Michael Tuohy

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State Prisoners, 1855.
Courtesy Ballarat Heritage Services.
State Prisoners from The Revolt at Eureka’ by R. Wenban. Schools Publishing House, 1959.


Michael Tuohy was born in Scariff, County Clare, Ireland in 1830. He arrived in Sydney in 1847. [1] He died in Ballarat Hospital in 1915, aged 85. He is buried in Ballan Cemetery.

Joe O'Muircheartaigh wrote 'He survived the Great Famine but buried many family members and friends. He never forgot that food was being exported from Ireland to line the pockets of English absentee landlords, while a million Irish men, women and children died and a further million were forced to immigrate. Although he had travelled 12,000 miles to escape the tyranny of the British government, once again he faced the same tyrants. There were many more people who looked on the British Empire rulers as tyrants.'[2]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Michael Tuohy was part of the Creswick contingent who walked to Ballarat to take part in the Eureka Stockade. He was captured within the Eureka Stockade. He was accused of treason, and was acquitted. In 1908he made application to the government re-consideration of his grievances for compensation for loss of the best golden hole on Eureka. He spent most of his fortune trying to justify his Eureka claim.[3]

James Tuohy carried a double-barrelled shotgun in his possession as he attempted to flee from the Eureka Stockade. He was captured by Corporal William Richardson.[4]

James Wearne gave evidence concerning the involvement of James Tuhey [sic]

According to PROV, Depositions such as those contained in these documents, served as a record of the initial hearing. Local magistrates heard the charged against the person arrested. The accused had an opportunity to respond to the charges.

No. 83

O. 1.

11 and 12 Vic., c.42.


Be it remembered that on the 8th day of December in the year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and fifty four James Wearne of Ballarat in the Colony of Victoria, Gold Miner, personally came before me one of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the said Colony, and acknowledged himself to owe to our Sovereign Lady the Queen the sum of one hundred pounds, of good and lawful money of Great Britain, to be made and levied of his goods and chattels, lands and tenements, to the use of our said Lady the Queen, her Heirs ad Successors, if he the said James Wearne shall fail in the condition indorsed.

Taken and acknowledged the day and year first above mentioned at Ballarat in the said Colony before me (Signed) E. P. Sturt

The Condition of the within written Recognizance is such, That Whereas Michael Tuhey [sic], Henry Read & James Campbell were this day charged before me a Justice of the Peace within mentioned for that they the said Michael Tuhey, Henry Read & James Campbell on the third day of December 1854 at Ballarat in the Colony afresaid, did feloniously, willfully & traitorously fire at attack & kill certain troops of our Sovereign Lady the Queen

if therefore he* the said

James Wearne shall appear at the Gaol Delia? to be holden at Melbourne in and for the Colony of Victoria on the fifteenth day of January A.D., 1855, and there give such evidence as he* knoweth upon an Information to be then and there preferred against the said Michael Tuhey, Henry Read & James Campbell for the offence aforesaid, to the Jurors who shall pass upon the trial of the said Michael Tuhey, Henry Read & James Campbell then the said Recognizance to be void or else to stand in full force and virtue.

Handwritten evidence. 18

And this deponent James Wearne on his oath saith

On the third Instant I heard the firing at Eureka. I got up and my two mates -

I saw Read, Penneluna and Penrose go towards the Bakery Hill. - I saw a small disturbance. Some troopers came down and asked some questions and they took Penrose and Read away in custody.

Sworn before me at Ballarat this 8 December 1854

Signed James Wearne[5]

Post 1854 Experiences

VICTORIA. By the Ann Key from Melbourne, we have news from the colony to the 13th instant
The colony was considered sufficiently quiet and composed as to be able to dispense with the services of the three companies of the 99th Regt., which have been at Melbourne since the Ballarat disturbances, and they had consequently been sent back to Hobart Town in the City of Hobart Steamer, which was chartered for the purpose at an expense of £900. Col. Reeves had left for England in the James Baines on leave of absence.
We take the following extracts from a summary in the Geelong Advertiser, prepared for the mail per the James Baines:-
The whole story of the Ballarat riots must be ere this familiar to the British public. It will be remembered that out of the 125 prisoners made at the Eureka Stockade, thirteen were retained for trial, on the capital charge of high treason. They were brought to trial early in January, but from some official neglect on the part of the Attorney General, W. Foster Stawell (cousin of the discarded Colonial Secretary) the prisoners had not been furnished with c0pies of the indictment. Again the trials were fixed for 5th February, but the Attorney General, for some unexplained reason, caused their postponement in- definitely. Hopes were entertained that this postponement implied an abandonment of the prosecution on the part of the crown. It was known that the commission appointed to inquire into the administration of the law on the gold fields, and to ascertain what reality there was in certain grievances complained of, had recommended the granting of an amnesty to all the rioters. Tile Government, however, finally determined on bringing all the prisoners to trial, on a charge of high treason.
On the 22nd February the court opened, presided over by His Honor Sir William a'Beckett, the Chief Justice. The thirteen prisoners were placed in the dock. Their names were- Timothy Hayes, Charles Raphelo, John Manning, John Joseph, J. Vennick, James Beattie, Henry Reed, Michael Tuohy, James Macfie Campbell, William Molloy, Jacob Sorenson, Thomas Dignam, and John Phelan.
The right of challenging jurymen being claimed by each prisoner, necessitated their being tried separately. Hayes and Raphelo were remanded on affidavit of absence of material witnesses. Manning was also remanded on account of absence, from illness, of counsel.
John Joseph, a man of color, being next on the list was then placed in the dock. One hundred and eighty jurors had been summoned, and both the Attorney General and the prisoner exercised freely their right of challenge, which process took up nearly an hour before they were finally empanelled. The routine of scanning the physiognomy and person of each juryman prior to challenge or admission, was gone through amidst the most uprorious laughter, in which His Honor the Chief Justice joined. Joseph's trial occupied two days ; the clearest evidence was given of his having been found armed within the insurgent's stockade ; he was identified as having been seen drilling and generally acting with the insurgents at all their meetings. These facts were distinctly proved by the evidence of sundry troopers, who had been sent in different disguises to the various gatherings of the disaffected, and confirmed by the evidence of several soldiers and others of the attacking party ; one soldier went so far to say that to the beat of his observation it was the prisoner Joseph who fired, the bullet by which Captain Wise was fatally wounded. It is currently believed that the evidence of the Crown witnesses contained many inaccuracies and exaggerations, as indeed might have been expected both from those who had mixed with the insurgents as spies, and others who, as having formed part of the military force by which the stockade was stormed and taken, could scarcely be considered sufficiently disinterested to give impartial evidence. But as already stated, the main charges against Joseph were substantially proved. The jury evidently considered that it lay with them to declare the commission of such acts by the prisoner amounted to high treason; they, by returning a verdict of Not Guilty, recorded their opinion that the accused, although guilty of arming himself against the authorities on the gold fields, was not guilty of high treason. Joseph's trial occupied two days.
The next prisoner on the list, John Manning, was brought to trial on the 26th Feb, and the evidence in his case was similar to that given at Joseph's trial. Manning had previously to the outbreak been employed as reporter for the Ballarat Times, and had at the trial of the editor of that journal for addition, declared by affidavit that he was the author of certain articles for which the editor and proprietor was prosecuted for sedition, and found guilty. As in Joseph's case, his evidence of Manning, having attended meetings of the disaffected was quite clear, as the fact of him having been one of the defenders of the stockade. The Jury, however, returned a verdict of not guilty.
There yet remained eleven prisoners in custody on the same charge. On the day following the acquittal of Manning the Attorney General applied for a remand until next Criminal Sessions. The Attorney General disclaimed any reflection upon the propriety of the verdicts given he intimated that his own opinion was very different from the conclusion come to by the jury, and hinted that he had no confidence in the present panel, and felt it to be his duty from the nature of the offence charged to proceedings with the remaining prisoners.[6]


Michael Tuohy, the last of the State prisoners who stood their trial in the Criminal Court at Melbourne in connection with the revolt at the Eureka Stockade on Sunday morning, December 3, 1854 died at the Ballarat Hospital on Friday last from pneumonia and senile decay (says the Ballarat correspondent of "The Age"). The deceased pioneer, who was a widower, 85 years of age, arrived in Sydney from County Clare, Ireland, in 1847. In the early fifties he reached Ballarat and worked on the Eureka, and other diggings. Trouble subsequently arose on the field in respect to the licenses of the diggers, who determined on armed resistance against constituted authority, under the leadership of Peter Lalor. About 40 of the insurgents were killed in the fight with the British troops at the stockade, while Captain Wise, of the 40th Regiment, and five privates belonging to the Imperial forces lost their lives in the combat. Tuohy and 12 other diggers who fought with him inside the stockade were captured by the troops and all were taken to Melbourne and arraigned on charges of high treason. The prisoners were gratuitously defended by. Messrs. R. D. Ireland and B. C. Aspinall, eminent criminal counsel, and all were acquitted. Tuohy, after the trials, continued his search for gold at the Ballarat and other diggings in Victoria, but in later years he followed the rushes in New Zealand. He met with success, and on settling down to farming pursuits in the Ballan district he was worth about £10.000. While he was awaiting trial in 1854-55 a party of adventurers jumped his rich claim on the Eureka, and on-his acquittal he spent a good deal of money in an unsuccessful endeavor to eject them. For many years, Tuohy, who was almost blind, resided on a small farm abutting on the Daylesford-road, which was recently destroyed by fire. The remains of the old digger, who leaves one son, were interred in the Ballan Cemetery on Monday. [7]

EUREKA FIGHTER DEAD. - BALLAN, Monday - The death of Michael Tuohy, sen, removes one of the few remaining links between the golden fifties and the present day. He was mining at Creswick when the Eureka trouble occurred. When it was known that Black and Kennedy, representatives of the Ballarat miners, were organising for armed opposition Mr Tuohy, with 40 others, volunteered, and at once proceeded to Ballarat. They reached the Eureka Stockade the night before the battle, and camped on the ground. Mr Tuohy related that few men were in the stockade that night as an immediate attack was not anticipated. They were surprised next morning to find the redcoats close up. The soldiers fired a couple of volleys, and then charged, the scattered fire of the miners failing to stop them. Mr Tuohy's agility saved him from a bayonet thrust, which passed through his clothing and he, with others, was rounded up by the police, and driven to the camp, which was situated on the site now occupied by the Ballarat police station. Mr Tuohy and 11 others were taken to Melbourne, and in due course tried for high treason and acquitted. As far as is known, deceased is the last survivor of those who stood their trial. For the past 40 years he has resided in the Ballan district. [8]

Death of Mr Michael Tuohy, sen.
The death of Mr Michael Tuohy, sen., which took place at the Ballarat Hospital on Saturday, removes one of the few remaining links between the Golden Fifties and the present day. He was born in Scarif, Ireland, in 1830, and in 1849 decided to seek his fortune in Australia, arriving in Sydney after a long and hazardous voyage of five months. He had a keen remembrance of the Irish famine of 1837 and 1838, and helped to bury many of the unfortunate victims who died of starvation. To the end of his days he had a bitter hatred of the tyrants who, through misgovernment, brought such a terrible suffering on his fellow countrymen. He never failed to impress on his listeners the fact that whilst the people were starving, shiploads of produce were leaving Ireland so that the absentee landlords might get their pound of flesh. Although the memories of the land his fathers were of the blackest, he loved the Green Isle of Erin, and the men of women that it produced. On his arrival in Sydney he secured employment in a candle store and retained his job until the lure of gold and the tales of the fabulous fortunes made by the diggers induced him to try his luck at the goldfields of Victoria. He travelled overland and being unused to sleeping with only a sky for a roof, found the journey irksome and dangerous. He prospected several fields, but unearthed no huge nuggets, and was mining at Creswick when the trouble with officialdom occurred. The miners at Creswick had insufferable grievances, and approbation was expressed when it was made known that the representatives of the Ballarat diggers, Black and Kennedy, were on the field and intended to give an address. At the conclusion of the speeches they called for volunteers, and Tuohy and about 40 more proceeded with Black and Kennedy to Ballarat. They reached to Eureka stockade the night before the battle, and camped on the ground. As he lay under the stars that December night in 1854, the awful treatment meted out to him and his people of Ireland, and which he had travelled 12,000 miles to escape, flashed through his mind, and he saw the same system and tyrannical swashbucklers in power here. He had no doubt as to the righteousness of the cause for which he was prepared to fight and die. Tuohy related that very few men were in the stockade that night. They were surprised when, at the break of day, they saw the “Red-coats” about 150 years away. Then followed a couple of volleys from the soldiers, a scattered fire from the miners, which failed to check the charge, and the military were in with the bayonet and the diggers were routed. Tuohy thought that the shot which bowled over Capt Wise was fired by a little barber who was standing near him. The miners broke, and as Tuohy escaped from the stockade a soldier rushed at him with the bayonet. He side-stepped the thrust by the narrowest margin, the steel ripping his clothes. He and others were rounded up by the mounted police, who treated their defeated foes in a most brutal manner. One bloodthirsty scoundrel singled Tuohy out and aimed a blow at him with his sabre. His agility again saved him, and he escaped further molestation by pushing his way into the thick of the prisoners who were being driven like sheep to the camp that was situated were the Ballarat West police station now stands. Tuohy and twelve others were handcuffed and taken to Melbourne, but he always spoke highly of an officer named Smith, who was in charge, and stated that he was a good fellow and did everything he could for his prisoners. On arrival at the Melbourne gaol, he and Rafaello were placed in the same cell. The courage of the fiery little Italian was only dimmed by adversity. The haughty governor of the gaol threatened to confine him in the solitary cell. Rafaello retorted by saying he had no doubt that he would put Him in Hell if he had the power. In due course they tried for high treason, were defended gratuitously by Aspinall and Ireland, and to the intense joy of the populace, acquitted. As far as can be ascertained, the deceased was the last survivor of those who stood their trial. Although the miners were defeated, most of the changes advocated became, law, and almost immediately the digger’s license was reduced and finally abolished. The mounted police, most of whom were the scions of the English aristocracy provoked the conflict by their brutal and supercilious actions, ere reorganised and became more democratic and in touch with the people. Australia will never forget he heroes of Eureka who laid down their lives for justice, and in the days to come, when the names of their oppressors are forgotten, the names of Michael Tuohy and those others who fought for liberty on that December morning in Ballarat will be remembered and honoured. After his acquittal, he resumed mining, but when the alluvial diggings began to peter out he decided to go in for farming, and settled in the Ballan district, where he had resided for the past 40 years. He always took a keen interest in democratic movements, and, although old and feeble, he insisted on being driven to Ballan on the occasion of the last State election to record his vote for the Labor candidate. Later in the day he met with an accident resulted in a broken thigh. Mr Tuohy was conveyed to the Ballarat hospital, and, although pneumonia supervened, his marvellous constitution and courage triumphed over both complications. The double shock, however, hastened the end. He was never able to leave the hospital, his grip on life gradually relaxed, and on Saturday last he passed away. The funeral took place on Monday, the remains being conveyed to their last resting place, the Ballan new cemetery, per motor hearse, the coffin bearers were Messrs M., S., and T. Greene and M. 0’Hehir; the pall bearers being Messrs E. J. Hogan, M.L.A., T. Ryan, T. Walsh, G.C. Flack, Jas. Walsh, F. Egan, W. Nagle, J. H. Walsh, John Egan, D.C. McKenzie. Service at the grave was conducted by the Rev. Father Cusack, and the mortuary arrangements were carried out by Messrs S. Wellington & Son. So ended the struggle of one of the Eureka band who struck so valiantly for common freedom. [9]

In the News

Michael Tooliey. one of a number of miners arrested after the Eureka Stockade, and then kept in gaol for four months pending their trial on a charge of high treason, is the only survivor of that badly-treated band, he has applied through Laborite Hogan for relief from Parliament, being now in need of assi tance. Willie Wattt promises to discuss the matter with the Labor member. But, even though Willie fails to do anything, or if his doing is characteristic of Libe rals and means a five-pound-note, a packet of meal-tickets and 1s. worth of tobacco, there should be enough demo crats in this prosperous State to see that the ancient battler for freedom, is kept from want in his old age. He is 82.[10]

Eureka Stockade Survivor - GOVERNMENT AID SOUGHT. When the Treasurer's estimates were being discussed in the Assembly on Thurs day night Mr. Hogan brought under the notice of the House the case of Michael Toohey (sic), one of the Eureka rioters. Mr. Hogan read a letter from Toohey, who described the murder of Scobie and the burning of Bentley's hotel. Mr. Hogan said that Toohey was the only survivor of 13 who were found not guilty on a charge of high treason in 1855. He was now old and very poor, and was living at Ballan. Mr. Toohey(sic) considered that he was entitled to compensation because at the time of his arrest he was working a paying claim at Ballarat. He estimated his loss at £1000. He was 82 years of age and had never drawn a pension. Mr. Watt said that Mr. Hogan had made out a good case. He would not discuss the Eureka riots, but would say that time had softened the heart of many regarding the rioters. He would be glad to discuss the case with Mr. Hogan or the lines of helping one of the pioneers of the State.

Destroyed by Fire. Eureka Veteran's Residence.
During the early hours of Wednesday morning Mr M. Tuohy's residence on the Daylesford road was destroyed by fire. Mr Tuohy, who is a Eureka veteran is at present an inmate of the Ballarat Hospital. The property is insured, but for what amount it is not known.[11]

See also

Butler Aspinall


Eureka Hotel

Richard Ireland


Treason Trials


Further Reading

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


  1. Barrier Miner, 29 September 1915.
  2. Joe O'Muircheartaigh, December 2004, http://www.irishidentity.com/geese/stories/eureka.htm, accessed 6 November 2021, Dorothy Wickham
  3. Linane's List.
  4. Blake, Gregory, To Pierce the Tyrant's Heart, Australian Military History Publications, 2009, p.176.
  5. VPRS 5527/P Unit 2, Item 5 - contains 57 pages
  6. Perth Gazette, 30 March 1855.
  7. Barrier Miner, 29 September 1915.
  8. Argus, 28 September 1915.
  9. The Ballan Times, Thursday, September 30, 1915, Transcribed by Christine Stancliffe
  10. Labour Call, 12 February 1914.
  11. Gordon, Egerton and Ballan Advertiser, 19 March 1915.

External links



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