Harry Hambrook

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Samuel Thomas Gill, Diggers Hut, Forest Creek, c1852, watercolour and gum arabic on paper.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, gift of Mr. Tony Hamilton and Miss. S.E. Hamilton, 1967.
Diggers Flag of 1853, 2013, From Bendigo Monument in Rosalind Park.


Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Post 1854 Experiences

John Lynch gave an oration on the site of the Eureka Stockade. There was a small procession to the site, and about 200 people assembled. At the conclusion of the oration a procession then marched to teh Ballaarat Old Cemetery where another oration was presented by Dr Harry Hambrook.[1]

(From the Mount Alexander Mail.)
THE following proceedings took place on Thursday last, the 21st December, at the Police Office, before Captain Bull (Resident Commissioner), and Dr. Preshaw, J.P.
THE LICENSE TAX.—Dr. Harry Oddon Hambrook, Chairman of the Forest Creek branch of the Gold-fields' Reform League, was charged at the instance of Mr. Commissioner Smith with occupying Crown lands without a license. As was to be expected, the apprehension of Dr. Hambrook created some excitement among the diggers; but, with the view of preventing any overt demonstrations, the committee issued the following placard, which seemed to have the effect contemplated, as not more than fifty diggers were present in the Court House when the case was called on, but all of whom wore the red ribbon: "Gold-fields' Reform League.—Diggers.—The chairman, Dr. H. O. Hambrook, and Mr. Moat, member of your committee, have been arrested on the charge of having no licenses! Be peaceful, be orderly. Be obedient to the law. By order and peace you will only conquer. He who attempts to commit violence is an enemy to his brother diggers and the cause of liberty and freedom. Meet the central committee in the Market-square at Castlemaine, one and all, on Friday next, at 12 o'clock, for the purpose of expressing your opinions—one and undivided."
Dr. Hambrook pleaded not guilty,
A. J. Smith, Esq., commissioner, deposed: While on duty yesterday, about one o'clock, with the police, in search of unlicensed miners, my attention was attracted by a person wearing a red ribbon; I asked him if he had a license; he said he had not; I told him I was out assisting the police, and that I would do my duty as leniently as I could, but that I would make no exception with regard to him or any one else.
The defendant is the person I allude to; I demanded £5 as bail for his appearance here this morning, and he paid me; I think that was all; he said something about a public meeting; I told him to appear to-day; he told me he had no license.
Dr. Preshaw: Did he give you any reason why he would not pay the license?
Mr. Smith: Not at all.
Defendant: Did I ask you to make any exception for myself in preference to any other digger?
Mr. Smith: You wished that I would single you out as a victim.
Defendant: Yes to test the principle.
Daptain Bull asked if the defendant had any answer to make.
Defendant: Yes, certainly, more than one. The first is a technical objection, a justifiable objection; that I am not at present an occupant of Crown lands, but I am a dweller on freehold property, and do no mining.
Captain Bull: Have you any evidence of that? Defendant: Yes, William Palmer.
Mr. Smith addressed an observation to the Bench.
Captain Bull: The last witness, Mr. Smith, wishes to say that, had that objection been urged to him, he would not have arrested you, because he is aware that a person so situated is not amenable.
Mr. Smith: He certainly did not make that excuse to me.
Defendant: I had my reasons for it; but they were private. They will be made known in due time.
Mr. William Palmer, called and examined by defendant, deposed: I am landlord of the Bath Arms, Campbell's Creek; you are resident at my establishment; to my knowledge you have not been mining since you have lived there; you could not so have oc- cupied yourself without my knowledge.
Defendant: I have no further evidence to call. If the objection I have made is a good one, it will do away with the rest.
Mr. Smith, recalled by the Bench: I have known Hambrook about three months; he formerly resided near the Argus Hill, on crown lands, and I was under the impression, when I arrested him, that he lived there still; I have never needlessly interfered with him or any one else.
Defendant: Have you ever knowingly arrested a freeholder in the township for being without a license?
Mr. Smith: I believe that, four or five months ago, I did arrest a man who was a freeholder, but it was not stated to me at the time.
Defendant: I merely ask the question to test the conduct of a public officer, and with no invidious in-tent. The step that has been taken in the face of this district, considering its peaceable condition (and I hope it will remain so), is highly impolitic. It is to be regretted that the officials connected with the gold-field should have chosen such a time for going out for licenses. (Hear, hear, and responsive disapprobation from the diggers). It has been with great difficulty on my part that things are as they are. So long as I am not taken out of the way I am a guarantee for good order; when I am taken out of the way I can be a guarantee no longer. I cannot conceive by whose advice this raid, for I cannot characterise it as any-thing else, took place. According to what Captain Bull has said, the diggers were not to expect another application for licenses until the question was settled, and I must say that a thing more discreditable to the character of a gentleman or officials never took place than took place yesterday (slight hisses, &c). I speak plainly now, because I wish to see an equilibrium preserved between the authorities and the diggers. If preserved so much the better. There is a responsibility on either side resting on the Government and on the digger, and no one can tell the consequence if either step out of the line. Yesterday's flagrant injustice has excited the minds of men who were tranquilly dis-posed, and I think, if you understood the matter rightly, such an appearance would never have been exhibited in the Castlemaine district.
Captain Bull: I wish to say one word previous to pronouncing the decision of the Bench. A large num-ber of people on the gold fields have conformed to the law, and are constantly saying how hard it is that they should conform while others do not. There is there-fore dissatisfaction on their parts. Therefore, when the officers go out, it is not from any motive that can be characterised as harsh or ungentlemanly, and I have never heard that they acted in a harsh and un-gentlemanlike way.
Defendant: I did not complain of harsh treatment.
Captain Bull: I did not interfere with your statement, and I beg you will not interrupt mine. We are officers appointed by Government, and if we do not do our duty faithfully, as we are bound to do, we ought to be turned out by the public, or complained of. While the act is in force it must be carrried out, of course in a mild and gentlemanlike manner. It was done yesterday to meet the view of hundreds who hold licenses, and who feel aggrieved at being subjected to an obligation from which others escape; it was not done to excite the people in the slightest degree. This goldfield has always had a large population of orderly and respectable people, who have hitherto supported the Government officer throughout, and I am not aware that any complaints (I speak only of the commissioners) have ever been made of the manner in which they executed their duty on the gold fields. My commissioners, who are compelled to be present at all the visits of the police, go about by themselves settling claims, and the people invariably express themselves satisfied with their decisions. But this unfortunate tax—unfortunate it is for all of us—which men object to, creates differences which we cannot help. We are not the Government but its servants; and let any one who is employed by a master, whether public or pri-vate, let him put it to his conscience whether it would not be a great breach of faith if he did not do whatever his duties required him to perform. Mr. Smith did not overstep his duties, and had Dr. Hambrook men-tioned how he was situated, as proved to our satisfac-tion, he would not have been in his present position, I was anxious that no one connected with the Gold Commission should have been on the bench, and I asked Dr. Preshaw to sit. But I will not shrink from the perfor-mance of my duty. We have heard the case, and the result will, I dare say, have been anticipated by you all. It is dismissed, and there must be regret that Dr. Hambrook did not save himself and us the trouble and anxiety that this case has caused by simply saying, "Sir, I am not living on Crown lands." As regards Dr. Hambrook being a marked man, all I can say is, that if we wanted one, we could soon have found him. If an officer on duty had omitted to charge Dr. Hambrook under the circumstances, he would have been liable to an imputation of injustice or want of courage. I have nothing more to say than to express my hope that the Commission, which will soon be here, will assist in making the law more congenial to the feel-ings of the people.[2]

See also


Goldfields Reform League

Red Ribbon Rebellion

Further Reading

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


  1. Ballarat Courier, 15 May 1954.
  2. Sydney Morning Herald, 01 January 1855.

External links

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Caption, Reference.