Australian Quotes & Notes

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The Quotes - 1850 to 1901

7. 1850-1859

'Her Majesty's forces were this morning fired upon by a large body of evilly-disposed persons' (Government Notice, Ballarat, 3 December, 1854)

QUEEN Victoria ruled the world and there was no brighter jewel in her crown than the new colony named in her honour. No sooner had Victoria been been separated from NSW in 1850, it seemed, than it unveiled some of the richest goldfields on earth. In ten years from 1851, Victoria's population rose from 97,000 to 540,000. This was 180,000 people more than NSW, or 46 per cent of Australia's total. Gold production was 25 million ounces, worth 100 million pounds and a third of the world's production. The gold rushes attracted an unfamiliar breed: immigrants of non-British or Irish stock. In 1855 alone, 14,000 arrived. And there was a new racial minority upon which the European miners could sharpen their antagonisms. Toward the end of the golden decade, 24,000 Chinese, or one man in seven, were on the diggings. The Victorian boom years coincided with a revolution in shipping. In 1852, when 293 ships arrived in Melbourne the graceful Marco Polo brought 1000 gold seekers from Britain in a record sixty-eight days. The best-known immigrant ship was the screw-driven, iron hulled Great Britain , which made thirty-two voyages.

That grand old lady of the colonies, Elizabeth Macarthur, died on 9 February, 1850, having seen Sydney grow from a ramshackle settlement on Sydney Cove in 1790 to a fine metropolis. That other grand old lady, Mary Reibey, a teenage convict who rose to become one of the wealthiest women in NSW, died on 30 May, 1855, at her home in the inner Sydney suburb of Newtown. They would probably have been rather more interested in other social changes, particularly in the education of their grandchildren, than the frantic activity on the goldfields. Governor Sir Charles FitzRoy, in NSW, had inaugurated two schools funding bodies, one to take care of denominational schools and the other responsible for non-denominational 'National' schools. The latter body, the National Education Board, was the forerunner of modern State education departments. The first of Victoria's great independent schools, Scotch College, was founded in 1851, followed by Geelong Grammar in 1857. Sydney University opened in 1852, and Melbourne University in 1855.

By 1854, the name Ballarat was known throughout the world for its sensational gold discoveries. The Eureka Rebellion on 3 December that year cemented its fame. Thirty diggers and five soldiers died when troops attacked a stockade held by about 200 men protesting about the government licence fee. In the end, the rebels won: the licence fee was reduced, an export tax on gold was introduced and other democratic reforms instituted. The following year, the Imperial Parliament passed Acts conferring responsible government on NSW and Victoria (1855), Tasmania and South Australia (1856) and Queensland (1859). Western Australia waited until 1890. This gave the colonies parliamentary systems similar to the ones we know today. Everything appeared to be rosy until the day in 1859 that a squatter introduced rabbits at Winchelsea, in the Victorian Western District. The loveable little bunny, multiplying at the rate of sixty births for each doe every year, caused devastation.

Not all eyes were on Australia's southeast corner. In 1855, the British government sponsored an expedition to Northern Australia in another attempt to colonise it. The expedition, led by the excellent bushman Augustus Gregory, and including the botanist, Ferdinand von Mueller, landed at the estuary of the Victoria River and, in a journey of 8000km, discovered much valuable grazing land.

What good fun!

NEW YEARS DAY!!! OLD WHITE HART INN, GREAT BOURKE STREET. The lovers of the good old English merriment are invited to witness the different sports opposite the above Inn on TUESDAY NEXT consisting of GOAT RACING - PRIZE, A SUIT OF CLOTHES, CLIMBING THE GREASY POLE - PRIZE, HAT AND GUN, A PIG RACE WITH GREASY TAILS. QUOITING AND SKITTLES. The whole to conclude with a GRAND MATCH at the old English game of FOOTBALL. Luncheon will be provided. - Advertisement for New Year's Day amusements, Melbourne, 1850.

Mum's bossy letter to an Irish rebel

My dear child, Your present situation makes me very unhappy, but what can be done for you? Your mistaken notions respecting your country's good have brought you into a position I well knew would would be deeply painful to you and I really cannot see what it to deliver you from it but the grateful acceptance of any favours the British government is willing to grant. You were led astray by a party here who were satisfied to receive what they wanted to get by instalments. Why will you not in your private capacity follow O'Connell's example and accept the first instalment of good that may be intended for you? While you reject it, how can you expect that more will be offered? I know well you have never thought of trying to escape from Van Diemens Land. Why then will you not say so? - Letter from Lady Charlotte O'Brien, Dromoland (County Clare, Ireland) to William Smith O'Brien, Port Arthur (Tas), 7 May, 1850.

• William Smith O'Brien, a graduate of Cambridge and a former member of the House of Commons, was sentenced to death, commuted to life transportation (with 17 others), for leading a brief and hopeless uprising of Young Ireland peasants against police at Ballingarry, County Tipperary, on 29 July, 1848. Smith and the others in Young Ireland campaigned for the repeal of discriminatory laws against Catholics and for more effective famine relief. They were also swept up in the revolutionary surge in Europe in 1848. The urgings of Smith's mother, Lady Charlotte, an ardent protestant, may have assisted his decision to accept the British government's offer of parole. Later in 1850 he was given a ticket-of-leave and went to work as a tutor in New Norfolk. He was released in 1854, rejoined his wife and children in Brussels, and was given a full pardon in 1856.

Port Phillip get Separation from New South Wales

... the District of Port Phillip, now Part of the Colony of New South Wales, should be erected into a separate Colony ... to be known and designated as the Colony of Victoria ... The Australian Colonies' Government Act, 5 August, 1850.

• The British Parliament finally separated the Port Phillip District from NSW after years of agitation. The new Colony of Victoria was a vast and wealthy sheep run controlled by 700 squatters. Another 77,000 people cared for the sheep or worked in the infant manufacturing industries.

Village gossip

Really, one can form no idea at home, even in the 'School for Scandal' of a small country town, of the bickerings, jealousies etc. of the people in 'this fair country'. - Visiting observer S.H. Clutterbuck's diary, Melbourne, 17 September, 1850.

• Young Clutterbuck was astonished by the insatiable thirst of the polite society in Melbourne for any malevolent tidbits about their neighbours. With the outbreak of the gold rushes a few months away, they were to have more pressing matters in their minds.

First Continental 'reffos'

But now we've quitted our dear Fatherland'

O, let us form a strong fraternal band;

And our new brethren will the hand extend,

For the brave Briton is the German's friend;

This land call yours -

For fair Australia is the German's home - Anthem composed on the occasion of the formation of the German Club, Melbourne, 21 October, 1850.

• Many national groups were emerging from the shadows during Victoria's 'Separation Year'. The previous two years had been dramatic, revolutionary ones in Europe and many of the participants probably enjoyed the relative calm on this side of the world.

Irish not real criminals ... like the English

... the general character of the Irish convicts differs widely from that of the English. Their crimes are the most part not the result of habitual profligacy and vicious contamination. They are not hardened offenders ... nor are they found in gangs under experienced leaders for the commission of great and well-planned crimes. The offences of the Irish convicts are usually thefts to which they are often driven by distress. - Parliamentary Papers, London , 1850.

• The British rulers of Ireland were at last drawing a distinction between the famine-crushed Irish and the professional criminals of London, so well described by Charles Dickens.

Born-again Christian hanged

... there is every reason to believe the Right Rev Prelate's exertions have not been unavailing, as the benighted savage at length appeared to become sensible of a future state and the blessings of Christianity. - Social note, Sydney, 5 November, 1850.

• Then, having converted him to Christianity, they hanged the poor benighted aborigine, Mogo.

Sydney-Melbourne jealousy officially sanctioned!

This long-oppressed, long-buffeted Port Phillip, is at length an INDEPENDENT COLONY gifted with the Royal Name of VICTORIA ... - Melbourne Morning Herald, 11 November, 1850.

We have been a good deal amused here by your account of the Separation festivities, and more especially by your description of some of the transparencies wherein the ruin of Sydney is predicted as an unavoidable consequence of its severance from Port Phillip. So far from feeling despondency, our mercantile men are of the opinion that Sydney will gain by the change. - Sydney correspondent, Argus , Melbourne, 4 December, 1850.

Colonies unite against convict transportation

The object of the League is to secure by moral means only, the Abolition of Transportation to the Australasian Colonies. - Declaration at the inaugural meeting of the Australasian League, Melbourne, 1 February, 1851.

• Delegates from the other colonies attended this meeting. Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) still took convicts - reluctantly. They were barred from all the others, although Western Australia took some later to ease a severe labour shortage.

The day a colony caught fire

The thermometer was at 106deg at 10 o'clock this morning in our coolest spot. We can scarcely see to do anything because there is one constant cloud of dust passing through the air. - Frances Perry's diary, Melbourne, 6 February, 1851.

• Mrs Perry, wife of the Anglican Bishop of Melbourne, described the awful conditions on Black Thursday, 1851, when terrible bushfires enveloped Victoria. Dozens of lives, perhaps hundreds, were lost. In the winter, the first gold miners walking north to Castlemaine and Bendigo dubbed the charred remains of a forest near Woodend the 'Black Forest'.

Some idea may be formed of its (the fire's) fury, from the fact that singed leaves and other light matter were blown as far as to the adjoining colony of Tasmania, and fell in showers on the decks of ships in Bass Strait. - J.H. Kerr, Glimpses of Life in Victoria by a Resident , 6 February, 1851.

Golden Age begins with Edward Hargraves

It was with an anxious heart, therefore, that I again landed at Sydney, in the month of January, 1851. On my passage thither and immediately upon my arrival, I made known to my friends and companions my confident expectations on the subject (of finding gold) ... - Edward Hammond Hargraves writing about the period before his discovery of gold near Bathurst, 12 February, 1851.

• Hargraves received a 10,000 pound reward from the NSW Government. He had been prospecting in California, but returned to Sydney with the express intention of gaining the reward. In London, he published Australia and its Gold Fields in 1855.

The pavements (of Sydney) were lumbered with picks, pans and pots; and the gold-washing, or Virginian, 'cradle', hitherto a stranger to our eyes, became in two days a familiar household utensil. - Writer George Mundy, describing the Sydney scene, May, 1851.

• Hargraves revealed his discovery in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 May, 1851. There were extraordinary scenes. Young men tossed aside their clerks' pens and crossed the Blue Mountains in their hundreds.

For the present, and pending further proof of the extent of the gold field, the licence fee has been fixed at one pound ten shillings per month, to be paid in advance; but it is to be understood that the rate is subject to further adjustment, as circumstances may render expedient. - Governor-General Charles FitzRoy, Sydney, to Earl Grey, Secretary for Colonies, London, 11 June, 1851.

• FitzRoy's letter to Grey was written a month after Hargraves named his goldfield as Ophir, near Bathurst.

I cannot look upon it (discovery of gold ) as a lucky event for the Colony. - Governor Sir William Denison, Hobart, to Deas Thomson, Australia's senior public servant, Sydney, 16 June, 185I.

• Denison feared, like many other conservative people, that gold might liberate many of his subjects from their shackles. In fact, it did; hundreds of ex-convicts crossed to Victoria, not all with criminal intent. It is a nonsense to say Victoria was built totally on free immigrants.

Any takers?

The Executive Board of the Australasian League will offer a Gold Medal of the value of 10 pounds 10 shillings for an Australasian Anthem, capable of being set to music. - Robert McFarland, League Office, Melbourne, 2 July, 1851.

Victoria explodes with gold fever!

The Committee appointed to promote the discovery of a Gold Field in the Colony of Victoria, have the satisfaction of announcing that unquestionable evidence has been adduced showing the existence of gold both at the Deep Creek on the Yarra and also at the Deep Creek on the Pyrenees. - William Nicholson, Mayor of Melbourne and chairman of the Gold Committee, 16 July, 1851.

• Almost ... but not quite. The burghers of Melbourne were fearful that the NSW finds would lure Melbourne's citizens northwards. Then, in a few weeks, rich finds were made near Ballarat and the rush that would boost Victoria's population to 540,000 by the end of the decade was on!

The 'diggings' are going ahead again; the diggers are in great spirits, our old cook has gathered an ounce. When they are provided with the proper implements they expect ten times the present produce per man. In spite of the extreme severity of the weather, there are daily arrivals. There are forty today on the ground. Warren, a shoemaker, is so sanguine that he expects to to realise two thousand pounds at Christmas; 'and will not put an awl in leather again'. - Letter from prospector Thomas Clapperton, Central Victoria, Melbourne Herald , 22 July, 1851.

• Clapperton's letter was written from Burnbank, now Lexton, on the now-Sunraysia Highway, from Ballarat through Avoca. The district's winters are some of the bitterest in Victoria, but they did not deter the diggers.

Sir, I have carefully assayed the samples of gold you gave me, and find it virgin (that is, 24 carat fine). It is the finest I ever saw, and worth in London 83s up an ounce. - H. Walsh, assayer, Melbourne, 22 July, 1851.

• This report to the Gold Committee of the Australasian League placed beyond doubt the bucolic colony of Victoria's role in the new Golden Age.

Why don't they produce this ointment any more?

I challenge the whole College of Surgeons to produce any remedy which will admit of a comparison in and of the following cases, with the extraordinary curative powers of the Ointment viz : - Bad Legs, Malignant Ulcer, Scofula, Sores, Abscesses, Cancers, Tumours, Swellings, Contracted and Stiff Joints, and all diseases of the skin. - Quack's advertisement, Melbourne Morning Herald , 11 August, 1851.

Gold at Ballarat!

Everyone was transmoggified . - Argus , Melbourne, 17 September, 1851.

• This smart-aleck journalist was saying that every male on the goldfields had changed his appearance by growing a beard - there were so many nuggets lying around that no one had time to shave.

The bearer, having paid to me the sum of fifteen shillings on account of the Territorial Revenue, I hereby license him to dig, search for, and remove gold on and from the district of Buninyong and Loddon, as I shall assign to him for that purpose, during the month of September, 1851. The quantity of ground allowed is eight feet square. The license to be produced when demanded by me, or any other persons acting under the authority of Government. - Gold license issued by Commissioner F.C. Doveton, Ballarat district, 21 September, 1851.

• The miners found the early gold licenses obnoxious, but bearable. They were to become one of the issues that brought about the Eureka crisis three years later (see various entries, December, 1854) .

Every man here (Ballarat) is doing well and our party in four days got 80lbs weight of gold out of one hole, and goodness knows how much more may be left there. - Letter from J. D. Hill, a lucky gold prospector, Ballarat, 30 September, 1851.

• At today's prices, that group of friends took $400,000 worth of gold in less than a week.

Within the last three weeks the towns of Melbourne and Geelong and their large suburbs have been in appearance almost emptied of many classes of the male inhabitants. - Lieut. Governor Charles La Trobe, Melbourne, to Earl Grey, Secretary for Colonies, London, 10 October, 1851.

• The new goldfields were the private preserve of the people of Victoria at first. But word soon spread abroad and in 1851-52 the population rose from 97,000 to 168,000.

Picture to yourself a space of ground covered with tents! Thousands at work! Cradles barrows and pickaxes all going together! Shouting, laughing and singing! Such a confusion and a noise that you are bewildered! And then, at night, all lighted up with about a thousand fires; and then, old acquaintances, dressed in red shirts with long beards, tailors with moustachios, doctors, and tinkers, all working together. Picture to yourself Dr Campbell carrying soil on his head in a tin dish, and Dal Campbell rocking a cradle... stay at home until I send for you; and when I do that, be sure I have found the Golden Mountain. - Letter from Henry Lineham, gold digger, Ballarat, 13 October, 1851.

1851: Coup in France, 2 December, leads to a police state for ten years and the appearance of French political exiles on Victorian goldfields.

Nuggets, nuggets galore!

I saw yesterday a singular sight. Going along the bank of the creek, I noticed a crowd of people apparently scrambling together, and when I got up to them I found several hundred tumbling about and over each other, tearing up the soil with their hands, picking up the nuggets and placing them in their pockets for safety. Upon enquiry, I learned that a man was pitching his tent and saw the gold shining, and he began picking up the pieces, and the others, seeing what he was about, rushed him as above. - Letter from a solicitor's clerk, Castlemaine (Vic), 3 December, 1851.

• Eight days after this event, the Castlemaine gold escort arrived in Melbourne with 23,650 ounces.

Olde Vandemonian lags reach goldfields

Tents are cut open and robbed in all directions, and as for horse-stealing there is no end to it! - Daniel Bunce, Argus correspondent, Bendigo, 7 January, 1852.

• Bunce was a botanist (married to John Batman's daughter, Pelonamena) who had mining interests. He refrained from blaming the probable culprits: ex-Vandemonian convicts. At the first criminal trials in Bendigo in November, 1852, 30 out of the 40 defendants were ex-convicts .

Well, lads. When are you going to shoot us? - South Australian Police Commissioner Alexander Tolmer, Four Posts Inn, Victorian Wimmera, c. March, 1852.

• Tolmer and his escort made 18 journeys taking South Australian miners' gold from the Victorian fields to Adelaide, thus saving the South Australian economy. Their great threat came from ex-Vandemonian convicts, who made their base the Four Posts. Early in the escorts, Tolmer decided to ride into their den and ask them their intentions.The startled bushrangers left, so the story goes.

Putrid Melbourne

In the Block bounded by Great and Little Bourke Sts, Elizabeth St and Swanston St, there is a space of upwards of one hundred square yards hitherto occupied by a green putrid semi-liquid mass, partly formed by the outpourings of surrounding privies. - Report of the Select Committee on the Sewage of and Supply of Water to Melbourne, 1852.

• The effect of the population explosion in Melbourne caused by the gold rush was beginning to manifest itself.

A tearful farewell from a 22-year-old emigrant

When I was standing on the deck surrounded by my friends, I thought things were not so bad after all, when they commenced wishing goodbye, I felt a little different, when they were getting over the side into the boat, I felt a twitching at the corner of my eyes, but when the boat pushed off and standing at the side of the vessel I waved my hand, I can safely say I did not see the boat for the tear s. - William Rayment, bound for Melbourne, Himalaya , 1852 .

• The Himalaya was one of 293 ships bringing eager young gold seekers to Melbourne in 1852.

Amazing gold robbery from the vessel, Nelson

About two o'clock yesterday morning, a party of men took two boats, which they found lying on the beach, and with muffled oars, rowed silently and swiftly to the Nelson, a vessel lying in the harbour and ready for London, with a large quantity of gold on board. The men were armed to the teeth, and in an instant they boarded the Nelson, bound hand and foot the seven sailors that were on board, went to the spot where the gold was secured, and carried away eight thousand ounces of it. - Argus , Melbourne, 3 April, 1852.

• This useful piece of thievery, worth $3 million if they did it today, was, as usual, blamed on ex-Vandemonian convicts. The Nelson , a 600-tonne barque, lying in Hobson's Bay, was advertised as 'having superior accommodations' and was even faster when relieved of the weight of the gold.

'Abandon Norfolk Island!': Bishop's plea

I am making a vigorous effort by letter of forty-eight pages to induce Her Majesty's Government to abandon Norfolk Island as soon as possible. They cannot resist the facts laid before them. I will not rest until it be done. - Catholic Bishop Robert Willson, Hobart, letter to another clergyman, April, 1852.

• Willson made his second visit to the penal station off the eastern Australian coast when word reached him of the appalling conditions there. The British Government, embarrassed by the fuss, finally closed Norfolk Island in 1855.

Creative idea, rejected by fuddy-duddies

Two posts standant, one beam crossant, one rope pendant, one knave on end on't. - Launceston Examiner , 1 May, 1852.

• This was one suggestion for a Tasmanian coat of arms.

Thoughts on the goldfields

I wish to God that not a grain (of gold) had ever been found, either on your land or ours. - Letter from a Victorian to Deas Thomson, Australia's senior public servant, Sydney, 25 June, 1852.

... I have deemed it proper to appoint a Chief Commissioner (of the goldfields) and have selected to this end an officer of considerable experience... - Lieut. Governor Charles La Trobe, Melbourne, to Earl Grey, Secretary for Colonies, London, 8 July, 1852.

• La Trobe selected William Wright, a surveyor and former British army officer, for, arguably, the most sensitive civil service post in the Empire. It proved to be an excellent choice and if Lieut Governor Sir Charles Hotham had heeded his wise counsel, the events at Eureka Stockade on 3 December, 1854, might have been avoided.

She was a jolly good sport, Lavinia

She was a lady (so the driver told us) of Adelaide notoriety, known as Lavinia, who had been graciously condescending enough to be the better half of this unhappy digger for a few days, in order to rob him of his earnings . - Lord Robert Cecil, Melbourne, 1852.

• Lord Robert, later Prime Minister of Britain, was a young chap observing life in the colonies. 'There is less crime than in an English town, and more order and civility than I have witnessed in my native village of Hatfield,' he said.

A lawful bunch, says one who ought to know

The singular multitude now assembled at the goldfields, exceeding forty thousand souls, composed of the most heterogeneous materials, is orderly and well-disposed, recognising the rights of the Crown and obedient to the laws. - Supreme Court Judge Redmond Barry, Portland (Vic), 1852.

There were the occasional exceptions, of course

The attack was so outrageous that they thought it was a joke; but as they were addressed in the most abusive language and told their brains would be blown out if they delayed, they got out of the cart and submitted to be rifled, the one of 25 pounds, and the other of about 46 pounds . - Argus , Melbourne, 19 October, 1852.

• The bushrangers, who must have been too lazy to go out and rob a gold escort, tied up their victims, then proceeded to stick up every member of the gentry who came along St Kilda road, near the heart of Melbourne.

Meanwhile, on the High Seas with young Will

William John Wills, came out from Devon with his brother, Tom, on the maiden voyage of the sailing ship, Janet Mitchell. Extracts from his diary of October/November/December, 1852, give glimpses of a vigorous young man's shipboard life ...

October 19th - Sailors prigged (stole) some spirits in the hold and got very drunk - A passenger so drunk that he became mad, and was put in irons ...

20th - Sailors not yet recovered from their drunkenness - A naval captain, passenger on board, insulted by one of them; struck him with his fist and cut his face open ...

November 1st - Shark taken, of which I had a large share and rather enjoyed the novelty of the feed ...

20th and 21st - Passed Tristan da Cunha, Inaccessible and Nightingale Islands ... Saw a great many whales, mostly sperm, thousands of birds, albatross, Cape pigeon, and many others, the names of which I am ignorant.

23rd - A shoal of porpoises passed us. A sailor struck one with a harpoon, but it got off again. They are of a salmon colour, no more like pigs then horses, just the shape of salmon, only much larger. In swimming, they turn on their sides.'

Wills, who had only been on board since 1 October, had become proficient in many of the seaman's arts, achieved by bribing the sailors with tobacco.

December 1st - Smart breeze this morning which soon increased to a gale - Assisted in furling top-gallant sail - sailors only half-dressed - After breakfast, had to double reef top-sails and mainsail. I like reefing very much ...

27th - Saw an eclipse of the moon last night, which lasted three hours; little more than three-quarters were eclipsed - Some of the passengers discontented with the provisions - wonder that some of them ever thought of leaving home.

A lofty observation from a jealous newsman?

I must say that a worse regulated, worse drained, worse lighted, worse watered town of note is not on the face of the globe; and that a population more thoroughly disposed, in every grade to cheating and robbery, open and covert, does not exist; that in no other place does immorality stalk abroad so unblushingly and so unchecked; that in other place does mammon rule so triumphant; that in no other place is the public money so wantonly squandered without giving the slightest protection to life or property; that in no other place are the administrative functions of Government so inefficiently managed; that, in a word, nowhere else in the southern hemisphere does chaos reign so triumphant as in Melbourne. - Correspondent, Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne, 4 November, 1852.

'Truly a wonderful place ... a perfect Babel'

The Chinese is jostled by the Russian. The polite Frenchman is abused by the African negro. The people of our own country are called to order by its more precocious off-spring, the American. Men from all nations sit down at the same table and drink from the same bowl, they talk to each other and sing in their own tongue, get drunk according to their own peculiar fashion, quarrel, jangle, fight and embrace as their various natures dictate. - William Rayment, newly-arrived gold-seeker, Melbourne, late-1852.

• Rayment, aged 22, had arrived on the Himalaya and found himself in 'truly a wonderful place ... a perfect Babel'.

At last, a respectable name for VDL

That the Order in Council constituting this Island a Penal Colony may be rescinded, and that Van Diemens Land may henceforth be called Tasmania ... - Petition to Queen Victoria, Hobart, 18 November, 1852.

• The name 'Van Diemens Land' came into being on 3 December, 1642, when the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman took possession of the island. It was named after Anthony Van Diemen, Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. Under British occupation from 1803, it became synonymous with the most brutal convictism, and the citizens embraced the new name with relief. 'Tasmania' had been used, unofficially, since the 1820s, particularly in the names of newspapers.

All that republican swagger on Victorian diggings

The people mostly wear beards, carry firearms and are immensely independent: they dress something like the prints you have seen of red French republicans, much of that loose air and swagger. - Letter home from Thomas Woolner, sculptor, Victorian diggings, late-1852.

• Woolner, then 22, later became one of Britain's most prominent sculptors. Through his friendship with Sir Henry Parkes, he designed the Captain Cook memorial in the 1870s in Hyde Park, Sydney.

An eager, but ill-fated, immigrant to Victoria

My Dear Father, We have this morning dropped anchor, just off Williamstown. There are a fine set of ships here: amongst them are the Great Britain, Cleopatra, Ballaarat, Aberfoil and an immense number of others, great and small. The Great Britain leaves early tomorrow, so I cannot finish my letter. We have been ninety-five days on our passage. The Cleopatra has only arrived two days. There are a great many vessels coming in. The day before yesterday we overtook and passed the Jane, and Truth, of London, which left Plymouth a fortnight before we sailed from Dartmouth. I hear that things are very dear in Melbourne. Our pilot says he gives 200 pounds a year for a small four-roomed cottage, two miles from the town. - Letter to his father (also William) from William John Wills, Melbourne, 3 January, 1853.

• Wills was two days short of his twentieth birthday when he and his brother, Tom, joined the tens of thousands of hopefuls pouring into Victoria. His father followed them some months later and went into medical practice at Ballarat. Wills joined Robert O'Hara Burke's expedition in 1860 as surveyor and perished at Cooper Creek.

Young Wills' description of Melbourne, 1853

Melbourne is situated, as you know, on the Yarra Yarra ('always running') which has not so nearly large a bed as the Dart, although more navigable. It is narrow but very deep, and so far resembles a canal rather than a river. The town, or city, as they call it, is situated low, but laid out on a good scale. The streets are very wide, and I think when filled with houses it will be a very fine place; but what spoils the appearance now is the number of wooden buildings they are throwing up, as they cannot get workmen for others. When we were there, butter was from two shillings and fourpence to three shillings per pound, bread fourpence, milk eightpence per pint, vegetables enormous, butcher's meat and sugar as at home. Fruit very dear; a shilling would not purchase as much as a penny in England. Beer and porter, one shilling per pint in Melbourne, but from two shillings to two and sixpence here (Deniliquin). The town of Melbourne is all on one side of the river, but on the opposite bank is Canvas Town, connected to Melbourne by a good bridge of one arch. Canvas Town takes its name from being entirely composed of tents, except for a few wooden erections, such as a public house, and the Immigrants' Home, where we lodged. I do not like Melbourne in its present state. You are not safe out after sundown, and in a short time, you will not be safe during the day. There were some men taken out of the river drowned, suspected to have been murdered, and several attempts at robbery while we were there. - Letter to his father from William John Wills, Deniliquin (NSW), 12 February, 1853.

• Wills and his younger brother, Tom, had found work as shepherds on a station in southern NSW. After his death in 1861, his father, William, edited A Successful Exploration from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria as a memorial to his son. A facsimile is available from Friends of the State Library of South Australia, GPO Box 419, Adelaide SA 5001.

A-digging we'll go, think crew, captain says, 'No'

As the evening was raw and squally, we elected to remain on board; but we were crammed with all the latest shore news by the hordes of canvassers from hotels and boarding houses, who talked about gold as if it was 'too much of a good thing' - a mere drug in everybody's hand, which excited no more lust among colonists than pig-iron would among Welshmen. The captain got very fidgety as he saw the sailors gulping down these exaggerations, and as the last shore boat shoved off he had all the loose oars put under lock and key, to guard against desertion. - Writer and entrepreneur William Kelly ( Life in Victoria ), aboard the ship, Cherusker , Hobson's Bay (Melbourne), 30 April, 1853. See also further William Kelly references.

Ho hum, not another one

Nuggets of a few pounds weight have become too common to deserve special mention, and after a time people become tired of being told of even ten or twenty pound lumps. - Argus , Melbourne, 21 May, 1853.

Englishmen abroad

Young man of the Crown,

Why don't you come down?' - goldfields minstrel Charlie Thatcher, c. 1853.

• Thatcher reflected the attitudes of the miners, forced to lurk in their shafts while fresh-faced young English officials waited on the surface for them to produce their licences.

As for the Murray ever becoming an agricultural country, the notion is absurd ... there is hardly a settler on the Lower Murray who can luxuriate in a vegetable. - Evelyn Sturt, Letters From Victorian Pioneers , 1853.

• Evelyn, younger brother of the explorer, Charles, lacked the benefit of the hindsight with which we are favoured.

Bloody McIvor gold heist

... a private escort, composed of six men, conveying 2,323 ounces of gold, and 200 pounds in cash, towards Melbourne. The attacking party, consisting, it is believed, of eleven men, lay in ambush, and evidently attempted, by a general discharge of firearms, to kill or disable the whole guard . - Lieut Governor Charles La Trobe, Melbourne, to the Duke of Newcastle, Secretary for Colonies, London, 20 July, 1853.

• This ruthless gold robbery of the McIvor (Heathcote) escort, Victoria's biggest and most violent of the gold rushes, even rated a Mention in Dispatches to His Grace. It had a Vandemonian flavour.

Man turns a paradise to a killer slum in 50 years

We have great reason to mark the goodness and tender dealing of the heavenly Father with us. The children, now seven in number, are all healthy as relates to body and mind, whilst around us, on every hand, sickness and mortality have been making fearful ravages. At no period in the history of the Colony has the mortality among children been so high ... all probable traceable in some measure to atmospheric influences; such at least is the opinion of some of our medical men. - Quaker missionary George Washington Walker, letter to a friend, Hobart, 13 August, 1853.

• Walker had arrived from England in the predominantly convict colony from England in 1831 and lived at first among the poorer white families along the Hobart Rivulet district before moving to the more salubrious and less diseased Battery Point in 1852. The colony, founded in 1803, had already developed its own desperate slums.


Wanted, Civility from the people of Melbourne towards any New Arrival who may ask them a necessary question. - Argus , Melbourne, 22 August, 1853.

Son of convicts mocks Bunyip Aristocracy

Next came the native aristocrat Mr James Macarthur, he would, he supposed, aspire to the coronet of an earl, he would call him the Earl of Camden, and he suggests for his coat of arms a field vert, the heraldic term for green - and emblazoned on this field should be a rum keg of a New South Wales order of chivalry. - Politician Daniel Deniehy, Sydney Morning Herald , 15 August, 1853.

• The learned Mr Deniehy would not qualify for the 'Bunyip Aristocracy' because he was (a) the son of convicts, (2) the son of Irish convicts (3) educated. Nor would William Charles Wentworth, who proposed the scheme, because he was the son of a convict woman. He was generally considered to have entered early dotage, anyway.

Here, they all knew the common water mole was transferred into the duck-billed platypus, and in some distant emulation of this degeneration, he supposed they were to be favoured with a bunyip aristocracy. - Politician Daniel Deniehy, Empire , Sydney, 16 August, 1853.

Desirable run only three weeks drive to market!

Piliga, well-known to be one of the most fattening, best watered and well known runs in the Lower Namoi is distant 290 miles from Maitland, and 300 from Sydney, being an easy drive of three weeks for fat cattle to either market. The improvements comprise a comfortable Slab Cottage, containing a sitting room and two bedrooms, floored and comfortably furnished with Store behind Kitchen, a stockman's hut, detached with four compartments, a three-stall stable, with box for breaking in colts or an entire horse. One stockman and two natives can manage the whole affair. - Station for sale advertisement, Sydney, 1854.

Victoria shakes the world

The discovery of the Victorian goldfields has converted a remote dependency into a country of world-wide fame; it has attracted a population, extraordinary in number, with unprecedented rapidity; it has enhanced the value of property to an enormous extent; it has made this the richest country in the world; and, in less than three years, it has done for this colony the work of an age, and made its impulses felt in the most distant regions of the earth. - Report of Select Committee of the Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne, 10 March, 1854.

• The citizenry was still bemused by the colony's good fortune. The population had grown 97,000 in 1851 to 222,000 in 1853, and was still rising apace. In time, when they had finally hurled aside their colonial cloak, much of this new-found wealth would be converted into handsome buildings on majestic boulevards. Charles La Trobe, about to end his long term ( see 6 May, 1854 ), must have been shaking his head in wonderment.

Steamship sets new record from Britain

The gallant Chusan came into port last night a little before eleven o'clock, bringing the mails of the 10th of January, thus putting us in possession of intelligence only 65 days old. - Sydney Morning Herald , 17 March, 1854.

• This was truly amazing news, considering the First Fleet wandered out in eight months sixty-six years earlier. The Chusan was a steamer, but some of the sail-driven vessels were making fine times by the 1850s, including the Marco Polo , which came out in 68 days in 1852.

La Trobe leaves Victoria after satisfying term

Leave the Heads 14 years, seven months and six days since I first entered them. - Charles La Trobe's diary entry, 6 May, 1854.

• Australia's longest-serving Queen's representative finally departed these shores on the vessel Golden Age . More's the pity he could not have waited a few more months ... but his wife was gravely ill in Europe.

William Kelly discovers a rare theatrical ambience

I made my way to the pit as the place from which I could have the most comprehensive survey of the house and stage, paying 5s. into an aperture which smelled like a bung-hole of an empty brandy-butt, and getting in return a disfigured penny piece as a pass, which I handed to a corrugated Amazon smoking a black pipe, who looked contemptuously over-decent appearance. As I got into the body of the house, I found the chandelier overcast by a dark cloud of tobacco smoke, and I fancied I could, at intervals, detect the tones of a cracked flageolet, a screaming violin, and a flabby drum ... The dress circle was crammed beyond sitting posture with florid-looking women in too low satin dresses, some in their smeared hair, with their pinned bonnets dangling in front of the boxes; others crowned with tiaras like rosebushes in full bearing, and all hung round with chains, watches, collars, and bracelets of most ponderous manufacture. - William Kelly, describing the social scene in Melbourne, 1854 ( Life in Victoria , London, 1859).

• William Kelly conveyed the ambience in one of Melbourne's better theatres, where the actors were attempting a performance of Hamlet before an audience of gold miners and their ladies. Kelly (1813-1872), an Irish barrister and journalist, lived in Victoria from 1853-1857. His social notes were intended to provoke great amusement in refined English circles. When his book was published, a reviewer in London said it was full of 'lies, absurd self-laudations and twaddle'. However, in 1861 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, one of his proposers being Sir Richard Burton, the renowned explorer and oriental sensualist ( Arabian Nights ). The very next year, with the confidence of such friends (and giving his age as 38 when he was, in fact, 49), he married a 26-year-old Belgian widow. Alas, he survived only ten more years, but, as his tombstone says, Fortified by the Rites of the Roman Catholic Church.

Crimean War, 1854-55, coincides with the naming of streets and suburbs, particularly in Melbourne and Ballarat.

Railway from Port Phillip Bay to Melbourne

One second-class and two first-class carriages were in attendance for the conveyance of the guests. They were handsomely painted and varnished and very commodious, but the locomotive attracted more of the attention of the bystanders. It is the first locomotive constructed, not merely in Victoria, but in the southern hemisphere. - Argus , Melbourne, 13 September, 1854.

• The Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway was the first passenger service in Australia, built to carry immigrants from Sandridge (Port Melbourne) to Melbourne.

1854: Crazy charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, Crimea, 25 October, involving 660 British chaps, and not 600 as Tennyson conveniently and poetically claimed.

Prelude to rebellion at the Eureka Stockade

It was new to me. I felt we had a different class of men on Bendigo. - Gold Commissioner Joseph Panton, Ballarat, 1854.

• Panton, a popular administrator, had ridden from Bendigo to Ballarat to investigate reports of brewing trouble there. He was astonished to be jeered by the miners. Possibly, Eureka might have been avoided had he been there to employ his superior skills in human relations.

Thank God there is among us man; not so tall as thick, of a strong frame, some thirty five years old, honest countenance, sober forehead, penetrating look, fine dark whiskers. His mouth and complexion denote the Irish, and he is the earnest, well-meaning, no-two-ways, non-John-Bullised Irishman, Peter Lalor, in whose eyes, the gaseous heroism of demagogues, or the knavery of peg-shifters is an abomination, because his height of impudence consisted in giving the diggers his hand, and leaving them with his arm in pawn, for to jump the Ballaarat claim in St Patrick's Hall. More power to you Peter! Old chummy, smother the knaves! they breed too fast in this colony. - Raffaello Carboni, (The Eureka Stockade ), Ballarat, 30 November, 1854.

• This extraordinary summary of Lalor's good points described him at a rebels' meeting three days before Eureka. It appeared in Carboni's account of events published in Melbourne in 1855. Carboni's glowing reference might have been useful in Lalor's curriculum vitae in 1873 when he was accused of using blacklegs, unsuccessfully, to try to break a strike at a mine he part- owned in Clunes.

I awoke Sunday morning. It was full dawn, not daylight. A discharge of musketry - then a round from the bugle - the command 'forward' - and another discharge of musketry was sharply kept on by the Redcoats (some 300 strong), advancing on the gully west of the stockade, for a couple of minutes . - Rebel Raffaello Carboni, Ballarat, 3 December, 1854.

• About 290 soldiers and police took part in the attack. Diggers' numbers inside the stockade were less than 100; many had gone home to spend the night with families.

Before daylight on 3 December, a force consisting of 276 men of all arms, including a strong body of cavalry, mustered quietly and left the camp with the purpose of attacking the Stockade. At early dawn, they reached the neighbourhood of the position sought, and the advanced files were fired at by a sentinel posted within the Stockade. The order of attack was now given, and the detachment of the 40th regiment, led by Captain Thomas, the chief officer in command, made a quick advance upon the breastwork which formed the stronghold of the insurgents. After several volleys had been fired on both sides, the barrier of ropes, slabs and overturned carts was crossed, and the defenders driven out, or into the shallow holes with which the place was spotted, and in which many were put to death in the first heat of conflict, either by bullets or by bayonet thrusts. The foot police were first over the barricade, and one, climbing the flagstaff under heavy fire, secured the rebel flag. After burning all the tents within the enclosure, and in the immediate vicinity, the troops returned to camp, and carts were sent out for the dead and wounded. The latter thus obtained immediate medical aid. They were covered in blood, and mostly shot in the breast. The number of insurgents killed is estimated at thirty-five to forty, and many of those brought in wounded afterwards died. Of the troops, three privates were killed, and several wounded, one of whom died. Two officers were wounded and one, Captain Wise, died. Among the arms taken in the fight were pikes of a rude construction, made on the spot, and furnished with a sort of hooked knife to cut the bridles of the cavalry. The dead were buried the same day in the cemetery. The bodies of the insurgents, placed in rough coffins made hurriedly, were laid in a separate grave, the burial service being performed by the clergyman to whose congregation they belonged. At night we were again under arms, as constant rumours of an intended attack kept us alert. This is exhausting work, and a severe trial, especially for the military, as the men have had no rest for several nights. Indeed, no one within the lines has undressed for the last four nights at the very least. - Anonymous eyewitness, military account of the attack on 3 December. 1854, Withers History of Ballarat.

As a military man, and one who took a most prominent part in all the military movements of that day, I beg leave to offer a remark upon the statement made by the Government officer of the Camp. The small force consisted of detachments of the 12th and 40th regiments, and a few troopers and foot police, the whole under the command of Captains Thomas and Wise, and a Lieutenant of the 12th. I forget his name. The order to fall in and be silent was given, and when Captain Thomas had spoken a few words, we were put in motion, led by Captain Wise. The party had not advanced three hundred yards when we were seen by the rebel sentry, who fired, not at our party, but to warn his party in the Stockade. He was on Black Hill. Captain Thomas turned his head in the direction of the shot, and said, 'We are seen. Forward and steady, men. Don't fire. Let the insurgents fire first. You wait for the sound of the bugle.' When, within a short distance of the Stockade, the insurgents fired. Captain Wise fell, mortally wounded. The same volley wounded the Lieutenant of the 12th, already spoken of, and three of his men: two killed and one wounded of the 40th - Privates Michael Roony, Joseph Wall, killed; William Juniper, badly wounded. The Camp officer said the police were the first to enter the Stockade. He is wrong. There was not one policeman killed or wounded during the entire affair. When Captain Wise fell, the men cheered and were over in the Stockade in a second, and then bayonet and pike went to work. The diggers fought well and fierce, not a word spoken on either side until all was over. The blacksmith who made the pikes was killed by Lieutenant Richards, 40th regiment. Honour to his name: he fought well and died gloriously. It was rumoured that at the time the police were cruel to the wounded and the prisoners. No such thing. The police did nothing but their duty, and they did to well for men that were not accustomed to scenes of blood and violence. To my knowledge there was only one wounded man dispatched, and he kept swinging his pike about his head as he sat on the ground. His two legs were broken and he had a musket ball in his body. He could not live, and it was best to dispatch him. His name was O'Neill, a native of Kilkenny. I heard this statement from a sergeant of police, and I know it was correct. - Anonymous military witness, 3 December, 1854, Withers History of Ballarat.

• The British regiments engaged were 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot and the 12th (East Suffolk) Regiment of Foot. The mounted police, said to have been recruited from ex-Vandemonian convicts, were blamed for most of the brutality.

Her Majesty's forces were this morning fired upon by a large body of evil-disposed persons of various nations, who had entrenched themselves in a stockade on the Eureka, and some officers and men killed. Several of the rioters have paid the penalty of their crime, and a large number are in custody. All well-disposed persons are earnestly requested to return to their ordinary occupation, and to abstain from assembling in large groups, and every protection will be afforded to them by the authorities. - Government notice signed by Resident Commissioner Robert Rede, Ballarat, 3 December, 1854.

Recent events at the mines at Ballaarat render it necessary for all true subjects of the Queen, and all strangers who have received hospitality and protection under Her flag, to assist in preserving social order and maintaining the supremacy of the law. - Extraordinary Government Notice, Melbourne, 4 December, 1854 (the day after Eureka).

When peace shall be once more regained, and there shall be time for deliberate judgment, the citizens will reckon with the Government. - Age , Melbourne, 5 December, 1856.

• The Age , a liberal voice, accurately reflected the mood of the people. When the thirteen Eureka rebels were brought to trial for treason, all were acquitted by a Melbourne jury.

Courage! Courage! Take it off! - Diggers' leader Peter Lalor, near Geelong, December, 1854.

• These words were attributed to Lalor while doctors agonised what to do about his shattered arm after Eureka. He was smuggled to Geelong where, in 1855, he married his carer, Alicia Dunne.

Any thoughtful person who calmly views our present condition, either commercially or politically, must feel the necessity of vigorous exertions in order to place us in the position we ought to be in. When we consider the rich and beautiful country God has given us - a country that waits only for the plough to give us wheat - the vine to give us wine - the olive to give us oil - every luxury and comfort than man can desire is within our reach, only waits our biddings. Gold lies at our feet, and yet with all these advantages we are on the verge of national insolvency and the hands of our people are stained with blood.

May the frightful and sorrowful position we are in induce us all with one spirit to cooperate about in bringing about a more creditable state of things. Let us cast aside all party feelings or class interest. Let us retrench, economise, and abandon the idea that getting further into debt will clear us of our difficulties. Let us fling to the wind the wild fallacy that public works carried out with borrowed money is fitting employment for newly-arrived immigrants.

Let us be wise in time, and give to our people a fair scope for their activity - a wider and more wholesome range for their energies, and we shall soon become a happy, a peaceful, and a contented people.

We have indulged too long in taxing - we have become, under the Wakefield system, a nation of consumers, instead of producers. We must alter our system if we are to recover character; and if Sir Charles Hotham is a wise man, he will at once call to his assistance that first minister of finance, the Plough! - Letter from social worker, Caroline Chisholm, Argus , Melbourne, 7 December, 1854.

• Caroline Chisholm had returned to Australia earlier that year (ironically, on the Ballaarat ) from a very successful visit to England to drum up support for her emigration schemes. At the time of Eureka, she was in Melbourne working on plans for her chain of shelter sheds to the diggings. These were commenced next year. One of these was near Kyneton, en route to Bendigo, where she went to live with her husband, Archibald, a retired army officer, in 1857.

The Governor is getting very unpopular, and it is thought will make but a very short stay here. - Alfred Joyce, squatter, Plaistow Station, near Maryborough (Vic), 12 December, 1854.

• Joyce made his comment about Sir Charles Hotham in a family letter to England a week after Eureka. Sir Charles Hotham died in Melbourne on 17 December, 1855, having already tendered his resignation to London.

Ship --- Sydney Heads

December 24th, 1854.

Farewell to thee, Australia! A few moments more, and then Australia, land of my adoption, adieu! adieu! The rocky shores fade o'er the water blue. The ship that bears me to exile has spread its wings. - Rebel Frederick Vern, letter circulated in Melbourne, 15 January, 1855.

• Vern escaped the net after Eureka and fled overseas. Or did he? Mischievous people have suggested he was skulking in the arms of the delectable Gertrude Spanhake, publican of the Duchess of Kent Hotel, Ballarat, after he did his brave bit at Eureka.

Catherine Hayes, showbiz SUPERSTAR, visits Oz!

Catherine Hayes, the mid-30s Irish singer ('the Madonna of the 19th century', one 21st century biographer called her) visited Sydney and Melbourne in 1855, accompanied by her watchful mother, on a grand operatic circumnavigation. William Kelly recalled the scene as she left Sydney for Melbourne ... Many silent tears escaped as she crossed the gangway to the vessel, but when she stood upon the poop and fluttered the cambric, judges, lawyers, doctors, merchant, and tradesmen commenced a lugubrious concert of blubbering and weeping, which a local satirist asserted had a perceptible effect on the tide. Nor did this melting ceremony end even at the wharf, for every river steamer and harbour tug was chartered to convey the dolorous South Welshmen to the portals of that splendid harbour; but, long before the aquatic procession reached the Heads,. the emotions of the heart were obliged to succumb to the feelings of the stomach, and the gurgling moans of sea sickness overmastered the tender sighs of ethereal passion ... And so she arrived in Melbourne, Kelly reported, with an 'unsullied reputation', where, unlike Sydney the citizens maintained their self-respect ... There was no unseemly running after her out of doors, no perpetual presentations of this, that, and the other thing, although well-authenticated rumour declares there were several tender and legitimate offerings made to her, which she was stern enough to decline. In fact, if she had not registered a vow of celibacy, it is difficult to imagine how she could have held out against the slavering importunities of a medical practitioner, who neglected his own patients in supplicating a remedy at her hands for a self-inflicted malady. Miss Hayes initiated a taste for opera in the southern hemisphere which grows stronger every hour, and will always ensure to artists carrying with them a London or Parisian diploma of merit a warm welcome and a lucrative engagement. - William Kelly, Life in Victoria , (London, 1859).

Redmond Barry opens Melbourne University

We must feel that, although we live in a country and in times in which events of no common magnitude happen almost daily, this is one, the aim of which is worthy and becoming, the character grave and impressive, and one, the effects of which are not merely transient and ephemeral, but which must prove deep and lasting. - Justice Redmond Barry, opening of Melbourne University, 14 April, 1855.

• Redmond Barry, unfortunately, is best-remembered for sentencing Ned Kelly to death in 1880. But his many good works include the founding of Melbourne University (of which he was the first chancellor) and the Melbourne Public Library.

Young Wills admonishes his worrying mum

William John Wills, the future ill-fated explorer, wrote to his mother in Totnes, Devon, on 22 June, 1855, after he returned to Ballarat from Moora Moora, in Victoria's Western District ... My Dear Mother, I had the pleasure of receiving a letter from you a fortnight since. I was at Moora Moora then, as you will see by a letter I wrote just before I came down here, in the hope of joining a party that is spoken of as about to explore the interior of the country, which you appear to have such a dread of. It seems uncertain whether they will go at all. As to what you say about people being starved to death in the bush, no doubt it would be rather disagreeable. But when you talk about being killed in battle, I am almost ashamed to read it. If every one had such ideas we should have no one going to sea of fear of being drowned; no travellers by railway for fear the engine should burst; and all would live in the open air for fear the houses falling in. I wish you would read Coombe's 'Constitution of Man'. As regards some remarks of yours on people's religions, it is a subject on which so many differ, that I am inclined to Pope's conclusion who say -

'For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight;

His can't be wrong whose life is in the right;'

And I think we cannot have a better guide to our actions than 'to do unto other as we would be done by'. Ever your affectionate son, W.J. Wills.

• The expedition to the interior Wills refers to was a private scheme, organised by an American, that came to nothing. Young Wills had become an atheist, a fact his father expunged from his diary after his death.

Irishman's view of the quality of his countrymen

During my short colonial experience I was much surprised at finding so large a proportion of the Irish leaven in the population, which, previous to the gold digging, I always understood was three-fourth Scotch, with a good dash of English besides, in its lower and even secondary ranks. And the surprise was no more than natural, knowing as I did the alluring attractions held out by America to Irish emigrants - firstly, in the extraordinary cheapness of the rate and shortness of the passage; secondly, in the low price and easy acquirement of land; and thirdly, in true witching lure of consanguinity so inherent in Celtic bosoms. But, notwithstanding these advantages, and the discouragements of a voyage over five times as long and five times as costly, thousands of Irish poured in, independently of those who came out as free emigrants, all of whom were absorbed, or found profitable occupations immediately after arrival, few, if any contributing to swell the ranks of those discontented grumblers who were most eloquent when cursing the colony because they could not find gold on the surface, and who were always sure to be found sunning themselves lazily in the vicinity of the labour market, or propping up the portals of the lowest class of public-houses. Perhaps the explanation is to be found in the fact that any change from the impoverished and degraded condition of the Irish peasant on his native soil must necessarily have been one for the better, and that therefore, on arrival, he was only too glad to embrace the first opportunity that presented itself. However, whatever the reason, all impartial observers will agree, and statistics will bear me out in the assertion, that Irishmen constitute a very small -proportion of the loafing population, or of the criminal crowd that filled the gaols or asylums, while I may affirm, without fear of contradiction, that the proverbial chastity of the Irish of the Irish female was nobly sustained by those poor girls who found themselves standing alone, without parents or protectors, in the midst of the staring contamination of the Victorian metropolis. - Description of Irish immigrants about 1855 by William Kelly, Life in Victoria (London), 1859.

Lady Mitchell decides she likes Australia, after all

I am heartily tired of this country but my property is now worth something and Lady Mitchell likes the country. - Surveyor General Sir Thomas Mitchell, Sydney, to his brother, John, Craigend, Scotland, 8 July, 1855.

• Four days before he wrote this letter, a Royal Commission was appointed to enquire into the survey department. People had become tired of his manner and 'ungovernable temper' and his masters intended to dismiss him. He died on 5 October. His wife, as he said, had come to like the country, a contrast to his remarks soon after they arrived (see I February, 1828).

Dramatic change in attitude towards aborigines

Fifty pounds reward. Whereas a Native Black named Charley, employed by us as a a shepherd at a station called Sam's Well, near Borah, in the district of Liverpool Plains, was barbarously murdered on Friday evening, the 28th of September, while tending his flock in the bush; and strong suspicion resting on William Wright (also in our service, and has since absconded) as the perpetrator of the above deed, for whom a warrant has been granted, we hereby offer a reward of Twenty Pounds to any person who will lodge the said William Wright in any of Her Majesty's gaols, and Fifty Pounds on conviction of the murderer of the said aboriginal Charley. - Private reward notice, Maitland Mercury (NSW), 20 October, 1855.

• The suspect, Wright, was described as an American, aged about thirty. Squatters John and Ebenezer Orr offered a reward for his capture, reflecting the change in attitudes towards aborigines in northern NSW since the Myall Creek massacre in 1838, and the subsequent hanging of seven white men for the crime.

'Tasmania' becomes a reality

Young Tasmania has just purchased a new Constitution, and our Gracious Queen has just legalised our euphonious name, TASMANIA. - Hobart Mercury , 21 December, 1855.

William Brodribb's extraordinary droving feat

After many difficulties, I reached the western falls (slopes ) to the Hume (Murray) river; and I could see the valley of the Hume meandering down 30 miles off - it appeared a deep abyss. - William Brodribb, squatter, Snowy Mountains (NSW), January, 1856.

• Brodribb was driving sheep and cattle from the Monaro to a station he had acquired in the Riverina district of NSW. He and his men drove the stock down, ledge by ledge, and many of the cattle were injured permanently.

Hangover, Melbourne, 2 January, 1856

Elizabeth Millett, an habitual drunkard, was sent to jail for three months. The bacchanalian list numbered eleven, besides half a dozen disorderly and assault cases, arising out of the nobbler.

Henry C. Wills, the landlord of the Odd Fellows Hotel, was charged with having violently assaulted James Carey, by cracking his nob with a 'neddy'. The assault was proved and the defence set up was that the complainant had almost choked the defendant, who was compelled to resort to violence to save his life. Wills was fined 20s and 80s costs.

Four young women, named Grant, Ford, Reardan and Perry, were arrested on warrant as keepers of disorderly houses (brothels) in Spring Street. Detective Simonck prosecuted and it would appear that, before having to recourse to harsher measures, the prisoners had all been warned, but in vain. All sorts of promises of reformation were made, and they were discharged with a caution not to appear again. In the course of the praiseworthy efforts of the detective police, Spring Street, from being one of the most depraved localities in town, is now one of the most orderly, and it is only a pity that the same energy is not applied to purging more populous and equally important localities.

Opening of the Melbourne Public Library

Hat off, enter name in the book, no talking, put book in place again. - Rules of the Melbourne Public Library (now State Library of Victoria), Opening Day, 11 February, 1856.

• They were the simplest rules in the world for the new pride of the colony. It was open to any man or woman, neat of dress and visibly sober. By 1858, there were 94,000 visitors out of a metropolitan population of 100,000.

1856-70: Maori Wars.

Victorian push for world's first Eight Hour Day

That this meeting is of the opinion that the enervating effects of this climate, the advanced state of civilisation, the progress of the arts and sciences, and the demand for intellectual gratification and improvement, call for the abridgement of the hours of labour. - Dr Thomas Embling, Melbourne, 11 April, 1856.

• This momentous meeting introduced the concept of the Eight Hour Day to the world. Embling was speaking on behalf of the newly-formed Operative Stonemasons Society, which had the blessing of its principal employer, David Mitchell, who built the Exhibition Building and Scots Church. Embling, by the way, had such compassion for the less-fortunate that he had the audacity to have the manacles removed from patients at Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum.

Lavish entertainments in gold-fattened city

The entertainments will include the celebrated Bombardment of Sebastopol, with additional and appropriate devices in Fire Works, with guns of large calibre, and extra brilliant Fire Works, consisting of Water Rockets, Water Fountains, Fiery Dragons, Golden Rain, Bomb Shells, Sky Rockets etch ... - Eight Hours Celebration Handbill, Melbourne, 12 May, 1856.

• Just two years after the real siege of Sebastopol, in the Crimean War, Cremorne Gardens, in Richmond, Melbourne, was showing extravagant reenactments. The Gardens, based on the Vauxhall Gardens, in London, were a creation of George Selth Coppin (1819-1906) and featured such entertainments as balloon rides and polka dancing. They were a manifestation of the Golden Age at its headiest.

Lola Montez denies she's a whore

I'll shout for all hands if you show me the man who said that! - Dancer Lola Montez, Theatre Royal, Castlemaine (Vic), April, 1856.

• A miner in the front stalls had the poor taste to call her a whore. Lola died on 17 January, 1861, in New Jersey, US, of syphilis.

1857: Indian Mutiny, May-September

End of a long separation

Mary Gregson, who came by the ship Carrier Dove, may hear of her husband, John Gregson, at 15 Otter Street, Collingwood. - Newspaper notice, Melbourne, 17 November, 1857.

• Good news? Or bad? Why wasn't John at the wharf to meet the wife he'd farewelled in England so long ago, the rotter? Well, perhaps his gold claim in Central Victoria was paying so well he couldn't tear himself away. Anyway, Mary, aged 30, arrived with their daughter, also Mary, aged seven, on the Carrier Dove and there's no reason to suppose that they didn't live happily ever after.

Odd spot

William McDonald, seedsman, of 128 Bourke Street east (south side) has no connection with the cheesemonger opposite, bearing the same name. - Public notice, Herald , Melbourne, 17 November, 1857.

Melbourne gets piped Eau de Yarra

Elbow room being obtained, the first jet d'eau was squirted into a carriage filled with ladies, who, in their innocent confidence, had driven up to get a sight of the first water to be set in motion in the capital city of the southern hemisphere. - Eyewitness report, Melbourne, 1 January, 1858.

• It was, in fact, Aqua de Yarra , piped to the city from Yan Yean reservoir upstream in the Yarra Valley. A bottle was filled to be sent to the former Lieut Governor La Trobe, mourning the death of his wife, Sophie, in London, but already comfortably in the arms of his new wife, Rose Isabelle, her sister. The marriage precluded him from future official appointments under Queen Victoria's tightly-corsetted regime.

Clergy unsighted in S.W. New South Wales

Another half-year has again elapsed without the least sign of any minister of any denomination coming to this part of the colony. It has been thought possible that some Chinese, seeing our uncared-for condition, might one of these days, come here, erect a Joss House, and kindly invite us to enter ... - Sydney Morning Herald , Wagga, 11 May, 1858.

• In the anti-Asiatic fashion of the times, this would have been considered the ultimate insult to the Anglo-Celtic clergy.

His first white man (and horse)

About three-quarters of an hour afterwards I came suddenly upon another native who was hunting in the sandhills. My attention being engaged in keeping the bearing, I did not observe him until he moved, but I pulled up at once, lest he should run away, and called to him. What he imagined I was I do not know; but when he turned around and saw me I never beheld a finer picture of astonishment and fear. He was a fine muscular fellow, about six feet in height, and stood as if riveted to the spot, with his mouth wide open, and his eyes staring. I sent our black forward to speak with him, but omitted to tell him to dismount. The terrified native remained motionless, allowing our black to ride with a few yards of him, when, in an instant, he threw down his waddies, and jumped up into a mulga bush as high as he could, one foot being about three feet from the ground, and the other about two feet higher. - Explorer John McDouall Stuart, near Lake Torrens (SA), 25 June, 1858.

• Stuart wanted to ask directions to Wingillpin (a mythical freshwater lake). Eventually, the aborigine indicated it was northwest. But that's what they all said.

Girl's fingers chopped off by big brother

A sad circumstance took place this afternoon. While our neighbour, Mrs Steel, was gone to see a friend, her boy chopped off his little sister's fingers. A part of one was quite off and the others very nearly. Steel took the child to the doctor who stitched them together and thinks they will unite. - Sarah Midgely's diary, Koroit (Vic), 28 July, 1858.

• Sarah was the spinster daughter of an immigrant farmer from Yorkshire and led a boring domestic life, except for incidents like this.

Young men prefer digging gold to postholes

Unlike digging for gold, the work is steady, and the returns are sure. The steady workman can earn his three pounds a week and his rations. - Sydney Morning Herald , 2 July, 1858.

• The newspaper, representing the squatting classes, was extolling the virtues of fencing. Alas, too many young men felt it was far more exciting to dig holes which might contain golden nuggets.

First Aussie Rules game: Scotch v. Grammar

A grand football match will be played this day between the Scotch College and the Church of England Grammar School, near the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Luncheon at the pavilion. Forty a side. The game to commence at 12 o'clock. - Melbourne Morning Herald , 7 August, 1858.

• This was the first recorded game of Australian Rules Football. Scotch College took three hours to kick the first goal, but the final result is lost in the mists of time.

SMH: free settlers better servants than old lags

Many families have been brought out, and are still arriving from England, under special engagements for employment in the bush. Such persons seem generally to be more serviceable than others who have had long colonial experience. - Sydney Morning Herald , 30 November, 1858.

Much more attention is also now being paid here to the cultivation of garden ground ... the young leaves of the salt bush have also been used, and when eaten, with the addition of a little vinegar, are not found to be altogether unpalatable. It has been proved by trial that the pink coloured pulpy fruit of the pig-face (mesembryanthemum) may be converted into a very good jelly or jam. - Sydney Morning Herald , Wagga, 30 November, 1858.

Home with the golden spoils to a life of ease

STEAM TO ENGLAND. - For Bristol, calling at Plymouth to land Passengers and Gold. The steamer ROYAL BRIDE 2000 tons burthern, Alexander Newlands, commander, will sail for the above port at daylight on Tuesday, the 28th December. - Shipping Notice, Melbourne, 17 December, 1858.

• Not all the human traffic was one-way to Victoria. Many successful diggers went Home to retire to palatial estates.

Selection struggle renewed

This is not the cause of faction, or of party, or of any individual; it is the common interest of every man in the country. - Motto of the Land League of NSW, 26 April, 1859.

• The struggle for fair distribution of rural land began before the gold rushes disrupted society in southeast Australia. At first, it was fought in NSW, which did not have Victoria's preoccupation with gold.

Reflections on a lonely country spinster's life

This is the anniversary of our arrival at Yangery Grange. Seven years have transpired since we came to what was then a desolate spot surrounded with dense scrub, stringybark and gum trees with an occasional blackwood interspersed and not a single house within a mile, where all was solitary and still except the singing and screeching of the different birds.

O Solitude, where are thy Charms

Which sages have seen in thy face.

As for me, I do not like it constantly. Then we might be for weeks and not see a visitor, but now how changed the scene! We are surrounded with habitations and Yangery Grange is now almost like a village. The bullock whips and the screams of naughty children resound rather harshly to the sensitive ear. The forests are rapidly giving way to the hand of man. In seven years, how much has been done by persevering active industry industry, but whilst this has been attended to, I'm afraid the mind has been left to a great extent uncultivated. The ceaseless toil, the unremitting labour of trying to make a way in the world and of providing things honest and to build a superstructure on a very small foundation has left little leisure or opportunity to increase the stock of literary or scientific wealth, but I trust this state of things is improving and will more improve so as to correspond with the progress of cultivation in the face of nature. - Sarah Midgely's diary, Koroit (Vic), 14 May, 1859.

• Sarah arrived in Melbourne in 1851, at the age of 20, with her parents and two brothers. They bought 100 acres near Tower Hill, a cluster of extinct volcanoes, between Port Fairy and Warrnambool. They were staunch Methodists. In 1861, Sarah married her cousin, Richard Skilbeck, whose family had also migrated from Yorkshire.

Wills gently prepares little sister for his great trek

William John Wills, aged 27, had already decided to join the Victorian Exploration Expedition to the northern interior as surveyor when he wrote to his younger sister, Betsy, in Totnes, Devon, in November, 1859. He was anxious to spare her anxiety ....

My Dear Betsy, I do not mean to bother you with such a long letter this time as I did last month, and which I hope reached you. I rather expected to have received the photograph I wrote to you for by the last mail. I wish you would incite some good long letters by return of post, as it will probably be the last, or very nearly so, that I shall get from you for many months. It seems very likely that I shall be leaving Melbourne in March, to accompany the expedition for the exploration of this continent. It is calculated that we shall be away for about three years. It may be more, but it is not likely to be much less. It is not yet certain that I shall go. In fact, nothing has been decided, not even who will be the leader; but I thought it would be as well to mention it to you now, as your answer to this cannot reach me until March. But remember that my going away need not prevent your writing frequently; for it is likely there will be occasional means of communication with Melbourne for the first six months, and Professor Neumayer (see below) will take every opportunity of forwarding my letters. It is quite possible that I may not go, but it is more likely that I shall, as Professor N. is very anxious that I should, to make magnetic and meteorological observations, and he is on the Exploration Committee. If you have not be able to get the books I wrote for, for myself, you may as well leave them for the present. I have been indulging greatly in operas lately. I can understand that music better than high-flown oratorios. The operatic company at the Theatre Royal is not first-rate, but as good as we can expect to have in a new colony like this. The pieces they have given are Il Travatore, Lucia di Lammermoor, Lucrezia Barge and La Sonnambula; the latter is a delightful one, but they can matter it satisfactorily, so of the songs are so difficult of execution.

• Wills dated this letter 18 November and gave his address as the Flagstaff Observatory, Melbourne. Georg Neumayer, a celebrated German scientist and meteorologist, had recently set up an astronomical observatory in the signal station. He made a great contribution to early Victorian cultural life before returning to Germany in 1872.

8. 1860-1869

A most charming man!

Nicholas Chevalier (1828-1902), our Home Page watercolour illustrator, was a handsome, congenial Swiss-Gallic gentleman whose personality was far superior to his artistic skills (most learned critics say this).
He landed in Melbourne in 1855, attended to his Swiss-based father's business speculations, then sought artistic commissions. In a colony of dashing young men, he was the most sought-after of all.
But he fell for the daughter of old artistic friends, Caroline Wilkie and married her on 5 March, 1857, at the Congregational Church, cnr Victoria Pde and Brunswick St Collingwood. He was 29 and his bride, 21. The witnesses were his brother, Louis, who managed a vineyard in northeast Victoria and her mother, Sarah.
Nicholas' artistic overtures to the young Lady Barkly were not greeted with a commission, but he did have modest success elsewhere in southeast Australia and New Zealand.
He and Caroline held a glittering salon at their house in Fitzroy, where all the arty-farty congregated.
His big break came when the touring Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria's son, invited him to join his entourage on HMS Galatea for the return voyage to Britain. He was supposed to be official artist, but his real role was as second violinist to the Duke's first violin in the steamship's amateur orchestra.
Caroline accompanied him and in London they became part of the royal circle. In January, 1874, Queen Victoria commissioned him to paint a picture of Prince Alfie's wedding to Princess Marie Alexandrovna, Grand Duchess of Russia, at St Petersburg.
Nicholas knew the city well. He'd been born there while his father was estate manager for another member of the Russian aristocracy.

'I dipped my face and washed my hands and my feet in the sea ...' (John McDouall Stuart, Northern Australia, 24 July, 1862)

SOMEONE has made a liar of Banjo Paterson. His poem, How Gilbert Died , tells of the shooting by Constable John Bright of the bushranger, John Gilbert, near Binalong, NSW, on 13 May, 1865. Paterson writes of the bushranger lying in an unfenced, unmarked grave where the wandering stock 'may tread, unnoticed and undenied'. Alas, this well-intentioned person has fenced the grave in the police paddock just west of Binalong and marked it with stones. Gilbert was one of scores of outlaws who terrorised southern NSW in the 1860s ... Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner, Captain Thunderbolt, 'Mad Dog' Morgan. All of them, with the exception of Gardiner, came to sticky ends. Gardiner was exiled eventually to the United States where he conducted a saloon in San Francisco. A story persists that after his death in 1903, his sons appeared in Sydney, went bush in pursuit of hidden gold booty, then disappeared. The seekers of 'a short life, but a merry one' competed for space in the newspapers with those honest sufferers, the heroic explorers of the 1860s intent on crossing Australia from south to north.

Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills left Royal Park, Melbourne, with a huge caravan on 20 August, 1860. They carried the ego of the entire colony of Victoria with them. From South Australia, John McDouall Stuart's party was also heading north. Newspapers saw it as a race, an expression of intercolonial rivalry. While the explorers were making determinedly inland, working men were beginning to abandon the goldfields in favour of the coastal cities, shaping the nation we know today where more than 65 per cent of the people live in the cities. Paradoxically, there was a push to 'unlock the lands' for people coming off the alluvial diggings. Millions of hectares, particularly in NSW and Victoria, were held by a few squatters whose interest was primarily in wool. The agricultural imbalance was exposed in the during the gold rushes of the 1850s when nine million pounds worth of bread, wheat, flour and biscuits had to be imported, mainly from the west coast of the United States. The squatters' leases on their Crown Lands expired in 1861 and a new rush was on to break up their vast holdings. The results were spectacular: in the two decades after 1861, crop harvests rose nearly three times in NSW, six times in South Australia, and four times in Victoria.

The southern colony had long coveted the NSW Riverina and brought its produce closer to Melbourne in 1862 when a railway line reached Echuca. This spelled the eventual end of the romantic riverboat era which had begun in 1853. The steamers made some extraordinary voyages in that 1860s. In 1861, a flood season, William Randall took the Gemini 1760 kilometres from the Murray-Darling junction to Walgett, almost in Queensland. On the return journey, so the story goes, he carried the bushranger Frank Gardiner, disguised as a clergyman.

David Syme, toiler's friend, attacks squatters

The Squatters would, if it were possible, roll back the tide of time and restore the Tartar barbarism of that not very remote period when the rich and varied soil of all Australia so suited for the yield of the choicest fruits of the earth, was condemned to utter barrenness, in order that some thousands of convict serfs at the harsh bidding of a few hundreds of semi-civilised masters might produce for the London market a limited supply of wool and tallow which could be as readily furnished by the inhospitable steppes of Russia, or the wild wastes of Southern Africa. - Editorial, Age , Melbourne, 6 March, 1860.

• The great period of 'unlocking the lands' was about to begin. The Age left no doubt about its position. The day of the squatter was over. He would be replaced by legions of yeoman selectors. Alas, the newspaper's lofty editorial writer, probably the Age's vigorous editor, David Syme, knew little about the production capacity of most of Australia.

A gentlemanly mutual admiration society

I pray for hospitality for Mr W.J. Wills, for whom I have a high esteem and friendship. He makes me happy beyond flattery by permitting me to think that I add something to his life. You cannot fail to like him. He is a thorough Englishman, self-relying and self-contained; a well-bred gentleman without a jot of effeminacy. Plucky as a mastiff, high-blooded as a racer, enterprising but reflective, cool, keen, and composed as daring. Few men talk less; few by manner and conduct suggest more. One fault you will pardon, a tendency to overrate the writer of this letter. - Written reference given to William John Wills by Richard Birnie, Melbourne, 1860.

• Birnie was a 50-year-old barrister/journalist (The Australasian) when he met Wills. They were staying at a genteel Melbourne boarding house. Wills told his father, Dr William Wills, whom he introduced to Birnie in Melbourne: I want you to meet a person who you will much like. His greatest fault is one you possess yourself, a turn for satire, which sometimes makes him enemies. Some of those enemies might have been in Western Australia, where he had a brief career as a government lawyer. Dr Wills published the reference in 1863 in his A Successful Exploration of Australia, an account of the disastrous expedition to the interior.

Stuart in the absolute dead Red Centre

I find from my observation of the sun - Deg 0' 30' - that I am now camped in the centre of Australia. I have marked a tree and planted the British flag. There is a high hill about two and a half miles to the north-west. I wish it had been in the centre, but on it tomorrow I shall raise a cone of stones and plant a flag, naming it Central Mount Sturt. - Explorer John McDouall Stuart's log, 22 April, 1860.

• Stuart wanted to name the hill 'Sturt' after his mentor, but the publisher of his log made an error and 'Stuart' it became.

Alpine goldrush in the NSW Snowy Mountains

It struck me as a queer sight to see hairy-faced men in pea jackets and long boots dancing together. - George Preshaw, Banking Under Difficulties, Kiandra, (NSW), 1860.

• Kiandra, rushed for gold in early 1860, had a population of 10,000 for a brief time. In winter, most faded away to more agreeable climes, leaving only the hardiest to brave the freezing cold. The Empire Hotel brought three fancy girls from the city, but they were not enough for the lonely men.

In wheat, there has been an active demand all week, chiefly for shipment to the Sydney market, where an increased demand for Adelaide wheat has sprung up since the discovery of the Snowy River (Kiandra) diggings ... - Register, Adelaide, 6 March, 1860.

• A tortuous route from the wheatfields of the driest colony to the makeshift bakeries on the roof of Australia.

Farewell, Burke and Wills

The twentieth of August, 1860, will long be remembered as the day upon which the largest and best-appointed expedition yet organised in the Australian colonies started from Melbourne for the purpose of exploring the vast unknown interior of the Australian continent. - Age , Melbourne, 21 August, 1860.

• Robert O'Hara Burke, William John Wills and twenty-one tons of baggage left Royal Park, Melbourne, farewelled by 15,000 adoring well-wishers. The breasts of the burghers of Melbourne fair burst with pride. This was the expedition which would confirm Victoria's supremacy over the rest of the colonies.

'A race! A race! So great a one

The world ne'er saw before;

A race! A race! across this land

From south to northern shore' - Melbourne Punch , January, 1860.

• The announcement in January, 1861, that John McDouall Stuart's party had left South Australia intending to cross the continent excited the armchair explorers. People saw it as a head-to-head contest between Stuart and Burke.

Chinese miner hunted to death on Bendigo

The police drive a brisk business at Sandhurst (Bendigo) in the Chinese hunting line. On average, they capture from three to four hundred every quarter there, and in default of payment of the capitation tax, imposed by the Act 22 Vic. No. 80., send them to jail for a month. The actual number so captured and sent to jail, at Sandhurst, within the last six or seven months was seven hundred and ninety five, and the number remanded to jail, or sentenced to a month's imprisonment, was one hundred and seventy. This argues an amazing amount of cruelty, and much individual suffering. And the climax of this cruelty and suffering has now been reached in the undoubted fact of one of these miserable barbarians having been hunted to death by the police at Ironbark Hill.

This we say advisedly, and, with the full facts of the case before us, as brought out at the coroner's inquest held on the body of the deceased at the Bendigo Hotel, Sandhurst, on Thursday last. The deceased's name was Dan Pou, and the witnesses to the facts of the case were three Chinese miners, mates of the deceased, and three policemen concerned at the time in the apprehension of all Chinese in the district not having residence permits. Still-hunting in Ireland can be nothing to Chinese-hunting at Bendigo. It can be neither half so diverting, nor half so profitable. In a still-hunt there are not more than half a dozen unfortunates, in any case, to take 'leg-bail' when the 'bluebottles' give chase, and all they get for their trouble, in nine case out of ten, is the worm and the still-head. But in a Chinese hunt, let a policeman show his nose in one of their encampments, and 'up stick and run' is the order of the day, with scores, or even hundreds of them, and if one or two of them so occasionally 'slip through their fingers' by 'slipping their wind' as poor Dan Pou did, 'fall back on the storekeepers and apprehend them as being the most like to pay'. - The Herald , Melbourne, 10 March, 1860.

• The coroner concluded that Dan Pou died of fright after a mounted trooper pursued him five hundred metres across the diggings. The Herald , in a leading article, pleaded with police to 'lessen the barbarity' of this practice. The first Act to limit Chinese immigration in Victoria was passed in 1855. In 1857, there were clashes between European miners and Chinese at Ararat and Daylesford, and the more serious incident on the Buckland River, near Beechworth.

Early mutterings about Federation of Colonies

In the present condition of Europe, it is surely our duty to be in a condition to unite our resources for Defence, or at least take counsel together. - Victorian radical politician Charles Duffy, Melbourne, to NSW Federationist Reverend John Dunmore Lang, Sydney, 12 June, 1860.

• Early stirrings in the movement which would eventually lead to Federation in 1901. The 'condition of Europe' probably referred to the perceived threat of French expansion in the Pacific and was seen by Duffy, a former member of the Young Ireland movement, as an excuse by the Australian colonies to weaken their ties with England. The Colonial Secretary of NSW, Edward Deas Thomson, had already privately acknowledged that the introduction of colonial free trade would bring about Federation.

Now we know the names of the guilty parties!

By private letter, we learn that the ship, Suffolk, which was expected to sail from London on the 21st of April last, would bring out 55 blackbirds and 25 thrushes, sent by Mr Wilson to Dr Mueller. A ship to sail in May would bring 100 linnets, and another sailing in June would convey 100 starlings, all sent by Mr Wilson. - Argus , Melbourne, 15 June, 1860.

• This brief item, buried in the newspaper under a wordy piece about the arrival of Burke and Wills' camels, informs us who is to blame for the billions of feral blackbirds who infest, scratching, our gardens. Dr Ferdinand von Mueller, Director of Melbourne's Botanic Gardens, was an enthusiastic introducer of exotic flora and fauna. But who is 'Mr Wilson'? Surely it is not Edmund Wilson, proprietor of The Argus , who happened to be in the Old Country about then, and was known to write 'private' letters. Of course, environmental concerns were different in the good old days. A tourist guide to the Bats Ridges caves near Portland (Vic) in 1880 said: And here the curious in such matters may explore to their hearts' content, and sometimes even lose themselves, and take away a cargo of stalactites and stalagmites if their horses have no objection. (A Trip to Portland: The Watering Place of the West.)

William Wills does his calculations on a camel

Riding on camels is a much more pleasant process than I anticipated, and for my work I find it much better than riding on horseback. The saddles, as you are aware, are double, so I sit on the back portion behind the hump, and pack my instruments in front. I can thus ride on, keeping my journal and making calculations; and I need only stop the camel when I want to take any bearing carefully; but the barometers can be read and registered without halting. The animals are very quiet and easily managed, much more so than horses - Letter to a friend from surveyor William John Wills, northern Victoria, 31 August, 1860.

• Wills had never sat aboard a camel until the Burke and Wills expedition left Royal Park, Melbourne, eleven days before. That says something about the preparations for the journey to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

William Wills tell his sister a little white lie

The journey hitherto has been but a picnic party. - William John Wills, Cooper Creek, 6 December, 1860.

• This phrase was incorporated in a letter Wills wrote to his sister in England and is an example of the white lie par excellence . He had nearly died of thirst on a recent reconnaissance mission .

I proceed on tomorrow ... to Eyre's Creek. And from thence I shall endeavour to explore the country north of it in the direction of Carpentaria, and it is my intention to return here within the next three months at latest. - Robert O'Hara Burke, Cooper Creek, 13 December, 1860.

• Burke was writing to the exploration committee in Melbourne. Next day, he set forth for the Gulf of Carpentaria with Wills, John King and Charles Gray. Poor Gray, whom they had recruited at a pub in Swan Hill on their way north, died during the trek back from the Gulf.

Here, we passed three blacks, who, as is universally their custom, pointed out to us, unasked, the best part down. This assisted us very greatly, for the ground we were taking was very boggy. We moved slowly down, about three miles, and then camped for the night. - William John Wills' diary, near the Gulf of Carpentaria, 20 February, 1861.

• They had reached the Gulf but were unable to achieve the last few kilometres because of the swampiness of the terrain. They turned for Cooper Creek. Stuart, by the way, did not attain the north coast until 24 July, 1862.

... when I found Gray behind a tree, eating skilligolee (gruel). He explained he was suffering from dysentery and had taken the flour without leave ... there is no knowing to what extent he has been robbing us . - William John Wills' diary, between the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cooper Creek, 25 March, 1861.

• Food was in short supply on the journey back to Cooper Creek and Gray's sin was not taken lightly. Burke gave him a good cuffing and he was prevented from pilfering more food. Gray died next month of deprivation. When his lonely grave was exhumed later by John McKinlay, he was said to have two sabre cuts on his face.

DIG 3 FT N.W. APR. 21 1861. - Marks blazed on a coolibah tree, Cooper Creek, and found about 7.30pm the same day.

• William Brahe and the depot party had left Cooper Creek a few hours before Burke and his party arrived.

Robert O'Hara Burke's last letter, 22 April, 1861

The return party from Carpentaria consisting of myself, Wills and King (Gray dead), arrived here last night and found the depot party had only started on the same day. We proceed on, tomorrow, slowly down the creek towards Adelaide by Mount Hopeless, and shall endeavour to follow Gregory's tracks; but we are very weak. Two camel are done up, and we shall not be to travel more than four or five miles a day. Gray died on the road from exhaustion and fatigue. We have all suffered much from hunger. The provision left here will, I think, restore our strength. We have discovered a practicable route to Carpentaria, the chief position of which lies in the 140deg of East longitude. There is some good country between this and the Stony Desert. From thence to the tropics the land is dry and stony. Between the Carpentaria, a considerable portion is rangy, but well watered and richly grassed. We reached the shore of Carpentaria on the 11th of February, 1863, Greatly disappointed at finding the party here gone. - Robert O'Hara Burke, Expedition Leader, Cooper Creek, 22 April, 1861.

• The depot part under William Wright had left on 21 April, leaving provisions under a tree marked, 'Dig Ap 21'.

SMH, 'the squatter's friend', fights for the old order

If the people, in its sovereign pleasure chose to pass a law that the Museum should be burned down, the University should be demolished, and that Government House should be turned into a pig-sty, it would be our duty to resist it. - Sydney Morning Herald , 24 April, 1861.

• The ultra-conservative newspaper, friend of the squatting classes, demonstrated its loathing that the common people were winning the struggle to throw open the wealthy landholders' rural empires.

A brave letter from a dead man to his dad

My dear Father, These are probably the last lines you will ever get from me. We are on the point of starvation, not so much from absolute want of food, but from the want of nutriment in what we can get. Our position, although more provoking, is probably not near so disagreeable as that of poor Harry and his companions*. We have had very good luck, and made a most successful trip to Carpentaria, and back to where we had every right to consider ourselves safe, having left a depot here consisting of four men, twelve horses and six camels. They had provisions enough to have lasted them twelve months with proper economy, and we also had every right to expect that we should have been immediately followed up from Menindie by another party with additional provisions and every necessary for forming a permanent depot at Cooper's Creek. The party we left here had special instructions to to leave until our return, unless from absolute necessity. We left the creek with nominally three months' supply, but they were reckoned at little over half the rate of rations. We calculated on having to eat some of the camels. By the greatest good luck, at every turn, we crossed to the gulf, through a good deal of fine country, almost in a straight line from here. On the other side, the camels suffered considerably from wet; we had to kill and jerk one soon after starting back. We had now been out a little more than two months, and found it necessary to reduce the rations considerably; and this began to tell on all hands, but I felt it far less than any of the others. The great scarcity and shyness of game, and our forced marches, prevented our supplying the deficiency from external sources to any great extent; but we could never have held out but for the crows and hawks, and the portulac. The latter is an excellent vegetable, and I believe, secured our return to this place. We got back here in four months and four days, and found the party had left the Creek the same day, and we were not in fit state to follow them. I find I must close this that it may be planted; but I will write some more, although it has not so good a chance of reaching you as this. You have great claims on the committee for their neglect. I leave you in sole charge of what it coming to me. The whole of my money I desire to leave to my sisters; other matters I pass over for the present. Adieu my Father. Love to Tom. W.J. Wills I think to live about four or five days. My spirits are excellent. - Letter from explorer William John Wills' to his father, Cooper Creek, 27 June, 1861.

• Wills died a few days later. This letter was brought to Melbourne by the expedition survivor, John King.

(*Harry was his cousin who died on Sir John Franklin's ill-fated Arctic expedition in 1848. Tom was his beloved younger brother.)

Last entries in William John Wills' journal of dying

William John Wills died of starvation at Cooper Creek, 10km from the present homestead of Innaminka (1872) and 200km south of the SA-NT border, at the end of June despite a native diet of fish and nardoo ( ground seeds ). His British body was not conditioned to an aboriginal diet. The final entries in his journal ...

Tuesday, 25 June, 1861 - Night calm, clear and intensely cold., especially towards morning. Near daybreak, King reported seeing a moon in the east, with a haze of light stretching up from it; he declared it to be quite as large as the moon, and not dim at the edges. I am so weak that any attempt to get a sight of it was out of the question; but I think it might have been Venus in the Zodiacal Light that he saw, with a Corona around her.

26 June - Mr Burke and King remain at home cleaning and pounding seed; they are both getting weaker every day; the cold plays the deuce with us, from the small amount of clothing that we have; my wardrobe consist of a wide-awake; a merino shirt, a regatta shirt without sleeves, two pairs of socks in rags, and a waistcoat, of which I have managed to keep the pockets together. The others are no better off. Besides these, we have between us, for bedding, two small camel pads, some horse-hair, two or three little bits of rag, and pieces of oil cloth saved from the fire. The day turned out nice and warm.

27 June - Calm night; sky overcast with hazy cum.-strat. clouds; an easterly breeze sprung up towards morning, making the air much colder. After sunrise there were indications of a clearing up of the sky, but it soon clouded in again, the upper current continuing to move in an easterly direction, whilst a breeze from the N. and N. E. blew pretty regularly throughout the day. Mr Burke and Mr King are preparing to go up the creek in search of the blacks; they will leave me some nardoo, wood and water, with which I must do the best I can until they return. I think this is almost our only chance. I feel myself, if anything, rather better, but I cannot say stronger; the nardoo in beginning to agree better with me; not without some change I see little chance for any of us. They have both shown great hesitation and reluctance with regard to leaving me, and have repeatedly desired my candid opinion in the matter. I could only repeat, however, that I considered it our only chance, for I could not last long on the nardoo, even if a supply could be kept up.

28 June - Cloudy, calm and comparatively warm night, clouds almost stationary; in the morning a gentle breeze from east. Sky partially cleared up during the day, making it pleasantly warm and bright; it remained clear during the afternoon and evening, offering every prospect of a very warm night.

Friday, 29 June, 1861 - Clear, cold night, slight breeze from the east, day beautifully warm and pleasant. Mr Burke suffers greatly from the cold and is getting extremely weak; he and King start tomorrow up the creek to look for the blacks; it is the only chance of being saved from starvation. I am weaker than ever, although I have a good appetite and relish the nardoo much; but it seems to give us no nutriment, and the birds here are so shy as not to be shot at. Even if we got a good supply of fish, I doubt whether we could do much work on them and the nardoo alone. Nothing now but the greatest good luck can save any of us; and as for myself I may live four or five days if the weather continues warm. My pulse is at forty-eight, and very weak, and my legs and arms are nearly skin and bone. I can only look out, like Mr Micawber, 'for something to turn up'; starvation on nardoo is by no means very unpleasant, but for the weakness one feels' and the utter inability to move one's self; for as far as appetite is concerned, it gives the greatest satisfaction. Certainly fat and sugar would be more to one's taste; in fact those seem to me to be the great standby for one in this extraordinary continent; not that I mean to depreciate the farinaceous food; but the want of sugar and fat in all substance obtainable here is so great that they become almost valueless to us as articles of food, without the addition of something else. (Signed) William John Wills.

Complaints of Henry Parkes' dutiful daughter

It is little use pretending that this writing to you is a pleasure - it isn't, it is a very sad piece of business, indeed. Did you know I wonder the valuation of you that would waken in our hearts at your absence? I suppose we ought not to regret it, but we do constantly ... - Letter from Clarinda Sarah ('Menie') Parkes, Penrith (NSW) to her father, Henry Parkes, London-bound, 19 July, 1861.

• Henry Parkes, future 'Father of Federation', was on his way to England to earn some money lecturing on emigration to NSW. Parkes was in one of his frequent states of financial distress after the collapse of his newspaper, Empire. Menie, his beloved eldest child, had written this scolding letter to him as only a forthright 21-year-old daughter can do. He had left Menie, their mother and his other children, on a rented farm, Werrington, near Penrith, to fend for themselves in his absence. Alas, poor Menie did not see her doting father until 1863, when he returned from his sojourn. His financial position failed to improve: he was bankrupt by 1870. However, two years later he was premier of NSW for the first time and his political prospects looked promising.

Skiing pioneered on the Kiandra gold diggings

Their speed would do credit to some of our railway trains. - Sydney Morning Herald , Kiandra (NSW), August, 1861

• When snow blanketed their alpine diggings, the miners of Kiandra did the only sensible thing: they pioneered snow skiing in Australia. Taking advice from some of their cosmopolitan mates (gold fields were very multicultural), they cut skis from alpine ash trees, bent the ends with heat and used gum sticks as single stocks. Kiandra had an unofficial Australian championship over one mile from the 1880s.

From north, south and east: the hunt begins

Nearly a year after Burke and Wills' extravagant departure from Melbourne, people became alarmed. Where were they? Three main relief expeditions went to find them. They were sent by the Royal Society of Victoria's Exploration Committee from Melbourne (Alfred Howitt, July, 1861), the Exploration Committee-Victorian-Queensland governments (brig Firefly and HMCS Victoria to the Gulf from Brisbane, William Landsborough, August, 1861) and the South Australian government (John McKinlay, Kapunda, SA, August, 1861). Frederick Walker led a lesser Queensland expedition from Rockhampton, 7 September, 1861). These are extracts from the journal of John Davis, who accompanied McKinlay ... in late September, 1861, they were at Barker's Blanchewater Station, northeast South Australia ...

24 September, 1861. Left Blanchewater this morning and proceeded to a small creek some few miles further on. And now we are fairly off; no more haunts of civilised man!

They were only 150km southwest of Cooper Creek, where Alfred Howitt had found the bodies of Burke and Wills just a few days earlier (see below). But the pressed on, unaware, north their next objective, Buchanan's Depot Camp, six days' camps away (but many more days).

25 September. Our stock consists of twenty-four horses, twelve bullocks, one hundred sheep, and last, though not least, four camels; had we taken the sage advice of a clerical friend who left us for the Burra, our stock would also have been added to, in the shape of fowls, which he told Mr McKinlay would add greatly to our comfort, as we then be able to obtain new laid eggs for breakfast. Of course, we must wait in the desert while the said fowls were nidifying (building nests), horse and camels already packed. Fancy explorers who expect to meet with no end of difficulties, bothering themselves with fowls!

15 October. This evening, the watch (which was regularly kept) was surprised by a native coming to the camp alone; and what, reader, would you imagine was the cause of his midnight trip? Only to bring back the axe that one of his tribe had stolen (the day before). The old man then quietly to leave, saying he would return in the morning. His name was Mooticlina, esto perpetua! Henceforth we must not say there is no honour amongst the aboriginals.

• They were now south of the present town of Innaminka, which lies at the junction of Strzelecki and Cooper creeks. The bodies of Burke and Wills, discovered and buried by Alfred Howitt's men the previous month, were just a few kilometres east ...

17 October. Remained here today, preparing for Mr McKinlay's start for Cooper's Creek, where, as the aboriginals say, 'white man sit down' (die). They take with them some stores and little creature comforts, in case they find the poor creature alive, such as arrowroot, coffee, chocolate etc. Mr McKinlay takes the four camels with him, also two men and a native who seems to know all about the 'white fellow'. Here, we opened the store of recuperated sausages, 200lb, and found them, to our sorrow, nearly all bad, one tin quite rotten and had to be thrown away there and then ... the remainder we have hung on lines, hoping they might improve by the process. Thermometer today 122deg.

• After some days, an aboriginal woman arrived with a letter from McKinlay ordering them to set up a depot camp at Buchanan's (now Innaminka). Here they stayed for weeks. Letters were sent to Adelaide and fresh supplies were sent for.

5 November. Guy's day in the wilds of Australia! How we talked of what would be done at home, of rockets, crackers, and pocketfuls of squibs; and visions of Vauxhall and Cremorne (pleasure gardens) appeared to our mental vision, an agreeable relief to the eternal gum trees.

• McKinlay fell ill. To keep the young men amused, he organised revolver and rifle shooting matches. Aborigines continued to visit them.

15 November. Our native friend, with two women, came into the camp today, and brought another male native; very friendly. They got their dinners and slept at the camp - rather cold, I should think, as neither man nor woman had the slightest covering; the men, perhaps, with a belt of hair plaited round their waists. These are from Lake Perigundi or Lake Siva. This new chap has a most hang-dog look about him; the other native is not so bad looking. The ladies, of course, quite nude. If they went as the Turkish women do, faces and all quite covered, it would be an improvement. One of them, say, sixteen; the other quite a girl, scarcely twelve years old. I dare say, as they have their lubras with them, that the men may remain in the camp some time.

29 November. News this morning of the Blanchewater detachment (sent south for supplies) brought in by some blacks. They were at a creek called 'Karanditi'. They arrived at 9.30, all well, and we were very happy to see them; they brought us news that Howitt and party had found the remains of Burke and Wills at Cooper's Creek ...

• McKinlay was now free to continue his explorations on behalf of the South Australian government and its pastoralist patrons in western Queensland. The party made for the Gulf, were disappointed that no relief vessel was waiting for them, and eventually overlanded to Bowen, on the Queensland coast.

Howitt finds King alive, remains of Wills, Burke

In July, 1861, the Royal Society of Victoria's Exploration Committee, sensing the worst, sent an expedition led by the experienced 31-year-old bushman Alfred Howitt to search for the missing Burke, Wills, King and Gray. First, he found King, alive but in a weakened condition. King gave him directions for finding the others. Here are extracts from Howitt's diary ... September 18th - ... We proceeded down the (Cooper) creek for seven miles, crossing a branch running to the southward, and followed a native track leading to that part of the creek where Mr Burke, Mr Wills and King encamped after their unsuccessful attempt to reach Mount Hopeless and the northern settlements of South Australia, and where poor Wills died. We found the two gunyahs situated on a sandbank between the two waterholes and about a mile from the flat where they procured nardoo seed, on which they managed to exist for so long. Poor Wills' remains we found lying in the wurley in which he died, and where King, after his return from seeking for the natives, had buried him with sand and rushes. We carefully collected the remains and interred them where they lay; and, not having a prayer book, I read chap xv, of I Cor. that we might at least feel a melancholy satisfaction in having shown the last respect to his remains. We heaped sand over the grave, and laid branches upon it, that the natives might understand by their own tokens not to disturb the last repose of a fellow-being ...

September 21st - Finding that it would not be prudent for King to go out for two or three days, I could no longer defer making a search for the spot where Mr Burke died, and with such directions as King could give, I went up to the creek this morning with Messrs Brahe, Welsh, Wheeler and Atkins. We searched the creek upwards for eight miles , and at length, strange to say, found the remains of Mr Burke lying among tall plants under a clump of box-trees within two hundred yards of our last camp, and not thirty paces from our track. It was still more extraordinary that three or four of the party and the two black boys had been close to the spot without noticing it. The bones were entire, with the exception of the hands and feet; and the body had been removed from the spot where it first lay, and where the natives had placed branches over it, to about five paces distant. I found the revolver which Mr Burke had in his hand when he expired, partly covered with leaves and earth, and corroded with rust. It was loaded and capped. We dug a grave close to this spot,. and interred the remains in a union jack - the most fitting covering in which the the bones of a brave but unfortunate man could take their last rest. ...

• King was brought back to Melbourne. Next year, Howitt returned to Cooper Creek to bring the remains of the other two back to Melbourne via Adelaide.

God-fearing Protestant union in Catholic Koroit

The day which ushered me beyond the reach of 24 years and into the arms of 25 also proclaimed me a deserter from the noble army of bachelors and gave me a name and place among the higher orders of Benedict. At about 12 o'clock at Yangery Grange, the Reverend T. Stephenson, Wesleyan minister, joined me in the bonds of Holy Matrimony to Sarah, eldest daughter of John Midgley. - Richard Skilbeck's diary, Koroit (Vic), 18 September, 1861.

• Skilbeck, one of the most God-fearing and, eventually, prosperous, Methodists in the history of the Western District of Victoria, married his cousin, Sarah, aged 30 (see 14 May, 1859 ), in the strong Irish community of Koroit. They had eight children, five dying in infancy. Sarah died in 1893 and Richard in 1924.

1861-64: American Civil War

John Robertson's famous NSW Selection Act

On and from the first day of January on thousand eight hundred and sixty two, Crown Lands ... shall be open for conditional sale by selection ... not less than forty acres nor more than three hundred and twenty acres at the price of twenty shillings per acre... - The Alienation of Crown Lands Act, Sydney, 18 October, 1861.

• This triumphant legislation was the beginning of John Robertson's great land reforms in NSW. For more than a decade, he had become 'increasingly aware of the inferior legislative position of farmers and the class bias of some wealthy squatters'.

Nineteen whites avenged after Wills (no relation) slaughter

A great massacre has been made among the blacks of the Nogoa. - Brisbane Courier , 23 November, 1861.

• This was the awful retaliation by white squatters and their men for the killing of nineteen whites on Cullin-la-ringo station, north Queensland, on 17 October, 1861. The dead included Horatio Wills ( see 24 November, 1832 ), a Victorian squatter and father of Tom Wills, a founder of Australian Rules football.

Squatters cry poor in Western Victoria

No more we'll lick the tyrant's hand

That wields oppression's rod,

But bold and independent stand,

And tramp the power that trod

No more must Melbourne glitter in

The show for which we pay.

We'll cut the connection, claim no kin

But wrench ourselves away. - Portland Guardian (Vic), 6 February, 1862.

• This may sound like the angry cry of the dispossessed poor, but it was, in fact, penned by a squatter in Western Victoria. Squatters there had formed the Western Victoria Separation League the previous year, demanding colonial status of their own. They were annoyed that the area contributed more than its share of the colonial revenues (apart from gold, of course!).

' ... his elderly friend wanted to see a gun'

As this was Sunday, and we did not think the black numerous or dangerous in the neighbourhood, we rested ourselves and horses. The elderly blackfellow and one of the others we had seen yesterday paid us a visit, and in the course of the day he brought others of his party , and a man about his own age, whom we had not seen before. He made me understand that his elderly friend wanted to see a gun, so I gratified his curiosity. The boys did not run away as they had done when they saw me fire a shot on a previous occasion. The blacks examined with great curiosity our equipment, and accepted greedily everything we gave them, but did not steal anything. Mr Bourne gave our newest acquaintance a shirt, which pleased him very much. They relished some food he gave them, and said, 'Thank you, sir' upon Jackey making them understand it was proper to say so. The present which pleased them most were a broad file, a needle and thread, a broken glass bottle, and clothes. The file they could make a better tomahawk than their stone tools; the broken glass bottle they would use for for knives or wood scrapers. We did not give them many clothes, as cold weather had warned us we had none to spare. Jemmy, on further acquaintance with the blacks, found they could speak a language he understood. - Explorer William Landsborough, searching for Burke and Wills, western Queensland, 6 April, 1862.

Landsborough learns the fate of Burke and Wills

This morning we followed down the river for about two and three quarter miles in a S. and E. direction, and reached the station occupied by Mr Williams, where we received a most hospitable reception, and learnt the unfortunate fate of Burke and Wills. - Explorer William Landsborough, Warrego River (near western Qld-NSW border), 21 May, 1862.

• Landsborough's party had been landed in the Gulf of Carpentaria to search from north to south for the missing explorers Burke and Wills. At Williams' station they learned that the explorers' remains had been found the previous September by the Victorian Alfred Howitt. But Landsborough's journey was not entirely in vain. He completed the first north-south crossing and discovered some valuable grazing land.

South Australian McKinlay reaches the Gulf

The natives were in numbers up in the trees giving us a farewell shout. - Explorer John Davis (with John McKinlay), Gulf of Carpentaria (Qld), 21 May, 1862.

• The aborigines were ever so pleased to see the white men go!

It is not a nice country or a proper situation to get ill in . - Explorer John McKinlay, northwest Queensland, 2 June, 1862.

• A doughty explorer's understatement! McKinlay, having led the South Australian Relief Expedition to find Burke and Wills (they were already found), continued to the Gulf of Carpentaria, a journey about 3000km. When his party arrived there, they learned the relief ship, Victoria , had gone. With depleted supplies, they made for Bowen, on the Queensland coast.

' ... richness of pasturage and abundance of water ...'

On 1 June, moving south, William Landsborough's party reached the Darling River, in northern NSW. They had been told of the fate of Burke and Wills eleven days earlier. In the rough comfort of Bunnawannah Station, Landsborough wrote a report of their journey and the new grazing lands they had found. It was addressed to John Macadam, honorary secretary of the Exploration Committee in Melbourne and entrusted to an Outback mailman on 2 June . . .

Sir, I have the honour to inform you that the exploring party under my command arrived here yesterday, in safety, and in good health. From the Gulf of Carpentaria we came, in search of Burke's party, without difficulty, to Gregory's route from Queensland to South Australia, to a point within 280 miles of the point marked first depot, on Burke's route, on the map which shows the routes of different explorers.

Our route from the Gulf of Carpentaria, Mr (Augustus) Gregory's route to South Australia (1858 in search of Ludwig Leichhardt via Cooper Creek) , and the routes of other explorers, demonstrate the fact that sheep, cattle, and horses can be taken at a small cost, and in the finest condition South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and the inland districts of Queensland, to stock the country near the Gulf of Carpentaria, or for exportation to India or elsewhere.

The road we came was so easy, from the richness of pasturage and the abundance of water, that a foal, named Flinders, from his having foaled on the Flinders River, followed his mother most bravely from the time he was a few hours old until he reached here. When we were on Gregory's route to South Australia, and for some time previously of asking the blacks respecting the explorers they had seen. This we were enabled to do, as Jemmy, the native police trooper, could speak their language. We learned from them they seen during the last ten moons explorers to the eastward but they had seen none with animals larger than horses.

I am sorry to have inform you that our familiarity at last led to us having a hostile collision with them on the Barcoo River, near where the blacks treacherously tried to take Mr Gregory's party by surprise during the night. They tried to take us at night by surprise. If they had succeeded, they would have no doubt overpowered us; but it was during Jemmy's watch, and as he always kept his watch well, he awoke us when they were within a few yards of our fire, and we fortunately succeeded in driving them away. Next morning (very early) two of them came near our camp. At my request, Jemmy warned them to leave us, for we now had a most hostile feeling towards them. Instead of showing the least symptom of leaving us, they got their companions (who were in ambush, heavily armed with clubs and throwing sticks) to join them. Under these circumstances, we fired upon them. In doing so, and in following them up where the horses were feeding, one was shot, and another slightly wounded in the leg.

At this point, Landsborough digresses to complain that he 'had very little assistance' from information gained by previous explorations in the area by Frederick Walker, the slightly unsavoury character who was leading another search-and rescue expedition from Rockhampton. Walker apparently gave his exploration reports to the commander of HMCS Victoria with instructions that no one should take notes from them! Walker may have been jealously guarding his copyright with future publication in mind! Landsborough continued ...

From the Leichhardt River we travelled over well-watered country to the Flinders River, through fine rich pastoral country, to about lat. 20deg 40 mins; from there we reached Bowen Downs in a few miles. The creeks and the river that watered that country I knew previously to a certain point down the river, but beyond this point I did not know where the river flowed. On this expedition I followed it down to its junction with the Barcoo River (formerly known as the Victoria and as the Cooper), and discovered it was the Thomson River. After leaving the well-watered country of Bowen Downs, with the assistance of one of the blacks of that locality, we came through a fine, rich country to the Barcoo River; then, without following the river further, or searching ahead for water, we went across to the Warrego River, without the horses at any time being longer than a day and part of a night without water. The whole country is, therefore, I have no doubt, well-watered.

Unfortunately, Landsborough's party became dangerously waterless and foodless in the Channel Country and were forced to return to their base depot (the present site of Burketown). They set out again in January, 1862, and eventually reached Williams' station where, on 21 May, they learned of the fate of Burke and Wills. Landsborough continued ...

Several times in the course of our journey from the Gulf of Carpentaria, Gleeson (a white employee) Jemmy and Fisherman (aborigines) were unwell. This was owing, I have no doubt, in a great measure, if not altogether, to the rations I issued being insufficient. Our usual ration was a pint of flour, in bad condition, and barely half a pound of spoiled meat per day, without tea or sugar ... the remainder of us viz. Mr (George) Bourne, Jackey, and myself did not lose our health on this meagre fare.

After reaching the Warrego River, Jemmy unfortunately lay so near the fire on a frosty night, that his shirt caught fire and burned him severely: so much so, that he exhibited great pluck in continuing his journey here ... Mr Bourne who is an experienced bushman has read this letter and think I have not given too favourable an account of the country along our route from the Gulf of Carpentaria.

• Landsborough's report, and a subsequent book by his second-in-command, George Bourne, caused a stampede of the land-hungry to the Gulf and western Queensland. But John Macadam, the honorary secretary and distinguished Melbourne chemist who received this letter, was the one who achieved worldwide fame: Ferdinand von Mueller named the native macadamia nut after him! Landsborough continued to Melbourne, accomplishing everything Burke had set out to do, only in reverse.

Stuart completes south-north crossing

I dipped my face and washed my hands and feet in the sea, as I had promised the late Governor, Sir Richard MacDonnell, I would do if I reached it. - Explorer John McDouall Stuart's log, 24 July, 1862.

• Stuart's party had made the south-north crossing of the continent. Two days later, they began the 3000km journey home to their next wash.

Started in the cool of the morning, and in two hours reached where the party was camped, so much exhausted and completely done up I could not speak a word - the power of speech had completely left me. - Explorer John McDouall Stuart, central Australia, 28 October, 1862.

• Stuart, heading south, was suffering the effects of privation which would lead to his death four years later, at the age of 51. On Stuart's arrival back in Adelaide later in 1862, Caroline Carleton (author of the Song of Australia , wrote):

Full many a weary league

Of hunger, thirst, and pain

Our brave explorer trod,

And traversed o'er again,

Before he reached the goal,

And cooled his burning brow,

And stayed his halting steps

Where the northern waters flow.


Grim silence reigned supreme,

Save alligator's plash,

Or sea-mew's shrilly scream,

Or ocean's restless dash;

Yet flashed that leader's eye,

And triumph filled his soul

As he heard the bird's discordant cry,

And saw the waters roll.


Ten years later, to mark the tenth anniversary of Stuart's historic trip,

Carleton added another two verses.


Methinks t'were worth a life

To stand as there he stood-

Forerunner of a dauntless race,

Proud rulers of the flood.

Across the desert waste

He hears their hurrying feet;

He sees the flashing wires

That mighty empires greet

His dream is all fulfilled,

Responsive echoes ring

Around the circling earth,

Sped on the lightning's wing.

And what hath he? - a distant grave;

Unblazoned is his name;

And what have we? - a beaten path

To honour, wealth, and fame.

Found at last after seventeen years with blacks

Don't shoot me, mates! I am a British object! A shipwrecked sailor! - James Morrill, near Bowen (Qld) , December, 1862.

• Morrill, who had been shipwrecked on the Queensland coast on the vessel Peruvian 17 years earlier, emerged from the bush after living with aborigines.

Robert Towns, blackbirding king of north Qld

You will call at such islands as you are known to the natives and explain to them what your objective is, namely to engage for me fifty to 100 natives, all males on the present voyage until they are better known in the district and colony. I will prefer young lads from fourteen to fifteen to eighteen in preference to older men as the bulk. You must have some older men among the lots to induce the younger ones to enlist ... In conclusion, I must remind you of my earnest desire that the natives are treated with the greatest kindness, and on no account allow them to be misused by the crew or any person aboard. - Letter from planter Robert Towns, Sydney, to 'blackbirder' Ross Lewin, Brisbane, 30 May, 1863.

• Towns engaged the notorious Lewin to go on the vessel, Don Juan , to recruit New Hebrides islanders, known as 'kanakas' (Melanesian for 'man') to work his cotton plantations in Queensland. The blackbirders took many of the islanders against their will. The islanders frequently fought back against this slave trade with equal violence. Don Juan returned to Brisbane on 17 August, 1863, with sixty-seven kanakas who were put to work on Towns' property on the Logan River. The Brisbane Courier denounced it under the headline 'Slave Trade In Queensl and '.

Proud colonist refuses to display cringe

In the first place, sir, will you allow me to observe that we colonists claim to be the equals of you Englishmen - in no sense whatever your inferiors. - Letter to the editor, The Times , from Edward Wilson, London, 1 August, 1863.

• Wilson, who was visiting London from Melbourne, was a proprietor of the Argus in Melbourne from 1848 until failing eyesight forced his retirement in the 1860s. His newspaper was a fiery champion of the diggers' cause during the 1850s, but his radicalism became muted later. On this occasion, he was engaged in a controversy over continuing convict transportation to Western Australia.

Famous last words

Tell 'em I died game. - Dying bushranger Fred Lowry, near Goulburn (NSW), 30 August, 1863.

• Lowry's last words have become part of bushranger legend. Lowry was one of a gang wanted by police for robbing the Mudgee mailcoach. He was fatally shot after a brief gunbattle.

Better mannered in Melbourne than 'you-know-where'

There is a wide circle of well-informed people here large enough for all social engagements. Well-mannered, intelligent, unaffected, hospitable, kind-hearted folks ... Actress Ellen Kean, Melbourne, 18 October, 1863.

• Mrs Kean was enamoured of Melbourne but, goodness, when she reached Sydney (see 9 July, 1864).

Prospectors yearn for farms

Upset squatterdom's domination

Give every poor man a home,

Encourage our great population,

And like wanderers no more we'll roam . - Charles Thatcher, Melbourne, 1864.

• Charles Thatcher, the 'Colonial Minstrel', had sung of the perils and pleasures of gold finding during the previous great decade. Now, with alluvial gold becoming scarce, he turned his attention to land for the dispossessed digger. Thatcher had arrived from England aged 21 in 1852 and tried his hand at prospecting before becoming an entertainer at goldfields hotel theatres. In 1862, he married another acclaimed singer, Annie Vitelli.

Lord Byron's music arranger sets Australian record

The wheel did not actually pass over his body, but dragged into him, crushing his back and shoulders in a most frightful manner. - Sydney Morning Herald , 16 January, 1864.

• Isaac Nathan, aged seventy-four, had the unfortunate distinction of being the first person killed by a horse tram in Sydney. He was sadly missed in the town's cultural circles, having set Lord Byron's Hebrew Melodies to music. His demise helped end horse trams in Pitt St.

North Queensland pioneers strike inland

In choosing the exact site, we were guided by the probable course of a road from the interior, and the most convenient supply of water. - Arthur Scott, Cardwell, North Queensland, 22 January, 1864.

• Cardwell, between Townsville and Cairns, was the first port opened in Queensland north of Bowen. Its founders, who had government approval, were entrepreneurs led by George Dalrymple and Arthur Scott, who were interested in cutting a road to the cattle country of the interior.

D'Arcy Wentworth Uhr, terror of the baddies!

In 1864, Burketown, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, was settled in haphazard fashion. It rapidly became a bolthole of desperadoes. A contemporary observer wrote: ... The principal amusements in this happy valley in addition to getting drunk, gambling and fighting, were firing off rifles and destroying property. The erection of water closets appeared to give particular offence to these children of nature, being evidently regarded as an insidious attempt at introducing the thin end of the wedge of order and civilisation. Mr (William) Landsborough, (Police Magistrate, arrived, 1866) stood by helplessly and watched the incendiarism of the closet attached to the Crown Land Office. Other edifices of the kind were similarly destroyed in order to mark the indignation of a free people at any appearance of aristocratic exclusiveness...

With Landsborough came 21-year-old Lieutenant D'Arcy Wentworth Uhr, with eight members of the Native Police. He rapidly became the terror of the hoodlums. He wrote: On the 29th July (1866) I started in pursuit of two horse stealers, Duffey and Holt ... I took one of my troopers 800 miles with me; finding it difficult to get a supply of horses for both, I proceeded alone until I arrested a prisoner on the border of NSW ( Duffey on 13 September with all ten stolen horses). I then pursued Holt. I followed him nearly on to the Castlereagh River, New South Wales, and got within a days stage of him. My horses being sore-footed and being unable to get a fresh supply, I feared I might lose the prisoner I had, so I went into Fort Bourke, on the Darling River, and gave prisoner to Sub Inspector Zouch on the 26th September. On 27th, prisoner was remanded to Queensland. I got a special constable sworn in, and returned to Barcoo. On 23rd October 1866, I delivered prisoner to Sub Inspector Morrisset at Normanton Downs, on the Barcoo River, and went on my return to Carpentaria. On November 19th I arrived at Burketown, on my return from NSW and reported myself to Mr Landsborough.

Instead of praise from Landsborough for his doggedness, young Uhr was admonished for being away for more than three months without telling anyone. But his work was not over. The convict Duffey had been sent to Sweers Island, in the Gulf, from where he promptly escaped with a suspected murderer. Uhr was sent in pursuit: I employed a man, and gave him four pounds, out of my own pocket, to accompany me in a small open boat up to Burketown about 24th February, I867. I remained there "hail fellow well met" with the rowdies then there up to the 6th March 1867. I left town before daylight on that day, unknown to anyone, and alone, having learnt where I would be likely to get traces of the escaped prisoners. I travelled night and day, visiting no stations, and disguising myself as much as possible. I had to take some rations from a shepherd's hut, which I afterwards acquainted them of. I came up to the prisoners on the 12th March, a distance of 420 miles from Burketown and with little trouble recaptured both of them. You will perceive by the above dates that I accomplished the distance of 420 miles in six days.

• Fearless D'Arcy Wentworth Uhr resigned from the police force about 1869 and became involved in various droving, mining and hotel enterprises. He died in Coolgardie (WA) in 1907.

Flood so fast they saved one bag of flour for 19 people!

The flood came so fast in the night, and it being dark and pouring down rain, that we were obliged to put the children and three women in the boat and tie it to the porch of the back door. We waited till daylight when twelve of us started in the boat. We had to pull quite half a mile. We only saved one bag of flour (for nineteen of us), no salt, one bag of sugar, and some tea that was in the water all night. - Sheep station manager Charles Baldwin, Namoi River (NSW), February, 1864.

• This flood was the worst in European memory in the Narrabri district of northern NSW. Many people escaped to homestead rooftops, but thousands of sheep drowned.

Inhospitable Sydney, says snotty actress

I never left any place with so little regret. - Actress Ellen Kean, leaving Sydney for the United States, 9 July, 1864.

• Ellen Kean and her husband, Charles, were supreme English actors who toured NSW and Victoria in the early-1860s. In Australia, they were received rapturously by audiences, but were dogged by financial misfortune and Charles' ill-health

Slow pioneering of north Queensland

On 10th February, I proceeded with Arthur Scott and my blackboy, Cockey, to examine the gap to the southward distant about two miles from the settlement (Cardwell). We ascended by easy spurs to a hill above the saddle of the gap. We saw a broad valley of a fine river I had seen from the western ranges. The new river I have had the honour to name Herbert after the Hon. the Colonial Secretary - Report by pastoralist and explorer George Dalrymple, Cardwell, North Queensland, 1 August, 1864.

• Scots-born George Dalrymple, one of the colony's great pioneers, was trying to find a route over the rugged Cardwell Range, halfway between the future ports of Townsville and Cairns. Quite simply, he wanted a track from the port of Cardwell to his cattle station at the Valley of Lagoons. He saw that there was a way ... and set out for the interior on a triumphant journey that took his party two months. At that stage, the only port in north Queensland was Bowen.

Heroine Jane Duff, saviour of little wanderers

... when found, she (Jane Duff) had just divested herself of her little frock, and was with it covering up her two brothers, who were lying helpless on the ground. - Hamilton Spectator (Vic), 3 September, 1864.

• Jane Duff, aged seven, and her brothers, Isaac, nine, and Frank, nearly four, were lost in the Mallee country northwest of Horsham, in western Victoria, for nine days until they were found by aboriginal trackers. Jane's heroism became legendary and her story was retold in every school Victorian Reader from the 1930s-60s.

Victoria 's defences are a joke ... and it's not funny!

The defences of the colony have been a misery to all colonial newspaper readers for months and years past; and yet the utterly defenceless condition of Melbourne crops out ever and again, and at last in so prominent a fashion as to refuse anything but a speedy and effective remedy. Collins Street, for an hour or two yesterday and the day before, was startled out of its usual placidity by the news that Russia, in case England had interfered on behalf of Poland, was prepared to launch all her available war vessels upon the Australian coast. The armament was given to a gun, and to a gun's calibre; not a member of the force was but enumerated. In certain minds, the threat was that a ferocious attack on Melbourne was contemplated through the agency of sixty-eight pounder smooth bores conveying the demolition of all the shipping and all the banks, or at best ransom of at least half a million, with Henry Miller and Hugh Glass as hostages. - Editorial, Herald , Melbourne, 12 November, 1864.

This was nervous humour: Henry 'Money' Miller and Hugh Glass were the colony's richest men, land speculators who operated breathlessly close to the law (Glass was about to go bust, but no one knew that at the time). Nobody could care less if they were held hostage, anyway. The perceived 'Russian Threat' bedevilled stock exchanges throughout the colonies. Victoria couldn't do much about such an invasion - it had loaned its entire navy, the armed steamer, Victoria , to New Zealand to help suppress the Maori. And the following 27 January, the Confederate steamer, Shenandoah , arrived in Port Phillip Bay, quite unexpectedly, demanding dry dock facilities at Williamstown and, if they weren't forthcoming, with enough firepower to reduce the Melbourne CBD to ruins! The moneyed classes entertained the Confederate officers at the Melbourne Club - which is probably what they would have done with the Russians if they'd appeared over the horizon.

Massacre of aboriginal defenders of Cape York

The natives at first stood up courageously, but either by accident or through fear, despair or stupidity, they got huddled in a heap and at the margin of the water, when ten carbines poured volley after volley into them from all directions, killing and wounding with every shot with very little return, nearly all their spears having been expended in the pursuit of the horsemen. About thirty being killed, the leader thought it prudent to hold his hand, and let the rest escape. Many more must of been wounded and probably drowned, for fifty-nine rounds were counted as discharged. - Account of the Jardine party's massacre of aborigines, Mitchell River, Cape York Peninsula, 18 December, 1864.

• Ethnic cleansing was revived yet again when a party led by Frank and Alexander Jardine drove cattle to the new government outpost at Somerset, near the tip of Cape York Peninsula.

On 8 September, 2004, prominent Queensland archeologist Mike Rowland accused controversial historian Keith Windschuttle of misrepresenting history by using statistics to hide the suffering of Aborigines in Australia's past. (Windshuttle re-ignited the so-called 'history wars' by accusing some academic historians of sloppy research in compiling numbers of aborigines killed by whites.)

Rowland, a government archeologist, used a little-known story of the mistreatment of aborigines on the Keppel Islands, off central Queensland, to illustrate his argument. Rowland said the Woppaburra people of the Keppel Islands underwent forty years of murder, beatings and virtual enslavement under the islands' 19th-century owners, Robert Ross and James Lucas, who had grazing properties there. Rowland said there was a high probability that at least seven Woppaburra males were shot on North Keppel Island in 1865. In 1883, he said, a number of Woppaburra were forcibly taken from the islands, leaving mainly women and children behind. Rowland said:

Many of those taken to the mainland died from starvation or were poisoned. Those left on the island were worked as 'slaves' by Ross and subsequently by Lucas. They were poorly fed and clothed, harnessed to ploughs and chained up in a tidal cave for punishment. They were sexually abused by Lucas and others from the mainland, and a number contracted venereal disease.

Rowland said that the Woppaburra were reduced from a population of about 60-85 in 1865 to just 17, mainly women and children, by 1900.

A Confederate warship in Port Phillip Bay!

An announcement was posted at the Telegraph Office that the auxiliary screw steamer Royal Standard had been signalled off Cape Otway after an extraordinary run of 52 days from Liverpool. Late in the afternoon, when the steamer had arrived at Port Phillip Heads, a telegram was received announcing that the steamer reported was not the Royal Standard, as supposed, but the Confederate man of war, Shenandoah, of eight guns. - Herald, Melbourne , 27 January, 1865.

• The Shenandoah's appearance later that day in Hobson's Bay, near the heart of Melbourne, capital of the gold-rich colony of Victoria, caused great consternation. The vessel, built in England and commissioned and armed secretly in the Atlantic, sank or ransomed several Union freighters in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans before berthing in Melbourne, seeking repairs. Eventually, these were effected after her captain, James Waddell, made veiled threats to turn his guns on the city. The ship's presence divided the city; the glamorous officers were feted at the Melbourne Club, but there were others in the strongly democratic and humanitarian society who protested giving aid to a ship representing the Confederate State which endorsed human bondage. The Shenandoah sailed into the north Pacific and caused great damage to the Union whaling fleet, bringing her tally of victims to 37. Unfortunately, most of these were taken after the South had surrendered. After the War, the British Government paid the U.S. $US.15.6 million in reparations for damage caused the Shenandoah and other raiders, notably the Alabama .

Melbourne 's toffs have the vice of 'flunkeyism'

The officers are fine, strapping, gentlemanly young fellows, clothed in a most abominably ugly uniform. They are at present sincerely to be pitied, for they never have an hour to themselves. They are besieged day and night on board their vessel, and are mercilessly lionised ashore. I do not believe if a couple of tame tigers were to walk up Bourke street in the middle of the day that they would be followed by so many ragged youngsters as these Southerners are by a lot of well-dressed snobs, who seem to have the worst of all country vices, the vice of flunkeyism. - Reporter, Creswick and Clunes Advertiser , 2 February, 1865.

• Melbourne's nouveau riche demonstrated their worst traits in the presence of the Americans from the Shenandoah . But the rebel visit caused great embarrassment to the Governor, Sir Charles Darling, whose failure to be rid of them from the port only added to the list of flaws which led to his recall by the British government.

He'd have to be kidding, wouldn't he?

Why didn't you challenge me and give me a chance? - Last words of Daniel 'Mad Dog' Morgan after he was fatally shot by a stationhand, Jack Quinlan, at Peechelba, northern Victoria, 9 April, 1865.

• The psychopath Morgan died after a two-year reign of terror, mainly in the NSW Riverina. He was given to asking stupid questions.

Bush probate realises sixpence

Dr Hervey held a post-mortem examination, and his evidence went to show that death was the result of natural causes. The jury returned a verdict accordingly. The effects of the deceased, including the dog, were sold by Sergeant Montfort, but they realised only sixpence. - Wangaratta Dispatch (Vic), 16 June, 1865.

• The anonymous dead man, aged about thirty, was found in a hut on a nearby station. He was supposed to be a shepherd searching for work.

First England-Australia flight?

On Thursday morning, several persons employed at Hogarth's store, High Street, were surprised at hearing the unmistakable song of an English thrush trilled forth magnificently in the backyard of the establishment. The songster was soon discovered, and recognised by several persons as a veritable mavis. It appeared very tame, and came up to the door of one of the establishments and picked up some breadcrumbs. It then disappeared and has not been seen since. - Riverine Herald , Echuca, 18 June, 1865.

Fishy tale from the Murray River

We are informed by a gentleman who has been a short time since at Tocumwal that he saw, during his stay there, a black snake swim across the Murray, which was shot on its reaching the bank. On being examined, it was found to have in its mouth a good-sized bream. It no uncommon thing for snakes to swim the river, but this is the first time we have heard of their being catchers of fish. - Riverine Herald , Echuca (Vic), 18 June, 1865.

North Queensland land-seeker has pistol handy

Started at 8 a.m. keeping a good lookout and my pistol handy as the blacks about are very dangerous and have killed many men; reached the Ross River 30 miles at 1 p.m. and after a great search found some water. Off-saddled for an hour, keeping a good lookout. Rode on and came to a bullock driver's camp, where I got a fresh horse, mine being quite done, which carried me on four miles. - John Ewen Davidson, Mr Ross's Hotel, Cleveland Bay, Townsville, 31 August, 1865.

• Davidson was a new arrival in the colony and rode from Bowen to Townsville in search of land. His diary indicates that the aborigines and whites had yet to settle their differences.

Queensland's notorious Black Police

It was a strange and painful sight to see a human being running for his life and see the Black Police galloping after him and hear the crack of the carbines. - Entrepreneur John Ewen Davidson, Cardwell, Queensland, Christmas, 1865.

• Davidson was only a recent graduate of Oxford and was yet to come to terms with the locally-held theory that it was the 'only way of ensuring the lives of white men to show they cannot be attacked with impunity'.

Landsborough reports fatal fever on the Gulf

I found everyone in the town affected (by 'Gulf fever') and in many cases the attack ended fatally. I have accordingly caused the population to be transferred to Sweers Island, 27 miles from the mouth of the Albert. - Report by pastoralist and explorer, William Landsborough, Burketown, North Queensland, 11 May, 1866.

• At least 100 men, women and children died in this outbreak of fever, carried by mosquitoes from the tropical swamps surrounding Burketown, near the Gulf of Carpentaria, and one of the most isolated settlements in Australia. Life was already cheap there; many of the residents were escaping the law further south and it was reported that all men were armed. Two gunslingers, in fact, came face-to-face in a pub - and finished up shooting each other dead! (So the story goes).

Kanakas, 'imported by Robert Towns', arrive in Bowen

... the barque Bluebell landed 26 South Sea Islanders from the New Hebrides ... imported by Robert Towns and Co. for the purpose of commencing the sugar plantation in the neighbourhood of this place (Townsville). They are fine healthy fellows and appear to have plenty of work in them if properly handled. - Port Denison Times , Bowen (Qld), 21 July, 1866.

• By 1866, Towns was under increasing pressure from southern liberals to cease his blackbirding activities. Nevertheless, by the time he died at his Sydney residence, Cranbrook, in 1873 he had become one of the giants of Queensland pastoral expansion.

A voice of reason warns against Black Police

The ferocity of the Black Police who delight in killing their own countrymen will lead to extermination on the excuse of protection. Seeing that the white and black races cannot hope to live together, with the whites denying them their birthright when they annexed their hunting grounds, the only logical and humane policy would be to set up native reserves where they may be content to live in peace. - Peak Downs Telegram , Queensland, October, 1866.

• The newspaper, 160 miles northwest of Rockhampton, was a lonely voice of reason in those troubled times.

Aborigines fight back against graziers' invasion

First there was the killing of a shepherd on Avon Downs in February. Then a shepherd of Mr Black's of Eaglefield, and another shepherd in the employ of Mr Muirhead. To top this off, they tried waylay a shepherd of Monteith's, and then murdered my brother while he was out shifting lambs and ewes. - Letter from William Clarke, Peak Downs Telegram, Queensland, 25 October, 1866.

• The authorities believed they had broken the aborigines' spirit by the ferocity of their earlier punitive raids. But this proved to be a myth and the unequal struggle continued for at least 10 years.

It is not safe for anyone to go alone into the bush at present ... - Cleveland Bay Express , Townsville, 12 January, 1867.

• While the good folk in the southern colonies slept comfortably at night, having broken the indigenous people, the black versus white war continued unabated in northern Queensland.

Kanakas for sale at seven pounds a head

SUGAR PLANTERS, COTTON GROWERS AND OTHERS. Henry Ross Lewin, for many years engaged in trade in the South Sea Islands, and practically acquainted with the language and habits of the natives; for the last four years in the employment of Capt Towns, who imported the natives now at Townsvale (Townsville) Plantation and superintended them during that time, begs to inform his friends and the public that he intends immediately visiting the South Sea Islands and will be happy to receive orders for the importation of South Sea natives to work on the cotton and sugar plantations now springing up in the Colony. - Brisbane Courier , 26 April, 1867.

• Lewin, a blackbirder, offered the islanders at seven pounds a head.

1867: Four provinces of Canada unite in one dominion.

Murray is a 'streamless ditch', says traveller

The Murray in February is a streamless ditch, which in America, if known and named at all, would rank as a tenth rate river. - Sir Charles Dilke, British traveller, author and politician, 1867.

• Sir Charles (aged 23 when he made this observation), on his return to England made a much bigger name for himself as an adulterer (Crawford v. Crawford and Dilke).

Aboriginal women reject a right royal pervert

What for we do it, more than white women? - South Australian Register , Adelaide, 4 November, 1867.

• This was the response by Adelaide aboriginal women to a suggestion that they dance naked before a gawking member of the British nobility, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, aged 23, one of Queen Victoria's lesser children. This was our first Royal Tour. According to malicious gossip of the time, Prince Alfred was 'fixed up' (wink, wink) in Melbourne by Frederick Standish, the dissolute chief of police, who arranged for a chain of fancy women to visit him at his rooms. While he was in Melbourne, protesting Irish Catholics stormed the Loyal Orange Lodge on 27 November and a young man died.

On 3 March, 2005, traditional aboriginal women finally danced bare-breasted before another royal visitor, Prince Charles, in Alice Spring. Earlier, he had declined to eat a live witchetty grub. There are limits , he said, the last time I was here I ate raw seal - I'm older and wiser now.

A mother's awful death in South Geelong

On Saturday last, I was engaged in tarring the outside fence of my yard. I sent for half a gallon of coal tar, and the man put it on the fire in the bucket in the kitchen on my orders. I sent him out and watched it myself. I turned my back to the door before it had been long on the fire. My wife was in a room off the kitchen when she called to me that the tar was on fire; my daughter came in, rushing to see what was the matter. I ran with the tar outside, but some dropped on the floor, and the flames from it caught my daughter's clothes. I ran out and threw the bucket down. I got my daughter down and smothered the flame. My wife, seeing the daughter all right, ran through the passage into the front place, and in doing so must have caught fire, as she left quite free of the flames. I thought all was right, and I ran out to the lane, or right of way, and there she was, standing against the fence and two men trying to put out, with their hands, the fire which had caught her dress. She was all black, and her petticoats all burnt, except the hoops. Some of the women then took her down to their own place. I did not see her for about half an hour afterwards. I did not think she was so badly hurt, but I found her very bad. She wished to go to the hospital and Mr Andrews took her in his cart. She died yesterday morning. - Coronial evidence by William McLean, stonemason, Geelong (Vic), 9 December, 1867.

• The jury returned a verdict of accidental death on Isabella McLean.

Bigamist bitch banishes boardinghouse bludger!

The residents of Nicholson Street, Fitzroy, were aroused at an early hour yesterday morning by a disturbance which took place yesterday at Royal Terrace, in which a newly-married couple were the belligerents. We are advised that a Mrs Garrick, residing at 2 Royal Terrace, was deserted by her husband some years ago and lately he was reported dead. Some months ago, she became acquainted with a man named Ifold and he succeeded in making her relinquish her weeds to become Mrs Ifold. The marriage ceremony was performed, but very soon it became known that Mrs Ifold's husband was still in the land of the living, and at Sydney. She refused to live longer with Ifold, and he, doubtless not wishing to relinquish the comfortable quarters of a fashionable boardinghouse, declined to leave his newly-acquired property. He was, however, ejected, and yesterday was in the act of removing the household furniture on a drays, when he was handed over to the custody of the Fitzroy police. - Police report, Melbourne, 11 December, 1867.

A dog's eye AND a dance with your sweetie pie!

NOTICE. J. Hobie, proprietor of the Scotch Pie Shop, 86 Bourke St east, begs respectfully to inform his friends and the public that he has just added and completed a LARGE AND ELEGANT BALLROOM ... - Herald , Melbourne, 11 December, 1867.

Duke's tour (cont.)

There is no name within the possessions of the British Crown that has a more distinctive and world-wide fame than that of Ballaarat. - Herald , Melbourne, 11 December, 1867.

• Indeed, it was a fair boast! The Herald was proudly previewing the visit by Prince Alfred to Ballarat. While he was there, one of those who must have observed him with interest was Henry James O'Farrell, a dabbler in gold mining shares. On 12 March next year, O'Farrell tried to shoot the prince in Sydney. He was hanged, amid unproved mutterings about Fenians. Alfred continued his distinguished career later by marrying Marie, daughter of the ill-fated Czar of Russia, and became forebear of various Balkan monarchs.

Blackbirding exposed as out-and-out slavery

Some of them came into the boats while others came in canoes to see the vessel, numbering twenty-one, many of them bringing their clubs and implements of war with them. They were relieved of these on deck and taken down to see the mysteries of the hold. When the vessel set sail, the canoes were cut adrift and we bore away from the island. The wives of some of these men swam after the ship for more than three miles, crying loudly for the restoration of their kidnapped husbands. - Ishmael Williamson, cook, vessel Syren , Brisbane, 30 January, 1868.

• Williamson described a typical blackbirding voyage.

British press welcome our first visiting team

Nothing of interest comes from Australia except gold nuggets and black cricketers. - London Daily Telegraph , 13 May, 1868.

• British media gave its usual churlish welcome to Australia's first touring cricket team, who happened to be aborigines.

Blackbirders jailed for murdering islanders

... touching on the murder of three aborigines, names unknown, of an island called Paama, one of the New Hebrides, who arrived in Fiji about 19th February last in the Young Australian, Albert Ross Hovell, master, of Sydney, on board of which the vessel, while lying off Paama, they declare that three aborigines were shot to death, having, about noon the same day, been, by portion of the crew under Mr Hovell's command, forcibly seized while fishing and conveyed aboard the Young Australia. - Letter from British Consul J. B. Thurston, Fiji, to NSW Governor Lord Belmore, Sydney, 17 January, 1869.

• Complaints about the activities of blackbirders became more indignant. Eventually, Hovell and three of his crew were jailed in Australia. Legislation to control the activities of blackbirders was introduced in 1868, by which time they had already brought more than 2000 islanders to Queensland ports.

The establishment of a slave trade in these seas has been so long proved that none can entertain any doubt of its existence. Every class of men has born testimony of the ruse and violence developed in this trade. The missionaries have all corroborated the general complaint and have implored the Christians of this country to awaken to the wickedness perpetuated at their doors. - Sydney Morning Herald , 22 May, 1869.

• The newspaper's leading article followed a meeting in Brisbane on 8 March which condemned black birding as 'a backward step in the direction of slavery.'

1869: Suez Canal opens

Faded curtains for sundowners

We no longer hear of swagmen tramping from one end of the territory to the other, going from station to station, and from place to place as mere idlers and loafers. They have now settled down, having got little plots of ground from the Government. We do not now hear of so many wandering miners, many of the mining population having settled down on the land. - James McPherson Grant, Commissioner for Crown Lands, Victorian Legislative Assembly, 8 June, 1869.

• Grant had introduced a Land Bill in 1864, based on the NSW model of 320-acre selection blocks at 20 shillings an acre. He claimed to have eliminated most shady dealings. By 1869, there were about 30,000 selectors in Victoria.

Squatters defraud land laws to keep out battlers

... It is idle to say that land legislation can meet and defeat the various contrivances of fraud. - George Higinbotham, Victorian Legislative Assembly, June, 1869.

• Higinbotham, who referred to squatters as the 'wealthy lower orders', suggested that they would use low means to prevent their fiefdoms being thrown open to poorer people.

Desperate Kanakas escape from masters

It is not possible to conceive a more wretched state of existence than that of savages such as these escaping from their masters and making for themselves dens like wild beasts, outlawed, or outlawing themselves from society and living by plundering the settlers of the district. - Brisbane Courier, July, 1869.

• Island workers had run away from their masters near Brisbane and were stealing food from farmhouses.

9. 1870-1879

'What was my astonishment to find it was one immense rock rising abruptly from the plain' (Explorer William Gosse, near Ayers Rock, 19 July, 1873).

TASMANIA finally abandoned Port Arthur, that ghastly relic of convictism, in 1877 and moved the prisoners to Hobart gaol. Soon afterwards, the site was consumed by a bushfire, leaving only the shells of the stone buildings standing. But the old place was not easily forgotten forgotten. The Melbourne journalist, Marcus Clarke, had published his novel, For The Term Of His Natural Life in 1870 and everyone's attention was drawn to the awful location in its beautiful setting. In Victoria, another piece of history removed himself from the scene: James Bentley, a Ballarat publican whose acquittal for the murder of a gold miner was said to be one of the provocations which led to the Eureka rebellion, committed suicide by poisoning in Melbourne. Both events seemed to be appropriate in colonies looking forward beyond the past to a new age of technology. Charles Todd's Overland Telegraph, linking the southern colonies with Darwin, then England, opened in 1872; the Melbourne-Sydney rail link was under construction and would be completed in 1883; people were enjoying that amazing invention, the telephone, by the end of the decade.

Of course, men were still engaged in that traditional Australian activity, exploration. In 1870, the young John Forrest, later to become one of the giants of the Western Australian and Federal Parliaments, took a government-sponsored expedition overland from Perth to Adelaide. This led to the establishment of a telegraph line linking Perth to the eastern colonies in 1877. William Gosse was the first white man to see Ayers Rock in 1873 and his astonishment has been echoed since by generations of first-time viewers. The conquest of north Queensland gained momentum. Gold was found at Charters Towers in 1872 and it quickly superseded Ballarat and Bendigo as Australia's main gold field. Next year, the prospector, James Venture Mulligan, found payable gold further north at the Palmer River, on Cape York Peninsula, and this caused the bloodiest confrontation between blacks and whites in Australian history. It is estimated that 500 European and Chinese miners died and 5000 aborigines. The English-speakers, naturally, had the naming rights and it spawned such locations as Hell's Gates, Murdering Gully and Cannibal Creek.

Queensland, which had a population of more than 100,000, largely due to a vigorous overseas immigration programme, was wrestling with the issue of South Sea islander, or Kanaka, labour. The islanders were brought to work on the cane fields in the north, but south Queensland liberals were being concerned about the manner in which they were taken from their island homes and families. In 1876, a Select Committee of the Queensland Parliament heard alarming evidence about these 'black birding' practices. Meanwhile, the good citizens of Victoria and NSW congratulated themselves that they had rid their comfortable colonies of such outlandish behaviour ... until Ned Kelly's gang murdered three policemen in 1878 at Stringybark Creek, in the Strathbogie Ranges, northeast of Melbourne. The poor rural Irish sided with them; the bourgeoisie of Melbourne was outraged.

Delicate maidens, 'honeyed exotics' on the Block

(Those) whose whole and sole delight is, without regard to cost, to rival and outshine in dress their friends and neighbours. These delicate groundworks of society, these hothouse plants, these honeyed exotics, these brilliant butterflies - that the slightest breath of the cold wind of adversity would shrivel up and render useless. - Melbourne Punch , 17 February, 1870.

• The writer is, of course, ranting about the beautiful young things who promenaded on The Block in Collins Street, one of the sights of 'Marvellous Melbourne', indeed, of the whole Southern Hemisphere. Other observers were not so cruel. One visitor thought their equal in grace and beauty was to be found nowhere else in the world. The Punch journalist did not reserve his derision for the women ...

But wait until you see the lads ...

The affected languor of demeanour, the supercilious recognition of things common in ordinary life, the style of appearance so much cultivated (similar to that of being suddenly turned out of a bandbox) and the simpering, effeminate lack-a-daisical manner, become pitiful to behold. - Melbourne Punch , 17 February, 1870.

Governor's gloom about the future youth of WA

I see no reason that under the present system the colonists will ever become more fitted for self-government, and I greatly dread that if its introduction be long deferred they will become far less fitted. At present, there are still men among them whose English education and English reminiscences would guide them in the almost forgotten path; the younger generation may grow up with less political education and far less thought, I fear, of the real responsibilities of good citizens and loyal subjects. An almost primitive simplicity and kindness of manners, very pleasing to see, strangely enough, exists in the same country that holds a large proportion of the criminal class; and I should be unjust were I not to point out with gratification that it is not uncommon to find men formerly belonging to the latter classes who have made good settlers and have raised themselves to a position of respectability and independence. An influx of population and riches, such as a 'rush' has hereforto taken place in every other portion of the Australian colonies, would, did it find us under the present system, result in almost universal demand for universal suffrage and responsible government at a time when such a concession would be unsafe and pregnant with disastrous consequences. - Governor Frederick Weld, Perth, to Earl Grenville, Secretary for Colonies, London, 1 March, 1870.

• Western Australia declined responsible government until 1890 and had its very own 'rush' two years later.

1870; Irish Land Act gives tenant farmers some measure of protection against being evicted by their landlords.

Desert ditty on the Nullarbor

I venture to record that our vocal efforts were as sincerely and heartily made in the Australian wilderness as any which rang that day in any part of Her Majesty's wide dominions. - Explorer John Forrest, Adelaide-bound, 24 May, 1870.

• Forrest was only twenty-three and native-born. But he was imbued with Empire patriotism. He insisted that his party, heading from Perth, halt, raise a Union Jack on a gum tree and sing God Save The Queen to mark Queen Victoria's birthday.

First 'populate or perish' calls, 1870

If the country is to advance, if we are to grow up a community worthy of being called a nation, and able to keep up armaments, and hold our own against other nations, it is absolutely necessary that we should have an increase of our population from without as well as from within. - Archibald Michie, Legislative Assembly, Victoria, 2 June, 1870.

• Michie, Victorian Attorney-General, briefly, and one of the defence counsel for the Eureka rebels, was an admirable advocate for immigration, but he tended to ignore the implications of flooding the colony with the British working class poor. The movement to Melbourne of people from the declining alluvial diggings was already developing an underclass clustered in the inner city.

England confesses to exporting its underclass

But how will you prevent England exporting her paupers? You have never been able to prevent it under the regulations hitherto framed. The parson is always able to get rid of the poor, 'shiftless', incapable parishioner. - George Higinbotham, Legislative Assembly, Victoria, 2 June, 1870.

• Higinbotham, a liberal and one of the fair-minded men of Melbourne, quoted from a recent issue of The Times of London which said, candidly, There is no use in blinking the fact that it is our human rubbish we want to get rid of .

Marcus Clarke tries to explain His Natural Life

I have endeavoured in 'His Natural Life' to set forth the workings and results of an English system of transportation, carefully considered and carried out under official supervision; and to illustrate in the manner best calculated, as I think, to attract general attention to the expediency of again allowing offenders against the law to be herded together in places remote from the wholesome influence of public opinion, and to be submitted to a discipline which must necessarily depend for its just administration on the personal character and temper of their gaolers. - Author and journalist Marcus Clarke, preface to His Natural Life , Melbourne, 1870.

• Clarke, then in his mid-twenties, was sent to Tasmania by the Australian Journal to investigate penal conditions. His Natural Life , later published as For The Term Of His Natural Life , was serialised from 1870-72. The series made many Australians aware of the appalling conditions in convict settlements such as Port Arthur, closed in 1870, and Macquarie Harbour, abandoned in 1833.

Ned Kelly's tutor caught napping

They've caught Harry Power, but they've had to catch him asleep. - Bushranger Harry Power, Wangaratta, Vic, 5 June, 1870.

• Power, who was said to have taught the young Ned Kelly, served fifteen years' goal and, on his release, became a guide on the prison hulk, Success , which had become a tourist attraction. In his dotage, the society ladies of Melbourne paid for a Murray River holiday for him, but he fell in and drowned.

Communications dream: cable to England

... the cable will be laid to Port Darwin if the South Australian Government will pledge itself to construct and maintain a land-line, to be open for traffic by January 1, 1872, connecting that port with the existing system of colonial telegraphs. - Admiral Sherard Osborn, managing director, British-Australian Telegraph Company, London, 7 June, 1870.

• Could South Australia achieve its part in linking Australia to the world by telegraph? They had to build a line 3000km from Port Augusta to Darwin over trackless wilderness. The penalty was 70 pounds a day if they were late, and the possible loss of the contract to another colony.

1870: Franco-Prussian war, July-September.

One of the better excuses

I tried to write, but the ants were so troublesome it was impossible to do so . - William Hann, overlander, central Queensland, 4 December, 1870.

• Hann, a legendary grazier, was at the beginning of one of the greatest sheep drives in Australia. In a year, he and his men drove 27,000 sheep from the Burdekin district of Queensland to Swan Hill, Victoria, a distance of 2000km. They were forced into the undertaking by falling wool prices, dingos and hostile aborigines.

Not a favourite song of the Irish

Good order was kept in the paddock during the day, the only notable deviation from propriety being an ineffectual attempt by three or four fellows to stop the playing of God Save The Queen ... - Age , Hibernian Picnic, Melbourne, Boxing Day, 1870.

• The trouble with the Irish was that they didn't learn the words at birth.

1871: Bismarck creates German Empire, hailed as hero, draws many German liberals living in Australia home to Germany.

Arguments over 'slavery'

The Islanders were induced to go on board as visitors, then seized and fastened down; or else captured from their canoes while fishing and hurried off to slavery. - Report by Captain John Moresby, of HMS Basilisk , Torres Strait, February, 1871.

• Moresby had investigated the illegal Kanaka trade among pearlers. He then went off and named Port Moresby after his father, Admiral Fairfax Moresby .


So far as Queensland is concerned, due precaution has been taken by the Government to check any abuses that may be supposed to exist amongst the South Sea Islands in connection with the introduction of Polynesian labourers, and the Council have reason to believe that the experiment of appointing paid agents to accompany ships employed in carrying such labourers between the islands and this colony has been attended with great success, and has, in great measure, disproved injurious statements as to the manner in which these islanders were formerly procured. - Executive Council minute, Brisbane, 25 August, 1871.

• The Queensland Government rejected a message from the Colonial Office, London, that Australians were escaping punishment for the ill-treatment of island labourers. In fact, several influential Queenslanders were financing the human trade. A senior NSW policemen said he had evidence that vessels owned by residents of ' Sydney, Melbourne, Queensland, Tasmania and New Zealand' were engaged in black birding.


Paris Commune, 18 March.

Henry Stanley finds Dr David Livingstone in Darkest Africa, 10 November.

New northern goldfield saves Queensland

A good deal of excitement prevails ... about a rush to a new place named Charters' Tors or Towers. There are now on the ground between 400 and 500 people ... - Port Denison Times , Bowen (Qld), 24 February, 1872.

• Charters Towers, 130km southwest of Townsville, became Australia's richest gold field in the latter part of the 19th century. The north Queensland goldfields helped save the colony from bankruptcy.

1872: London Missionary Society establishes first permanent missions in New Guinea.

Crazy gold cruise abandoned after sinking

Eight emaciated, half-naked creatures met us, clasped our hands and told us they only were left alive of the thirteen belonging to the larger raft ... they crawled along with us in order that I might see for myself how well the natives had cared for them. - Captain John Moresby, near Cardwell (Qld), 12 March, 1872.

• So ended the lunatic gold-seeking cruise of the brig, Maria . Moresby, a navy captain who was more interested in pearlers using slave labour, rescued them from kindly aborigines on a beach near Cardwell.

In two years, Australia's wired to the Old World

We have this day, within two years, completed a line of communication two thousand miles long through the very centre of Australia, until a few years ago a terra incognita believed to be a desert. - Charles Todd, South Australian Postmaster-General, Morse Code message, near Central Mount Stuart, 23 August, 1872.

• This concluded an extraordinary enterprise of courage. The new service was fearfully expensive, but Australians now knew what was happening in the rest of the world instead of waiting three months for the mail steamers.

Grave assertion

It is asserted the magnets lose almost their entire power in the vicinity of graveyards, and electrical machines are similarly affected under the same circumstances. - Herald , Melbourne, 17 October, 1872.

Cultural cringe in the presence of Trollope

... he sees among us nothing but beauty everywhere. - Book review, Sydney Morning Herald , 31 March, 1873.

• The English novelist, Anthony Trollope, visited the Antipodes in 1871-72 and wrote a travel book, Australia and New Zealand , which was rapturously received here. This was an early manifestation of the 'cultural cringe' for which certain elements of Antipodean society are still noted.

It was a very pleasant life that I led at these stations. I like tobacco and brandy and water, with an easy chair out on a veranda, and my slippers at my feet. And I like men who are energetic and stand up for themselves and their own properties. - Anthony Trollope, Australia and New Zealand , London, 1873.

• Trollope was in the last decade of his busy life. Apart from writing his famed series of Barsetshire novels he invented the pillar box for the British post office. He spent much of his time in Australia with his son, a squatter, near Goulburn, NSW.

They blow a good deal in Queensland; - a good deal in South Australia. They blow even in poor Tasmania. They blow loudly in New South Wales, and very loudly in New Zealand. But the blast of the trumpet as heard in Victoria is louder than all the blasts, and the Melbourne blast beats all the other blowing of that proud colony. - Anthony Trollope, Australia and New Zealand , London, 1873.

• Trollope rated the colonies for their capacity to brag and, had he stayed in the colonies, he would have been positively deafened by the roar of the Melbourne trumpet over the next 15 years or so. But it would suddenly become muted.

A fair dinkum fish finger

A human finger was discovered on April 26 in the stomach of a flathead, bought by a woman at Northcote (Vic) . - Australasian Sketcher , 17 May, 1873.

Eureka 's dubious publican takes poison

An ex-publican named Bentley, whose name at one time was well-known in connection with the Ballarat riots, has committed suicide by poisoning himself while in a state of despondency. - Australasian Sketcher , 17 May, 1873.

• James Bentley, his wife and another man, all former Tasmanian convicts, were acquitted of the murder of James Scobie, a popular miner who had been drinking in Bentley's Eureka Hotel on 6 October, 1854. The verdict was one of the events which precipitated the Eureka uprising.

Bravely, he nodded and drowned

I never saw a heavier sea before in my life. It seemed like a large building coming right down on us ... Marr was on the mainmast. He motioned to cut it to save the vessel, although he knew he could not be saved. We bade him goodbye, and he nodded to us - Second mate Richard Taplin, survivor of the wreck of the pilot schooner, Rip , Port Phillip Heads, 15 July, 1873.

• Four men, including the brave James Marr, died in the monstrous seas. A public subscription raised the considerable sum of 3000 pounds for the dead men's families.

European sees Ayers Rock, suitably impressed

The hill, as I approached, presented a most peculiar appearance, the upper portion being covered with holes or caves. When I got clear of the sandhills, and was only two miles distant, and the hill, for the first time, coming fairly in view, what was my astonishment to find it was one immense rock rising abruptly from the plain ... I have named this Ayers Rock, after Sir Henry Ayers. - Surveyor William Christie Gosse's log, 19 July, 1873.

• Some geographically-inept folk still, of course, describe Iluru as Ayers Rock.

Poor victim named, murderous rapist hanged

With this murderous weapon at the throat of Mrs Cook he pushed the poor woman into her bedroom, thrust her upon the bed, and committed a capital offence. - Ballarat Courier , 9 August, 1873.

• The outraged Courier did not attempt to shield the shattered Mrs Cook (well-known in the nearby Talbot district) from public ruin. The offender was caught some days later and hanged in Ballarat.

Message received

Nothiss - know kow is a lowed in these medders. Eany men or woman lettin their kows run this rode wot gets entu my medders aforeseed shall have their tale cut orf by me. - Sign near Newbridge (Vic), 1873.

• Educationalist George Rusden is said to have ridden 25,000km through Victoria establishing National Schools, but Newbridge was apparently not on his skedjool.

The wind is fair and free to a hostile goldfield

Blazed track for about 120 miles from Cook's Town, Endeavour River. Blacks very numerous and hostile. About 500 men now on the Palmer, usual earning one pound per day per man. - Goldfields Commissioner Howard St George, Palmer River, Cape York Peninsula, 24 November, 1873.

• The reason the blacks were hostile was that the first party of whites had fired on them, unprovoked. It began a war which took 500 white lives and an estimated 5000 aboriginal lives.

Spearings at Barrow Creek ... horror later

On 1 August 1871, Samuel Gason, aged 29, a Mounted Constable First Class, was transferred to Barrow Creek, in the Northern Territory, where problems had been noted between Aborigines and white settlers. On 23 February, 1874, Gason cabled to Adelaide from the Barrow Creek Telegraph station: This station has been attacked by natives at 8. Stapleton has been mortally wounded, one of the men, named John Frank, just died from wounds. Civilised Native boy has had 3 spear wounds. Mr Flint, assistant Operator, one spear wound in leg, not serious. Full particulars in morning. Second attack expected.

A year later, a punitive expedition of whites, led by a mounted policeman, left Barrow Creek and drove all Aborigines before them. They did not stop until they reached a creek 160km west where, it was said, they took not a single prisoner. The place became known as Blackfellow's Bones. Samuel Gason resigned from the police force in 1876 to become a publican at Beltana. He eventually went to live in a remote settlement called Gibson's Camp, in the far north west of South Australia, where he died on 11 April 1897, aged 52 He was buried by a mounted constable at Gibson's Camp. A few days later an Adelaide newspaper published this obituary:

The announcement of the death of Mr Samuel Gason will be received with deep regret, especially amongst those who are acquainted with the history of the far northern portion of the colony ... Mr Gason joined the mounted police on February 2nd, 1865, and after having been connected with the force for a little over eleven years, during which time he saw very active service amongst the natives of Cooper's Creek, Barrow Creek, and several other stations in the Far North, he retired on 30 April, 1876. Perhaps the most memorable incident connected with his career as a police trooper took place while he was stationed at Barrow Creek, and the occurrence will be the more painfully remembered for it was then that the life of a promising young telegraph operator, Mr Stapleton, was cut short. The men at the station were seated at the back of the building one Sunday evening, when they were surprised by a party of blacks armed with spears and waddies, and before they could secure their position Mr Stapleton and one of the black boys were speared. Mr Gason rushed around to the entrance of the building, where he found about fifty natives gathered. He fired several shots, and scattered the blacks, and it was owing mainly to his gallantry that the lives of the rest of the men were saved. While he was at Barrow Creek the natives were very troublesome, giving the police plenty of work, and on more than one occasion did the officer distinguish himself.

Do you believe this?

The delicious taste of the creature, I shall never forget . - Explorer Ernest Giles, NT, 30 April, 1874.

• Giles had just eaten a live wallaby whole ... fur, skin, bones, skull, the lot, after stumbling, starving, from the desert.

Down the gurgler went Charlie and 106 others

Charlie, chuck away your gold! It'll drown you if you don't! - Concerned friend, Gothenberg , Flinders Reef (Qld) 25 February, 1875.

• Charlie Lebane, who had found 300oz at Pine Creek (NT), had it around his waist when the ship foundered. He didn't take his friend's advice, sank like a stone and hasn't been seen since. Only four of the 110 people on board the steamer were saved. The rescue vessel, Leichhardt , reported that 'a lady's shawl, a comfitor and a straw mattress' were found on the the ship's mainmast.

Early failure of frozen meat to Britain

Mr Thomas Mort has so far succeeded in developing his new industry that in the course of a few days his establishment at the Lithgow Valley will commence operations. - Sydney Morning Herald , 4 September, 1875.

• Mort's new industry involved killing stock at Lithgow, freezing the carcasses at Darling Harbour and loading them on to an England-bound refrigerator ship. Unfortunately, the refrigeration equipment failed before leaving port and Mort lost 80,000 pounds.

More Kanaka revelations and justifications

If we were told husbands were separated from wives, thousands of children left without their natural protectors, homes desolated, villages ransacked and burned, drunkenness, fraud, and every dishonest artifice employed in order to procure these men who were to add so immensely to our comfort ... - W. Brookes to the Select Committee on Polynesian Labour, Brisbane, 1876.

• Brookes' anger was well-placed, but it was not so much their abuse that caused some Queenslanders to demand an end to the Kanaka trade in the 1880s as the fear that their presence would exclude the colony from a future Australian federation. Leading NSW and Victorian politicians warned there would be no placed for 'Asiatics or coloureds' in a future Australia.

The evidence thus obtained has been singularly corroborative of the willingness of the Islanders to come to the colony, and of the absence of anything to warrant the assumption that they have been exchanged for trade, or otherwise improperly obtained. - Report of Select Committee on Polynesian Labour, Brisbane, 1876.

• The Select Committee chose to look the other way, but it would only be a matter of time.

An 1877 dream: Echuca, the Capital of Australia!

On 7 January, 1877, the artist George French Angus paused in his imagination on the Murray River's banks to find some pencil sketches in his journal, and some careful, copperplate notes ...

Albury is the great crossing place for free selectors of land passing into the Riverina. The next town is Wahgunyah, the chief depot of the river steam traffic to South Australia, where the river is spanned by a substantial bridge. Two hundred miles lower is Echuca, the most important place on the Murray, and the terminus of the railway from Melbourne. Here, all the livestock from the fertile Riverina crosses to supply the Victorian markets; the wool is carried hence by rail for shipment at Melbourne. Most of the river steamers are built at Echuca. When the Federation of the Australian Colonies is an accomplished fact, it is not improbable that the seat of Government may be at Echuca ...

• Not improbable, indeed! And if that had come to pass, the Federal politicians would not turn their eyes from the crisis facing the Murray River and its vast basin today! Angas sketched busy Echuca, a group of tribal aborigines cooking fish, two aborigines in fragile bark canoes, a Murray cod, and a riverboat towing two wool barges ...

From hence to Swan Hill, the last of the Victorian townships, is about 100 miles. The river here has many backwater lagoons abounding in fish and fowl. The natives in some places are still numerous on the banks and may be seen fishing or crossing the river on frail pieces of bark. Several kinds of fish are caught, especially the Murray cod, which grows to a large size and is very good eating. 300 miles further is the junction of the Darling ; on the New South Wales side the town of Wentworth, to which place supplies for the settlers in the interior are brought from Adelaide. Soon afterward, the river crosses the boundary into South Australia ...

• Angas, son of a wealthy founder of South Australia, George Fife Angas, had, in fact, left Australia with his family in 1863, and wrote the above notes in London for a newspaper supplement on the colonies.

How that device, the telephone, actually works

One of the most interesting scientific experiments which have ever been made in the colony took place at the Melbourne Observatory on Saturday evening. It consisted of a trial of that remarkable little instrument, the telephone, to which reference has already been made in these columns, and it is satisfactory to be able to record the fact that the test resulted in a decided success. Although the telephone is not a very elaborate piece of mechanism, it would perhaps be unwise to confuse our readers with the intricacies of its construction; we will therefore confine our description to what is necessary to give a good general idea of the principles on which it works. Briefly then, it consists of a small box, about six inches long by two and a half inches in diameter, containing several electric magnets, in front of which is the diaphragm, a very thin sheet of iron, almost, but not quite, touching the magnets. The telephone is then connected, with the wires, at the other end of which a similar instrument is attached. When a message is to be communicated, the sender puts his mouth to the instrument and speaks, the diaphragm vibrates in accord with the sound, and these vibrations are conveyed by electricity to the diaphragm of the telephone at the other end, where they become sonorous. The voice is, however, so much diminished that the listener, though he holds his ear to the instrument, occasionally misses words, and sometimes is not sure of what he does hear, but at other times everything comes out so distinctly that even the voice may be recognised. On Saturday night, Mr Ellery, with his staff of assistants and friends, connected the telephone with about eighty yards of wire, and several messages were exchanged between the main building and the laboratory. The time was asked and given, quotations from Shakespeare were rendered, and songs sung in one place were distinctly audible in the other. Several operatic renditions were next played upon the flute, and an encore was demanded by the listener at the other end. - Weekly Times , Melbourne, 5 January, 1878.

Stringybark Creek survivor's appeal to Ned Kelly

I told him that they were both countrymen and co-religionists of his own. That one of them was the father of a large family, and that the other was a good-natured inoffensive man liked by everybody. This statement that they were both countrymen of Kelly was not strictly true, for Kelly was Australian born, but his father came from Tipperary and his mother from Armagh and I thought he might be possessed of some of that patriotic-religious feeling which is such a bond of sympathy amongst the Irish people. My opinion is that he possessed none of this feeling. On the question of religion, I believe he was apathetic, and that like a great many young bushman, he prided himself more on his Australian birth than he did on his extraction from any particular race. A favourite expression of his was: 'I will let them see what one native can do.' - Constable Thomas McIntyre, recalling the events of 26 October, 1878, at Stringybark Creek (near Mansfield, Victoria).

• Constable McIntyre (who, incidentally, was a Protestant) and another policemen, searching for the Kelly gang (who were Catholics), had set up camp in the Wombat Range when they were ambushed by the gang. The other policeman, Lonergan, was shot dead, while McIntyre was kept as 'bait' for the return of two more police, Kennedy and Scanlan, who were also shot dead. McIntyre crawled away, hid in a wombat hole, and walked to Mansfield where he raised the alarm. McIntyre told his story many years later in the unpublished manuscript with the snappy title, A True Narrative of the Kelly Gang by T.N. McIntyre, Sole Survivor of the Police Party Murderously Attacked by Those Bushrangers in the Wombat Forest on the 26th October, 1878. It is held in the Police Archives. Many people believe the incident at Stringybark Creek should deny Kelly his folk hero status.

It's only ol' Ned come to collect the keys

Don't be alarmed, my dear. This is Mr Ned Kelly. He has stuck up my bank and we must do as he says. - National Bank manager Mr Scott to his wife, Euroa, Victoria, 10 December, 1878.

• Kelly and the gang stole $2000 from the bank in a precision raid during which they seized a nearby sheep station, at which they entertained their hostages to a trick riding demonstration.

Had I robbed, plundered, ravished and murdered everything I met, my character could not be painted blacker than it is at present, but, thank God, my conscience is as clear as the snow in Peru. - Letter from Ned Kelly, outlaw, to Donald Cameron, member of Parliament, 14 December, 1878.

• Ned and his gang were hiding in the Strathbogie Ranges, northeast Victoria.

About midnight on Saturday night last, the Kelly gang suddenly made their appearance at the police barracks here, at which are stationed two constables. At the time of the visit, the police, with their families, were in bed. - Herald Melbourne 's Jerilderie (NSW) correspondent (by Electric Telegraph) , 11 February, 1879.

• The Kelly gang's depredations began on 26 October, 1878, when Ned shot three police troopers dead at Stringy bark Creek, in the Strathbogie Ranges; on 9 December, 1878, they held up the National Bank at Euroa, and on 8 February, 1879, took the town of Jerilderie, NSW, hostage for the weekend. The Herald's Jerilderie correspondent took the opportunity to indulge in some NSW baiting:

The Victoria police have been subjected to a great amount of 'chaff' in connection with the doings of the Kellys, but now they have the satisfaction of knowing the the New South Wales police have been subject to a greater insult than ever the Victoria police met with. Two members of the former have been locked in their own cells, but this has not yet been accomplished in Victoria. There is, however, plenty of time and perhaps Kelly may take it into his head to square account with the two forces, and not leave the chance of one grinning at the other.

Ned's Jerilderie Letter (ghosted by Joe Byrne)

In or about the spring of 1870 the ground was very soft a hawker named Mr Gould got his waggon bogged between Greta and my mother's house on the Eleven Mile Creek, the ground was so rotten it would bog a duck in places so Mr Gould abandoned his waggon for fear of losing his horses in the spewy ground. - The beginning of the Jerilderie Letter, dictated by Ned Kelly to Joe Byrne, and entrusted to a bank teller to be published, 8 February, 1879.

• The full text of this extraordinary letter is on the State Library of Victoria's website,

10. 1880-1889

'Ned Kelly has been captured alive, although wounded' (Melbourne Herald correspondent, Beechworth, 28 June, 1880).

TWO unrelated events ushered in the era of Marvellous Melbourne. One was the opening of the wonderful Exhibition Buildings, whose majesty set the tone for the decade; the other was the hanging of the bushranger, Ned Kelly, at the Old Melbourne Gaol just two city blocks away. The international exhibition satisfied the pride of Melbourne; newspapers slyly compared its brilliance with the sheer ordinariness of Sydney's exhibition the previous year. But, much to the annoyance of the city's nouveau riche , Ned Kelly's departure from this life stole all the headlines. Kelly was hanged on 11 November, 1880, and his remains interred in the grounds of the gaol. His family, led by his wild Irish sister, Kate, applied for the body but the authorities refused, probably because Kate might have made his grave a shrine. Kate proved very adept at extracting the last shilling out of her dead brother's notoriety. Ann Jones' pub at Glenrowan, where the outlaws made their suicidal last stand in the full glare of the world media, had been burned to the ground in the police assault, so it could serve no useful purpose to the Kelly publicity machine. Even as they hanged Ned, poor Mrs Jones languished in a Melbourne prison cell, lamenting the loss of her young son to the fearful police crossfire. She was accused of being a Kelly sympathiser.

The Exhibition Buildings had been erected by David Mitchell, father of the nineteen-year-old Helen, later to become the most famous Australian in the world as the soprano, Dame Nellie Melba. Mitchell built several of Melbourne structures of its 'Marvellous' period. But the city was also known to its detractors as 'Smellbourne' and there could be no denying the numbing slums and fetid cesspits lying within stone's throw of the promenading members of the fashionable set. The city's sewerage system, hurriedly brought into being during the gold rushes of the 1850s, could not cope with the extraordinary population explosion. There was an underclass beyond the glittering facade. In Sydney, too, prostitutes mixed easily with the larrikin element.

But there were positives. A century after the arrival of the First Fleet, the writer, Henry Lawson, and the painters of the Heidelberg School emerged to express a new vision of Australia. The impressionists, led by Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts, discarded Arcadian notions in which rural Australia was depicted as an English park, and recognised the splendid untidiness and unique lights of the bush. On the land, great things were happening quietly. In 1884-85, James Morrow and Hugh Victor McKay, working separately, developed combination harvesters. At the same time, William Farrer was engaged in the tedious task of developing types of wheat suitable for Australian conditions. He said the European strains were 'too late in ripening for our climate, and their ears were blasted, and the grains pinched by the hot winds and heat of our summer'. By the time he died in 1906, it was estimated his new strains, particularly 'Federation', might have earned growers an extra 1.5 million pounds. In 1886, the Victorian Parliament passed Alfred Deakin's Irrigation Bill which permitted the Canadian Chaffey brothers to commence the magnificent scheme which became the Sunraysia district, a fruit bowl of the world.

First refrigerated meat exports worry British rivals

It is not to be supposed that the introduction of fresh meat into the English market can be altogether welcome to farmers and landlords, because it helps still further to break down the practical monopoly they once enjoyed. - Sydney Morning Herald , 16 February, 1880.

• The vessel Strathleven made a successful voyage to England in 1879 with thirty tonnes of frozen meat. It was well-received by the consumer ... but not by British producers. But the way was open for Australian dairy products and fruit.

Kelly gang suspected of making armour

Stolen last night from Acock's, Seven-mile Creek, two large pit saws taken to construct armour out of. Would be well to send trackers at once to Acock's near Glenrowan. Will have tracks, if any, preserved. - Telegram from Sgt Arthur Steele, Wangaratta (Vic) to Benalla (Vic) police, 25 April, 1880.

• Sgt Steele had guessed correctly (with the help of a horde of police informers). The Kelly gang was busy during March-April making armour at a forge hidden in the bush not far from Glenrowan. Historian Ian Jones says ( Ned Kelly. A Short Life ) that the armour was based on an ancient Chinese suit brought to nearby Beechworth for the 1874 festival, and preserved today in the town's museum.

The city this morning has been in a state of the most intense excitement. Yesterday it became known that the Kelly gang had once more broken cover, and committed an outrage on the El Dorado road ... - Herald , Melbourne, 28 June, 1880.

• On 27 June, Joe Byrne, one of Kelly's gang, shot dead Aaron Sherritt, who had become a police spy, in his doorway. The gang then proceeded towards the town of Glenrowan, further south, for its final confrontation with police.

Ned Kelly's stand: 'This man must be the devil!'

When he was within 12 or 15 yards of me, I fired five or six charges straight at him. On hearing, almost seeing, them jump off his body, I felt very queer. I then cried out to the others, 'This man must be the devil' . - Railway guard Jesse Dowsett recalls Ned Kelly's last stand, Glenrowan (Vic), 28 June, 1880.

• Kelly was already shot and seriously wounded.

I'm done, I'm done! - Ned Kelly, Glenrowan (Vic), 28 June, 1880.

• Kelly finally crashed to the ground under the weight of his armour and the fight at Glenrowan was over.

Ned Kelly has been captured alive, although wounded. When searched he was found to have a complete suit of bullet proof armour underneath his clothes. The rest of the gang are not captured, owing to the police not wishing to incur unnecessary bloodshed by firing into the public house, which is full of people. - Herald correspondent, Beechworth, 28 June 1880.

• The last sentence is police propaganda. Jack Jones, the 13-year-old son of the inn's proprietor, Ann Jones, was shot dead by police bullets. Two other innocent men were mortally wounded. The rest of the gang died in the furious police fusillade.

Boastful Melbourne gives Sydney poke in the eye

For, though it is true that our elder sister (Sydney) had an International Exhibition last year, it was so hurriedly got up that the exhibits from the old world were comparatively few and unimportant as compared with those shown in the Carlton (Exhibition) Buildings today. - Herald, Melbourne , 1 October, 1880.

• They just couldn't resist giving Sydney a poke in the eye on the occasion of the opening their grand exhibition.

Ned Kelly's defiant last speech

More men than me have put men to death. No man abhors murder more than I do. I do not fear death, and I am the last man in the world to take a man's life away. I believe that two years ago, before this thing happened, if a man pointed a gun at me to shoot me, I should not have stopped him, so careful was I of taking life. I am not a murderer, but if there is an innocent life at stake, then I say I must take some action. If I see innocent life taken, I should certainly shoot if I were forced to do so, but I should first want to know whether this could not be prevented but I should have to do it if it could not be stopped in some other way. - Ned Kelly, about to be sentenced to death, Melbourne, 29 October, 1880.

May the Lord have mercy on your soul. - Justice Sir Redmond Barry, Melbourne, 29 October, 1880.

• Barry's last words to Ned Kelly.

I will go a little further than that, and say I will see you where I go. - Ned Kelly, Melbourne, 29 October, 1880.

• Ned Kelly's last words to Justice Sir Redmond Barry. Sir Redmond Barry died of natural causes twelve days after Kelly was hanged.  

Kelly hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol

The hangman then proceeded to adjust the rope ... The prisoner winced slightly at the first touch of the rope, but quickly recovered himself, and moved his head in order to facilitate the work of Upjohn (the hangman) in fixing the knot properly. No sooner was the rope fixed than without the prisoner being afforded the chance of saying anything more, the signal was given, and the hangman, pulling down the cap, stepped back and had done his work. At the same instant, the mortal remains of Edward Kelly were swinging some eight feet below where he had been previously standing. - Herald , Melbourne, 11 November, 1880.

• Kelly was neither shaved nor had his hair cropped for the execution. An application by his family for the body was refused and he was buried 'in the precincts' of the gaol in Russell St.

If, by some good accident, that meeting could have been swallowed up, or burnt, or drowned, or asphyxiated, Victorian society would have benefited for many years to come, for nearly all the infamy of Melbourne was gathered together ... - Sydney Morning Herald , 11 November, 1880.

• This report of a meeting of Kelly supporters was written the evening before Kelly's execution and reflected the conservative view that Kelly was nothing more than a 'shabby skulker'. However, many people have found in this articulate 25-year-old the folk hero they needed.

At the Robert Burns Hotel, the headquarters of the Kelly family and those who sympathise with the executed criminal, things were singularly quiet this morning.. Outside the hotel were congregated the usual crowd of dirty larrikins and larrikinesses who, it may be conjectured, were at least as anxious to be shouted for by some enthusiastic sympathiser as to hear any details which might transpire as to the death of the bushranger who paid the penalty of the law this morning. Inside the hotel, all was very quiet, and the friends and relatives of Ned Kelly hardly spoke above a whisper, and were evidently considerably affected. Between 10 and 11, Jim Kelly glanced at the clock and remarked, 'Ah, well, the poor devil is out of his misery anyhow by this time.' - Herald, Melbourne , 11 November, 1880.

There was a rumour that a conspiracy was afoot for seizing Mr Berry (Premier of Victoria) and carrying him off into the Strathbogie Ranges. Sydney Morning Herald, 12 November, 1880.  

Henry Parkes isn't a fan of the Irish

... I would advance every opposition in my power to the bringing here of a majority of people from Ireland. I hope I may be able to express this opinion boldly and without reserve, without being charged with bigotry or with a dislike to the Irish people. - Premier Sir Henry Parkes, Legislative Assembly, NSW, 10 March, 1881

• Parkes, of course, was a dispossessed English tenant farmer's son with, in his own words, a 'limited and imperfect education' and a firm upbringing in an Independent church, so his remarks were forgivable.

Mary Watson's extraordinary diary of dying

Natives (4) speared Ah Sam; four places in the right side and three in the shoulder. Got three spears from the natives. - Mary Watson's diary, Lizard Island (Qld), 1 October, 1881 .

• Mary Watson was a woman of great courage and intelligence. In July, 1881, she was left alone with her baby and two Chinese servants on Lizard Island, near Cooktown, while her husband was away fishing for beche-de-mer (sea slug). Mainland aborigines attacked their settlement, killing one Chinese and wounding the other. Mary and the other two fled from the island in a beche-de-mer boiling tank.

No rain, every sign of fine weather. Ah Sam gone away to die. Have not seen him since 9th. Ferrier (her baby) more cheerful; self not feeling at all well. Have not seen any boat of any description. No water. Nearly dead with thirst . - Mary Watson's diary (undated, but found on 22 January, 1882).

• The crew of the schooner, Kate Kearney , found the bodies of Mary and Ferrier, still in the tank, on a cay 50km from Lizard Island. Ah Sam's remains were discovered nearby. They were brought to Cooktown for burial. The aborigines who drove them away, it transpired, were protecting a sacred site.

Governor shuns punting pisspot Giles, he says

I am informed that he gambles and that his habits are not always strictly sober. - South Australian Governor Sir William Jervois, Adelaide, 11 October, 1881.

• Jervois gave reasons for denying the brave explorer, Ernest Giles, government jobs. Giles eventually became a clerk on the Coolgardie (WA) goldfield.

Whooping cough ... and diet of Scots immigrants

A shipload of immigrants from the vessel, South Esk , was quarantined at Peel Island, Moreton Bay, at the entrance to Brisbane, on 13 May, 1882. Peel Island had been the Quarantine Station since 1874. Several cases of whooping cough were reported among the passengers. Surgeon Superintendent J.I.Paddle reported ...

I regret to report that 11 fresh cases of whooping cough occurred among the children since the ship anchored in Moreton Bay on May 10th, including three cases since the passengers were landed. The total number of cases of whooping cough on board and on the Island, reached the number of 20. There were no fresh cases of measles or typhoid fever among the passengers while on the island ... besides the cases of whooping cough, several cases of bronchitis occurred while on the island. These I attributed to the very draughty state of the houses in which the immigrants were lodged. In fact, I am of the opinion that the last three deaths were hastened, if not caused, by the very draughty and leaky state of the hospital. In wet And windy weather, the rain would enter through every chink and it was really difficult to keep the houses dry ...

There were also a few slight cases of diarrhoea which I could refer to the same cause as those of bronchitis. Several other cases were produced by change of diet from salt to fresh provision. I received many complaints from the immigrants with reference to the quarantine rations, which consist of one pound of fresh meat, one pound of bread and a few extras. The majority informed me that they had never been accustomed to fresh meat (living mainly on porridge and farinaceous food) and that it disagreed with them. The one pound of meat they thought was more than they could manage, while they had not enough bread. I would accordingly beg to suggest that one pound of bread and three-quarters of a pound of fresh meat would be considered, at any rate by Scotch immigrants, as a more suitable allowance while in quarantine.

Melbourne has 92 thriving small businesses

The very heart of the city of Melbourne was studded with houses of ill-fame. - Detective David O'Donnell, Victoria Police Gazette , 11 July, 1882, referring to an earlier period.

• Melbourne had a splendid tradition of prostitution, beginning with the gold rush. In the early 1850s, an enquiry said that there were 92 brothels and 257 prostitutes catering to the holidaying diggers' needs.

Savages aren't as 'black as they've been painted'

Their women are surely as valuable to them as our flocks and herds are to us, and as long as we outrage those feelings which human nature has planted in a greater or less degree in even the most savage breast, what right have we to expect that they will respect the property of the aggressor? What right have we to be surprised when we hear that a native 'sulky' with a shepherd for taking his woman away has put the white man to death? Let us set them a good example, and then, perhaps, we may talk of the iniquity of their proceedings - proceedings which, after all, considering the utter savages we are dealing with, have not been so black as they have been painted. - Report to WA Legislative Council, Perth, 1882.

• Squatters in the Murchison district, 200km north of Perth, complained about depredations by aborigines. They were not pleased with the outcome of the inquiry: white men were blamed, largely for not leaving the black women alone.

Sodden, filthy chaps shouldn't vote, claims paper

Of the two thousand people living in the locality of the Back Slums (central city) one half may be men, and on election day, these poor creatures, sunken beneath the level of swine, sodden with foul liquors, and morally speaking, steeped in filth, will jostle with the most worthy at the polls, and neutralise the influence of good men and true. - Argus , Melbourne, 3 February, 1883.

• The Argus , a conservative newspaper, offered an alternative view of Marvellous Melbourne.

Irish maids expect pigs in drawing room, says twit

Your Irish immigrant at eight and ten shillings a week has, often as not, never been inside any other household than her native hovel and stares in astonishment to find you don't keep a pig on your drawing room sofa. - Richard Twopeny, Town Life In Australia, London , 1883.

• Young Twopeny was one of many young English chappies who, quite uninvited, infested the Australian colonies during the 1870s and 1880s, writing books for the amusement of people in the Old Dart. It probably didn't occur to him that the absentee landlord who owned that Irish women's 'native hovel' might well have been his Uncle Bertie. But the, young Twopeny formed these opinions when he was but twenty-one.

Aussie girls could teach English a thing or two

The Australian schoolgirl, with all her free-and-easy manner, and what the Misses Prunes and Prisms would call want of maidenly reserve, could teach your bread-and-butter miss a good many things which would be to her advantage. It is true that neither schoolmistresses or governesses could often pass a Cambridge examination, nor have they any desire for intellectual improvement. But the colonial girl is sharper at picking up what her mistress does know than the English one, and she has more of the boy's emulation. - Richard Twopeny, Town Life In Australia , London, 1883.

But boys' 'impudence verges on impertinence'

The Australian schoolboy is indeed a 'caution'. With all the worst qualities of the English boy, he has but few of his redeeming points. His impudence verges on impertinence. And his total want of respect for everybody and everything passes all European understanding. His father and mother he considers good sort of folk, whom he will not go out of his way to displease; his schoolmaster often becomes, ipso facto, his worst enemy, in the never ceasing war with whom all is fair, and obedience but the last resource. Able to ride almost as soon as he can walk, he is fond of all athletic sports; but it is not till leaving school that his athleticism becomes fully pronounced thus reversing the order observed in England, where the great majority of boys, who are cricket and football mad at school, more or less drop those pursuits as young men. He is too well fed and supplied with pocket money ever to feel the need for theft, but it is difficult to get him to understand Dr Arnold's views about lying and honour. Though not wanting in pluck, he lacks the wholesome experience of a few good lickings, and can easily pass his schooldays without having a single fight. He is quarrelsome enough, but his quarrels rarely go further than hard words and spiteful remarks. At learning he is apt, having the spirit of rivalry strong in him. - Richard Twopeny, Town Life in Australia , 1883.

Forget old rivalries ... for Federation's sake

We have long been separated, and rivalries and jealousies and ignorance of each other have sprung up in consequence, but now we are looped together with bands of iron. Gentlemen, we want Federation and we want it now. I decline to subscribe to the doctrine that I am to die before the grand Federation of the Australian colonies. There is no earthly reason which it should not be achieved. I tell my honourable friend, the Premier of New South Wales, that at a very early opportunity, we intend to test this question. The Government of Victoria have determined to send a message to New South Wales asking them what are the obstacles that stand in the way. - Victorian Premier James Service, Albury (NSW), 14 June, 1883.

• Service, a true Father of Federation, was addressing a gathering of worthies in the railway shed at Albury to celebrate the linking by rail of the two colonies, one, Australia's oldest, and the other, Australia's richest. Service's appeal for Federation, the strongest so far, was directed at his NSW counterpart, Sir Alexander Stuart, who was in the audience. Unfortunately, neither man achieved Service's dream of witnessing an Australian Federation. Stuart died in 1886 and Service in 1899.

Money-grubbers applaud New Guinea grab

The timorous policy which fears any further extension of the British Empire finds no echo here. There is no reasons why that large and fertile island should not be made a new field for immigration, or why the great colonising race of Englishmen should be debarred from replenishing this magnificent wilderness. - Age , Melbourne, 15 June, 1883.

• The newspaper approved the news the Queensland Government of Sir Thomas McIlwraith had annexed eastern New Guinea, ostensibly in response to German ambitions there. Some Australians, particularly the mercantile members of the Melbourne-based Australian Colonising Association, saw at as the beginnings of an Australian empire. Alas, the British Government did not share their dream and refused to ratify the annexation.

1883: Eruptions of Krakatoa volcano in the Sunda Strait, Indonesia, 26-27 August, are the most violent ever recorded. Final eruption kills 36,000, sends a cloud around the world, and is heard in Perth, WA, 3400km south.

Speared twice, stout lad reluctantly pulls back

I have failed in my attempt to cross the continent of New Guinea, and have returned to Queensland. Our party had to turn back when on the point of success. Pursuing a northeasterly direction from Port Moresby we had, with much labour and difficulty, taken horses over the mountains, and where the diggers turned back from want of grass we got into country splendidly grassed right up to the main watershed. Latterly, we had kept bearing to the east to find a place low enough to cross. We had reached the foot of the dividing range, and a day later expected to be across it. We were going to camp there. - Telegram from George (later 'Chinese') Morrison, adventurer and heroic cub reporter, Cooktown (Qld) to Age office, Melbourne, 20 November, 1883.

• Morrison, aged 21 and accompanied by two white men and several natives, was commissioned by the Age and Sydney Morning Herald in his quest to cross New Guinea. He gave up after he was speared in the face and abdomen. The Geelong lad was already an heroic Boy's Own-style figure, having walked from Adelaide to Melbourne and from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Melbourne, backtracking Burke and Wills. After his New Guinea disaster, he resumed medical studies in Edinburgh, first having a spearhead removed from his body. Later, he was an adviser to the Chinese government.

Drought, 1870s-early 80s ... and inland greening

In the early 1880s, Alfred Deakin, chairman of a Victorian colonial commission on irrigation, told the California-based Canadian brothers William and George Chaffey of the irrigation possibilities in the drought-stricken colony. George Chaffey acted impetuously. In an interview with the Sydney Mail in Los Angeles (published 30 April, 1884), he said .. .

We shall start work immediately the Government surveyors have defined the boundaries of the entire block of 250,000 acres; one or both of us will reside at Mildura to superintend arrangements. First of all, we shall subdivide 10,000 acres into 10-acre allotments, with roads around every block of 160 acres, which will be the maximum that any man can hold. The surveying will, of course, be done at our own expense. Irrigation will then be started on this 10,000-acre block, which will be then under the process of reclamation while the remainder of Mildura is being subdivided. This system will be followed until the whole of the country is ready for cultivation. The erection of pumping plant, and the laying of pipes will be carried on simultaneously with the clearing of the ground; but we shall in the meantime utilise the billabongs and natural depressions as much as possible for irrigation.

Would the labour be American or Australian?

We are right glad you asked that question. We wish every prominence given to our intentions in that respect. Skilled labour will be brought from America for some branches of the work, but the great bulk of it will be performed by Australian labour. We don't propose to do a single stroke of work by daywork that can be done by contract.

The Chaffeys were granted 250,000 acres on very favourable terms by the Victorian Government. Now for the tricky question: How would they sell it back to the aspiring fruit growing battlers?

Our conditions will be as light as possible commensurate with profit to ourselves. It is proposed to sell the cleared ground with water on the highest corner so it will flow over every part at 20 pounds per acre; this to be paid by monthly instalments with interest at five per cent for annum, the purchaser to have the privilege of paying up at any time. He will also possess a perpetual water right; or in other words a share pro rata to the extent of his holding in the pumping gear, pipes, conduits etc on a section of, say, from 50,000 to 100,000 acres ... Furthermore, as a fruitgrower has to wait three years before obtaining a return from his land, we would during that period lease him any extent he could possibly handle for the purpose of raising grain, roots or any other annual crop and take one fourth of the produce as rent ...

George Chaffey arrived in Melbourne in February, 1886, visited the Mildura district and, on 21 October, signed an agreement committing the brothers to spend 300,000 pounds on improvements over the next 20 years. In Parliament, they were condemned as 'Yankee land-grabbers', but Deakin's historic Irrigation Bill went ahead. The Australian Irrigationist , a supplement in the Weekly Times , commented on 30 October, 1886 ...

The Irrigation Bill was fairly launched in the Legislative Council (the traditionally monied conservative-controlled Upper House) on 19th inst., when Mr Cuthbert moved the second reading of the measure. He did not attempt to follow the lead of Mr Deakin (Attorney-General and champion of irrigation), and infuse into the subject a personal enthusiasm which might impress, if it did not convince, the minds of his hearers. All efforts to surround his theme with the flowers of rhetoric were severely eschewed. There was no saddening picture drawn of the hardships against which selectors in the arid districts of the north have to struggle, no stress laid upon the overwhelming necessity of irrigation if settlement in these localities is to be maintained, and no glowing anticipations held out concerning the wonderful results which the Ministerial projects are to ensure. And perhaps Mr Cuthbert was wise to avoid the example. The times have changed, and the audience also. The welcome rains, which have all present dread of of a recurrence of the preceding years, seem to have somewhat dampened the ardour with which the proposals were first received. The colder atmosphere of the council also averse to oratorical display. The Upper House is always inclined to be critical, as becomes a house of review, and especially so when any question of the rights of property were involved. The cue is now to minimise, and not enlarge upon, the grandeur of the projects ...

So the drought had broken! But the Bill passed, anyway, which was a good thing, because another drought was on the way. And there were rabbit plagues. And the Victorian banks were about to collapse (1893) which nearly sent the Chaffeys broke. George even went to London to sell (unsuccessfully) their second scheme at Renmark (SA) to investors. But Mildura survived and is now one of the fruit bowls of the world.

Land Boom! It spells the end of good times

The crowd that attends these (land) sales is usually of a motley description, especially if a free lunch is provided. - Illustrated Australian News , Melbourne, 14 May, 1884.

1884: British Protectorate declared over southeastern New Guinea, 6 November, followed by German declaration over northeast coast, New Britain, New Ireland and neighbouring groups.

Oh, what they might have taught us!

What mines of interesting knowledge the aborigines must have but which, as they are perishing fast, will, if not taken from them soon, be lost utterly. - Explorer William Landsborough, Caloundra (Qld) in a letter to botanist Ferdinand von Mueller, 24 June, 1884.

• Landsborough was aged 59 when he made this too-late plea. He was a pastoralist entrepreneur-cum-explorer who led the first north-south crossing of Australia in 1862 in a joint Queensland-Victoria expedition to search for Burke and Wills. He learned during the journey that their remains had been located at Cooper Creek.

1884, and price of spuds is up in Wee Waa

District news Wee Waa. No steamers have come up the lagoon for some time. The price of potatoes and onions are very high, the Chinese having all the trade to themselves. - Narrabri (NSW) Herald , 12 November, 1884.

• The Namoi River, which rises in the Great Dividing Range near Tamworth, was in flood again.

This squatting life

They took possession of the station, and turned me out without a shilling, and without a horse to ride. - Squatter D. W. F. Hatten, Darling River, NSW, 1885.

• A young gentleman squatter found that one did not trifle with with big pastoral companies.

1885: Colonel Charles Gordon is killed by the Mahdi's men at Khartoum, an event which prompts an extraordinary outpouring of grief in Australia .

Cast iron guarantee

Matrimonial introductions. Guaranteed fidelity. Directions forwarded on receipt of half-a-crown in stamps. James M. Maine, Hawthorn. - Herald , Melbourne, March, 1885.

Melbourne 's cable trams' 'motion is smooth'

The motion is smooth and more so, indeed, than railway trains, and is in marked contrast to the motion of the cabs and omnibuses that the trams are soon to replace in this city. - Herald , Melbourne, 27 October, 1885.

• The Herald gave the thumbs up to Melbourne's cable trams after a test ride from Richmond to Spencer St. On 11 November, 1885, the service was opened to the public. Marvellous Melbourne's cable tram network was conceived in the 1870s by a Massachusetts-born stagecoach operator, Francis Boardman Clapp, who arrived in Victoria in the 1850s to cash in on the gold rush transport needs. In 1877, he bought the Victorian right to the patents for the San Francisco system. By 1891, the year of its completion, the Melbourne network covered 70km. The last cable tram ran in Melbourne in 1940.

When in Rome

Mutton is of course omnipresent on a sheep station - at breakfast in the shape of chops, at lunch in the form of cold joints, and at dinner at the end of the day as a hot leg, shoulder, or the like. One colonial friend used to have his six mutton chops regularly as clockwork for breakfast, and then be off for a whole day, riding till sundown, when he would then line the inner man with deep intakings of shoulder or leg. - P. Clarke, New Chum in Australia , London, 1886.

• What's wrong with that?

'expectorating tobacco juice and ... blasphemy'

Let me give a description of a typical male specimen as he may be found at the street corners about seven o'clock in the evening, expectorating tobacco juice and talking blasphemy. He is generally a weedy youth, undersized, and slight, but like all Australians, who are cast in a lanky, not thickset mould, he is wiry and active. - E. Kinglake, The Australian At Home , c. 1880s.

• Social commentators seem to be baffled by the phenomenon of the larrikin, a peculiar product of the underclasses in Sydney and Melbourne.The Bulletin thought he might be a relic of convictism, carrying traditional resentment towards people who put on airs.

That these 'smooth-faced, snub-nosed' rogues as Tennyson calls them, who earn their living selling ladies' ribbons and laces over their masters' counters, should institute a reign of terror and compel manful and honest men to sneak to their homes by back streets and alleys is a mortal insult to human virility. - Table Talk , Melbourne, 8 April, 1886.

'Slave' employers try for separate colony

That Your Majesty's humble petitioners further humbly represent that, in view of the federation of the Australian colonies, it is essential that the important district of North Queensland should be formed into a separate colony ... - Petition to Queen Victoria, 1886.

• The Colony of North Queensland did not come into being, however humble Queen Victoria's petitioners were. Part of the colonists' agenda was the continuation of Kanaka labour without interference from the south.

Your Majesty's petitioners have also learned that on or about the fourteenth day of January, 1885, a letter was written by certain person named J. Ewen Davidson and J. B. Lawes, on behalf of themselves and other interested as investors of a large amount of capital in the north-eastern seaboard of the Colony', and addressed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Derby, Your Majesty's Principle Secretary of State for the Colonies expressing 'their sympathy with the present movement for the separation of the Northern or tropical from the Southern or temperate portion of the Colony'. - Petition to Queen Victoria, London, 1886.

• The colonists who signed this petition opposing the breakaway colony of North Queensland were themselves North Queenslanders. They were anxious to inform the British authorities that the gentlemen mentioned hoped to use cheap Asian labour.

Victoria v. NSW ... taking sides in the debate

That New South Wales having had 50 years the start of Victoria, four times the territory, payable coal fields ... with the so-called perfect fiscal policy thrown in, is today far behind Victoria, industrially and financially, measured by either rate of progress or actual results. - Age , Melbourne, 9 April, 1887.

• The Protectionist Age had a self-satisfied gloat at the expense of Victoria's northern neighbour. The Free Traders took their right of reply in the Sydney Morning Herald ...

I think you will agree with me that the novelist of The Age, in the expressive language of Artemus Ward, has here made a capital goak for he points the finger of scorn at certain industries as Free Trade failures, which are really we have permitted to obtain whatever blessings protection can bestow. - E. Pulsford, Secretary of the Free Trade Association of NSW, Sydney, 1887.

• Artemus Ward was a deceased American humorist (1834-67) noted for droll humour and eccentric spelling. 'Goak' has disappeared into obscurity, but intercolonial unpleasantness hasn't.

They lapped up this piffle in Toorak, South Yarra

Throughout the length and breadth of Queen Victoria's dominions, there has been no more dazzling scene of splendour during this Jubilee season than which His Excellency guests were privileged to witness at Government House on Wednesday night. Queen Elizabeth and Amy Robsart were both represented by proxy, and if they had been present in the flesh, they would have been fain to admit that not even the Earl of Leicester's historical pageant at Kenilworth was more bewildering in its magnificence. It was a blaze of colour; a poem in tones; a glimpse of fairyland. - Table Talk , Melbourne, 24 June, 1887.

• The embarrassing part is that this fawning rubbish was probably written by a BLOKE , Maurice Brodzky, editor of Table Talk.

Advertising pays!

HORNE! HORNE! HORNE! J. W. R. Horne, of Boggabri, is always blowing his horn about selling his Timber so cheap, yet he has not gone bung. - Advertisement , Narrabri (NSW) Herald, 22 July, 1887 .

• This sort of advertising succeeds. By 1914, J. W. R. Horne was the only man in Boggabri with a chauffeur-driven Cadillac (or anywhere else in the bush, we suppose) .

Henry Lawson, aged 20, emerges from the bush

Sons of the South, awake! arise!

Sons of the South, and do.

Banish from under your Bonney skies

Those old-world errors and wrongs and lies

Making a hell in Paradise

That belongs to your sons and you. - Henry Lawson, Bulletin , Sydney, 1 October, 1887.

• A new, radical, angry voice had burst upon the Australia scene. Lawson was aged twenty when A Song Of The Republic became his first published poem.

... and another confused, radical voice

We are for this in Australia, for the nationality that is creeping to the verge of being, for the progressive people that it just plucking aside the curtain that veils its fate . - William Lane, Boomerang , Brisbane, 19 November, 1887.

• William Lane was born in Bristol, England, and came to Australia in 1883 to help organise the Australian Labour Federation. Despite his recent arrival in the colonies, he rapidly became a passionate nationalist. But the success of the pastoralists in resisting the early demand of the trade union movement disappointed him deeply and, in 1893, he moved to Paraguay with 200 other colonists to establish the utopian colony of Cosme. When that, too, began to fail, he returned to Australia and, finally, New Zealand where he edited the New Zealand Herald until his death in 1917.

Amid Lane's angry outpourings, the Australian colonies marked the 100th anniversary of their founding on 26 January, 1888. The Argus sent its correspondent along to hear the Governor, Lord Carrington, address the Sydney celebrations , where the crowd showed little enthusiasm for him or the subject: Everyone appeared to be admiring Lady Carrington, who made the prettiest of pictures in a white dress trimmed with black and who, with a half amused look, watched a fight in the crowd, ending in the mob hooting the police. They always do this in Sydney - hoot and jeer. But they are not dangerous.

But back to William Lane and the Chinese Question ...

Vile as these fellows are in many ways, in others they are simply sublime. Their very vices, crawling and unspeakable sins, commend them to those who are irritated by the white man's more boisterous evils. Opium smoking is more deadly than liquor drinking, but it isn't quarrelsome. It is only when they insult unprotected women that many realise how unrestrained sensuality elbows the domestic virtues in the Chinaman's heart. - William Lane, Boomerang , Brisbane, 4 February, 1888.

• Lane did fine work with the creation of the labour movement and, eventually, the establishment of the Utopian socialist colony in Paraguay. But his vitriol became muddled when he turned to other social questions.

Not good enough!

All the encouragement I got when speaking of the plough to some of the farmers, they would say, 'We must have the stumps out' . - R. Shapland, The Invention of the Stump-Jumping Plough , Adelaide, 1888.

BIG push towards Federation

I. That the time has come when it is desirable to provide for the the establishment of a Federal Parliament for Australasia.

2. That the Federal Parliament should be empowered to deal with national questions, leaving to the Parliament of each colony all legislation affected local affairs.

3. That the members of the Federal Parliament should consist of an equal number of representatives of each colony, to be elected by the people of each colony.

4. That the Federal Parliament should be empowered to raise the necessary revenue for the purposes of the Federal Government. - Resolutions approved by the Board of the Adelaide branch of the Australian Natives' Association, Adelaide, 21 November, 1888.

• The Australian Natives' Association, an organisation restricted to 'native-born' Australians (though not aborigines, silly!) was particularly active in Victoria in the push for Federation. This resolution from the Adelaide branch, however, expressed most of the ANA's ideals. The ANA is credited largely with bringing about the Corowa Federation Conference in 1893 and many of its ideas were included in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900.

450 horses 'rested'

I always know when a tram is coming, Daddy. I can hear them whipping the horses. - Remark by an anonymous little girl, South Australian Advertiser , 26 January, 1889.

• The poor horses were getting old and tired. Adelaide finally got electric trams in 1909 and 450 horses were turned out for a rest (or so they told us).

Australasia unlimited ... someone's dreaming

For it has been well said that Australasia commences at Hong Kong and ends with New Zealand. - Internal memo, Premier's Department, Hobart, 1 March, 1889.

• This was an expansionist view of the possibilities an Australian Federation.

11. 1890-1899

'Down went McGinty to the bottom of the sea' (shipwreck survivor John Sims, Melbourne, 28 August, 1891)

IF Melbourne, or 'Smellbourne', stank before, it really was on the nose with the great moneybags of the world in the 1890s. The bubble burst for the city's greedy land speculators. Simply, they were playing loose with British money, and when this capital was withdrawn, the banks, behind their Florentine or Gothic facades, went down with a terrible crash. Of course, it was the middle-class and poor who suffered most; the rich, who were to blame, could take the easy option and shoot themselves, or flee overseas on the first available steamer. Many of the speculators came to cosy arrangements with their chums: one stockbroker who owed 1.5 million pounds settled secretly with his creditors for a halfpenny in the pound. Fortunately, many of the working class poor could take refuge in the newly-discovered goldfields at Coolgardie (1892) and Kalgoorlie (1893). Melbourne had been the second city of the British Empire, but the population of the colony fell by 16,000 and Sydney resumed its place as the first city of Australia. All these woes were accompanied in Queensland, NSW and Victoria by bitter strikes by shearers and maritime workers, which led to the formation of the Australian Labour Party.

As Victoria's star waned, Western Australia's grew brighter. Gold drew immigrants from overseas as well as the eastern colonies and the population soared from 48,000 in 1890 to 180,000 in 1900. Sir John Forrest, premier throughout the 1890s, saw his iron grip on the colony loosened by this influx of new arrivals. As Federation approached, and Forrest doggedly resisted it, miners centred on Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie threatened to break away from Western Australia and form their own State. Forrest was the last colonial premier to succumb to the inevitable. Life was not all misery in the east. Banjo Paterson had emerged to challenge Henry Lawson's often gloomy view of life in the bush. When his Man From Snowy River And Other Verses was published in 1895 it was welcomed by city-based Australians who saw in the Man the embodiment of the true Australian. The same year, he wrote the words to Waltzing Matilda while visiting Dagworth Station, Queensland. Even in Melbourne, people drew some relief from the plight of Frederick Deeming, the worst mass murderer of recent times in the British Empire and the man said to be London's captivating 'Jack the Ripper'. His execution at the Old Melbourne Gaol was followed as attentively as that of Ned Kelly twelve years earlier. But, unlike Kelly, Deeming had no fans among the women.

With the approach of nationhood, Empire loyalty was the common bond among the great mass of the people, with the noisy exception of the Worker , in Brisbane, and the Bulletin , in Sydney. They detested the British ruling class, lawyers, aborigines and they positively hated Chinese. They were comfortable with the fact that aborigines were in decline and would eventually die out. Daisy Bates, who was commissioned by the Times of London in 1899 to write a series on the treatment of aborigines in Western Australia and eventually went to live among them, reinforced this view. The 'dying out' theorists appeared to be correct at the time of Federation when their numbers were thought to have reached just 20,000. But they survived and multiplied.

Strike me lucky! An Australian Court!

Sir Henry followed with a brilliant passage, in which strong appeals were made to the national sentiment. Pictures were drawn of an Australian nation as powerful as European nations, of Australian sailors as good as British sailors, of Australian citizens as peers of the citizens of the proudest nations on earth, and of an Australian Governor-General holding a Court as attractive as the Court of any of the greatest potentates on earth. - The Herald , Melbourne, 15 February, 1890.

• An early Federation Conference, attended by representatives from all the Australian colonies and New Zealand, was held in Melbourne to discuss the ideas of Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of NSW.

Here's a twist: loser sent to England

J.J. Annum, the youth who shot himself in the Metropolitan Hotel last Melbourne Cup Day, in consequence of losses on the Cup, appeared at the District Court yesterday, charged with attempted suicide. He promised to leave for England forthwith, his father having remitted money for that purpose. - Court report, Melbourne, 15 February, 1890.

Surviving the wreck of the steamship, Quetta

I seemed to sink for ever, deeper and deeper, and when I surfaced it was only to be pressed down again by the struggling bodies of scores of Javanese passengers. Finally I broke free and began to search for my mother, but never saw her again. - Alice Nicklin, passenger, steamship Quetta , Cape York, 28 February, 1890.

• Alice Nicklin, Emily Lacey and a baby girl were the only white women to survive the sinking. The Quetta , heading from Queensland ports via Torres Strait to England, struck a hitherto uncharted rock. Of the 293 people on board, 133 were lost.

9.30 (am). Picked up a young lady swimming. - Captain Reid, rescue steamer Albatross , Cape York, 2 March, 1890.

• This was sixteen-year-old Emily Lacey, a survivor from the Quetta . She had been in the water for more than 24 hours. But teenage Queensland girls are like that! She said later she 'lost her way among the islands'. Frank Jardine, boss of the outpost station, Somerset, cared for Quetta survivors and it was said that future passing steamers would sound their horns as a mark of respect for him.

Conservative waterfront workplace reforms

Fire low and lay them out! - Colonel Tom Price, Victorian Mounted Rifles, Melbourne, 29 August, 1890.

• This was Price's answer to any strike action. Fortunately, his bluster was ignored.

They have served out ball cartridge! They have served out ball cartridge and are going to fire on my countrymen! - Writer Henry Lawson, Circular Quay, Sydney, 19 September, 1890.

• The great strikes by shearers and maritime workers were underway. They were supported by gas workers, miners and wharf labourers. At Circular Quay, strikers attempted to stop wool shorn by non-union labour being loaded on ships. These events led eventually to the formation of the Australian Labour Party.

Carbine wins the Cup!

The Hill roared to the flat and the flat to stand and lawn. Hats went flying through the air like leaves rent by a September gale. Men leapt and shouted and women by the hundred screamed with delight. Up in the wake of the horses flowed the people like flood waves across a barrier all shouting, all cheering, whether winners or losers, full of jubilation and exultation over the greatest victory ever known on the Australian turf. - Argus, Melbourne , 8 November, 1890.

• And so the mighty Carbine won the Melbourne Cup carrying the impossible weight of 10st. 5lb.

Remnants of Sydney tribes cry for help

Drink and a harsh life is killing us off. White people ought to be very good to us, for they got our good land for nothing. We didn't want them to pay us for it, but they ought to help us to live. - Petition from 'native blacks about Sydney', 6 December, 1890.

• This was a plea from the remnants of the Sydney aborigines for some land at Jervis Bay, on the NSW south coast.

Parkes damned as a sneak plotter and imperialist

We seek to remain side by side with that dear old England that we all love so well. - NSW Premier Sir Henry Parkes, National Australasian Convention, Sydney, 2 March, 1891.

• Parkes, 'the founding father' of Federation, was aged seventy-five and was anxious not to loosen ties with Britain. He was opposed vehemently by the Bulletin magazine which lumped him with the 'sneak plotters and the imperialists' .

WA: Sad summary (but boom times are coming)

Close observers of cause and effect will be able to trace many conditions under which agricultural pursuits have suffered, but these conditions are incidental to the peculiar circumstances of the colony; its early settlement, its isolation from general commercial intercourse with the other colonies; to the absence of those attractions which have taken people past our shores to the sister colonies; are not directly traceable to any inherent infertility of soil. - Agricultural Commission Report, WA Legislative Council, 1891.

• At a time of responsible government and on the eve of the great gold finds at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, the Commission had time to reflect on the colony's 60 years of sometimes troubled history.

Boring, too

Sir, I have the honour to apply for removal to another school as I cannot bear the coldness of this place. - A young schoolmistress's plea to the Education Department, Sydney, from Khancoban, NSW, 31 July, 1891.

• Khancoban, under the great western wall of the Snowy Mountains, was, indeed, a chilly place.

Died laughing

We had several other songs, some comic, and one with the refrain, Down Went McGinty To The Bottom Of The Sea. - John Sims, survivor, Melbourne, 28 August, 1891.

• Sims described the last moments aboard the steamer Gambier before she collided with the Easby near Port Phillip Heads. Twenty-one people aboard the Gambier drowned.

Aust poet praises American Walt Whitman!

I do not fear, as you seem to do, that we shall separate from Britain. I advocated it once, nay a society to bring it about, which I am pleased to say soon died. For this change as for many others, I must thank you. I like to hear your ideas on Australians and would say much myself but that I don't want to bother you to much. We want a Walt Whitman here: ours is a democracy too with even more hopeful prospects than yours but with great dangers ahead (especially social). And here too the song of material interests drowns the other pieces of the chorus. - Letter from Victorian poet Bernard O'Dowd, Melbourne, to American poet Walt Whitman, New Jersey, 31 August, 1891.

• O'Dowd corresponded regularly with Whitman on Federation matters. Whitman, who was encouraged in his early years by English writers, seems to have expressed fears about Australia separating from Britain. Whitman, suffering the effects of a stroke, died the following year, aged 72.

Chaffey brothers' Yankee know-how greens inland

The Mildura settlement is the scene of the greatest experiment in irrigation yet undertaken in Victoria, and the success or failure of irrigation at Mildura must largely influence its success or failure throughout the colony. - Victorian Year Book , 1892.

• George and William Chaffey, California-based irrigation pioneers, came to Australia at the invitation of Alfred Deakin, to establish an irrigation settlement at Mildura, on the Murray River. Their early initiatives were dogged by controversy and financial problems, caused largely by the Melbourne bank crash of 1893. But their plans proved a success.

A popular execution among the gentler sex

I would crawl to Melbourne on my hands and knees to see him hang if they would let me. - Unidentified young woman, Sydney, 10 April, 1892

• She was referring to Frederick Bailey Deeming, popularly regarded as the British Empire's most evil mass murderer of the 19th century. He was thought to be even more horrible than Jack the Ripper who (said the newspapers) he might have been. Such was the hatred of him generated by the newspapers that the young woman's published comment was made before he was put to trial.

At last society has the chance of getting even with one plumber. - Bulletin , Sydney, May, 1892.

• Deeming, apart from being a murderer and confidence trickster, was also a plumber.

Are they going to take all day about it? - Unnamed convict, Melbourne Gaol, 23 May, 1892.

• The inmate was annoyed at the delay taken in hanging Frederick Deeming, the most distinguished person to be executed in the gaol since Ned Kelly in 1880. Prisoners enjoyed front row seats at hangings because some cells were only metres from the drop.

... that Deeming should have died in absolute painlessness seems hardly in accordance with the demands of poetical justice in his case. - Adelaide Observer , 24 May, 1892.

• Deeming, born in England, murdered Emily Mather, whom he had bigamously married, and buried her body under a fireplace in suburban Windsor, Melbourne. Investigations led to the discovery of the bodies of his first wife and children under a house floor in Lancashire, England. His defence, led by the future Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, tried unsuccessfully to establish his insanity.

Victims of the Bank Crash

Privation, want and semi-starvation stand gaunt and inflexible as the prospects faced by hundreds of sturdy fellows, who cannot, try as they may, get a day's work; whilst faintly, but with sharp meaning, may be heard the cry of children and the wailing of women. - Age series, Melbourne, June, 1892.

• The soul-destroying face of the new poverty, brought about by the sudden bank crash depression of the 1890s, stood in stark contrast to the lives still led by the nouveau riche.

Whilst the Block is crowded with its well-dressed throng, or the play-houses are receiving their thousands of satisfied patrons, the forlorn and destitute workers are herding in alleys and lanes, or cowering in garret or cellar like hunted animals; side by side, almost rubbing shoulders with the children of the rich, can be found the emaciated and wasted faces of the women and their little ones. - Age series, Melbourne, June, 1892.

Aborigines survive ... just (despite Bulletin )

Speaking from a purely practical point of view, unconnected with any feeling of duty or humanity, there is no valid reason why the nigger should not be wiped out by - let us say - natural decay . - Bulletin , Sydney, 11 June, 1892.

• That was a popular viewpoint in the 1890s. Alarmingly, it nearly came to pass. Some anthropologists estimated that aboriginal numbers declined to 20,000 at the turn of the century. But, despite the best efforts of many people, they survived and, eventually, reached the 300,000 they are guessed to have numbered at the arrival of the First Fleet.

Mother's plea to a son ... somewhere out there

Last heard of on Coolgardie gold field. Mother thinks you must be dead. - Coolgardie Courier , WA , 20 January, 1893.

• The population of WA rose from 30,000 in 1880 to 180,000 in 1900, fed largely by poor people in Melbourne escaping the excesses of the land crash. This young man may have been one of many lying in a lonely grave in the unforgiving country.

Melbourne Land Boom greedy-guts condemned

'.. Adam, as soon as he got out of the Garden of Eden, must have set up business as a bank director or company promoter. - Brisbane Worker , 20 March, 1893.

• Well might the intercolonial newspapers sneer at Melbourne. The bloated capitalists, having made outrageous deals with each other, were finally coming unstuck. They had lurched from one land boom crisis to the next, living on British credit and the savings of the Melbourne middle class and poor since 1891.

Lord Byron woke one morning and found himself famous. Similarly, Melbourne woke this morning and found itself foolish . - The Herald , Melbourne, 2 May, 1893.

• The days of Marvellous Melbourne, the city of greed and grandeur, were over. The colonial government proclaimed a five-day bank 'holiday' to give the banks time to rethink their positions. Distraught customers had no access to their savings.

THE BEEHIVE CLOTHING CO. must have ready cash this week and are compelled to sell their gigantic stock of New Winter Clothing AT ANY PRICE. - Advertisement, Melbourne, 2 May, 1893.

• The government closing of the banks brought out the city's finest entrepreneurial instincts.

The policy of the continent at large should be to declare Victoria an infected province until its moral character has been renovated and its reputation restored. - Bulletin , Sydney, 18 November, 1893.

'Goodbye, Melbourne Town,

Melbourne Town, goodbye,

I am leaving you today,

For a country far away.

Although today I'm stony broke,

Without a single brown,

When I make my fortune I'll come back and spend it,

In dear old Melbourne Town.' - Popular song, 1890s.

In 1890-91, when the collapse in Argentina and the Baring fiasco suddenly arrested the outflow of British capital, and, in 1891-92, when British depositors commenced withdrawing their Australian deposits, serious inconvenience was the result, and the crisis which followed was materially intensified. - Chief Secretary of NSW, Sir George Dibbs, 1893.

Westward and waterless

This country makes water-lovers of men who, in the city, never used water except for baths. - Randolph Bedford, Clarion (WA), 1893.

Parkes, Barton begin talks on Federation

I have often thought that I should like to have some conversation with you on the subject of Federation. What is most wanted is a union of mind and methods in this field of activity and fuller knowledge of the national life we seek to bring about. - Letter from Sir Henry Parkes to Edmund Barton, Sydney, 9 November, 1894.

• Thus began an alliance between two of the founding fathers of the Australian Commonwealth. The Corowa Federation Conference in July-August, 1893, had caught the popular imagination. One of the delegates, a Bendigo lawyer John Quick, broke a deadlock of 'words, words, words' by proposing that each Colonial Parliament should pass an Act providing for a new convention, which would be directly elected by the people, rather than chosen by the Parliaments. His 'Corowa Plan' was adopted and led to a new Federal Convention in 1897.

All that glitters is often bull

It is most improbable that the rich quality of the Londonderry can be surpassed anywhere in the universe. - Prospectus for the Londonderry (WA) Gold Mining Company, London, 10 November, 1894.

• The company had a grand launch in London, but the mine proved a dud.

Despite its woes, Melbourne lights up

Melbourne remains a progressive city - the metropolis was lit up with electricity last night and was lit up well. Gas, so far as a public work is concerned, has had its day in the capital. - Argus , Melbourne, 9 March, 1894.

WA from broken Victoria ... in hope

The exodus to West Australia continues without any signs of abatement. Several steamers leave the Yarra wharves every week, most of them with full complements of passengers. Most of them are young men and the feeling among this class of emigrant is generally one of absolute certainty that he is not saying adieu but simply au revoir . - Illustrated Australian News , Melbourne, 1 May, 1894.

It was a frightful passage and nearly everyone was sick, waves as high as mountains. Sometimes, we were right on top, sometimes in the valleys. We had an earthquake between here and Adelaide which nearly shook the ship to pieces. - George A'Vard, gold seeker, bound for Western Australia, 1894.

• The A'Vard family, village settlers from the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne, joined the gold rush - but didn't get to the diggings. They stayed in Perth, and eventually returned to Melbourne.

The starving poor of Melbourne

We supply 800 people twice a week. We give them bread, meat, and vegs. The majority of cases are women and children, the husbands having gone into the country to look for work. - Relief organiser, South Melbourne food depot, 1 May, 1894.

Shearers burn the paddlesteamer, Rodney

Lights were then applied and the steamer soon became ablaze. She drifted about the river for some time and eventually sank. - Sydney Morning Herald , 27 August, 1894.

• Striking shearers burned the paddlesteamer, Rodney , near Pooncarie, on the Darling River. She was carrying forty-five non-union shearers to a station upstream. At his trial in Sydney, Thomas Bonner, one of eight men arrested, was sentenced to seven years. As he was led away, he said: Thank you, Your Honour, for your leniency, but you have sentenced an innocent man.

No, nothing except a swagman waltzing Matilda down along the river. - Jack Carter, overseer at Dagworth Station, Qld, late-1894.

• Carter had been asked if he had noticed any shearers' union activity. The poet, Banjo Paterson, a guest at the station, is said to have become intrigued by Carter's remark and penned the words to the ballad, Waltzing Matilda.

Bulletin declares for a racist, republican Australia

The Bulletin favours -

A republican form of government.

One person, one vote.

Complete Secularisation and Freedom of State Education.

Reform of the Criminal Code and Prison System.

A United Australia and Protection against the World.

Australia for the Australians - The cheap Chinaman, the cheap Nigger and cheap European to be absolutely excluded.

A State bank, the issue of bank notes to be a State monopoly.

The direct election of Ministers by Parliament, instead of Party Government, or rather, Government by Contradiction.

A new Parliamentary system; one House to be elected by constituencies as at present, the other to be elected by the whole country voting as one constituency.

A Universal System of Compulsory Life Assurance.

The entire Abolition of the Private Ownership of Land.

The Referendum.

The Abolition of titles of so-called 'nobility'. - Bulletin , Sydney, 17 November, 1894.

Cherry-coloured rascals wreck dope's concertina

After pulling out everything, the blacks at last espied his concertina, and one huge cherry-coloured rascal reached out and laid his hand upon it, but happening to press the keys the instrument made a sound, whereupon the whole mob threw waddies and spears at the concertina, until it was bashed into a shapeless heap, and then rushing upon it in a body, battered the very keys into the ground. - Coolgardie Miner , 2 April, 1895.

• This tale, related by the wronged prospector, Jack Hagar, was meant to illustrate the superiority of the white man's intellect over that of the black man. How was it then, that after they robbed his camp, he was forced to flee bareback, using a pickhandle for a whip, to another camp to ask for food? Oh, he would have fought back. But he forgot his bullets.

Perils of having women on top

A recent traveller gives a description of Jerusalem which is strangely suggestive of what Australian cities will be, when the teetotal and sabbatarian crowd, and the Social Gimlet Society, and the pious, blue-spectacled variety of New Women get on top. - Bulletin , Sydney, 1 June, 1895.

Darker side of our southernmost light

With the continued ill health of my wife, and my own also failing I find the very severe climate of Maatsuyker too much for us ... I fear to have another winter here. - Robert Garroway, head keeper, Maatsuyker Lighthouse, southern Tasmania, 3 July, 1895.

• Maatsuyker Island (also known as De Witt) was named by Abel Tasman in 1642 and became a base for sealers and whalers. Garroway's remarks were contained in a plea to the Hobart Marine Board for his transfer. In 1902, a successor, Hermann Naas, wrote : I also beg ... that you will please send me to a station where I could get my children schooled. I have never had the opportunity to send them to school and I have a lot of them.

Bloody times forthcoming at dentist (Parental Guidance etc)

The last and most ingenious resort of the dental surgeon is implantation, that it, the setting of new teeth into the jaw. For this purpose, says an English paper, real teeth are employed and not artificial ones. Cocaine having first been applied for producing local anaesthesia, a hole is drilled into the jawbone, and into this socket a good tooth newly drawn from somebody's jaw is set. If the patient is young and vigorous, the osseous stucture soon close around it and by the time the gum is healed the tooth is ready for use. It should last from three to ten years. In the case of an elderly or feeble person, it may be fastened in place by silver wires passing around the jawbone. The root of a freshly-extracted tooth is covered with a delicate membrane called the 'pericementum', the vitality of which materially assists the wished-for combining of the tissues. Unless the grinder is directly transferred, the vitality of this membrane must be artifically preserved. One way of doing it is to graft the tooth temporarily into the comb of a cock, that part of the fowl being well fed with blood, as may be seen from its redness. When wanted for use, it is cut out. Ordinarily, the patient is obliged to wait for a while until the dentist has a suitable tooth freshly-extracted, unless his chooses to hire someone to sacrifice one . - Herald Standard , Melbourne, 23 August, 1895.

Literary volunteers besiege Education Dept!

Literature, 'free, gratis and for nothing' is the latest form of Victorian patriotism, ad the Secretary of Education is suffering from an 'embarras des riches' of offers in this respect. As he expresses it, literary volunteers are absolutely tumbling over one another with offers of gratuitous assistance to the department in the task of producing the local school books. Special articles are a drug in the market, pamphlets are as plentiful as gooseberries, and the only dangers threatening the State educated children of the future in Victoria is a severe attack of intellectual indigestion from the rich banquet of free knowledge offered to them. Most subjects have been dealt with by those lending assistance, but there are one or two avenues still open. As yet, the secretary has received no article on 'convincing an umpire' or 'the best methods of squaring a juryman without attracting the attention of a Supreme Court Judge'. There is still a hope that the hiatus may be filled, and thus the curriculum for Victorian youth completed . - Herald Standard , Melbourne, 23 August, 1895.

• Of course, our witty late-19th century journalist would have no way of knowing that bachelors' degrees are probably available in such courses in the 21st century.

Going without

In Memory of Henry Petersen, Born 1849, Died of Thirst, 23. 11. 95 - Headstone near Norseman, WA.

Young men, and those who wish to marry soon who, as the result of early follies, suffer from any of the following symptoms: Frequent headaches, etch, through seeing halos of circles round a candle, yellow discharge from the mouth during sleep, palpitation of the heart, falling hair and failing memories, should consult me immediately to avert life-long misery. - Quack's advertisement , Esperance Times , 3 January, 1896.

• For the unfamiliar, this is a dire warning about male masturbation.

'Peace in everyone's lifetime,' Regardfully yours

For fifteen centuries there has been no break in the amity of the two nations and Germans and Englishmen should consider it an impossibility that any hostility could ever occur between them . - Baron Sir Ferdinand von Mueller (at a function celebrating the 25th anniversary of German unification), Melbourne, 20 January, 1896.

• Von Mueller made at least two major bad predictions in his life. One was the above. A second was that the European blackberry, which he introduced, would be an agricultural boon, not the pest it proved to be. But, as Government Botanist, he did valuable work in recording native plants (with an army of amateur collectors). Von Mueller also wrote 300,000 letters which he signed, 'Regardfully yours'. He died in South Yarra October, 1896, aged 71.

Man only took cork out of bottle, Bulletin sneers

Tasmania 's latest girl horror has broken up in the way such horrors usually do. The young women who cast herself head first out of a railway carriage because the only other occupant, a man, had taken out a bottle of cough mixture, and then turned up in a bruised state and gave him into custody for attempting to chloroform and outrage her, owned up in a court that the said man didn't attempt to do either. Her simply took the cork out of a bottle, but he didn't offers her the bottle, or attempt to do anything whatever, and, apart from the fact that there was a man and a bottle, the story arose out of her own diseased imagination. The Social Gimlet kind of easy morality is responsible for a lot of incidents of this sort. It gets hold of a nervous girl and teaches her that she always has to be on the wild high shriek to protect her modesty from imaginary assaults, and some day, as a consequence, she throws herself screaming out of a railway carriage, making a great exhibition of two open-work stockings, and a pair of calves as she goes out, and falls on the line in a dishevelled state with her skirt over her head, and the people in the rear carriages view her from the windows as they go by. - Bulletin , Sydney, 15 February, 1896.

Stop press items

Owing to the retiring disposition of the couple, the exact time and place of the ceremony was kept secret. - Wedding report, Esperance Chronicle, 27 March, 1896.

• It's time their cover was blown. The happy newlyweds were W. Egbert and Maude Jessie Leighton.

Miners here do not thirst for liquor. They drink tea and water. More water is consumed here than in any other part of Western Australia. - Leader , Kalgoorlie (WA), 30 June, 1896.

Carnivores are fed at 3.30pm each day except Sunday. - Sign at Melbourne Zoo, 1896.

• In Melbourne, whose Christianity was matched only by its hypocrisy, the lions and tigers had to fend for themselves on the Sabbath.

On the righteous track

I have buried many a white man of whom I had much less hope. - Rev Richard Jackson, Mannum, South Australia, 1896.

• Jackson was replying to criticism of his giving a Christian burial to King Jerry, of the Naralte tribe, said to be the last aborigine in the district to remember the days before the coming of the white man.

A good Afghan is the noblest work of God, but the rarest. Their creed teaches them the more they insult the Christians the better their chance of Paradise. - Catherine Bond, goldfields and Chrysanthemums , Perth, 1896.

Without a paddle

... no less a quantity than 1500 tons of night soil are annually deposited in it (the Yarra ) from latrines of ships berthed at the wharves. - D.G. Culled, vice-Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron, Melbourne, 4 March, 1897.

• Culled complained, further, than the night soil was being washed all the way to suburban Hawthorn by the incoming tide and, by jove, the yachties were having a jolly hard time negotiating it.

Slow learners

The manager, a half-caste named Harry Price, has fifty muskets and rifles and a twelve-inch swivel brass gun inside a loophole fort for the defence of the station. This armoury has been used on several occasions, but some of the natives are not yet in respect of it ... - Queenslander , 25 September, 1897.

• Bertiehaugh Station, near the tip of Cape York, was founded in 1887 by Frank Jardine who had arrived at Somerset, near the tip of Cape York, with his brother, Alexander, in 1864. Their epic journey had been made at terrible cost to the aborigines, who fought them all the way up the Cape. The local aborigines, unlike their cousins further south, had still not been subjugated more than 20 years later, but it was only a matter of time.

British Governor runs Federation interference

You know, I think, that I am sincere in my expressed desire to see accomplished a federal union of these colonies. Nevertheless, if I were of New South Wales, I would not have Federation if the question of the capital is to be left to be decided by the Federal Parliament ... the site of the Federal capital is not to be declared Federal property, so that Melbourne may be the capital, although the property of a province; and, lastly, Sydney will have no chance of selection. - Letter from Lord Hampden, Governor of NSW, to Edmund Barton, Sydney, 10 February, 1898.

• Hampden, (governor, 1895-99) was being less than even-handed in what was a vital issue for Australians.

Federate without us, please

Tasmania is prospering in her isolation. - Emu Bay Times , Burnie, 28 February, 1898.

• A desperate plea to be left out of the Federation nonsense and be allowed to slumber in peace.

Goldfields barmaids beaut, but their jam is lousy

These barmaids are an unique product of Australia, and are found to perfection in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. Men treat them with old-fashioned politeness: they put them on to all the good things and give them scrip in all their ventures. - R. Radcliffe, Wealth and Wildcats , 1898.

Colonial jam as little resembles whole fruit jam as train oil does butter. - R. Radcliffe, Wealth and Wildcats , 1898.

• This is purely a British view on the quality of our jam, as seen through the jaundiced eye of an unsuccessful prospector on the Western Australian goldfields.

1898: Jingo politicians in Congress force U.S. to declare war on Spain, 15 April, for suspicious reasons, including the blowing up of the American warship, Maine , in Havana Harbour.

Federate, Federate!

South Australia is designed by Nature to excel as a country of farms, stations, vineyards, orchards and gardens; and therefore, it is best fitted to reap the full advantages of federation, which in any case its geographical position should ensure for it. - South Australian Register , Adelaide, 15 April, 1898.

• South Australians, generally, were enthusiastic Federationists. They were said to be governed in their decision by the twitching of their hip pocket nerves.

Australians rise! Why longer wait

While wrangling politicians prate

On theme that new dissensions breed?

Arrest this paltry party strife

That bars us from this larger life

And panders to provincial greed.

Australians rise! No longer wait,

Unfurl the flag and federate! - Bega Free Press , Bega (NSW) 12 May, 1898

Federation ... and shifty mainland lawyers

This lawyer knows how to make the manacles look like diamond bracelets to the poor cobwebbed eyes of the unsophisticated citizens of this sleepy province. - Clipper , Hobart, 14 May, 1898.

• Once again, a plea to Tasmanians to watch those mainland lawyers who could steal an islander's socks without taking his shoes off.

The only hope of the workers, and which the Conservatives hate so heartily, because it would give the people a direct voice in the great political and social questions of the day. Hoping the workers will come alive to the question and not be hoodwinked. - Letter to the editor, Ballarat Courier , 19 May, 1898.

The Vote on Tuesday next will determine whether we will continue as we are, a cluster of petty provinces, each waging a wasteful competition with each other by means of hostile tariffs and railway rates; or whether we shall have the courage to accept the responsibility cast upon us by our heritage of this great Continent. - Pro-Federation poster, May, 1898.

To promote the prosperity of Australia in general and South Australia in particular. Without Federation, South Australia can never become great or populous. She is now stationary and depressed. - Pro-Federation advertisement by the Commonwealth League, Adelaide, 21 May, 1898.

The federation poet is a fearful scourge just now, he is as lively as an electric eel in a hot oil can, and runs off line after line of verse with a flippancy that is appalling. - Clipper , Hobart, 28 May, 1898.

A few years under federation will give that railway we want, viz. from Deniliquin to Hay. We will never get it without federation. Hay, then being in direct touch with large grazing districts lying to the south and east will be the ' Chicago' of New South Wales. - Hay Standard , Western NSW, 28 May, 1898.

What about Federation? Are you 'leading lights' going to allow this monstrous question to take its chance without as much as making some move for a Federal Delegate, or someone versed in the subject to come and explain the 'Bill'. I doubt if there is a district in the colony where this subject has been treated with such silence. - Reader's letter , Manaro Mercury , Cooma (NSW), 29 May, 1898.

The Commonwealth Bill is so liberal in its constitution that its being a decided march in advance, as compared with existing Australian constitutions, must necessarily be a weighty reason with every true Liberal for voting the great nation 'Yes' next Friday. - Ballarat Courier , 31 May, 1898.  

The rich man who used electric light would not be affected by the tax on kerosene and candles; he who drank champagne would not have to pay the duty on tea. - Speech report in the Barrier Miner , Broken Hill, 1 June, 1898.

I'm willing to listen to almost anything now if it will only lighten the darkness a little. I've heard so much against each side. I've read so much for and against, that I've not the least notion which is right. One side is certainly wrong, but their is such an avoidance of truth in both parties that I cannot detect the truth from lies. - Reader's letter, Bowral Free Press , Bowral (NSW), I June, 1898.

If the workers of the West Coast, whose children are now going without fresh meat, and butter and eggs and bacon, owing to prohibitive prices, required an incentive to federate, it is here supplied - Zeehan and Dundas Herald , Tasmania, 1 June, 1898.

• If the sophisticates of Hobart sneered at the prospect of joining the Federation, the lead and silver miners at the remote West Coast town of Zeehan did not. Their supplies of fresh foods came by sea, largely from Victoria. They could see the benefits of intercolonial free trade. Zeehan, then with a population of 10,000, remained a firm supporter of Federation.

The border vote of 3rd June was the strongest possible effort to free that portion of NSW from the outrageous handicaps which had been placed upon it by the system of centralisation, and it showed that those who fought against the border duties were content to be under the rule of Victoria, if necessary, rather than continue existence in NSW governed by existing conditions - Manaro Mercury, Cooma (NSW), 13 June, 1898.

• So Australians voted to Federate. The closer they lived to Victoria, the more the people of NSW were likely to vote 'yes', largely because they believed their prosperity depended on an end to intercolonial duties. In many areas, particularly, the NSW Riverina, people felt a closer kinship with Melbourne than faraway Sydney.

The man who is too indifferent to vote today is no man and for his country's good should be shot. - Morning Post , Cairns, North Queensland, 2 September, 1898.

• The newspaper didn't really mean that! But it is a measure of the passions aroused in Queensland by the Federation debate. There were moves to found three colonies: one based on Townsville, in the north, another based on Rockhampton, in the centre, and a third on Brisbane, in the south. The people of the north yearned, in the words of one writer, to be free from a government in Brisbane 'that starved the North of public works worked and crippled the sugar industry'. In the far north, cattlemen of the hinterland and people of the ports, such as Cairns, believed that Federation would open up their trade to the rest of Australia.

1898: Treaty of Paris, 10 December, gives U.S. sovereignty over Philippines after Spanish-American War as well as Guam, Puerto Rica, and Cuba.

Generous work practices

The only sick pay that I know of the company giving was in the case of a trackman who was run over by a lorry and had to have his leg amputated. - Conductor Francis E. Beaurepaire, Royal Commission into the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company, 1898.

• Francis, then 29, was the father of the champion swimmer and later Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sir Frank Beaurepaire. Melbourne's cable tram network, the flashest in the world, was suffering from the general economic malaise. The boss, Francis Boardman Clapp, a tough Yankee, raised the ire of the workers by cutting wages.

There's no business like show business

A terrible incident was the death of Wm. Simpson, the comedian, at Broken Hill last Saturday night. His costume caught fire as he jumped over the footlights, and he was roasted to death. - Bulletin , Sydney, 18 March, 1899.

• Poor Simpson, readers learned later, was a miner by day and an occasional comic by night at the Gaiety Theatre, earning a pound a week, 'less expenses'.

Free Press in Charters Towers, Bulletin says

Charters Tower (Qld) Eagle newspaper employs a special to closely watch the local Chinese stores and note the Europeans who deal there. Then in next issue they are threatened with publication of their names should they continue dealing with Chows, and the result is that already half-a-score Chinese shopkeepers have been compelled to clear out. - Bulletin , Sydney, 25 March, 1899.

• The Bulletin , no doubt, approved of this example of crusading frontier journalism.

'prosaic beauties' of the WA bush

At night in WA bush, a glamour weaves itself over this terrible country. Gum leaves silvered, there is a tinkle of bells from the teams, you forget the heat of the day when you lie down to sleep: the prosaic beauties of life in this strange country, with its dishonesty and greed and hundreds of terrible failures. - J.H. Curle, 1899.

Shark horror in Port Phillip Bay

Young Johnson, one of the victims of the recent yacht disaster in Hobson's Bay, had evidently reached the pier at Werribee, because his hands clutched a quantity of mussels, which must have been torn from the pier piles when he sought to support himself after his long swim. It was then, probably, that he was attacked by sharks. Sad as the affair was all round, Johnson's case seems hardest by reason of his almost escape. - Bulletin , Sydney, 15 April, 1899.

• Young Johnson's companions were only drowned.

Country editor slams city capitalists

Sydney (capitalists and anti-Federationists) would retain the monopoly of commerce which the policy of centralisation has given to that capital since its birth, and cast aside the interests of all other colonists who have gone into the interior and opened up vast tracts of country which a few decades since were unknown. To the selfish and insignificantly small minority, the question of the advantages of Federation does not appeal in the slightest degree. They would, if it lay in their power, treat the producers of the country as mere machine for raising marketable commodities for the enrichment of the city traders. - Manaro Mercury , Cooma (NSW), 21 April, 1899.

• This small country newspaper, which circulated as far south as the Victorian border in Gippsland, kept up its unremitting attack on Sydney interests.

Corpses up trees after tropical hurricane ... or tsunami?

A few days ago, Sub-Inspector Cooper wired from Cooktown to Brisbane that he had buried 37 bodies (victims of a recent hurricane), and that several corpses of coloured men were found above the ground on trees. Also, according to Hamilton MLA, thousands of snakes, land and water, were thrown up on the coast, after the hurricane. Bodies of porpoises were found 40 and 50ft above sea level, while trees were barked and grass torn up by the roots. A long, sandy beach was transformed into a bare stretch of rock, all sand having been carried away by the violence of the wind. - Bulletin , Sydney, 22 April, 1899.

1899-1902: Boer War between British Empire and Transvaal and Orange Free State

Aboriginal girls flogged to death, Judge says

WA Chief Justice Onslow recently passed through Sydney on his way to M.L. ( New Zealand). He it was who, at the trial of Anderson for flogging several aboriginal girls to death, said: 'The jury have found you guilty of manslaughter. I cannot agree with their verdict. It was cruel, wanton murder. You with your brother, after having captured these unfortunate blacks, actually went into your homestead, had dinner, and then came out to flog these creatures to death. When you became tired of flogging, your brother took up the murderous task, and when you had had a spell, you began again ... I never, in the course of my experience, have heard of such a case, and I pray God I never will again. He then gave accused life imprisonment as 'a warning to his class in the nor'west who treat human beings worse than cattle'. - Bulletin , Sydney, 29 April, 1899.

Defenders weren't home

An Italian warship 'struck' SA the other day and fired the customary salute. It happened that only one member of Largs Fort Garrison, the cook, happened to be home at the time; and as he wasn't sure which were the right guns and is frightened of firearms, anyhow, he took a cab, hunted up the garrison, and the return salute was fired about five hours later, much to the relief of the Italian commander, who was beginning to fear that the local fire-eater had some grudge against him. - Bulletin , Sydney, April 29, 1899.

Henry Lawson's mum gives blokes a hard time

Of the limited number of stock-butts for the funny man's witticisms perhaps the New Woman is the most profitable. The hand of death thins out the caricaturist's favourites, for Premiers die and unpopular governors go, but the New Woman remains to supply fresh copy for the hard-pressed journalists. It should be easy to recognise her, with her hard face, big feet, spectacles and the 'gingham' (umbrella), which she flourishes as she talks, and bangs over the heads of men when they do not agree with her. Although unsexed, she has a husband and a numerous family, which she systematically neglects, particularly the baby. - Dawn journal, Sydney, I May, 1899.

Dawn was published (1888-1905) by Louisa Lawson, a suffragette (and Henry Lawson's mother). It was staffed entirely by women and fired frequent shots across the bows of such male chauvinist magazines as the Bulletin . Of course, the Bulletin could always reply with pieces like this (18 November, 1899): At North Melbourne Court the other week, a 26-year-old parlormaid summoned the son of her late employer on the same old paternity charge. Complainant stated that in 1894 (when she was 21) defendant seduced her, and a child was born. The "seducer" was 15 years old at the the time, nevertheless the Court made an order for five shillings a week. Women's innocence must be protected!

Lang ships of '49 as important as the Mayflower!

On 1 May, 1899, surviving immigrants and descendants of the Lang ships of 1859, the Fortitude, Chaseley and Lima , gathered on the banks of the Brisbane River at Goodna, to celebrate the jubilee of their arrival. Three hundred came from Brisbane alone. One survivor was said to have 130 descendants. Some couldn't come. James Roper (see 1849-49) wrote instead from his home in Tenterfield, NSW. The Queenslander of 19 May reported George Grimes' remarks about the Brisbane they found ... The place was thrown open to free immigrants (but) there were sufficient indications eight years afterwards of what the settlement had been. The time was barely sufficient to eliminate the moral evil and make the place fit for the reception of respectable people ... It was John Dunmore Lang's idea that the immigrants he sent out should be those who would lay the foundations of the country in such a way that they would be permanently based upon righteousness and liberty. No more important was the arrival of the Mayflower to America than was the arrival of these three ships to Queensland. Also, Dr Lang's migrants came to a large extent embodied with Dr Lang's ideas and no better settlement could have activated them ... the influence was manifested in the first six months. Churchgoing came to be quite a respectable thing. Licentiousness was checked and it was no longer possible in the light of day ... the town's moral tone arrived ahead of any of the other cities in Australia ... Certainly, it was not a disgrace to be known then that one came from Queensland ...

• Brisbane, explored in 1823-24, was first settled as a penal station in 1825. Its prisoner population peaked at 1000 in 1831 and officially closed as a penal settlement in 1842.

Aborigines observe British justice at work

On Saturday night, March 25, Judge Dashwood, Govt. Resident of the Northern Territory, passed sentence of death on five aborigines. The Port Darwin paper proudly claims that Judge Dashwood holds the Australian record, so far as living persons are concerned, for the passing of capital sentences. - Bulletin , Sydney, 5 May, 1899.

• In 1893, Judge Charles Dashwood (administrator, 1892-1905) sentenced eight aborigines to death for the murder of six Malay fishermen at remote Cape Brogden. The sentences on seven were commuted to life, but the leader, Wandi, was taken back to his tribal territory and hanged so his people could see the outcome of British justice. One of the jurors on the case was said to be stone deaf. At the turn of the century, the administration in Adelaide abandoned the practice of hanging people in front of their relatives and friends to teach them a lesson. Dashwood himself became concerned by 1896 at the mistreatment of aborigines by Europeans, and that aborigines lacked special protection under the law. He began to defend aborigines' rights of access to their hunting grounds and watering holes.

Missing son recognised

Said that an old woman from Tasmania, sauntering through the chamber of horrors at Melbourne Waxworks, recognised the figure of a hanged murderer (Geo. Chamberlain) as that of her long-lost son. Up to then, the poor old girl had been hoping that her offspring would turn up at any time with an affectionate greeting and a big bag of money for mother. - News report, Melbourne, 13 May, 1899.

Lucky escape

The well is twenty feet deep, but on being got out, the man was seen not to be hurt by the fall, but his head was almost severed ... Everett is still alive. - Casualty report, Albury (NSW), 24 May, 1899.

• William Everett was jolly lucky. Earlier, it transpired, he had slashed himself three times on the throat with a razor before jumping down the well.

John Forrest wheedles special deal for WA

Would it not be possible to give us complete control of our Customs and Taxation, and absolve us from the operation of the Interstate Commission for ten years, and promise us a Federal railway to Fremantle within that time? - Letter from WA Premier Sir John Forrest, Perth, to NSW Premier Sir George Reid, Sydney, 22 June, 1899.

• The wily Forrest threw his cards on the table in this confidential letter to the equally devious Reid, one of the principal power-brokers of Federation. Eventually, he got all he wanted, more or less.

'... side by side with the powers of the world'

In the name of our common brotherhood, I ask you to be one with the electors of Australia who have led the way in this final Referendum. For the sake of that broader and loftier national life that Federation will assure to us: for the sake of the general welfare which will come with Federation as the consequence of expanded and unshackled trade, and widened industrial development; for the sake of the brotherly amity and national strength that will come with Australian union, I appeal to you to let your voice be heard through the ballot box on the 27th July, and, by voting 'aye' in sufficient numbers, to feel that you are of those who may justly pride themselves as the builders of the Commonwealth that shall stand without shame side by side with the powers of the world. - Letter from Sir Edward Braddon, Premier of Tasmania, to voters, Hobart, 15 July, 1899.

• Sir Edward's final plea came after a strong campaign to convince voters to say 'yes'. His influence largely caused Tasmania's affirmative vote.

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