Newspaper Article LIFE ON THE DIGGINGS.

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Newspaper Article LIFE ON THE DIGGINGS. Empty Newspaper Article LIFE ON THE DIGGINGS.

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Newspaper Article

LIFE ON THE DIGGINGS. ROBBERS' EXCHANGE OF GUNS

By C. R. C. PEARCE.

The great army of diggers at Bendigo did an immense amount of work in an incredibly short space of time. Vast areas of ground were turned over to the bedrock and rifled of their treasures. Forests of great ironbark trees, with their dense underwood, quickly disappeared. So thick and dark were these forests that people had often lost their way in the daylight. After the winter of 1852 almost all the natural beauty of Bendigo had disappeared. Earth and clay reduced to a powder, lay on the roads ankle deep, and the slightest puff of wind raised it in blinding clouds.
Mr. George Mackay, in his "Annals of Bendigo," relates that Mr. Joseph Crook, who afterwards lived in South Yarra, camped with three mates at the bottom of Long and Ironbark gullies in April, 1852. They lost a horse, and in searching for it in a dense ironbark forest they discovered a very rich gully, in which they picked up 9 oz. of gold from the surface in two hours. In order to find their way back to this spot they cut marks in the trees when passing on their way to American Flat through California Gully. A rush to California Gully occurred on the fol- lowing day (Sunday), and on Monday so much timber had been destroyed that Mr. Crook and his mates were unable to find the track. At a new rush diggers were shovelling up the gold between one an- other's legs, but Mr. Crook's party could not get within a mile and a half of the scene, as all the ground had been taken up. At Pegleg they got gold at 2 ft. 6 in., but not in large quantities. Thinking that they knew all about their claim they moved on. They were chagrined later to see men whom they regarded as new chums shovel up gold almost in bucketfuls.

Eluding Black Douglas.

Black Douglas and his gang were the terror of diggers when they were taking their gold from Bendigo to Melbourne in 1852. Mr. Crook, it is recorded in the "Annals of Bendigo," related how he chiselled four chambers 8 in. by 3 in. by 4 in. in the bed of a dray, and after placing four chamois leather bags in the chambers covered them up with wooden lids and filled the crevices with clay. Mr. Crook and his party were not "stuck up" by Black Douglas, but a neighbouring camp of diggers was robbed at Carlsruhe on the night they were there. A successful digger, who had fortunately sent his gold to Melbourne by escort, was robbed on his way to Melbourne. The robbers took all his money with the exception of a few shillings. They also took his double-barrelled gun and gave him an old single-barrelled gun in ex- change. The digger took this gun to England as a memento, and some time afterwards a young friend tried to draw the charge. The first thing he pulled out was portion of a £5 note. A blacksmith unscrewed the breech and took out notes amounting to £150. A man at the third White Hill valued his horse at £150, and he used to sleep with the bridle rein round his wrist. One morning he found that the rein had been cut and that the horse had been stolen. About three months afterwards he found the horse outside his tent with a new saddle on its back and 20 lb. of gold in the saddle bag. The owner of the gold never appeared.
Diggers when they entered a store to make purchases emptied the contents of their matchboxes, filled with gold dust, on to white paper on the counter. The store keeper blew the dust and put the rest in a fine sieve, afterwards paying for it. Mr. H. Brown, in "Victoria as I found It," says that he saw innumerable grains of gold in the dust on a counter and directed the attention of a storekeeper to the loss of gold. Laughing, the storekeeper brushed the gold off the counter with his sleeve, and said that the dust was worthless. It was only when alluvial gold became scarcer that this fine dust was saved.
"The police have commenced their search for the licences of gold diggers" wrote the Bendigo correspondent of "The Argus" on October 17, 1853. "They have dropped the musket and bayonet, and have taken to the baton." The principal objection of the diggers to the gold licence was the method of collection. In the "Annals of Bendigo," it is recorded that some diggers were chained to logs for hours in the blazing sun. It is to the credit of the diggers that the first balls which they attended were held in aid of the foundation of hospitals. At the first diggers' ball in Bendigo, the "ladies numbered 60 or about one in ten to the gentlemen, and they did credit to the classes on the diggings. Despite the assurance of the committee that full dress would not be exacted a great number of the men were attired in garments that exhibited a gentlemanly taste. The scarcity of women dancers is reflected in the reports of other balls which followed at Forest Creek and Ballarat. At the Forest Creek ball 600 people were present, but there were only 100 women among the dancers. At a Christmas ball held in Bendigo in 1853 some of the dresses cost £10. The program ranged from the opening quadrille to Sir Roger de Coverley.
New rushes were frequent in 1853 and 1854, but an exciting rush which occurred at Bendigo was not for gold, but for cabbages. An enterprising man brought from Brighton to Bendigo late in 1853 the first cartload of cabbages seen on that field. The cabbages were quickly sold at 3/6 each. Commenting on this "rush," the correspondent says—"The promise of the surveyor-general to give every digger a cabbage-garden near the mines is hailed with gladness." How well the miners of Bendigo and Ballarat and other districts took advantage of the opportunity to grow vegetables, fruit, and flowers was shown in later years by the beautiful cottage gar- dens which adorned the mining towns. Though the price of flour was decreasing the bakers were charging 3/6 for the 4lb. loaf on the White Hills in 1853. Cats were in great demand on the Bendigo field. Good mouse cats brought from £2 to £3 each.

Cricket at Back Creek.

The first cricket match in Bendigo took place on January 2, 1854, between the married and single members of the Bendigo Cricket Club. The bachelors were "shame- fully defeated," and the correspondent re- corded:—"The wicket was pitched on a tolerably level piece of ground at Back Creek. In a spacious tent an excellent dinner was provided for the members of the club. The wines were excellent, and were pretty fully discussed, so that towards the close of day the meeting of cricketers wore anything but a dull aspect. Several gentlemen from the Camp, commissioners, and others visited the tent during the afternoon, and the best possible feeling was displayed toward them." On the Back Creek cricket-ground in later years Mr. George Mackay and Mr. Angus Mackay, sons of the recorder of this first match, gave an impetus to cricket on the Back Creek ground which resulted in the production of many fine players in Bendigo.
Mr. R. Brough Smyth, in the "Goldfields and Mineral Districts of Victoria," re- corded that in 1858 147,358 adult miners, including 23,673 Chinese, were employed on the goldfields. In 1856 2,985,9910z. gold, valued at £4 an ounce (£11,943,964), were exported. From the discovery of gold in 1851 to 1868 the amount of gold exported from Victoria was £147,342,767, and Mr. Brough Smith calculated the average for each man at £1,699/8/3, or £98/10/4 a year. "But these figures are not a true test of the success of individuals," he added. "The measure of success of the gold-mining industry must not be summed up by the exports. Immense sums were expended in the construction of roads, rail- ways, and other public works. Large towns, with fine buildings, good streets and parks, supplied with water from reservoirs of large extent, arose, so that no small share of the wealth the mines have yielded has been profitably used in turning a wilderness into a habitable abode."

The Argus
1930
http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/


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