Born on 09 December 1827 at Liverpool, England, the son of Joseph Baines Ashburner, a printer,
Died 24 November 1922.
Goldfields Involvement, 1854
- ... At the Police Court on Saturday, Michael Kennedy, William Develin, John Pardy, Patrick Kennedy, James Sexton, Daniel Macartney, James Ashburner, John Leadow, Herman Steinman, William Wickley, William Somerville, Jeremiah Hogan, William Avondale, Samuel Penny, Patrick Hickey, Joseph Walker, John Kelly, Cornelius Peters, William Stafford, Carl Anderson (a Swede), Patrick Meade, and Michael Gleeson, were discharged. In some of these cases there was either no evidence against the prisoners, or they were only proved guilty of living in the neighborhood of the stockade, and giving no information as to its erection. Edmund Bohen, Michael Meagher, William Galloway, James Barclay, Michael Butler, John Lynch; and Chas Doolan, were defended by Mr Dunne, and discharged. ... 
Post 1854 Experiences
He married Jessie Kewley on 19 June 1860. They had three daughters. Jessie died on 3 July 1874 ages 44 years. James married for the second time Emily Eleanor Davies in 1877 and they had two sons.
Ashburner established a newsagents with his brothers William and Thomas. Ashburner's account was published in the Ballarat Courier on 3 December 1904.
- One of the veterans of the Eureka stockade, Mr J Ashburner, of Armidale, told the tale of the fight to the Ballarat Trades and Labor Council last night. He was taken prisoner at the affair; but it was not true, he said, that he was a month in gaol, for he was liberated within six days, because there was no charge against him. He stayed on the Stockade long enough for the charge of the soldiers, and somebody gave the order, ‘Everyone for himself.’ A friend told him he knew the way out, and as they were going they met Peter Lalor wounded. He helped to put Lalor under slabs to hide him. The digger leader wanted to see Father Smythe [sic], and as that gentleman had been a shipmate of Mr Ashburner’s he volunteered to go for him, and was very glad to get clear of the place. He found Father Smythe all right. Tim Hayes, a noted character, was living next door, and he would come along with them. He had a gun, but the priest insisted on his leaving it at home. As they came across Bakery Hill somebody pointed out Messrs Ashburner and Hayes as two rebels, and in no time they were surrounded by the troopers, and the ‘bracelets’ put on them. They were whipped off to the camp and put in a log lock-up with about 60 others. ‘It was a miserable, hot Sunday,’ said the veteran, feelingly. A poor lunatic, who was gagged, was one of the prisoners there, and there were one or two bushrangers. One of the latter was a perfect blackguard, and abused the sentinel so much that he swore he would fire in among the lot of them if there was any more of it. The others pointed the bushranger out, and he was taken away. That same evening the prisoners were taken to better quarters – a storeroom. Tim Hayes and the speaker were yoked together, and the former was taken as one of the State prisoners. He believed Tim was not actually in the stockade at the time of the assault, but got out of bed when the noise began. Speaking of the hardships the prisoners endured, Mr Ashburner said everything was taken from them except their shirts. We were a wealthy lot of prisoners. I can tell you,’ said he. ‘When I was discharged I went for my things, but there was nothing for me. I was orderly to Lt Magill. I have heard outsiders say he was a traitor, but I never knew whether he was. Jimmy Magill [sic] he was called.’ Mr Ashburner’s remarks were listened to with great attention, and at the close the members of the council showed the pleasure with which they had heard them by a round of hearty applause.
Ashburner died on 24 November 1922 and is buried in St Kilda Cemetery.
James Ashburner was the son of Joseph Baines Ashburner (printer) and Elizabeth Curphey.
Extract from Australian Biographical Record, Series 2, Vol 2.
ASHBURNER, James (1827-1922) gold miner, stationer and bookseller and wireworker, of Armadale, Vic. Fmly of Liverpool LANENG; B 09 Dec 1827 LAN ENG; bp 24 Feb 1827 St Paul’s CE, Liverpool LAN ENG; s of Joseph Baines Ashburner, printer of Liverpool LAN ENG and Elizabeth (Curphey); ed night school, Liverpool LAN ENG; arr Sep 1852 Melbourne Vic per Tipoo Saib as immigrant; spse (1) Jessie Kewley (c1829-1874) d of Peter Beattie of Errol ANG SCT and Mary (Wannon); m 19 June 1860 John Know Free Pres, Melbourne Vic; spse (2) Emily Eleanor Davies (1838-1929) d of John Francis Davies of Prahran Vic, and Maria (Crane); m 22 Mar 1877 Unitarian, St Kilda Vic; iss by (1) Jessie (1861-1876), Elizabeth (1863-c1941) (m Shepherd), Ann (181866-1916) m (Forrest), Mary Helen (1869-1976) m (Stavely, iss by (2) Emily Eleanor (1878-1879), James Davies (1879-1962, Joseph Baines (1881-1901). James went to the diggings in Ballarat when he arrived in Victoria in 1852. Wielding a pike made from a pick, he was present in the Eureka Stockade when the soldiers stormed it. He helped to hide Peter Lalor under a pile of slabs and went to fetch a doctor or priest. He fulfilled his obligation as the ‘the goldfields correspondent for the Liverpool Mercury by managing to send off a despatch before he was arrested, chained to a log in the police station for two days and nights, and later released. He had no luck on the diggings, and started a newsagency/bookshop in Buninyong with his brothers, Wil and Tom. In 1860 he returned to Melbourne to marry his cousin’s widow, and worked as a foreman wireworker for Joseph Smith at 48 Little Collins Street East. In 1869 he formed a partnership with James Greer, young nephew of the late Smith. In 1993, the firm took out a building lease on 32 Little Collins Street East (later renumbered 269). James was active in eh early Unitarian Church in Melbourne. He died in Armadale on 24 Nov 1922 and was buried at St Kilda Vic.
Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
R.S. Ross, Eureka: Freedom’s Fight of ’54
Les Blake., Peter Lalor:The Man from Eureka, Neptune Press, 1979, p 83.
- The Argus, 12 December 1854.