James Esmond

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James Esmond, Victoria and its Metropolis.
James Esmond, Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection
Ballarat Gold Pioneers Prior to the Issue of the Gold License, 1851


James Esmond was born in 1822 at Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland.[1] He is credited with finding the first payable gold in Victoria. This took place at Clunes on 01 July 1851.

James Esmond died on 03 December 1899, aged 67-8, and is buried in the Ballaarat New Cemetery.[2]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

James Esmond was known as Happy Jim.[3]

Post 1854 Experiences

On 25 July 1884 the committee resolved to inspect the Eureka Stockade Reserve and determine the site for the proposed memorial, and invite the Ballarat East Council to participate. The committee met at Joseph's Hotel, Eureka Street as a diversity of opinion exists regarding the position once occupied by the stockade.[4]

Eureka Stockade Monument, 2008, Photography: Clare Gervasoni.
The great interest taken in everything concerning the Eureka Stockade was evident yesterday, when several hundred persons gathered at the site at Eureka Street, Ballarat East, for the purpose of fixing the exact spot where the fight took place, on which the monument will shortly be erected. Besides a large number of Stockaders and old identities, there were present Messrs James and Russell, M.L.A., Mayor Ferguson and Councillors Lewis, Morrison, Williams, Roff, Gregory, Walker, Scott, Elsworth, and Messrs Bechervaise, J.N. Wilson, H. Josephs, Lester, C. Dyte, D. Turpie and Mr H.A. King, the architect. Mr James Esmond, the gold discoverer, who looked very well, was amongst the Stockaders present. It soon became apparent that great difficulty was in the way of setting down the exact boundaries of the Stockade, which measured about 400 feet in diameter, This was on account of the great change in the surface, the neighbourhood having undergone considerable change in the course of thirty years. Each knot of Stockaders was of a different opinion, and the scenes were rather amusing, as each one stuck stubbornly to his opinion. the memorial committee recognised the difficulty, but had not foreseen anything of the sort, no arrangement had been made to take evidence on the point. Ultimately Councillor Roff exclaimed - "Let us make a ring and get the different opinions." This idea was carried out. Mr James, M.L.A. said that he had come to the conclusion that the Stockade was to the north of the Eureka Street rise. there were cries of 'No, No." Nearly all the remaining diggers were of the opinion that the fight took place about 200 yards to the north of Eureka Street, and ultimately the spot which is about 200 yards to the east of what was generally accepted as the site, was set down as the centre of the Stockade. Mayor Ferguson duly made the announcement, which was received with cheers. The sport selected, even if not actually the exact site of the Stockade, was undoubtedly the most suitable for the monument, which will probably be unveiled on the 30th anniversary in December next. About 50 pounds is still required for the completion of the monument. it is not generally known that 12 acres in the neighbourhood of the Stockade has been declared a reserve, The whole, or a portion of this reserve, will shortly be fenced in by the Town Council.


Yours, &c., W. B. WITHERS
Australian men of the fifties will be glad to know, on this the 37th anniversary of the encounter at the Eureka Stockade, that a dutiful work has just been done in the New Cemetery where the the mortal remains of James William Esmond. As the first prac-tical publisher of the existence of gold in the soil of Victoria, Esmond is for ever his-torically connected with the great impetus which the gold discovery gave to the develop ment of the industrial resources of all Aus tralia, and especially of Victoria. He was also one of Lalor’s captains in the action at the Stockade, and it will be remembered that he died on the 36th anniversary of that memorable day. A few of Esmond’s friends thought that whilst the Stockade chief had official honors and emoluments, and is to have an effigy in bronze pedestalled on one of the more conspicuous spots in this city, the remains of the humbler gold discoverer, whose adventure brought that chief and tens of thousands besides to these colonies, should not be suffered to lie in an anonymous and unhonored grave. So thinking, they rallied round the widow and have assisted her in obtaining the freehold of her late husband’s grave, and in suitably en closing the ground and erecting a memorial to the deceased. It is confidently hoped that, in graceful recognition of Esmond's historic position as, practically, the first dis coverer of gold in Victoria, the cemetery trustees will be pleased to remit the customary fees in connection with the burial place. But in any event Mrs Esmond is now the grantee in freehold of the ground for her own and her family’s possession. Duly instructed thereto, Messrs M’Donald and Sons, the mortuary sculptors,have enclosed the grave with bluestone, and have erected a strong iron railing upon the stone work. On a marble tablet at the head of the grave is the following inscription, beneath a Roman cross and wreaths of shamrock:— “Sacred to the memory of James William Esmond, the gold discoverer. Born 11th April, 1822; died 3rd December, 1890. R.I.P.” The work is strong and plain— like the man once was whose memory it celebrates—without any delicate excesses of ornament. Mr Rattray, the sexton, out of respect for Esmond’s memory, has kindly refunded the cost of forming and planting the grave surface, and henceforth the widow and her children have the pious duty of keeping the place comely to the eye. Esmond was not a perfect man—who of us is but, as one who knows how brave he was in his last sufferings, and who has often heard, of his liberality when he could be liberal, l am glad to be able to say that his friends came forward with something like enthusiasm to the work just completed. In asking for assistance, I met with the freest respouse, and had offers of more than was necessary to render the due tribute now set up to his memory. Those who had known him best and longest were the readiest to give and to express their respect for him. One of his fellow captains at the Stockade, sending his cheque, wrote:—“ I enclose small cheque, and may add when I see what is going to be done.” Another friend, writing from a distance, in another district says:—“l am only too glad to be able to. send you a cheque towards the memory of the late Mr Esmond, whom I had known and re spected for a number of years.” Another writing, with cheque, also from another dis trict, says:—“ Whilst deeply regretting the cause for the memorial to the late Mr Esmond, I am truly glad to have the opportunity to contribute my mite to the memory of one with whom I had the pleasure of be coming acquainted more than 40 years ago— the genial, jolly, kind, and good Jim Esmond.” I give these as samples of the bulk of feeling exhibited in ready deeds in this business about the gold discoverer’s grave, and because I have heard here and there some coarse wards of uncalled for dis-paragement of the claims made on his behalf. He is now, for ever, where The fretful stir Unprofitable, and the fever of the world, shall no more bang upon the beatings of his heart. They who visit his grave may look ont, through the tree tops, towards the spot where he lived and worked, and came on gold about the spurs of the Pyrenees and at Clunes, look out upon a landscape of plain, and hill, and mountain range as beautiful as many of those which grace his own loved and picturesque Ireland. It is a scene of peace as well as of beauty. May we not think of it as a type of that heaven lier rest and beauty where, sometimes, if not even now, all departed souls may have their perfect consummation ? This is, probably, the last time I shall ever be called to public mention of Esmond's name and claims, and I feel assured that most of your readers will join, on this anniversary day, in this requiem to his memory. On this day week subscribers, to the memorial will find in your advertising columns how their money has been expended.<Ballarat Star, 03 December1891.</ref>


James Esmond, the discoverer of gold at Clunes died last night, on the anniversary of the Eureka Stockade rebellion. Esmond had been in straitened circumstances and bad health for some time past, but was liberally assisted lately by his Ballarat friends.[5]

See also


Further Reading

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


  1. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/179392524/james-william-esmond, accessed 03 May 2019.
  2. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/179392524/james-william-esmond, accessed 03 May 2019.
  3. Currey, C.H., The Irish at Eureka, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1854.
  4. Chisholm, J.A., A few notes o the site of the Eureka Memorial, 1974.
  5. The Herald, 04 December 1890.

External links