Tobias McGrath

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Tobias McGrath, Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection
Henry Winkles, Untitled [inside view of tent], 1850s, watercolour, pencil on paper.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, Purchased with funds from the Colin Hicks Caldwell Bequest, 2004.


Tobias (Tip) McGrath died on 03 April 1916, and he is buried in the Ballaarat New Cemetery.

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Post 1854 Experiences

Tobias McGrath lived at Cambrian Hill.


The funeral of the late Mr Tobias McGrath and old and much respected pioneer and one of the very few remaining Eureka veterans, took place yesterday and was well-attended by many old friends and acquaintances. The remains were removed from his late residence at Cambrian Hill and were interred in the New Cemetery. The coffin bearers were Messrs Michael and James McGrath (nephews of the deceased), J.W. Cooney, and J. Chatham (grandsons) and the pall bearers were Messrs M.J. Harrington, J.C. Chatham, MLA, and J.P. Cooney (sons-in-law), F. Blood, M. Nolan, M. Lynch, J. Ives, R. Crough, Wm Davey, P. Chatham, P. McCarthy, P. Masterson, M. Lynch, and Constable D. Sullivan. The service at the grave was conducted by the Rev. Fr Duffy, and the funeral arrangements were in charge of Messrs Steve Wellington and Son.[1]

See also

Ballaarat New Cemetery


William Hogan, Patrick Comfort, and Tobias McGrath, pleaded not guilty to an information charging them with a violent assault upon John Nelson, a police constable, in the execution of his duty. There was a second count for a common assault. Mr Dunne with Mr Walsh defended the prisoners.
The Crown Prosecutor opened the case, and stated that he could only call one witness, because the state of things at the place of assault was such that the bystanders feared to come forward lest vengeance should be taken upon them.
John Nelson deposed-Am a police constable stationed at the Gordon diggings. Know the defendants. Remember Friday, 2nd July last. Have seen the prisoners repeatedly at the diggings. On the 2nd July I proceeded to a house, and passed the prisoners, in company with others, in the middle of the street. I was coming away from the house, when I heard some one cry out "Now then, boys." I went to the house because I heard there was a row. Comfort came up up to me and said "Take a good look at me. What do you want, you b-y dog ?" I told him I knew him very well, and should summon him when the magistrate came for his conduct the previous night. Comfort was the first who came up to me. He up with his fist and struck me in the mouth, I shoved him off, and the others rushed upon me. I saw M'Grath with a shingling hammer in his hand, and others had sticks. I first got a blow on the head with a pick handle, all trying to get at me. They all seemed to be fighting to get at me. Hogan made a hit at me, and I caught it on my arm. Another struck me on the head with a pick handle, and cut my head open. M'Grath aimed at me with the hammer, but could not reach me. There were about 20 there then, but others came running up afterwards, and I got knocked down, and was kicked and knocked about. Not one of the crowd lent me any assistance. I was in uniform at the time. I shouted out "Police." When I was down, and two or three of them were on top of me, and some one shouted out "They are murdering the police," and some people coming up, they all ran off and stood at the distance of 100 yards. Besides the prisoners I recognised Michael Kennedy, M'Crae, M'Mahon, Jas. Keys, and others. Kennedy I know to be a bad character, and always in rows. Afterwards some 200 nearly came to my assistance. I have not subpoenaed any of them because they would not be safe, your Honor. These men have gone about threatening them, your Honor. I went back to the store, and Comfort, M'Crae, and Hogan came in for a nobbler, and were refused. They said "You have the b-y police in here." The store was the police station. The other constable was Joseph Wiggins. I was getting my head dressed at this time and then went over to Mount Egerton to get over the other constables. We then went to arrest the prisoners and found them playing at cards. Hogan was taken out of bed, and M'Grath was also given in charge. I then went in quest of Comfort and he was hid in a bed with a man named Malone. This was about two o'clock a.m. Two men, Kinneally and another, came with stones as Comfort called out, "Boys, will you see a man served like this." Gordon was then in a very disorderly state. Now it is quiet for the men are all in here. There are fifty or sixty of them I could recognise in one place here. We arrested Comfort.
"To Mr Walsh-I swear I saw the prisoners coming out of the tent. I could not say exactly I saw them leave the door. They were all tumbling out of the tent together. I saw two distinctly, and the other was in the crowd. It was about five, o'clock p.m. I prosecuted Kennedy, but he was not committed for trial. I swore as positively to him as to as to any of the others. I was contradicted by mates of his own and men who took part in it though they did not actually strike blows. There were tent mates. Hogan I could not be mistaken in. I am sure of them all. I was never on duty at the Inkermann. Police were staffed there, and I used to go round there on my beat, but I was not sent specially there. I was not on duty on those two claims. I was never ordered to go away from them. I never heard of a complaint being lodged against me with Sergeant Lannigan, and if it had been it would have been his duty to lodge it before my superior officers. I did not arrest Keys. Could get him within five minutes if I liked.
To his Honor-Two constables were told off for those claims, and I or any other constable might have looked in to see if the other constables were there.
Sergeant Robert Algie deposed in corroboration-I found Comfort in bed, and told him why I arrested him. He said "he'd see you d---d first.
Henry Coll deposed-I recollect the 2nd July. Saw M'Grath and Comfort that day it the Gordon township. Constable Kelson was boarding at my place, and he went out to the row, and soon sung out for help, and I told equitable Wiggings Nelson was struck. I ran over the road and Nelson was on the ground and fifteen or sixteen were round him. Could not say exactly who was round him, as it was dark!. Wiggings was in the street at the same time.
To Mr Dunne-I have been summons hither to say.
This was the case for the prosecution, ant Mr Dunne having replied for the defence in a speech somewhat uncomplimentary toward\! the prosecuting constable.
Edward Alexander West deposed-Am storekeeper on the Opossum Reef. Remember hearing of the row. That evening I went with a dray load of goods to the reef for the Kangaroo. I should say I got to the Opossum reef between five and six o'clock but I could not be sure. The prisoner Hogan was there, and helped me to unload the dray. He lived close behind me, and after unloading I went to his tent for refreshment, and wad there, on and off till 10 o'clock. Hogan was there all the time. ... The jury retired to consider their verdict and after an absence of ten or fifteen minutes I returned into Court with a verdict of guilty against all the prisoners.
His Honor, in addressing the prisoners exonerated the constable from the aspersions cast upon him by prisoners' counsel, and sentenced each of the prisoners to six months imprisonment with hard labor. The Court then adjourned.[2]

Scene.—The horse parade in Armstrong street. Time.—Saturday, loth September, 1888. They were old mates—three of them.
They had not met since I856 —fine stalwart young fellows then; old grey beards now of 50 and upwards. “Charley, old man, is that yourself? Hullo; is that you, Mick?” They grip, aud hold on, while giving forcible ex pression to their surprise and pleasure of meeting. “Come and have a drink.” One of them had just come down from Northern Queensland, the other was farming in the north-eastern district up beyond St Arnaud. The drinks were just tabled when a rousing whack on each of their shoulders faced them round to discover a third old mate. Bill, now a retired cattle salesman from the Western district. More hand-gripping and more drinks, followed by loud talking about old times and the beautiful fools we used to be when Ballarat was young. Let’s go down to the " Old Charlie” and have a general look round was voted unanimous. But the “ Old Charlie” was gone; John Chinaman was in possession. Shades of Thatcher; don’t we remember how he used to sing— “ John Chinaman my Joe John, You're coming precious fast, And every ship from Shanghai Brings an increase on the last; And you’ve got a butcher's shop, John, At your encampment down below, And you likes your cutlets now and then, John Chinaman my Joe.” John o’ Groats had disappeared; the Union Tent was no more; here the comic Morris brought down the house nightly with double success, while Miska Hauser's sweet music failed to reach the fancy of the noisy majority, fiddle he never so divinely. Herr Ralim, the great Tyrolese minstrel, decorated in highly fantastic costume, fared but little better. The double gum tree, where Big Larry lauded Lady Hotham across the diggers’ holes, has gone to decay; the House of Blazes is no more, and the old Duchess of Kent—oh where, and oh where is she gone? Every night her sweet tenor contralto wound up the ball with the declara tion that For bonnie Annie Laurie I’d lay me down and dee. That was the signal to shut up shop. Well, take her for all in all as times weut, she wasn’t a bad old sort; let’s go and driuk her health. Up Eureka way they light upon the Free Trade hotel and call for nobblers round. They move on; here’s the spot the traps dropped on us for our licenses. We made a run for it right across the gully, and you, Charley, got bogged going round over there by O’Connor’s T store—two great T’s, one black and one green. Yes, and you blessed fellows kept shy while me and a lot more was herded in that blessed Camp waiting for Cocky Reid to wash down his grub with some poor devil’s forfeited sly grog before he would condescend to come out and fine us for leaving our licenses in the tent in the other trousers pocket. Lucky for me Terrier Jack had notes enough about him to pay for both. Talking about Terrier Jack, do you mind when he was sitting down on the top of the shaft in front of Mrs Denny’s saloon he slipped off and dropped into the well 80 feet, got into the bucket, and shouted to wind up. Didn’t he swear, though. Jack was a plucky little chap. When the tiger got away from the travelling menagerie and took shelter in the crockery shop there was a commotion and no mistake. Jack got up on the ridgepole and lassoed Mr Tiger in quick sticks. The showman gave him 10 notes. We had a grand carouse that night—oh, what jolly old fools we were in those days. Let’s move on, and here’s where Bentley’s was— don’t some of us remember the pretty barmaid—eh, Bill, old man? You was a bit gone there—now, don’t deny it. I was sweet on that lot myself, but didn’t care to run an old friend too close; things used to go pretty-high at Bentley’s. Black Ferry, Flash Bourke, Tip M’Grath, and that crowd; aud there was Bob M’Laren and Mat. Hardy, and old Emery’s bowling saloon—oh Lord, what games we used to cut here in the old times! Hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels Put life and mettle in our heels. And the noble art wasn’t neglected. I thought we was in for it that night when Mick knocked Black Ferry over three times running. The nigger did not understand the Cornish tip of the toe close under his ankle bone, but he came up smiling, aud a liberal call on the waiter made things pleasant. Well, Bentley made a fine bonfire, and none too soon, for it was the devil’s own shop. The acquittal of Bentley, “ without a stain upon his character,” by Police-Magistrate Dewes, for the murder of Scobie, created tremendous indignation, and little Kennedy kept stirring the fire until the authorities ordered a new trial, and Bentley was committed for manslaughter. Ah, well, Scobie was no hero, only the martyr of his own folly. And here is the Stockade of the 4th of December, 1854. It is a long time since we were here boys, but to my mind this monument is too far up the hill. Look, yonder is where Captain Wise came on with the 40th, and around here the troopers dashed through the slabs, and soon made short work of it. Little Thoneman, the lemonade man, was shot, bayonetted, and sabred here on the right of the gully, and over there on the left lay the German blacksmith who made the pikes, with the top of his skull hanging by the scalp, and still living, his little terrier dog lying on his breast aud refusing to leave his master. It was a sorry sight that blackened the hillside on that bright Sabbath morn, with the bodies of 30 stalwart, mostly mis guided, men. Where are the patriots to-day who goaded them on—Kennedy, who declared there was no argument equal to a “lick under the lug,” was not to be found in the stockade when the licking had to be done; poor fellow, he was killed by a fall from his horse at Kings ton. George Black, the chief’s aide-de-camp, died in the Melbourne Hospital; his brother Alfred, secretary for War, was killed by a fall of ground at Staffordshire Reef; Tim Hayes died in the Lunatic Asylum at Kew; Mulholland served the Government for some time against his will; Jim M’Gill fills a pauper’s grave at Inglewood; Lalor and Humffray are still with us; let them speak for themselves, and say if they are satisfied with the past and content with the present; but we move on across the Red Hill to the place where once stood the Sir Charles Hotham hotel and the arena where Bill Hodge and Tom Cawse, Jack Botherras, and Collie Bray and other notable athletes contended for the belt —no Greco-Roman strangling hammerlock brutality, but scientific heel and toe play, with Doctor Gibson up as referee; back through the Canadian, Prince Regent, and the jeweller’s shop, down the Red Streak to the Gum Tree Flat and Navvy Jacks, through the lane between old Grimley and the Gasworks the approach Yale’s corner, where Mick raised the cry of “Joe, Joe,” and “Traps, traps,” “Look out boys, here they come,” but it was only a squad of Oldham’s State school cadets going home from drill. Decent lads these, said Charley, not ashamed to take off their shirts or turn up their trousers; no tatooing on their back or bracelet souvenirs on their ankles. The squatting nominee Government of the old days have a multit ude of sins to answer for, but their reign has passed away, the working man is our god to-day, aud he is a hard task-master in his Newcastle. Up the Camp Hill to Bath’s, they call for nobblers round three times. Good-bye, hic—good-bye, old fe-fella; who can tell when we three shall meet again ?[3]

Further Reading

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Uncaptioned clipping, 1916.
  2. Ballarat Star, 30 August 1858.
  3. Ballarat Star, 22 September 1888.

External links