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2 corrections, most recently by peter-macinnis - Show corrections

100 years (it's really more!) of diggings



One of the many fine illustrations in "Golden Years " -  

The Digger.

IT looks as though two memorable   things will have come out of Vic- toria's Centenary

year. First, the Jubilee Train, and now

the book "Golden Years."

The history of gold discovery has been told so often that one's first re- action to a new book on the subject is one of benevolent boredom. This, how- ever, will not be the public reaction to "Golden Years."

This is partly because the book contains so much new material. Or rather, material that is well known to history students, but has never before been simply presented for public reading.

Did you know, for in- stance, that the many warring monuments, each claiming to mark the locality of Victoria's first discovery, are all liars?

In the great Clunes-Warran- dyte controversy, for instance, both must lose. Gold had been discovered in a dozen parts of the old Port Phillip Colony years before either town had been heard of.

THE most significant of

these finds was re- ported by The Argus in its issue of January 31, 1849. The heading was:


"We hasten to appraise our readers of the important dis- coveryof an extensive goldfield   in this province, yielding the virgin metal in such quantities as will completely throw Cali- fornia in the shade."

It seems a fine specimen was brought to a Mr. Brentani, a jeweller, by a young English shepherd, who found it in the Pyrenees.

Mr. Brentani and an assayer named Duchene pronounced it to be "the root of all evil."

All three set off for the Pyrenees, but the shepherd, whom the two gentlemen seemed to be treating arro- gantly, deserted in the night.

The field was not rediscovered for three years.

Journals were not so polite to one another then as now. The "Herald" (then a morn- ing paper) suggested that The Argus had been hoaxed. The "Daily News" said that "the whole affair was fudge."

Perhaps the people of Mel- bourne Town were discouraged by this. Perhaps they were put off by their rulers, the squatters, who had been hush- ing up gold finds for years past, because they feared they would be ruined by a gold rush.

WHATEVER the cause, Melbourne did not   flock to the Pyrenees till years later, when gold had been found already at Clunes, Warrandyte, and Buninyong.

Even then they would have been discouraged by official



Lawlor & Black


William G. Baines

* This poster echoes an event famous in Australian

history. . . .

# This amusing drawing by Gill, reproduced in the hook, is called "The Licens- ing Tent." But perhaps it wasn't funny to the diggers!

dom, but that the situation had been radically changed.

Melbourne was being deserted, the squatters were losing their labor, and the little rural settle- ment of Port Phillip was being denuded by the rush, first to California, then to New South


So official discouragement turned to encouragement, then to excited enthusiasm, and the new State of Victoria found goldfields of its very own.


"GOLDEN YEARS" brings  

out other aspects of the gold period that are little known or little thought


For instance, it reveals that the £500,000 million worth of gold exported to Britain in the fifties paid all her foreign debts and helped lay the foundation of her enormous commercial expansion in the latter half of the century.

The book also departs from the well-worn track by follow- ing the "alpine" diggers up through the snows to Wal- halla, Beechworth, and even to Spargo's Hut, on the howl- ing wastes of Hotham Heights.

The text of the book through-

out is simple, lucid, and vivid,  


BUT quite apart from the

text, the book will be memorable for its illustra- tion. The best of Australia's historic prints have been col- lected together in one book for the first time.

Many of these, and in par- ticular the fine collection of S. T. Gill landscapes from the Melbourne National Gallery are reproduced in color. The reproduction is a credit to Aus- tralian craftsmanship.

Modern photographic illus- trations are also very good in- deed - some of them exciting,

Frank Fitzgerald's work as   narrator (and doubtless as re- search man, too) gives the book unity of feeling and purpose. John Alenson's production work is admirable. The editor, Mr, E. A. Doyle, must feel happy about the result.

The book was produced under Victorian Government sponsor- ship by the Centenary Commit- tee. Specialty Press are re- sponsible for a fine piece of bookwork.

If Victorians have any re-

gard at all for the history that made them, "Golden Years"

should find its way to every

school and public library, and to every private home where such things are treasured.