Catherine McLaren

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Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Catherine McLaren was 18 at the time of the Eureka Stockade, having been born in Lanarkshire, Scotland on 21 September 1836. Her parents were Duncan McLaren and Mary Ferguson. She came to Australia on the James T Foord with her parents, her brother Alexander, and younger sisters, landing at Geelong.

The family were at Indented Heads for a while and then left for Ballarat. Thinking that the goldfields were not a good place for a young lady, Catherine was boarded out with friends until they were properly settled. However, she left Indented Heads and set out to walk to Ballarat alone. She was only fifteen at the time. She was fortunate to meet up with a minister or priest on his way to Ballarat. He took care of her and delivered her to her astonished family. Catherine’s mother preached in their tent church on Sundays. They had brought furniture with them from Scotland, which included a small organ. Catherine sang as she worked and had such a good voice that she was offered “an enormous sum” to sing for the miners. However, her mother declared that Catherine would sing “only for the Lord”!

Both her brother Alexander, and her husband to be, Thomas Cox, took part in the Eureka Affair, and when they hid out in an old mine after the battle, Catherine took food and other provisions to them. She married Thomas Cox in October 1855 just after her eighteenth birthday. They travelled to Larpent, near Colac where they farmed. Helen (Ellen) Cox was born there in 1863. She was lost in the bush when just a toddler and found unharmed and brought back on the shoulders of a huge near-naked aboriginal man. They called her “the little yamba”. (Yamba means “walks far away”.) In the early 1860’s they went to Woodspoint and became successful miners. Catherine Cox had ten children, while her sister Jessie had fifteen children. She died aged 80 in 1917 and is buried in the family grave at Woodspoint. She was a great reader, and had some wonderful books, but unfortunately her library did not survive the 1939 bushfires when Woodspoint was destroyed. Catherine voted at Woodspoint in 1910 when in her 70s. [1]

Post 1854 Experiences

See also

Further Reading

Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.

Dorothy Wickham, Women in 'Ballarat' 1851-1871: A Case Study in Agency, PhD. School of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Ballarat, March 2008.

Dorothy Wickham, Blood, Sweat and Tears: Women of Eureka in Journal of Australian Colonial History, 10, No, 1, 2008, pp. 99-115.

Dorothy Wickham, Women of the Diggings: Ballarat 1854, BHSPublishing, 2009.,_Sweat_and_Tears:_Women_at_Eureka

Clare Wright, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, Text Publishing, 2013.

Dorothy Wickham, Not just a Pretty Face: Women on the Goldfields, in Pay Dirt: Ballarat & Other Gold Towns, BHSPublishing, 2019, pp. 25-36.


  1. Notes courtesy Zena Hafner, 2009.

External links

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