GOLD MINING IN BALLARAT AND THE IMPACT OF WW1
Our members very much appreciated such an interesting talk given by Dr Anne Beggs Sunter on the 28th July 2015. We were treated to an in-depth story of Ballarat’s gold, beginning with its exciting discovery in the newly separated Colony of Victoria in 1851. The word ‘Digger’ coined in California and used to designate the gold-seeking immigrants on the Ballarat goldfield was, in time, assigned to WW1 soldiers. The incredible cooperation of the first would-be miners in drawing up a map of claims agreed to by mutual consent, before the arrival of the Gold Commissioner with Captain Dana’s mounted police to enforce the collection of licence money was an anecdote new to many. The population of Victoria at this time was just 77,000, easily imagined by comparison with an MCG crowd. As the deep lead mining developed, huge workforces of men were employed, not only as miners but in allied industries such as foundries. These required skilled metallurgists, geologists and mine managers - hence the establishment of the School of Mines, Ballarat. Gold mining declined with the advent of WW1, and only one gold mining company is still tunnelling under Ballarat but the continuing legacy of gold is exemplified by the remarkable success of Sovereign Hill as a tourist destination and the other institutions which were established by the pioneers for well-being and education of the gold miners and their families. Ballarat supplied one third of the world’s gold in the 1850s and it it reckoned that all up 650 tons was produced. We all need context for family histories and it was most pleasing that so many fascinating aspects and details were covered. Such bleak July weather but a good attendance of 30. Serenity prevailed despite the buzz of an alarm elsewhere in the library building and the sideshow of a visit by paramedics who declared the patient well enough to avoid hospitalisation.