Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Goldfields of California, Australia and NZ - Poems and Songs Part II

" Digger's " Hut ,Sovereign Hill Ballarat - typical of 1800s goldrush era - photo 2012 courtesy Chris Ball

Goldfields of Australia

By the early 1850's the gold rush had come  to Australia with  Edward Hargraves' April 1851 discovery of gold near Bathurst, New South Wales led to a rush in May . This  gold discovery evoked  poetry which appeared in the Bathurst  Free Press and Mining Journal a couple of years later.

Original Poetry. 



Yes, Bathurst from the rank of peers, as all the world must own,
Hath sprung abreast of royalty and gained a golden crown;
 And all through Hargraves' happy hit, the luckiest traveller known,
Who set us all a digging, dig, dig, digging,
 Who set us all a digging in creek, ravine, and glen.

Beyond the wild Blue Mountains were kingdoms to be sold,
There's wealth enough to pay their price in pure Australian gold,
And surely in a happy hour the wond'rous tale was told,
 That set us all a digging, dig, dig, digging,
That set us all a digging in creek, ravine, and glen.

Great nature's mighty fallow field a world reaped by the wind,
Though meant for all was handed o'er and to the few assigned,
When forth from heaven there came a voice, go seek and ye shall find,
So now they're all a digging, dig, dig, digging,
So now they're all a digging in creek, ravine, and glen.

 The blacksmith squeezed his bellows into one dying roar,
And struck his anvil such a blow that it rang a mile or more,
Then dashed his pond'rous hammer down, and if an oath he swore,
'Twas by Jove I'll go a digging, dig, dig, digging,
'Twas by Jove I'll go a digging in creek, ravine, and glen.

 The cooper said for tub or keg what recks it who may ask,
I'll dance no not another round to the music of a cask,
The hand that well can drive a hoop may fortune's face unmask,
Where their way to wealth they're digging, dig, dig, digging,
Where their way to wealth they're digging, in creek, ravine and glen.
Australian quartz o'er human hearts how powerful is thy spell,
The deafest ear that sounds can hear—the music of thy shell,
And distant climes will list the chimes and hail the golden' bell,
That rings from all our diggings, dig, dig, diggings,
That rings from all our diggings in creek, ravine, and glen.

Let Europe boast her battle fields, thank heaven we've none to show,
Our land was found to dry the tear that others caused to flow,
When such the fact who would not cry let's to   Australia go,
Where gold is got for digging, dig, dig, digging,

Where gold is got for digging in creek, ravine and glen.
Then dig away my merry men, they'll soon be on the sea,
Who'll lend a hand to make our land admir'd renown'd and free,
Australia's greatness yet will spring, for such is heaven's decree,
From mud and manly digging, dig, dig, digging,
From mud and manly digging in creek, ravine, and glen.
Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal Sat 9 Apr 1853  Page 3 

Bathurst, N.S.W. - The neighbourhood of the first gold discovery in Australia.

Melbourne : Robert Stewart 1865 Wood engraving published in The illustrated Melbourne post.

November 25, 1865  Courtesy State Library Victoria, Australia

Soon after   John  Dunlop and James Regan  discovered gold at Ballarat 8th  September, 1851, Thomas Hiscock at Buninyong and Henry Frenchman at Bendigo Creek. This saw the Australian gold rush  in full force by the end of 1851.

Seems tales of " diggers" gold rushes and goldfields evoked many poems over the years in Australia's newspapers along with songs. It was not the era of TV and Internet that we have today so songs, poetry and tales were written and passed on down through families. In later years,  Leslie Frank Harper ( brother of my great grandmother ) apart from being a Geologist for the Mines Department NSW, drew maps of those early gold diggings. He also helped preserve the history and culture of the NSW Goldfields ( Hill End and Tambaroora Gathering Group)

The Argus, a Melbourne newspaper, in 1852 carried the following poem which gives a good account of what daily living was actually like on the goldfields.

Original Poetry


My dear C******, if it will amuse If not instruct you, while you may peruse
These few rough sketches (written 'mong the Ranges)

Of a Gold digger's life, his shifts and changes,
Accept them--they may pass an hour away
When sitting by the fire some rainy day.
Strange is the scene that breaks upon the view,
The scattered stores whose flags of varied hue
Wave in the breeze; the clustered tents around;
The strange appearance of the upturned ground;
The crowds of men, all bustling to and fro,
A human tide, a constant ebb and flow--

Some in their dishes bear the auriferous earth,
Some at the cradles work, and shouts of mirth
From side to side resound. But further on
A crowd collects, the mirthful laugh is gone;
'Tis now the voice of war--in hot dispute
Each tries to shew himself the greater brute,
Oath follows oath, from words they come to blows,
And fists come in the argument to close,
Till one has proved himself the stronger man

And then they end as wise as they began.
Sunset winds up the labours of the day,
And homeward to his tent each wends his way,
Then supper over, some in song delight,
Some on the flute wake echoes of the night;
A distant gun comes booming on the ear,
The hint is caught, and presently you hear
A scattered firing, rattling all about
From guns and pistols, followed by a shout;
Some with their Colt's revolvers in possession
Discharge a score of shots in quick succession:
Now fires are blazing bright, and dogs are barking,
And men are fiddling, singing, drumming, larking,

Some in their tents stiff arguments are holding,
And some by way of change are busy scolding!
Some at the fire enjoying the dudheen,
Some weighing out their gold all washed and clean
To see how much a good day's work has been;
At last the songs are o'er, the smoking ended,
The arguments and yarns are all expended.
Lights are put out, and all turned in to bed 
Till the next sun his early beams shall shed
Oe'r hill and vale.

The morn begins to dawn,
We wake, and stretch our limbs, and lazy yawn;
The fire is lit, up, up, we all must rise,
The wintry sun begins to illume the skies,
On goes the kettle, on, the frying pan
With savoury chops to feast our inner man.
And give us strength to work and heart to stand

The cold and wet from winter's chilly hand--
Breakfast is quick discussed and off we start
Shouldering our tools with hope to cheer our heart,
Perchance some new found gully we must try
And thither hundreds rush with hue and cry,
Hurrying with steps and anxious face,
Each vieing with another in the race
To be in time to make his working space;
Onward they come, ourselves among the rest,
And each selects the ground he fancies best.
But crowds still come, and more and more behind,
And soon from end to end the place is lined
With diggers all at work: some marking out
The ground they claim, anon there comes a shout,
A nugget found!--(or else pretended so)
Some rush to see whether 'tis true or no,
But some there are who having marked their ground
Proceed no further until some around
Have sunk their holes and tried the earth below,
So that these wary diggers thus may know
Whether the gold is there; unwilling they

On a mere chance to throw their time away.
And oft a place to which the rush was great,
Whither each hurried with his heart elate,
With golden hopes, ere many days are o'er 
Is left as silent as it was before.
The false report brought numbers there at first;
No gold is found--the bubble soon has burst,
The swarm has all dispersed to try again
Some other place, perhaps alike in vain:
But when the glittering dust regales the eye,
To work, to work, is then the engrossing cry;
With pick and shovel eagerly they strive
In anxious haste their profit to derive;

 Soon heaps on heaps of yellow earth arise
From holes of every shape, and every size,
All the incumbent earth is cast away
Till they have reached the stratum of tough clay
With quartzose pebbles mixed, the gold is there,
And this the digger gathers up with care, 
Bears it in bags or dishes to his tent
To wash it when he finds convenient.

'Tis winter now, and clouds with threatening frown,
On earth expectant, pour their torrents down,
The thirsty ground receives the welcome rain
In store, whence Nature may revive again,
And deck anew the wilds with herb and flower
And fill with fragrance every leafy bower
When spring returns. The digger with a sigh
Views the relentless torrent sweeping by,
Clearing its way with a resistless force,
And filling every hole upon its course;
Trees undermined before to reach the gold
No longer by their roots retaining hold,
And by the torrent sapp'd, are prostrate laid,
And add their wrecks to the sad ruin made
By ruthless storm--oh! dire calamity,
 Disheartening prospect, thus his work to see
Crushed into dire confusion, all undone;
Here several holes are jumbled into one.
Here, too, the ruin is with mischief rife,
These holes will be the cause of future strife,
All landmarks gone, some will lay claim to more
Than is their right, or than they had before; 
Then comes the contest, then may savage might
For a short time prevail o'er gentler right,
Or likelier matched, the brute against the brute,
The toughest skin may gain the coarse dispute,
Or, as occurred but lately near this place, 
The gun and pistol may decide the case,
Depriving fellow-creatures of their life
When gentler means might settle all the strife.

The storm is o'er, the sky again serene,
Again the digger with determined mien
Empties his hole, and sets to work once more
Deep under ground to seek the golden store
With undiminished vigour; undismayed
By the sad havoc which the rain has made!
And often on his labour too intent
Even to make the danger imminent,
That o'er him hangs, or careless till too late,
His is, alas! sometimes an awful fate;
For when the rain some secret course has found
Through open shingle underneath the ground,
Stealing in silence on its treacherous way,
No signs its dangerous presence yet betray,
Till, in a moment, crashes on his head
The ponderous roof, and leaves him with the dead! 
No time for thought, alas! no time for prayer,
No time to ask the Almighty hand to spare,
And let us hope his sins have been forgiven,
And his freed soul has winged its flight to heaven.
Some holes deserted when the unwelcome rain
Had filled them to the brim, become a gain
To other diggers who have holes close by, 
And gladly seize the opportunity
To wash their stuff which they had kept in store
Till the rain came. Now tubs are carried o'er
In which to steep the stuff, so that the clay,
By water oft renewed, is washed away,
And nought remains but shingle, gold and sand,
Which then are placed in cradles close at hand,
And rocked by one--another pouring on
A stream of water, till the gold alone
Remains behind, thus simply do we free
The gold from the rough impurity.

Then, taken home, 'tis washed with greater care,
Then weighed and each receives his well-earned share.
But now the month is drawing to a close,
And now appears the unlicensed digger's foes,
The constables. How lucky men are they,
Who eat, and sleep, and have so much per day,
Keeping a guard on the Commissioner's tent,
Save when their valuable time is spent
Hunting among the holes to aid their funds
By capturing unlicensed vagabonds!

But if we're injured by the licensed thief
Long must we search ere we obtain relief--
Ah! little need their presence here be vaunted,
They're never to be seen when they are wanted;
Bush life is pleasant, ease is ever sweet,
And so they choose a quiet, calm retreat
In some green vale, and in a situation
Remote from scene of active operation.
Not theirs the merit, not to them is due

The praise, that acts of violence are few;
We, as a class, are peaceful labourers,
No thanks for such protection as is theirs: 
Where is the gully here that is without
Its various grog tents, and their rabble rout, 
While close beside them ever is the tent
Of gamblers, always their accompaniment;
No diggers these--no toilers for their bread--
They live by villainy, by crime are fed--
Root out these plague-spots, clear the ground of these,
Then to your tents again to take your ease,
Nor then be greeted with the cry of shame; 
Not hear contempt connected with your name. A.R.

The Argus Wed 15 Sep 1852  Page 6 courtesy

    Gill, S. T & Melbourne Public Library 1869, Diggers on way to Bendigo
Along with the gold rush by " diggers" came others, who not making their fortune in gold digging, found other pursuits. One such was Charles Tunks, grandson of William Tunks, First Fleet Marine and my GG Grandfather. He worked in his lifetime putting down telegraph poles; saw gold nuggets in the holes dug for the poles; went "digging" later but never found an " El Dorado." 

Another  such, was Charles Thatcher, a song writer who also became a well known  entertainer on both the Australian and New Zealand  Goldfields, his last tour said to include IN 1869 , the newly opened Thames Goldfields. It is said he gained the title of  the " Colonial Minstrel" Popular with the miners in those early mining communities. They evidently related well to songs such as the one below that Charles Thatcher is said to have written in 1855.

Where's Your License?

The morning was fine,
The sun bright did shine
The diggers were working away
When th' inspector of traps
Said now my fine chaps
We'll go license hunting today
Some went this way, some that
Some to Bendigo Flat
And a lot to the White Hills did tramp
Whilst others did bear
Up towards Golden Square
And the rest of them kept round the camp.

Then each turned his eye
To the diggings close by
Expecting on some down to drop
But not one could they nail
For they'd give 'em leg bail
Diggers aren't often caught on the hop
The little word Joe
That most of you know
Is a signal the traps are quite near
Made them all cut their sticks
And they hooked it like bricks
I believe you, my boys, have no fear.

Now a tall, ugly trap
He espied a young chap 
Up the gully a-cutting like fun
So he quickly gave chase,
But it was a hard race,
For mind you, the digger could run
Down the hole he did pop
While the trooper up top
Says - "just come up", shaking his staff
"Young man of the crown.
If yer wants me, come down,
For I'm not to be caught with such chaff.

Of course you'd have thought
The sly fox he'd have caught
By lugging him out of the hole;
But this trooper no fear
Quite scorned the idea,
Of burrowing the earth like a mole;
But wiser by half
He put by his staff
And as onward he went sung he-
"When a cove's down a drive,
Whether dead or alive,
He may stay till doomsday for me."

Withers, Wiliam Bramwell. 1870. The History of Ballarat, from the First Pastoral Settlement to the Present Time. Accessed August 29, 2017. Gutenburg Books Project Australia

Henry Lawson AKA Larsen a prolific Australian writer and poet also wrote poems

About the gold mining days. His own father, Peter, had jumped ship in Melbourne , changed his name from Larsen to Lawson and joined the gold rush in 1855.

The Roaring Days

The night too quickly passes
And we are growing old,
So let us fill our glasses
And toast the Days of Gold;
When finds of wondrous treasure
Set all the South ablaze,
And you and I were faithful mates
All through the roaring days!............

In 1870 it was a new rush with the discovery of gold in  the Acheron River, 114 km North of Melbourne, Victoria. 

New Rush  ( 1870)

Away to the Acheron, let us away,
Hang't if I dont start off this very day.
Roll up your swag mate and let us make haste;
Our chances are less every minute we waste.
They say there is gold there, I trust it is true
I hope gold is waiting for me and for you.
Now let us be off without further delay.
Hurrah for the acheron diggings, Hurrah !
It's long since I bottomed a good golden hole;
I'm anxious to get one, I am, on my soul.
It's sixty foot sinking, no matter for that,
It cannot be worse than this d--d U.T. Flat.
Good-bye old U. T. and good-bye Godfreys Creek.
Just look, and you'll see the tears run up my cheek.
Oh ! I am so sorry, I almost could sing
"Ring the bell watchman, ring ! ring ! ring !"

In Alexandra Times Fri 18 Mar 1870 Page 3 THE NEW RUSH.
courtesy Trove National Library Australia

Up in the North in Queensland Australia small amounts of gold were found on the Darling Downs in the 1850's with the first gold rush in 1858 at Canoona near Rockhampton, Queensland.  Charters Towers Queensland was to see gold mining between 1872 and 1899, With the discovery of gold by accident late in 1871 by Jupiter Mosman. Typical of gold rushes went banks also.

By 1890 the Queensland National Bank  had 14 branches on the Queensland mining fields. My great grandfather James  Stewart was a sub - inspector with the Queensland National Bank 1884 - 1890 when he died. Based in Toowoomba where he lived above the Toowoomba Branch of the bank, Stewart travelled to other branches and was involved with banking and typical of those involved at that level of position , gold movements.

Queensland National Bank about 1887 when just newly built - photo courtesy of  Toowoomba Local History Library, Toowoomba 2010

 Many settlers moved from Australia to New Zealand during the gold rushes of the 1860's. As the New Zealand gold rushes slowed a number  left and some stayed.

For songs from the Goldfields of California: -

For songs from the Goldfields of New Zealand: -

FOOTNOTES: Charles Tunks was grandson of First Fleeter marine aboard HM Sirius and my GG Grandfather. Leslie Frank Harper was brother of my great grandmother Charlotte Emily Tunks ( nee Harper). Their father Richard Harper was born in Parramatta, NSW, Australia. Jame Stewart, sub Inspector with the Queensland National Bank came  originally to Wellington New Zealand aboard the Ben Venue ,being with the National Bank and NZ Colonial Bank. Twelve passengers, a load of rails saw a shaken entry to a stormy port in 1878. This James Stewart, whose family were originally from Glasgow, Larnarkshire was my other great grandfather.
  • General., Queensland Agent. 1875. Hand-book for emigrants to Queensland, Australia. London: Sir Joseph Causton and Sons.
  •  Mossman, Samuel and Bannister, Thomas. 1853. Australia Visited and Revisited A Narrative of Recent Travels and Old Experiences in Victoria and New South Wales. Accessed August 28, 2017. http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks16/1600061h.html
  •  Withers, Wiliam Bramwell. 1870. The History of Ballarat, from the First Pastoral Settlement to the Present Time. Accessed August 29, 2017. http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks13/1304971h.html#Image14
Guide to Sources for North Queensland History -