Goldfields Involvement, 1854
Post 1854 Experiences
W.B. Withers' Account
- Teddy Shannahan, whose story about the Eureka Stockade will be found further on, gives some touches of the times when the first rushes had set the colony ablaze. From notes furnished by gentlemen on the staff of the Ballarat Courier after an interview with Shannahan, the author culls the following:
- My party arrived at Buninyong in 1851, just after Esmond and Dunlop, and we went on Golden Point a few days afterwards, where we got 8 oz from a bucketful of stuff. I saw one poor fellow killed by the fall of a tree which he had undermined recklessly, so anxious was he to get the gold. One day a commissioner and a trooper demanded my license, and, as I had not one, they took me, with a lot of others, to the camp, where we were guarded by eight or nine blackfellows, and they, with their polished boots, were looking as proud as possible. I got my license, after telling them my mind, and had to pay £10 in all. We went to Mount Alexander and Fryers' Creek and on to Bendigo, where we had our pick of a squatter's flock of sheep for 9s. a head. We were the first to sink in Long Gully. At Eaglehawk you could see the gold shining in the heap of dirt, and every man sat on his heap all night with pistol or some weapon in his hand; I thought they would be making picks and shovels of the gold, it was so plentiful. It was there the first nugget was found, one 9 lbs. in weight. We only got £3 an ounce for our gold. In a week or two we started for Geelong, where my family was, and “home, home," was the cry. Each of our party took about 8 lbs. weight of gold to Geelong. We spent Christmas of 1851 there, and soon after that decided to go again to Ballarat, taking our wives — Glenn and I — and families with us — seventeen in all. Three inches of snow fell in Ballarat on our arrival, and we were hardly landed on the Eureka when up came a commissioner and a trooper and demanded our grog; we had ten gallons of brandy, and had to give it up, and we had got it at the post office below, but we did not tell where we got it, though the commissioner knew, for the bullock driver, we believed, had told him. The trooper wanted a digger to assist him with the grog; “if you do," said I, "I'll smash your head," so the digger, gave no assistance. Next day the commissioner came back to my mate, and got him to take the keg to the camp. We paid the post office man £1 a gallon for the grog, and he gave us back the £10. We started digging on the Eureka, near where the stockade was afterwards. One day, when the troopers were license hunting, I saw Thomas Maher get into a hollow log to escape the troopers; when he got in he found a snake there four feet long; it went to one end of the log, and Maher remained till the troopers went away. The diggers were wearied out of their lives by the troopers. They were tormented every-where. Our party from first to last on the diggings must have paid about £500 in license fees.
- Shannahan, who is now 86 years of age, may be pardoned if his memory is not exact as to the number of pounds. His notion of the "tormenting" troopers is honestly Hibernian, and was thoroughly characteristic in one who began his narration to the Courier interviewer with the words : —
- ' No, it was not the gold discovery that brought me out. In Corrigeen, Barony of Kilmarney, where I lived, seventeen houses were burnt in one day by way of eviction. I at once made up my mind to be under Parker, our landlord, no longer, and I came out here.
- The ever recurring wail of the Saxon-hating Irish Celt was thus most naturally echoed by Shannahan as soon as he found the inconvenient officers of the law crossing his path in this new land. Shannahan had a store within the Stockade, and there the declaration of independence, mentioned in a subsequent chapter, was drawn up.
Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
- Withers, W.B.,The History of Ballarat: From the First Pastoral Settlement to the Present,1887, p.32-3.