Richard John Mack

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Bendigo Goldfields Petition Cover, August 1853. State Library of Victoria (MS 12440) and Condemned them to hard labor on the Public Roads of the Colony - A proceeding Your Petitioners maintain to be contrary to the spirit of the British Law which does not recognise the principle of the Subject being a Criminal because he is indebted to the State
That the impost of Thirty Shillings a Month is unjust because the successful and unsuccessful Digger are assessed in the same ratio
For these reasons and others which could be enumerated Your Petitioners pray Your Excellency to Grant the following Petition
* First. To direct that the Licence Fee be reduced to Ten Shillings a Month
* Secondly To direct that Monthly or Quarterly Licenses be issued at the option of the Applicants
* Thirdly To direct that new arrivals or invalids be allowed on registering their names at the Commissioners Office fifteen clear days residence on the Gold Fields before the License be enforced
* Fourthly To afford greater facility to Diggers and others resident on the Gold Fields who wish to engage in Agricultural Pursuits for investing their earnings in small allotments of land
* Fifthly To direct that the Penalty of Five Pounds for non-possession of License be reduced to One Pound
* Sixthly To direct that (as the Diggers and other residents on the Gold Fields of the Colony have uniformly developed a love of law and order) the sending of an Armed Force to enforce the License Tax be discontinued.
Your Petitioners would respectfully submit to Your Excellency's consideration in favour of the reduction of the License Fee that many Diggers and other residents on the Gold-fields who are debarred from taking a License under the present System would if the Tax were reduced to Ten Shillings a Month cheerfully comply with the Law so that the License Fund instead of being diminished would be increased
Your Petitioners would also remind your Excellency that a Petition is the only mode by which they can submit their wants to your Excellency's consideration as although they contribute more to the Exchequer that half the Revenue of the Colony they are the largest class of Her Majesty's Subjects in the Colony unrepresented
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray etc.
Red Ribbon Movement Monument in Rosalind Park, Bendigo [detail], 2013. Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection


Richard John Mack arived in Victoria in 1852 on board the Coromandel from London via Plymouth.[1] He was a foundation member of Bendigo Medical Association. He was registed in Victoria in 1854 when he was in practice in Melbourne.[2]

Goldfields Involvement, 1853-1854

Signed the 1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition. Agitation of the Victorian goldfields started with the Forest Creek Monster Meeting in 1851, but what became known as the Red Ribbon Movement was centred around the Bendigo goldfields in 1853. The Anti-Gold License Association was formed at Bendigo in June 1853, led by George Thomson, Dr D.G. Jones and 'Captain' Edward Browne. The association focused its attention on the 30 shillings monthly licence fee miners were required to pay to the government. They drew up a petition outlining digger grievances and called for a reduced licence fee, improved law and order, the right to vote and the right to buy land. The petition was signed by diggers at Bendigo, Ballarat, Castlemaine, McIvor (Heathcote), Mount Alexander (Harcourt) and other diggings. The 13 metre long petition was presented to Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe in Melbourne on the 01 August 1853, but their call for a reduction in monthly licence fees and land reform for diggers was rejected. The diggers dissatisfaction erupted into the Red Ribbon Rebellion where agitators wore red ribbons on their hats symbolising their defiance of the law and prohibitive licence fees.

Post 1854 Experiences


On the 25th inst., an inquest was held at Nunawading, on the body of Richard John Mack, thirty-five years of age, and a surgeon by profession, whose death was occasioned by the adminis-tration of prussic acid. The deceased, it appeared, had been unfortunate, and had taken to drinking. During the ten days previous to his death he had been lodging at the White Horse Inn. On the evening previous to his decease he went to bed at half-past nine o'clock not quite sober, and the landlord of the hotel, on hearing him breathing heavily, went into his room, accompanied by another person, when they saw that the deceased was dying. In about three minutes he had ceased to live. A bottle containing prussic acid was standing close to the deceived, half empty, end with the neck knocked off. He had taken his clothes off and had not been more than ten minutes in the room at the time. Dr. Maund made a post mortem examination of the body, and stated that he found it lying in a composed and natural position. There were no marks of violence externally. Internally the whole of the organs of the body did not show any disease that would produce death. The interior of the stomach was slightly inflamed. The stomach contained a small quantity of fluid, which smelt strongly of prussic acid, as did also the contents of the bottle found near where the deceased was lying. The cause of death was poisoning by prussic acid. On the per-son of the deceased was found £3 2s. 6d. in money. The jury returned a verdict "That the deceased poisoned himself with prussic acid on the 24th inst., being at the time of un-sound mind."[3]

See also

Bendigo Goldfields Petition

Ballarat Reform League Inc. Monuments Project

Further Reading


  1. Sydney Morning Herald, 16 August 1852.
  2. Bowden, Keith, Doctors and Diggers on the Mount Alexander Goldfields, S.P., 1974.
  3. The Argus, 27 June 1856.

External links

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