William Stawell

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William Stawell
William Stawell from Supreme Court Bench Victoria 1852-1894. Chuck Photographer. State Library of Victoria Collection (H34675)


The Honourable Sir William Foster Stawell, K.C.M.G., B.A (Dublin), M.A. (Dublin) LL.D. (Dublin) was born on 27 June 1815 at Old Court, County Cork, Ireland. He was justice of the Supreme court of Victoria from march 1857 to 24 September 1857.[1]

He died on 12 March 1889 at Naples, Italy.[2]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Stawell was the prosecutor during the Treason Trials.

During the Treason Trials the issue of taking oaths to a flag which was not the flag of Great Britain became a point of legal argument. Timothy Hayes was charged with acting under a rebellious flag which was treasonable to Queen Victoria.his defence lawyer pointed out that the Prosecutor, William Foster Stawell, the Colony of Victoria's Attorney general, had acted under the Anti-Transportation League banner flown in Melbourne in 1851. This legal argument helped secure the acquittal of Timothy Hayes. [3]

Post 1854 Experiences

See also

Four Jolly Diggers - The Eureka Celebrations.
Four jolly old gentlemen were introduced to the representative of the "Echo" on Friday last by the secretary of the Eureka celebrations committee Mr Troup. They each wore the Eureka badge pinned on the lapel of the coat.
"These gentlemen have come from Morwell," said Mr Troup,"to take part in the celebrations. Allow me to introduce you to Mr Isaac Hayward. Mr David Maine. Mr John Kemp. Mr George Firmin.
Bows all round, and then there was a general conversation with so many "I remembers" in it that it was evident that memories of the past were falling thick and fast upon these four hale old pioneers, the eldest of whom is a ripe age of 80 years, and the youngest a comparative youth of 67 or so. Mr Kemp, the eldest is remarkable for his youthful appearance and cheerful demeanour.
In the roaring days of the goldfield each member of the interesting quartet followed the occupation of a digger, experiencing all the ups and downs which inevitably form part of that alluring calling. None of them made any sensational discovery, but what is more to the point, three were actual witnesses of the burning of Bentley' Hotel and all of them approve of the stand which the diggers in the stockade took against a tyrannical system of administration. There is reason to believe that Mr Kemp's box of matches helped to set Bentley's Hotel in the blaze which consumed it to ashes. There was a great surging crowd around the hotel and one of Mr Kemp's mates came alongside him and said, "Give us your matches, Jack," and not knowing at that time that they were used for the purposes of arson, Mr Kemp handed over his tin box of wax vestas, and saw them no more. Mr Hayward and Mr Maine were present at the conflagration, and the latter caught Bentley's cat as it leaped out of the flames, and, later, took it home with him to his camp as a souvenir of the tremendous occasion.
Charles A. Doudiet, Gravel Pits Ballarat, 1854, watercolour, pen and ink on paper.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery with the assistance of many donors, 1996.
Mr Hayward had a claim near the Gravel Pits, and he saw the military stoned as they were entering the camp from the Melbourne road, a few days before the encounter. "That was an ill advised action," remarked Mr Kemp, and "It was, indeed," commented his three companions. There was no attempt at justification for that stupid attack on a body of men under strict orders not to act upon the offensive. "But," added Mr Hayward, "the diggers had a right to be excited and ndignant at the way they were treated. We had been worried out of our lives by the troopers compelling us to show our licences, and treating us like a lot of ticket-of-leave men. Beside we had many see the unfairness of paying a licence to dig in a small piece of ground when the squatters hold thousands of acres for a few pounds a year. We are the men who were making the country, and we were treated as if we were undesirable immigrants. No wonder the blood of the wilder spirits boiled under such conditions. Mr Firmin tells a sensational story of the brutality of one of the Commissioners. It appears that while the disturbances were in progress a miner named James Ralph was in trouble with the authorities. His wife went down to the camp one evening to get tidings of her husband, when one of the Commissioners came out of his tent and held a revolver at her head. "You coward." Exclaimed the woman, "that's all you're good for is to frighten women and children; you're afraid to tackle a man like my husband." The Commissioner was in a boiling rage, but he threw away his revolver, and it eventually passed into the possession of Mr Ralph it was found to be loaded in three chambers. Mr Firmin is now endeavouring to trace Ralph, and if possible, the revolver will be obtained for the Ballarat Historical Record society.
Mr Hayward had something very interesting to say about Sir Charles Hotham, and if what he was told was true the Governor's reputation is thereby cleared of the imputation that he was at last antagonistic to the diggers. When at the Custom House some years ago Mr Hayward was assured that a letter from Sir Charles Hotham to the Executive is extant, and which, in effect states that the diggers' complaints were on the whole justified, and that a conference should be held to enquire into the causes of their grievances. Mr Hayward believes that the Governor's good intentions were frustrated by the Attorney-General (Sir William Stawell. Afterwards Chief Justice) who, it appears, had no sympathy with the digging population.
Many exciting scenes were witnessed by the four pioneers we have been referring to, and they will, no doubt, prove to be valuable additions to the collection of Eureka veterans Mr Troup is gathering together for the demonstration.
Mr Maine is one of the survivors of the wreck of the London in the Bay of Biscay on January 11, 1866.[4]

Further Reading

Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Perry, Warren, The School of Mines and Industries, Ballarat, Ballarat School of Mines, Ballarat, 1984, p53.
  2. Perry, Warren, The School of Mines and Industries, Ballarat, Ballarat School of Mines, Ballarat, 1984, p53.
  3. Beggs Sunter, Anne, Eureka the First Republic?, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, 1997.
  4. The Morwell and Yinnar Gazette, 09 December 1904.

External links