John Sadlier

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Travelling to the Diggings, the Keilor Plains. Victoria by John A. Gilfillan. State Library of Victoria Collection (H25126)
Walter E. Pidgeon, Illustration from The Eureka Stockade by Raffaello Carboni, Sunnybrook Press, 1942, offset print.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased 1994.


John Sadlier was born in Ireland.

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Sadlier was an inspecting superintendent of the Victorian police. He came to Ballarat on 6 January 1853, and was appointed a sub-inspector of police on 1 January 1854 on a salary of 280 pounds.

Post 1854 Experiences

In The News

A journey on foot from Melbourne to Ballarat in midsummer in the early fifties was by no means a treat, for besides the toil and fatigue of travelling in the beat, there was always more or less uncertainly as regards food and water supplies.
We were a company of police cadets, 25 all told, and every man of the lot a new chum. Starting from Melbourne on the afternoon of January 1, 1853, we reached Moonee Ponds, close to John Thomas Smith's house, where we camped for the night. We were without tents, and to escape the force of the strong north wind, we laid ourselves down to sleep in a dry watercourse. This answered very well until a deluge of rain suddenly came on during the night, that nearly washed us into the creek, and carried away our boots, socks, shirt-collars, &c., never to be seen by us again.
Our second night found as camped on the Keilor plains, and introduced us to a different set of experiences. We had some valuable horses hobbled and feeding close to the camp. Early in the night we dis covered that some persons were trying to sneak off with them. We were under arms nearly all night, and so had but little rest. The fellows did not come near enough, or we should most certainly have had a shot at them.
At the close of the next day's journey, we met with a right royal exception. The commandant had ridden on ahead to Bacchus Marsh, and we found at "The Woolpack" there such provision ready for us as gladdened our hearts. I do not suppose the Lieutenant-Governor could have got up such a feast as host Crooke had prepared for us that day. We were loath to leave, know ing that there was no other house of entertainment all the remaining way to Ballarat. We gave the kindly old fellow three hearty cheers as we moved off. The old house was still standing when I last passed that way, but it was unoccupied, and was fast falling into decay.
The night before reaching Ballarat we camped under Mount Warrenheip, where the forest was more dense than anything we had ever seen before. Some of us had been brought up in agricultural pursuits, and quickly recognised the richness of the soil, but the practicability of getting rid of such heavy timber did not occur to us. I have often thought, in later years, that if some of the young men so ready to lose heart when tackling the Gippsland forests had seen Warrenheip as we then saw it, and, not many years after, men running over one another to give £40 or £45 an acre, for the same land, they would be encouraged to persevere. The Warrenheip and"Bungaree farmers had this advantage-the mines were ready to take all the timber they could deliver. As against this, however, the Gippsland soil, especially in the hazel country, is greatly superior, the climate is milder, the rainfall better, and the cost of labour not half what it used to be.
As we marched through the diggings next morning our appearance caused much cUriosity and excitement. The diggers clustered round us, and treated us to some good humoured chaff. Someone in the crowd called out "Halt," when we, supposing it was the Commandant, immediately, halted, with military, precision, aMid great roars of laughter.
The only building to be seen in Ballarat in January, 1853, was a two-roomed weatherboard cottage. This was on "The Camp," as the locality was palled, where thE Government tents stood. In one room, about twelve feet square, the police magistrate, Alfred Eyre, held the court. The other he kept for his private use, and for the accommodation of distinguished visitors, such as the Lieutenant-Governor, Mr. La Trobe, or Bishop Perry. I think Lord Alfred Churchill took up his quarters there during a short visit to Ballarat. The principal courts, general and petty sessions, were at this time held at Buninyong. Ballarat was regarded as of secondary importance only. Mr. A. P. Akehurst, then a fair haired youth, and who until quite recently held the office of secretary to the Law department, acted as Clerk of Petty Sessions at both places. Eyre, was a dry stick, but an excellent magistrate, and, perhaps, the only man at Ballarat who really knew law. Close behind the camp were two ramshackle, structures, occupied by Patricius Welch, better known as Paddy Welch, and Meek, two well-known men on Ballarat in the early days. Meek drew the excellent pen and-ink maps that have been exhibited at various times.
The principal Government officer at Ballarat was Fenwick, the resident commissioner. He was not a success. Neither was J. M. Clow, sometimes spoken of as Ole Clo' who shortly relieved him, and he in turn was retraced by Colonel (Cockey) Rede, afterwards sheriff of Melbourne, who still survives, looking hale and well. Rede continued to hold office up to the time of the Eureka riots in December, 1854.
The assistant gold commissioners, the equivalents of the wardens of the present day, were Bury, Sherard, Amos (lost in the London), Brackenbury (one of the most amusing and clever of scapegraces), Le Couterer, Johnston (for many years after judge sioners). Webster, who still kicks the beam at something about. 24st., is spending the evening of his days at Greensborough, in the pleasant pursuit of fowl farming.
John D'Ewes succeeded Eyre as police magistrate, and held office until the riots, when he fell into grievous disrepute in connection with the affair of Bentiey's Hotel.
The police department was represented at various times by Superintendent Henry (Tony) Foster and Gordon Evans. Foster had put in some years as a medical student, and his kindness to the sick and injured may-be said to have been the founder, few subsequently removed to Carlsruhe. Captain (afterwards Sir Charles MacMahon was Chief Commissioner at the time. Evans reported on of his junior officers for same breach of duty. This officer, retaliated by charging him with some offence of an earlier date, which, on being proved, led to Evans's retirement. The matters charged against the junior officer were not of much importance, or were not proved, but seeing that this officer had known of the misconduct of his senior long before he reported it, Captain MacMahon insisted on his removal also from the service. This was a severe but most proper exercise of discipline.
The junior officers of police were De Courcey Hamilton, afterwards chief con stable of Devonshire; Arnold, killed in 1859, in a coach accident near Kilmore; Carter, the first, during the Eureka fight, to reach the drill tent of the insurgents; Ximenes, who had served with distinction under Sir De Lacy Evans, Taylor, Greene, Chomley (now Chief Commissioner of Police), and myself. Colonel Russell and Lieutenant Baylis, the officers in charge of a company of army pensioners, represented the military. There were, besides, a gold receiver, a commissariat officer, an archi tect, a surgeon, a surveyor, not to mention a number of clerks, police cadets, sergeants, and constables.
It has been the general impression that the camp officials as a body were responsible for the dissatisfaction that culminated in the Eureka outbreak. Nothing could be more erroneous, for, excepting one or two individuals, I can bear testimony to the high sense of duty that prevailed amongst all the higher officers. More than this, it was within my own knowledge that these officers repeatedly represented to Government the expediency of relaxing the regulations that pressed so hard on the mining and business community.
Samuel Thomas Gill, Refreshment Shanty, Ballarat, 1854, watercolour and gum arabic on paper.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, gift from the Estate of Lady Currie, 1963.
When a number of men are collected together, without books or newspapers or society of any kind, they should not be too severely judged if their amusements are not of a very elevating character. Cards were certainly not unknown, and I have seen considerable sums of money change hands over the "race" game, which was then a novelty. There had been walnuts for dessert, which, on being opened, were found to contain nothing but jumpers, let me call them, in a very lively condition. Two men raced these creatures, one against another. A short course was marked out along the mess table, and each owner was allowed to use a straw in direct ing his favourite toward the winning post, but not to help otherwise. The stakes rose from half-crowns to pounds, but nothing could keep pace with one man's nomination. Other players joined in until there was quite a large field, but. no matter how many starters, the same man still collared the stakes. He bad many sporting offers for his nomination, and finally accepted a pretty stiff sum, on' condition that he was allowed to enter a fresh one. When the game was resumed, the old champion was heavily backed, but, as so often happens, the favourite was nowhere, and the lucky player, with, his new choice, won easily. It is an old paying that onlookers see most of the game, and so it happened on this occasion. One of the non-players noticed that before touching up his nomina tion, "the placer invariably dipped his straw into a glass of very strong grog stand ing beside him, with the results already described. The fairness of this sort of thing was questioned, and there was very nearly a disturbance over the matter. After that the other members of the mess gave him best at all such impromptu games.
Commissioner James Johnston had decided in a dispute between some Irishmen and Scotchmen regarding a claim situated on the flat below the camp, not far from the present Bridge-street. The Scotchmen were confirmed in their possession, but the demeanour of the Irish was so threatening they were mostly a turbulent lot-I was sent down with a party of police to protect the men in possession. It was a hot day in February, and we felt weary enough as hour after hour passed without any ap pearance of the enemy. At last, out of a cloud of dust came rushing and veiling a mob of perhaps 200 Irishmen. At first sight of them the man working in the shaft-it was only about 4ft. deep-dropped his tools and prepared to clear out. I got off my horse, however, and kept the man forcibly in the hole, promising to protect him whatever happened. For a time the Irishmen merely clustered round us, bluster ing and demanding that all work should be stopped. He police were greatly handicapped through the terror shown by the man in possession, who asked to be allowed to go, and so let the Irishmen have their own way. At length one of the latter jumped into the shaft and wrested the pick from Scotty, when he was immediately arrested. Then the whole brigade rushed in upon us, striking at us with their fists, some pelting us with clods and empty bottles, and for a time things were very lively. The police had been supplied with batons only, but these were not of much use, for the men could scarcely breathe, not to speak striking with effect, so great was the pressure. For the same reason the Irish men nearest us could do us but little damage One of them struck me from behind with his fist, knocking off my cap. A constable named Fahy was close behind me and and saw the blow, and begged of me to try and ease off the pressure a little, when he swung himself round and give the man who struck me a tap on the crown that instantly stopped him. Matters were going very hard with us, when, suddenly, there was the discharge of firearms quite close to us, but no one seemed to know precisely where it came from. The effect, however, on the crowd was remarkable, Evidently they selves the shot was fired by one of them selves, for they immediately broke away, leaving us standing alone with our prisoner. Presently one of the constables dropped, when it was discovered that, in the act of drawing pistol, which he had concealed in his belt, He discharged it into his thigh, severing the femoral artery. Fortunately for him, Dr. Mount was standing by, and, by pitting his thumbs on the wound until further help arrived, saved the constable from bleeding to death.
All that I have just described occurred in full view of the camp. In fact, on looking in that direction is the crowd broke away, we could see detachment of the military pensioners coming towards us at the double, or as near it as their old legs would allow. As soon as these men relieved us of our prisoner, and of the wounded constable, we returned to the scene of the disturbance, and searched in the shallow sinkings, and in the grog tents close by, where we made several arrests. In effecting these arrests we were guided more by the fact that we found the men lying concealed than by any direct evidence of their participation in the disturbances. The police magistrate however, considered the evidence sufficient, and gave the prisoner six months each.[1]

TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARGUS. - Sir-I think that any person knowing Mr. Oddie would know he would not exaggerate about the Eureka Stockade. I wish to inform Mr. Sadlier I am the person who conveyed the bodies of Gittens and O'Neill to Ballarat Cemetery on that memorable 3rd of December, 1854, and on the body of one of those there were 10 wounds. I will let the public of the present day judge for themselves whether that was butchery or not.
Yours. &c., . M. BOLGER.[2]The Australasian,

A Digger Hunt, University of Ballarat Historical Collection (Cat.No. 4170)
Sir, – My friend Mr. Lavater makes my letter of the 17th inst. the occasion of some warmth. The name Dr. Ewes was a mis-print for Dewes or D'Ewes. I never knew before that this officer served at Geelong. The police officer Armstrong, mentioned by Mr. Lavater, left the public service 15 months before the outbreak ; and as early as January or February, 1854, the police – I am speaking of those at Ballarat only – were forbidden to carry any weapon but their baton. What happened at Smythsdale in March, 1854 (see Mr. Cane's letter), I cannot say.
Mr. Bolger, another correspondent, says that at the last "digger hunt" the police carried arms, but he does not explain that this was the time when the diggers were nightly "sniping" the Government camp as admitted by Mr. Lavater, and while they held in forced imprisonment Commissioner Amos, "one of the beloved of the diggers" according to the same authority. The Eureka outbreak from every point of view, was a stupendous folly. It would be well if the whole affair could be forgotten. —
Yours, &c., J. SADLEIR.
June 23.[3]

OLD COLONIAL DAYS. - There is a growing interest in the early annals of Australia, which many writers have sought to gratify, the latest being Mr. John Sadlier, late inspecting superintendent of police in Victoria. Born in Ireland, he sailed as a lad for Melbourne in 1852 and soon afterwards joined the police cadets, a force of about 250 men, recruited from all classes. There was then great need for their services, especially at night, when Melbourne was badly lighted and the streets swarmed with criminals from Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales. After months of hard drilling, our author was drafted with some of his companions to Ballarat. At that time there was no lock-up and prisoners were tethered to a tree, which exposed them to all climatic conditions. Subsequently they were given the protection of a log hut. One of his earliest prisoners was a fellow-passenger, who had been caught stealing potatces. He pleaded want, but the law had small pity on starving men. Another fellow-passenger our author encountered under more tragic circumstances. He was rolling about, covered with blood, in a dry-watercourse. and when asked his name could only articulate "Mossell."' To a question as to his assailant his reply invariably was, "You did; you did, " suggesting that be still thought himself in the company of the criminal, probably a familiar acquaintance:- The marks on the ground all round showed signs of a fierce struggle. The unfortunate fellow's face and hands were covered with congealed blood. Conveyed to Ballarat, he was washed and his wounds examined. He resisted every attempt to remove his trousers. I thought I recognised him as young Maunsell, a fellow-passenger in the Great Britain: but his face and head were so battered and disfigured that his most intimate friend could not make sure of his identity. Maunsell. who was the son of a clergyman, lived but a day or two, and was buried in the clothes in which he was found. A week or so later it transpired that Mannsell. with a man named Sexton, had left for Ballarat, having a considerable sum in notes sewn into his pocket, with the intention of buying gold. The body was disinterred and the notes found in the trousers. Sexton made away to some South American port and was there lost sight of. ... [4]

See also

James Oddie


Further Reading

Blake, Gregory, To Pierce the Tyrant's Heart,Australian Military History Publications, 2009.


  1. The Australasian, 19 February 1898.
  2. The Argus, 20 September 1913.
  3. The Argus, 24 June 1909.
  4. Adelaide Advertiser, 20 September 1913.

External links

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Caption, Reference.