Eureka 48, 1902
- The Eureka Stockade Anniversary
- The following letter signed James Oddie appeared in Wednesday's Ballarat Star " in reference to the fight at the Eureka Stockade: — Sir, — This is the 48th anniversary of the massacre of the innocent diggers within and without the [Eureka Stockade]. My store was in proximity — so near that the first volley woke me up, when speedily I passed out to the front with my wife, and then saw how matters stood. The mounted police held a position at the south-west corner, and were in considerable numbers. The light was not sufficient to enable us to see the work going on inside. Meantime a crowd of people from their tents gathered on the apex of of Stockyard Hill to learn what was going on, when two of the mounted police were detached, and galloped a couple of hundred yards into their midst, and we could see their sabres glistening in the sun when taking their overhead strokes, cutting the people down. How many perished I cannot tell, but there must have been a considerable number. The whole work was soon over, aud between 5 and 6 o'clock I went over to the stockade and counted 22 dead bodies. Many of them were roasted like pigs at the Chinese Camp. In the attack the tents had been fired, and the poor fellows had, when wounded, fled there for shelter and so ended their fate. I saw the body of the German ginger beer man covered with bayonet wounds, and a person who counted them said they numbered 17. The sight was sickening, and I did not remain long. Meantime the attacking party departed taking with them their dead and 60 prisoners, as reported afterwards. The number reported killed in Withers' History is from 30 to 40, but many were mutilated in addition, and occasionally one may be seen now without an arm, a fine, tall respectable fellow, having weathered the battle of life minus his arm. Of Captain Ross it is said — and I have upon absolute authority— that when the attacking force entered the stockade he threw up his arms in token of surrender, when a rifle was raised and a bullet put through his chest and I saw him carried past my store on improvised stretcher to the Star Hotel, Main road, where he died next day. Captain Wise was wounded, and died two days after ; while another officer was wounded and three soldiers met their deaths. Although the writer was not mixed up in any way with the aggressive party, I came in for a share of risks, and from both sides. On the evening of Saturday, at 10-30, I was in the act of retiring for the night, when the sound of horses' feet was heard pas sing in the direction of the stable, and moving to a door leading from the store into it, I found two mounted men and horses filling the en trance opening. The men instantly demanded horse feed for the Commissary Department. Demanding an order from Mr Lalor, I was instantly covered by a brace of revolvers. Still declining, an outburst of curses followed, which were exhausted now and again and quickly renewed at a short interval. The refusal was reiterated, and this was kept up for 40 minutes the faces of the patriots giving evidence of strong internal emotions, now contracting and then relaxing. The strain was tremendous, and the eye of the writer was steadily fixed on the objectives, and was not sorry to see the horses backed out of the opening, and no more heard the visitors. At the inception of the interview my wife took up her stand at my side, tried to speak, but failed to articulate a word, and so to the end. After the burning of Bentley's hotel and the arrest of three of the participators in this work, the authorities be came very pronounced in their administration of the law, and in this came a small share to my lot. On a clear sunny day in November, being behind the store counter, a small man walked in and asked for a nobbler of brandy, and on my re plying in the negative, " Don't sell brandy, " he reiterated his application, holding between his thumb and first finger a shilling, and saying, "It is all right." Still refused, the third request was made and refused, when Mr George Lilley, auctioneer, Humffray street, broke in and said, "You are come to the wrong place this time," and simultaneously a mounted trooper in uniform rode his horse into the opening of the store to see his friend drinking his brandy. Thus it came about that the writer was privileged by having been offered money by the police to violate the law. Volumes could be written of facts and incidents of every day occurrence, novel and unique, which in years to come might be of value to the historian, but enough. The next anniversary will be a suitable time to pre pare for the jubilee a " Guild of Eureka Stockade Massacre," with a permanent committee and officers.
- ↑ Mount Alexander Mail, 05 December 1902.