Henry Lawson lived from 1867 to 1922. His poems often speak of the harsh realities experienced by non-wealthy country folk.
"Eureka" by Henry Lawson reveals a very real story of the event that changed our history. When gold fever hit Australia almost every young man, and some older ones, dropped everything and went looking for a fortune. Squatters lost most of their shepherds, fencers left the big properties, and few shearers were left to do the work. The stories spread that gold was there just for washing out of river and creek beds. People from all over the world made for Australia.
The Government raised the price of a Miners Right to about £1 a week and many miners (the unlucky ones) couldn't pay. The Victorian Governor La Trobe, lost most of his Police force. Towns sprung up in the "Golden Triangle"-- Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemain and many smaller places where there were no Police to keep order. Governor La Trobe promised convicts in Tasmania their freedom if they would come to Victoria and be members of the Police Force. Tasmania was a convict settlement for the "hardened criminals". When the Police raided miners camps and arrested miners who couldn't buy a Miners Right, there were no jails, so they were chained by the leg to trees and big logs, like animals.
Hence the revolt against the Government. The situation deteriorated until the miners built a stockade and elected Peter Lalor as their leader. They demanded changes to the brutal mining laws and fought under the Southern Cross flag.
Peter Lalor was shot in the upper arm and a Doctor amputated it at the shoulder. He was fitted into a large box and covered with straw and friends smuggled him out of Ballarat in a bullock dray. The journey would have taken two or three days. He was taken to a house in Fyans Street in South Geelong where he was cared for by his friends.
The Governor was eventually recalled to England and Lalor and the leaders were pardoned. Lalor became a Member of Parliament and represented the area called Bohoneyghurk - the district my father was brought up in.
Lalor was not an uneducated man. He had been to Eton College and had a degree in engineering.
The above text includes local knowledge, as told to me by Bill Tingate who was born in 1912 and grew up in that area.
But now another match is lit that soon must fire the charge
"Roll up! Roll up!" the poignant cry awakes the evening air,
And angry faces surge like waves around the speakers there.
"What are our sins that we should be an outlawed class?" they say,
"Shall we stand by while mates are seized and dragged like lags away?
Shall insult be on insult heaped? Shall we let these things go?"
And with a roar of voices comes the diggers' answer--"No!"
The day has vanished from the scene, but not the air of night
Can cool the blood that, ebbing back, leaves brows in anger white.
Lo, from the roof of Bentley's Inn the flames are leaping high;
They write "Revenge!" in letters red across the smoke-dimmed sky.
"To arms! To arms!" the cry is out; "To arms and play your part;
For every pike upon a pole will find a tyrant's heart!"
Now Lalor comes to take the lead, the spirit does not lag,
And down the rough, wild diggers kneel beneath the Diggers' Flag;
Then, rising to their feet, they swear, while rugged hearts beat high,
To stand beside their leader and to conquer or to die!
Around Eureka's stockade now the shades of night close fast,
Three hundred sleep beside their arms, and thirty sleep their last.
About the streets of Melbourne town the sound of bells is borne
That call the citizens to prayer that fateful Sabbath morn;
But there upon Eureka's hill, a hundred miles away,
The diggers' forms lie white and still above the blood-stained clay.
The bells that toll the diggers' death might also ring a knell
For those few gallant soldiers, dead, who did their duty well.
The sight of murdered heroes is to hero-hearts a goad,
A thousand men are up in arms upon the Creswick road,
And wildest rumours in the air are flying up and down,
'Tis said the men of Ballarat will march on Melbourne town.
But not in vain those diggers died. Their comrades may rejoice,
For o'er the voice of tyranny is heard the people's voice;
It says: "Reform your rotten law, the diggers' wrongs make right,
Or else with them, our brothers now, we'll gather to the fight."
'Twas of such stuff the men were made who saw our nation born,
And such as Lalor were the men who led the vanguard on;
And like such men may we be found, with leaders such as they,
In the roll-up of Australians on our darkest, grandest day!
© Henry Lawson
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