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10 corrections, most recently by peter.murrell - Show corrections

GOLD-SEEKERS OF THE  

FIFTIES.

AFTER EUREKA.  

HOW THE LEADERS ESCAPED.

While the victors of Eureka were remov-     ing the dead, the wounded, and the cap-   tured from the stockade, Peter Lalor, the     diggers' leader lay under the pile of slabs in which he had been hidden, bleeding from the wound in his arm. A musket- ball had shattered the bone close to the shoulder, and the few who knew where he was lying saw the blood trickling from be-   neath the pile of slabs even while the soldiers, keen to capture him, were still in   the stockade. When the last of them had     gone Lalor was helped from his hiding-     place, put upon a white horse, and rode   away through the bush towards Warren-     heip. There he claimed shelter at the hut     of a man he knew. The digger was absent,       and his wife went to look for him. Lalor, however, doubted her genuineness, and be- lieving that she had gone to communicate     with the police, he took to the bush again for shelter. All that night he wandered     about, with his crushed arm still swinging useless and unattended. He was greatly weakened from loss of blood, and only his indomitable pluck kept him up. Towards   morning he determined to seek assistance from Stephen Cummins, an old friend whom he could trust, and who lived with his wife on Pennyweight Hill.

It was on the early morning of the Mon- day following the fight that Mrs. Cummins drew her husband's attention to a man   walking slowly between the holes on the flat, and said, "That is Peter Lalor; I feel   sure of it." "As I ran down to help him,"

Steve Cummins told a friend, "his face was   grey and worried. He looked like a frail   old man rather than a powerful young one, so greatly had pain and loss of blood dur- ing the 24 hous weakened him. I helped him into the hut, where as well as we could my wife and I bandaged the wounded arm. I knew that my hut was no place   for him. A reward of £200 had been of-   fered for his arrest, and there were many mean spirits keen to earn it. Our friend- ship was well known, and I felt sure that   sooner or later my place would be searched     by the police. I ran at once across the gully to the Roman Catholic Presbytery     and told Father Smyth that Lalor was in     my tent badly wounded and in need of surgical assistance. I told him my fears as to the police visiting us, and Father Smyth     said, 'He will be safer here, I think. Bring him over after dark.' so that night we   took him across to the presbytery, meet- ing, fortunately, not a soul upon the road."

Steve Cummins's intuition had served him     well, for next night the police searched his hut, just at the time when he was watch-       ing Drs. Doyle and Stewart amputating Peter Lalor's arm, for the severity of the wound and the delay in treating it precluded any possibility of the arm being saved.   Through the ordeal of amputation, as in every other emergency of life, he showed that fine courage which nothing could shake. He was a stalwart who knew no fatigue, as it       was ordinarily understood, and long before   he became a prominent man in Ballarat it   was frequently his custom to walk to Gee-     long to see his sweetheart, and then walk back to his work again.

A man employed about the Presbytery took the severed arm away as soon as the operation was over, and threw it down an         abandoned shaft, but by Father Smyth's       orders it was recoved later and properly   buried. The first operation was not com-     plete. A portion of the bullet remained     lodged in the stump of the arm, and it   was only after a second operation at Gee-   long that the wound healed properly. When     the wounded leader had sufficiently reco-   vered to move about he and Hayes, one of the fire-eating orators of the Diggers' Re-   form League meetings, were taken to a       store near Brown's Hill, where they were   safely sheltered until a chance of getting clear away from Ballarat should present it-  

self.

Lalor's escape was greatly aided by a       carrier named Michael Carroll, who died at     Geelong within the last few months, and whose son is still living in Ballarat. They   used to bring up loads of goods and hawk     them on the diggings. "One day," says the younger Mr. Carroll, who was then but     a boy, "we stopped at the hut of an old friend of my father's, Michael Hayes (not the orator, Timothy), and yarned about old   times. There was a piece of green baize hanging at one end of the hut, but I did not guess then that there was anyone be-   hind it. As soon as we left the house   it seems Lalor, knowing that my father had         come from Geelong, asked if we could be     trusted. Mrs. Hayes told him that we could, and we were called back to the hut. On going in we saw that the baize partition   had been drawn back, and Lalor was sitting     on a stretcher. 'Do you know who I am?'  

he asked. 'Yes,' my father said, 'you are         Peter Lalor.' He asked us to take a letter       down to Geelong to Miss Dunn, the school-  

mistress, the lady whom he afterwards         married, and it was arranged that we   should take Lalor himself down on the suc-     ceeding trip. I remember the great secrecy   that was observed, for there were troopers     up and down the roads every day, and all over the country, most of them alert for any trace of the Eureka leaders. Nearly     every dray on the roads had a small tent fixed upon it, so we cut some whipsticks, and formed a tilt on one of our drays over   which we hung a tarpaulin. One Sunday mornig I took the tilted cart down to   Hayes's tent, and with several men on the   watch, in case of surprise, we took Lalor       down by Eureka, and across towards War-       renheip, stopping for for a while at Steve     Cummins's tent. We went away out by     the Green Hills, having determined to take     the back track all the way to Geelong,   to travel by night only and camp in the   bush during the day.  

"Lalor walked most of the way, keeping a   bit out from the track in the bush, so that in the event of meeting any mounted troopers suddenly he should not be taken by surprise. It has been said that we met     police on the road, who asked us about     Lalor, and could have seen him sitting in   the dray had they been curious enough to   lift the flap of the tarpaulin. That is not so, for the only adventure we had was on   the second morning of the journey.    

"Lalor was not yet quite recovered from     his wound, and had been supplied with some wine for use on the road. As the   weather was very hot the wine was finished   by the time we reached Lethbridge—then   known as the Muddy Water Holes. In the   early morning, therefore, my father went across to the Separation Hotel and roused       up the landlord to get some more wine.     As he was returning to the drays he met           two men who had been camped under a   tree rolling up their swags, and one of them, named Burns, whom we knew, asked     for a 'lift' into Geelong. My father put him off with the excuse that he intended to load up with some wood a little further   on, but as they passed the dray in which   Lalor sat, Burn's mate caught a glimpse of           him. 'Did you notice who was under   that tarpaulin?' he asked, 'It was Lalor,     the Eureka man. Now, there's a big re- ward offered for him, so I intend to follow the drays quietly to Geelong, put the police on to him, and get the reward.'

"Burns was a genuine fellow, with no taste         for such dirty work, so he determined to   baulk his mate, and to do it the more effectually he pretended acquiescence. 'It's a good thing,' he agreed; 'don't say a word   about it. We'll go and have a drink on     the strength of it.' They got a bottle of   whisky, and Burns gave his mate such   good measure that he was soon hopelessly drunk. Leaving him at the hotel Burns   ran across to where we were camped, and said to my father. 'For God's sake get   Lalor away as quickly as you can. My mate     has recognised him, and he's going to lay the police on to you. I'll keep him drunk     untill you get away.' We were rather       anxious after that, especially when going down the main road, but we landed Lalor at Miss Dunn's place at about one in the  

morning, and he was afterwards taken to

the Queen's Head Hotel in South Gee-   long.

"Lalor chatted frequently with my father     about the Eureka fight on the way down.   It was not easy, indeed, to avoid the sub- ject, for nearly every second tree trunk  

had the proclamation offering a reward for his capture. I heard him say that on the morning of the riot they would have  

beaten back the soldiers if the diggers had been able to get into anything like proper formation. He tried to get them into order—those with rifles in the front rank for the long range fighting, the revolver     corps next for closer work, and the pike men in reserve for a hand to hand struggle. The men, however, rushed pell-mell from   the tents when alarm was given, and   were all mixed up together."

Peter Lalor remained in hiding at Geelong until it was seen that no jury would con-   vict the Eureka rioters, and he then com-     municated with the Attorney-General, who       told him that he was free to go as he pleased. He returned immediately to Bal- larat, where he was enthusiastically wel-

comed, and the diggers, headed by Steve   Cummins, collected £1,000 to start him in  

business.

Ir is said, indeed, that Lalor went back   to Ballarat while the reward for his appre-     hension, dead or alive, was still in force, and many thought him greatly daring in doing so. He even attended a public land sale to bid for some allotments, and when the land officer asked "What name, sir?"    

believing a fictitious one would be given, the rebel of Eureka, in a voice that was of   itself a challengem said "Peter Lalor." He looked up his former mate, John Phelan,   and the two bought a farm at Coghill's   Creek, where he remained until the miners   of Ballarat elected him a member of the   Legislature. Then began the political       career which had its climax in his being six times chosen as Speaker of the As- sembly of Victoria.  

The flight and hiding of Frederick Vern—       for whom the Government, believing him  

to be the real commander-in-chief at       Eureka, offered a reward of £500—was         characteristic of the man. He was given shelter by some miners far out in the  

ranges. On going to work in the morn- ing they used to leave him in the tent, lac- ing it up outside so as to give the impres-   sion that it was unoccupied. Vern hardly     knew whether to be pleased or scared by     the fact that £500 was offered for his ar-   rest, and only £200 a-piece for the other   leaders of the outbreak. It flattered his

vanity that he should be singled out for   special notice, but alarmed him lest it   should lead to his apprehension. Vern, as   described in the proclamation, must have   been a somewhat peculiar person—"5ft.     10in.; long light hair, falling heavily on   the side of his head; little whisker, a large flat face, eyes light grey or green, and very wide asunder; speaks with a strong foreign  

accent."  

While Vern was in hiding in the diggers'       hut they persuaded him to write a farewell   to Victoria, as though addressed from Port   Phillip Heads, and with the idea of sug-   gesting to the authorities that he had es-   caped from Victoria. The plan was pleas-     ing to his self-conceit, and its execution

a supreme specimen of what Raffaello called "sky blathering." "Farewell, my com-     rades," he said; "would to heaven I had died with you." "No fear," retorted the Italian, with a juster appreciation of his   comrade's weaknesses than his own; "the         length of your legs saved you."

An incident that well nigh cost Vern   his life, from fright, closed his occupancy of the digger's tent. Onr day four troopers   were seen riding up to the place. Vern, im     a terrible funk, was hustled under the bunk, and the "possum" rug was pulled down so as to conceal him from view. The   troopers stayed chatting for some time, and then left. When they had disappeared   Vern was helped out. His face was ashy     pale, he trembled violently in every limb,   and it was some time before he could   speak. Vern afterwards got three months     in gaol for inciting miners to riot   on the Black Lead, at Egerton, and       was finally blotted out of publicity by a footnote to one of his own letters in the "Ballarat Star." Mr. J. B. Humffray and Mr. Thos. Loader were contesting Ballarat     East, and Vern sought to run with the   hare and hunt with the hounds. When his     game was exposed he accused Mr. Loader's             "myrmidons" of forgery. His letters were compared, their genuineness made mani-  

fest, and the editor closed some cutting   observations on the incident with "Mr.  

Vern's courage has become proverbial, his   truthfulness is now deserving of an equally

honourable distinction."  

Another of the leaders who escaped was James M'Gill, a young American. After   the diggers had been scattered on the sum-   mit of Eureka he started through the bush     for Creswick, and, according to his own statement, went with the idea of seizing two field guns which were believed to be on Captain Hepburn's estate at     Smeaton. He soon learned that not only had the last shot been fired in the diggers' insurrection, but that all his ingenuity would be needed to save him- self from capture. Disguised in woman's clothes lent him at The Springs, he tra-   velled by coach to Melbourne on the Tues- day after the fight, meeting on the road the military reinforcements under Sir Robert Nickle marching to Ballarat. George   Francis Train, the weird American, who,       though now an old man, still keeps himself under public notice by the wide distribu- tion of his addresses and ideas, was then   the Melbourne agent for the famous White   Star line, and he sent M'Gill on board the   Arabian disguised in the dress of an officer, and kept him there for some time. Train   interviewed Sir Charles Hotham in M'Gill's       interest, and took the young American out to Toorak to see the Governor, who, sur-  

prised at his youth, told him to go about his business and behave himself better in   future. The only condition was that he should leave the colony at once, and Train,   who had a weakness for dramatic effects,   got him smuggled as an invalid to the sani- tary station at the Heads, where he pon-     dered by the sad sae waves and netted   crayfish till the aquittal of the Eureka       prisoners left him at liberty to make a

fresh start.

Geelong appears to have been the haven       of refuge for which nearly all the fugitives from Eureka made. Esmond was there for           some time, as well as Lalor, and it is as-   serted that the police could have laid     hands on both without much difficulty, but   they had good friends in the town, and were not molested. Two others of the Re- form League leaders for whom a reward     was offered—Black and Kennedy—started       for Geelong, keeping away from all the re-     cognised tracks. Kennedy, as we have   shown in a former sketch, was a Gascon—     by impulse. Self-assertive even as a fugi-  

tive, he declared that he could find his way to Geelong via the Mount Misery Ranges. Before starting they disguised   themselves, each cutting the other's beard   off. On the evening of the first day's tramp   the self-confidence of Kennedy had re-  

duced itself merely to the conviction that they were lost in the bush. After tramp-   ing for some time they blundered upon an out-camp of Ballarat rowdies, where Ken-      

nedy wished to be mysterious, but Black  

told the diggers frankly that they had had a row with the authorities, and were flying for their lives. Soon afterwards they se- parated, Kennedy going bullock-driving,       while Black managed to reach Melbourne, where he was for some time concealed by his friends.

It is interesting to compare the actual state of things—these solitary escapees trudging nervously through the gloom of the great gum forests, intent only on their   own safety, and the state of affairs which distance rumour, or imagination had   created in Melbourne. For some time it was   rumoured that Vern and his associates were building another stockade in the Warren-   heip Ranges. It was even declared that hordes of dangerous and bloodthirsty dig-   gers were marching upon Melbourne, intent only on sack and pillage. Meetings were   held in the city, and special plice sworn in for its defence. There could be no greater contrast than between the ru-   moured and the real.

It is a singular thing that many of the men who took a leading part in the Eureka   riot made a bad end. One was subse- quently convicted of felony; one was killed by a fall of ground in a mine; a third fell   from his horse near Kingston, and broke his neck; a fourth died in the Mel- bourne Hospital; a fifth in the Inglewood Hospital; a sixth in the lunatic asylum at Kew; while another committed suicide.      

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