Ralph Liddle was born at Reith, Yorkshire, England on 23 May 1830. After visiting the Crystal Palace in 1851 and seeing a large nugget exhibited, he decided to sail for Australia, leaving Liverpool on the Bloomer. He had much success at the Gravel pits where he obtained 98 pounds weight of gold from a few bucketfuls of soil.
Liddle managed mines for several companies around Victoria. It is thought that Liddle suggested a school for mines to James Bickett, which resulted in the establishment of Australia’s first School of Mines at Ballarat. .
Liddle died in 1908 and is buried at Delegate Cemetery, New South Wales.
Goldfields Involvement, 1854
Liddle was a miner who was in Ballarat during the Eureka Stockade on 03 December 1854 and it is believed that, in an attempt to prevent bloodshed, he accompanied the police as they left the stockade. During the diggers’ retreat one of Mr Liddle’s mates was shot.
Post 1854 Experiences
- There passed away on Saturday, the 24th inst., at Cometville, Delegate, at the age of 78 years, one who has played no unimportant part in the history of this land, as the following brief particulars of a busy and eventful life prove:-
- The late Mr Liddle was born at Reith, Yorkshire (England), on the 23rd May, 1830. At the age of 21 – when the goldfields of California were drawing adventurous spirits as a magnet – Mr Liddle was on the point for sailing for those shores, when he visited the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851, and seeing the large nugget of gold there exhibited from Louisa Gully, he decided to try his fortune in Australia, and sailed from Liverpool in the good ship Bloomer. In those days the passage from England was not accomplished in 40 days and it was not until after eight months that Mr Liddle set foot on shore in Sydney. He was at all the important gold rushes of Victoria and New South Wales, and met with the usual ups and downs of those exciting times. On many occasions he ‘struck it rich”, for instance at the Gravel Pits, when he obtained 98 lbs weight of gold from a few bucketfuls of stuff. Being in Ballarat during the period proceeding and at the time of the Eureka Stockade Affair, it was only natural that such an adventurous spirit should take a leading part. The origin of the Stockade riots is ancient history but perhaps few are aware of the incidents leading up to it. One of the hotels of Ballarat in those days was Bentley’s, and it appears that a miner named Scobie was passing Bentley’s, with the usual shovel, when he accidentally or otherwise, smashed one of Bentley’s windows. Bentley immediately picked up the shovel and killed Scobie. The miners were very incensed at this, and an attempt was made to lynch Bentley, and Mr Liddle relates how he called a meeting of miners and addressed 10,000 of them on the side of law and order. Bentley escaped lynching, but his place was burned to the ground, and this is said to have led to the Eureka Stockade riots, in which Mr Liddle, who intent on preventing bloodshed, accompanied the police; during the retreat of miners Mr Liddle’s mate was shot. Subsequently, he managed mines for several companies in Victoria, and was associated with the late Hare Wood, Under Secretary for Mines, and Mr Bickett, one of the originators of the School of Mines, Ballarat, and it was during a conversation with Mr Bickett, in which the subject was the lack of mining knowledge, which was the lost of most mine managers, and Mr Liddle suggested, “Why not educate them?” asked by Mr Bickett “How?” the reply was “build a school for them.” An so originated the Ballarat School of Mines, in which the subject of this sketch took an active part, as he also did in the hospital movement there. About this time Mr Liddle was requested to stand for Parliament, and such was his popularity amongst the diggers that his return was assured, but he did not desire such honor and declined nomination. Subsequently when gold was found in the Bendoc district, Mr Liddle was sent to manage the Morning Star and also the Come Love mines, and afterwards was manger of the Rising Star at Bonang.
- Tiring of a mining life; on land being thrown open for selection in this district in 1873, he selected at Cometville, where he resided up to the time of his death. Mr Liddle’s interest in matters appertaining to the public welfare did not end with his mining career, for he was one of the founders of the local School of Arts (for which he was made a life member), Church of England, P and A Society, and was also instrumental in securing the present cemetery, and many other things which have passed from the memory of the present generation. Mr Liddle was also instrumental in inducing Mr Farnell (a then Minister for Lands, and a personal friend) to bring in a bill increasing the size of holdings from 320 to 640 acres, pointing out that the smaller area, in this district anyway, was insufficient.
- Mr Liddle was much esteemed and admired by his many friends for his honesty and natural kindness of heart, and his family will have the satisfaction of knowing that his life was not ill spent.
- The remains were interred in the Church of England cemetery on Monday, in the presence of a very large number of friends and relatives, a service being held at the Church prior to internment, arrangements were carried out by Mr A.E. Helmers.
- The deceased leaves a wife, and family of two sons and six daughters.
Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.