Alexander Macpherson

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Alexander Macpherson lived in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia in 1904.


The Eureka Jubilee.
A resident of Kalgoorlie, Mr J. A. Macpherson, has contributed the following interesting narrative concerning the Eureka rebellion of 1854 and the causes leading up thereto, to the columns of the Kalgoorlie Miner :—In view of the approaching jubilee celebration of the Eureka Stockade and matters leading thereto, facts which came under my notice as an eye witness may not be considered inappropriate for this occasion. As a youth employed in the live stock business I was always riding about the diggings to and from the adjacent station, where I had been living forever two years prior to those events. Inthis<articie at is unnecessary for me to recapit u-late anything that transpired up to the end of October, when the stringent proclamation was issued against the diggers for not taking out licenses at 30s a month and -carryiug .hem on their persons. The mounted police in consequence became notoriously active, treating every man that had not a license as they might in Russia. I have seen from three to four men handcuffed together, and chained to a trooper's horse daily. Some of the more bar-barous troopers took a delight in trotting their horses to see how fast the poor fellows could run. They .were taken to the camp and chained to a long row rails rails until they were tried or the license fee and expenses paid by friends or charitable persons. I have seen over thirty run in and chained in one day. This state of things could not long remain under British rule. Meetings were held, committees formed, men enrolled and drilled. Men refused to pay the license fees. At a great meeting on Bakery Hill, which I witnessed, Every Man Came Forward And put his license in a fire—8000 of them. It was about this time (the latter end of October) that an incident occurred which made the diggers furious and determined them to resort to force of arms, finding that ll their appeals to the Government for redress of grievances were useless. The Eureka Hotel, on that famous rush, was kept by an expired convict named Bentley. During a fracas one night a popular digger framed Scobie was killed outside one of the windows of the house. Bentley was taken up. At the police -court proceedings held by 'Mr De Ewes, the police magistrate at that time, the evidence adduced against him not being considered sufficientiy conclusive, Bentley was discharged. It was openly stated by people that Bentley was heard or seen going out at the back with an axe and foully murdered Scobie. Be that, as it may, Mr De Ewes was constantly riding to and from the hotels so that it was rumored that he was Bentley's partner. Public opinion against Bentley was so bitter that a crowd of fully 5000 infuriated men surrounded the house—that is, on two sides of it—on October 27. They strung-a rope over a small tree to lynch him. I was passing at the time, and waited to see the result. As Bentley would not come out the windows were shattered and the house set on fire. As he had a very large stock of grog which had only arrived the day before, it soon caught Another Young Fellow and I rode to a safe distance, where I saw Mr De Ewes and a strong body of police. Whether Mr De Ewes sent a constable with a horse to the back for Bentley, or whether he had a horse in the stable, which is improbable, at any rate he rode to where the police were stationed, as I saw them all ride away together. He was again arrested, tried, and got seven years for the murder of Scobie. As the diggers were now in open arms against authority, a good many had flintlock muskets, revolvers, double and single-barrelled guns. A blacksmith on the gravel pits made 200 pikes. They then built the stockade, enclosing about an acre with slabs and a variety of timber. Quite an erroneous impression appears to prevail about this affair. It was only built in the first place to hold their meetings in free from the interruption of the police, not as a place of defence, as several meetings had been dispersed by the troopers. In some instances they used their revolvers. Every afternoon I used to take a delight in riding down to the place of meeting to hear the various speakers—John Casson (sic) Humphrey, Peter Lalor, F. Vern, W. Black, I. and J. Ross, " Carboni Raffelli, and others whom l forget. They were a cosmopolitan crowd. After Peter Lalor was elected commander-in-chief he had a very difficult task to get the various nationalities under control. There were men from the '48 troubles in Ireland and Germany : men fresh from the armies of Kossuth; Italians who had fought it the battle of Novara; Americans Who Had Fought in the war again Mexico; diggers from California; escaped convicts from Tasmania; and expirees from Sydney. Such a medley of various nationalities has never united before or since under the banner of the Southern Cross, which flag, was hoisted at the entrance gate. There were also other flags. One blue flag, with a star in the centre, was used to and the men together in public meeting. Another blue with white cross, was intended to bind the consciences of certain nationalities. This one was considered by many rather sectarian. There was also one blue flag, with skull and crossbones in white, with the words " Victory or Death " inscribed upon it. A strong force of mounted police, together with 50 old pensioners from Tasmania, arrived in November, followed shortly afterwards by 60 soldiers of the 40th Regiment under Captain Wise, As they were the first red coats seen they were received, whilst marching through the diggings to the camp, with hooting and showers of stones. A body of troopers who were escorting them fired, wounding several men. Captain Wise ordered the men to stop firing, otherwise he would order his soldiers to fire on them (the police). Shortly afterwards Captain Thomas arrived with 56 men of the 40th Regiment, escorted by a body of police. They were not interfered with. One of Lalor's Officers styled-Captain McGill, commanded 100 men, whom he called his Californian Rifle men, and whom he had been drilling for some time. He wished to get his men mounted, and as we had about 300 horses in paddock miles away, he told one of his Stockmen that he would get them the following Sunday. The overseer at the station - and I rode to camp to ask Captain Thomas if he could not spare some of his men to prevent this being done. He said, " No- have just received information that 2000 men are on the way from Clunes and Creswick to join them, but you may tell Mr Fisken, the proprietor, that I intend to attack them at daybreak to-morrow." As we were returning, we passed the stockade and saw the men filing in. Lalor was speaking on a cart at the entrance, and something he said annoyed Mr Stirling (that was the overseers name), now Sir Charles Stirling, Bart., of Gartshorn and Stirling. Calling on me to come along, he said to Lalor, " You will get hell in the morning." I had just been telling a man whom I knew that they would be attacked in the morning, as I had heard Captain Thomas say so. He evidently did not believe me. Mr Lalor turned round, his eye fell on me, and he asked. " What does that young fellow say ?," thinking that I had used the words alluded to Mr Stirling having got away some distance, I was ordered to keep my horse ready saddled up all night to carry the news to the homestead. I was awakened about dawn next morning by loud reports which I knew to be firing. I at once got my horse out and Galloped to the Scene* I first met three men on horseback, whom I recognised as Capt. McGill Black, and another. Presently I met a number of men wounded. I directed them to get to Lal Lal direct. I then met a woman shot through the arm. She was making her way to the station also, where she was carefully attended to. Arriving at the stockade in company with the manager of the slaughteryard in the vicinity, I raw that there was a strong cordon of police all around. The fort police were removing tie dead and wounded. Captain Taylor knew me and allowed me within the lines. It was not a battle; it was a veritable "butchery. It has been said that there was a spy in the digger's camp who used to carry news to the camp of the soldiers. There may have been such, as the authorities appear to have been well posted in matters connected with the rising. Many sympathizers blamed Lalor for not taking any precautions in keeping the proper watch, as the sentry (there may have been more than one) did not see the soldiers until they were within 30 yards of the barricade. The sentry fired his piece. The soldiers rushed up. A Captain Wise climbed up the wall, and called on the diggers to surrender. They fired at him, broke his thigh. He then called on his men to fire. They poured in a volley on the comparatively defenceless men. This is as I was told within 20 minutes after the first volley. Six soldiers were shot dead on Lalor rallying his men. Three more died of their wounds. Twelve or thirteen more were slightly wounded. My part in the transaction was to go for a doctor, as there was only one doctor accompanying the Government troops, with an assistant. As Captain Taylor said. "Their own men must be first attended to," I galloped to a "Dr" Corduke, who sent for Dr Clendinning. They came at once and attended to the diggers. I at once left the scene to carry the news to my employer. Three days afterwards Major-General Sir Robert Nickle arrived from Melbourne with 650 men of the 40th and 12th Regiments, 200 sailors, and marines from the Electra frigate, then in Hobson's Bay. They dragged along four cannon. The general proclaimed martial law and woe betide the unfortunate digger or anyone else who could not give the password. Sentries were stationed at all crossings of roads, and many tnen were shot in this way. The Governor (Sir Charles Hotham) has been accused of being the cause of all edicts and proclamations which caused so much misery but I heard it stated at the time by those who had opportunities of knowing that he was not so much to blame as the Colonial Secretary (J. P. F. Foster), who was chief adviser. He coukd get the old Governor to sign anything. This rising of the diggers and the Eureka Stockade's stand against tyranny and oppression was the dawn of that constitutional liberty which we, now enjoys It has been said that Peter Lalor was covered np with slabs when the police under Sub-Inspectors Chomley and Lardner pulled down the north end of the stockade. This I very much doubt, as the whole affair was burnt, and he would have been roasted. He and others cleared over the south line and got safely to Mrs Hayes' shanty where his arm was amputated at the shoulder the same evening. This I had from Mrs Hayes' daughter two days after the fight. The police took About 150 Prisoners who were marched to Melbourne. They were tried and acquitted There were killed in all 34 diggers and about 40 wounded. Some of them were believed to have died in the bush, as they were never known to return. Several other men were killed during the martial law period who were not accounted for Peter Lalor has been praised by some as "a hero," by others blamed for the action he took in the affair. That matter, after a lapse of fifty years may be buried in oblivion. It was certainly a deplorable affair, and with proper care might have been avoided. I enclose a few particulars relative to some of the principal leaders under Lalor which may interest. How I saw a good deal of the foreign element in that rising was that the Mr. Stirling alluded to was educated at the University of Bonn in Germany, and he used to converse with Vern in German. The landlord of the Prince Albert Hotel was also German (Albert Weisenhewern). His two brothers were in the rebel ranks. That hotel was the great meet ing place, more particularly of the foreigners. It is commonly accepted that Lalor was hidden by some slabs after being wounded. Anyway he reached Mrs Hayes' even before the firing was over or the prisoners rounded up. Vern, McGill and several wounded reached Lal Lal Station, where their wants were attended to and the wounds dressed by my mother. It has also been asserted that they had a line of sentries From the Stockade to the camp, but that is doubtful. I have heard Carboni Raffelli, or, as he used to style himself, " a count of the Roman Empire" say on the stump at the Prince Albert Hotel, Bakery Hill, that he had written to Guiseppe Mazzuri to come out and save Australia from the tryant Britisher." He said also that he had fought at the battle of Novara. F. Vern Hanoverian, heard him say that he had " fought the tryant Prussian in '48." Vern, after writing a letter to the Governor advising him how to govern properly, got aboard a wool ship for England the very day a free pardon was issued to all concerned but Lalor. "Ross the Canadian" was shot outside the stockade by the mounted police as he would not surrender. His namesake, Sandy Ross, was wounded, but lived for 40 years to my knowledge within a Quarter of a mile of the site of the stockade. He became Well Known throughout Australia as one oi the best judges of draught horses living. He may be there still. His greatest grievance was that he was unable to get out of the stockade to have *'a proper go" at the mounted police and soldiers with his pikemen. The most interesting personality was no doubt James Harman McGill whom I knew intimately for many years afterwards. He has told me that he was in the military college at West Point, U.S.A., that he was in the Mexican war under Zachary Taylor, and that he was wounded at the battle of Paco when only in his eighteenth year. He commanded the Californian riflemen at. the stockade. Most of his men were absent at the time of the affair. G. F. Train, American Consul, put him on board an American barque in Hobson's Bay, and defied the Government to take him, as he was an American subject. He was the first man who got a free pardon, and became a speculator in Ballarat. I saw him years afterward droving sheep in the Riverina; again in Sydney in '99, when he had just got a grant of £400 to prospect the country about Kiandra from an old Ballarat friend of his — Harry Wood, who was then Under-Secretary for Mines. He died a year or two afterwards. Peter Lalor and J.B. Humphrey (a prominent figure in the agitation), as is well known, became the first members for Ballarat East under responsible government the following year.[1]

Also See



Carl Weisenhavern


  1. Day Dawn Chronicle, Western Australia, 14 December 1904.