Eureka Flag

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The flag of the Ballarat Reform League, the Southern Cross, now more commonly known as the Eureka flag, was first flown at a Monster Meeting of around 12,000 men held on 29th November 1854 at Bakery Hill. The meeting was called to hear the results of the Ballarat Reform League's deputation to Governor Hotham. The anger of the meeting when they heard of Governor Hotham's dismissal of their Charter led to a call to burn mining licences.[1]


The Eureka Flag, the King family and the Art Gallery of Ballarat

Through the generosity of the descendants of John King, the Eureka flag was given to the Art Gallery of Ballarat in 2001. The flag had been on loan to the Gallery since 1895 when John King's widow was approached by the Gallery Association at the instigation of Gallery President, James Oddie. [2]

Original flags are a rarity - they seldom survive the battles where they have been flown or, as in the case of the Eureka flag, the many years before their significance is recognised. [3]

John King had been a police trooper at the storming of the Stockade. He had volunteered to 'capture' the flag, climbing the flagpole and tearing the flag from its mast to do so. The flag was then used as evidence in the treason trials in early 1855. It is believed that when no-one claimed the flag after the trials it was returned to John King, who was by now a farmer having left the police force soon after Eureka. The King family treasured the flag for over 40 years before James Oddie learnt of its survival. [4]

Isabella King, widow of John King, agreed to loan the flag to the Gallery and wrapped it and sent it by parcel post to Ballarat along with a letter:

Kingsley, Minyip,
1st October, 1895
Dear Sir, In connection with the wish of the president of the Ballarat Fine Arts and Public Gallery for the gift or loan of the flag that floated above the Eureka Stockade, I have much pleasure in offering loan of flag to the above association on condition that I may get it at any time I specify, or on demand of myself or my son, Arthur King. The main portion of the flag was torn along the rope that attached it to the staff, but there is still part of it around the rope so that I suppose it would be best to send the whole of it as it now is. You will find several holes, that were caused by bullets that were fired at my late husband in his endeavours to seize the flag at that memorable event:- Yours, &c.,
Mrs J. King (per Arthur King)[5]

The loan continued until 2001 when the descendants were approached by the Gallery Director to formally and legally gift the flag to the Gallery. Interest in Eureka and the flag had increased to a point where there were at that time a number of individuals and institutions showing interest in claiming the flag. The flag had survived 147 years due to the care of the King family and the Art Gallery of Ballarat. It was time to formalise the ownership.[6]

In 2013 the Art Gallery of Ballarat agreed to loan the Eureka Flag to the Museum of Democracy at Eureka.