William Gay

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William Gay was born in Bratton, Devonshire, England on 25 Feb 1812. In 1834 he joined the crew of as a carpenter and worked his way to Hobart where he arrived 21 July 1835. William married Mary Ann at St John's Newtown, Tasmania on 01 May 1838. The couple had five sons, the last being stillborn.[1]

William left Hobart early in 1851, taking with him his three oldest boys and leaving the youngest, Silas, with his late wife's parents in Hobart. For five months he scrounged work in Melbourne and then set sail for Portland in Red Rover. He worked there for another five months during which time he took part in a spirited political debate in the Portland Guardian. Most of the debate took was conducted in the form of poetry.[2]

By the end of 1851 William was lured by the stories of the Gold Rush and on 02 December 1851 he set off in the company of his boys and three other men he set off for Ballarat where they arrived nine days later. [3]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Gay's party worked claims at Golden Point and other fields for some years and were present at the meeting at Bakery Hill when the diggers burnt their licenses in defiance of the authorities, an act which preceded the Eureka Stockade Rebellion. During this time William made a trip back to Hobart to collect Silas. According to an account written by William Gary Jnr when miners started burning their licenses and firing guns into the air the Gay family made a hasty retreat. [4]After the meeting gangs of miners toured around the diggings pressuring those able to fihgjt to join them in the Stockade, and taking weapons from those unable or unwilling to join in.[5]

Post 1854 Experiences

It would appear that the family stayed around the Ballarat area for some years. There is evidence to suggest that William spent some time in Gippsland, perhaps as a contractor for the railways. His last few years were spent in the Armidale area of NSW where he still indulged in some prospecting and plenty of political comment. His eldest son, John Wesley, appears to have settled there. William wrote many poems during his time in the Colonies. He had opinions on politicians, the Irish, deserted wives, the clergy, education, child rearing and many other subjects. His sympathies lay with the workers and he had little time for the 'Establishment'. He never remarried and was proud of his achievement in rearing four sons single handedly.[6]

William Gay contended that the Eureka Monument was built in the wrong place, and should have been built at Belford Street.[7]

See also


Further Reading

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


External links