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The Geelong Advertiser Describes the problems associated with Victorian Gold Strikes


Dear Grandpa Pencil looks at early Australian development through journals, official reports and newspaper excerpts of the day. Readers should remember that these accounts are based on personal observations at the time and some have, since, been shown to be flawed.

An eyewitness account of the problems occurring as a result of the lure of the Golf Fields: By the Geelong Advertiser, 3rd October, 1851

We have got abundance of gold, and the evil effects of the discovery are following fast in the wake of it. Already wages are rising, the common necessities of life are rising, wood and water are rising.

There is no appearance of the demand for labour for our shearing and harvest being supplied, even if a constant stream of emigration sets in immediately, it will benefit us far less than many expect.

The women and children remain in town, but male adults will go to the mines.

It is impossible to reason with most men on this subject, and persuade them that the whole matter is one of chance.

No, they must have a try, to satisfy themselves; if that trial be successful, there they will stick - their services are lost to the country.

The evil is of such magnitude and the position of the colony with it's government so unsettled, that I would strongly advise the immediate appointment, by public meeting, of a deputation to meet the executive and consider the best means of averting what is likely to become a great public calamity.

The custom house hands are off to the diggings; seamen are deserting their vessels; tradesmen and apprentices are gone, their masters following them; contractor's men have bolted, and left large expensive jobs on their hands unfinished.

What are contractors to do? Why follow their men, and off they go; patients in becoming convalescent, forget the attention of their doctor, and his kindness in bringing them round, and depart without ever wishing him good bye; the doctor must of course follow, and the lawyer on the same principle follows his clients, and all agree that Ballarat is the only place where there is a possibility of squaring off old accounts, by coming down with the dust.

Women and girls strut like India Rubber dolls:
Some rather ridiculous scenes begin to show themselves down here.

Young misses, whose papas have been to Ballarat, begin to appear in neat new bonnets, with perhaps a parasol, and strut about like India Rubber Dolls.

They would certainly go the whole animal, were there not a severe check to their presumption and pride in the fact, that all the nice young men, and the majority of the old bachelors, have left their town.

Several once respectable and sedate matrons are coming out strong in beautiful new silk dresses, with the additional advantage of being strongly perfumed, which, with their gaudy dresses, gives them the appearances of small walking flower gardens.

Gold merchant's shameful tactics:

It appears the merchants of Geelong are behaving very badly to the diggers who bring their gold to town.

The gold from Ballarat is universally admitted to be equal to any ever yet exhibited in these colonies, either from California, Turon, or Ophir, and superior to most samples that have come from these places.

And yet our merchants refuse to purchase at any but a price that they ought to be ashamed to offer; they stand very much in their own light by such conduct as this.

The government price is three pounds, six shillings per ounce, but the merchants here are afraid to purchase at anything over three pounds, with a reduction of five percent.

Two pounds, seventeen shillings per ounce for as fine a gold as any in the world.

It is absurd altogether; how can they expect to be patronised when they behave this way?

The diggers must either send their gold to Melbourne at once, or deposit it in a bank here, till they gather as much as will pay them for taking it to Sydney, Hobart Town or even England, for sale.


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Published by Robin A Cartledge ~ ABN 19 924 273 138 ~ Low Head, Tasmania ~ Contact/Comment