John Kemp

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Samuel Thomas Gill, Marking the Claim, c1852, watercolour and gum arabic on paper.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, gift of Mr. Tony Hamilton and Miss. S.E. Hamilton, 1967.


John Kemp was born in 1825 at Yorkshire, England. He married 17 year old Mary Clarke in 1853. After the goldrush John and Mary went to Boolarra and raised 12 children. He died atBoolarra in 1907 aged 82. [1]

At age 22 he enlisted to a British Man of War and came out to Australia in a 55 ton vessel The Adelaide. In 1848 he joined the British Man of War the Havana. Later he ran away from the Havana in Hobart Town and joined a whaler the Wallaby. On this ship he went as far as the Behring Strait where he left the Wallaby and joined another whaler The Prince Regent (which was originally built as a yacht for Prince George.[2]

He returned to Australia where he (and the whole crew) jumped ship and went to the diggings. He married an Irish girl of Mary Clarke aged 17years in 1853 and after the goldrush went to Boolarra where he raised 12 children. He passed away in Boolarra in 1907 at the age of 82. [3]

Mr John Kemp was the second arrival into Boolarra arriving in late 1878 and was accompanied by his son Will. They were later joined by sons Tom and George. Meanwhile Mrs Kemp remained in Ballarat with the young members of the family until a hose was built.
Mr Kemp's farm, Windsor Park, was about four miles from Boolarra and was named after Billy Windsor, and 18 stone six-foot giant of a man who used to go shooting wild cattle on the Scrubby Forest Station at Yinnar before Boolarra was settled.
When John Kemp arrived on his selection he picked out a very large tree about twelve feet through the butt and felled it. When it was felled the ends rested on the ground but under the middle was a depression up to three foot deep. A hut was built on to this log and the men's bunks were placed in the depression under the log, so that if any branches or trees fell the huge log would protect the men. A spring near-by supplied them with water. The first year several acres of land were cleared and of course timber had to be burnt which was rather dangerous. A dug-out was made in the ground not far from the hut and the men slept there for three nights while the urning-off was going on. Then the cleared land was sown down in grass, and later a few cows were bought.[4]

Mr John Kemp's son (also John Kemp) became a state school teacher, and his son (the grandson of the original settler), received a knighthood and was Sir John Kemp, KB of Queensland.[5]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Kemp was inside the Eureka Stockade on 03 December 1854, and was a participant in the Eureka battle.

Post 1854 Experiences

Kemp was one of the Eureka veterans who attended the 50th Anniversary of Eureka celebrations in 1904. He was at that time, living at Morwell.

Ballarat Star

Wednesday, 30th November 1904, page 2.

The following Eureka Stockade pioneers have signified their intention to be present a the 50th anniversary celebrations, and have been granted passes by the Premier, to enable them to do so: - J.A. Watts, Warracknabeal; John Notman, Melbourne; John Richardson, Wahgunyah; Thos. Manallack, Brunswick; W. Lambert, Malmsbury; J. Lang, Bangerang; John Kemp, Morwell; David Maine, Morwell; Isaac Heyward, Morwell; A. Waddell, Talbot; W. Clark, South Melbourne; A. Leslie, Ararat; L.C. Holmes, Arawata (via Korumburra); Mrs M. Bourke, Bendigo; A.W Arnold, Avoca; John Adam, Deniliquin, N.S.W; S. Uridge, Brunswick. The secretary has also received a letter from Mr W. Hanrahan, of Timor West, a brother of the late John Hanrahan, of Warragul, to whom the Premier gave a pass to attend the celebrations. Mr H. Scott Bennett, M.L.A., also handed in the names of several pioneers to the Premier, and those have likewise received free passes.[6]

In the News

Eureka Veterans, 1904
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.[7]

See also

Eureka 50, 1904

Further Reading

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


  1. Notes from P. Kemp to Clare Gervasoni, 24/11/2004.
  2. Notes from P. Kemp to Clare Gervasoni, 24/11/2004.
  3. Notes from P. Kemp to Clare Gervasoni, 24/11/2004.
  4. The Unfolding Hills
  5. Notes from P. Kemp to Clare Gervasoni, 24/11/2004.
  6. Ballarat Star, 30 November 1904, p.2.
  7. The Morwell and Yinnar Gazette, 09 December 1904.

External links

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Caption, Reference.