C. McAlister

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Walter E. Pidgeon, Illustration from The Eureka Stockade by Raffaello Carboni, Sunnybrook Press, 1942, offset print.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased 1994.


Charles McAlister

Experiences in 1854

C. McAlister recalled in 1927:

I went to Ballarat within three weeks of the event, and was told that there were 700 men or more behind the stockade the day before the fight, but that scarcely one third of that number stood to their guns, and, be it said, pikes, under Peter Lalor and his lieutenants. In fairness to the diggers it must be remembered that they were surprised in a military sense by the attack — an attack made in the early hours of that midsummer Sunday morning of 1854. It is said the usual traiter within the ranks gave the diggers away, but, nevertheless, considering they were ill-armed, undisciplined, and taken on the hop, they put up a stiff battle against the forces of the Queen, and proved at the least that they were the breed of men who have the courage of their convictions to the death. The attacking party was chiefly composed of men of the 40th Regiment, and of those, I believe, four privates and Captain Wise were killed and several wounded. On the side of the diggers some 30 or 40 were killed. I heard that the diggers' flag, the southern cross, fell into the hands of one of the soldiers, and I, like, no doubt, many other men of that period, would very much desire to know what is its present destination. I very much regretted that my old mate, Bill Quinlin, was one of the hapless victims of the fray. He left our party some months be fore and made up with some of the more willing of the stockaders, Spicer and Torpy (afterwards M.L.A. for Orange), both of whom were later concerned in the Lambing Flat riots, were also, I think, amongst the men who on Ballarat made such a resolute fight for what they considered were their equitable rights and privileges. But though the so-called rebellion was easily sup pressed its direct results proved that the heroes of the Eureka stockade did not die in vain for the cause of equity between the Government and the diggers.[1]

THE EUREKA STOCKADE AND OTHER OLD MINING MEMORIES. ( By Chas. McAlister, Sen.). The recent celebration in several mining contres of that famous event in the early Australian digging days known as "The Battle of the Eureka Stockade" will be; I am sure, ad ducive of many stirring recollections in the minds of those who, like the writer, were units amongst ithe reckless, eager multitude which, intent on the one great errand of reap ing a mammoth golden fortunes, flocked to the great goldfields across the Murray in the early fifties from all quarters of the globe. It is somewhat over half a century sincce, with a party most, of which were natives of old Ar-gyle, I washed my first rich"dish" on Spring Creek, Beechworlh, where, by the way, at the time of our arrival there were not more than twenty diggers working. Fifty years since the dawning of that graphic epoch, which first made the name Australia as famous perhaps to the modern world as Tyreo and iwere to the mining magnates of the ancient. He brew reigns, yet it seems but yesterday that we got on the wash in the Indigo gullies-a clean granite "bottomre it was there-that we shlifted camp to Yackandandah, or struck the show of our life on the Woolshed rush, so vividly have the glorious annals of those days -of the Ovens, Dunnoly, and Bendigo and Ballarat- burned themselves on the camera of our memories. I was on Bendigo at the time of the Ballarat riot (the morning of De cember 3, 1854, to be precise), and with respect to the causes which underlay the stock ade fight I well remember the agitation which arose both at Beechworth and Bendigo over the tyrannical mandate, of the authorities to raise the already severe diggers' license fee from 30s to £3 per month. At Beechworlth in deed, as far back as May, 1852, the warden or commissioner (a Mr. Brown) very narrowly escaped lynching by an infuriated mob of dig gars for trying, with the aid of the police, to arrest some men alleged to be a few days be hind in the payment of the exorbitant fee. I recollect that the carbine of one of the po lice, who was ordered down a shaft to arrest one of the offenders, went off accidentally, with tlhe result that a digger standing near tlhe windless was shot dead This, accident though it was, so incensed the diggers, who were already at daggers drawn against the officers, that despite the threats and firearms of the warden and his men the more reckless spirits in the crowd would have lynched them then and there but for the resolute stand of a calmer section of the diggers. But it was nearly touch and go with the commissioner the rope was already around 'his neck before he was rescued, and I believe his deatlh short. ly afterwards was hastened by the rough usage of that day. If I might digress a little here I would remark that Lynch law or rather in cipient efforts at lynch, wvere pretty gene cal ot the early fields; and it sometimes leap peoned tihat, if the salutary "mob medicine" had best permtted to take its course, ... [2]


  1. Gundagai Independant, 23 May 1927.
  2. Goulburn Evening Penny Post 17 December 1904.