- GENERAL INFORMATION
IN THE DAYS WHEN THE WORLD WAS WIDE
A narrative of the Pioneering Experiences of Patrick Costello 1841-1856
Patrick Costello related his extraordinary pioneering experiences of the 1840s and early 1850s. The following is the narrative as transcribed from seventeen instalments in serialised form which were published weekly in The Ballarat Courier from Saturday 4 July 1896 to Saturday 24 October 24 1896.
These accounts have survived to provide us with an invaluable insight into life in 'the roaring forties', ten years before the gold-diggers began their invasion.
His reminiscences include a first-hand account of the voyage from Liverpool to Australia on the Argyle, which arrived in Port Phillip on 12 April 1841. It is of interest that, although his brothers and sisters, Miles (31), Walter (21), Mary (23) and Bridget (21) accompanied him on the Argyle they are not mentioned in his narrative. Strangely, even the brutal murder of his sister in 1851 at Mount Sturgeon is not related. Patrick chose to concentrate more on details of events in his own life than on personal matters relating to his family.
Patrick Costello's detailed account of daily life, particularly in the Port Phillip District during the squatting era, gives a unique insight of early life in the colony through the eyes of a man not in the 'uppercrust' of society. This narrative is of importance because so few accounts or diaries of the working classes exist. Many of the middle to lower classes could neither read nor write and so produced no written account of their pioneering lives. Patrick's experiences are chronologically narrated with the exception of some interesting incidents such as an aboriginal corroboree and a murder at Bendigo. Many facets of squatting life and aboriginal culture are dealt with honestly and with humour.
On arriving as an illiterate bounty immigrant in Port Phillip Patrick travelled with Captain Hepburn to Smeaton. The first night spent in Australia was near Captain Hutton's at Flemington "without fire, supper or bedding of any kind."
On 2 July 1848 he was married at St Francis Roman Catholic Church, Melbourne, to Anne Clarke. She had emigrated with her family on the Argyle. Her father, James Clarke, also worked for Captain Hepburn at Smeaton. Patrick Costello spent some time in Melbourne as a water-carter and a hay and corn merchant. He built up a substantial business in Melbourne before 1850 and describes life in the growing metropolis.
He was one of the first on the Sandhurst (later Bendigo) gold fields and relates his experiences as a 'digger' with all the excitement and fervour that the rushes produced. He tells of the hunting for gold licences, the 'rush' to new claims, the thrill of finding gold that 'could be seen' .... 'like raisins in a pudding' and he also tells of the fear of bushrangers and robberies which were commonplace.
Patrick and Anne Costello settled in Creswick around 1860. Years before Patrick had commented that "the Smeaton and Learmonth District were the best for cultivation" that he had seen in Victoria. Children were born and the family continued to live and grow in Creswick, not far from Smeaton, where Patrick had spent his first twelve months in Victoria in 1841.
Patrick Costello died in Creswick on 20 January 1907, aged 92 years and is buried at the Creswick Cemetery.
We are indeed fortunate that an account was recorded of his remarkable life in the formative years of the Colony of Port Phillip (which later became known as Victoria). I have great pleasure in presenting the following transcription so that it can once again be readily available to interested readers.
October 1996 - D.W.
I would like to thank all my dear friends and my family who encouraged me and helped in preparing this publication. I am truly grateful to Florence Chuk for kind permission to reproduce a map of Victoria from The Somerset Years, Creswick Historical Museum, especially Heather Lay, the State Library of Victoria, the Ballaarat Mechanics' Institute, particularly Robert Bell, and the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, for their kind permission to reproduce paintings and illustrations. Thank you to Ted Lynes for proof reading the final manuscript and offering such helpful advice. Without such encouragement and constructive help this project would have been impossible. Thank you one and all!
Published by D. Wickham
10 Raglan Street North,
BALLARAT, VIC 3350, AUSTRALIA
Leaving Liverpool - The Voyage to Australia
I left Liverpool for Port Phillip on the 8th November, 1840, in the ship named the Duke of Argyle . She was commanded by Captain Rattery, and had on board 365 immigrants. The medical officer was named Dr Kating. Our ship was a sailing vessel, and we got along fairly well until we reached the Bay of Biscay, but there we experienced rough weather, and had a very bad time of it.
We lost our jibboom. For about a fortnight our cook was unable to light a fire as the waves were continually washing over and extinguishing it, and only that the passengers had brought a few extra provisions with them to help them along on the voyage, they would have been almost, if not quite, starved. Things had got so bad that the purser at last served out raw peas. 'The cabin' however, was well supplied as their fireplace was effectually protected from the waves that continually broke over the vessel, and so the cooking could be carried on alright in that part.
The knowledge of this apparent lack of sympathy, combined with other causes at last began to make matters assume a most serious aspect. Finally a mutiny threatened, all hands were mustered together, and we went and had an interview with the Captain and Doctor.
In the course of the discussion that ensued some very strong language was indulged in, but eventually an amicable understanding was arrived at, and things were better arranged than they had been previously, and the rough weather abating, that trouble ended. We were, however, doomed to be most unfortunate, for smallpox and brain fever broke out amongst us, and we had in all forty-seven deaths. Only four out of this number were adults. The victims ranged from four years of age to sixteen years. We had one birth on the ship.
A great deal of the hardships we had to endure were caused by bad management. For instance, the potatoes intended for use on the voyage all rotted through being put into wet casks; the beef also was of very poor quality; and the biscuits got maggotty.
The pork was the only thing that was all good. We had on board a goat that had been brought to supply the cabin with milk, and as the children began to fall ill, first one mother would go and ask the Doctor if she could milk the goat for her sick child, and in a little while another one would come along with a like request, and what with the sick children that required supplying with milk and the boys whenever they got a chance taking her around on the side of the long boat and milking her. I pitied the poor goat; and more especially when the supply of hay and vegetables that had been brought to feed her was exhausted, she was thrown overboard.
Things now went on as regards weather and so-forth favourably; but before we reached the Cape of Good Hope we were nearly shipwrecked. We heard the noise of the surf at night washing against a large reef, but thought it was the noise of the waves striking against the shore. The Captain, however, began to understand that we were in danger, for he ordered to 'about boat' and to get out one of the boats and take soundings. Our perilous position was soon discovered, and we got out of danger as speedily as possible.
As we got on our course again in the early morning we sighted a steamer bearing down towards us. As soon as she discovered that we were alright, however, she returned to port. It appears we had been sighted the previous evening, and news had spread that we had got onto the rocks. The steamer had been sent to render assistance if it was required, but we were lucky enough to have discovered our danger just in time.
We put in at 'The Cape' for water and provisions, and stayed there about a week; we saw many strange sights, and I remember noticing the large tails of some of the sweep which were brought on board. The weight of these tails were from ten to twelve pounds each. It was a wonderful place for abundance of fish. You could buy a Cape Salmon for about 4d and they each would weigh about 11lb. Barracouta also seemed plentiful. While we were at anchor two men from the town came out in a little boat, and started fishing close to our vessel. Their bait was a piece of red leather fastened onto a hook and as fast as they could heave out and pull in their lines, they were kept going, hauling up a Barracouta every time. In a couple of hours they had loaded their boat. They then came close along side our vessel, and called out to ask if we wanted any fish, and said if we would throw down a rope's end they would send us up as many as we required for nothing. I need hardly add that this kind offer was thankfully accepted. While we were lying at anchor a man-o-war sailed close by our stern, and fired a salute, and was answered by the battery on shore. The weather was very hot and the boards on deck became so heated that they would almost blister your hand if you touched them. A good many of our companions went on shore to have a look at the town. Things generally were very cheap there; wine could be obtained for 6d per bottle. Wages at that time were very good there, and laboring men were receiving 6s and 7s per day.
Having got our supplies on board, we again set sail. At one time we were nearly becalmed, the vessel only moving one to two knots an hour, with the sails continually flapping. We caught several albatrosses. From the tip of wing to wing they measured 14 feet. We caught these by throwing out a hook and a line baited with a piece of pork and letting it trail after the vessel. The birds would then take the bait, and thus get caught. For several days we had noticed a large shark keeping about our vessel. The Captain said he would sooner have it than a £1 note, as they were again getting badly off for something fresh for the cabin. One of the sailors got about 3lb of pork and put it on a large hook. A strong chain was then fastened to the hook, and the other end of the chain secured to the side of the vessel. All being now ready the bait was thrown into the sea. About twenty minutes later the shark had taken the bait, and it took the combined strength of four men to haul him up onto the poop. A great many of us crowded round to see the shark, but as soon as he was on deck he plunged around in such a violent manner that he soon made a clearance. The sailors having killed him, he was found to measure in length 14 feet 3 inches. The hind part was cut up, cleaned, and cooked for the cabin, while the fore-part went to the sailors. I had some of this shark, and must say it was very good eating. Several showers of flying-fish crossed our ship, and three or four fish dropped on deck. They were about a quarter of a pound weight, and bore a resemblance to herrings or young trout. They, however, had small gauze like wings.
Pirates! - Voyage - Arrival in Port Phillip
When we got into the trade winds we got along splendidly. As we came along, we noticed a vessel in distress; we sailed up to her, and found her almost disabled, and having lost her topmast. Her Captain told us that they had experienced very rough weather. So after we had supplied her with spars and other requisites, we continued our course. A few days after, another vessel hove in sight, and having come within hail, our Captain enquired of her- "Where bound for and what cargo?" The reply came back "For Calcutta with merchandise." The stranger then asked where we were bound for, and our cargo. Our Captain replied "For Port Phillip"- and would have added "with emigrants"; but before he could repeat the latter part of the sentence, a 'busybody' on our deck called out "a cargo of vagabonds." Our captain was so enraged at this that he thought very seriously of having the 'busybody' lashed to the mast. About a week after we sighted another vessel, and she kept hovering in sight of us for about forty-eight hours, and Captain Rattery began to get a bit doubtful about her being an honest vessel, as her movements were suspicious. He began to think she was either a pirate or slaver. He ordered that all arms be brought on deck, and got ready for action; and he also said that every man must fight if occasion arose to do so. He then ordered all the crew on deck, so as to make as big a show as possible, and thus, perhaps prevent attack, if such was the intention of the stranger. We had two small cannons and numbered about 100 fighting men well armed with guns and cutlasses, and everything was in good order, so had we been attacked we would have given a determined resistance. But late in the evening the strange ship disappeared, and I believe it was the show of fighting that we made that frightened her off. We were, however, greatly relieved to find that we were no longer in danger of being molested.
After this nothing of any importance occurred, and having very favorable wind and weather we came along in some parts at the rate of ten knots an hour, the wind being on the vessel's quarter. We sighted Port Phillip heads on the morning of the 9th April 1841, and as soon as we came along, Captain Rattery hoisted our flag and signalled the pilot to come out. But no pilot came; so after our captain's patience was exhausted, waiting and expecting the pilot's coming, he decided that as no pilot had put in an appearance, the safest course to adopt was to stand out to sea again. So he gave orders to put the vessel about, and we went out to sea again. When darkness came on he gave the order to lay to for the night.
In the morning we again set sail, and shortly after met a schooner, bound for Portland Bay, from Van Dieman's Land. Captain Rattery obtained some information from the Captain of the schooner, and again steered for the heads. And as we came close he took the helm and steered the vessel through. After we had got in about a mile we saw a little boat coming towards us with a small flag hoisted and the mate called out "Here comes the pilot." When he came alongside our Captain asked him why he did not meet him outside the heads the previous evening. The Pilot said: "I am not bound to meet any vessel until she comes through the heads." "If that is the case" said Captain Rattery, "it must be a bad harbour." The pilot then handed up some papers for the captain to sign, and after again receiving them he came on board and took charge of the vessel.
The first order the pilot gave was 'Grog all round to the sailors', and after they had their drink every man was at his post in an instant, and judging by the smart way he put the men through their facings, there could be no doubt he was well qualified for the position of pilot. We had now a head wind, and do whatever he would with tacking and the like manoeuvres, the pilot could not get the ship to her berth that night, so he dropped both anchors. But the next day, about eleven o'clock in the forenoon, he got the vessel safely placed in position. That night he slept in the cabin on the floor wrapped in a possum skin rug, and before he went to sleep we had heard from him many tales of life in Australia, and how also at night fires had to be lighted to scare off the wild dogs from worrying the squatter's sheep. So ended our voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne, the time occupied in the same being five months and three days. In those days it was customary for emigrants' ships on reaching Port to hoist her colours, in order that squatters, farmers, and merchants and any other inhabitants requiring labourers, servants, etc., might know that there was labor on that vessel awaiting engagement.
Captain Hepburn, of Smeaton, was one of those who came on board our ship to engage men to go up country for general work on a station at Smeaton. So also did Captain Hutton, who, at that time had a station opposite what is now Flemington Racecourse. I was one of those engaged by Captain Hepburn. The wages were £35 per year and rations. When we left the ship we landed at Williamstown. At that time there were no houses except a hotel. Captain Hepburn engaged a cart and mule to carry our boxes to Captain Hutton's residence. The route chosen was round by Footscray, therefore we did not pass through what is now marvellous Melbourne, and it was not until about twelve months after this that I saw that city for the first time.
Our party jogged along rather slowly with the mule cart, the bush track being very rough, and finally darkness came on before we reached our destination; so Captain Hepburn suggested that as night had overtaken us, and as we had such a rough road still in front of us in the way of logs, rocks, etc., it would be advisable to camp for that night where we were; for although he said he was positive it could not be more than a mile and a half to Captain Hutton's house, still it would be impossible to get there until we had the daylight. So ten of us including the captain, were compelled to pass the night where we were and as best we could, huddled up against a big rock, without fire, supper, or bedding of any kind.
We were unable to procure a light of any kind, as at that time matches were unknown here, and in fact, did not come into use until the opening of the goldfields, nearly eleven years after. The only way of procuring a light was to carry a flint and steel and a little tinder in a box. By striking the steel against the flint, a spark was produced, which, on dropping on the tinder, ignited it and produced fire. You will, therefore, not be surprised that new chums were unable to light a fire; but I have often thought since then, that it was a wonder Captain Hepburn had not provided himself with the necessary requisites. I suppose he did not reckon on being so late getting on the track and having to camp out for the night. It was rather a rough experience for the first night on land in Australia, but I can say that we took it all in good part.
Just before daybreak, we heard the cock crowing at the station, and the captain said: "There, hear that. I knew we were close to the place, but it was impossible to go any further in the darkness, and we must remain where we are until it is quite light." As soon as it was clear daylight we made for Captain Hutton's and on arrival there Captain Hepburn knocked and the door was opened by Mrs Hutton, and she at once invited us all in. She had no servant at the time, so at once set to work herself and made a large fire, boiled the kettle, and gave us breakfast- which we badly needed.
After that she mixed up twelve pounds of flour into a kind of cake known as damper, and when the fire had burnt down to the required condition, she drew the ashes aside with a spade and slipped the large cake into the space thus made, and then covered it over with the hot ashes. One of our party, on seeing this, remarked to another- "By gum, she has made a mess of that paste." Of course, this was said in a whisper. But when the damper came out, splendidly baked, without a blister upon it, he must have changed his opinion rather considerably. Mrs Hutton looked the lady she was. She was a real good woman. It was at this place that I first saw sheep in net yards, and I have never since seen the same plan adopted. At that time there were two flocks yarded.
Captain Hepburn - Smeaton Station - Melbourne
Three of our party having been engaged by Captain Hutton, they remained there; but those of us who had been engaged by Captain Hepburn had to proceed to Smeaton. Captain Hepburn, however, told us that as he had to again return to town to transact some business, we could remain where we were that day, and rest ourselves; but if he was not back that night, or early the next morning, he desired us to proceed on our journey towards Smeaton station. He then gave us all the necessary directions as to the road, etc., and said that he was sure to come up with, or overtake us, somewhere on the following day. He then left for Melbourne, and we stayed where we were, and took our day's spell.
One of the men whom Captain Hutton had engaged, noticed a couple of axes lying about, with short broken handles in them; so he went to his tool chest, took out what he required, and setting to work, soon put in a couple of good handles in place of the broken ones. The next day when Captain Hepburn overtook us on the road, he asked who put in the new axe handles at Hutton's place, on being told it was one of the men that had been engaged by Captain Hutton, he remarked- "If I had known he could do work like that, £60 a year would not have kept him from me!" As the day drew to a close, we arrived at what was then known as the 'Bush Inn.' The place where it stood is now called Gisborne, and is about thirty-three miles from Melbourne. At that time, there was no other house near, although there were many travellers on the road. The proprietor had lost his licence, and when we arrived a policeman was in charge of the establishment. He supplied us with a good supper, beds, and a breakfast next morning; so he proved himself a very capable host indeed. I heard that near there, at this time, Mr Powlett and his mounted police were stationed in tents. Mr Powlett was land commissioner, and his duty was to decide disputes between squatters, etc., point out the boundaries, and so forth.
Next day we got as far as what was then called Wards Station, now known as Kyneton. There were no other houses about there then- only the home station and the shepherds' huts. We were made very welcome, and had our supplies, beds and breakfast, and then started for what was known as Morrison's Ranges. As we jogged along, the Captain riding and carrying what things as he could for us, he remarked- "Now if any of you men can talk Gaelic or Irish, there is an old Highland woman at a sheep station here and she will make us all welcome." As soon as we came up to the hut, the old woman brought us out some milk to drink, and I, not forgetting Captain Hepburn's words, drank the old lady's health in Irish. I need hardly add that, at once, we were all made heartily welcome. On the following day, we again started for Smeaton, and as we passed over Jim Crow Hill the Captain told us that he was the first white man to cross the eminence.
At that time the blacks' protector, Mr Parker, was stationed there. Captain Hepburn was a good man to travel with, and would never take his meals until he was satisfied that we all had had sufficient, observing- "I am riding all day, but you men have to walk." As we crossed the Deep Creek the Captain remarked- "We are now on my run, so we will sit down and have a rest." He at once dismounted. When we were all comfortably settled down the captain said- "Well now men, I have something to tell you, to put you on your guard. I have got twelve government men whom I brought from Sydney with me. They are Government servants to me. They were prisoners, and be careful, and don't say anything in their hearing about convicts, as it would lead to trouble. Some of these men are what are called 'lifers'. They are good enough workers, and I have only to supply them with food, their clothing being supplied by the Government. But every three months I have to give an account of them. Now I do not intend to mix you men up with these people. You will be kept apart from them, but it is as well that you know these things." We said we were grateful for the consideration shown, and again resumed our journey, arriving at the Smeaton home station that evening and after five days hard tramping, the distance covered being about 100 miles, which was good work for men fresh from shipboard.
Captain Hepburn lived in a four roomed cottage, down on a flat near the Ti-Tree Creek, and the men in wattle and daub huts, with bark roofs. After we had had our meal, the Captain pointed out to us a hut, some distance away from the others, and told us we could get that for our occupation, saying that when we had finished, we were to go to the house and get some cooking utensils, rations, etc. Our first day's work consisted of digging potatoes, as the Captain had a small patch, of about an acre, under cultivation.
A Scotch family named Mr Donald had charge of two of the Captain's flocks of sheep at this time; but as they were going to leave his employment three of us were taken out to where they were stationed, and after the sheep had been counted, they were put under our charge. I had agreed to remain with Captain Hepburn for twelve months and I stayed for that time. The rations per week consisted of 10lb of meat, 2lb of sugar, 1/4lb tea, and a peck of wheat per man, which we had to grind into flour by means of a small steel mill, after we reached home at night. One of these mills was kept in every hut, together with a flour sieve. It will be seen by this that even in the old times things were not always as good as some people think.
After leaving Captain Hepburn, I went to Melbourne. The streets of the Metropolis were laid out, but not made, and they presented a very different appearance from what they do at present. There were then three butchers' shops, one was kept by Mr Mortimer, at the corner of Collins and Spencer Street; another by Mr Crowley, situate in Collins Street, between Swanston and Elizabeth Streets; and the other by Mr Cronin, at the corner of Flinders Lane and Swanston Street. The saddlers were represented by Mr Hamilton and Mr Denworthy, both of Collins Street; and the cabinetmakers by Mr Thwaits, of Collins Street. There were about eight Public Houses and two churches. The pastor of the English church was the Rev Mr Thompson and that of the Catholic church the Rev Father Geoghan. The buildings were constructed mostly of boards and slabs, with shingle roofs; but a good many of the little shops occupied by the grocers, fruiterers, etc., in Collins Street were built of wattle and daub. There was also a courthouse, near the old market place, and not far from Spencer Street. It consisted of two small rooms. The presiding Magistrate was Singin. This was in Governor Latrobe's time, in 1842. There were no buses or trams then, but some time afterwards two cabs were brought overland from Sydney. Only the lower class of males and females, however, used these. The solitary carriage and pair to be seen was one belonging to a Mr Kerr, who had a station on the Goulburn, but who resided near the Hawthorn punt. There was no population on the other side of the Yarra, with the exception of a couple of brickmakers.
I stayed in Melbourne about a week, and having been then engaged with a Mr John Allen (as also did two of my mates) who owned a station near Stawell, called Allen Vale, we packed up and started off up country again. We crossed the Saltwater River near Footscray in a punt, and then passed on to what was called the Werribee. There was no house except a hotel, and we camped in the bush that night. Next morning we crossed the Little River near the You Yangs Mountains, and continued on until we reached Buninyong. There we stayed near Mr Scott's station that night, and in the morning passed through what is now the great City of Ballarat, but which was then a deserted bush. Thence on past Yuille's Swamp, named after a gentleman who had a station there, but now called Lake Wendouree. We then reached Mr Pettit's station, now called Dowling Forest, and owned by Sir W J Clarke, and proceeded in the direction of the Pyrenees.
To the Pyrenees - Murder! - Allen Vale
Shortly after we left Pettit's we met a man of respectable appearance going in the opposite direction. He had neither swag nor parcel of any description. We saluted him, and he then enquired of us where we were going. We replied "Up the country to the Pyrenees to work on a station." He then said, "I am going to Melbourne, and you had better come with me." We thought his brain was affected to ask such a thing, seeing we had just come from the town and were making up country; but we never imagined he would play the leading part in a dreadful tragedy, as afterwards was the case. We endeavoured to make him understand we were going to the Pyrenees, and when he realised the position of affairs he then said, "Can I come with you?" We said that he could and so he turned back with us.
That night we reached what was the Doctor's Creek, Mr Hutchinson's station, and found it a really hospitable place for we were all well attended to. The next day we got to the Ampitheatre, and met Parson Evan's overseer on the road. He enquired how far we intended to go that night. We said as far as Mr Lynet's cattle station. He said "You will not be able to get as far as that tonight, so you had better stop at our lambing station, which is only three miles ahead, and tell the hutkeeper to supply you with supper and breakfast and I will make it right with him next time he comes for rations." We thanked him and accepted his kind offer, and stayed at the hut as invited and passed the night merrily, singing, etc. The man we had picked up on the road was also requested to sing and he sang some really beautiful songs. His name was John Maloney.
In the morning we started again and reached Lynet's station, early in the day, had some refreshments, and again started. Shortly afterwards we met a gentleman on horseback, and he enquired if we were looking for work, and said he wanted some men. We told him we were all engaged except our fellow traveller (Maloney). He then asked Maloney if he wanted a situation and Maloney replied in the affirmative. He then asked Maloney what wages he required, and the latter said: "The same wages as these other men are getting." The Gentleman who was a Mr Francis, enquired what terms we had and we told him £1 per week and rations. He then said to Maloney, "I will give you that. I am on my way to Parson Evan's station, but stop at my place tonight and when I come home I will make out an agreement." We stayed all night. There was a lot of men employed there, as the sheep were all scabby. The next morning when we were starting, Maloney was going to start too, so we reminded him that he was to stop and work for Mr Francis. He then stayed behind and we went on and reached Allen Vale, our destination, that night. We were told to take a day's spell, and be prepared to start work the day following.
It appears that Maloney went to work for Mr Francis and continued in his employ for four or five months, and during that time had several rows with the other men, and gave three of them a thrashing. This, it appears, was a good deal their own fault, as finding out he was a little gone in the head, they were continually provoking him, which was not much to their credit. After that he had a row with the squatter and chased him with a gun, but Mr Francis ran and got into the house, and so escaped that time.
One of the men, after that, advised the master to settle with Maloney and let him go, as he seemed a dangerous character. The 'boss' took the advice, and told the man to call Maloney in and he would settle with him and let him go. Maloney accordingly went into the house, and they settled up and Mr Francis gave him a cheque. But instead of the cheque being filled in for a certain sum of money, it contained a joke- or what was meant as a joke- only the words "Send the fool further" or something to that effect. Maloney, however, went away with his cheque; and after he got some distance, he either read the cheque himself, or got somebody to do so. Discovering the trick he turned back again.
As he approached the house Mr Francis went out, and, picking up a stick, said: "I will soon make him go about his business." On seeing Maloney, the squatter went towards him and called out, "What are you coming back here for?" Maloney said: "I am coming back for my money." The squatter said: "I will give you money," and made a blow at Maloney with a stick. Maloney sprang towards him and struck him under the short ribs, some say with a shear blade, others say with a knife, but neither weapon was ever found, so it is not known which it was. However, Mr Francis fell. There was a small hole just under Mr Francis's short ribs, no bigger than you could put your little finger into, but as he breathed the intestine protruded through this small aperture.
The nearest doctor was at Geelong. A horseman was at once despatched for him, and relays of horses were stationed on the return journey every twenty miles, but the ill-fated squatter's death took place in less than forty-eight hours. It was hot weather, and it was supposed he bled inwardly. He was a big fat man, and that also went against him. A message was despatched for the mounted police, who were stationed at Jim Crow, near Daylesford.
In the meantime Maloney had been secured and tied up with a bullock-chain in the men's hut. He was taken to Melbourne and tried, and sent to the Sydney Lunatic Asylum, for life, but he only lived twelve months after being sent there. Many opinions have been expressed, regarding this case, but I think there can be little doubt, that in a moment of thoughtlessness Mr Francis sealed his own doom. This happened in the year 1842.
But, to return to ourselves, we were kept doing odd jobs about the station at Allen Vale until such time as two flocks of sheep could be got ready for us to take charge of. We were then sent with them to an out station, and remained there six months, which was the term of our agreement. For six weeks of that time we had to subsist on beef and mutton alone, having neither flour, tea, or sugar, as the station had run completely out of rations, on account of it having taken nearly six months for two bullock teams that had been sent to Melbourne for provisions, to go there and return; on account of bad roads, getting bogged, breaking poles and losing their bullocks and so forth.
Mr Allen had borrowed all that could be spared from neighbouring settlers to help us through, but at last, as I have stated, we were reduced to the extremity of living on meat alone. When the bullock teams at last returned from town, with the supplies, having to repay back what we had borrowed, and besides, as they had not been able to bring up a full load on account of the bad state of the roads, we had very little provisions left, and were in nearly as bad a position as before. However, while the stores lasted there was no stinting.
Aborigines - A Dangerous Incident - Leaving Allen Vale
About this time the blacks were very numerous and dangerous. I remember one or two little incidents in reference to them that occurred. There were, in these early days, on the Pyrenees, two notorious outlawed blacks, nicknamed 'Good Morning Bill' and 'Cock Footed Jack', and if these two came across a shepherd unarmed they never failed to take whatever sheep they wanted from the flock.
At one time Mr Allen was told by some of the friendly tribe that there was a piece of open country at the top of the Bet Bet Creek, that was splendidly adapted for grazing. He decided to send us out there with some sheep. Accordingly, two of us had to go to look after the sheep, and a third man was sent as hutkeeper and to cook for us, etc. A bark hut, 'gunyah' as it is termed, was fixed up for us to live in. It was indeed a lonesome place, but it was as had been described, a fine piece of grazing country. We subsequently discovered it was the blackfellows' retreat whenever they had committed any of their depredations in the way of sheep stealing. We did not know this at the time we went there.
There were some large water holes close by, which were often covered with wild ducks. I took my gun and went out one day to try and shoot some, and as I walked along I was surprised to see a great quantity of wool, enough to fill several bags, laying about under the honeysuckle trees. It was plain to me that this was the place where the blacks slaughtered the sheep they had stolen. As we were getting short of rations, I asked one of the blacks who I had seen knocking about the place if he would guide me across the hills to the home station in order to procure some more rations. To go across country the distance was only about seven miles, whereas if we took the road the distance was fifteen miles. The blackfellow agreed to do so, and we started off and reached the station in safety. We remained there for the night. I might mention that some time previous to this, a gin, whose husband had been shot and who had two children, was taken in by Mrs Allen, out of pity, and she kept the lubra about the station minding a few ewes and lambs. It appears that the black who had accompanied me tried to make love to this lubra that night, and as she would have nothing to do with him, he gave her a terrible beating. The next day the gin told Mrs Allen that the blackfellow had beaten her, and also that this man's tribe had decided (he had said) to kill me and one of the shepherds, as the tribe considered we had encroached on their camping ground. However I knew nothing of this just then, and the blackfellow and I returned to the hut with the rations, being quite- as I have said- unaware of the plot laid against my mate and myself.
That night some time after we had been in bed, and the night had pretty well worn away, we were surprised to hear a blackfellow, who could speak broken English, call out: "Are you asleep whitefellow?" My mate called out: "No, what's the matter?" The aboriginal replied: "Oh, big one frightened along with blackfellow." My mate says: "What for frightened?" The aboriginal replied: "Oh too much bungally yabber along with lubra." Bungally means stupid, yabber talk. My mate wanted to know what he was driving at, so said, "Name that one yabber along with lubra." By degrees we came to guess some treachery was on foot. "Bye and bye," says the black in his pigeon English, "a large number of horsemen coming from the station to kill all the blackfellows;" but, added he, "when they come you tell them we were good blackfellows, and harmed nobody." "Why don't you carry a firestick?" asked my mate. As the black was making off he sang out: "Oh no! Him whitefellow would see that and follow and kill us."
He made off, and about two hours afterwards, the whitemen, of whose coming he had foretold, arrived on horseback, and called out to us to know if we were asleep. They then told us how the blacks had planned to murder us; that the black who had accompanied me, had told the lubra he thrashed, and that she had let it all out to Mrs Allen. The men of the station had all been called together and sent out to our rescue. The blacks, however, in some mysterious way had got wind of their coming, and so made off in the night. We were ordered, if the blacks showed near there again, to give them no quarter, and if they did not clear off, to at once to send word to the home station and men would be sent to clear them out.
We stayed there for some time after this without seeing any blacks; but one day, when I was alone in the hut, I happened to go down to one of the waterholes for a bucket of water. You may guess my feelings on seeing, only some 60 yards distant, a large number of blacks, quite naked and with their war paint on, each man carrying a bundle of spears. They were making direct for the hut. I also made for the hut as quickly as I possibly could without appearing frightened, in order to prepare for them. But they were at the hut almost as soon as I was. I had a gun and pistol loaded, and seizing the gun I took up my position near the door, and asked them what they wanted. They replied: "Damper." I told them that if every man went across the creek, and each brought me a log of wood, I would give them 'damper'. They agreed to this, and went for the wood, and while they were away, I got things ready for a stout resistance by the time they came back. I also carried out the damper and left it on a log for them, and when they came back with the wood, I pointed to the station bread and said: "There is the damper for you. That is all, and you must share it." They did so, and never attempted to interfere with me. When they were leaving, I asked them where they were going. They said: "To Jacky Jacky's at Mount Emu to a 'corroboree'." Mr Glendinning, the manager of the station was named 'Jacky Jacky' by the blacks. About two days after, I noticed an old blackfellow and two lubras coming from the opposite direction to that which the blacks had taken and towards my hut. It was just in the gloaming, and I had had an old scarecrow fixed up, to frighten the wild dogs, at some distance in front of the hut, with hat, coat, etc. As the blackfellow came towards this, he stared at it, and then said: "Good evening." Getting no reply, he came up very cautiously a little closer, the gins being not far behind, and said again, "Good evening. Good evening." Getting no answer this time, he got scared, and he and the lubras ran from it up to the hut.
He pointed down to the scarecrow, and said: "Name it. What you call it that fellow? Mine think it Chinamen." I felt rather amused at the old fellow for he had got quite a scare. They merely asked for something to eat. I gave them some food, and after getting it the old fellow said to me: "You big one frightened the other day with blackfellow?" "No," I replied, "white man never frightened when he has got plenty of bung" (meaning gun) but the old fellow seemed to think I was frightened, as indeed I was, and they must have seen it although I endeavoured to conceal it from them.
Having heard that things at our station were not in a satisfactory condition (from a friend) I thought that it would be advisable to leave as soon as my time expired. The cause of the squatter's trouble was, I am told, owing to Captain, better known as Paddy W, who was a large wool merchant in Melbourne, having bought and sent home a lot of wool the previous season, to merchants who, having received it, became insolvent, so that he got nothing, or at most very little for his consignment.
When my time was up I went to Mr Allen and told him I wished to leave and go to town, and therefore requested a settlement. He said: "I am beginning to shear, and being short handed, you would oblige me if you would stay till the shearing was over." I replied that I had some particular business in Melbourne that I wished to attend to so it would be impossible for me to remain any longer than the time I had agreed for.
Summonses - Melbourne - Geelong - Trouble!
Having heard that my employer paid his men by giving orders, payable eighteen days after sight, and noticing he was not writing out a cheque, I asked him how he paid his men. He said: "I give orders on P.W. wool merchants, of Melbourne, payable eighteen days after sight." I said, "I did not reckon that any payment at all." He said: "If you don't like that you can go and get your money as best you can." I said: "Alright." So two of my mates and I packed up and started for Melbourne, without a shilling in our pockets, the distance being about 250 miles, and through as rough a part of the country as there was in the colony. There being neither bridges nor roads, unless a bullock track can be designated as a road. We had to ford creeks, and the water was so cold that it seemed to cut our flesh, and the dogs that we had with us were often washed down the stream sixty or a hundred yards by the force of the current before they effected a crossing to the opposite bank. In some places we had to procure long sticks to steady us when crossing. However, we kept our hearts up, and pushed on, journeying about 30 miles every day. One of our mates had taken his order to pay at eighteen days. We at last reached Melbourne, and the following day I went up to the Police Court, and stated our case to the police magistrate (Major St John). After he had heard what I had to say he granted us two summonses. At that time you could not get a constable to go up country to serve them, nor any other person either, so there was nothing else for it but for us to be sworn in as special constables, in order to be able to serve the summonses ourselves.
Of course, one man could have served the summonses, but it was not safe for one to travel alone, as the blacks were both numerous and dangerous. So two of us procured some provisions and started back again. Our mate, the third man, stayed behind, having taken ill on account of the exposure and hardships he had endured, and although only twenty-one years of age, and of fine physique, he died a week later. My mate and I at last made our way back and served the summonses. Our employer said: "I won't appear on these as I am not in the Melbourne District. I am in the Geelong District." We thought that this was only a bit of bluff on his part. I said: "Well if you don't appear on them, I will go to Geelong and take out summonses for you there." We asked him would he sell us some rations to help carry us back, but he said: "No, I have none to spare." So again we were obliged to get back to Melbourne as best we could. We, however, got down alright, and waited for the time when the cases were to be called on. When the time arrived defendant's name was called but he did not put in an appearance. The police magistrate then examined the books, and found that the defendant was, as he had stated, in the Geelong District, and consequently the bench had no jurisdiction.
Therefore we had our journey up and down, and all the trouble and vexation so far for nil. The magistrate expressed deep regret at our misfortune, and said: "You will have to go to Geelong and state your case to Captain Fyans, the police magistrate." So having a little money in the Union Bank, I drew some and got on board the steamer called the Fraser , which was commanded by Captain Kemp, and bound for Geelong. The fare at that time was 5s.
We arrived in the city (Geelong) early in the evening and took a stroll round the place. There were no shops except a provision store kept by a Mr Champion and he used to supply squatters and other persons with general stores, wool bales etc. There were two public houses, a blacksmith's shop, and about a dozen cottages, and a great number of large gum trees and sheoaks. The next morning I went and stated our case to the magistrate, and he at once granted the summonses.
The next morning, after obtaining some provisions, away we again started for the station. Another tedious journey, etc. we again arrived there, and served the summonses on the defendant employer. He said: "You appear to be determined, but I won't appear on these either." I said: "It won't trouble us whether you appear or not." We then left and travelled about twelve miles back and stayed that night at another station. Next morning we again got on the track for Geelong. Having a shipmate living in Geelong, we asked his wife if she could accommodate us with board and lodgings until such time as our case came on for hearing. She said that she did not take boarders, but knowing us so well, she was willing to oblige us, seeing that we did not stay at the public houses. So we were well pleased with this arrangement and accordingly took up our quarters with her and her husband until the cases were heard.
Defendant's name was called, but again there was no appearance. Judgement was then given against him and expenses allowed for service of summons, &c., of 3d per mile for one trip up and down; execution was stayed for fourteen days. On the fourteenth day I went to the police court to see about having the order put into force and was talking to the chief constable (Mr McEver) in front of the court, when our old employer and another man came towards me and he said: "I want to speak to you." I went to one side with him and he then asked: "Will you take a cheque on the -------Bank for this money?" I said: "No, you told me to get my wages as best I could so that is the way I am going to try and get it; and if the money is not paid into the court by twelve o'clock, some of the troopers will go up and bring down some of those crawling bullocks of yours, and then I will get my money. You gave me trouble enough but now it comes my turn." He held his head down and walked off.
The constable, who still waited where I left him, on my returning to renew our conversation, enquired who those two gentlemen were. I said: "One was Mr Allen, I do not know the other." "Oh," he rejoined "I know the other, he is 'Picanninny Lloyd' as he is called, the wool merchant. The blacks gave him this nickname as he is a small man; but what might Mr Allen want you for?" I then related what had passed. He clapped his hands together, and said: "You just saved your bacon; if you had taken the cheque, on presentation you would have found no funds, and then you would have had to go through all the trouble again." Defendant paid the money in before twelve o'clock and grumbled at the expenses we had been allowed. viz.the 3d per mile. The clerk of courts (Mr Ayres) said to him: "Do you want these men to turn highwaymen? They have done your work and you did not want to pay them, and how do you think men are to live?"
So we got our money, and I think you will admit not without a great deal of trouble and annoyance, and this statement, which is quite true, will give you an idea of what men had to endure at times from some masters. Our troubles with money did not end there. We made up our minds to stay in Geelong for a fortnight and recruit ourselves, and so we thought we could not do better than put our money for safe keeping in the care of our shipmate, at whose place we were still staying. We gave the money to the wife, to keep for us and made her child a present of £1 to buy a new dress. We paid them at the same rate for our board and lodging as the hotel charged. All went well for a while, but returning home one evening we were met at the door by the wife, who appeared greatly excited, and clapping her hands together and crying said: "My box has been broken open, and all your money gone." You may well imagine our feelings on hearing this.
At last I said: "There was nobody who knew about the money but you and your husband so who could take it? " She replied: "Oh there is nobody who took it but John," meaning her husband. I asked, "Where is he?" She replied: "I do not know; but go to Mac's hotel and if he is not there try Murray's hotel, and if he is not there go to Carpenter's place." The last named was an old crony of John's. I at once went to both public houses but John was not to be found. So I then went to Carpenter's, and was rewarded, for he was there; he and Carpenter being seated quite comfortably with a bottle of brandy and glasses on the table in front of them.
Trouble in Geelong - Melbourne - Mount Shadwell
They invited me in, but I said: "No thank you, I am in a hurry," and to the man whom I had been in search of I said: "You are wanted at home." He said: "Who wants me?" I replied: "Well it is not far to go, and you are wanted particularly." So he came out, he was rather the worse for liquor. As we walked along I said to him: "Why did you break open the box and take our money?" He said,"I knew nothing about it." I replied: "If you don't turn up that money I will have you locked up in less than half an hour." I called to my mates who were standing at the door, awaiting results, to come and hold the man. He came and held our treacherous landlord and I went for the police and was returning with two constables when my mate called out: "Don't give him in charge. He has given me all the money but £5, so let him go." I accordingly told the constables that their services would not be required, and they went away. The culprit's wife afterwards said to him: "John, you tried to be a rogue, but you did not know how."
We thought we had been long enough there, so we packed and made for the jetty in order to catch the Fraser to Melbourne, but we arrived a few minutes too late as the steamer had passed. There was, however, a one masted sailing boat at the pier, which was engaged carrying freestone from quarries at Geelong to build the Union Bank in Collins Street, Melbourne. They used to call her the 'Carpenter's Tool Box', and we asked the Captain if he would take us to Melbourne. He said: "Yes, but I will be too long getting there." We said we did not care if it was a month so long as we got away from Geelong, as we had had enough of the place. He then said: "I will charge you the same price as the steamboat." We said: "Alright; but how are you off for rations on board." He replied-"I have plenty of rations, so we went aboard and shortly after set sail for Melbourne.
As we got out to sea, it turned out a missling, foggy day, and so we passed along in front of the You Yangs. I began to think that things did not seem quite satisfactory. The man at the helm had a book, [which he was] reading, and seemed to be quite engrossed with the subject, and I think that his compass was out of order, for now and then he used to touch it with his finger and then resume his reading. By and by we got on to a sandbank, and then we had a lot of trouble to get the boat clear of this. We did so finally, but had to bring levers, spars, etc. into requisition. Two men got into the rowing boat, and at last our combined strength, triumphed, although we were only five in number. The boat was heavily laden with stone, her bows only being three feet above the water.
We were three days and nights on this voyage, the distance being hardly fifty miles. After staying in town about a fortnight we were engaged by a squatter, named Captain Webster, who owned a station at Mount Shadwell, now known as Mortlake. We were to receive £1 per week and rations. Our duties consisted of dressing and attending to sheep that had foot rot, etc. Nearly all the sheep on this station at this time were in a fearful condition with scab also.
The Captain's nickname was 'Old Bluey'. He used to engage a lot of men but many of them treated him badly. They would work for a few days, and then make a draw at the store in the shape of blankets, boots, or clothing, and then clear out at night. Next morning the Captain would be on horseback and galloping all over the place, endeavouring to find the missing ones, but often without success. One of his men, whom they called 'George', said to me that he had agreed with 'Old Bluey' for twelve months. I asked him why he had done so and he replied: "Oh, if I did not agree for twelve months, he would not have me at all and for the matter of that, I would agree for seven years if he asked me, but will only stop until it suits me to go." It can be seen there were also some men with as poor principles as some masters.
Mr Webster, although what may be called a hasty man, was a good pay, and when we were leaving, our time having expired, he tried hard to get us to stay on. We would have stayed longer, too, but for the overseer, a Mr Black, who had agreed to cure all the sheep on the station for £160 and rations for himself and wife. He was also to be allowed to have all the men he required and all the medicine, but he appeared to be one of those people who are never satisfied and are always grumbling at the men. Amongst sheep he could not be beaten. He was the best man that ever I was acquainted with in that particular line.
Mount Shadwell is, or was, the finest grazing land that I have seen in Victoria. It would support four flocks of sheep with 1200 sheep in each flock all year round, and at the time I am speaking of- [that] was in the year 1844- there were two sheep stations, one at the east end and the other at the west end and two other flocks at the other sides. At the front of Mount Shadwell on the Eastern side a strange phenomenon was to be seen. It consisted of a kind of cutting about 30 to 40 feet wide, and about 6 feet deep, reminding one of the appearance of a canal. Away at the end of this cutting there is a plain and a little bald hill, and to the latter the blacks attached a legend. They informed us that the little bald hill was originally joined to Mount Shadwell, but one very wet season it slipped away during the night and the next day the blacks were greatly surprised to see this hill away out on the plain. They said that this trench was made by the hill as it slipped away and pursued its course. I have no reason to doubt the statement in this matter for we know that landslides have occurred in many other countries, and there is every indication of one having occurred here as the blacks related.
About forty miles from here is Lake Boloke, and a water course from there, at certain seasons of the year, runs towards Mount Shadwell. I was rather surprised to notice, while in this vicinity that native blacks seem to have a knowledge of constructing what we call weirs at Home, and they also catch eels with nets they make of rushes. Of late years, since black boys have been employed on stations, they take care to help themselves to plenty of twine, and now they have more substantial nets than their rush ones.
Mr Webster paid us what was due to us, and we again shaped our course for Melbourne. The track lay towards Salt Creek, a station owned by a Mr Anderson. The fattest mutton that it was ever my lot to see was grown there. We stayed at the station for the night and were most hospitably received. The next day we made for Mr Williams' station leaving Lake Boloke on our right and the Hopkins River to the left. We had to travel over a barren plain and it being summertime there was no water to be had. As a land guide we made towards the peak of the mountain, as we had been told that there was a sheep station at the foot of the hill. I believe the distance between Mount Shadwell and Mr Williams' station was from sixty to seventy miles and at that time there was no road.
Despite all difficulties, we covered that distance in two days. When we were within two miles of our projected halting place, one of my mates (there were three of us travelling together) got knocked up for want of water. It was then just within half an hour of sundown. My sound mate and I asked the tired one to let us carry him by turns to the station, for we could see he was completely exhausted. He would not consent to this arrangement.
Lost in a Thunderstorm - Melbourne - Judge Pohlman's
Our exhausted comrade, it will be remembered, declined to let us carry him as we proposed, so I got our mate to stay behind with him. I undertook to go forward to the station and get a bottle of water and return with it to them.
They having agreed to this arrangement, I started off, but before I could reach the station a heavy thunder storm came on, and it got so dark that I could not see the hut, and I ran against the sheepfolds. I knew by that I was near the hut, and "Coo-eed" and the men answered me. I made my way to the hut and explained how matters stood, and was supplied with a bottle of water and began the return journey to my mates. The night was now dark and it was raining heavily. After I had gone what I thought must have been about two miles, I considered I should have been near my mates and "Coo-eed." My mates, as it afterwards appeared, heard me and answered me, but I did not hear them as the wind was blowing a gale in the opposite direction and, instead of going towards them, it seems in the darkness I was bearing away from them westward, in the direction of Mount Elephant plains.
One of my mates said to the other when they noticed this: "He will get lost on the plains, and will be out all night, so, as you can walk you had better go after him." He said, "All right," and as I kept "coo-eeing" he followed in the direction of the sound and at last overtook me. We then both turned around and strove to find our mate, but after going round and round, and "coo-eeing" for fully two hours without success; and being thoroughly drenched with the heavy rain, we determined to give up the search until daylight, knowing our mate would not be wanting for water.
It cleared off a little and we could see the point of Mount William. We decided we must try to get to the sheep station, so we started and got to the station without much difficulty. The people had gone to bed, so we pushed open the door, and sat by the fire all night. At daylight we started to search for our mate and we went straight to where he was. All through the night we were afraid he would die from the effects of exposure, but he was alright. He had made a bundle of the clothing, etc. and finding a high piece of ground he sat there all through the night. He was afraid we would get on the Elephant Plains, and be lost, and we were afraid of finding him dead. Things having turned out alright after all, the three of us made for the hut. When we arrived the shepherds had gone out to their sheep, but their hutkeeper was there. Strange to say, she never offered us anything to eat, although she knew the hardships we had gone through. There was a large 'damper' on the table, and I believe I had the most cheek, for I took up the loaf and cut a piece of it for my mates and myself, said: "Good morning," and walked off.
After travelling two or three miles we met a man on horseback. He asked me whether we were looking for employment. We told him that we were not, but were on our way to Melbourne. He next enquired where we came from. We told him, and also about the adventure we had had. He said: "My station is down here only three miles off, so you had better go there and take two or three days' spell." This gentleman was the manager of the Mount Emu Station, near Ararat. His name was Glendinning, better known as 'Jacky Jacky', the nickname given him by the blacks. We thankfully accepted his kind offer, and found at Mr Glendinning's as housekeeper, a young woman, who had been servant in a hotel in Melbourne, next door to where we had lived; so were in luck's way, for we were treated to the best that was to be had. The old adage is true, that "A friend in need is a friend indeed."
After staying there a day or two, we went across country in the direction of the Pyrenees and Mount Cole, and made for McCallum's Station on the Deep Creek and crossed the Loddon near what was Hunter's Station. We had some difficulty in crossing the river, and had to use poles to sound the depth, as we went along, and besides we found the poles a great support as we were crossing. We stayed at Hunter's Station, had our supper, bed and breakfast and then set out for Kyneton, and having proceeded as far as one of Mr Ward's Stations, we stayed there that night and the following day passed on towards Gisborne.
As we journeyed onwards we called in at Cummin's and Smythe's, at Carlsruhe and had our dinners there. They had a paddock fenced in a mile square which was the largest I had seen in the colony in those days. They were just beginning then to grub and clear it for cultivation. From here we went towards what was called the Five Mile Creek, and on through the black forest, and camped at the creek at Gisborne. That night we were some thirty-three miles from Melbourne. Next day we went on by what was called 'Hungry Jackson's' Station on the Deep Creek, and reached town that night. Hungry Jackson, it was stated, received that appellation because he would give nothing to any man. In justice to him, I must say that we could not complain of his treatment, for he supplied us with a good dinner.
We stayed in Melbourne nine or ten days, until an acquaintance of ours, having occasion to go up with a loading to Mr Piper's Station, near Kyneton, we decided to go up with him. The roads were in a very bad state, it being now winter, and the bullocks (for it was nearly all bullock teams in those days that carried loading) were in very poor condition. As a consequence we were getting stuck continually, and what with having to unload and carry bags of sugar, flour, etc. to where the ground was not so boggy and having then to reload, we were regularly harassed and tired out.
The longest journey a team could make was from six to seven miles a day. No one who did not see the thing for himself, could imagine the large stream of water that would flow down the wheel tracks as the dray passed along, the ground being so saturated with water. We kept with the teams until we were within about five miles of the station, then we went on ahead past Piper's and stayed at Dr Benton's for the night. As he required no additional hands we proceeded to Glen Hope which was the name of a station owned by Judge Pohlman, near the Mia-Mia.
The Judge did not live at the station as his duties required his presence near Melbourne. He resided at Richmond, one of the suburbs. His brother stayed at and managed the station. As we passed along towards this station we noticed a man employed in removing sheep yards, and by his dress we took him for one of the hutkeepers. We passed the time of day to him, and went on up to the kitchen. We were surprised to find a shipmate of ours and her husband in charge; so again we were lucky. After we had some dinner we asked if the master was at home, as we wished to see him. "Why", she said, "You just passed him as you came up to the place." We were then aware that the man who we took for a hutkeeper was the manager. We went to him and enquired if there was any chance of work. As soon as we came near and looked into his face, and spoke to him, we could see that he was a gentleman.
He said that he could give us employment in a few day's time, as some of the other men's time would be up, and they were leaving. He added that some of them were invalids and were not required on the station. In the meantime, he said: "Go and stop at the men's hut, and tomorrow we will make out an agreement." We did as directed, and when the time came he offered us £22 per annum with rations. He also said: "There is a flock of ewes about lambing, and if you have good luck you will be able to make £5 or £6 extra, for I will give you 1s.6d. per head for every lamb you rear over 80 to the 100." Time went on and we were satisfied with the terms and the place; it was about the best one I was ever at for there were plenty of rations of good quality, and the season being a good lambing one we made about £7 extra.
Judge Pohlman's - Bullock Driving - Melbourne
There was a good kitchen garden in connection with Judge Pohlman's Station, and Mr Pohlman, the Judges's brother, did the greater part of the work in this himself, and used to say that he liked working because by doing so he was able to provide wholesome vegetables, not only for himself, but for the men also. This little fact which I mention will give a good insight into that gentleman's character, as it will prove that he is one of those very rare people who have consideration for others as well as self, and it was mainly owing to this good trait of character that things in general always went on so smoothly with master and men. He grew splendid vegetables, cabbages, lettuces, tomatoes, parsnips, turnips and so forth, and whenever the hutkeepers required them they came and took whatever they wanted. Water-cresses grew in a spring near the garden, and one day I took several of these plants, and set them in a spring three miles distant, at a place called 'Paddy's Flat', and as time wore on the stream of water carried the seeds of these down towards the Coliban River, about fourteen miles distant, and at the present time, for the whole distance on either bank, water-cress grows in abundance. Some people make a living by hawking these cresses to Bendigo, Kyneton and other places. As a woolshed was required we had to build one by stripping bark off gum and box trees for the roof and sides, the whole building was made up of bark and posts; no nails were used, but holes bored and pegs driven in where required, in wall plates, etc and the bark was well tied down with green bullock hide, which had been cut into narrow strips. The back part of the run extended in the direction of Mt Ivor. It was infested by a savage and treacherous race of blacks. Mr Munroe who had a cattle station adjoining, had some of his men speared by the aborigines, so he and the men turned out and gave Mr Blackfellow a lively time of it, and so warm was it made for them that for several years no black was seen at either station.
As Mr Pohlman was beginning to need more supplies for the station, he went away to town, and left orders for the bullock team to follow the day after to bring up the supplies. Another squatter named Dr Plane, whose run joined ours, was also sending his team down for supplies, so the two bullock drivers decided to travel together; it not being safe to life and property to travel alone. Cases had occurred of theft and murder. Sometimes when a bullock driver, after the night's camp, went to look for his cattle, the blacks, if they didn't kill him, would go to his wagon and steal what things they could while he was absent. Teamsters therefore preferred to travel together.
Our two went to the Five Mile Creek, or Woodend, where they decided to camp for the night, and, as usual they turned out their bullocks. The next morning they looked for them to yoke up and make a start. The team, belonging to Judge Pohlman, was missing, and after searching for some time they found the tracks making homewards. So Mr Pohlman's driver had to return for his bullocks, while the other man proceeded on his journey to Melbourne.
Mr Pohlman's driver asked me to help him take his team back and to go with him to town. Accordingly, next morning, as the day was just breaking we started, and got to Woodend that night, and took the precaution to secure the bullocks in a stock yard. Next morning another early start was made as we wanted to get to our destination as quickly as possible, as we knew the boss would be wondering what was detaining us, and anxious for our safety, if we were much behind time. We reached Gisborne, some seventeen miles distant, between nine and ten o'clock that morning and had our breakfast there. The driver made the bullocks trot all the way. Of course, we had no loading, except sixty or seventy sheepskins.
After breakfast, I took the whip in hand again and gave the driver a spell, and we pushed along as fast as possible until we reached the Deep Creek, where we had dinner. The bullocks were in good working order, not too fat, or they could never have stood the pace that we came along at. One of them as it was, had his tongue hanging out fully 6 inches as he was the fattest of the lot, and I was expecting that at any moment he would give in; but he did not, and we reached Judge Pohlman's at Richmond that day, half an hour before sundown.
The distance travelled for the day was fifty miles. I think it will be hard to find such another journey with a bullock team on record, as the usual journey is from twelve to twenty miles a day. We stayed at Judge Pohlman's that night, and put the bullocks in his paddock, and they remained there until the following night, so that they had a good spell, which they must have needed. The next day Mr Pohlman and the driver went around to the store to see about the loading, while I had a stroll around to see some friends; and when I thought they had sufficient time to get packed up, I went up to where they were. All being then ready, we started on our return journey.
Just as we passed the old cemetery not far out of town, my mate said: "You had better take the whip, as I want to go back to town on a little business. I will not be half an hour, and I will soon overtake you." I said to him: "Well, you know I am no bullock driver, but I will do my best; so go ahead, but don't be long." "Oh, I won't be half an hour," says he, and off he went. I kept going until I got as far as what is now called Flemington, and I could now see just in front of me a very dangerous crossing. There was no proper bridge, but a kind of narrow break-water was constructed, which was a very dangerous affair for an inexperienced bullock driver, especially with a loading on, and two passengers, a man and his wife, who were going to a station up country. I looked behind for my mate but he was nowhere to be seen.
I saw that I would have to chance this crossing. It was a matter of do or die. As we drew near the place I asked my fellow traveller if he could drive bullocks. He replied: "No, I have never driven a bullock in my life." "Well" I said, "You had better get your wife to come down off the dray in case of an accident." He lifted her down, and I then put the bullocks at the crossing, and, strange to say, they went over without the slightest difficulty. They were a splendid team. As we went along I kept looking back continually in hope of seeing my mate heave in sight.
Flooding at Gisborne - Josiah Austin's, Barwon River
But there was still no sign of the laggard bullock driver, and night was now almost upon us, and I really did not know what was best to do.
After consulting with the other man I decided to scotch the wheels, take out the bullocks, and fasten them to some sheok trees that grew along the road at that time. I was afraid if I turned them loose they would trot off to the station and leave me in a fix. We tied them up and kept watch over them all night. We were put to great straits for water for we could obtain none about there, and so had nothing to drink for supper or breakfast. I was still on the lookout for my mate, at last we could see in the distance a man running towards us bare headed. I soon recognised him. The first question he asked when he came up was: "Have you got the bullocks?" I told him that I had, and asked him why he was so long in overtaking us. He replied to the effect that he had been told that we were out on the Sydney Road, and that he had gone out for four or five miles in that direction as far as the hotel called the 'Young Queen', trying to overtake us; the truth was he had got on the spree.
I said that as the bullocks had been tied up all night, I thought they required something to eat before we started. He said: "Oh, that will not do. Mr Pohlman will be coming along the road shortly on his way home, and if he saw the bullocks tied up feeding he would know something had gone wrong." Then he added: "Mind don't mention what has passed." So I said: "Alright," and we then without delay yoked up and started. And we had not been long on the road before Mr Pohlman came along and passed us, and as he was going called out: "So you are getting on alright." "Yes," replied the driver, and added, "but there is a hotel a little distance ahead, Mr Pohlman, and we would like to drink your health. " "Well," said the master, "all the silver I have got about is about half-a-crown, but you can have that if it is any good to you." So he handed it to the driver, who took and spent it at the first hotel. After this things went smoothly again, with the exception of getting bogged once or twice, until we again reached the station.
I remained there for twelve months, and then the time for which we agreed having expired, I decided to quit. I wished to see other parts of the country; and besides, in those times so many of the settlers were going insolvent, no man cared to stay over six or twelve months without his money. You could always get your money on demand if there was only a small amount due to you, but if you had three years' wages, or so, coming it was often a matter of great difficulty to get a settlement. I resolved to get settled up with. My mates and I got our cheques alright, and started off for Melbourne. When we got to Gisborne the creek was running very high, and although we "coo-eed" we got no response from those on the opposite bank. There were a lot of bullock teams camped on our side of the river, so we determined to camp with them. But after we had been lying down for an hour or two the water began to come through our bedding, so we had to get up and stand by the fire all night. Next morning, the creek having lowered, we crossed over and went to a public house called the 'Bush Inn', and breakfasted there, and then started for Keilor. The flood had washed away the bridge there, and a man and a horse had been drowned. On each side of the river there was to be seen a crowd of people and bullock teams, some wishing to go to Melbourne, and some to go up country, but neither could cross. We stayed at the hotel there for two days and two nights, waiting for the flood waters to subside; and then, having heard that we could cross on the punt near Footscray, we made up our minds not to wait longer, but to go on there, the distance being about seven miles down the river.
We found the punt was at work as we had been informed, but after we left the punt we had still to cross the flat that lies between the Flagstaff Gardens and Footscray, a distance of nearly two miles before we reach Melbourne. This flat was all under water, and crossing it was no light undertaking. In some parts the water reached up as high as our armpits, and as we splashed along through the swamp we often wished that we had stayed at the hotel at Keilor until the water had subsided. The dogs we had with us had to swim all the distance. We called in at what was called the 'Baker's Arms' in Elizabeth Street, which was then kept by a Mr Taylor, and ordered some refreshments, which we badly needed. We stayed in Melbourne nine or ten days, and then engaged to go to Mr Josiah Austin's Station, on the Barwon River. We entered into an engagement for twelve months, the wages to be £20 per annum, with rations. This was a good place and I remained there for two years. Mr Josiah Austin was an old bachelor, and of very hospitable disposition, and when any of us went to see him, he would always make us have a drink, both when we came and when we were going away. I was near the crossing at the Barwon River, that day that Mr Thomas Austin and his bride Miss Harding (and her brother) crossed on horseback on their way to Geelong, where they were to be married. They went to Mt Pollock and across the Barrabool Hills. The Austins were good employers, and there was no trouble to get your cheque.
After I left Austin's I went to Geelong and took the steamer to Melbourne. The fare at the time was 5s. There was now another steamer trading between Geelong and Melbourne, called the Vesta besides the Aphrasia, which was the name of the other one. There were only three steamers altogether in Hobson's Bay, viz: The Fraser, The Vesta, and The Governor Arthur. This last named was the oldest of the three, and she had her berth at the Queen's Wharf, and carried passengers, etc., to and from the shipping in the bay. It was only of small dimensions.
Getting tired of bush life, I thought I would settle down in town for awhile, so I bought a horse, a dray and water-cart, and began carting loading to and from the wharf. I also carted water when it was required, and sometimes I took water out as far as St Kilda for water was not laid on anywhere at that time. The price in the city for a load of water was 1s, but 4s for a load out to St Kilda. Out of the 4s we had to pay 6d toll, as we passed over the wooden bridge which once occupied the site where Princess Bridge now stands. The water carters had pumps fixed in the Yarra, from which they obtained their supply. The price charged for taking a cartload of goods from the wharf, to any part of Melbourne was a shilling per load. This was in the year 1846, and at this time most of the buildings were weatherboard, wattle and dab (sic); but the town was now beginning to extend.
The first two storey brick building was built by two Jews named Harris and Marks, who were carrying on a drapery business in Elizabeth Street.
While I was carting I chanced to run across my first employer, Captain Hepburn of Smeaton, and he engaged me to take up a load of fruit trees and wool bales to his station. We agreed as to terms; but when I went to the wharf and saw the loading, I told the captain that there was as much stuff as two drays could take up to Smeaton. He then commissioned me to engage another man to go up with me, undertaking to pay him at the same rate as he was giving me. I engaged another carter, and we two went to the wharf with our drays, loaded up, and started on the following morning. We journeyed that day as far as Keilor, and the Captain (who had stayed behind) overtook us there, and was greatly pleased with the progress we had made. He said we had done so well he would pay our expenses for the night for the horse and ourselves, and did so.
Next morning we pushed on towards Bacchus Marsh, and on towards Pike's Station. It took us about five days to complete the journey, and we had some very bad roads to get over, particularly so just after we left Bacchus Marsh. We could only bring about half-a-ton on each dray.
Smeaton, The First Fruit Trees - Hay and Corn Dealing
After our five days toilsome driving, we arrived at Captain Hepburn's place with everything in good order. "Now," said the Captain, "I have a good stack of hay here, so you and your mate can stop and give your horses a spell for a few days, and when you are going away, take what hay you will require for your return journey with you." We thanked him for this, which was, indeed, a very kind offer. These fruit trees that were brought up from Melbourne to Smeaton for Captain Hepburn were the first that came to the Smeaton District. As two of the Captain's employees were leaving they agreed with me to take them and their luggage back to Melbourne, and gave me £2 for doing so. The Smeaton and Lake Learmonth District are the best for cultivation I have seen in Victoria.
It took a man at this time all he could do to make carting water pay, as food was very dear, oats being from 4s 6d to 5s per bushell and hay £3-£4 per ton. The oats came mainly from Tasmania; so after two year's of a trial I gave up the business. Being advised to go into the hay and corn trade, I rented a store in Flinders Lane, at the corner of Elizabeth Street, which was a good business site, and I made a start as a hay and corn dealer, etc. I carried on business there for about eight months, and being well known to the carters I had a big run, and sold as much, if not more than the other three stores that were in the same business, put together.
But I was unfortunate enough to give too much credit, and when I began to present the bills, some of those I thought the best left and went elsewhere, without at all troubling themselves to pay me what they owed. As my capital began to run down, I deemed it advisable to close the shop and I accordingly did so.
I had a friend at St Kilda, named Mr George Shaw, who owned a station on the Billy-bong, and also had a boiling down establishment on the River Murray, near Echuca. I saw him, and having come to terms to go to work for him. I started off for his station, along with two teams, that were taking loading to a place called the 'Woolshed', belonging to Boyd and Co., but about two miles from Deniliquin and thirty-five miles from my destination. I had to walk the thirty five miles through a rough part of the country, clothed with the salt bush etc. This salt bush resembles cabbage sprouts in appearance, and in some parts it is the chief food of cattle and sheep in the summer months.
When I arrived at the station a manager named Mr Bateman was in charge, and after we had got settled down and talked matters over he said to me: "The water is getting done about the station, so we will have to go travelling with the stock down the Edwards River and up the Murray, and where ever we can get feed and water, until the rainy season sets in, and then we will come back again. What sort of horseman are you?" "Pretty good," I said. "Well," says he, "take a day's spell, for tomorrow I want you to go to Kennedy's station, seventeen miles away from here, and bring back two bullocks from there; they will send a black boy part of the way to help you." I said, "All right."
As desired, the next day I started for Kennedy's Station, and got there safely. Stayed for the night, and in the morning got the bullocks, and the black boy to help me drive them. Before I had gone two miles the boy gave me the slip, and left me to do as best I could. I can assure you it was a difficult task to get those two unwilling bullocks along. One of the bullocks would break away in one direction, and the other in another, and between them my horse and I had a very busy time of it. However, I got them home safe at last; but I would not undertake such a job again for £5. The time came for us to go travelling with the sheep and cattle, and Mr Bateman told me that he had received a letter from Mr Shaw, the owner, stating I was to be left home in charge of the station while they were away. Having signed the necessary documents I was left in charge, and was given to understand that when I required a load of water I would have to go to a Mr Grey, at Coree, ten miles distant, and get a horse and water cart from him, bring myself a load of water, from there, and then return the horse and cart the next day, and walk home again. That gives an idea of what straits we were in for water. All our horses had to be sent away to where there was water. The job was rather a hard one, as I would have to walk ten miles each way every time to get my load of water, but I agreed to it.
Mr Bateman and the other men started off with the stock, but they had not been gone two hours when the mob of horses which they had driven off to the water came galloping back to the station again. I drove them into a paddock, and secured a draught horse, that I knew would suit me, and then turned the others adrift. I got a new saddle and bridle out of the store, and was now able to ride to Coree and back, instead of walking.
One night, after I had been in bed for some time I heard a "Coo-ee" so I got up, dressed myself, and having answered it, I went in the direction whence the sound came, I thought it must have been someone lost. As I came towards where I heard the "Coo-ee", I could see a dog cart in which two men were seated. When I was approaching them one of them called out to me in an angry tone: "Why did you not answer us before?" I said: "I answered as soon as I heard you and came here as fast as I could." "Not you," says he. "I suppose you are one of those BillyBong." (making use of a foul expression) This got my blood up and I said: "If you get out of that cart and stand before me I will let you see who I am and what I am." "Oh, you need not be afraid of that" says he, "I will soon be there." He got out at once, and without more to do at it [ado] we went [at it]. I hit out pretty quick and hard and he went down again and again. I called him to get up, but he would not do so the second time. Being enraged at the way he had spoken to me I was preparing to give him a good kicking when the other man came and begged of me not to punch him any more. I desisted, and turned to walk away and leave them, when the civil man of the twain followed me and requested me to show them the gateway so that they could get in and go up to the house and get some water for their horse and themselves.
He said they had driven from Deniliquin, a distance of thirty miles, without water. I believe they had some grog in the cart. This man was a Government surveyor, and the one I had a row with was travelling with him, keeping the books and taking sketches of the country. I showed them the gate. The next morning they came to me and apologised, and said they were going on to Mr Birch's Station at Coree. Mr Antagonist of the previous evening said: " I must put on my goggles and let them think that I have got the puppy blight."
I used to go for water about once a week and bring a sheep to kill about once a fortnight. This was Black Thursday season, and there were three days when I could not tell which was the hottest. The horse on these days drank from six to eight buckets of water daily. The heat was so intense that I have seen the wild birds come and pick at the sand where I have thrown the slops, in order to try and get something to drink. I caught some of them, they being quite exhausted, and put them in a cage. After they recovered they all ate through the wood and flew away. I remember seeing an owl at that time sitting on the limb of a tree swaying to and fro like a drunken man, and at last topple over and fall down from sheer exhaustion. One day, on taking a walk down to the woolshed- which was about a mile distant- I was surprised to find about 200 owls there. They had gone in for shelter from the glaring sun.
Woolshed - The Drowning of Burnett - The Outrage - Aborigines
I stayed at this place for eight months. One night just after I had turned in for the night I heard a knock at the door, and on getting up and opening it, I was surprised to see Mr Bateman and another gentleman. I invited them in at once, and got them some supper, and while they ate their meal, Mr Bateman informed me that the station and stock had been sold. And, said he: " I will settle up with you for the time you have been here or, if you wish to stay on for the full time you agreed for, you can go to the boiling down establishment on the Murray and work there." I said that I would sooner be settled up with for the time that I had been on the station, and so accordingly he gave me a cheque for the amount due to me. He also told me that the teams were going down as far as the boiling down works, about eighty five miles distant and if I chose I could go with them, and that I would be supplied with provisions free for as far as they were going. I thanked him for this kind offer, but as I only intended to go as far as the Edwards River at Deniliquin (which was only some thirty miles away) I availed myself of his kindness for that part of the journey only. When I arrived at my destination I determined to cash my cheque at Mr Monks who kept a store there. I bought some clothes, and as I required sovereigns in change he charged me 5 per cent discount. He took the gold coins out of a wash basin, which was nearly full of sovereigns. I remembered wondering at him keeping so much money in such a careless fashion, as he sent a boy up to bring down the basin from a little wooden loft with a bark roof.
Having received my change I next saw Mr Hammon, who was manager for Boyd & Co., at the station that was called the 'Woolshed', and I agreed with him to go down to Pown Pown Station for twelve months. The teams were just then taking down supplies for that station, so I went with them- my time going on since I had agreed. As we journeyed down the Edwards River, I was surprised to find it dried up, with the exception of a few water-holes here and there along its course. Yet in certain seasons of the year there are steamboats up on it.
There was a large number of blacks travelling down the river, and it was wonderful the skill they displayed catching fish in the water-holes. Seven of them went into a large water-hole armed with spears, and after several attempts -during which they dived under the water- they at last speared a large Murray Cod which I think would have weighed 80lbs or 90 lbs.
We crossed over at Mulpa, a station owned by Dr Maine, and early on the following day reached our destination. The station at that time was managed by Mr Walter Murray, and he told me to take a day's spell and after that to start and repair the woolshed, and also the pens where they washed the sheep as the shearing season was coming on, and they were getting ready for it. Besides the manager there was also a travelling superintendent, a man named Mr Burnett, and we were expecting him to arrive and give us orders as to how to conduct the shearing operations. We were waiting about a week for him, and could not imagine what was delaying him, until at last a butcher who wanted to see Mr Burnett about some cattle he had bought for him, followed the tracks of two horses and a cart ( that he knew Mr Burnett was driving) as far as a place called Yerrin Creek. This creek was flooded at the time. He attempted to cross and there he found the body of Mr Burnett, and also the two horses, which likewise had been drowned. They must have been dead for a week.
The butcher came and told us the news of the sad occurrence. Mr Burnett's body was found two miles down the creek from where the horses and cart were first discovered, no doubt washed where it lay by the flood waters. The body was brought home to the station, and a coffin having been made of the best material they had on hand (which was cases) I was told to dig a grave close to the Walkhole River, about a mile below the station and we buried him there. We were all very sorry for his sad fate, as he was a good man to the employees.
About this time an outrage was committed by the blacks. A traveller looking for work called at what was known as the Walkhole Inn. He had on a good suit of clothes, and also a good swag. There were a lot of blacks about the place, and after the wayfarer had some refreshments he again started on his way to Balrannin, a place some seventeen miles distant. He never reached it, for before he had gone a mile and a half, having occasion to pass through a thick scrub, he was speared by the blacks. His murderers possessed themselves of his clothing and swag. They carried his body to the river, and placed it there, driving a spear through it into the bed of the river, to keep it from floating. As the natives did not appear about the place for some days suspicion was aroused, and one of the lubras who was sent for by the landlady of the hotel, told all the circumstances of the case. The police were sent for and they went to the blacks' camp at night, and assisted by some of the men about the place, they captured the murderer. They brought him to the hotel and fastened him to the leg of the kitchen table with a chain for that night. He very nearly escaped for the floor upon which the table stood was an earthen one, the legs of the table being driven into the floor, and while the officers were engaged talking their prisoner scooped the earth away from under the leg of the table and slipped the chain out and then rushed up the chimney.
As luck had it, he could not escape by that way. He was dragged down again. The police sat up and watched him through the night, and the next day they took him in a cart to the Goulburn, where he was to be tried. After they had gone some distance, the blackfellow again attempted to escape, this time making a bolt from the cart. The police fired on him, and he was shot dead. This ended his career, and the constables were saved a good deal of trouble in not having to go to Goulburn and back.
About the same time that this affair happened another man who was fishing near Swan Hill was speared by one of the blacks, and although information was at once given to the police it was four years before they could lay their hands on the murderer. He was nicknamed 'Bobby Peel', and considered one of the worst characters about that district, but at last he was surprised in camp. He endeavoured to escape to one of the small islands that are to be found near Swan Hill when the river is flooded, but he was shot down.
In the early days colonists had many dangers to contend with. They had constant brushes with blacks and bushrangers, and many stirring scenes are recorded, and many more might be enumerated. I have seen two tribes of blacks at war on the banks of the Campaspe, one tribe on each bank. Spears flew fast and furious at such times, and it was advisable to give them plenty of room.
Bushrangers! - Corroboree - Habits of Aborigines
At Mount Shadwell we had a visit from some of the bushranging gentry. There were three in all, two of them were escaped prisoners from Melbourne gaol, which was then situated at Batman's Hill. The third man was the soldier who had acted as a sentry over them, and it appears that they persuaded him to join them, for they all went off together. They 'took to the bush', as it was termed and after awhile they managed to get three good horses, and so were well mounted.
It seems that they went first to Camperdown, and then on to Mt. Shadwell. They stuck up several places and got supplies of ammunition, bedding, and clothing which they required. While on this raid they came to a hotel kept by a Mr Wells, and decided to stay there for the night. They stabled their horses, had their supper, and enjoyed themselves, and in the morning asked the landlord for their 'bill', but when he presented them with it they made him 'bail up' in the bar, and demanded what money he had; and he had to shell out. Then they mounted their horses and made for Mt Shadwell. On their way there they passed several stations, and amongst them one owned by a Mr Thompson, who was a police magistrate and whose station adjoined that of Mr Webster, the owner of Mt Shadwell. When they came up towards the house they asked for the 'captain' as they called Mr Webster, and were told he was away in Tasmania. All the men and the overseer were away at an out station, attending to the sheep, and there were only two women at home at the time the bushrangers called. They next demanded the keys of the house and store. These were handed over to them and they at once set to and ransacked all the place, and helped themselves to all the firearms, ammunition, clothing, etc. that they could find.
They next enquired if there were any fresh horses they could get as their own were getting done up. The women told them there were horses in the paddock, but that they would have to go and catch them themselves as there was nobody at home to catch them for them. They then wanted to know if the horses were good ones, and the women said that they did not think they were. So they then said it was no use them taking the trouble to catch them if they weren't first class animals. They intimated that they would get on to the next station and get some good horses there, and rode off in the direction of Port Fairy or Hamilton.
About two hours after they had gone four mounted police, who were on their trail, rode up and asked if the bushrangers had been there, and as to their general appearance, etc. The officers were supplied with all particulars. They informed the station hands that they had followed the marauders all the way from Melbourne, and having asked the direction the bushrangers took, they started off in pursuit. It appears [that] after the police had gone about two miles they came across two cross roads. One of these led to Port Fairy and the other to Hamilton. The query was, "Which road had the highwaymen taken?" After some discussion the police decided that in order to make sure of overtaking their quarry, that two constables should take one road and the other two the other road. They parted in pairs and started off, but it seems that the robbers had not taken either of these roads, but had gone in on the piece of land between the two and made for the Hopkins River, which was only some six or seven miles distant, and camped there for the night. The police missed them.
I heard nothing more of these bushrangers till about six months after this and then it was reported that they were at their old game again, sticking up squatters about the lower end of the River Murray. The settlers sent word to Melbourne, and some troopers were sent up, and they, in company with the settlers who had turned out to assist in the chase, came upon the bushrangers, who were camped near one of the bends of the River Murray. The pursuers came upon the bushrangers so suddenly and unexpectedly that the scoundrels had barely time to mount their horses. Two of them were overtaken and captured, and the third, trying to cross the Murray under fire from the pursuing party, was shot dead. It transpired that the captured two were old Vandemonians, and they were sent back to Tasmania to be dealt with.
I have often heard people ask: "What is a Corroboree?" I was fortunate enough to see one at Echuca, and I will give some idea of the proceedings. In the first place when the blacks decide to have a corroboree, in order to gather the tribes for the purpose, they resort to their system of telegraphing. They 'telegraph' in this way. The tribe who have decided to have a 'corroboree' gather a lot of dry wood and place it in a heap. On the top of this a number of green boughs are laid, and on a calm evening they light this fire, and the smoke ascends to a great height. This can be seen for twenty miles around, or even more. The blacks informed me that this means to the other tribes "Where are you?" On the next evening the other tribes light similar fires wherever they are, and this means: "We are here." The tribe who kindled the first fire then raises another smoke, and this signifies: "We want you here." So they gather in the tribes from that part of the country, sometimes for a week before the corroboree takes place, young and old, men, women, and children, in great numbers.
The spot 'chosen' for the 'corroboree' which I witnessed was on the bank of the Campaspe River, near a great cluster of large gum trees. In the first place they selected a clear space among the gums, and kindled a large fire of dry wood. The time chosen was night. The lubras who were to act as musicians were ranged around the fire on three sides in a sort of broken circle, the remaining part of the circle being left open for the performers or dancers. The lubras, who were ranged around the fire in sitting postures at a respectful distance from the heat, when all is ready, began to chant, or sing, in their own language, at the same time beating time on kangaroo skins, which they have rolled up very tight, and which acted as a kind of drum.
By and by a blackfellow is seen to emerge from the shadow of the gum trees. He is stark naked, except that he is painted, and has some dry bushes tied around the lower part of his legs. He commences to dance, in his way, and shakes his legs about in such a manner that the dry boughs that are tied around them to make a loud noise. He throws his arms about also, and at the same time makes a noise that resembles 'Whirr Whirr'. He keeps this game up for about eight to ten minutes, and then gives place to another dancer who goes through the same antics for about the same time; the lubras all the while keeping up the chanting and beating the tum tum on the kangaroo skins. And so the ball goes on - for it is a sort of a ball or concert to them - until a great number have gone through the performance.
Every new moon they hold this sort of corroboree in some part of the country. They paint themselves all over with large stripes, the colours used being red and white. The red is a natural raddle they find and the white is done with common pipeclay. They never neglect the painting part of the business, whenever they are going to a corroboree or to war. When a lubra loses her husband, the mourning she adopts is rather peculiar. She scratches her cheeks until the blood flows freely. This she mixes with pipeclay and plasters it on the top of her head; and I have seen them for weeks with this plaster on. The women as a rule are treated very badly among the aborigines. They are compelled to do almost all the work and carry the bundles, etc. and at meal times the blackfellows sit around in a circle close to the food- whatever it is that they are eating- perhaps, kangaroo or possum. The gins, or lubras, sit behind them and when blackfellow has picked what he wants off a bone he throws it over his shoulders to his lubra.
Aborigines - Gold Fever! - Bendigo - Gold Licences!
I remember seeing a blackfellow who was called 'Captain John', who was jealous of his lubra, strike her down with a heavy weapon called a 'Tangle'. It resembles in shape a Wellington boot, and is made of heavy wood. He struck her at the back of the neck; I never saw such a terrible blow given. She fell like a speared bullock. The woman was carried away by some of the females of the tribe to an old hut. The police were sent for, and the blackfellow given in charge. Strange to say, after awhile the lubra got alright, and 'Captain John' was liberated. Sometimes at the time of corroborees the blacks were supplied with liquor by the white people, and this generally led to trouble and war among the tribes. The one I refer to was no exception, and on the morning the tribes were engaged in war, and spears [were] flying thick and fast.
About this time people were beginning to get what was termed the 'gold fever', the precious metal having been discovered at Mt Alexander and other places; and I, like many others, got it and so was wishing that my term of agreement had expired, so that I too might try my 'luck' at the goldfields. At last the long wished for time arrived; my time was up, and as a neighbouring settler named Gleeson, was going down to Melbourne with stock for the market, and was also taking down two bullock dray loads of wool. I determined to accompany him. When all was ready we started off for town together.
We crossed over the Murray on the punt at Swan Hill, and by Reedy Lake, and crossed the Loddon at Korong. Then by the 'Durham Ox', and so on to Melbourne. I stayed in town for a few days, obtaining tools and provisions for eight months, bought a horse and cart, then started for the diggings at Bendigo. At this time the price for horses was high, I saw £160 paid for a Tasmania draught mare, guaranteed to pull 2 ton. When we started for Bendigo our route lay by Kilmore and across the Campaspe at what was then Kennedy's Punt. The roads were boggy and some days we only went five to six miles. The tracks were crowded with people from all parts of the world, made up of all classes and conditions. Every creek we came to was crowded with people trying to get across, some going and some returning. At this time even captains and crews left their vessels at anchor and went off to the gold rush. Some of the gullies were named after those seamen's ships, as, for instance, 'The Red Jacket' and 'The Blue Jacket'. It was a very rough winter. The carriage of goods from Melbourne to Bendigo was at one time as high as £165 per ton. It took three weeks for us to get to the diggings.
At length we arrived there, and the first thing to do was to select a spot and pitch a tent for myself, and for the two mates who had come with me. The place that we picked for our camp was at the foot of the 'Old White Hill' close to the Bendigo Creek. The field was covered with tents and the swish and rattle of cradles could be heard on every side. The first night on the diggings we slept peacefully, and in the morning we took a look around to select a place to make a start. We went to a place called 'Piccaninny Gully', and had a conversation with one of the men there. He told us he was getting about half an ounce per day, and that the dirt was hard to puddle, but the sinking shallow only about three feet. So we pegged out two men's ground, each man being allowed then 12 feet square as his claim. We then went home to our tent and the following day took our tools to our claim and began work. We had not been at work more than a couple of hours when we saw a large number of men coming over the adjoining range, and on closer scrutiny we could see they were escorted by five or six mounted constables and about the same number of foot police. These men had been arrested for not having a digger's licence or miner's right, and they were being taken to the police camp, where they were to be handcuffed and fastened to a chain that was secured by the ends being fastened to a large gum tree. When tried if they had the money to pay the fine imposed they were let go and ordered to get a licence, which cost £1-10-0 per month. If they had no money to pay they were detained until the police had enough prisoners for three cart loads, and they were then sent to Melbourne to break stones or do any other Government work required. The fine generally amounted to £5 or £6. The Magistrate's name was M'Loughlin, better known as 'Bendigo Mack'.
Two men we knew who lived in the next tent to ours were among the captured ones. Both were married and had six or seven children; and it was heartbreaking to see their wives and children crying- for the men had no money to pay the fine which they knew would be sure to be imposed, and, failing that, they knew too well what the alternative would be. The husbands and fathers would be sent to town. One of the men's wives was a shipmate of mine. Her husband was fined £6. She came and asked me to assist her husband out of the trouble. I had a bit of money, and I agreed to do so, and I never saw anybody so overjoyed as was that woman when I handed her the money to pay the fine, which she did at once, and brought her husband home. Nor can I find words to express the joy evinced by the husband, wife and children at the turn things had taken- for they had thought that they would surely be parted. I was glad to find that the other man had also been released and allowed to go home to his family, some friend having paid the fine for him. When my mates and I saw the police and prisoners coming we did not run as is generally the case, although we had no licence, and guessed what was up; and I suppose that saved us from being arrested or in any way interfered with, for seeing us stand our ground they naturally concluded that we must have our licence. We took care never to go out again without a licence.
Flour was very dear then being £22 per bag, potatoes were 2s 9d per lb, eggs 12s per dozen, and milk 3s a quart. Meat was reasonable, mutton sold for 3s a quarter and beef 5d to 6d per lb. A load of cabbages used to be brought on the diggings once a week from Melbourne. One day I was asked to bring one home but when I got to the place where they were usually sold there were none left. There were, however, about half a dozen 'Swede turnips' on hand, and I asked the vendor what he wanted for these. He replied: "10s each." I was so astonished that I said: "You don't mean that." He said: "I do, they cost me 9s each." I did not take them, although they were large ones, for each would weigh to judge from their appearance 5 or 6 lbs.
We continued working at 'Piccaninny' for three or four days and found nothing very rich, and one day noticing a number of men going past in a great hurry, carrying mining tools I concluded that they were making for some new rush. After talking the matter over with my mate it was decided that he should combine his work, while I was to follow the men to see where they were going to, it being customary in those days to follow in this manner whenever a new find was suspected.
A New Rush! - Eaglehawk - Robbery!
Off I went in pursuit, and I noticed that when the men reached a place called 'Long Gully', about a mile distant from where we were working, they began to peg out claims. So I and some others who were following did likewise. But afterwards we discovered that we had fallen into a trap, as this was only a ruse on the part of the men we followed to get rid of us. They did not intend sinking there, but noticed us following and adopted these tactics to throw us off the scent. They went to work but after an hour or so I heard one of them say to another, "We will go to dinner now." As it was only ten o'clock I concluded that there was something in the wind. They picked up their tools and went away. We worked on for awhile, but kept our eyes on them, and when they were nearly out of sight we gathered up our tools and again followed.
We noticed that they made straight for Eaglehawk Gully. We followed on, and when we arrived there were some twenty or thirty men at work, but only four holes bottomed, the sinking being from 8 to 9 ft. I pegged out two claims, and came home and told my mate what had happened. The next day we both went over to Eaglehawk and began work. We bottomed our shaft that day and tried a prospect, which turned out to be a good one, for it was a quarter of an ounce to the tub, and that was about the average right through. While we worked there our other claim was almost a duffer, there being only a little gold. In the next claim to ours worked a sea captain named Taylor. He gave his claim up as a duffer. As we drove up to his boundary we drove the pick into the wash, and gold came out like a gunshot. This ground went 3 oz to the tub. At this time we took in another man, so we now had three in all for our party. We followed this lead right across Taylor's claim, and worked seven or eight days there. On the other side of us two Irishmen had a claim. They had sunk a shaft and taken off the bottom. One of them said to me: "You had better buy this claim from us." I replied in a joking way: "If the claim was any good you would not want to sell it." "Well," says he "There is wages to be made in it, but we have got as much gold as we want for the present; and as our families are in Geelong we want to go there and put what we have in safe keeping." I said then: "How much do you want for the claim?" He replied: "As you are a countryman, you can have it for a bottle of brandy."
Brandy was £1-10-0 per bottle. "Well" said I, "I have not seen a drop of brandy since I have been on the diggings, but if you choose to give me the claim, and it turns out anything worthwhile, and I ever meet you again, I will not stand nice to you for a bottle of brandy or anything else that is fair." "Oh well, you can have it," said he. I said "All right," thanked him and at once threw my tools into the hole to prevent others [from] going there. I then told my mates that we had another claim, and one of them said: "We have two claims already, what do we want any more for?" I replied: "One is next to if not quite a duffer. The other will be worked out in a few days, and as the ground is pegged out for miles around where will we go then? "Neither of my mates seemed to be convinced by this reasoning, so I then said: "Will I go and work that claim by myself and you can stay where you are? " Accordingly I went to work in the claim that had been given me, and as I went down I found a gradual dip in the lead. I followed this and took out about half a bucketful for a prospect. It yielded a quarter of an ounce of coarse gold. I then went to the hole where my mates were working, and held down the dish to let them see what I had got. They were quite excited when they saw the gold, and wanted to come and go to work with me at once. But I told them they would have to stop and work out the claim that they had first. That was agreed to, and we continued to work at what we called 'Taylor's claim', and the last tubs of wash we took out of it, coming towards that was given to me, went 6ozs to the tub. After we had worked this one out we started [work on] the 'new claim' and the first day, out of four tubs of washdirt, we obtained 24ozs of gold, and on the second day we obtained 4lb weight of the precious metal- nearly a pannikin full. The third day it fell off to 2lb weight, the fourth day we got 4lb weight and again on the fifth day we got another 4lb weight.
On the Saturday afternoon I noticed two strange men on our claim. I said to one of my mates: "Who are those men?" " Oh?" replied he, "They are men who are coming to buy the claim from us." I said- "What do they know about the claim!" "Oh, I suppose they heard something about it," he answered. I then turned to my other mate and said: "Do you want to sell this claim, or your share of it?" "Well," replied he, "if Billy wants to sell it, I don't see why we shouldn't sell it." I replied: "Neither you nor Billy can sell it, for the claim was given to me, and I don't intend to let it be sold." I might add that before this I had a lot of trouble to get these mates of mine to come to work in proper time, although I even used to get up first and cook the breakfast for them. I was beginning to get 'full up' of them; so on second consideration, I decided that if these strangers offered a fair thing for the claim I would sell it, and so dissolve and get rid of such useless mates. I said to my mates: "As we do not seem to be able to agree, and as both of you appear to be anxious to sell this claim, I will not stand in the way of a sale if the strangers make a fair offer." And I said to Billy as he appeared to know most about the matter, "How much are these men prepared to give?" "Four pounds weight of gold" says he. "Why", says I, "We got that much today and we can get it every day while the ground lasts; but let it go, for I am sick of this sort of thing." So Billy took the strangers down the shaft and showed them where the gold was to be seen in the face, like raisins in a pudding, but when they came up they said they would only give 2lb. weight of gold for the claim as there was not much ground left to work. I then said: "We will not sell it," and the men went away. When they had gone I said to my mates: "I do not believe these men wanted to buy, they only wanted to see where the gold was, and I bet anything that they will come here tonight and rob the claim." I was aware that this kind of dodge was practised on different occasions.
I then said to one of my mates: "You go home and bring me my supper, blankets, and revolver, and I will stay here tonight and keep watch." "Oh", replied one of my mates, "You think there is not such a claim in the gully as yours." I replied "That I did not think there were many better." But as they seemed so careless in the matter I did not see why I should put myself out about it, and I said that we would let it take its chances and all go home. We did so and on Monday morning when we came to work we found that the claim had been completely worked out. Everything that had been any good had been taken out, and although we gouged about all day we only obtained half an ounce of gold. Two years after this we heard that the robbers had got eight pounds weight of gold out of twelve small bags of wash that they had carried off. On finding that the claim had been robbed I said to my mates: "Now I told you how it would be with these men, but you would not take heed. We will go home and divide what gold we have for I will not work another day with either of you. "Accordingly we went home and shared our gold and separated. I have since wondered we were not robbed before, as one of my mates must have told these men what amount of gold we were getting. We had three dogs or I fully believe our tent would have been robbed also.
The Roads to the Diggings - Murder on Jackson's Flat!
I now sold out what provisions, &c, I had on hand, and bought a horse, cart, and harness, for which I paid 11oz of gold, and cleared out from the diggings and made for Kilmore.
I was armed, having a double-barrelled gun loaded, and as I drove along I took good care not to stop or talk to anyone, for fear of being surprised and robbed- robberies occurring often in those times. As I journeyed along I noticed several men camped a little way off the road, and one of them got up from where he was sitting and came towards me, carrying a carving knife in his hand, as he came on. I called out "Throw that knife away or I will drop you." He slunk back, and said he only had the knife because he was cutting up some meat, and then enquired if I had seen any bullocks. I replied that I had not. I never pulled the horse up, but kept going on, for I had to exercise great caution, knowing full well the characters that were about. Only that morning a German doctor, as he was crossing over the Campaspe River, had his horse shot under him. The doctor was then seized and taken up a gully and tied to a tree and robbed of 11lb weight of gold. He was thankful his life was spared.
One evening as it was drawing on towards camping time, I noticed several stragglers on the road, so as it was getting dark, I drew quietly off the road into some scrub and took out the horse, and hobbled him, and I sat up and watched all night for fear of an attack. I did not make a fire or boil the billy for fear of attracting notice. At that time if you once took your eyes off your horse you could say good-bye to him, as there were many horse-stealers about.
At last, I arrived safe at Kilmore, and, as a friend of mine was coming down the country with teams of bullocks, I determined to wait there until he arrived, and thus have company on to Melbourne, where I intended going. It was really dangerous to travel alone on that road; bushranging being carried on even in the daylight. As many as twelve teams had been stuck up in one day. When my friend arrived with his teams, we started on the journey, as did some other friends of ours. One night, when we were in camp, a heavy thunder-storm came on, and we could distinctly hear the sound of horses galloping towards us, and we concluded that it was the bushrangers coming to make us 'bail up', and each man went into the scrub, and planted his gold in what he considered the safest place. I laid mine in front of the waggon wheel like a chock, as I did not think the robbers would look there. To our surprise, and also relief, the horses galloped past without riders. They were only a mob making away to shelter from the storm. We were very glad that things turned out as they did, for we had heard of men who had been stuck in camp getting very rough handling by the highwaymen for no other reason than that they had no gold.
We eventually arrived in town all right; and having placed our gold in safe keeping we stayed there for a few week (sic). Then we started back again for the diggings. On our arrival at Bendigo again we found things had greatly changed. During our short absence there had been a great influx of people from all parts of the world; and as sinking was shallow the greater portion of the ground had been turned over. Still there was some good patches left.
I stopped on the field for several years with varying success, and witnessed some strange sights and tragedies. One of these latter occurred in 1856. Two young men who lived in a tent not far from mine, and who had been working together for some time, had a disagreement. They separated, each having a tent of his own, their tents being about a couple of hundred yards apart. They were both natives of the Island of St Helena. One went by the name of 'Boney' (I suppose on account of 'Bonaparte' being imprisoned at his native place), and the other was known by the name of 'Norton', if I remember rightly. It appears one evening about dusk after this a quarrel took place, and after they had parted 'Norton' went to 'Boney's' tent, and called out, "Are you in, Boney?" "Yes, come in," said Boney. Norton did so, and then said to Boney, "Now you go on your knee and beg my pardon." Boney replied, "I never begged any man's pardon, and I won't beg yours." "Well, then. Take that!" said Norton, and he threw a handful of pepper in Boney's eyes, and then drew out a revolver, and sent a bullet into the unfortunate young man's throat.
I heard the pistol shot, but did not pay much heed to it at the time, as diggers were often discharging their firearms. Some of the men, on going to Boney's tent, found the poor fellow on the floor weltering in his blood. An alarm was at once raised, and after lifting the wounded man on to his bed, and washing away the blood from the wound, a doctor was sent for. He came and attended to the injured man, who could speak sufficiently to relate the circumstances of the case; but from the first the doctor had held out no hope of the poor fellow's recovery. On the third or fourth day 'Boney' expired. The police and the diggers in the meantime were actively engaged searching for the murderer. No trace of him could be found. Some thought he had concealed himself in some of the old drives in the claim where he had been working, and as he was known to have a revolver in his possession, the people were rather disinclined to go in search of him there. The murdered man was buried in a respectable manner by the neighbours. Time passed away without any tidings of the murderer, although an advertisement was inserted in the papers giving his description and offering a reward for his apprehension.
Nearly four months had passed away since the tragedy, when one day news arrived at (sic) Norton, the assassin, was arrested in Melbourne, where he had proceeded to draw out some money and documents which he had deposited in one of the banks. He was recognised, and at once taken into custody. It also transpired from papers found on him that he was a man who was well off, and owned shares in the docks at Liverpool. He was tried and found guilty, but by some unaccountable miscarriage of justice, he only received about five year's sentence. This affair happened at what was called 'Jackson's Flat'- a place situated between Eaglehawk and Bendigo.
Murder on 'Old White Hill'! - A Narrow Escape - Creswick
In 1854 I was living on the north side of Bendigo Creek opposite the Old White Hill. I was a very early riser and was up shortly after sunrise, and was outside the tent washing my face and hands when I saw a number of men running from different parts of the diggings towards the foot of Old White Hill. I thought that they were going to witness a fight that was very likely taking place, as such things often occurred early in the morning. I put on my coat and hat and made for the supposed place with the crowd. It was a spot about three quarters of a mile distant. When I arrived there I was surprised to see a very large crowd of people already assembled, and I also noticed the police coming.
I also observed that all eyes were directed towards a hole and there appeared to be a man standing up in the hole, his head being slightly above the surface of the ground. The hole, it appears, contained about 2 feet of water and the man's back rested against one side of the shaft. On closer examination I could see the man was quite dead. It transpired that he had been murdered and dragged along the ground and put there. The knees of his trousers had been torn out as he had been pulled along, and there the murderer or murderers had left him standing in the hole as he had been found. The deceased was a Scotchman about twenty seven years of age and well known to some of those present as one of a party that worked a puddling machine. The murdered man's body must have been quite stiff before it was placed in the hole where it was discovered, otherwise it would not have remained in the standing position in which it was found. The police instituted a strict search for anything that might give a clue to the perpetrators of the foul deed, but without success. Suspicions fell upon the murdered man's mates, and they were all arrested and sent to Melbourne. But as nothing could be proved against them they were eventually discharged. And to this day I have never heard that the mystery of this shocking murder has been solved.
I have had some narrow escapes myself, and was once fired on in my tent at night when I had a good amount of gold in my possession. The bullet whistled right through the tent, but went wide of its mark. I made a good bit of money digging, and bought some ground in Flinder's Lane, Melbourne and erected there a brick cottage. Labour and materials were expensive in those times, bricks cost £15 per thousand and lime £1 per bag and panel doors were £5 each. Bricklayer's wages were £2-5-0 per day and their labourers received £1 per day. Some few years since I sold this property to a lady at Prahran for nearly £1000, and came to live at Creswick, and speculated in land and houses in the town. I would have done well enough had I been careful and avoided more mining speculation; but I was most unfortunate in that line, strange though it may appear seeing as I was so lucky when working as a digger. Everything I speculated in turned out a failure, or nearly so and although I tried my luck in both quartz and alluvial mines, they all turned out for me most disastrously. So much so that I now have lost almost all that I once possessed, with the exception of a few houses and a bit of land. Such was the life in Australia as experienced by a pioneer, who has now reached the good old age of eighty two years.