William Atherden

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Walter E. Pidgeon, Illustration from The Eureka Stockade by Raffaello Carboni, Sunnybrook Press, 1942, offset print.
Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased 1994.


Atherden was born on 02 March 2, 1836 at Dover, England.[1] He was a sailor who deserted ship at Geelong in 1853, walking barefoot to Ballarat. Atherden had no luck on the diggings, and returned to England. He married Mary Martin at the age of 19. Atherden returned to Western Australia where he bought an orchard at York. He attended the 50th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade celebration at Ballarat in 1904.

Atherden died age 96 on 19 May 1934 at King Edward Rd, Osborn Park, Western Australia, aged 96. He is buried at Karrakatta Cemetery, and before his death was thought to be one of the last survivor’s of Eureka.

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Atherden was inside the stockade, and was taken prisoner after the battle being chained hand and foot to three other miners. [2]

Post 1854 Experiences


William Atherden married Mary Anne Martin.

1. Kathleen Connceiletta Atherden (b. 04 May 1877, Aldgate, London, England. D. 24 July 1896 of Meningitis, aged 23)



Eureka Stockade Recalled
William Edward Atherdon, 96, who was present at the Eureka Stockade engagement, died at Osborne Park, Perth. Atherdon, after deserting from a ship at Geelong walked barefooted to Ballarat. He was among 114 miners who were taken prisoner after the fight with the police, and was chained hand and foot to three others. Atherton, who was an orchardist at York until 14 years ago, it believed to have been the last survivor of the stockade.[3]

On Saturday, Mr William Edward Atherden, who was present at the Eureka Stockade, died at Osborne Park, who was present at the Eureka Stockade, died at Osborne Park, at the residence of his daughter, Mrs George Muir, of King Edward Road.He was 96 years of age.
He worked in the diggings there [Ballarat] and was present during the disorders of the Eureka Stockade. After the police victory, 114 miners were taken prisoner and among these young Atherden. He used to recall having been chained hand and foot to three other miners. All were discharges except 13, who were held to trial for treason, but none were convicted.
Good Luck came to Mr Atherden on his return to the diggings and within a year or two he was able to return to England, where, at the age of 19 years, he married Miss Mary Martin. On returning to Australia he settled in this State, purchasing an orchard at York. … He is survived by one son and four daughters... [4]

ATHERDEN – The Friends of the late Mr William Edward Atherden, of King Edward Road, Osborne Park, the last survivor of the Eureka Stockade, are respectfully informed that his remains will be interred in the Anglican portion on the Karrakatta Cemetery, at 11 o’clock, THIS (Monday) MORNING. The funeral is appointed to lave the Funeral Parlor of Arthur J. Purslowe, 664 Newcastle Street, Leederville, at 10.30 o’clock. Friends desirous of attending the Funeral may proceed by the train leaving Perth at 10.40. [5]

In Western Australia on Monday, at the age of ninety-six, died William E. Atherden, believed to be the last survivor of the Eureka Stockade. Eighty years have passed since the mad Decem-ber morning when a handful of men of miscellaneous nationality barricaded the Eureka mining claim at Bal-larat, and unfurling the flag of rebellion emblazoned with the stars of the Southern Cross, fought a pitched battle with a military force that had been marched up from Melbourne to support the Civil authorities in admini-stering the law. In the eyes of many people this event, with its mingling of the tragic and the burlesque, has assumed a magnitude disproportionate to its historic significance. Australian children have even been taught to regard it as a glorious military exploit in which the rights of the colonists were upheld against the whole British Em-pire by force of arms. The want of judgment with which the matter was handled by the Government of the day is largely responsible for this distorted view of a crude episode. When the inevitable had happened after a deplorable loss of life on both sides, two of the captured leaders, Hayes, an Irish-man, and Raffaello, an Italian, were put on their trial for high treason. The others, including Englishmen, Welshmen, Germans, and Americans, were outlawed, and large rewards offered for their capture. But the farcical treason trials ended in the triumphant acquittal of the Irishman and the Italian, on which the cases against the others in custody were dropped like the proverbial hot potato, the offers of reward for the capture of the rest of the rebel army with-drawn, and the 114 prisoners captured in the stockade marched out with the honours of war. So passed into history as a military chapter an incident which should have been treated as a gold-fields riot, and its ringleaders dealt with by ordinary process of law.
Most of the foreign element were out to proclaim an Australian Republic, but the others generally had nothing more ambitious in view than preventing the police from collecting fees for mining licences. As the combined "rebel" forces possessed only fifty rifles, some revolvers that had done duty in California, a few pikes forged by a German blacksmith, little ammunition, and less food, the rebellion might surely have been quelled by strategy without a battle in which five soldiers including the captain, and sixteen miners were killed. Amongst the rebel leaders who sustained serious wounds was Peter Lalor, who, after the removal of the price set on his head, was elected, minus an arm, to the Victorian Parliament, in which he had a distinguished career, being several times Minister of the Crown, and finally Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. On his retirement the ex-rebel leader was voted a testi-monial by Parliament in recognition of his distinguished services as a Consti-tutional legislator. This golden douceur was compensation for the leaden bullet with which the British Army had shot off his arm at the battle of Eureka. The gift may have been prompted by some lingering thought that there should have been no Eureka Stockade, as there certainly would not have been had the Government handled the situa-tion with a modicum of tact, through want of which it first provoked a riot, and then treated that disturbance as a rebellion. That the diggers had some legitimate grievances there is no doubt at all. A commission appointed after the event found that exorbitant licence fees were not the only thing about which they had cause to complain.
The police, who practically ruled the goldfields in those days when the lure of the diggings made it difficult to get men for ordinary billets, were of low standard, amongst them being even ex convicts There were, of course, some of better type, and the officers, though not educated in police duty like those of to-day, appear to have been generally conscientious men, but often with more zeal than discretion. The mining population, suddenly collected from all the ends of the earth, was also necessarily a mixed lot, and though the pre-dominant element was British, in the Eureka Stockade and the agitation leading up to it, foreigners had much more than their share to say. Knowing little or nothing about the Consti-tutional method of redressing grievances in Australia, their first instinct suggested the barricades. The British, mostly of that self-reliant and resourceful, yet law-abiding, type who provided such a fine stock for the development of the future Australian, naturally chafed under injustice, especially at the hands of ex-criminals wearing the uniform of the law. Sooner or later, however, the Briton's innate reverence for law and order would have righted things; for the commission of inquiry granted by Sir Charles Hotham after the Eureka tragedy found that the enforcement of the law was in wrong hands, and was carried on by wrong methods.[6]

In the News

MR. W. E. ATHERDEN, born March 2, 1836, at Dover, England. Arrived Geelong, 1853 and walked to Ballarat. Joined in Eureka Stockade 1854. Arrived Western Australia, 1895. Present address, King Edward-road, Osborne Park.[7]

Eureka Stockade Revolt Recalled By Death Of Last Miner
William Edward Atherden, the last of the Eureka Stockade miners, died in Western Australia yesterday at the age of 96 years. It is 80 years ago since the Eureka miners made their famous stand, so that Atherden must have been only 16 probably the youngest miner on the field when the incident happened. The circumstances leading to the Eureka Stockade arose from an Act promulgated in January, 1852, when, to meet the expense of securing order on the Victorian goldfields, and to restrain unauthorised mining on waste Crown land, a license fee of 30/ a month was imposed on all diggers, the penalty for mining with out a license being £5 for the first of fence, and afterwards imprisonment for terms up to six months. Clause 7 of THE Act appropriated half the recovered penalties to the use of the informer or Prosecutor a provocative and irritating provision. In December, 1853, an amending Act reduced the fee to £1 per month, but did not alter the diggers great grievance — that they could be imprisoned for not having the actual license on them, though their possession of one could be proved from the official records. They were, too, unrepresented in Parliament, though in 1854 the population on the Ballarat goldfield was estimated at 20,000. Sir Charles Hotham, who reached Victoria In June, 1854, was alarmed at the depleted state of the Treasury and the growing expense of goldfields administration, and ordered the police to redouble their exertions in collect ing the fees. To miners barely making rations the payment of £12 per annum was impossible, and doubtless hundreds did endeavour to evade payment, but the innocent suffered with the guilty. The police, too, had been largely recruited from Tasmania, and many were ex-convicts who bad risen to be gaol wardens; some, in addition to their venality, showed a rough brutality. These grievances were common to all the Victorian fields, and had under the Latrobe administration produced riots at Beechworth and Castlemaine. :MINER MURDERED. Bendigo was the malcontents' head quarters, but in the first months of Hotham's regime even Bendigo be came orderly. Ballarat had always been the most domestic of the gold-fields, renowned for its schools and its quietness on Sundays. But on the night of October 6 a miner named James Scobie was killed at the Eureka Hotel, near Ballarat, and the murdered man's brother accused the proprietor (Bentley, a Tasmanian ex-convict) of the murder. Bentley was brought up before a magistrate, and discharged. The miners were indignant; a meeting was called for the 17th, and the committee appointed to demand a fresh prosecution. The meeting it self was orderly, but towards the. end of it a cry was raised that the police (who had been ordered to protect the hotel) were trying to disperse the meeting, and the miners, becoming furious, swept aside the police, smash-. ed the windows and furniture, and burned the building. The police arrested three men, who could not be proved to have been ringleaders or active in the riot, but were sentenced to three, four, and six months' imprisonment at an indignation meeting held on November 11 on Bakery Hill the Ballarat Reform League was formed, with J.B. Humffray (a Welshman) as its first secretary, and Peter Lalor, Frederic Vern (a Hanoverian and a talker), Raffaello (an Italian teacher of languages), Timothy Hayes (an Irishman), and George Black (an Englishman of good education and considerable intelligence) as prominent members. A deputation of three men waited on Hotham to demand the release of the prisoners, but he had al ready sent additional troops to Ballarat, and on the 27th refused the demand. Meanwhile, the troops which arrived in Ballarat had given consider able offence by marching In with fixed bayonets; their captain's refusal to parley with "rebels" fired the crowd, which threw itself on the convoy, overturned a waggon, captured an other, and injured three or four soldiers. This action, it should be remembered, was condemned by the leaders of the league.
LICENSES BURNT. On November 29, Black, Humffray, and Kennedy reported to a mass meeting held at Bakery Hill the result of their deputation, and pleaded for further negotiation. The burning of the obnoxious licenses was proposed and the meeting pledged Itself to burn all licenses and to unite and protect and one arrested for having none. Bonfires were lighted, and the licenses burnt there and then. Next day (November 30), the police were ordered to make a specially vigorous license-hunt; a squadron of mounted troopers was received with a volley of stones and an occasional pistol-snot; Commissioner Rede endeavoured to read the Riot Act, but was told the licenses were all burned and that, if he liked, the whole camp would surrender — an obviously absurd proposal, as it would have been Impossible to guard so many prisoners. When the troops marched back to camp the diggers hastened to a conference with the leading spirits of the league. Peter Lalor was elected leader, and under a blue flag adorned with the stars of the Southern Cross, which had already been flown at the meeting of the 29th, the assembled diggers swore "to stand truly by each other, and fight to defend our rights I and liberties." An area of about an acre on the Eureka claim was hastily enclosed by piled-up mining slabs; building timber, and any other material handy. A deputation sent to the camp demanded the release of the morning's prisoners and the cessation of license-hunting, but the commissioner refused flatly, saying that the agitation was only a cloak to cover a democratic revolution.
STOCKADE STORMED. On December 1 the occupants of the stockade were hard at work by 5 a.m., drilling and improving the barrier, and a German blacksmith was fashioning pikeheads. But neither food nor ammunition was available within the stockade, and many men left it in search of these commodities, so that by the evening of the 2nd not more than 200 remained within. Spies informed the commissioner of the situation, and about 4.30 a.m. on Sunday morning, December 3; a troop of 276 men was marched silently to the stockade. Of those within about 50 had rifles; there was also a troop of Californian diggers armed with revolvers, and another of Irish men armed with pikes. Many of them were asleep when the signal gun was fired and a storming party of 64 "rushed" the stockade. In the first volleys several men fell on both sides, but the line of advancing bayonets, flanked on both sides by cavalry and mounted police, was too much for the diggers. They turned to seek shelter, and all was over. Of the military force Captain Wise and four private soldiers were killed, and about a dozen injured. Sixteen miners were killed, and at least eight others died of their wounds — probably many died in hiding; 114 prisoners were taken, but all were discharged except 13 (including Hayes and Raffaello) who were held to take their trial for high treason. Lalor, badly wounded, managed to escape; so did Black and Vern, though the Government offered £500 for the apprehension of Vern, and £200 each for Black and Lalor. Ballarat was put under martial law at once. On the 6th, Sir Robert Nickle arrived with reinforcements. He blamed the rebels, but listened to the miners' grievances, and his just and conciliatory treatment bad a soothing affect on the population— as did his announcement that the Governor had appointed a commission to enquire into their wrongs. On the 9th the ban of martial law was withdrawn, though the miners declared they, preferred it to police rule.'
ALL ACQUITTED. The trials began in February, 1855, and two men wore acquitted without needing to defend themselves. The Attorney-General postponed the rest of the trials until March, but without effect — all the men- appeared, pleaded, listened to the charges, and were also acquitted without being called on for a defence. When the last prisoner walked free, the rewards for the capture of the missing men were withdrawn. While the diggers' grievances were undoubtedly great, and Che severity of the police administration was officially condemned by a Royal Commission appointed by Hotham to enquire into the whole trouble. It Is also certain that some of the League's loaders had in view far more than a mere redress of grievances. Lalor, Humffray and Black were probably Inspired solely by Indignation, but several of the Italian, German and American leaders hoped to make the movement -a political one, and to establish republic.[8]

EUREKA STOCKADE. JUBILEE CELEBRATION. PROCESSION AND SPEECHES. A LARGE GATHERING. The fiftieth anniversary of the Eureka stockade was celebrated yesterday, and the enthusiasm and enterprise of the promoters could have received no better reward than the large crowd which yesterday watched the proceedings. Since the movement for the jubilee celebration was first mentioned, the events of fifty years ago at Ballarat have been canvassed in the columns of the Press and at numerous meetings. Historical accounts have been published of the stockade, the name given to the enclosure formed by the diggers when, resenting the increased tax demanded as a mining licence and the vexatious methods resorted to for its-collection, they resolved upon armed resistance. It was on December 3, 1854, that the stockade was taken by storm by Capt. Thomas. of the 40th Regiment. Full publicity has been thrown on the events before and after the fight at the stockade, by the discussion in the Press evoked by the movement which culminated in yesterday's demonstration. The celebration took the form of a procession and mass meeting on the Esplanade. The procession was formed in James street, marching from thence to the Esplanade, along the northern side of which flags and bunting were flying. The weather was excellent, the breeze which raised the dust in the streets having no such disagreeable result in the Esplanade. The meetings on the Esplanade were addressed from two platforms, round each of which several thousand people had gathered, it being estimated that there were altogether from five to six thousand people present.
THE PROCESSION. In the procession the members of the celebration committee, the A.N.A., labour unions, and friendly and benefit societies of Perth and Fremantle took part. The procession was formed up in James-street, in the vicinity of the Public Library, and moved off at a few minutes before 3 o'clock. A very large number of persons witnessed the preparations made to marshal the participants, and the streets along which the procession passed were crowded. The post of honour was given to the survivors of the Stockade, of whom 14 were present. The veterans, who looked hale and hearty, and appeared to be proud of the distinction conferred upon them, were accommodated in a drag, drawn by four handsome bay horses. Then followed a lorry, on which was erected a miniature stockade, from behind whose shelter several men, attired as diggers and armed with obsolete firearms, occasionally, in dumb show, took sighting shots at the crowd. Attached to the sides of the lorry were pieces of calico, on which were painted the following inscriptions :-"Australians gratefully remember Eureka" and "The A.N.A. honours the heroes of 1854." In the rear of this again were members of the trades and labour unions, friendly societies in their regalia, and several lorries carrying banners. On one 'of these vehicles a number of men were engaged at work illustrative of the methods adopted to win gold from the earth. Some exceedingly handsome banners were carried, and these added not a little to the picturesqueness of the scene. The two which attracted general notice were those of the Fremantle Lumpers' Union and the H.A.C.B.S. Five bands played inspiriting music at intervals during the progress of the procession. The line of march was thronged with spectators, and the survivors were frequently cheered during the course of their march through the city. The police had but little to do in the way of securing an unimpeded course for the procession, the people being orderly and well-behaved. The arrangements connected with the spectacular portion of the proceedings were admirably carried out. and no hitch of any kind cccurred. The procession, regarded as a pageant, was very creditable to the organisers. After marching along the principal thorough fares the procession reached the Esplanade, where speeches were made. A number of gentlemen, armed with money-boxes, took up a collection to defray the expenses of the celebrations, and in aid of the charities, but the result of their efforts was not available last night.
THE SURVIVORS. Following are the names of and a few interesting details concerning the survivors who took part in the procession : H. de Longville (took an active part in the reform movement, on sentry duty in the Stockade and on the approach of the troops gave the first alarm to Peter Lalor): Lieutenant Kossack (a captain in the Hungarian Army, led the left flank of the police against the stockaders, and was one of the few officials in sympathy with the miners): Chris. Christesen (a member of the Ballarat Reform League, present from the firing of the first shot until the fall of the Stockade, succeeded in evading the troops); W. G. Holmes (in the Stockade during the fight, and saw his brother fall dead in front of him); William Atherden (in the Stockade, and was taken prisoner); Duncan Clark (a member of Ross's corps. out scouting, but returned in time to assist to carry Ross, who was wounded to Irwin's Star Hotel); Montague Miller (as a boy reached the Stockade after the soldiers had retired, and assisted the wounded and to bury the dead): Arthur Curnick (worked as a boy in the blacksmith's shop in which the stockaders' pikes were forged, father and brother in the Stockade); James Madden (as a lad was present on the fateful morning with his father, who was on duty): John Williams (a member of the Reform League, present at the monster meeting, when the licences were burned): W. R. Taylor (a prominent Chartist in the ranks of the Bendigo Reform League): John Hall (as a lad was present at the site on the morning of the affray: John Greenwell (when a boy was present at the meeting which preceded the tragic conclusion of the reform movement): and Matthew McCormick (present at the Stockade at the close of the fight). ... [9]

See also



Further Reading

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


  1. Perth Western Mail, Thursday 9 May 1929.
  2. West Australian, 05 December 1904.
  3. West Wyalong Advocate, 25 May 1934.
  4. Western Australian, May 1934.
  5. Western Australian, May 1934.
  6. Sydney Morning Herald, 19 May 1934.
  7. Perth Western M ail, Thursday 9 May 1929.
  8. Rockhampton Evening News, 15 May 1934.
  9. West Australian, 5 December 1904.

External links

Citation Details: Gervasoni, Clare, ‘William Atherden', Eurekapedia, http://eurekapedia.org, accessed [insert date]

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Caption, Reference.