Peter Lalor

From eurekapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Peter Lalor, Picturesque Atlas of Australasia.
"Pistol used by Peter Lalor at the Eureka Stockade, 3 December 1854. State Library of Victoria Collection (H36528).


Peter Lalor was born on 05 February 1827 at Tenakill, Queen's County, Ireland.[1] Educated at Carlow College and in Dublin, Lalor became a civil engineer. [2] The Lalor Papers are held at the National Library of Ireland. [3] He sailed to Australia on the Scindian as an unassisted passenger, arriving on 12 December 1852.[4]

James Finton Lalor, the brother of Peter Lalor, became a leader of Irish Confederation and the 'Young Ireland' Movement of 1848. [5]

Peter Lalor died on 09 February 1889 at Richmond, Victoria. He is buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery.

... Dr Lalor, the son of Peter Lalor, observed that he was not an orator, and he believed he had never attempted to make a speech before in his life; but he was the only relative of Peter Lalor there, otherwise he might ask somebody else to make a speech for him. He thought the best thing he could do was to give a few particulars of his father which might be unknown to some present. He was born in Queen’s County on the 5th February, 1827, the youngest and smallest of 18 children - 17 boys and one girl. He came to Australia in 1852 with his brother Richard, who went back about a month afterwards and became M.P. for Queen’s County. Peter Lalor had told the speaker that he was very proud of being called a miner, and said he would rather be called that than K.C.M.G. or any other title. He always said miners were the leaders of civilisation. Dr Lalor agreed with that. Take the Phoenecians, for example. With a population no bigger than that of an English county, they ruled the world at one time simply because they were miners. They went to Cornwall, where the best miners in the world come from, and got tin and lead. The Cornish were crossed with the Phoenicians, and he was sure were proud of it. It was Plutarch, he believed, who said wherever there was gold mines there was civilisation. He thanked the gathering in the name of his deceased father the reception given him. ...[6]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Charles A. Doudiet, Swearing allegiance to the 'Southern Cross’, 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.
Reward Poster,
Courtesy Ballarat Heritage Services.

Lalor was a witness examined during the report of the Board appointed to enquire into circumstances connected with the riot at Ballarat, and the burning of James Bentley's Eureka Hotel. [7]

He was the leader of the Eureka Stockade uprising, escaping authorities after the battle. Policeman Michael Lawler is thought to have shot Lalor in the shoulder, which resulted in the amputation of the arm. [8]

Letters 1855-1887 from Peter Lalor in Australia with a cutting from The Argus newspaper containing an article written by him about his connection with the Eureka Affair are held at the National Library of Ireland.[9]

In Lalor's own words he stated:

About ten minutes after the beginnning of the fight, and while standing upon the top of a hole, calling upon the pikemen to come forward, I received a musket ball (together with two smaller bullets) in the left shoulder, whoch shattered my arm, and from the loss of blood I was rendered incapable of further action. Soon after, I was assisted by a volunteer out of the enclosure and placed in a pike of slabs, out of view of the military and police. While in this position the latter passed several times within a few feet of me. I remained there about an hour, when, thanks to the assistance of some friends, I was enabled to leave it and find my way to the bush, where I remained during the day. On the approach of night I returned to the diggings, and through the kindness of a friend procured the assistance of surgeons, who next day amputated my arm.[10]

Lalor's escape to Geelong is descibed by one who was there:

Born in Geelong on 17 April 1842 I have now plassed my long journey having passed the 81st milestone in my long journey through life and as I can't expect to reach many more mileposts I now make this solemn statement and it may not be long befoe I will have to make my maker to give an account of doings in this would and I now say it was my father Patrick Carroll who took all the risk in Lalors escape I his son was the one who drove the dray In which he rode and after three days and nights we arrived safely in Geelong.
Michael Carroll [11]
Peter Lalor. Melbourne Leader, 17 May 1862.

Post 1854 Experiences

Peter Lalor became Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly.

After the battle, Lalor wrote in a statement to the colonists of Victoria, "There are two things connected with the late outbreak (Eureka) which I deeply regret. The first is, that we should have been forced to take up arms at all; and the second is, that when we were compelled to take the field in our own defence, we were unable (through want of arms, ammunition and a little organisation) to inflict on the real authors of the outbreak the punishment they so richly deserved.[12]

Lalor was elected unopposed in the 1856 Victorian elections. As he was the Eureka hero his policies were not scrutinised at all before the election and his later voting record as a parliamentarian shows he once opposed a bill to introduce full white-male suffrage in the colony of Victoria.[13]

During a speech in the Legislative Council in 1856 he said, "I would ask these gentlemen what they mean by the term 'democracy'. Do they mean Chartism or Communism or Republicanism? If so, I never was, I am not now, nor do I ever intend to be a democrat. But if a democrat means opposition to a tyrannical press, a tyrannical people, or a tyrannical government, then I have been, I am still, and will ever remain a democrat."[14]

Lalor defended himself in a letter to the Ballarat Star newspaper.

I will never consent to deprive the freeholder of his right to vote in virtue of his freehold which is at all times liable to its proportion of the public taxes ... It is assumed by my editorial friends that previous to my electin I was an ultra-democrat, but that now I take an opposite course from selfish motives, and consequently that I am degraded and unworthy of being trusted. I would ask these gentlemen what they mean by the term democracy? Do they mean Chartism, or Communism, or Republicanism? If so, I never was, I am not now, nor do I ever intend to be a democrat. But if democracy mens opposition to a tyrannical press, a tyrannical people, or a tyrannical government, then I have ever been, I am still, and I will ever remain a democrat.[15]

Peter Lalor Statue, Sturt Street, Ballarat, c1954.

In the News

The exciting events of the last few days have been of such nature as to deserve special attention in your columns, embracing, in the short space of two days, one of the most daring and extensive robberies that has yet occurred in these colonies, and the most deliberate and most deter- mined expression of public resentment against in- justice that has yet graced or disgraced the annals of Australia.
One James Scobie was brutally murdered on the morning of the 7th inst., near Bentley's Eureka Hotel. The evidence adduced at the inquest bore strongly against some of the members of Bentley's establishment, and, in consequence, Bentley and two others were arrested on the Monday following, and admitted to bail of £1000 each. On Thursday, the 12th inst., they were examined before the police magistrate, Mr. Dewes, and the commissioners, Messrs. Rede and Johnston. The evidence against them was pretty strong, and the general expectation was, that they would be committed. However, the decision of the magistrates was, that there was not the shadow of a case against Mr. Bentley, and that he, as well as the others, were honorably discharged. The decision was received with groans and hisses, and it was evident that great dissatisfaction existed in the public mind. Rumors prejudicial to the character of the Bench, and which we forbear to mention, spread abroad, and it was evident that the matter was not to be allowed to rest without further investigation. A public meeting was announced to be held on Tuesday, near the spot where Scobie was murdered. It is necessary to mention that Bentley's hotel had acquired a very bad name throughout the diggings, numerous robberies having occurred in it since its establishment; and complaints were general, that though a favorite resort of thieves and Vandemonians, the establishment seemed to be under the protection of some of the Camp authorities, as no notice was taken of its well-known irregularities. This explanation will, in some measure, account for the spirit evinced at its destruction.
The business of the meeting was to commence at twelve o'clock, and long before that hour an immense number of people were on the spot. A strong body of foot-police, under Sub-Inspector Ximenes, was posted in the hotel, and the mounted troopers, under Captain Evans, were stationed in an adjacent hollow. When the chair was taken, about 3000 people were present, which increased to 5000 before the termination of the meeting.
The following is a correct copy of the resolutions moved at the meeting, which throughout was conducted in a temperate, judicious, and creditable manner: —
1. Moved by Mr. William Corkhill, seconded by Mr. James R. Thomson —
That this meeting, not feeling satisfied with the manner in which the proceedings connected with the death of the late James Scobie have been conducted, either by the magistrates or by the coroner, pledges itself to use every lawful means to have the case brought before other and more competent authorities; and to effect this object do forward a petition embodying the facts of the case for the consideration of the Lieutenant Governor.
Carried unanimously.
2. Moved by Mr. Alexander M. P. Grant, seconded by Mr. Archibald Carmichael
That this meeting views with mingled feelings of indignation and surprise the address in favor of Mr. Bentley, which appeared in the Ballaarat Times of Saturday last, and begs to express its total dissent from the sentiments therein conveyed.
Carried without a dissentient voice.
3. Moved by Mr. Thomas Kennedy, seconded by Mr. Angus Sutherland
That this meeting deems it necessary to collect subscriptions for the purpose of offering a reward for the conviction of the murderer or murderers and defraying all other expenses connected with the prosecution of the case.
Mr. Kennedy, in moving this resolution, made an eloquent and powerful speech. The motion was also carried without one dissentient voice.
Number four, moved by Mr. Stephen Cumming, seconded by Mr. Blair —
That a committee of seven be appointed, to carry out the views of the meeting, as embodied in the foregoing resolutions, and that Peter Lalor, James R. Thomson, John W. Gray, Thomas D. Wanliss, William Corkhill, Alexander M. P. Grant and Archibald Carmichael form said committee, with power to add to their number. Three to form a quorum.
Carried unanimously.
It is impossible to exaggerate the unanimity displayed by the meeting: the vast assemblage seemed animated by one desired. After the meeting was dissolved a number proceeded towards Bentley's hotel, and were immediately followed by the Commissioners and some mounted troopers. It is a matter of speculation whether the meeting would not have dispersed peaceably had this course not been taken by the authorities. When the horsemen were seen to proceed towards the hotel, numbers that were then on their way home arrested their steps to see what "was up." The police being very unpopular on account of their late numerous license "raids," came in for the first share of public wrath. They were "joeyed" most perseveringly. The first proceedings against the hotel were of a very simple nature, gravel being "chucked" at the windows; but after a few panes of glass were broken the appetite for destruction seemed to increase, and a continued shower of stones, bottle, and billets of wood, was kept up on the building till every window was broken. About twenty minutes after the commencement of the fray Bentley, without hat or coat, escaped on horseback from the back yard, galloped to the Camp at a great rate, pursued by the execrations of the multitude. About this time an additional body of troopers was ordered up by Captain Evans, who exercised great discretion at this critical period, and several orderlies were despatched to the Camp to hasten the arrival of the Military. Meanwhile the work of destruction went on rapidly, and it became evident that the total destruction of the building was determined on. The mob got inside and began to destroy the furniture. On the arrival of the military a strong party was stationed in the bowling-alley, behind the main building, but the mob were so daring and determined as completely to defy them.
About half-past two or three o'clock in the afternoon, and when the crowd had increased to about 8000 or 10,000, a man carried an armful of paper and rags to the windward end of the bowling-alley, and placing them under the calico covering, deliberately struck a match and fired the building, in the presence of the Military. The cool and resolute manner in which every-thing was carried on, resembled more the proceedings of the "Porteus mob" than of anything of the kind that has occurred since. When the building was fired, they immediately upset the water-cask, to prevent it from being used in extinguishing the flames. Some having rolled out a cask of porter with the intention of drinking it, others staved it in, and spilled the contents on the ground. A blackfellow being detected stealing a ball belonging to the bowling-alley was severely punished, and the ball thrown into the flames.
The horses were taken out of the stable, and the sheep and pigs out of the yard. The stable was then fired. Meanwhile, in the main building the furniture was being completely destroyed. Several members of the establishment endeavored to save some of the articles, by throwing them out of the window, and carrying them aside, but they were all afterwards destroyed by the fire. The property of the servants was, however, respected and carried to a place of safety. The instruments of the musicians, including a pianoforte, were saved. The liquor in the bar was run off and wasted, without any attempt to use it. One fellow got hold of Mrs. Bentley's jewel-box, and with an exclamation about the box, pitched it into the flames. When the main building was nearly consumed, a striking sight was presented. The weather-boarding and shingles of the roof, being thin and perishable, disappeared first, leaving the joists and ridge-pole glowing vividly in the sky. To the onlookers at a distance it seemed for a few moments like ribs of fire supporting a fiery keel.
"Several tents and stores on the opposite side of the road caught fire, and were consumed. A fine new ballroom, running at right angles to the main building of the hotel, also caught fire, and burned slowly, the flames in this case creeping against the wind. While the ruins of the other buildings were smouldering, the mob tore up the fence, and threw it into the flames. A dray and shay-cart were also run into the flames. It being stated that the latter did not belong to Mr. Bentley, it was at some risk rescued; but on further enquiry it was ascertained to be his property, and immediately run into the burning mass and totally consumed.
About three hours after the commencement of the proceedings, and about two hours after the first application of fire, there remained nothing of the once only too famous Eureka Hotel but the glowing embers and the dismantled chimneys.
When all the property of the obnoxious Bentley had been destroyed, the cool, determined spirit of vengeance which had hitherto marked the proceedings gave way to the drunken revelry of the rabble. The hot ashes were ransacked for bottles of ale and spirits with as much eagerness as could have been displayed on another Golden Point or Specimen Hill.
There was only one man taken by the police, and he was rescued on the way to the Camp. Great excitement prevailed in the Camp last night. Several reports came, to the effect that the diggers were coming in great strength to take Mr. Bentley, and there was a force under arms all night.
The administration of justice, it is apparent, has received a severe blow in this district; and it is entirely to be attributed to the inconsistent, and, to the public, insulting decision of the Bench on Thursday last. With the evidence brought before them, and aware, moreover, of the well-known character of Mr. Bentley's establishment, to decide "that there was not the shadow of a case against him, and that he was honorably discharged," seemed to the public so inconsistent with facts, and so contrary to justice, as to excite a universal feeling of indignation, which found vent in the terrible outburst of yesterday.
A petition to His Excellency Sir Charles Hotham, requesting him to institute another investigation into the case, is about to be sent round for signature. I enclose a copy.
The late James Scobie, whose unfortunate death has given rise to all these proceedings, was a native of Scotland, and was much respected throughout these diggings. I understand that he was related, being either first or second cousin to Captain Hall, who was so well known in the Chinese war, and who has lately been distinguishing himself so much by his gallantry in the Baltic.
To His Excellency Sir Charles Hotham, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Victoria, &c, &c, &c, &c. The petition of the undersigned inhabitants of Ballaarat humbly sheweth, —
That your petitioners feeling dissatisfied with the manner in which justice has been administered in regard to the death of one James Scobie, who was brutally murdered near Bentley's Eureka Hotel on the morning of the 7th inst., feel bound to lay some of the principal features of the case before your Excellency.
The deceased James Scobie, in company with one Peter Martin, seeing a light in the Eureka Hotel when passing about one o'clock on the above morning, sought for admission in order to have something to drink. In doing so a portion of a window was broken. Not obtaining admittance, they proceeded towards the tent of the deceased. When about eighty yards from the hotel they heard a noise behind them, and turning back to see the cause of it, Martin states they met two or three men and one woman. That one of the men had in his hand a weapon, which he supposed to be a battle-axe. The individual holding this weapon he believed to be Bentley, the landlord of the Eureka Hotel. He also heard the woman say, referring to Scobie, the deceased, "This is the man that broke the window." At this time, Martin was knocked down and rendered insensible. On recovering, he went up to deceased, whom he found unable to speak, and on assistance being brought, he was found to be quite dead.
It may be necessary to inform your Excellency that the night was perfectly clear and moonlight.
Between the Eureka Hotel and the spot where Scobie was murdered, and within about twenty- five yards of and almost directly opposite to a back entrance of the hotel, lives a woman and her son named Walshe. The boy is about ten years old, and remarkably intelligent. He deposed that having heard two men pass the tent, he very shortly afterwards heard two or three men and a woman follow, apparently coming from the hotel, or some place near to it. Looking through a hole in the tent, he saw two men, one much stouter than the other; the stouter man he believed to be Bentley. That he heard one of the party lift something, which he susposed to be a spade, from a corner of the tent. Shortly afterwards he heard a voice say, "How dare you break my window?" or to that effect. Then he heard a scuffle, and a blow given. He swears to the best of his knowledge and belief, that the voice was that of Bentley's wife. The parties returning towards the Eureka Hotel dropped the supposed spade. He then saw them proceed towards a back door of the Eureka Hotel. The boy's mother swears distinctly that she heard a voice say, "How dare you break my window?" and to the best of her belief this was the voice of Bentley's wife. In every other particular she corroborates the evidence of her son.
The evidence of these three witnesses was given with great reserve and caution, and therefore in the opinion of your petitioners is entitled to particular weight and consideration.
Your petitioners consider that the evident tendency of these impartial depositions is to implicate Bentley, his wife, and some person or persons connected with the Eureka Hotel.
The only evidence brought forward to exonerate them was that of the men named George Bassar, Everett Gud, and Henry Green.
George Bassar is a butcher, living near Bentley's hotel. The value of this witness's evidence may be known by the fact of his positively swearing "that no person could leave the hotel without his seeing them." Yet, on cross-examination, he was obliged to confess that persons could go in and out of the back door without his knowledge.
Everett Gud, the second witness, is the reputed brother-in-law of Bentley, manager of his bar and bowling alley, and lives in the hotel, and of course liable to suspicion, as one concerned in the murder.
The third witness, Henry Green, has for a considerable time been an inmate of the hotel, and was there on the night of the murder, and of course equally liable to suspicion.
The coroner's inquest was held on the day of the murder. Your petitioners being dissatisfied with the proceedings at that inquest, a number of them waited upon the authorities the following day, in order to have a further inquiry. On the following morning, Bentley and two other members of his establishment were arrested, admitted to bail, and the case remanded for three days. During this period, the accused parties and their witnesses had every opportunity of communicating with each other. The decision of the Bench of Magistrates was, that "There is not the shadow of a case against Mr. Bentley, and that he was honorably discharged."
The other accused were also discharged at same time.
Your petitioners are strongly of opinion, that instead of the magistrates dismissing the case, it should have been sent before a jury. Your petitioners are borne out in this view of the case by the authority of Lord Denman, (Magistrates' Manual, page 21,) who states, "if witnesses for the defence contradict those for the prosecution in material points, then the case would be properly sent to a jury to ascertain the truth of the statements of each party."
Your petitioners beg to state, that not only the decision, but also the manner in which the case was conducted, both by the magistrates, and the coroner, has strongly tended to destroy the confidence hitherto placed in them by the public.
Your petitioners humbly trust that your Excellency will direct the necessary measures to be taken, to have a further and more satisfactory investigation of the case, and at the same time, beg to express a hope, that in order to elicit the truth, and further the ends of justice, your Excellency will direct a suitable reward to be offered for the conviction of the murderers.
Trusting that your Excellency will be pleased to attribute the object of your petitioners to its real motive, namely a love of order and justice, and that your Excellency will graciously grant their request.
Your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.[16]

Fellow Colonists,
My name having appeared so conspicuously at the late State Trials, as the person who principally incited the diggers to take up arms, I consider myself bound to justify to you, and to the world, the course I then pursued; and, as the insurgents placed so much confidence in me as to elect me their leader, honor compels me to justify their conduct, and to snatch from oblivion the names of my brave companions who fell on the eventful morning of the 3rd December.
In thus addressing you I am well aware that I shall incur still more the wrath of the Government; but that consideration cannot keep me back from stating the truth.
You will now allow me to draw your attention to a period previous to the burning of Bentley's Hotel. For a considerable time before, that event, the people were dissatisfied with the laws, because they excluded them from the possession of the land, from being represented in the Legislative Council, and imposed on them an odious poll-tax. The diggers were subjected to the most unheard of insults and cruelties in the collection of this tax, being in many instances chained to logs if they could not produce their license. I have often known men to be asked for their license four or five times in the course of a day; and this having been more particularly the case since the arrival of Sir Charles Hotham. The water to be contended with in deep sinking compels the diggers frequently to change their dress; in doing so they very often leave their licenses behind; under such circumstances should they he visited by the police, they are dragged, wet and dripping as they may be, to the prison, like common felons. The scarcity of gold made the diggers feel those evils more keenly.
The corruption of the Government officials in endeavoring to screen Bentley, and the burning of the Eureka Hotel, gave an impulse to the public mind, which, it was plain to see, could not subside without reform. So little confidence had the diggers in the administration of justice that they actually formed a committee to prosecute the murderer of Scobie.
There were three prisoners arrested for the burning of the hotel. The diggers felt that those three men should not be victimised for an act in which all were concerned, and which was provoked by the corruption of the officials. A committee was organised to have the prisoners defended. This committee also formed the nucleus of the Reform League, and issued cards at membership for the League. A deputation was sent to the Lieutcnant-Governor to demand the release of the prisoners, the unlocking of the lands, perfect representation, and the abolition of tho digger's license. His Excellency stated that, owing to various causes, he could not grant these requests. The committee resolved—only by a majority of one—to propose to a public meeting, to be held on Wednesday, the 29th November, that the diggers should burn their licenses; a few licenses only were burnt on that day, but the meeting unanimously resolved to take out no more licenses. On Thursday morning the police and military came out to look for licences; a digger, who, I presume, had no license, was running away, when an officer of police ordered his men to "fire on him," to "shoot him down;" and he was fired at. I positively assert that the Riot Act had not been read when the digger was fired at. (See Mr. S. Cumming's evidence before the Gold Commission.) In fact, the diggers believed that some of those in authority had come out that morning with the determination of having the diggers fired on.
Charles A. Doudiet, The Old Tent - BALLARAT (Specimen Hill (Tents), circa 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.
Now, fellow colonists, I have candidly confessed to you all our rashness, and all our errors, and I confidently appeal to your judgment, and ask, do you justify the Government in acting as they did on Thursday ? Can you say that the Government did not trample on the constitution, by its officers ordering the troopers or military, before the Riot Act was read, to fire on some unlicensed diggers who were running away? I am satisfied that you can not ; you and the world must pronounce against the Government.
When these occurrences took place, I was working in a shaft at the Eureka, 140 feet deep. Mr. Hayes was at the windlass, and the diggers were employed as usual. I mention these details to show you that there was nothing preconcerted. Suddenly the news was spread that the diggers were being fired on at the Gravel Pits. To arms was the cry, and all that could muster arms moved forward in great confusion towards the [Gravel Pits.] When we reached Barker and Hunt's store on Specimen Hill, we perceived that the military had taken up a position behind some logs on Bakery Hill. We did not interfere with them. The "Southern Cross" was procured and hoisted on the flagstaff belonging to Barker and Hunt; but it was almost immediately hauled down, and we moved down to the holes on the Gravel Pits Flat. These holes lie near to the road, between the camp and the position which the soldiers then occupied. As soon as we commenced moving towards the holes, the bugles of the military sounded a retreat, and the detachment withdrew to the camp. It was then proclaimed by many persons that there would be a meeting, in arms, that evening, at Bakery Hill. I went there about four o'clock p.m. There were considerable numbers then assembled. We waited for some time, expecting some of our public speakers to come forward and address us; but, through some accident or other, not one of them was present. Previous to that meeting I have never attempted to speak in public but once, and that was on the day previous. I looked around me; I saw brave and honest men, who had come thousands of miles to labor for independence. I knew that hundreds were in great poverty, who would possess wealth and happiness if allowed to cultivate the wilderness which surrounded us. The grievances under which we had long suffered, and the brutal attack of that day, flashed across my mind ; and, with the burning feelings of an injured man, I mounted the stump and proclaimed "Liberty."
I called for volunteers to come forward and enroll themselves in companies. Hundreds responded to the call. I declared that no violence should be done to the peaceably disposed. In fact, I solemnly promised to shoot the first man who took any property from another, except arms and ammunition, and what was necessary for the volunteers to use in their defence. This declaration was loudly responded to. While addressing the volunteers from the stump, several hundreds came forward and asked me for arms, evidently strongly impressed with the idea that, in the state of feeling then evinced towards them by the authorities at the camp, it was necessary to be united and armed for self-defence. The only plan of operations I attempted to lay down was, that if the Government forces came to attack us, we should meet them on the Gravel Pits, and if compelled, we should retreat by the heights to the old Canadian Gully, and there make our final stand. I then called on the volunteers to kneel down. They did so, and with heads uncovered, and hands raised to Heaven, they solemnly swore at all hazards to defend their rights and liberties. They promised to meet next morning, and then separated.
Great excitement now prevailed throughout the diggings, and early next (Friday) morning, some armed diggers began to assemble on Bakery Hill, but on the military and police moving upon them in force, they dispersed. About seven o'clock in the morning, about 200 armed diggers from Eureka,—of which I was one, marched to Bakery Hill, and hoisted the Southern Cross. So great was the horror excited in the minds of the diggers by the unconstitutional and bloodthirsty attack of the previous day, that, in about two hours, we numbered about 1500 armed men. After a few hours' organisation, it was proposed by some one that we should march to Eureka, which was accordingly done a little after midday. The rest of the day was spent in procuring arms, electing officers, and improving the organisation. A meeting of the captains of the various companies was held to elect a leader; I was chosen. One of those who had taken rather a conspicuous part in the movement having exhibited some disappointment at my election, the votes of the men were taken and the result was that my election was confirmed. However, so anxious was I to prevent disunion, that I went to several influential men in the movement, and informed them that it was my intention to resign, in order to prevent the dissatisfaction of even a few. From what they told me I was induced to retain my command, because I was led to believe that, if I resigned, a large majority of those under arms would leave the movement altogether. Being personally unacquainted with military details, I felt anxious to procure the co- operation of one experienced in them. Mr. Vern being elected the second in command, and having often heard him allude to passages in his military life, I requested his assistance, which he declined. This occurred on Friday evening, shortly after which the men retired to their several homes.
On Saturday morning we commenced to muster, at Eureka, about eight o'clock. Well-grounded fears being entertained that Government spies would mix with the volunteers and betray their movements, and it also being found necessary that a distinct place should be marked off in which the men could muster together and be drilled, a piece of ground at Eureka was enclosed with slabs for that purpose. The Government have laid great stress on the erection of this enclosure, and have dignified it with the titles of stockade, barricade, fortified entrenchment, and camp. It may suit their policy to give it these titles, but in plain truth it was nothing more than an enclosure to keep our own men together, and was never erected with an eye to military defence. The remainder of the day was spent in further drilling, procuring horses, arms, and ammunition, and establishing patrols throughout the diggings. Mr. Magill having been recommended to me as a person, possessing military knowledge, I entrusted him with the military arrangements. On Saturday evening there were about 1500 men in the enclosure, ready and willing to use their arms in defence of their rights. It is of importance to observe that we never contemplated remaining within the enclosure till attacked. We had scouts and sentries throughout the diggings, for the purpose of giving us information of any movement on the part of the force at the camp, so that we might have it in our power to arrange our future movements. About twelve o'clock I retired to bed, leaving Mr. Magill in charge; at this time the majority of the men were still in the enclosure. Shortly after this, a false alarm was given, which was soon succeeded by another. On the third and real alarm being given, only about 120 men were present in the enclosure. From what cause, or by whose orders, the others had left, I cannot say, but I feel certain they intended to return next day. Before going to bed I had given permission only to one company of seventy men to leave. A great portion of this body had been on duty for thirty-six hours previous, and were unable to find tent accommodation within the enclosure.
About three o'clock on Sunday morning, the alarm was given that "the enemy " was advancing, and I believe that one or two signal shots were fired by our sentries. On discovering the smallness of our numbers, we would have retreated, but it was then too late, as almost immediately the military poured in one or two volleys of musketry, which was a plain intimation that we must sell our lives as dearly as we could. There were about seventy men possessing guns, twenty with pikes, and thirty with pistols, but many of those men with firearms had no more than one or two rounds of ammunition. Notwithstanding all those deficiencies, I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of the men present. Their coolness and bravery were admirable; and when it is considered that the odds were three to one against us, and that, owing to the carelessness or mismanagement of the out-pickets, we were really surprised, it must be evident that most of those who were present did their duty. As the inhuman brutalities practised by the troops are so well known, it is unnecessary for me to repeat them. About ten minutes after the beginning of the fight, and while standing upon the top of a hole, calling upon the pikemen to come forward, I received a musket ball (together with two other smaller bullets) in the left shoulder, which shattered my arm, and from the loss of blood I was rendered incapable of further action. Soon after I was assisted by a volunteer out of the enclosure and placed in a pile of slabs, out of view of the military and police. While in this position the latter passed several times within a few feet of me. I remained there about an hour, when, thanks to the assistance of some friends, I was enabled to leave it (the police and military having returned with the prisoners), and find my way to the bush, where I remained during the day. On the approach of night I returned to the diggings, and through the kindness of a friend procured the assistance of surgeons, who next day amputated my arm.
In the attack, or rather after the surrender of the insurgents, we lost in killed fourteen men, and in wounded twenty men, of whom eight have since died. I attach the names of those killed and wounded, so far as I could learn. Powell and Rowlands were killed near their own tents. I do not include their names in the list of killed, because they never had anything to do with the movement. The unusual proportion of the killed to the wounded is owing to the butchery by the military and troopers after the surrender.
The number of killed, if added to the number of prisoners taken to the camp, together with the few who escaped, may be fairly conjectured to amount to about a hundred and forty or a hundred and fifty men. It may, therefore, appear that my return of a hundred and twenty men in the enclosure at the time of the attack is incorrect, but this apparent discrepancy will be readily understood when I state that many were taken prisoners who were not in the ranks of the insurgents. Even some of the State prisoners were not in the movement at all.
I must now call your attention to the despatches of Captain Thomas. In one piece he states that the insurgents fired the first volley ; in another, he states that he would have attacked us before, but that there was not a sufficient number of insurgents in one place, until the time he made the attack, for him to strike a decisive blow. I regret to contradict the first of these statements point blank. The military fired the first volley, which one company of insurgents returned much sooner than I wished, as I had directed all, except the rifles, to reserve their fire until "the enemy" should arrive within fifteen yards of them. I do not believe Captain Thomas's assigned reason for not attacking us before, because I knew he could see from the camp 500 men on Bakery Hill on Thursday evening, and 1500 on Friday morning. He could have had the honor of crushing the same number by attacking any detachment during Saturday, because the party attacked would have been supported. I believe that Captain Thomas's reason for attacking us on Sunday morning was because he was informed of the smallness of our numbers. The source whence he derived the information has yet to be discovered. I have no doubt that our numbers would have amounted 1500 on Sunday morning, before seven o'clock, had we not been attacked.
I must here state, that there were only about thirty foreigners in the movement.
There are two things connected with the late outbreak which I deeply regret. The first is, that we should have been forced to take up arms at all ; and the second is, that when we were compelled to take the field in our own defence, we were unable (through the want of arms, ammunition, and a little organization) to inflict on the real authors of the outbreak the punishment they so richly deserved.
From the steps now being taken by the Government, I have no doubt but that we shall have many measures of useful reform carried into effect. Why were not these measures adopted before? Why did not Government take steps to alter the land system, to amend the mode of collecting the gold revenue, and to place the administration of justice in the hands of honest men before this bloody tragedy took place? Is it to prove to us that a British Government can never bring forth a measure of reform without having first prepared a font of human blood in which to baptise that offspring of their generous love? Or is it to convince the world that, where a large standing army exists, the Demon of Despotism will have frequently offered at his shrine the mangled bodies of murdered men?
Whatever may have been the object of our rulers in adopting the line of policy they have pursued, the result has been deplorable, and such, I hope, as a civilised people will never again have to witness.
I trust that from the facts I have stated, it will be evident that neither anarchy, bloodshed, nor plunder, were the objects of those engaged in the late outbreak. Stern necessity alone forced us to do it. I am induced to call your attention to this subject because I am aware of the calumnious insinuations thrown out by some of our enemies, especially by one, from whose station a more honorable and dignified course might have been expected. Those insinuations were made at a time when thirteen men had to be tried for their lives for being concerned in the outbreak.
I may here add that I have taken measures to have the history of the outbreak and its causes brought before the House of Commons, in order that the real authors of the bloodshed may be brought to trial. Should I, from any untoward circumstances, be unable to prosecute this measure, there are numbers ready and wil- ling to come forward to prove the facts I have stated.
I have the honor to remain, Fellow Colonists
Your obedient servant,
The following lists are as complete as I can make them. The numbers are well known, but there is a want of names. I trust that the friends or acquaintances of those parties may forward particulars to the Times Office, to be made available in a more lengthened narrative.
1 John Hynes, County Clare, Ireland. 2 Patrick Gittins, Kilkenny, do. 3 —— Mullins, Limerick, do. 4 Samuel Green, England. 5 John Robertson, Scotland. 6 Edward Thonen (lemonade man), Elbertfeldt, Prussia. 7 John Hafele, Wurtemburg. 8 John Diamond, County Clare, Ireland. 9 Thomas O'Neill, Kilkenny, do. 10 George Donaghey, Muff, County Donegal, do. 11 Edward Quin, County Cavan, do. 12 William Quinlan, Goulburn, New South Wales 13} Names unknown. One was usually known on Eureka as Happy Jack.
1 Lieutenant Ross, Canada. 2 Thaddeus Moore, County Clare, Ireland 3 James Brown, Newry, Ireland 4 Robert Julien, Nova Scotia 5 --— Crowe, unknown 6 --— Fenton, do 7 Edward McGlynn, Ireland 8 No particulars
1 Peter Lalor, Queen's County, Ireland 2 Name unknown, England 3 Patrick Hanafin, County Kerry, Ireland 4 Michael Hanley, County Tipperary, Ireland 5 Michael O'Neil, County Clare, Ireland 6 Thomas Callanan, County Clare, Ireland 7 Patrick Callanan, County Clare, Ireland 8 Frank Symmons, England 9 James Warner, County Cork, Ireland 10 Luke Sheehan, County Galway, Ireland 11 Michael Morrison, County Galway, Ireland 12 Dennis Dynan, County Clare, Ireland
Peter Lalor, University of Ballarat Collection


A week back when I visited Church-street, Richmond, Mr. Peter Lalor lay sick unto death. He had been long suffering from an incurable disease. He had received the last rites of his church, and was calmly awaiting his end. I consider it one of the greatest compliments paid to me as a journalist in Australia when I was told that the ex-Speaker would be glad to see me, although he or his medical attendants, Doctors Williams and Robertson, forbade any other visitors. Sitting in an arm chair at the study window looking out from the height of Richmond Hill over pleasant South Yarra and Toorak, Mr. Peter Lalor, courtly and gracious in his greeting did not look like one of those who are morituri. Yet science had given the fiat; it was only a question of a few days, it might be of a few hours. After we shook hands Mr. Lalor's first thought was hospitality, and his attendant, an ex-valet of Sir Henry Loch's was ordered to ring the bell for refreshments before we com menced our afternoon's conversation, in which, if I did not obtain the complete "story of his life from year to year," I was enlightened on many points of which the history of the day has been silent. Of the Eureka Stockade affair my previous authority had been Withers' admirable " History of Ballarat," given to me during my stay in that city six years ago by Mr James Oddie, who also told me much of interest in regard to the early days of the gold diggings, with which Mr. PeterLalor's name will be ever connected. This interview, which I first sought was by the wish not only of the ex Speaker, but of his devoted son, Dr. Joseph Lalor. Father had done his duty and the church had said "post hominem vermis; post vermem falor et horror sic in non hominem vertitur omnis homo. I, as a journalist, surely may be allowed to testify that "the good may not be interred with his bones."
Mr. Peter Lalor was 62 years of age, having been born in 1827. He was a student at 'Trinity College, Dublin, and a civil engineer when he emigrated to Melbourne to try his luck on the gold diggings. His first essay was on the Ovens goldfield, but in February, 1853, he migrated to Ballarat. Here Mr. Peter Lalor and his "mates" took up some valuable claims, from which they hoped to be soon able to realise sufficient to permit them to return with a competence to their native homes. Mr. Duncan Gillies was also working in an adjoining claim. But the oppression of the central authorities, and the petty insolence and tyranny and corruption of the camp officials exasperated the miners until they were driven into open revolt, and the flag of the Southern Cross was raised, Peter Lalor being appointed commander in chief of the insurgent diggers. The verdict of posterity is that the malcontents were justified in their endeavors to obtain redress for their grievance, if not in the manner by which they sought it. I remember when one of her Majesty's pro-consuls from a neighboring colony was shown the site of the Eureka Stockade he paralysed some of the attendant officials by saying, "That was altogether the most infamous piece of business ever done in the name of the Queen." Peter Lalor and his followers suffered, but their blood was not shed in vain. Redress for their grievances quickly followed the abortive attempt at insurrection. As the old hero said: "'Tis better as it is now. We not only got all we fought for, but a little more. It is sweet and pleasant to die for one's country or in defence of one's liberty, but it is sweeter to live and see the principles for which you have risked your life triumphant. I can look back calmly on those days. We were driven to do what we did by petty malice and spite. But the officials were not all alike. We recognised Mr. Panton as a man." In his closing days Mr. Peter Lalor saw the reign of a peaceful democracy here in Victoria. With the full knowledge that his end was near, he passed calmly and quietly away, as became a true gentleman, regretting nothing in his career in the country of his adoption. Mr. Peter Lalor had been fortified by the last rites of the Catholic Church, of which he was a member. But, as he told me during his career in this colony he was never identified, like other prominent politicians, as a supporter of the policy of that church, and he will be remembered here after as a thorough democrat and protectionist, and advocate of the rights of the people.[18]

PETER LALOR Where Was He Buried? BALLARAT, Tuesday – In a report to the Ballarat Historical Society to-day the question was raised as to the burial place of Peter Lalor, the Eureka leader, who subsequently became the Speaker of the Victorian Assembly. The Chairman (Mr. N. F. Spielvogel) said records showed that Lalor died on 9th February, 1889, in Melbourne, but he had been unable to ascertain in which cemetery the remains had been interred.

Peter Lalor Statue (detail), Sturt Street, Ballarat, c1954. Photograph: Clare Gervasoni


Ballarat 23rd Oct 1854
To His Excellency
Sir Charles Hotham K.C.B.
Lieutenant Governer of the Colony of Victoria
We the Committee for the prosecution of the inverstigation into the death of the late James Scobie, duly appointed at the public meeting held here on the 17th inst do beg to forward to Your Excellency the enclosed petition.
Your Excellency having anticipated the object of the petition, we, desiring as much as possibly to allay the excitment at present insisting on these diggings have thought it unneccessary and impolitic to have signatures attached to the Petition.
We beg to tender our sincere thanks to Your Excellency for the promptitude and vigour with which the case has been taken up by Your Excellency's Government, and which is rapidly restoring the confidence of the community in that due administration of the law, whih is necessary to the preservation of society.
In any investigation which Your Excellency may be pleased to institute into the matter, may be pleased, and especially that of the Coronoer, will appear to Your Excellency in its true light.
We beg to subscribe ourselves Your Excellency's most devoted and obedient servants.
James Russell Thompson Chairman
Peter Lalor Secretary
Thomas D. Wanliss
John Weightman Gray
William Corkhill
Alexr M. P. Grant
Archibald Carmichael[19]

THE LATE DR. JAMES STEWART. A PICTURESQUE CAREER. The death of Dr. James Stewart, late of Ballarat, with the splendid bequests made by him to the University and hospital in Melbourne and charitable institutions in the city of Ballarat, lately announced by cablegram, calls to memory the early gold-digging days of Ballarat. The late Dr. Stewart was a North of Ireland man, and, like many other young fellows at that time, left home at the early age of five and twenty to seek his fortune on the goldfields of Victoria. He worked as a miner on the fields of Ballarat during the rush, but not for long. It soon came to the knowledge of the miners that young Jim Stewart was a medico, and they commenced to consult him with reference to their ailments. Young Stewart found that there was more important work at hand than handling the shovel or rocking a cradle, so he commenced the practice of his profession in earnest. His large round white tent, which the erected on the gold-field for the purpose of a surgery, will still be remembered, no doubt, by some of the old miners who worked on the field at that time. Dr. Stewart afterwards became the leading medical man in Ballarat, and up to 1866 followed his profession, when owing to ill health he disposed of his practice and returned to the old country. At the meeting of the miners at Bakery Hill, when the obnoxious mining Licenses were burnt, which led to the Eureka Stockade riots in 1854, Dr. Stewart was appointed by the miners as a sort of referee. Dr. Stewart has related the story of how Peter Lalor, the leader of the riots, and who after wards became speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, lost his arm. The doctor was called by his excited man servant the night after the riots and informed that there were two men outside who demanded at once to see him. Hastily coming out he found two miners supporting a third, whom by the aid of the lantern he recognized as Lalor, the leader of the riots. Making a hasty examination the doctor realized that the case was urgent, as Lalor's arm was shattered by a musket ball. There and then, so to speak, in a coach-house and by the light of a lantern, the arm was amputated. At that time a reward of £500 was being offer ed by the Government for the apprehension of Peter Lalor. How Lalor and his brother miners were tried and acquitted is a matter of ancient history. The fee received by the doctor for the above surgical operation was £1000, which was enclosed in a packet and forwarded to the doc tor anonymously. The death of Dr. Stewart has removed one, if not the last, of those identified with the early history of Ballarat. We are favoured with the above particulars by Mr. H. Fynmore, of this city, who is a nephew of the late Dr. Stewart.[20]

See also

George Barker

Natale D'Angri

James Scobie

James Stewart

Further Reading

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


  1. Ballarat Courier, 05 December 1904.
  3. MSS.8562-75
  4., accessed 02 March 2019.
  5. Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
  6. Ballarat Courier, 05 December 1904.
  7. Report of the Board appointed to Enquire into Circumstances Connected with the Late Disturbance at Ballarat, John Ferres, Government Printer, Melbourne, 21 November 1854.
  8. Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
  9. MS.8564
  10. The Argus, 10 April 1855.
  11. Transcription of a hand written document in the collection of the Gold Museum.
  15. Ballarat Star 1 January 1857
  16. The Argus, 23 October 1854.
  17. The Argus, 10 April 1855
  18. By 'The Vagabond', Bendigo Advertiser, 12 February 1889.
  19. Public Record Office Victoria, VPRS 6927, transcribed 11 June 2017.
  20. Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 04 August 1906.

External links

Joseph Lalor, son of Peter Lalor -