Australian Access Federation

You are here: Home Corpora Corpus of Oz Early English 3-013 (Text)

3-013 (Text)

Item metadata
addressee author,male,Geelong Advertiser,un
Newspaper Article
Word Count :
Plaint Text :
Public Written
Newspapers & Broadsides
Clark, 1957
Document metadata

3-013-plain.txt — 7 KB

File contents

Buninyong, Monday morning.
I can hardly realise the sudden changes in this locality Where, three weeks ago, was a wilderness, is now encamped some two hundred workmen, whose numbers are hourly increasing at a ratio that will double the population in another eight or ten days.  Allotments are marked out, new sites fixed upon, and the pick-axe and spade are brought into operation without a moment's delay after arrival - it is a race for wealth, in which even the laggard gains a prize. Every movement is measured by troy weight, and any of the workmen would as soon think of swallowing a nugget as making a strait back. Gold is revolutionising manners and language - everything is tinctured with the yellow hue, and ounces, and grains have become familiar words. There is a momentous change coming, and the sooner we prepare ourselves the better, for every day brings proof stronger and stronger; that we are as yet merely on the verge of still more important discoveries.
But here I may be pardoned if I give one word of caution, - to those who, by the paper, I perceive are intending to give up their situation, I ask them to consider if it would not be to their advantage to show to their employers, that in a time of great excitement, devotion to their duties out-weighed the prospect of a transitory gain. I say transitory, for I feel assured that many who may take up gold-digging for a time, and even meet with success, will be unable to continue it, on account of the excessive toil it entails - it is a calling that requires strength, sinew, endurance, and a good sound constitution to combat the inclemency of the weather, and constant exposure to it, added to which there is the chance of ill success, for gold digging is at best a lottery; but truth compels me to state at the same time, that up to the present I know of no instance of entire failure, but new-comers will have to take their chance, and discover fresh localities, and submit to the same inconveniences, and loss of time, as those who heralded the present discoveries. 
At Ballarat every man is his own architect. Here are tents and bark huts of the most primitive construction, A few poles and a stick athwart, overstretched with a few yards of calico, gives protection against wind and rain, or rather I should say are supposed to do so, for I am much mistaken if whilst sleeping coiled like a 'cocoon' within the folds of a blanket, I did not feel a copious aspersion from a passing storm, followed by a small rivulet running along my bed instead of its own, and emptying itself into a lagoon at my feet; which novel situation was not counterpoised by the facility of taking an astronomical lesson gratis through a rent in the top of the canvas.  A serenade of frogs may be pleasant, but certainly is not universally so; nor does a possum snarl chord agreeably with the boom of a bull frog's bassoon, but exhausted nature needs no wooing, and stringybark is a good substitute for swansdown. Shaving is entirely dispensed with - all have turned 'beardies'; soaping a chin, might lose a 'nugget', so beards luxuriate, and a ferocious crop of moustachios are coming on, as though the diggers were preparing for shearing time. Everyone is transmogrified, and the scene whirls on as though it were a dream or a phantasy.
It is morning, - the laughing-jackass has imitated an apoplectic alderman enjoying a joke, and magpies round notes have bid welcome to the morn - fires are blazing, steaks and chops are frizzling, pannikins are clattering, tea-kettles fizzing, and many a hungry eye is watching the matutinal preparations of their respective 'Soyers'. Breakfast dispatched, all hands are at work, - pick, spade, sledge, cart, and cradle, are in rapid movement, the work has begun in earnest, and with the exception of a pause for dinner, will continue until nightfall. Hark! there is a man in a red nightcap, puts his hand to his mouth, and in stentorian voice calls on all men to strike work and come to a public meeting. At the sound, spades are stuck in the ground, pickaxes are thrown aside, and the cradles are stilled. Cabbage trees, red night-caps, and blue shirts flock to the appointed spot, a most motley group of hirsute mortals, earnestly resolved, and men not to be trifled with. And so all come trooping, and after a brief delay appoint a Chairman, who mounts a high stump. He is the 'Stump Orator'. Before discussing the question, which is a dispute with some new-comers, he calls in virtue of his office for a division. 'All who are satisfied with the present regulations stand on this side,' says Tom Toddleton, 'and those who are dissatisfied remain where they are'. Tom thus executes a 'coup d'etat', securing a large majority, without the bother of discussion, which is a decided improvement, and wastes no time, which is a valuable commodity, just now. The Stump Orator then recites the 'Regulations', and intimates to the malcontents that the majority is resolved as one man to maintain them, peaceably if possible, but if not, at the expense of a few broken heads.  This combination of the moral, and the physical, was instantaneous in its effects - the dissatisfied set to work, and all are doing well.
The yield of the field is an improvement on the last communication. I subjoin the following as large quantities, gratifying to record but I do sincerely hope, not calculated to mislead. One party of three has netted 28 oz. in fifteen days. Another party of four in 8 days, in conjunction with an extra two for the last 2 days have realised the enormous quantity of 63 oz. Jones, 8 oz. in, I believe, a week; amongst them a nugget weighing 151 grs. and another weighing 92 grs. Dunlop and Regan, 6 oz. 40 grs. in 54 days. Two tin dishes average 1 oz. each per day, and the new machine mentioned in my last, has turned 54 oz. in 3 days. I have heard of, but have not seen, two very large nuggets, found on Saturday; and I speak advisedly when I state that upwards of 100 oz. have passed through one hand during the past week. I forward 6 oz. per this mail.
I have endeavoured as far as in me lay, to convey correct accounts of the Ballarat Diggings, whilst at the same time the truths I was writing would, I felt assured, produce great excitement, and would probably lead to a disarrangement of the labour market for a time; but it will tend ultimately to an equipoise, when excitement has cooled down to reasoning point, and I could wish now that some able hand would take up the Gold question, and treat it in its various bearings, immediate, and more remote. It is especially 'Our Question,' and the first effects on the Labour Market, will be to establish the rate of wages in other employment above the minimum yield of a goldfinder. So at least it appears to me; if wrong, I leave it to some more profound disciple of Adam Smith, but it is a question that demands attention.
Another point to which I would call attention, is the necessity of an escort for gold, which can only be sent in small quantities, at great risk by the Mail - a medium which may be judged of by the subjoined letter. Until an escort is provided, no adequate idea will be formed of the richness of Ballarat. Here is now a prime opening for Geelong speculation; the first step is the only difficulty, the difficulty is not a Gordian one, and private enterprise might cut it through with one stroke.  Remember you have wealth and prosperity at your thresholds, and once neglected it may pass away for ever.
The Clunes Diggings are deserted, and all the diggers are coming down to Ballarat.