Eureka Stockade

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Section of the Stockade Fence, Built of Slabs, Courtesy Ballarat Heritage Services

Building the Stockade


‘Twas in the early part of 1854 that our band, after a prolonged tour, which carried from out homes in the Fatherland throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain, and from thence to Australia, entered into an engagement with Messrs Noble, Jones and Foley, circus proprietors, for a lengthy season in Ballarat. This article was written in the early 1890s by a member of a German band who settled in this country. These small German bands roamed the world and led the way to the present-day brass band. This historical item of Australiana was published in the Australian Bandsman. ‘Twas in the early part of 1854 that our band, after a prolonged tour, which carried from out homes in the Fatherland throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain, and from thence to Australia, entered into an engagement with Messrs Noble, Jones and Foley, circus proprietors, for a lengthy season in Ballarat. As everyone knows, Ballarat was at this time in the ferment of agitation of the “Gold licence’ question which came to such a dramatic climax in the famous Eureka Stockade. We arrived at Ballarat to fulfil our engagement on a Sunday afternoon, and on reporting ourselves at the circus, were somewhat disconcerted by a serious warning from Mr Foley of the immediate necessity of obtaining licences to dig for gold. These were necessary even before residence on the goldfields was permitted by the police and cost £1 per month or £2in three months. Some few days before, the Hanoverian Band, a similar organisation, which was engaged in street playing, had been accosted by the troopers, who demanded their licences. Failing to produce them, they were hauled to the lock-up, tried and fined £5 each and had, in addition, to procure the necessary licences. We, of course, complied with this requirement at the earliest opportunity and so were unmolested by the police. Our band consisted of five pieces – An F flute, Eb clarinet, Bb cornet, Eb horn and Eb bass. Money was plentiful and we did very well. We never played for less than £1 for an hour and generally received more; but unfortunately it did not last long, for we were there only some four or five weeks when the storm burst. The discontent among the miners had been working up for a long time and towards the end daily became more acute.


Defiance and rebellion met the troopers everywhere in the course of their duty, and they, endeavouring to stamp out the trouble injudiciously goaded the men further on the road to violence. Meetings were held all over the place and finally, carried away by the spirit of the hour the miners kindled huge bonfires and openly gave expression to their feelings by burning their licences. But as I am not giving a full history of the riot, I will continue my tale to my immediate share in the events of that stirring period. Among the rough population of that wild district, there was a gang of men who excelled in lawlessness. Rightly or wrongly every special act of violence was attributed to the Tipperary Boys, as they were usually called. Coming straight from California, then under the reign of terror which existed on the wildest western goldfields, these men brought with them their rifles and pistols, and rumor said, scrupled not to use them when they deemed fit. Shortly after we had settled there, a number of the miners, who were found without licences, were tried and imprisoned in the lock-up – a building in the police camp. This sort of thing had often occurred before, but on this occasion the Tipperary Boys took the matter up and determined to attempt a rescue. They decided to arrange a procession to the police camp, demand the prisoners, and if they were not liberated to take them by force. A number of the ringleaders visited our lodgings (near the famous Charlie Napier saloon in Main road) and demanded that we should had the procession.


As they accompanied the demand – which we could see was not to be trifled with - a promise of £50, we consented, and played the crowd to the camp. Matters, however, did not go to the satisfaction of the Tipps, and ended up in a free fight, during which we prudently decamped. That £50 still lies to our credit with the Ballarat Miners for we have not yet seen the color of it. But this was not our only dealing with the gang. On the morning of the building of the famous stockade, we were again honoured by a visit from them. This time they wanted the loan of a cornet to be used as a bugle for the miners, and also a double-barrelled gun which they had found out we possessed. We deemed discretion the better part of valor, and lent the gun and one of our two cornets, the miners giving their guarantee for £5 for the cornet and £3 for the gun, if they were not returned. We never saw either cornet, gun or money after. But about an hour later they returned, and with levelled guns and pistols, ordered us out again with the promise of £50 which was paid like the previous sums. Naturally we complied and without delay go on the road. A stop was made as we reached the circus, which was pitched at the corner of Main road and what is now Barkly street, to enforce the services of two of the circus boys with bass drum and cymbals. Then away we went up the road playing our liveliest march. It was a strange sight- a constantly increasing body of men, clad in the greatest variety of garments, from the flannel and moleskins of the miners straight from the shaft toe the extravagant garments and colors of the the goldfields dandymen of all nations and colors – the most mixed assemblage of men that could be imagined. Some were defiantly swaggering, others evidently marching under compulsion; and all were escorted by the triumphant Tipperary Boys who dominated the situation with their weapons.


As the procession advanced up the road, and the music rang out, every shaft and every tent sent forth its occupant to see what was afoot, and no sooner did a head appear than a loaded weapon was presented at it, and a pre-emptory order issued for the newcomers to join the march at once. So one we marched, up Barkly street and into Victoria street, impressing every man we saw into the service, taking no denial and no delay until we arrived at the Eureka, where the miners had formed their camp. Here we were added to the hundreds already at work, and very soon every man was found a job in the building of the stockade, which was being constructed of the material nearest to hand. Slabs, logs, timber from the claims, boulders, everything and anything that they could lay their hands upon was used. The band was forced to keep playing all the day to liven up the men at work, until, at last the rude defence was completed, when Peter Lalor, taking no pity on us, asked Verne if the band was required any further. Verne replied: “Not at present; if I want then again I know where to find them.” We waited for no second bidding and very soon left the stockade behind us. There is no need for me to tell you of the night march of the soldiers against the flimsy barrier, of those deadly volleys at short range of its brave through vain defence by men armed with pikes and other makeshift weapons – that is all a matter of history now. Nor is there any need to tell how the miners, whilst defeated by force, won their fight in a more lasting way than force could ever have done, by arousing public sympathy and attention to the injustices they had suffered and were suffering, or of the happy outcome of it all in the later liberal mining legislation, and the value to Australia of the gold mines and miners of the present day forming as they do, the foundation of the prosperity of almost every colony. It is nearly 50 years now since I, as a youth, passed through those epoch- building times. But the incidents of those few weeks will ever remain fresh in my memory.[1]


The stockade at Eureka was built on 30 November 1854, and was destroyed during the Eureka Battle on 03 December 1854.

The most harrowing and heartrending scenes amongst the women and children I have witnessed through this dreadful morning. Many innocent persons have suffered, and many are prisoners who were there at the time of the skirmish but took no active part [...] At present every one is as if stunned, and but few are seen to be about. The flag of the diggings, "the Southern Cross," as well as the "Union Jack," which they had to hoist underneath, were captured by the foot police.[2]
Charles A. Doudiet, The Battlefield - Red Hill (From Post Office Hill), 1854, watercolour, pen and ink on paper.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery with the assistance of many donors, 1996.
The stockade, a rough barricade, enclosing about an acre of ground, on the Eureka lead, behind where the Orphan Asylum now stands, was made Lalor's headquarters. The barricade was a flimsy affair, constructed of slabs stuck on end, brush wood, and whatever could be obtained handy. It enclosed several tents, stores, and windlass claims, and appears to have been designed to conceal the operations of the head quarters staff rather than as a fort, in spite of Lalor's untiring efforts it it was difficult to enforce discipline. Men came and went freely, and all that happened was known to the commissioner. The diggers knew that another large reinforcement of troops from Melbourne was expected, and they believed they were secure until these arrived.
Captain Thomas, the officer in command of the military forces at the camp, realising that the diggers had been lulled into a false sense of security resolved on a surprise attack. On Sunday morning, December 3rd, just before daybreak, he led out his men (276) and stole silently to the gully between Cattle Yard Hill and the hill which Rodier-street now bisects, and wheeled round on the stockade, near the Free Trade Hotel, which was kept by Lester (afterwards of Lester's Hotel Sturt street). It was bright moonlight, and just breaking dawn Lalor's pickets sighted the red coats, and fired, and were answered by a volley from the troops. It is generally agreed there were not more than 300 men in the stockade at the time. Many of these were asleep. Numbers had only the clumsy pikes for arms. A few volleys and then the charge, and tee barricade fell like a pack of cards, and the fight was over in 25 or 30 minutes from the time the first shot was fired.
Fourteen of the diggers were killed outright, or subsequently died of their wounds, and 12 others were wounded, and a great batch of prisoners were taken. Lalor had his left arm smashed with a bullet. He was hidden under a pile of slabs, and escaped. Some days later his arm was amputated, and he was conveyed to Geelong, and kept in hiding until a general pardon was granted to those who had taken part in the episode. Two hundred pounds reward was offered for Lalor and the same amount for Black, and £500 for Vern who was concealed for week's in a diggers tent near Eureka. The loyalty of the digger's was such that none of the leaders were betrayed.
Captain Wise, second in command of the soldiers, was killed by one of the first shots fired from the stockade. Three privates were also killed, while several were badly wounded, one subsequently dying. The diggers were buried in one grave in the old Ballarat Cemetery, and a monument, presented by Mr. James Leggatt, of Geelong, erected over it in 1836. The soldiers were buried in the same cemetery close by, and the Victorian Government erected a monument to mark their grave in 1879.[3]

Eureka Stockade Participants

Thomas Alexander - William Atherden - Robert Battye - James Beveridge - Edmund Bloehm - Felix Boyle - James Brown (from Ireland) - James Brazel - Alfred Bryant - Patrick Callinan - Thomas Callinan - Donald Cameron - [Cannard] - Michael Canny - Patrick Canny - George Clifton - Thomas Commins - J.J. Corran - John Crowe - Robert Dawson - Martin Diamond - George Donaghy - Dennis Dynan - William Emmermann - William Farley - James Farrant - Fenton - Patrick Gittens - Samuel Green - John Hafele - John Hall - Walter Hall - Patrick Hanafin - Michael Hanley - George Hartley - Happy Jack - James Heffernan - Thomas Henfield - James Hodges - Charles Howes - James Hull - John Hynes - Robert Julien - Peter Lalor - Andrew Lister -George Littlehales - John Lynch - Edward McGlynn -Tobias McGrath - Kenneth McKenzie - William Melody - William Mitchell - James Moran - Thaddeus Moore - Michael Morrison - Charles Mullaly - Michael Mullins - James Murphy - John O'Donnell - Michael O'Neil - Thomas O'Neill - Thomas Parker - Samuel Perkins - Henry Powell - Edward Quin - William Quinlan - Carl Reinhardt - John Robertson - Michael Roney - Charles Ross - Horace Rowlands - Llewellyn Rowlands - Luke Sheehan - George Smith - Richard John Smith - Henry Sutherland - Francis Symons - Edward Thonen - John Torpy - Michael Tuohy - Joseph Wall - James Warner - William Webb - William Williams - Charles Wilson - Henry Wise - William Wood


The Miner and Star newspaper also reported that bodies were exhumed and re-interred.

THE EUREKA VICTIMS:- A request has been made to the Trustees of the Cemetery to have the bodies of those of the Eureka victims who were interred apart from the spot where the monument now stands, exhumed and removed to that part of the Cemetery. The request has been favorably received, and we believe the bodies - which are those of Captain Ross, Thonen, the Lemonade Seller, James Brown and "Tom the Blacksmith" will be removed very shortly and placed beside their fallen victims over whose remains the Eureka Monument now stands. [4]

The following is a list of known deaths at the result of the [Eureka Stockade] battle.


On Tuesday morning, about 7 o'clock the bodies of Captain Ross, James Brown, Thonen the lemonade seller, and Tom the blacksmith who fell at the Eureka Stockade and had been buried apart from the others, were removed from the grave and placed in that containing the bodies of the others who lost their lives on the memorable 3rd of December. The removal took place in the presence of Mr Superintendent Foster, Mr Salmon, trustees of the cemetery and Mr Lessman. The coffins were in excellent preservation. We understand that no procession will take place on Thursday next, the anniversary of the Eureka affair, but the grave of the fallen will be decorated with chaplets and flowers. [5]

Wounded and Since Recovered

Peter Lalor - Patrick Hanafin - Michael Hanley - Michael O'Neil - Thomas Callinan - Patrick Callinan - Dennis Dynan - Thaddeus Moore - Michael O'Neill - Carl Reinhardt - Luke Sheehan - Francis Symmons - James Warner - Luke Sheehan - Michael Morrison - James Warner - William Williams

Independent California Rangers

Robert Burnete - Charles Ferguson - James McGill - William Melody - Thomas Nelson - Charles Ross - --- Smith

In the News

NOTICE.-Government Camp, Ballarat.
December 3, 1854
Her Majesty's forces were this morning fired upon by a large number of evil disposed persons of various nations, who had entrenched themselves in a stockade on the Eureka, and some officers and men killed or wounded.
Several of the rioters have paid the penalty of their crimes, and a large number are in custody.
All well-disposed persons are earnestly requested to return to their ordinary occupations, and to abstain from assembling in large groups, and every protection will be afforded to them by the authorities.
Resident Commissioner. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN! [6]

Also See

Ballarat Reform League



Eureka Site

Eureka Timeline


Independent Californian Rangers Revolver Brigade




Robert Rede

Other Sites

Eureka Runaways A ghost story from the goldfields of Ballarat by Storyteller Anne E. Stewart


  1. Ballarat Courier, Wednesday, 29th April 1970. Page 32.Transcribed by Chrissy Stancliffe
  2. The Argus, 19 December 1854.
  3. Charleville Times, 31 December 1904
  4. The Miner and Star, 4 December 1857
  5. Ballarat Star, 2 December 1857
  6. Adelaide Advertiser, 3 December 1904.

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