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ON TOM TIDDLER S GRODND
THE HUSH TO MOUNT
BY" J. G. EASTWOOD, ¿ f
(PART IV.) .i " " I
"I am on Tom Tiddler/s ground
Picking gold and silver."
What Australia needs at the present day is a good permanent goldfield. A field such as Gympie, Charters Towers, Mount Morgan or Croydon, would tend more than anything else to re- move the exchange problem, which is draining our resources.
In the hope that an account of the opening of the older goldfields may be of service the writer has .worked up some of the old records and trusts that their narration may lead others to go out searching as the "old-timers" did, remembering that every ounce of gold dug out is an asset to the country.
In previous articles I-gave accounts of the first finding and opening up of the goldfields of California, followed by the discovery of gold deposits in New South Wales, which led to the discovery of the precious metal in amazing quantities at "Golden Bal- larat" in 1851. >
Now, although Hiscock first found gold on the slopes of Mount Bunin- yong on August 8, 1851, and this dis- covery led to the opening up of Bal- larat about a week after, yet at this early stage in the history of the Vic- torian gold rushes of the fifties, there had been for some time past a party of shepherds getting much gold in the country lying to the North of Ballarat, but saying nothing about it at the time.
About forty miles to the North-East of Ballarat lay the sheep station of Dr. William Barker, around the slope» of Mount Alexander (so named by Major Mitchell in his explorations in 1836).
On July 20 one of Dr. Barker's shep- herds, C. Peters, the hut-keeper, found gold in a seam of compact quartz about 12 inches thick, lying between the strata of clay slate and mica slate. Telling his mates, Worley Robinson and Keen, about his discovery, the four shepherds quietly gathered all the precious metal that they came across, meantime keeping the secret to them- selves. This was bçfore the opening up of tBallarat, and previous to the Government's proclamation allowing persons to dig for gold on taking out a monthly license. By the time this an- nouncement had been* made public, the four shepherd gold-diggers on Barker's station had gathered about fifty pounds weight of gold, and they then pro- ceeded to tell others of the discovery.
The news reached Geelong on Sep- tember 28, and had the effect of setting many of the adults around the town on the road to the new diggings at Barker's Creek. The tidings soor reached Melbourne, and put more or the road from that city. Arrived at Mount Alexander, the eager seeken soon spread around on to the othei watercourses, and were astounded ant delighted at the abundance of precioui metal on the new "Tom Tiddler*!
One party setting in near to Peters and his mates' claim, gathered 7i ounces the first day, and anothei washed out from the bed of a drj watercourse 247 ounces in a week 'Other creeks were-quickly "opéheTl^ and a man wrote to the newspapei from Campbell's Creek as follow:
"Going down the bank of the creek I noticed a crowd of people apparently scrambling together, and when I go near them I found several hundred; tumbling about and over each other tearing up the soil with their hands picking up the nuggets and placing ' them in their pockets for safety. I wai
told that a man in oitchincr hi's ten
saw the gold shining in the earth and began gathering it up, and others see- ing what he was about rushed the spot."
HISTORIC FRYER'S CREEK.
Fryer's Creek, when opened up, proved to be very rich. One party gathered 132 pounds weight of gold out of a claim on the watercourse. An-
other party got over 1000 ounces in a very short time. The first gold escort from Mount Alexander took to Mel- bourne 6846 ounces; and in addition men were bringing in and selling great quantities of gold every day.
Dalgety and Coy. bought from one party 50 lbs. 7 02s., which had been got in 12 days. There was brought to a jeweller in the city a bag containing 100 lbs. weight of gold for purchase; .whilst a party of four sold 62 lbs. weight, which they declared represent- ed a fortnight's work at Mount Alex- ander. This was at the close of 1851, and thc Christmas holidays brought .into Melbourne hundreds of successful diggers.
Then commenced the boom times in the city; diggers and their friends, male and female, driving around in style; whilst other placing banknotes between slices of bread munched up their novel and costly sandwiches.
All who could cleared off to the dig- gings. The turnkeys from the gaols, the attendants from the lunatic asylum, together with 38 out of the forty odd police constables, joined in the stam- pede. The Lieutenant-Governor, La Trobe, raised the Civil Service salaries by 50 per cent, and still lost over three-quarters of his staff.
The ships coming to Hobson's Bay lost pretty nigh all their sailors the first night after the anchor was down, and in some cases mates and captains followed suit The news of the finds reaching Adelaide drew hundreds from there, and th; Burra copper mines were almost deserted of their Cousin Jack miners. South Australia was badly hit by the sudden exodus of its scanty numbers, but fortunately, two very wise measures were taken by the governor, Sir Henry Young, and his administration at the time. They pass- ed an Act, making ingots of gold stamped by the authorities legal tender throughout the colony, and they opened, up a plain and legible track right from Adelaide on to Mount Alex- ander, and placing on it a Police escort drew to Adelaide a fair proportion of the newly won gold. The Australian poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon, served for a time as a trooper on this gold escort The sudden influx of gold into Melbourne at thc close of 1851 and the beginning of 1852, almost doubled the price of food and accommodation in the city, and changed the aspect of every street and' suburb. Laborers asked for"and got not less than a pound a day for any work. Buildings were going up in all directions, al- though the price of building materials had gone up .sky-high. In a scarce little book on North Tasmanian his- tory, that the writer has by him, the author, Mr. James Fenton, tells of the lucky stroke of business he made early in 1852, by buying in the bush, in Tosr mania and sending over to Melbourne small shiplods of Tasmanian, hard- wood palings suitable for building. When the gold rushes broke oat: the i splitters, eager to get across Basa r etraits to hunt for gold* sold putthcii!
Stacks of palings-at low prices, and these when gathered up and shipped over to Melbourne reaped a handsome profit to the speculator who'bought them. Mr. Fenton had come over from Tasmania in the prevailing rush to the Victorian diggings, in the large schooner "Sea Witch," 300 tons; Cap- tain Pryde. The vessel was crowded with passengers, some of whom were lucky diggers bringing back horses for their work on the goldfields. There were also on board a fair sprinkling of "lags" (convicts on ticket-of-leave) and these by their rowdy and turbulant behaviour made a lot of trouble on board. On arrival :n Melbourne, Mr. Fenton keeping his eyes open and his mouth shut, after a good look around came to the conclusion that more was to be made by returning back to Tas- mania, buying up all the split palings at bedrock prices that he could get hold of, and shipping them over to Melbourne ready for the building boom that he looked for, and the re- sult paid him infinitely better than he was likely to achieve at the diggings.
"ONE OF THE BEST."
Campbell's Creek was one of the best creeks on the goldfield, and on its five miles of workings over 3000 dig- gers were busy, turning up its golden treasures in February, 1853. Long lines of tents on both sides of the watercourse housed the eager throngs of bustling, energetic workers. Hun- dreds of cradles and tubs in which the clayey wash-dirt was puddled, could be seen on either side of the stream. At night thc place was lit up by hundreds of fires, and around which, were gath- ered the diggers; some singing, others arguing or relating past experiences, whilst occasionally the twang of a fiddle, or the clear notes of a cornet or saxe-horn came upon the ear. A livesy and realistic account of the diggings on Campbell's Creek has been galven by a young man, who left his situation in the Civil Service to go gold-digging; and I give it in his own words:
"Three of us having agreed to com- bine foi° a trial of thc Mount Alexan- der diggings, we purchased a cradle, large tent and tools and provisions for two months, and gave a teamster £20 to convey the lot to Fryer's Creek. We tramped up with the waggon, making the trip in five days. On reaching Fryer's Creek we found that place crowded and gold being got in large quantities, but we fancied that the good ground was all occupied; and hearing that many were going to Campbell's Creek, where rich gold had been found, we decided to go there. When we arrived, there were five to six hundred men distributed along the creek for about three miles. Going among them, we could see that most of them were doing very well, for in some cases we saw several pounds weight of gold panned off for a day's work with the cradle. We pitched our tent where there was about fifty yards of the creek unoccupied, and commenced to look around for a' likely spot to find gold. Very soon we found a piece about the size of a pea, on the edge of the creek; and then tried the spot with the dish and got five to six pennyweights in the first two or three dishes. Trying an- other spot a few yards away we got some small gold, and one piece weigh- ing over half an ounce. Altogether be- fore it got dark, by just using the dish, we had over two ounces of gold, which we thought was not a bad beginning for such novices as we were. In good spirits we made an early start next morning, fixed up the cradle, and while one of us stripped off the upper soil, another supplied the wash-dirt to cradle and tub, and the other rocked the cradle. Each of us took turn about at these occupations and worked hard, much encouraged by seeing the gleam of a speck of gold every now and then in the dirt we were washing. At noon we cleaned the cradle and panned off the gold it contained, and were very joyful at finding over four ounces of
gold.^ That afternoon we exerted our- selves to the utmost, and were very jubilant upon finding a nugget weigh- ing 4 ounces 7 dwts. tn the hopper of the cradle. On cleaning up in thc even- ing, we had about six ounces more of fine gold. For three days we worked on in this way, getting ll to 14 ounces per day, while stripping off three feet of soil which overlay the gravel and clay in which the rich gold Mes. So far we bad only treated the upper part of the auriferous drift, but on tho fifth day we began to wash the bottom layer, and in breaking it out with the pick could see gold freely. It was splendid wash dirt, and on the rock bottom gold was plentifully sprinkled. We picked up many pieces weighing from a pennyweight to over an ounce in getting emt the dirt, and when we treated it there was a display in the cradle that filled us with delight Twice a day we cleaned up the cradle, and each time had two to four pounds weight of gold while washing the best dirt We were three weeks in working out our first claim, and we had thirty one pounds weight of gold from it. Fortunately for us no one during this time pegged out a claim quite close to us, and we chose another area and hav- ing gained a little experience opened it up in a more workmanlike manner. In this case we manfully stripped off four feet of earth from a hole twelve feet square, and then started to put through about eighteen inches of wash dirt We were gratified to find that our choice of this claim was a lucky decision, for the first two days washing yielded over a hundred ounces of gold, and we expected the bottom to be very rich._ Nor were our expectations dis- appointed, for in crevices in the rock we found little nests of small nuggets that weighed several ounces in the ag- gregate. We were about a month over that claim, and were very well content with its yield; the more so because on the last day but one, while we were cleaning up the bottom we unearthed a very handsome specimen weighing over five pounds, of which two-thirds were white quartz, and the rest gold in glittering seams and knobs. In all we took forty-two pounds weight of gold from that claim. While working it large numbers of men had arrived and all thc ground about us was pegged out. We had been careful to lodge our gold at the Commissioner's camp, at Fryer's Creek every fortnight, for transmission -by the escort to Mel- bourne, and-having heard of robberies in the locality we kept a gun and re- volver always on hand for our protec- tion, and so fixed up our tent at night that any attempt to enter it must cause noise enough to awaken us. A few of the ex-convict class were always on the watch for plunder, and we. took constant precautions against their at- tempts to capture any of the gold we had worked for. Looking along the creek when it was fully occupied, the scene was very interesting. Swarms of
men hurried between the cradles and the holes, carrying bags of wash dirt Others worked the tubs and cradles or stooped over the water panning off their gold, while now and again some sonorous voice would start a popular chorus song, and those who were not breathless with ¡their exertions would chime in and make much noise if little music Several ¿stores were started on a very modest scale, and did plenty oi business, though the prices of goods were outrageously high. Out hext yen.«
ture -was upon ground three miles lower down the creek, where the claim secured promised well, as near by.sev- eral parties were doing . exceedingly well. The ground was however much deeper than that we had previously worked, and consequently wc had to do more work to get the wash dirt. But, notwithstanding, we did very well and were not tempted tb go to any new rushes-perhaps to go further and
In these articles of mine giving an account of thc opening of the gold rushes of the fifties; I have transcribed in many cases the actual accounts which have been left to us by the dig- gers themselves, so as to show in their own language and views the .stirring events of these wonderful days.
Such amazing finds of gold were turned up at Fryer's Creek that one 'part was designated as "Golden Point." In one claim, three-hundred weight of the prrcious metal was taken: out of the rocky bottom of a claim, less than seven feet from the surface, and many a man found 10 to 20 lbs. of gold loose upon the surface of his claim, and gathered or swept up hundreds of pounds worth before he put a pick into his ground. The gold could be got so freely on the surface and about the grass-roots, that until the numbers of diggers got so great one could no longer pick and choose his ground; the miner would not sink anywhere until
he had found so much gold about, as' to justify him iii expecting to find it in great abundance beneath. j
For the most part the wash dirt lay
at a depth of from four to eight feet, j
and the sinking was quite easy; but in cases where a layer of wash was traced into deeper ground, there was a stiff stratum of quartz conglomerate, which took two to three day3 hard delving to get through.
The tidings of the wonderful finds drew many men, and those who were unable to find room to Set in spread around and opened up fresh finds.
One party of four travelling north- ward? reached Forest Creek, and find- ing gold indications on the surface, and setting in with their cradle, soon had the satisfaction of knowing that they were on something big in gold diggin?. Now amongst the earliest on this new find was a young maa whe sometime before had had a narrow escape from perishing in the Vic- torian bush. When he had been two days without food and,on the point of collapse, a party of drovers travelling across country had picked him up, fed him, and put him on the track in good trim. Amongst the party of new- comers he recognised one of his rescuers, and determined to repay the obligation by putting his benefactor on to the good thing that his party were on at Forest Creek. How he did so may be told in the words of the man
"I had noticed a man digging with others whose features seemed familiar, but I could not recall where we had met. This person had left our vicinity some time, when one evening as I stood before our tent smoking, I be- held the man slowly walking along the edge of a gully at a distance, and I thought beckoning to me. Telling my .mates that I was about to take a stroll round, I felt that my pistols were safe, whistled softly to the dogs, and saun- tered slowly in the direction of the man. I knew that I was not acting wisely, as there were plunderers about who stood on little ceremony. When I was near the spot where the man stood, he turned round and bade me 'Good evening,' then glancing round said, 'I have but a few words to say and but little time. You once gave me food when I was well-nigh starving, and I am not a man to forget. If you will follow me to-morrow morning, I will give you notice of where I and my party are now working in one of the creeks to the northward. We havp
Turning on his heel he quietly strolled made already, I should say, ¿1000.' away, and as he did so I recognised him as a man 1 had relieved in the bush while travelling. Upon returning to the tent I. told my companions of ray adventure. 'Verily there is'grati- tude in this world after all,' said one. Next morning I met my friend, and we walked on together. He told me tie had discovered an overlooked creek by mere chance, and that his party were hard at work, and as the ground was rich the sooner we made an ap- pearance the better. After sighting the place I thanked him and turned back to our tent Towards evening we struck the tent, packed up all our belongings, and departed for the new location. After selecting a likely spot, no time was lost in pitching our tent and commencing operations. We soon found that considerable quantities of small gold were to be obtained from the soil, and while by turns we rock- ed the cradle, the others supplied earth. We found some ricli pockets among a quantity of rubble stuff, one nugget weighed 31bs. 7ozs> For ll days we were undisturbed-, working without cessation and reaping a golden crop. We remained a fort- night after the locality became known, and scores of diggers arrived, and then as our stock of dust and nug. gets was very considerable we re- solved to start for Welbourne, and turn the gold into caril."
These narratives show the rich- ness of the early Victorian rushes, and on reading them we can Under- stand the attraction which the gold* fields had for the young and adven, turous throughout the civilised worW, as the news of the splendid findi under the Southern Cross spread
The quantities of precious meta that were being dug up in th< vicinity of Mount Alexander neceS' sitated the starting of a monthlj escort to Melbourne, and for man] months this escort carried an averag< of more than a ton of gold ead
The Forest Creek, diggings provet to be wonderfully rich. A party o four men who had just arrived iron Sydney dug up over 931bs. of gol< in ten days* . In many other cases i week's work brought the fortunat digger anything from £500 to £1000 and few of those on the creek claim that did not turn up more than £101 per man per weík. Th» Lieutenant Governor, Mr. La Trobe, aeeom panied by several of .the officials visited the diggings, anxious to se for himself what truth-there was .ii the sensational reports flying aronui An amusing story is reported in cet nèction with this visit. Mr. La Trob was strolling. around watching th diggers at work, when one of thei threw at hisi feet a lump of clay a large as a man's fist, and studde through and through Tpith sma golden nuggets as large as beans an peas. After examination, the ball < golden clay was handed, back to tl digger, who seemed reluctant to tai it, saying to the Goverpor in a aggrieved tone of voice: "Wk shouldn't you take it, Sir, and ghi it to the missus-there's, plenty moi where it came from.* - r
So plentiful was the metal on the field that the buyers would not give more than. £2/16/- per ounce;. and even in Melbourne the ruling price was only £3/8/-; yet; at this figure it was an everyday occurrence for diggers to dump a package contain-" inpr.SO tb 80 lbs. weight of gold upon Dalgety's counter and receive a bundle of bank notes'in return. One of the clerks in thc Bank of New South Wales on the field relates as follows: "One day two men came in, and one of them asked what price we were giving for gold. When I told him he said: 'What will you give for ¿a lump-like, this -vat;the same time throwing his coat down upon the counter, in which he had a nugget, in shape something like » leg of mutton and weighing 600 ozs. (SO lbs.). They were not satisfied with the price offered and deposited it in at the local Treasury, for trans- mission to Melbourne, where is was on exhibition for a while- and event, ually sold. The men told me that the nugget was discovered by them at Fryer's Creek that morning. .There were four of them in the party and were hard up. They were working in old ground, and digging around a pillar of earth, when one of them noticed a speck of gold; he tried to pick it out with his finger and thumb, but could hot manage it, so tried with his fossicking knife. Failing to get it out with that, he got a pick and unearthed the monster."
The returns from Mount Alexander were, however, commencing to be put' in the shade by the newer found golden glories of Bendigo, the stofy of which will be related in a later
Most of the ground about the van out creeks and gullies around the Mt. Alexander goldfield having been oc- cupied by this time, the crowds of eager gold-seekers, attracted by the glowing reports, passed on over the granite ridges northward, towards the bigger and more extensive workings of farfamed Bendigo Flat, with its tens of thousands of-diggers.
The township of Mount Alexander, later on officially christened Castle- maine, kept up all through the fifties its reputation as a gold producer, but as .time went on the mining in- dustry gradually gave way to agricul- ture, as the more steady and prudent, of the miners took up land and went farming, thus getting a more steady and reliable, if not so dazzling, a re- turn from the ground than their former occupation.
FIRST TIDINGS IN ENGLAND. The first tidings of the wonderful returns from the two Victorian gold- fields, Ballarat and Mount Alexander, reached Great Britain early in 1852, and as ship after ship arrived in the Thames or Mersey, with thousands upon thousands of ounces of the newly-found gold on board, the ex. citement amongst the young and ad- venturous was very great. Every young man who was not satisfied with the prospects in fr«nt of him deter- mined to get as quickly as possible on to the new "Tom Tiddler's ground," where the reports said! "Gold was to be dug up like potatoes
in a field."
The shipping people of London and Liverpool set themselves to the task of providing the vessels to carry the thousands who thronged the ports, clamoring to be taken to Australia, as quickly as possible.
,, The London "Times*" under date of August 9, 1852, in a leader, gives the following: "Notwithstanding the
thousands of fortune-seekers who have sailed during the last few months for the golden regions of Australia, from the ports of London, Liverpool, Glas- gow, etc., the tide of emigration does not appear to have much sub
(Continued on Page Fifteen.)
ON TOM TIDDLER S GROUND I (Continued from-Page Thirteen:)'
sided, as from thirty to forty first class ships, varying from SOO to 2000 tons, are entered to sail during the1 present month, from London, Ply- mouth and Liverpool for Melbourne, Geelong, Adelaide and Sydney. The greatest activity prevails in the St Katherine, London and West and East India Docks, in fitting up ves- sels for the accommodation of the ad-
Then follows a list of 29 sailing ships, varying in tonnage from SOO to 2000 tons, on the berth for Mel- bourne; and six vessels of from 600 to 1000 tons for Sydney, all from
The Liverpool shipowners, how- ever, soon got an equal, and later on a predominating, share in the profit- able trade of "conveying gold-seekers to Melbourne. Just before the Vio torian diggings broke out in 1851, two young men in Liverpool entered into partnership as shipowners and brokers. John Pilkington and Henry Threlfall Wilson, though only young, both of them had had a good ground ji'ng in the business, and having con-
trol of a fair amount of capital, they were very successful in their busi-
It was an eventful era for ship- owners, and the shipping business generally, and the two young part, ncrs determined to have a cut in at the business of providing vessels, to carry the eager gold-seekers, to Aus- tralia's golden shores. In conjunc- tion with the big ship-building firm of W. and R- Wright, St. John's, Canada, they started the well-known "White Star" line of sailing ships to Australia. The first vessel of the new line was the ship ""Ben Nevis," 1420 tons register, which took out to Melbourne over 600 passengers
Then followed the "Red Jacket," 2500 tons, whose performances as a clipper ship made her the best known vessel of the line. Sailing on her first voyage from the Mersey to Mel- bourne in 69 days 13 hours was in- deed a wonderful performance¿ Hav- ing only light winds down the Atlan- tic, Captain Reid kept his bows point- ed south until he reached below SO degrees south, in his search for strong winds. Here he ran his Easting down with all the winds he wanted, mak- ing daily runs of 315 knots, 330, 263, 286, 287, 286, 312. 300, 288, 400, 299, 350, 334, 295 and 300 on the last day to Port Phillip Heads.
Leaving Melbourne after a stay ol only 17 days, discharging and load- ing cargo, with passengers and gold to the value of over £200,000, the ''Red Jacket" rounded Cape Horn only 20 days out, and shortly after had a nar. row escape of being smashed up m the ice near Staten Island. The equator was crossed 42 days out from Mel- bourne, and she finally reached Liver pool after a passage of 73 days, and on arrival was purchased by Pilking- ton and Wilson for £30,000.
To the eager young souls waiting for a chance to rush out to the Aus-
tralian gold-fields, and make theil fortune, a speedy passage was. thi very best possible advertising for i ship- The next two vessels, for th« White Star Line were the clippei ships, "White Star," named after th« flag she sailed under, and the "Shall mar," named after the far-famec v'altey of Cashmere.
The "White Star," of 2339 ton' register, though she made only ¡ medium passage out and home at thi start, made several good passage: afterwards; on one trip sailing ou to Melbourne in 75 days, and comini back to Liverpool in 76 days, bcatini the auxiliary clipper ship "Roya Charter" by ten days.
In 1858 she went out to Melbourn in 72 days, and in 1860 in 69 days un which trip she sailed 3300 miles ii ten days.
The "Shalimar" also proved hei self a speedy clipper. In 1855 sh ran out to Melbourne in 76 days.
There were several other lines c speedy sailing vessels tunning ou from Liverpool to Melbourne in th "fifties," but the premier positio amongst them all was held by Jame Baines and Company's famous Blact
The career of James Baines hin self was a most remarkable one.
His mother, a widow, kept a coi fectioncr's shop in Duke-street, ar young Baines started right at tl foot of the ladder, as office boy i the office of a Liverpool shipowne In appearance he was somewhat sho in statue, with rather reddish hair, bi his vitality, energy, and determin lion were amazing. Rapidly makit himself master of the details ai system of his business, he at an ear age started out on his own accour as a ship-broker, and eventually as i owner. The story that was current shipping circles in Liverpool was
this effect. One day a dirty looking vessel with stumpy masts and apple cheeked bows lay in the Queen's Dock with a broom at her main mast, head, denoting that she was for sale« She had been built at Miramichi on speculation by a builder, loaded up with a cargo of timber and sent across the Atlantic to Liverpool, to , be sold for what she would fetch after
I her cargo was out of her. Young Baines passing along the dock-side saw and examined her closely, and sizing up her qualifications for a pur- pose he_ had in view, purchased her as the saying is "for a song."
Fitting her out as well as his limited means would allow, he, after Betting several profitable trips out of her, sold her, parting with her at a big advance on what she cost him originally. A later purchase was a luckier one still. Very early in 1852 there arrived in Liverpool a big new wooden ship .from Mobile, with a large cargo of cotton, and bearing the name of "Marco Polo," after the celebrated Venetian ' tarveller of the middle ages.
She had "been built on spec by Smith and Company, of St. John, New Brunswick; with massive timbering, and though above the water-line she looked to be the usual "cotton ware- house type,". and in shape like a brick: yet when she was put into the graving dock; it could be seen that she had very fine lines in her under- water body. On arrival in the Mersey she had been bought on sight hy Paddy Magee, the "rag-man" and marine store dealer, who, however, auickly sold her at a profit to James Baines. He quickly saw her potentali ties for his Australian emigrant trade, and had her fitted up for taking pas- sengers, of which she took over 900 on her first trip to Melbourne.
It is hard to say whether there was a touch of genius in the designing of the "M?rco Polo," or whether she owed most of her reputation for speed to the wonderful driving power of her famous master, Captain Forbes.
A GREAT CAPTAIN.
James Nicoll Forbes was born at Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1821. Bred to
the sea from a boy, he rapidly ros« through the grades of seamen, mate and master, and/drew the attention o all who came in contact with him bj his. energetic, forceful and drivinj tempérament In 1839 he left Glasgow and arrived in Liverpool without < shilling in his pocket, but he was a mar who could not be kept down, and . he soon gained command of a vessel anc at once began to astonish everybody by the way in which he forced indiffer- ent ships to make unusually good pas- sages. One of his early commands was an old brig, in which he made twe splendid trips to the River Plate and
Mr. Baines gave him command ol the Black-ball liners, first the Maria and then the Cleopatra, and though neither of them were clipper-built, he made some remarkably speedy pas- sages. His success in these determined his owner, Mr. Baines, to put the new ship Marco Polo in his charge, and both captain and owner soon justified the lucky choice. In character Forbes was a most resolute man, absolutely fearless and of quick decision, lt goes without saying that he was a prime seaman; the way he made such speedy passages proves this. Now for the Marco Polo's first voyage( under the Black-ball flag: Leaving Liverpool on July 4, 2852, she reached Port Phillip on September 18, after a record pas- sage of 68 days, beating the steamer Australia by a full week. It was on this passage that the Marco Polo's captain earned his name of "Bully Forbes," as we are told that on some of his cabin passengers on one occasion in a storm mildly suggesting that he take in some of his upper sails, he stoutly refused to do so, adding that it was a case of "Hell or Melbourne" for them. On one day in "running down her Easting" the ship sailed 364 miles, and on four successive days she cov- ered 1344 sea miles, an average of 336 miles a day.
On his arrival in Hobson's Bay Forbes learned that between 40 and 50 ships were lying at anchor waiting for crews, their former hands having clear- ed off to the diggings as soon as the anchor was down. Determined to keep his own crew if at all possible, Forbes, before he dropped his anchor, hoisted a ¡flag of distress for police assistance, and when the police boat arrived handed those of his crew whom he could not trust over to the police on
j charges' of insubordination, and had
them promptly locked up in Mel- bourne. As a result when he came to sail away, after a detention of only 23 days discharging and taking in cargo, he promptly paid the fines inflicted, got his men aboard under police super- vision, and sailed away on his way to Liverpool by way of Cape Horn. His voyage home was made in 76 days, and on December 26 following he dropped anchor in the -Mersey, the whole trip out and home occupied only 5 months and 21 days.
This was so much of a record trip that many shipping men when they saw the Marco Polo lying at anchor in the Mersey thought that she must have put back "in distress." People could not credit the astounding fact that the ship had sailed out to Melbourne and home again in such a short space of time, and the story was current in Liverpool afterwards that Mr. Baines himself, the owner, being met in Water-street by one of the dockmen, and told that the Marco Polo had ar- rived back and was lying in the river waiting to dock, exclaimed, "Nonsense, man; the Marco Polo has not arrived out yet." There were no telegraphs then. Within an hour from the tune Mr. Bailies met the dockman in th
street he was in his own office listen- ing to Captain Forbes giving the story of the voyage out and home. The trip had been done so speedily that the Marco Polo brought home the first news of her arrival out to Melbourne.
The excitement in Liverpool, where hundreds of intending gold-seekers
were waiting for the opportunity to j ship out, was immense; and when the
Marco Polo hauled into the Salthouse Dock, the dock-side was crowded with, people. Between the ship's fore and main-masts was suspended a huge canvas sheet, on which were the words painted in large .black letters: "The Fastest Ship in the World." On this passage home she again beat the I steamship Australia by a week; and so
! won many bets which had.been made
on the competing ships' performances..
After such a voyage the Marco Polo, was at Oi.ce looked upon as the wonder of the age, and people came from ail parts to see her, whilst Captain Forbes wherever he happened to be, was the centre of everyone's attention.
It may bc of interest to know that a relative of his is at the present time a leading commercial man in Babinda.
However, the story of the after career of the Marco Polo, and her fam- ous captain "Bully Forbes," together with the account of the rivalry between the Australian clipper ships of the "Roaring Fifties," must be left for a later paper. - - -