosy little tent.
A fire was next kindled, and a kettle full of water (with the tea in it!) was placed
on to boil, some home-made bread, brought from Carlshrue, was placed upon the
ground, and some chops were toasted on the ends of sticks, which are
usually the impromptu toasting-forks of the bush. The old tin plates and
pannicans, not quite so bright as once upon a time, but showing, despite sundry
bruises and scratches, that they had seen better days, were placed upon the
tea-table, which of course was the ground. Two or three knives and forks were on
general service, and wandered about from hand to hand as occasion required.
Altogether it was a merry, sociable party, and I think I enjoyed that supper better
than any I ever tasted before or since.
"Chacun ˆ son gout," many a one will say.
The pleasantest moments must come to an end, and so did these. After having
sat up later than usual, Jessie and I retired to our gipsy tent, leaving our guardian
diggers smoking round the fire. They meant to keep watches during the night to
prevent a surprise.
Friday.--We were comfortably seated at our breakfast, discussing a hundred
subjects besides the food before us, when a shrill "coo-ey" burst through the air;
"coo-ey"--"coo-ey" again and again, till the very trees seemed to echo back the
sound. We started to our feet, and, as if wondering what would come next,
looked blankly at each other, and again the "coo-ey," more energetic still, rang in
our ears. This is the call of the bush, it requires some little skill and practice, and
when given well can be heard a great way off. In such a place as the Black Forest
it could only proceed from some one who had lost their way, or be a signal of
distress from some party in absolute danger. We again looked from one to the
other--it bewildered us; and again the cry, only more plaintive than before, came
to us. Simultaneously they seized their pistols, and started in the direction
whence the sounds proceeded. They were all too true Englishmen to hear a
fellow-creature in peril and not hasten to their succour.
Jessie and myself could not remain behind alone--it was impossible; we followed at
a little distance, just keeping our comrades in sight. At last they came to a halt,
not knowing where to turn, and we joined them. Frank gave a "coo-ey," and in about
the space of a minute the words "help, help,--come, come," in scarcely, audible
sounds, answered to the call. We penetrated about thirty yards farther, and a few
low groans directed us to a spot more obscure, if possible, than the rest.
There, firmly bound to two trees close together, were two men. A thick cord was
passed round and round their bodies, arms, and legs, so as to leave no limb at
liberty. They seemed faint and exhausted at having called so long for help.
It was the work of a moment for our party to fling down their pistols, take out
knives and tomahawks, and commence the work of releasing them from their
bonds. But the cords were knotted and thick, and there seemed no little labour in
accomplishing it. They were also retarded by the small quantity of light, for, as I
said before, it was a dark and secluded spot. At length one man was released, and
so faint and exhausted was he, from the effects of whatever ill-usage he had
suffered, that, being a tall, powerfully made man, it required the united strength
of both Frank and Mr. L----to prevent his falling to the ground.
Jessie and myself were standing a little apart in the shade; we seemed as if
spell-bound by the incident, and incapable of rendering any assistance.
The second was soon set at liberty, and no sooner did he feel his hands and
feet free from the cords than he gave a loud, shrill "coo-ey."
A shriek burst from Jessie's lips as, immediately the cry was uttered, and before
any one could, recover from the bewilderment it occasioned, four well-armed men
sprang upon our startled party.
Taken thus at disadvantage, unarmed, their very knives flung down in their
eagerness to untwist the cords, they were soon overpowered. The wretch who had
been reclining in Frank's arms quickly found his feet, and, ere Frank could recover
from his surprise, one heavy blow flung him to the ground; whilst the other twined
his powerful arms round Mr. L----, and, after a short but sharp struggle, in which
he was assisted by a fellow-villain, succeeded in mastering him.
It was a fearful sight, and I can hardly describe my feelings as I witnessed it. My
brain seemed on fire, the trees appeared to reel around me, when a cold touch
acted as a sudden restorative, and almost forced a scream from my lips. It was
Jessie's hand, cold as marble, touching mine. We spoke together in a low
whisper, and both seemed inspired by the same thoughts, the same hope.
"I saw a little hill as we came here," said Jessie; "let's try and find it and look out
I instinctively followed her, and stealthily creeping along, we gained a small rise of
ground which commanded a more extended view than most places in the Black
Forest, and, but for the thickness of the trees, we could have seen our own
camping-place and the part where the ambuscade had been laid. From sounds of
the voices, we could tell that the ruffians were leading their prisoners to the spot
where we had passed the night, and the most fearful oaths and imprecations could
ever and anon be heard. with apprehension, for it was known that when in obtaining
the gold they expected, they vented thier rage in torturing their unfortunate
Meanwhile Jessie seemed listening intently. The time she had spent in the bush and
at the diggings had wonderfully refined her sense of hearing. Suddenly she gave a
shrill "coo-ey." The moment after a shot was fired in the direction of our
late camp. Jessie turned even paler, but recovering herself, "coo-ey" after
"coo-ey" made the echoes ring. I joined my feeble, efforts to hers; but she was
evidently well used to this peculiar call. On a fine still day, this cry will reach for
full three miles, and we counted upon this fact for obtaining some ssistance.
"Help is coming," said Jessie, in a low voice, and once more with increasing
strength she gave the call.
Footsteps approached nearer and nearer. I looked up, almost expecting to see
those villainous countenances again.
"Women in danger!" shouted a manly voice, and several stalwart figures bounded
to our side.
"Follow, follow!" cried Jessie, rushing forwards. I scarcely remember everything
that occurred, for I was dizzy with excess of pleasure. There was a short scuffle,
shots were fired at retreating bushrangers, and we saw our friends safe and free.
The whole, matter was then related to our preservers --for such they were --
and I then learnt that when the bushrangers had marched off our party to
the camping-place, they proceeded to overhaul their pockets, and then bound
them securely to some trees, whilst one stood ready with a pistol to shoot the
first that should call for help, and the others looked over the plunder. This was
little enough, for our travelling money, which was notes, was kept--strange
treasury--in the lining of the body of my dress, and here too were the gold
receipts from the Escort Office. Every night I took out about sufficient to defray
the day's expenses, and this was generally given into Frank's hands.
Enraged and disappointed, the villains used most frightful language, accompanied
by threats of violence; and the one on guard, irritated beyond his powers of
endurance, fired the pistol in the direction of William's head. At this moment
Jessie's first "coo-ey" was heard: this startled him, and the shot, from the aim of
the pistol being disarranged, left him unhurt.
"It's that d--d child," muttered one, with a few, additional oaths; "we'll wring her
neck when we've secured the plunder."
One of the ruffians now attempted more persuasive measures, and
addressing Mr. L----, whom I suppose he considered the leader, expended his
powers of persuasion much in the following manner.
"You sees, mate, we risks our lives to get your gold, and have it we will. Some
you've got somewhere or another, for you havn't none on you got no paper from
the Escort--you planted it last night, eh? Jist show us where, and you shan't be
touched at all, nor that little wretch yonder, what keeps screeching so; but if you
don't--" and here his natural ferocity mastered him, and he wound up with a volley
of curses, in the midst of which our rescuers rushed upon them.
When we came to talk the whole matter over calmly and quietly, no doubt was left
upon our minds, as to the premeditation of the whole affair. But for the watch
kept, the attack would most probably have been made during the night.
Our timely friends were a party of successful diggers returning, from work. They
too had passed the night in the Black Forest-- providently not very far from us.
They accepted our thanks in an off-hand sort of way, only replying--which
was certainly true--"that we would have done the same for them." It was in
endeavouring to assist assumed sufferers that our party fell into the ambuscade
laid for them.
They waited whilst we got the dray and horses ready, and we all journeyed on
together, till the Black Forest was far behind us. We saw no more of the
bushrangers, and encamped that night a few miles beyond the "Bush Inn." At this
inn we parted with our gallant friends. They were of the jovial sort, and having
plenty of gold, were determined on a spree. We never met them again.
On Saturday we travelled as far as the "Deep Creek Inn." Some distance before
reaching that place, we passed two rival coffee-shops on the road. We stopped at
the first, to know if they had any uncooked or cold meat to sell, for our provisions
were running low.
"Havn't none," said the woman, shaking her head. Then looking hard at William, and
judging from his good-humoured face, that he was a likely one to do what she
wanted, she said to him. "Now, Sir, I'm agoing to ax a favour of you, and that is to
go a little farther down the road, to the other coffee-tent, and buy for me
as much meat as they'll let you have. They's got plenty, and I've none; and they
knows I'll lose custom by it, so you'll not get it if they twigs (Anglic guesses) you
comes from me. You understand, Sir," and she put sovereign into his hand to pay
Laughing at the comicality of the request, and the thoroughly colonial coolness of
making it, William set off, and presently returned with nearly half a sheep hanging
over his shoulders, and a large joint in one hand.
"Bless me, what luck!" exclaimed the delighted woman, and loud and profuse were
her thanks. She wanted to cook us a good dinner off the meat gratis; but this we
steadily refused and purchasing enough for the present, we put our drays again
into motion, and a little while after kindled a fire, and were our own cooks as usual.
That night we camped beside the Deep Creek, about a mile from the "Deep Creek
Inn." The route we were now taking was different to the one we had travelled going
up--it was much more direct.
We remained all Sunday beside the creek, and the day passed quietly and
On Monday the 25th we were again in motion. We passed the well known inn of Tulip
Wright's. How great a change those few weeks had made! Winter had given place
to summer, for Australia knows no spring. We walked along the beautiful road to
Flemington, gave a look at the flagstaff and cemetery, turned into Great Bourke
Street, halted at the Post-office, found several letters, and finally stopped
opposite the "Duke of York Hotel," where we dined.
I shall leave myself most comfortably located here, whilst I devote a chapter or
two to other diggings.
Chapter XIII. Ballarat.
BALLARAT is situated about forty-five miles from Geelong, and seventy-five
nearly west of Melbourne. This was the first discovered goldfield of any extent in
Victoria, and was made known on the 8th of September, 1851. The rush from
Geelong was immense. Shops, stores, trades, all and everything was deserted; and
the press very truly declared that "Geelong was mad--stark, staring gold-mad."
During the month of September five hundred and thirty-two licences were taken
out; in the month following the number increased to two thousand two hundred and
The usual road to Ballarat is by the Adelaide overland route on the Gambier Road;
but the most preferable is per Geelong. The former route leads over the Keilor
Plains, and through Bacchus Marsh, crossing the Werribee River in two places.
Mount Buninyong then appears in sight of the well-pleased traveller, and Ballarat is
The route vi‰ Geelong is much quicker, as part of the way is generally performed
by steam at the rate of £1 a-piece. Those who wish to save their money go to
Geelong by land. After leaving Flemington, and passing the Benevolent Asylum, the
Deep Creek is crossed by means of a punt, and you then come to a dreary waste
of land, called Iett's Flat. Beyond is a steep rise and a barren plain, hardly fit to
graze sheep upon, and at about twenty miles from Melbourne you come to the
first halting house. Some narrow but rapid creeks must be got over, and for seven
miles further you wander along over a dreary sheep-run till stopped by the Broken
River, which derives its name partly from the nature of its rocky bed, and partly
from the native name which has a similar sound
This creek is the most steep, rapid, and dangerous on the road, having no bridge
and no properly defined crossing-place or ford, except the natural rocks about.
The bottom is of red sand-stone and rocks of the same description abut from the
sides of the creek, and appear to abound in the neighbourhood; and all along the
plains here, and there are large fragments of sand and lime-stone rocks. Two
hundred yards from the creek is a neat inn after the English style, with a large
sittingroom, a tap, a bar, and a coffee-room. The bed-rooms are so arranged as
to separate nobs from snobs--an arrangement rather inconsistent in a
democratic colony. The inn also affords good stabling and high charges. Up to this
distance on our road there is a scarcity of wood and springs of water.
We now pass two or three huts, and for twenty miles see nothing to please the
eye, for it is a dead, flat sheep-walk. About seven miles on the Melbourne side of
Geelong, the country assumes a more cheering appearance--homesteads,
gardens, and farms spring up--the roads improve, and the timber is plentiful and
large, consisting of shea-oaks, wattle, stringy bark, and peppermints. Many
of the houses are of a good size, and chiefly built of stone, some are of wood, and
very few of brick.
Geelong, which is divided into north and south, is bounded by the Barwin, a river
navigable from the bay to the town, and might be extended further; beautiful
valleys well wooded lie beyond. Between the two townships a park has been
reserved, though not yet enclosed; the timber in it, which is large--consisting
principally of white gum and stringy bark--is not allowed to be cut or injured.
There are sweveral good inns, a court-house, police-station, and corporation
offices. There is also a neat church in the early pointed style, with a parsonage
and schools in the Elizabethan; all are of dark lime-stone, having a very gloomy
appearance, the stones being unworked, except near the windows; the porches
alone slightly ornamented. The road and pavement are good in the chief streets;
there is a large square with a conduit, which is supplied by an engine from the
Barwin. The shops are large and well furnished, a great many housed are three
stories high, most are two, and very few one. The best part of town is about one
hundred feet above the river. A large timber bridge over the Ballarat road
was washed down last winter. The town is governed by a mayor and corporation.
There is a city and mounted police force, and a neat police-court. A large and good
race-course is situated about, three miles from the town.
As regards scenery, Geelong, is far superior to Melbourne, the streets are better,
and, so is the society of the place; none of the ruffian gangs and drunken mobs as
seen in Victoria's chief city. There are various, chapels, schools, markets, banks,
and a small gaol. The harbour is sheltered, but not safe for strangers, as the
shoals are numerous. Geelong is surrounded by little townships. Irish Town, Little
Scotland, and Little London are the principal and to show how completely the
diggings drained both towns and villages of their male inhabitants, I need only
mention that six days after the discovery of Ballarat, there was only one man left
in Little Scotland, and he was a cripple, compelled nolens volens to remain behind.
The road from Geelong to Ballarat is well marked out, so often has, it been
trodden; and there are some good inns on the way-side for the comfort of
travellers. On horseback you can go from the town to the diggings in six or eight
Ballarat is a barren place, the ground is interspersed with rocky fragments, the
creek is small, and good water is rather scarce. In summer it almost amounts to a
drought, and what there is then is generally brackish or stagnatic. It is necessary
never to drink stagnant water, or that found in holes, without boiling, unless there
are frogs in it, then the water is good; but the diggers usually boil the water, and a
drop of brandy, if they can get it. In passing through the plains you are sure of
finding water near the surface (or by seeking a few inches) wherever the tea tree
The chief object at the Ballarat diggings is the Commissioners' tent, which includes
the Post-office. There are good police quarters now. The old lock-up was rather of
the primitive order, being the stump of an old tree, to which the the prisoners
were attached by sundry chains, the handcuff being round one wrist and through a
link of the chain. I believe there is a tent for their accommodation. There
are several doctors about, who, as usual, drive a rare trade.
It is almost impossible to describe accurately the geological, features of the gold
diggings at Ballarat. Some of the surface-washing is good, and sometimes it is
only requisite to sink a few feet, perhaps only a few inches, before finding the
ochre-coloured earth (impregnated with mica and mixed with quartzy fragments),
which, when washed, pays exceedingly well. But more frequently a deep shaft has
to be sunk.
Of course the depth of the shafts varies considerably; some are sixty or even
eighty, and some are only ten feet deep. Sometimes after heavy rains, when the
surface soil has been washed from the sides of the hills, the mica layer is similarly
washed down to the valleys and lies on the original surface-soil. This constitutes
the true washing stuff of the diggings. Often when a man has--to use a digger's
phrase--"bottomed his hole," (that is, cut through the rocky strata, and arrived
at the gold layer), he will find stray indications, but nothing remunerative, and
perchance the very next hole may be the most profitable on the diggings. Whether
there is any geological rule to be guided by has yet to be proved, at present
no old digger will ever sink below the mica soil, or leave his hole until be arrives at
it, even if he sinks to forty feet. So, therefore, it may be taken as a general rule,
wherever the diggings may be, either in Victoria, New South Wales, or South
Australia, that gold in "working" quantities lies only where there is found quartz or
Ballarat has had the honour of producing largest masses of gold yet discovered.
These masses were all excavated from one part diggings, known as Canadian Gully,
and were taken out of a bed of quartz, at the depths of from fifty to sixty-five
feet below the surface.The deep indentures of the nuggets were filled with the
quartz. The largest of these masses weighed one hundred and thirty-four pounds,
of which it was calculated that fully one hundred and twenty-six pounds consisted
of solid gold!
About seven miles to the north of Ballarat, some new diggings called the Eureka
have been discovered, where it appears that, although there are no immense
prizes, there are few blanks, and every one, doing well!
In describing the road from Melbourne to Geelong, I have made mention of
the Broken River. A few weeks after my arrival in the colonies this river was the
scene of a sad tragedy.
I give the tale, much in the same words as it was given to me, because it was one
out of many somewhat similar, and may serve to show the state of morality in
The names of the parties are, of course, entirely fictitious.
Prettiest among the pretty girls that stood upon the deck as the anchor of the
Government immigrant ship 'Downshire' into Hobson's Bay, in August, 1851, was
Mary H----, the heroine of my story. No regret mingled with the satisfaction that
beamed from her large dark eyes, as their gaze fell on the shores of her new
country, for her orphan brother, the only relative she had left in their own dear
Emerald Isle, was even then preparing to follow her. Nor could she feel sad and
lonely whilst the rich Irish brogue, from a subdued but manly and well-loved voice.
fell softly on her ear, and the I gentle pressure of her hand continually
reminded her that she was not alone.
Shipboard is a rare place for match-making, and, somehow or another, Henry
Stephens had contrived to steal away the heart of the 'Downshire' belle. Prudence,
however, compelled our young people to postpone their marriage, and whilst the
good housewife qualities of the one readily procured her a situation in a highly
respectable family in Melbourne, Henry obtained an appointment in the police force
of the same town.
Their united savings soon mounted up, and in a few months the banns were
published, and Christmas-Day fixed on for the wedding. Mary, at her lover's
express desire, quitted her mistress's family to reside with a widow, a distant
relative of his own, from whose house she was to be married. Delightful to the
young people was this short period of leisure and uninterrupted intercourse, for
the gold mania was now beginning to tell upon the excited imaginations of all, and
Henry had already thrown up his situation; and it was settled their wedding trip
should be to the golden gullies round Mount Buninyong.
And now let me hasten over this portion of my narrative. It is sad to dwell upon
the history of human frailty, or to relate the oft-told tale of passion and villainy
triumphant over virtue. A few days before Christmas, when the marriage
ceremony was to be performed, they unfortunately spent one evening together
alone, and he left her--ruined. Repentance followed sin, and the intervening time
was passed by Mary in a state of the greatest mental anguish. With what
trembling eagerness did she now look forward to the day which should make her
his lawful wife.
It arrived. Mary and the friends of both stood beside the altar, whilst he, who
should have been there to redeem his pledge and save his victim from open ruin
and disgrace, was far away on the road to Ballarat.
To describe her agony would be impossible. Day after day, week after week, and no
tidings from him came; conscience too acutely accounting to her for his
faithlessness. Then the horrible truth forced itself upon her, that its
consequences would soon too plainly declare her sin before the world; that upon
her innocent offspring would fall a portion of its mother's shame.
Thus six months stole sorrowfully away, and as yet none had even conjectured the
deep cause she had for misery. Her brother's non-arrival was also an unceasing
source of anxiety, and almost daily might she have been seen at the Melbourne
Post-office, each time to return more disappointed than before. At length the
oft-repeated inquiry was answered in the affirmative, and eagerly she tore open
the longanticipated letter. It told her of an unexpected sum of money that had
come into his hands--to them a small fortune--which had detained him in Ireland.
This was read and almost immediately forgotten, as she learnt that he was
arrived in Melbourne, and that only a few streets now separated them.
She raised her face, flushed and radiant with joyful excitement--her eyes fell upon
him who had so cruelly injured her. The scream that burst from her lips brought
him involuntarily to her side. What will not a woman forgive where once her heart
has been touched--in the double joy of the moment the past was almost
forgotten--together they re-read the welcome letter, and again he wooed her for
his bride. She consented, and he himself led her to her brother, confessed
their mutual fault, and second preparations for an immediate marriage were
Once more at the altar of St. Peter's stood the bridal party, and again at the
appointed hour Stephens was far gone on his second expedition to the diggings,
after having increased (if that was possible) his previous villainy, by borrowing a
large portion of the money before mentioned from his intended brother-in-law. It
was pretty evident that the prospect of doing this had influenced him in his
apparently honourable desire to atone to the poor girl, who, completely prostrated
by this second blow, was laid on the bed of sickness.
For some weeks she continued thus and her own sufferings were increased by he
sight of her brother's fury, as, on her partial recovery, he quitted her in search of
During his absence Mary became a mother, and the little one that nestled in her
bosom, made her half forgetful of her sorrows, and at times ready to embrace
the delusive hope that some slight happiness in life was in store for her. But her
bitter cup was not yet drained. Day by day, hour by hour, her little one pined
away, until one dreary night she held within her arms only its tiny corpse.
Not one sound of grief--not an outward sign to show how deeply the heart was
touched--escaped her. The busy neighbours left her for awhile, glad though
amazed at her wondrous calmness; when they returned to finish their
preparations for committing the child to its last resting-place, the mother and her
infant had disappeared.
Carrying the lifeless burden closely pressed against her bosom, as though the
pelting rain and chilling air could harm it now, Mary rapidly left the town where she
had experienced so much misery, on--on--towards Geelong, the route her seducer
and his pursuer had taken--on--across lett's Flat, until at length, weak and
exhausted, she sank down on the barren plains beyond.
Next morning the early dawn found her still plodding her weary way--her only
refreshment being a dry crust and some water obtained at an halting-house on the
road; and many a passer-by, attracted by the wildness of her eyes, her eager
manner, and disordered dress, cast after her a curious wondering look. But
she heeded them not--on--on she pursued her course towards the Broken River.
Here she paused. The heavy winter rains had swollen the waters, which swept
along, dashing over the irregular pieces of rock that formed the only means of
crossing over. But danger was as nothing to her now--the first few steps were
taken--the rapid stream was rushing wildly round her--a sensation, of giddiness
and exhaustion made her limbs tremble her footing slipped on the wet and slimy
stone--in another moment the ruthless waters carried her away.
The morrow came, and the sun shone brightly upon the still swollen and rapid river.
Two men stood beside it, both too annoyed at this impediment to their return to
Melbourne to be in the slightest degree aware of their proximity to one. another. A
bonnet caught by a projecting fragment of rock simultaneously attracted their
attention: both moved towards the spot, and thus brought into closer contact
they recognized each other. Deadly foes though they were, not a word passed
between them, and silently they dragged the body of the unhappy girl to
land. In her cold and tightened grasp still lay the child. As they stood gazing on
those injured ones, within one breast remorse and shame, in the other, hatred and
revenge, were raging violently.
Each step on the road to Ballarat had increased her brother's desire for
vengeance, and still further was this heightened on discovering that Stephens had
already left the diggings to return to town. This disappointment maddened him; his
whole energy was flung into tracing his foe, and in this he had succeeded so
closely, that unknown to either, both had slept beneath the same roof at the inn
beside the Broken River.
The voices of some of the loungers there, who were coming down to the Creek to
see what mischief had been done during the night, aroused him. He glanced upon
his enemy, who pale and trembling, stood gazing on the wreck that he had made.
Revenge at last was in his hands--not a moment was to be lost--with the yell of a
maniac he sprang upon the powerless and conscious-stricken man--seized him in
his arms rushed to the river--and ere any could interpose, both had found
a grave where but a few minutes before the bodies of Mary and her infant had
Chapter XIV. New South Wales.
About seventy years ago a small colony of convicts first made the forests ring
with the blows of the axe, and a few tents were erected where Sydney now
stands. The tents, and they who dwelt beneath them, have long since disappeared,
and instead we have one of the finest cities that our colonial empire ever
The streets in Sydney are, as in Melbourne, are built at right angles with one
another; they macadamized, well lighted with gas, and perambulated by a number
of policemen during the night. Some of the shops almost rival those of
London, and the public buildings are good and numerous. There is a custom-house,
a treasury, police-office, college, benevolent asylum, banks, barracks, hospitals,
libraries, churches, chapels, a synagogue, museum, club-house, theatre, and many
splendid hotels, of which the largest is, I think the "Royal Hotel," in George Street,
built at the cost of £30,000.
Hyde Park is close at hand, with un-numbered public walks, and a botanical garden,
the favourite resort of all classes.
In the neighbourhood of Sydney are some good oyster-beds, and many are the
pic-nics got up for the purpose of visiting them. The oysters cling to the rocks,
and great numbers are easily obtained.
The distance from Sydney to Melbourne, by the overland road, is about six hundred
miles; but the steamers, which are constantly plying, afford a more comfortable
mode of transit.
The gold diggings of New South Wales are so well known as to require but a
cursory notice. The first official notification of the fact of gold having been
discovered bears date, May 22, 1851, and is contained in a despatch from the
Governor to Earl Grey. In it he announced the existence of a gold field to the
westward of Bathurst, about one hundred and fifty miles from Sydney. At the
same time, he added his supposition that the gold sent for inspection was
Mr Stutchbury, the geological surveyor, quickly undeceived his Excellency. He
wrote from Hill Creek reporting that four hundred persons were hard at work, and
that the gold existed not only in the creek but beyond it. The following postscript
was added to his letter: "Excuse this being written in pencil, as there is no ink in
this city of Ophir." And this appropriate name has ever since been retained.
The natural consequences of this discovery was the flocking of hundreds of the
inhabitants of Sydney to Bathurst. Sober people began to be alarmed at this
complete bouleversement of business and tranquillity. For the sake of
order the Governor attempted to put a stop to the increasing desertion of the
capital by proclaiming that the gold-fields were the prerogative of the Crown, and
threatening gold-diggers with prosecution. It was all in vain. The glitterings of the
precious metal were more attractive than the threats of the Governor were
otherwise. The people laughed good-humoured at the proclamation, and only
flocked in greater numbers to the auriferous spot.
Government now took a wiser course, and finding it impossible to stem the
torrent, determined to turn the eagerness of the multitude to some account. A
licence-fee of 30s., or half an ounce of gold, per month was imposed, which, with
few exceptions, has always been cheerfully paid.
The Turon diggings soon followed those of Bathurst. This river flows into the
Macquarie after a course of a hundred miles. Along the entire length auriferous
discoveries are constantly being made, and it bids fair to last for many to
come. The gold is not found, as many erroneously suppose, so much among the
sand as by digging in the soil. It also exists in paying quantities on the shores and
in the rive flows of the Macquarie, the Abercrombie, and Belubula rivers. Major's
Creek, too, is a favourite locality, and was first made known by prospecting
According to Mr. Stutchbury's report, he found gold almost wherever he tried
for it, and whilst traversing the Macquarie from Walgumballa to the Turon, he
found it at every place he tried. Surely Midas must, once upon a time have taken
a pleasure-trip to Australia!
The delirium of the Sydney gold-fever reached its height when it became publicly
known that a piece of one hundred and six pounds weight had been disembowelled
from the earth, at one time. This immense quantity was the discovery of a native,
who, being excited by the universal theme of conversation, provided himself with a
tomahawk, and explored the country adjacent to his employer's land. He
was attracted by a glittering yellow substance on the surface of a block of
quartz. With his tomahawk he broke off a piece, which he carried home to his
master, Dr. Kerr, of Wallawa. Not being able to move the mass conveniently, Dr.
Kerr broke it into small fragments. The place where it was found is at the
commencement of an undulating table-land, very fertile, and near to a
never-failing supply of water in the Murroo Creek. It is distant about fifty miles
from Bathurst, thirty from Wellington, and twenty from the nearest point of the
Dr. Kerr presented the native and his brother with two flocks of sheep, two
saddle-horses, a quantity of rations, a team of bullocks, and some land.
About twenty yards from the spot where this mass was found, a piece of gold
called the "Brennan Nugget" was soon after discovered. It weighed three hundred
and thirty-six ounces, and was sold in Sydney for more than £1100.
But it would be useless to enter into fuller particulars of the diggings of New
South Wales. Panoramas, newspapers, and serials have made them familiar to all.
Chapter XV. South Australia.
ADELAIDE, the capital of South Australia, was the last formed of the three sister
colonies. In 1834 an act of colonization was obtained; and land, both in town and
country, sold rapidly. The colonists, however, were most unfortunately more
engaged in speculating with the land, than grazing upon or tilling it; and the
consequence was, that in a few years the South Australians were only saved from
a famine by the unexpected arrival overland of herds and flocks from Victoria. As
it was, horses and cows of a very indifferent kind were sold for more than
a hundred pounds a-piece, and sheep for five pounds a head.
The discovery of the copper mines alone. saved the country from ruin. The first
was the Kapunda. It was accidentally discovered by a shepherd, who picked up a
piece on the surface of the ground, and showed it to his master. Pieces of copper
ore may even now be found in the same way.
Next followed the far-famed Burra-Burra. In the latter mine there is a great
quantity of malachite, which, when smelted, gives copper at an average of
eighty-five per cent.
South Australia possesses the finest river in Australia--namely, the Murray, on
which steamers will soon ply as far as five hundred miles up the country. On either
side of this river is a thick and dry scrub--sometimes ten, sometimes thirty miles
wide. In this scrub, manna is not unfrequently found, to the great delight of the
natives, who are very fond of it. It is of a very excellent description, and in colour
has a slight tendency to pink.
Adelaide itself is a well-laid out town. The streets are built in the same manner as
in Sydney and Melbourne; but those in Adelaide are much wider. Many of the
buildings and warehouses are highly creditable, particularly when we take the
juvenile age of the colony into consideration.
Adelaide has never yet been "a transportation colony," and the society there is
usually considered more recherchŽ than in any other city in Australia. The climate
is very good, and the vine flourishes as in the south of France. The principal
export of South Australia is copper, to which may be added some wool and tallow.
The roads about are excellent, and the small farms in the neighbourhood are more
in the English style than one could expect to meet with so many thousand miles
away from home.
The overland route from Adelaide to Melbourne is about four hundred miles in
length. In summer the road is pretty good, but in winter, a lake or swamp of
twenty miles extent has to be waded through.
The scrub about South Australia is very thick, and any one may easily lose
themselves in it. This has in fact often been the case, and a fearful instance of it
occurred some few years ago. A young lady--the daughter of a gentleman residing
near Adelaide--started out one Sunday afternoon with a book as her companion.
Evening came, and she did not return, which alarmed her family, and search was
made far and near--but in vain. On the fourth day, they at length discovered her
lying dead at the foot of a tree. The pages of her book were covered with
sentences, pricked in with a pin, expressive of her sufferings and of her unavailing
efforts to retrace her steps. She was only three miles from her father's house
when she sank down to die of hunger, thirst, and exhaustion; and probably during
the whole time of her wanderings had never exceeded that distance from her
The Adelaide gold-diggings began to excite attention in the months of August and
September, 1852. In October the following report was made:
"Camp, Echunga, Gold-Fields,
"October 2, 1852.
"I have the honour to state for the information of his Excellency the
Lieutenant-Governor, that since my last report sixty licences have been issued,
making a total of three hundred and fifty-six. * * * * Many families of
respectability have arrived, and are now living in comfortable and commodious
tents. The presence of well-dressed women and children gives to the gold-fields,
apparently distinguished for decorum, security and respectability.
"From the feeling of greater security and comfort, combined with cheapness of
living, all classes of diggers are unanimous in their preference of this place to
Victoria. * * * *
"The nugget of gold which I have forwarded for his Excellency's inspection,
weighing about an ounce and a half, was found about seven feet below the
surface.* * * *
"There are some few amongst the lately arrived who expressed dissatisfaction
with the result of their labours and observations, while others, who have
been working for the last month, have promptly renewed their expired licences.
"A. J. MURRAY, "Assistant Gold Commissioner. The Hon. the Colonial Secretary."
In the month of October several pieces of gold, weighing each half an ounce and
upwards, were found, and a few of the holes that had been abandoned by
inexperienced hands, when taken possession of by old diggers on the Turon or the
Bendigo, were found to contain good washing stuff. The diggings were well supplied
with food of every kind; and during the summer months there could be no lack of
fruits and vegetables in abundance, at reasonable prices, supplied from the
numerous and well-cultivated farms and gardens around. This is certainly an
advantage over the diggings, of Victoria or New South Wales, if gold really does
exist in paying quantities; if not, all the fruit and vegetables in the world
would not keep the diggers at Echunga.
The following "Lament" was circulated in Adelaide, but not one of the newspapers
there would print it. They were all too anxious for the success of their diggings, to
countenance any grumblers against them:
A LAMENT FOR MY THIRTY SHILLINGS,
DEDICATED TO THE ECHUNGA VICTIMS,
MY one pound ten! my one pound ten!
I paid as Licence Fee;
Ah! cruel Bonney! pray return,
That one pound ten to me.
When to Echunga diggings first
I hastened up from town,
Thy tent I sought with anxious care
And paid the money down.
And though my folly ever since
I bitterly deplore,
It soothes my mind to know there were
Three scores of fools before.
Then, Bouncy, listen to my lay,
And if you wish to thrive,
Send back the money quick to me,
To number sixty-five.
Who wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long,
Had better to Echunga go,
And not to Mount Coorong.
But as for me I like a swag,
At least a little more
Than what we got there in a week--
Eight pennyweights 'mongst four.
For that, of surface earth we washed
Of dray loads half a score;
I'll swear that cradling never seemed
Such tedious work before.
To sink for gold we then commenced,
With grief I must confess,
'Twas fruitless toil, although we went
Down thirty feet or less.
All you who've paid your one pound ten,
Are on your licence told
That then you are entitled to
Remove alluvial gold.
But if the alluvial gold's not there
I'd like to have it proved
By what ingenious process it
Can ever be removed?
Then back to Bendigo I'll haste,
To seek the precious ore;
Although my one pound ten I fear
Returns to me no more.
Yet as the boundary line I cross,
My parting prayer shall be--
Ah! cruel Bonney! pray return
My one pound ten to me!
Adelaide, September 1852.
With a short extract from the "South Australian Register" of February 7, 1853, I
shall conclude my remarks on the Adelaide diggings.
"The Gold Fields.--Although there is at the diggings everything to indicate gold in
large quantities, none have succeeded in realizing their hopes. The majority
content themselves with what they can get on Chapman's Hill and Gully, knowing
that, if a fresh place is discovered, they will stand as good a chance as
those who have spent months in trying to find better ground.
"The quantity of gold taken to the Assay-office, during four consecutive weeks,
amounting to less than four thousand ounces, the Governor has proclaimed that
after the 17th of February the office will be closed."
Chapter XVI. Melbourne Again.
IT was on Monday the 25th of October, that for the second time I entered
Melbourne. Not many weeks had elapsed since I had quitted it for my adventurous
trip to the diggings, yet in that short space of time how many changes had taken
place. The cloudy sky was exchanged for a brilliant sunshine, the chilling air for a
truly tropical heat, the drizzling rain for clouds of thick cutting dust, sometimes
as thick as a London fog, which penetrated the most substantial veil, and made
our skins smart terribly. The streets too had undergone a wondrous
transformation. Collins Street looked quite bright and cheerful, and was the
fashionable promenade of those who had time or inclination for lounging. Parties
of diggers were constantly starting or arriving, trips to St. Kilda and Brighton
were daily taking place; and a coach was advertised to run to the diggings! I cannot
quite realize the terrified passengers being driven through the Black Forest, but
can picture their horror when ordered to "bail up" by a party of Australian Turpins.
In every window--milliners, baby-linen warehouses, &c., included--was exhibited
the usual advertisement of the gold buyer--namely, a heap of gold in the centre,
on one side a pile of sovereigns, on the other bank-notes. The most significant
advertisement was one I saw in a window in Collins Street. In the middle was a skull
perforated by a bullet, which lay at a little distance as if coolly examining or
speculating on the mischief it had done. On one aide of the skull was a revolver,
and on the other a quautity of nuggets. Above all, was the emphatic inscription,
"Beware in time." This rather uncomfortable-looking tableau signified--in as
speaking a manner as symbols can-- that the unfortunate skull had once belonged
to some more unfortunate lucky digger, who not having had the sense to sell his
gold to the proprietor of this attractive window had kept his nuggets in his pocket,
thereby tempting some robbers--significantly personified by the revolver-- to
shoot him, and steal the gold. Nowhere could you turn your eye without meeting
"30,000 oz. wanted immediately; highest price given."10,000 oz. want to consign
per----; extra price given to immediate sellers," &c. Outwardly it seemed a city of
gold, yet hundreds were half perishing for want of food, with no place of shelter
beneath which to lay their heads. Many families of freshly-arrived
emigrants--wife, children, and all--slept out in the open air; infants were born
upon the wharves with no helping hand near to support the wretched mother in her
How greatly the last few weeks had enlarged Melbourne. Cities of tents
encompassed it on all sides; though, as I said before, the trifling comfort
of a canvas roof above them, was denied to the poorest of the poor, unless a
weekly tax were paid!
But I must return to ourselves. Our first business the next morning was to find
for our little Jessie some permanent home; for all our movements were so
uncertain--I myself, thinking of a return to the old country--that it was
considered advisable to obtain for her some better friends than a set of volatile,
though good-hearted young fellows--not the most suitable protection for a young
girl, even in so lax a place as the colonies. We never thought of letting her return
to England, for there the life of a female, who has her own livelihood to earn, is
one of badly-paid labour, entailing constant privation, and often great misery--if
not worse. I have before said that William had relatives in Melbourne, and to them
we determined to entrust her. Mrs. R---- was a kind-hearted and most exemplary
woman; and having a very young family of her own, was well pleased at such an
acquisition as the thoughtful, industrious little Jessie. Each of our party
contributed a small portion of their golden earnings to form a fund for a future
day, which I doubt not will be increased by our little friend's industry, long before
she needs it. Here let us leave her, trusting that her future life may be as happy
as her many excellent qualities deserve, and hoping that her severest trials have
already passed over her.
Our next care was to obtain our gold from the Escort-office; to do which the
receipts given in Bendigo had to be handed in, and after very little delay the
precious packets were restored to their respective owners. The following is a
facsimile of the tickets, printed on parchment, attached to each parcel of which a
duplicate, printed on common paper, is given to the depositor:
Date, 8th of October, 1852.
Name, Mr. A----.
Quantity,'60 oz. 10 dwts.
Consigned to, Self.
The trifling charge for all this trouble and responsibility is sixpence an ounce.
The business satisfactorily arranged, the next was to dispose of it. Some was
converted into money, and sold for 69s. an ounce; and the remainder was
consigned to England, where, being very pure and above standard, it realized £4 an
ounce. A great difference that!
We next paid Richard a visit, who, though surprised was well pleased to see us
again. He declared his resolution of returning to England as soon as possible. Our
party fixed their journey to the Ovens to take place in three weeks. William
determined to remain in town, which I think showed wisdom on his part as his
health was not equal to roughing it in the bush; and this was a much more
formidable trip than the last, on account of length, and being much less
Meanwhile we enjoyed the fine weather, and our present companionship, as much
as possible, while taking Iittle trips here, there, and everywhere. The one I
most enjoyed was a sail in the Bay. The captain of the vessel in which we left
England, was still detained in Port Philip for want of hands--the case of
hundreds--and offered to give us a sail, and a dinner on board afterwards. We
soon made up a large party, and enjoyed it exceedingly. The day was lovely. We
walked down to Liardet's Beach, a distance of nearly three miles, and were soon
calmly, skimming over the waters. We passed St. Kilda and Brighton, and gained an
excellent view of the innumerable vessels then lying useless and half-deserted in
It was a sad though a pretty sight. There were fine East Indiamen, emigrant ships,
American clippers, steamers, traders -- foreign and English -- whalers, &c.,
waiting there only through want of seamen.
In the cool of the evening our gallant host rowed us back to the beach. Since our
first landing, tents and stores had been erected in great numbers, and Little
Adelaide was grown wonderfully. I think I have never mentioned the quantity of
frogs that abound in Australia. This particular evening I remarked them
more than usual, and without the least exaggeration their croaking resembled a
number of mills in motion. I know nothing to which I can more appropriately liken
the noise that resounded along the swampy portions of the road, from the beach
Much has been said of the climate of Australia, and many are the conflicting
statements thereon. The following table contains all the information--personal
and otherwise--which I have been enabled to collect.
January and February.--Generally the hottest months; average of the
thermometer, 78 in the shade; thunder-storms and colonial showers of rain
occasionally visit us.
March.--Fine genial weather; average temperature, 73 in the shade.
April.--Weather more uncertain; mosquitos depart; average temperature, 70 in
May.--Fine, till towards the latter part of the month, when sometimes the rainy
season commences; average temperature in the shade, 64.
June.--Rainy, and much cooler; temperature at an average of 58 in the shade.
July.--Coldest month in the year; midwinter in the colonies; average temperature,
53. Ice and snow may be seen inland.
August.--Very rainy. Average temperature, 58 in the shade.
September.--Windy stormy month; weather getting warmer. Average
temperature, 63 in the shade.
October--The presence of the mosquito, a sure proof that the weather is
permanently warm. Average temperature in the shade, 66.
November and December.--Tropically warm. Locusts, mosquitos, and
unnumbered creeping things swarm both in bush and town. Towards the end of
December the creeks commence to dry up, and the earth looks parched for want
of rain. No yule-log needed on Christmas Day. Thermometer as high as 97 in the
shade; average 75.
The principal trees in Australia are the gum, stringy bark, manna tree, wild cherry
(so called), iron bark, shea oak, peppermint, acacia, and the mimosa, which
last, however, should more properly be called a shrub. These and others, like the
Indian maleleucas, are remarkable for the Cajeput oil contained in their leaves, and
in the gums which exude from their sterns, and in this point of view alone,
considering their boundless number, their value can hardly be over estimated. The
gum of some of the acacias will bear comparison with gum-arabic. Their bark and
timber are likewise useful, and when the gold fever has subsided, will become
valuable as exports.
Wild flowers there are in abundance, and some exquisite specimens of ferns. For
the benefit of those better skilled in botany than myself, I give the following list of
Dr. MŸller's indigenous plants of Victoria. Correaochrolenca and Phebalium
Asteriscophorum, both with the medical properties of the Bucco-bush, Eurybia
Rhodochaeta, E. Rugosa, E. Adenophylla, E. Asterotristia, Sambucus,
Gaudichaudiana, Prostanthera Hirsuta, Pimelea axiflora (powerful Surrogat
of the Mezerion shrub), Bossidea decumbcus, Asterotristia asperifolia, Patersonia
aspera, Grevilliea repens, Dallachiana, &c.
The geranium, fuschia, rhododendrum, and almost all varieties of the Cacti have
been taken to the colonies, and flourish well in the open air all the year round,
growing much more luxuriantly than in England.
The vineyards must some day form a considerable source of employment and
profit to the colonists. The wine made in Australia is very good. The vines are
cultivated in the same manner as in France. In the neighbourhood of Sydney,
oranges and peaches are grown out in the open air. Apples and other fruits
flourish well in Van Diemen's Land. All these fruits are not indigenous to Australia.
The only articles of food natural there, are the kangaroos, emus, opossums, and
other denizens of the forest, a few snakes, some roots, and a worm, about the
length and thickness of a finger, which is abundant in all parts of the colony, and is
taken out of the cavities, or from under the bark, of the trees. It is a great
favourite with the blacks, as it can be procured when no other food is
I have before made mention of the bush and scrub; there is a great dissimilarity
between the two. The former resembles a forest, with none or very little
underwood. The scrub, on the contrary, is always underwood, of from six to
twenty feet high, and only here and there a few trees are seen. To be lost in
either bush or scrub is a common thing. If on horseback the best way is to give
the rein to your four-footed companion, and instinct will most probably enable him
to extricate you. If on foot, ascend, if possible, a rise of ground, and notice any
fall in the country; here, most likely, is a creek, and once beside that, you are
pretty sure of coming to a station. If this fails, you must just bush it for the
night, and resume your search next morning, trusting to an occasional "coo-ey" to
help you out of your difficulty.
The scenery of Australia partakes of all characters. Sometimes miles of swamp
reminds one of the Lincolnshire fens; at other times it assumes quite a park-like
appearance, though the effect is greatly injured by the want of freshness
about the foliage, which always looks of a dirty, dingy green. The native trees in
Australia never shed their leaves, never have that exquisite young tint which
makes an English spring in the country so delicious. Their faded look always
reminded me of those unfortunate trees imprisoned for so many months beneath
the Crystal Palace.
The mountains in Australia are high and bold in outline, and the snow-capped Alps
on the boundaries of New South Wales are not unlike their European namesakes,
the highest tops are from six to seven thousand feet above the level of the sea.
The country round Ballarat is more in the North American style, and when the
creek is full, it is a fine sight, greatly resembling, I have beard, one of the smaller
rivers in Canada; in fact, the scenery round Ballarat is said to approach more to
Upper Canada than any in the colony. The rocks, although not high, are in places
very bold and romantic, and in the wet season there are several water-falls in the
Eels are very plentiful in Victoria, and are peculiar to this district, being seldom, if
ever, found in any other part of the known continent. Old writers on Australia
have stated that eels are unknown in this part of the world, which, since this
colony has been settled in, has been found to be erroneous, as the Barwin, the
Yarra Yarra, and their tributaries abound with them, some weighing five or six
pounds. A few days after our return from the diggings, we breakfasted off a dish
of stewed eels, caught by a friend; the smallest weighed about a pound and a half,
the largest about three pounds. They were caught three miles from Melbourne, in
the Salt Water Creek.
A small kind of fish like the lamprey, another similar to the gudgeon, and also one
(of rather a larger kind--the size of the roach) called here "white herrings," but
not at all resembling that fish, are found. Pike are also very numerous. Crabs and
lobsters are not known here, but in the salt creeks near the sea we have
Of course, parrots, cockatoos and "sich-like," abound in the bush, to the
horror of the small gardeners and cultivators, as what they do not eat they ruin
by destroying the young shoots.
Kangaroos are extremely numerous in the scrub. They are the size of a large
greyhound, and of a mouse colour. The natives call them "kanguru." The tail is of
great strength. There are several varieties of them. The largest is the Great
Kangaroo, of a greyish-brown colour, generally four or five feet high and the tail
three. Some kangaroos are nearly white, others resemble the hare in colour. Pugs,
or young kangaroos, are plentiful about the marshy grounds; so are also the
opossum and kangaroo rat. The latter is not a rat, properly speaking, but
approaches the squirrel tribe. It is a lilliputian kangaroo, the size of our native
wood squirrel and larger, only grey or reddish-grey. It can leap six or eight feet
easily, and is excellent eating. The native dog is of all colours; it has the, head and
brush of a fox, with the body a legs of a dog. It is a cowardly animal, and will run
away from you like mad. It is a great enemy of the kangaroo rat, and a
torment to the squatter, for a native dog has a great penchant for mutton and
will kill thirty or forty sheep in the course of an hour.
A species of mocking-bird which inhabits the bush is a ludicrous creature. It
imitates everything, and makes many a camping party imagine there is a man near
them, when they hear its whistle or hearty laugh. This bird is nicknamed the
"Jackass," and its loud "ha! ha! ha!" is heard every morning at dawn echoing
through the woods and serving the purpose of a "boots" by calling the sleepy
traveller in good time to get his breakfast and pursue his journey. The bats here
are very large.
Insects, fleas, &c., are as plentiful as it is possible to be, and the ants, of which
there are several kinds, are a perfect nuisance. The largest are called by the old
colonists, "bull-dogs," and formidable creatures they are-- luckily not very
common, about an inch and a half long, black, or rusty-black, with a red tail.
They bite like a little crab. Ants of an inch long are quite common. They do not like
the English ones--run scared away at the sight of a human being--not a bit of it;
Australian ants have more pluck, and will turn and face you. Nay, more, should
you retreat, they will run after you with all the impudence imaginable. Often when
my organ of destructiveness has tempted me slightly to disturb with the end of
my parasol one of the many ant-hills on the way from Melbourne to Richmond, I
have been obliged, as soon as they discovered the perpetrator of the attack, to
take to my heels and run away as if for my life.
Centipedes and triantelopes (colonial, for tarantula) are very common, and though
not exactly fatal, are very dangerous if not attended to. The deaf adder is the
most formidable "varmint" in Australia. There are two varieties; it is generally
about two feet long. The bite is fatal. The deaf adder never moves unless it is
touched, hence its name. I do not think it has the power of twisting or twirling,
like the ordinary snake or adder and it is very slow in its movements. There
are several species of snakes, some of them are extremely venomous and grow to
a large size, as long as ten feet. The black snake is the most venomous of any; its
bite is fatal within a few hours.
But let us leave these wilder subjects and return to Melbourne.
The state of society in the town had not much improved during my absence. On
the public road from Melbourne to St. Kilda, fifteen men were robbed in one
afternoon, and tied to trees within sight of one another. In Melbourne itself the
same want of security prevailed, and concerts, lectures, &c., were always
advertised to take place when there was a full moon, the only nights any one,
unarmed, dared venture, out after dusk. The following extract from the "Argus,"
gives a fair specimen of Melbourne order.
"We are led to these remarks (referring to a tirade against the Government) by an
occurrence that took place last week in Queen Street, the whole detail of
which is peculiarly illustrative of the very creditable state of things, to which,
under the happy auspices of a La Trobe dynasty, we are rapidly descending.
"A ruffian robs a man in a public-house, in broad daylight. He is pursued by a
constable and taken. On the way to the watchhouse a mob collects, the police are
attacked, pistols are pointed, bludgeons and axe-handles are brought out of the
adjacent houses (all still in broad daylight, and in a busy street), and distributed
amongst the crowd, loud cries inciting attack are heard, a scuffle ensues, the
police are beaten, the prisoner is rescued, the crowd separates, and a man is left
dead upon the ground. The body is taken into a public-house, an inquest is held, the
deceased is recognized as a drunkard, the jury is assured that a post-mortem
examination is quite unnecessary; and the man is buried, after a verdict is brought
in of 'Died by the visitation of God;' the said visitation of God having, in this
instance, assumed the somewhat peculiar form of a fractured skull!"
This is a true picture of Melbourne; but whether the "Argus" is justified in
reproaching the "La Trobe dynasty" with it, is quite another matter.
In pages like these, anything resembling an argument on the "transportation
question," would be sadly out of place. To avoid thinking or hearing it was
impossible, for during my second stay in Melbourne, it was a never-failing subject
of conversation. In Victoria (which is only forty-eight hours' journey from Van
Diemen's Land), I have seen the bad results of the mingling of so many transports
and ticket-of-leave men among the free population. On the other hand, I have
heard from many and good authorities, of the substantial benefits conferred on
Sydney and New South Wales by convict labour. It is difficult to reconcile these
two statements, and it is an apple of discord in the colonies.
Whilst in Victoria, I met with a great variety of emigrants, and I was much struck
by the great success that seems to have attended on almost all of those who
came out under the auspices of Mrs. Chisholm. No one in England can fully
appreciate the benefits her unwearied exertions have conferred upon the colonies.
I have met many of the matrons of her ships, and not only do they themselves
seem to have made their way in the world, but the young females who were under
their care during the voyage appear to have done equally well. Perhaps one way of
accounting for this, is the fact that a great many of those going out by the
Chisholm Society are from Scotland, the inhabitants of which country are
peculiarly fortunate in the colonies, their industry, frugality, and "canniness" being
the very qualities to make a fortune there. "Sydney Herbert's needlewomen" bear
but a bad name; and the worst recommendation a young girl applying for a
situation can give, is to say she came out in that manner--not because the
colonists look down on any one coming out by the assistance of others, but
because it is imagined her female associates on the voyage cannot have been such
as to improve her morality, even if she were good for anything before.
Much is said and written in England about the scarcity of females in
Australia, and the many good offers awaiting the acceptance of those who have
the courage to travel so far. But the colonial bachelors, who are so ready to get
married, and so very easy in their choice of a wife, are generally those the least
calculated, in spite of their wealth, to make a respectable girl happy; whilst the
better class of squatters and diggers--if they do not return home to get married,
which is often the case--are not satisfied with any one, however pretty, for a
wife, unless her manners are cultivated and her principles correct.
To wander through Melbourne and its environs, no one would imagine that females
were as one to four of the male population; for bonnets and parasols everywhere
outnumber the wide-awakes. This is occasioned by the absence of so many of the
"lords of creation" in pursuit of what they value--many of them, at least--more
than all the women in the world--nuggets. The wives thus left in town to deplore
their husbands' infatuation, are termed "grass-widows"--a mining expression.
And now two out of the three weeks of our party's stay in Melbourne has expired,
during which time a change (purely personal) had made my brother's protection no
longer needed by me. My wedding-trip was to be to England, and the marriage was
to take place, and myself and caro sposo to leave Australia before my brother
departed for the Ovens diggings. The 'C----,' a fine East Indiaman, then lying in the
bay, was bound for London. We were to be on board by the 12th of November.
This of course gave me plenty to do, and my last morning but one in Melbourne
was dedicated to that favourite feminine occupation--which, however, I detest--I
mean, shopping. This being accomplished to my great dissatisfaction--for all I
bought could have been obtained, of a better description, for half the price in
England--I was preparing to return home by way of Collins Street, when my name
in familiar accents made me suddenly pause. I instantly recognised the lady who
addressed me as one of the English governesses in a "finishing" school where
three years of my girlhood were passed. Julia ---- was a great favourite
among us; no one could have done otherwise than admire the ability and
good-humour with which she fulfilled her many arduous duties. Perhaps, of all
miserable positions for a well-educated and refined young person to be placed in,
that of "little girls' teacher" in a lady's school is the worst.
Her subsequent history I learnt as we walked together to my present abode.
Her mother had had a cousin in Sydney, who being old and unmarried, wrote to her,
promising to settle all his property, which was considered large, upon her daughter
and herself, his only living relatives, provided they came out to the colonies to live
with him until his death. A sum of money to defray the expenses of the voyage
was enclosed. This piece of unexpected good news was received with pleasure, and
the invitation gladly accepted. They sailed for Sydney. On arriving there, they
found that some speculation, in which he was greatly involved, had failed; and the
old man had taken the loss so greatly to heart, that he died only five
months after having dispatched the letter to his English relatives.
Poor Julia was placed in a most painful position. In England she had scarcely been
able to support her invalid mother by her own exertions, but in a strange country
and without friends these difficulties seemed increased. Her first act was to look
over the advertizing columns of the papers, and her eye caught sight of one which
seemed exactly to suit her. It was, "Wanted, a governess to take the entire
charge of a little girl, the daughter of a widower, and also an elderly lady, to
superintend the domestic arrangements of the same family during the continual
absence of the master at another station." Julia wrote immediately, and was
accepted. In the occasional visits that her pupil's father paid to his little girl, he
could not fail to be struck by the sweet disposition and many other good qualities
of her governess, and it ended by his making her his wife. I felt at liberty to
congratulate her, for she looked the picture of happiness. I saw her again next
day, when she showed me the advertisement which had been the means of
such a change in her circumstances.
The day before my departure was a painful one, so many farewells to be taken of
dear friends whom I should never meet again.
On Friday, the 15th of November, my brother and all our party, Richard and Jessie
included, accompanied us to the pier at Williamstown, to which we were conveyed
by a steamer. For this we paid five shillings a-piece, and the same for each
separate box or parcel, and twelve shillings to a man for carting our luggage down
to the Melbourne wharf, a distance of not a mile.
On landing at the pier, how greatly was I astonished to meet Harriette and her
husband. Her modest desires were gratified, and they had realized sufficient
capital at the diggings to enable them to settle most comfortably near Adelaide. In
hurried words she told me this, for their boat was already alongside the pier
waiting to take them to their ship. Hardly had they departed than a boat arrived
from our vessel to convey us to it. Sad adieux were spoken, and we were
That evening a pilot came on board, anchors were weighed, we left the bay, and I
saw Melbourne no more.
Chapter XVII. Homeward Bound.
WE soon left Port Philip far behind, and in a few days saw nothing but a vast
expanse of water all around us. Our vessel was filled with returning diggers; and it
is worth while to remark that only two had been unsuccessful, and these had only
been at the diggings a few days.
One family on board interested me very much. It consisted of father, mother, and
two children. The eldest, a little, girl, had been born some time before they left
England. Her brother was a sturdy fellow of two years old, born in the
colonies soon after their arrival. He could just toddle about the deck, where he
was everlastingly looking for "dold," and "nuddets." The whole family had been at
the diggings for nine months, and were returning with something more than
£2,000 worth of gold. In England it had been hard work to obtain sufficient food by
the most constant labour; they had good reason to be thankful for the discovery
of the gold-fields.
Saturday, November 27, was forty-eight hours long, or two days of the same
name and date. Sailing right round the world in the direction of from west to east,
we gained exactly twenty-four hours upon those who stay at home; and we were
therefore obliged to make one day double to prevent finding ourselves wrong in
our dates and days on our arrival in England. Melbourne is about ten hours before
London, and therefore night, and day are reversed.
Rapidly it became cooler, for the winds were rather contrary, and drove us much
farther south than was needed. We were glad to avail ourselves of our
opossum rugs to keep ourselves warm. One of these rugs is quite sufficient
covering of a night in the coldest weather, and imparts as much heat as a dozen
blankets. They are made from the skins of the opossums, sewn together by the
natives with the sinews of the same animal. Each skin is about twelve inches by
eight, or smaller; and as the rugs are generally very large, they contain
sometimes as many as eighty skins. They may be tastefully arranged, as there is
a great difference in the colours; some being like a rich sable, others nearly black,
and others again of a grey and light brown. The fur is long and silky. At one time a
rug of this description was cheap enough--perhaps as much as two sovereigns but
the great demand for them by diggers, &c., has made them much more scarce,
and it now requires a ten pound-note to get a good one. The best come from Van
Diemen's Land. In summer they are disagreeable, as they harbour insects.
However, whilst rounding Cape Horn, in the coldest weather I ever experienced, we
were only too happy to throw them over us during the nights.
One morning we were awakened by a great confusion on deck. Our ship was
ploughing through a quantity of broken ice. That same afternoon, we sighted an
immense iceberg about ten miles from us. Its size may be imagined from the fact,
that, although we were sailing at a rate of ten knots an hour, we kept it in sight till
dark. This was on the 3rd of December.
We soon rounded the Horn, and had some very rough weather. One of the sailors
fell off the jib-boom; and the cry of "man overboard" made our hearts beat with
horror. Every sail was on; we were running right before the wind, and the waves
were mountains high, a boat must have been swamped; and long before we could "
bout ship," he had sunk to rise no more.
After rounding Cape Horn, we made rapid progress; by Christmas Day, we were in
the Tropics. It was not kept with much joviality, for water and food were running
scarce. Provisions were so dear in Melbourne, that they had laid in a short
allowance of everything, and our captain had not anticipated half so many
passengers. We tried, therefore, to put into St. Helena, but contrary winds
preventing us, we sailed back again to the South American coast, and anchored
off Pernambuco. It was providential that economical intentions made our captain
prefer this port, for had we touched at Rio, we should have encountered the yellow
fever, which we afterwards heard was raging there.
Pernambuco is apparently a very pretty place. We were anchored about four miles
from the town, so had a good view of the coast. I longed to be on shore to ramble
beneath the elegant cocoa-nut-trees. The weather was intensely hot, for it was in
the commencement of January; and the boats full of fruit, sent from the shore
for sale, were soon emptied by us. I call them boats, but they are properly termed
catamarans. They are made of logs of wood lashed securely together; they have a
sail and oars but no sides, so the water rushes over, and threatens every
moment to engulf the frail conveyance; but no, the wood is too light for that. The
fruits brought us from shore were oranges, pine-apples, water-melons, limes,
bananas, cocoa-nuts, &c., and some yams, which were a good substitute for
potatoes. The fruit was all very good, and astonishingly cheap; our oranges being
green, lasted till we reached England. Some of our passengers went on shore, and
returned with marvellous accounts of the dirtiness and narrowness of the
streets, and the extremely natural costume of the natives.
We remained here about four days, and then, with favourable winds, pursued our
voyage at an average rate of ten or twelve knots an hour. As we neared the
English coast, our excitement increased to an awful height; and for those who had
been many years away, I can imagine every trivial delay was fraught with anxiety.
But we come in sight of land; and in spite of the cold weather, for it is now
February, 1853, every one rushes to the deck. On we go; at last we are in
the Downs, and then the wind turned right against us.
Boats were put off from the Deal beach. The boatmen there rightly calculated
that lucky gold-diggers wouldn't mind paying a pound a-piece to get ashore, so
they charged that, and got plenty of customers notwithstanding.
On Sunday, the 27th of February, I again set foot on my native land. It was evening
when we reached the shore, and there was only an open vehicle to convey us to
the, town of Deal itself. The evening was bitterly cold, and the snow lay upon the
ground. As we proceeded along, the sounds of the Sabbath bell broke softly on the
air. No greeting could have been more pleasing or more congenial to my feelings.
Chapter XVIII. Conclusion.
AS I trust that, in the foregoing pages, I have slightly interested my readers in
"our party," the following additional account of their movements, contained in
letters addressed to me by my brother, may not be quite uninteresting.
The Ovens diggings are on the river of the same name, which takes its rise in the
Australian Alps, and flows into the Murray. As these Alps separate New South
Wales from Victoria, these diggings belong to the latter province. They are about
forty miles from the town of Albury. They are spread over a large space of
ground. The principal localities are Spring and Reid's Creeks.
Now for the letters.
"Melbourne, January 5, 1853.
"My dear E-,
"You'll be surprised at the heading of this but the Owns are not to my taste, and
I'm off again with Frank and Octavius to Bendigo tomorrow. I suppose you'll like to
hear of our adventures up to the Ovens, and the reasons for this sudden change
of plans. We left Melbourne the Monday after you sailed, and camped out half-way
to Kilmore, a little beyond the 'Lady of the Lake.' The day was fine, but the dust
made us wretched. Next day, we reached Kilmore-- stopped there all night. Next
day on again, and the farther we went, the more uncivilized it became--hills here,
forests there, as wild and savage as any one could desire. It was 'bushing it' with a
vengeance. This lasted several days. Once we lost our road, and came, by
good luck, to a sort of station. They received us very hospitably, and set us right
next morning. Four days after, we came to the Goulburn river. There was a punt
to take us over, and a host of people (many from Bendigo) waiting to cross. Three
days after, we pitched out tents at the Ovens. Here I soon saw it was no go. There
was too much water, and too little gold; and even if they could knock the first
difficulty on the head, I don't think they could do the same to the second. In my
own mind, I think it impossible that the Ovens will ever turn out the second Bendigo
that many imagine. Hundreds differ from me, therefore it's hundreds to one that
I'm wrong. The average wages, as far as I can judge, are an ounce a-week; some
much more, many much less. We did not attempt digging ourselves. Eagle Hawk
shallowness has spoilt us, for not even Octavius (who, you know of old, was a
harder worker than either Frank or self) thinks it worth digging through fourteen
or sixteen feet of hard clay for the mere pleasure of exercising our limbs.
Provisions there were not at the high price that many supposed they would be, but
quite high enough, Heaven knows! Meat was very scarce and bad, and flour all but a
shilling a pound; and if the fresh arrivals keep flocking in, and no greater supply of
food, it will get higher still. We stayed there two weeks, then brought our dray
back again, and are now busy getting ready for a fresh start to Bendigo. Among
other things we shall take, are lemonade and ginger-beer powders, a profitable
investment, though laughable. The weather is very hot--fancy 103 in the shade.
Water is getting scarce.
"Have seen all our friends in Melbourne except Richard, who left for England a
fortnight ago. Jessie is well, and growing quite pretty. She says she is extremely
happy, and sends such a number of messages to you, that I'll write none,
for fear of making a mistake. Will write again soon.
"Your affectionate brother, in haste,
"Melbourne, April 17, 1853.
"My dear E----,
"I suppose you've thought I was buried in my hole, or 'kilt' by bushrangers in the
Black Forest; but I've been so occupied in the worship of Mammon, as to have little
thoughts for anything else.
"We made a good thing of our last two speculations. Ginger-beer and lemonade, or
lemon kali, at sixpence a tiny glass, paid well. A successful digger would drink off a
dozen one after another. Some days, we have taken ten pounds in sixpence
at this fun. What they bought of us wouldn't harm them, but many mix up all sorts
of injurious articles to sell; but our consciences, thank God! are not colonised
sufficiently for that. We have had steady good luck in the digging line (for we
combine everything), and after this next trip, mean to dissolve partnership.
"Octavius talks of going out as overseer, or something of that sort, to some
squatter in New South Wales for a year or so, just to learn the system, &c., and
then, if possible, take a sheep-run himself. Frank means to send for Mrs. Frank
and small Co. He says he shall stay in Victoria for some years. I do believe he likes
the colony. As for myself, I hope to see the last of it in six weeks' time.
"Hurrah for Old England!--no place like it.
"Your very affectionate brother,
With a cordial assent to the last few words, I conclude these pages.
Appendix: Who Should Emigrate?
The question of "Who should emigrate?" has now become one of such importance
(owing to the number who are desirous of quitting their native land to seek a surer
means of subsistence in our vast colonial possessions), that any book treating of
Australia would be sadly deficient were a subject of such universal interest to be
left unnoticed; and where there are so many of various capabilities, means and
disposititoins, in need of guidance and advice as to the advantage of their
emigrating, it is probable that the experience of any one, however slight
that experience may be, will be useful to some.
Any one to succeed in the colonies must take with him a quantity of self-reliance,
energy, and perseverance; this is the best capital a man can have. Let none rely
upon introductions--they are but useless things at the best--they may get you
invited to a good dinner; but now that fresh arrivals in Melbourne are so much
more numerous than heretofore, I almost doubt if they would do even that. A
quick, clever fellow with a trade of his own, inured to labour, and with a light heart,
that can laugh at the many privations which the gipsy sort of life he must lead in
the colonies will entail upon him; any one of this description cannot fail to get on.
But for the number of clerks, shopmen, &c., who daily arrive in Australia, there is
a worse chance of their gaining a livelihood than if they had remained at home.
With this description of labour the colonial market is largely overstocked; and it is
distressing to notice the number of young men incapable of severe manual
labour, who, with delicate health, and probably still more delicately filled purses,
swarm the towns in search of employment, and are exposed to heavy expenses
which they can earn nothing to meet. Such men have rarely been successful at the
diggings; the demand for them in their accustomed pursuits is very limited in
proportion to their numbers; they gradually sink into extreme poverty--too often
into reckless or criminal habits-- till they disappear from the streets to make way
for others similarly unfortunate.
A little while since I met with the histories of two individuals belonging to two very
different classes of emigrants; and they are so applicable to this subject, that I
cannot forbear repeating them.
The first account is that of a gentleman who went to Melbourne some eight
months ago, carrying with him a stock of elegant acquirements and
accomplishments, but little capital. He is now in a starving condition, almost
with-out the hope of extrication, and is imploring from his friends the
means to return to England, if he live long enough to receive them. The colours in
which he paints the colonies are deplorable in the extreme.
The other account is that of a compositor who emigrated much about the. same
time. He writes to his former office-mates that he got immediate and constant
employment at the rate of £7 per week, and naturally thinks that there is no place
under the sun like Melbourne. Both emigrants are right. There is no better place
under the sun than Melbourne for those who can do precisely what the Melbourne
people want; and which they must and-will have at any price; but there is no worse
colony to which those can go who have not the capabilities required by the
Melbourne people. They are useless and in the way, their accomplishments are
disregarded, their misfortunes receive no pity; and, whilst a good carpenter or
bricklayer would make a fortune, a modern Raphael might starve.
But even those possessed of every qualification for making first-class colonists,
will at first meet with much to surprise and annoy them, and will need all the
energy they possess, to enable them to overcome the many disagreeables which
encounter them as soon as they arrive.
Let us, for example, suppose the case of an emigrant, with no particular
profession or business, but having a strong constitution, good common sense, and
a determination to bear up against every hardship, so that in the end it leads him
to independence. Let us follow him through the difficulties that bewilder the
stranger in Melbourne during the first few days of his arrival.
The commencement of his dilemmas will be that of getting his luggage from the
ship; and so quickly do the demands for pounds and shillings fall upon him, that he
is ready to wish he had pitched half his "traps" over-board. However, we will
suppose him at length safely landed on the wharf at Melbourne, with all his
boxes beside him. He inquires for a store, and learns that there are plenty close
at hand; and then forgetting that he is in the colonies, he looks round for a porter
and truck, and looks in vain. After waiting as patiently as he can for about a
couple of hours, he manages to hire an empty cart and driver; the latter lifts the
boxes into the conveyance (expecting, of course, his employer to lend a hand),
smacks his whip, and turns down street after street till he reaches a tall,
grim-looking budding, in front of which he stops, with a "That ere's a store," and a
demand for a sovereign, more or less. This settled, he coolly requests the
emigrant to assist him in unloading, and leaves him to get his boxes carried inside
as best he can. Perhaps some of the storekeeper's men come to the rescue, and
with their help the luggage is conveyed into the store-room (which is often sixty
or eighty feet in length), where the owner receives a memorandum of their arrival.
Boxes or parcels may remain there in perfect safety for months, so long
as a shilling a week is paid for each.
Our emigrant, having left his property in security, now turns to seek a lodging for
himself; and the extreme difficulty of procuring house accommodation, with its
natural consequences, an extraordinary rate of rent, startles and amazes him. He
searches the city in vain, and betakes himself to the suburbs, where he procures
a small, half-furnished room, in a wooden house for thirty shillings a week. The
scarcity of houses in proportion to the population, is one of the greatest
drawbacks to the colony; but we could not expect it to be otherwise when we
remember that in one year Victoria received an addition of nearly 80,000
inhabitants. The masculine portion of these emigrants, with few exceptions,
started off at once to the diggings; hence the deficiency in the labour market is
only partially filled up by the few who remained behind, and by the fewer still who
forsake the gold-fields; whilst the abundance of money, and the deficiency of good
workmen, have raised the expenses of building far above the point at which
it would be a profitable investment for capital. Meantime, the want is only partially
supplied by the wooden cottages which are daily springing up around the
boundaries of the city; but this is insufficient to meet the increasing want of
shelter, and on the southern bank of the Yarra there are four or five thousand
people living in tents. This settlement is appropriately called "Canvas Town."
But let us return to our newly-arrived emigrant.
Having succeeded in obtaining a lodging, he proceeds to purchase some necessary
articles of food, and looks incredulously at the shopkeeper when told that butter
is 3s. 6d. a pound, cheese, ham, or bacon 2s. to 2s. 6d., and eggs 4s. or 5s. a
dozen. He wisely dispenses with such luxuries, and contents himself with bread at
Is. 6d. the four-pound loaf, and meat at 5d. a pound. He sleeps soundly, for the
day has been a fatiguing one, and next morning with renewed spirits
determines to search immediately for employment. He does not much care what it
is at first, so that he earns something; for his purse feels considerably lighter
after the many demands upon it yesterday. Before an hour is over, he finds
himself engaged to a storekeeper at a rate of £3 a-week; his business being to
load and unload drays, roll casks, lift heavy goods, &c.; and here we will leave him,
for once set going he will soon find a better berth. If he have capital, it is
doubtless safely deposited in the Bank until a little acquaintance with the colonies
enables him to invest it judiciously; and meanwhile, if wise, he will spend every
shilling as though it were his last; but if his capital consists only of the trifle in his
purse, no matter, the way he is setting to work will soon rectify that deficiency,
and he stands a good chance in a few years of returning to England a
comparatively wealthy man.
To those of my own sex who desire to emigrate to Australia, I say do so by all
means, if you can go under suitable protection, possess good health, are
not fastidious or "fine-lady-like," can milk cows, churn butter, cook a good damper,
and mix a pudding. The worst risk you run is that of getting married, and finding
yourself treated with twenty times the respect and consideration you may meet
with in England. Here (as far as number goes) women beat the "lords of creation;"
in Australia it is the reverse, and, there we may be pretty sure of having our own
But to those ladies who cannot wait, upon themselves, and whose fair fingers are
unused to the exertion of doing anything useful, my advice is, for your own sakes
remain at home. Rich or poor, it is all the same; for those who can afford to give
£40 a-year to a female servant will scarcely know whether to be pleased or not at
the acquisition, so idle and impertinent are they; scold them, and they will tell you
that "next week Tom, or Bill, or Harry will be back from the diggings, and then
they'll be married, and wear silk dresses, and be as fine a lady as yourself;"
and with some such words will coolly dismiss themselves from your service,
leaving their poor unfortunate mistress uncertain whether to be glad of their
departure or ready to cry because there's nothing prepared for dinner, and she
knows not what to set about first.
For those who wish to invest small sums in goods for Australia, boots and shoes,
cutlery, flash jewellery, watches, pistols (particulary revolvers), gunpowder, fancy
articles, cheap laces, and baby-linen offer immense profits.
The police in Victoria is very inefficient, both in the towns and on the roads.
Fifteen persons were stopped during the same afternoon whilst travelling on the
highway between Melbourne and St. Kilda. They were robbed, and tied to trees
within sight of each other--this too in broad daylight. On the roads to the diggings
it is still worse; and no one intending to turn digger should leave England without a
good supply of fire-arms. In less than one week more than a dozen
robberies occurred between Kyneton and Forest Creek, two of which terminated in
murder. The diggings themselves are comparatively safe -- quite as much so as
Melbourne itself -- and there, is a freemasonry in the bush which possesses an
irresistible charm for adventurous bachelors, and causes them to prefer the risk
of bushrangers to witnessing the dreadful scenes that are daily and hourly
enacting in a colonial town. Life in the bush is wild, free and independent. Healthy
exercise, fine scenery, and a clear and buoyant atmosphere, maintain an
excitement of the spirits and a sanguineness of temperament peculiar to this sort
of existence; and many are the pleasant evenings, enlivened with the gay jest or
cheerful song, which are passed around the bush fires of Australia.
The latest accounts from the diggings speak of them most encouragingly. Out of a
population of 200,000 (which is calculated to be the number of the present
inhabitants of Victoria), half are said to be at the gold-fields, and the
average earnings are still reckoned at nearly an ounce per man per week. Ballarat
is again rising into favour, and its riches are being more fully developed. The gold
there is more unequally distributed than at Mount Alexander, and therefore the
proportion of successful to unsuccessful diggers is not so great as at the latter
place. But then the individual gains are in some cases greater. The labour is also
more severe than at the Mount or Bendigo, as the gold lies deeper, and more
numerous trials have to be made before the deposits are struck upon.
The Ovens is admitted to be a rich gold-field, but the work there is severely
laborious, owing to a super-abundance of water.
The astonishing mineral wealth of Mount Alexander is evidenced by the large
amounts which it continues to yield, notwithstanding the immense quantities that
have already been taken from it. The whole country in that neighbourhood appears
to be more or, less auriferous.
Up to the close of last year the total supposed amount of gold procured from the
Victoria diggings, is 3,998,324 ounces, which, when calculated at the average
English value of £4 an ounce, is worth nearly sixteen millions sterling. One-third
of this is distinctly authenticated as having come down by escort during the three
last mouths of 1852.
In Melbourne the extremes of wealth and poverty meet, and many are the
anecdotes of the lavish expenditure of successful diggers that are circulated
throughout the town. I shall only relate two which fell under my own observation.
Having occasion to make a few purchases in the linendrapery line, I entered a good
establishment in Collins Street for that purpose. It was before noon, for later
in-the day the shops are so full that to get a trifling order attended to would be
almost a miracle. There was only one customer in the shop, who was standing
beside the counter, gazing with extreme dissatisfaction upon a quantity of goods
of various colours and materials that lay there for his inspection. He was a
rough-looking customer enough, and the appearance of his hands gave strong
indication that the pickaxe and spade were among the last tools he had handled.
"It's a shiny thing that I want," he was saying as I entered.
"These are what we should call shining goods," said the shopman, as he held up the
silks, alpacas, &c., to the light.
"They're not the shiny sort that I want," pursued the digger, half-doggedly,
half-angrily. "I'll find another shop; I guess you won't show your best goods to
me--you think, mayhap, I can't pay for them--but I can, though," and he laid a note
for fifty pounds upon the counter, adding, "maybe you'll show me some shiny
Unable to comprehend the wishes of his customer, the shopman called to his
assistance the master of the establishment, who being, I suppose, of quicker
apprehension, placed some satins before him.
"I thought the paper would help you find it. I want a gown for my missus. What's
"Twenty yards at one-ten--thirty pounds. That do, Sir?"
"No; not good enough!" was the energetic reply.
The shrewd shopkeeper quickly fathomed his customer's desires, and now
displayed before him a rich orange-coloured satin, which elicited an exclamation of
"Twenty-five yards--couldn't sell less, it's a remnant--at three pounds the yard."
"That's the go!" interrupted the digger, throwing some more notes upon the
counter. "My missus was married in a cotton gown, and now she'll have a real gold
And seizing the satin from the shopkeeper, he twisted up the portion that had
been unrolled for his inspection, placed the whole under his arm, and triumphantly
walked out of the shop, little thinking how he had been cheated.
"A 'lucky digger' that," observed the shopman, as he attended to my wants.
I could not forbear a smile, for I pictured to myself the digger's wife mixing a
damper with the sleeves of her dazzling satin dress tucked up above her elbows.
A few days after, a heavy shower drove me to take shelter in a pastry-cook's,
where, under the pretence of eating a bun, I escaped a good drenching. Hardly had
I been seated five minutes, when a sailor-looking personage entered, and
addressed the shopwoman with: "I'm agoing to be spliced to-morrow, young woman;
show us some large wedding-cakes."
The largest (which was but a small one) was placed before him, and eighteen
pounds demanded for it. He laid down four five-pound notes upon the counter, and
taking up the cake, told her to "keep the change to buy ribbons with."
"Pleasant to have plenty of gold-digging friends," I remarked, by way of saying
"Not a friend," said she, smiling. "I never saw him before. I expect he's only a
Turn we now to the darker side of this picture.
My favourite walk, whilst in Melbourne, was over Prince's Bridge, and along the
road to Liardet's Beach, thus passing close to the canvas settlement, called Little
Adelaide. One day, about a week before we embarked for England, I took my
accustomed walk in this direction, and as I passed the tents, was much struck by
the appearance of a little girl, who, with a large pitcher in her arms, came to
procure some water from a small stream beside the road. Her dress, though clean
and neat, bespoke extreme poverty; and her countenance had a wan, sad
expression upon it which would have touched the most indifferent beholder, and
left an impression deeper even than that produced by her extreme though delicate
I made a slight attempt at acquaintanceship by assisting to fill her pitcher,
which was far too heavy, when full of water, for so slight a child to carry, and
pointing to the rise of ground on which the tents stood, I inquired if she lived
She nodded her head in token of assent.
"And have you been long here? and do you like this new country?" I continued,
deter mined to hear if her voice was as pleasing as her countenance.
"No!" she answered quickly; "we starve here. There was plenty of food when we
were in England;" and then her childish reserve giving way, she spoke more fully of
her troubles, and a sad though a common tale it was.
Some of the particulars I learnt afterwards. Her father had held an appointment
under Government, and had lived upon the income derived from it for some years,
when he was tempted to try and do better in the colonies. His wife (the daughter
of a clergyman, well educated, and who before her marriage had been a
governess) accompanied him with their three children. On arriving in Melbourne
(which was about three months previous), he found that situations equal in value,
according to the relative prices of food and lodging, to that which he had thrown
up in England were not so easily procured as he had been led to expect. Half
desperate, he went to the diggings, leaving his wife with little money, and many
promises of quick remittances of gold by the escort. But week followed week, and
neither remittances nor letters came. They removed to humbler lodgings, every
little article of value was gradually sold, for, unused to bodily labour, or even to sit
for hours at the needle, the deserted wife could earn but little. Then sickness
came; there were no means of paying for medical advice, and one child died. After
this, step by step, they became poorer, until half a tent in Little Adelaide was the
only refuge left.
As we reached it, the little girl drew aside the canvas, and partly invited me to
enter. I glanced in; it was a dismal sight. In one corner lay the mother, a
blanket her only protection from the humid soil, and cowering down beside her was
her other child. I could not enter; it seemed like a heartless intrusion upon misery;
so, slipping the contents of my purse (which were unfortunately only a few
shillings) into the little, girl's hand, I hurried away, scarcely waiting to notice the
smile that thanked me so eloquently. On arriving at home, I found that my friends
were absent, and being detained by business, they did not return till after dusk, so
it was impossible for that day to afford them any assistance. Early next morning
we took a little wine and other trifling articles with us, and proceeded to Little
Adelaide. On entering the tent, we found that the sorrows of the unfortunate
mother were at an end; privation, illhealth and anxiety had claimed their victim.
Her husband sat beside the corpse, and the golden nuggets, which in his despair he
had flung upon the ground, formed a painful contrast to the scene of poverty and
The first six weeks of his career at the diggings had been most unsuccessful, and
he had suffered as much from want as his unhappy wife. Then came a sudden
change of fortune, and in two weeks more he was comparatively rich. He hastened
immediately to Melbourne, and for a whole week had sought his family in vain. At
length, on the preceding evening, he found them only in time to witness the last
moments of his wife.
Sad as this history may appear, it is not so sad as many, many others; for often,
instead of returning with gold, the digger is never heard of more.
In England many imagine that the principal labour at the diggings consists in
stooping to pick up the lumps of gold which lie upon the ground at their feet, only
waiting for some one to take possession of them. These people, when told of holes
being dug in depths of from seven to forty feet before arriving at the desired
metal, look upon such statements as so many myths, or fancy they are fabricated
by the lucky gold-finders to deter too many others from coming to take a
share of the precious spoil. There was a passenger on board the vessel which took
me to Australia, who held some such opinions as these, and, although in other
respects a sensible man, he used seriously to believe that every day that we were
delayed by contrary winds he could have been picking up fifty or a hundred pounds
worth of gold had he but been at the diggings. He went to Bendigo the third day
after we landed, stayed there a fortnight, left it in disgust, and returned to
England immediately-poorer than he had started.
This is not an isolated case. young men of sanguine dispositions read the startling
amounts of gold shipped from the colonies, they think of the "John Bull Nugget"
and other similar prizes, turn a deaf ear when you speak of blanks, and
determiinately overlook the vast amount of labour which the gold diggings have
consumed. Whenever I meet with this class of would-be emigrants, the remarks of
an old digger, which I once over heard, recur to my mind. The conversation
at the time was turned upon the subject of the many young men flocking from the
"old country" to the gold-fields, and their evident unfitness for them. Every young
man before paying his passage money," said he, "should take a few days' spell at
well-sinking in England; if he can stand that comfortably, the diggings won't hurt
Many are sadly disappointed on arriving in Victoria, at being unable to invest their
capital or savings in the purchase of about a hundred acres of land, sufficient for
a small farm. I have referred to this subject before, but cannot resist adding
some facts which bear upon it.
By a return of the land sales of Victoria, from 1837 to 1851, it appears that
380,000 acres of land were sold in the whole colony; and the sum realized by
Government was £700,000. In a return published in 1849, it is stated that there
were three persons who each held singly more land in their own hands than had
been sold to all the rest of the colony in fourteen years, for which they
paid the sum of £30 each per annum. Yet, whilst £700,000 is realized by the sale
of land, and not £100 a-year gained by letting three times the quantity, the
Colonial Government persists in the latter course, in spite of the reiterated
disapprobation of the colonists themselves; and by one of the last gazettes of
Governor La Trobe, he has ordered 681,700 acres, or 1,065 square miles, to be
given over to the squatters. The result of this is, that many emigrants landing in
Victoria are compelled to turn their steps towards the sister colony of Adelaide.
There was a family who landed in Melbourne whilst I was there. It consisted of the
parents, and several grown-up sons and daughters. The father had held a small
tenant farm in England, and having saved a few hundreds, determined to invest it
in Australian land. He brought out with him many agricultural implements, an iron
house, &c.; and on his arrival found, to his dismay, that no less than 640 acres of
crown lands could be sold, at a time, at the upset price of £1 an acre. This
was more than his capital could afford, and they left for Adelaide. The expenses
of getting his goods to and from the ships, of storing them, of supporting his
family while in Melbourne, and of paying their passage to Adelaide, amounted
almost to £100. Thus he lost nearly a fourth of his capital, and Victoria a family
who would have made good colonists.
Much is done now-a-days to assist emigration, but far greater exertions are
needed before either the demand for labour in the colonies or the over-supply of it
in England can be exhausted. Pass down the best streets of Melbourne: you see
one or two good shops or houses, and on either side an empty spot or a mass of
rubbish. The ground has been bought, the plans for the proposed budding are all
ready. Then why not commence?-- there are no workmen. Bricks are wanted, and
£15 a thousand is offered; carpenters are advertized for at £8 a week; yet the
building makes no progress--there are no workmen. Go down towards the
Yarra, and an unfinished Church will attract attention. Are funds wanting for its
completion? No. Thousands were subscribed in one day, and would be again were it
necessary; but that building, like every other, is stopped for lack of workmen. In
vain the bishop himself published an appeal to the various labourers required
offering the very highest wages; others offered higher wages still, and the church
(up to the time I left Victoria) remained unfinished. And yet, whilst labour is so
scarce, so needed in the colonies, there are thousands in our own country able
and willing to work, whose lives here are one of prolonged privation, whose eyes
are never gladdened by the sight of nature, who inhale no purer atmosphere than
the tainted air of the dark courts and dismal cellars in which they herd. Send them
to the colonies--food and pure air would at least be theirs--and much misery
would be turned into positive happiness.
I heard of a lady who every year sent out a whole family from the poor but
hard-working classes to the colonies (it was through one of the objects of her
thoughtful benevolence that this annual act became known to me), and what
happiness must it bring when she reflects on the heartfelt blessings that are
showered upon her from the far-off land of Australia. Surely, among the rich and
the influential, there are many who, out of the abundance of their wealth, could
"go and do likewise."