John O'Donnell

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Bendigo Goldfields Petition Cover, August 1853. State Library of Victoria (MS 12440)
Red Ribbon Movement Monument in Rosalind Park, Bendigo [detail], 2013. Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection


John O'Donnell was born at Cooraclare, County Clare, Ireland, in 1838. He sailed to Australia on the Royal Saxon as part of Caroline Chisholms Family Unification activity.[1]

After the death of John O'Donnell's father in 1848 John was digging for gold on the Ballarat diggings and was not far from Eureka when events took shape there.[2]

John O'Donnell died at Colac in 1905 aged 66, and is buried at Colac Cemetery.

MRS. JOHN O'DONNELL, of Irrewillipe, desires to THANK Dr Hope (then acting.Medical Officer of the Colac Hospital), and the Matron for their care and attention to her late husband during the time he was an inmate of the institution.[3]

Goldfields Involvement, 1853-1854

John O'Donnell signed the 1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition. Agitation of the Victorian goldfields started with the Forest Creek Monster Meeting in 1851, but what became known as the Red Ribbon Movement was centred around the Bendigo goldfields in 1853. The Anti-Gold License Association was formed at Bendigo in June 1853, led by George Thomson, Dr D.G. Jones and 'Captain' Edward Browne. The association focused its attention on the 30 shillings monthly licence fee miners were required to pay to the government. They drew up a petition outlining digger grievances and called for a reduced licence fee, improved law and order, the right to vote and the right to buy land. The petition was signed by diggers at Bendigo, Ballarat, Castlemaine, McIvor (Heathcote), Mount Alexander (Harcourt) and other diggings. The 13 metre long petition was presented to Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe in Melbourne on the 01 August 1853, but their call for a reduction in monthly licence fees and land reform for diggers was rejected. The diggers dissatisfaction erupted into the Red Ribbon Rebellion where agitators wore red ribbons on their hats symbolising their defiance of the law and prohibitive licence fees.

According to family tradition passed through the generation before dawn on 03 December 1854 Peter Lalor and John O'Donnell went on a patrol around the perimeter of the Eureka Stockade. Each heading in a different direction. Peter Lalor encountered the troops under Captain Thomas, and was wounded in the ensuing battle. John O'Donnell heard the shooting and quickly left the area, thus ensuring his own survival and avoiding arrest. [4]

John O'Donnell died at Colac in 1905 aged 66, and is buried in the Colac Cemetery.

Post 1854 Experiences

John o'Donnell worked around the central Victorian goldfields. About 1870 John O'Donnell selected land at Gooroc near Swanwater beyond St Arnaud. His two brothers and some of his sisters also took up grain growing blocks about Gooroc.

After the death of his first wife he remarried and later sold his land and got another selection at Irrewillipe East to the west of Colac. This was the region his second wife had come from.


The parents of John O'Donnell were Martin O'Donnell and Margaret Green.[5]

John O'Donnell married Margaret Green in 1870.[6] Their Children are:

1. Malachy O'Donnell

2. George O'Donnell


An old colonist, Mr John O'Donnell, of Irrewillipe, died at Colac yesterday, at the age of 62 years. The deceased, who had been a resident in this State for 56 years, will be buried at the Colac Cemetery to-morrow (Saturday) afternoon, the funeral leaving the residence of Mr George James at 2.30 o'clock.[7]

The funeral of the late Mr John McDonnell, of Irrewillipe, took place at the Colac Cemetery on Saturday. The coffin was borne to the grave by Messrs Malachy and George O'Donnell (sons of deceased), and Jer. and Thos. Maloney, the pall-bearers being Messrs Mumby, A. Kilpatrick, W. Taylor, senr., J. Wylie, J. Casey, E. Considine, J. Hayes, P. Hayden, J. Dolan and J. Milverton. The service was conducted by the Rev Father M'Carthy, and the funeral arrangements were in the hands of Mr George James.[8]

See also

  Bendigo Goldfields Petition

  Ballarat Reform League Inc. Monuments Project

Eureka Stockade


Further Reading



  1. Research by descendant Roderick O'Donnell.
  2. Research by descendant Roderick O'Donnell.
  3. Colac Herald, 20 November 1905.
  4. Research by descendant Roderick O'Donnell.
  5. Victorian Death certificate 12223/1905
  6. Victorian Marriage Records 1675/1870
  7. Colac Herald, 20 October 1905.
  8. Colac Herald, 23 October 1905.


External links  

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