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Off to the diggings: the gold rush

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"gold has been obtained in considerable quantity…the number of persons engaged at work and about the diggings…cannot be less than 400 and of all classes."
Governor FitzRoy despatches, May 1851.

Successfully drumming up enthusiasm for gold in the west, Hargraves set about publicising it via articles in the Sydney Morning Herald and holding court at Bathurst, lecturing and explaining techniques for gold mining.

Colonial geologist Samuel Stutchbury travelled to Ophir to confirm gold finds for the government. In his report to Governor FitzRoy on 19 May he wrote:
'gold has been obtained in considerable quantity…the number of persons engaged at work and about the diggings…cannot be less than 400 and of all classes.' 
- Governor FitzRoy despatches, May 1851.

He apologised for his report being written in pencil, '…as there is no ink yet in this city of Ophir.'

The government declared a gold discovery on May 22, 1851.

The government feared that the entire labouring class would abandon their duties in Sydney as clerks, labourers and servants failed to appear for work as thousands rushed west for the newly named "Ophir" gold field. 

There was a concern that shepherds, drovers and farmers would abandon the developing agricultural industries that had been prospering the young colony. Governor FitzRoy wrote to Earl Grey on 29 May reporting that:

'thousands of people of every class are proceeding to the locality, - tradesmen and mechanics deserting certain and lucrative employment for the chance of success in digging for gold, - so that the population of Sydney has visibly diminished.' 
- Governor FitzRoy despatches, May 1851.

Pastoralist James Macarthur suggested that martial law be introduced to prevent complete chaos. However the news spread of Hargraves' discovery and it was impossible for the government to stop the flow of people westwards. The one conversation around Sydney was, 'Have you been?' or 'Have your servants run yet?'

Sydney shopkeepers, canny in their ability to turn a profit and create consumer demand, began to fill their windows with all manner of miner’s wares. Blue and red serge shirts, 'real gold-digging gloves', mining boots, blankets and other camping goods became staple items. The newspapers were filled with advertisements for items to take to the gold fields.

On the roads to the diggings, all classes of people travelled with their belongings. There was an atmosphere of excitement and impending wealth. Eye-witness, Godfrey Charles Mundy, a soldier and writer saw:

"..sixty drays and carts, heavily laden, proceeding westward with tents, rockers, flour, tea, sugar, mining tools, etc. each accompanied by from four to eight men, half of whom bore fire-arms. Some looked eager and impatient, some half-ashamed of their errant, others sad and thoughtful, all resolved."

By the end of May 1851, hundreds of diggers had arrived in the Ophir region and had begun their search for gold.

Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell

Surveyor-General of New South Wales from 1828-1855, Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell undertook four expeditions into the interior of Australia between 1831 and 1846. He published several accounts of his explorations. The State Library holds his collection of papers, including his diaries, journals of his expeditions and his field books.

Mitchell was one of many who travelled west during the winter of 1851 to visit the Ophir gold diggings along with his son, Roderick, and the government geologist, Samuel Stutchbury. Governor FitzRoy requested Mitchell to 'survey the extent and productiveness of the goldfield reported to have been discovered in the County of Bathurst'.

Mitchell surveyed the area around Summerhill Creek and the ‘town’ of Ophir.

He describes the scene when he arrives:

"I counted about 200 men at work, besides what were also in sight higher up and lower down the river, on the opposite bank, high above the river were numerous tents, as well as on the left bank of the river – and a bark home with placards about booking for mail, and about all kinds of stores sold there stood on river bank close to the diggers."

Selection from Sir Thomas Mitchell diary

Sir Thomas Mitchell diary, with comments on the discovery of gold, especially in the Bathurst district - cover
1851
Sir Thomas Mitchell
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Digital ID: 
a1843001
Transcript: 

Sunday, June 1  1851

We arrived without impediment at Emu Ferry about 2 ½ oCk PM. Found the approach stopped up with drays and carts, the ferry boat carrying only three drays or carts at a time – The sun had set before our team arrived – Then a restive horse in the cart just before us delayed us half an hour - when at length embarked in the punt, the puntman would take a fourth – and threatened to “rush” our horses if we did not take them on a line until he embarked the fourth cart, This I refused to do and he persisted in embarking it, however our horse fortunately stood quietly – and we got access without further hindrance. Stopt at the New Inn at Emu – a town planned by me many years before – Wrote to Major Russell suggesting a bridge of Boats to be put across the Nepean – for which passage by a bridge a private Bill for taking toll was proposed last Session of Council – A great encampment of people with drays & carts laden with stores surrounded the Inn and lined the road on both sides of the mountain pass – the past.


Monday, June  2nd   1851
Ascended the mountain Pass which Sir Richd Bourke called Mitchells Pass – many carts and drays were on their way- our light carts passed them all – Met a man returning who said he was returning to his work, that he did not think people were averaging 9 sh. a day. The people going towards the mining were in general in parties of 5 or 6 with a heavily laden cart which at steep places they pushed behind – A heavy wooden or iron cradle was to be seen on all of them – Some carts carried five or six of these . We found the road along the mountains tolerably good – but water along the first part was very scarce – We bought some at a public house for 6d a bucket – They said it was brought four miles. We reached the Weatherboard Inn at dusk. The horses rather distressed. I was somewhat disappointed to find the old bridge still in use and the road unaltered where I had marked out and shown to Capt Bull an important improvement in the line and new site for the bridge seven

Sir Thomas Mitchell diary, with comments on the discovery of gold, especially in the Bathurst district p.2
1851
Sir Thomas Mitchell
Digital ID: 
a1843027
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years before, by which two hills cd. have been avoided and the road shortened and made to pass by the Inn door instead of at a distance as at present.

Tuesday, 3rd June 1851
Went out rather late from the Weatherboard Inn that the horses might refresh the more.
[In the evening Mr. Peter White – “stick to your hole” – and the strange gentleman with his 4 masons &  £150 outfit – ].
We met many groups of two or three returning from the Diggings, all admitted there was plenty of gold – but that they could not stand the cold or pay the licence or as one man said, could not make wages out of it.  There was a manly cheerfulness under this disappointmt. conspicuous in all these persons returning highly characteristic of fine feeling.  One poor fellow – limping with one foot and thin pale and meagre only said – There was plenty of gold but – he “could not bear to wait!”  The crowds going forward covered the road with their overloaded carts which some pushed behind, others drew in front, harnessed to the shafts – Sieves – kettles – tinpots – and cradles always appeared on these loads – and many clumsy hands carried guns apparently for the first time.  The air was redolent of tobacco.  We reached Blackheath at an early hour.

Wednesday, 4th June 1851
This morning an old sergeant with a Waterloo medal passed along the road or highway to join the Mounted Police – His whiskers were much greyer than mine - He knew me.  We found the road very good down Mt. Victoria and indeed all through – but the long pull up from the Cox River is distressing from its uniformity.  The descent to it is what I suppose the Bathurst people meant by Lambies Hill – is still worse because more continuing still.  The only remedy by which all these mountains may be avoided is by making a railing in the direction suggested by me to General Darling for a great road to Bathurst, mainly up the Valley of the Grose – through a tunnel of a mile under Darlings Causeway and down the Valley of the Fish River crossing it five times.  We reached the Inn at Solitary Creek about sunset.
(Subsequent arrivals – novel style of black - guardian worse than New [indecipherable]).
The rocks about the river Lett and Cox’s River seemed likely to be auriferous.

Sir Thomas Mitchell diary, with comments on the discovery of gold, especially in the Bathurst district - p.3
1851
Sir Thomas Mitchell
Digital ID: 
a1843028
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Tuesday, 17th June 1851
This morning the misted party set off early.  I set forward to take up the section line I had already marked and levelled (with barometer) to a hill 5½ miles from Molong while Mr. Davidson &  my son conducted the party and equipment by the Guanna hill route to Nandillion Ponds there to encamp.  The day was very stormy and settled into very heavy rain about 3 P.M.  I continued my examination of the section line to a high summit of a range of rugged hills – 6 miles E. by compass from the marked tree on the Nandillion Ponds.  I found most part of the country quartzose – and in parts the schist and clayslate cropping out – places there were white with fragments of quartz rock.  I returned by the marked line (after measuring about 6 miles) and found the camp established, and tents pitched at the place appointed by the Nandillion Ponds.  It rained very heavily as we returned and also during the night.

Wednesday, 18th June 1851
Returned to the marked tree on the hill where I yesterday left off accompanied by Mr. Davidson there to resume the marking and measuring of the section.  Still the weather was very unfavourable, thermometer very low.  Marking onward from that hill, we came upon the old road to Wellington at less than two miles.  The country was still more quartzose than what I crossed before – quartz &  chist everywhere.  The highest part of the country was beyond Simpsons (or Wellington road) and not rugged except in the hollows – but rather broad at the upper part with long gently sloping vallies.  The country beyond this (which was called the Mullin Range) broke into deep and steep ravines with isolated summits.  I closed my section line at a turn in a water-course which we followed down, and was were led by it into a better sort of country – and soon came upon the road to “the Diggings”.  The road was deep in mud, and the miners dray tracks were very different from the person far between trains of its wheels in the bush.  Two drays with heavy trains &  many men appeared in a steep slope in the road before us.  We had fallen into the stream of population flowing to the Gold, and life seemed to go with it.  We stopped for the night at a hut 3 miles from the diggings where Mr. Davidson promised us shelter for the night.  Our horses were hobbled and turned out at great risk and where

Sir Thomas Mitchell diary, with comments on the discovery of gold, especially in the Bathurst district p.4
1851
Sir Thomas Mitchell
Digital ID: 
a1843036
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there could scarcely be said to be any grass. Thursday, 19th June, Mr. Stutchbury called on me and accompanied me to the diggings – Just as I expected to see – veins, bosses and steep hills of trap rock appeared in both banks of the river, in which there was a fresh which prevented me from walking a cross as I intended to visit Mr. Hardy.  On a stony bough or link of the river, edged with river oaks (Casuarina), I counted about 200 men at work, besides what were also in sight higher up and lower down the river, on the opposite bank, high above the river were numerous tents, as well as on the left bank of the river – and a bark home with placards about booking for mail, and about all kinds of stores sold there stood on river bank close to the diggers.  At this place there was a perpetual thoroughfare resembling the people at a tryst or fair, and amongst the natives who were there rather numerous.  I was very glad to meet “Tommy Came Last” who accompanied me in my Expedition to the interior in 1836.  He was now grown a powerful man in prime of manhood, but from Mr. Davidson I learnt that he was still remarkable for docility and good conduct.  He was very lame from a sore foot.  I ascertained that the aborigines have no name for gold – and that they had never known it, or seen it, until we shewed it to them.  They accordingly call it “Gold” from us.  This fact is clearly established altho’.

Friday, 20th June 1851
This day we proceeded to try a set of cylinders at gold working at a spot in the Nandillion Ponds which presented favourable indicating – but not a speck of gold could be found.  I felt unwell yesterday and this day – a swimming in the head and intense head-ache – which Mr. Davidson convinced me, arose from having cold feet:  however that might be, this indisposition was by no means favourable to these operations I was engaged in at that time.  My son shot a water-rat with web-feet such as we had not seen – and it was skinned and preserved for Mr. Agilby.

Sir Thomas Mitchell diary, with comments on the discovery of gold, especially in the Bathurst district p.5
1851
Sir Thomas Mitchell
Digital ID: 
a1843037
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Sunday, 22nd June 1851
Set off early and before it was dark we had encamped beyond the tents of Mr. Stutchbury near the auriferous river of Frederick’s Valley.  Found in a dyke a trap rock near where we had pitched our tents, basaltic columns indicating that there, the trap rock so abundant in these parts, had been erupted.

Monday, 23rd June 1851
Rode with Mr. Davidson and guided by “Tommy Came First” to the Diggings by keeping near the banks of Lewis’s Ponds Creek.  Selected the site for the township of “Ophir” and set Mr. Davidson to work.  My son and I afterwards looked at the diggings and walked up from the junction several miles.  In general the diggers said they were not successful.

Sir Thomas Mitchell diary, with comments on the discovery of gold, especially in the Bathurst district p.6
1851
Sir Thomas Mitchell
Digital ID: 
a1843039
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Tuesday, 24th June 1851
Mr. Davidson having plotted his survey of the ground, I planned the streets and allotments for the Town of Ophir – and wrote a despatch to the Colonial Secretary to accompany this plan for the Town.
Mr. Davidson bought for me a specimen of quartz & gold found in the river for £2 – also one still more beautiful of bluish quartz – for £3.  He told me about another he had seen with rubies set in it by nature for which I give him a cheque for £2 to buy it for me which he effected.
Received from the office at Sydney a second Aneroid barometer for which I had written to Mr. Halloran.  Robt. Whiting formerly one of my exploring men brought me the Aneroid from Molong.

Wednesday, 25th June 1851
Sent off the despatch and plan addressed to the Colonial Secretary by post.  Wrote also a few lines to Colonel Barry about Roderick and enclosing two applications from Robt. Whiting for cattle-runs.
This day I resumed the measure of my section line from Molong, which, I found, passed within a few hundred yards of my present camp – but which ran out to a point in a bend of the river, far below the diggings.  I had hard work to scramble over the ground near the river – left a man with my horse a mile &  a half back from it, and finally got to the river.  I found on one of the heads near the river, the old conglomerate rock of the interior which Mr. Lonsdale formerly described as “Very hard rock consisting of grains and small pebbles of quartz cemented in a hard ferruginous matrix probably felspar”.  This rock appears to have also engaged Mr. Stutchbury’s attention for he had previously informed me that he had found it (describing it exactly) in the [pass?] of Bellarida between the Lewis Ponds &  Macquarie a few miles above their junction.  He said he had reported it to Mr. Thomson as being probably rich in gold.

Sir Thomas Mitchell diary, with comments on the discovery of gold, especially in the Bathurst district p.7
1851
Sir Thomas Mitchell
Digital ID: 
a1843040
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Transcript: 

Thursday, 26th June 1851
Mr. Davidson went to arrange about obtaining some supplies at the Diggings.  I accompanied Mr. Stutchbury and my son to the bed of Frederick’s Valley Creek, and saw Mr. S. wash several pans of river deposit in all which small particles of gold were found.  We also tried my cylinders with little success.
In returning, we found that the trap rock overlay the slaty rocks with [indecipherable] separation – easily to be traced.  The small chrystels (like gunpowder) which always accompany the gold workings – Mr. S. shewed me appear on the surface of the ground wherever gold occurs.  He called them carburet of Iron, and said they were as much lighter than gold, as to be easily washed away from the gold in the pan.

Friday, 27th June 1851
I crossed the river early at the Diggings, and ascended the ranges on that side – measuring and taking angles from the highest summits.  I then fixed several very important heights, connecting them with the Canobolas.  All the features are curiously conform to the outcrop of the slaty rocks which all range with remarkable uniformity about 20c W. of North (“Magnetic”).  Saw a big ridge of quartz – a lode or vein – no doubt – running in the same direction.  I fixed the loftiest mass of the Mullin Range – and intersected that bend of the river, where my section from Molong terminates.  In descending I called on Mr. Hardy the Commissioner who shewed me some fine specimens of Gold pebbles and sold me one, I close, for £3.16.- weighing against a ½ a quartz pebble of the same size to obtain the weight of the gold only.  Mr. Davidson this day chained the river downwards from Ophir in order to connect it with my section line from Molong – connecting it also with Mr. Laws E. boundary line.
I observed this morning, a fine point of view for a drawing of the Digging scene and regretted much that my time did not admit of my taking it.

Sir Thomas Mitchell diary, with comments on the discovery of gold, especially in the Bathurst district p.8
1851
Sir Thomas Mitchell
Digital ID: 
a1843041
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Gold Chest belonging to Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell

While on his journey to Ophir in 1851, Sir Thomas Mitchell collected a number of gold samples, stored in a wooden chest.

There are 48 specimens, mostly quartz, varying in colour, shape and texture. Most have light concentrations of gold, a few have heavy concentrations. The chest also contains specimens of gold dust. All the samples were taken from gold diggings in New South Wales in 1851.

About this item: 

The following letters, previously housed with the relic, refer to this collection: 11 May, 1852 from J. Galloway to Sir Thomas Mitchell (Sp.417); 28 August, 1851 from W. R. Davidson to Sir Thomas Mitchell (Sp.357, see Archives List); 15 January 1921 from Lt. Col. T. Dauncey to the Secretary of the Mitchell Museum, Sydney with attached 'List of Specimens' (Sp.357); fragment, gold prices undated (Sp.357)

Gold chest belonging to Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell: 48 specimens of gold bearing rock in wooden chest
c.1851-1855
Digital ID: 
a1836001
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[Gold chest belonging to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, c.1851-1855] - 2
c.1851-1855
Mitchell, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1855
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Digital ID: 
a1836011
[Gold chest belonging to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, c.1851-1855] - 3
c.1851-1855
Mitchell, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1855
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Digital ID: 
a1836012
[Gold chest belonging to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, c.1851-1855] - 4
c.1851-1855
Mitchell, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1855
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Digital ID: 
a1836002
[Gold chest belonging to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, c.1851-1855] - 5
c.1851-1855
Mitchell, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1855
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Digital ID: 
a1836003
About this item: 

The following letters, previously housed with the relic, refer to this collection: 11 May, 1852 from J. Galloway to Sir Thomas Mitchell (Sp.417); 28 August, 1851 from W. R. Davidson to Sir Thomas Mitchell (Sp.357, see Archives List); 15 January 1921 from Lt. Col. T. Dauncey to the Secretary of the Mitchell Museum, Sydney with attached 'List of Specimens' (Sp.357); fragment, gold prices undated (Sp.357)

Gold chest belonging to Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell: 48 specimens of gold bearing rock in wooden chest - 6
c.1851-1855
Digital ID: 
a1836004
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About this item: 

The following letters, previously housed with the relic, refer to this collection: 11 May, 1852 from J. Galloway to Sir Thomas Mitchell (Sp.417); 28 August, 1851 from W. R. Davidson to Sir Thomas Mitchell (Sp.357, see Archives List); 15 January 1921 from Lt. Col. T. Dauncey to the Secretary of the Mitchell Museum, Sydney with attached 'List of Specimens' (Sp.357); fragment, gold prices undated (Sp.357)

Gold chest belonging to Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell: 48 specimens of gold bearing rock in wooden chest - 7
c.1851-1855
Digital ID: 
a1836005
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[Gold chest belonging to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, c.1851-1855] - 8
c.1851-1855
Sir Thomas Mitchell
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Digital ID: 
a1836006
[Gold chest belonging to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, c.1851-1855] - 9
c.1851-1855
Sir Thomas Mitchell
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Digital ID: 
a1836007
[Gold chest belonging to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, c.1851-1855] - 10
c.1851-1855
Sir Thomas Mitchell
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Digital ID: 
a1836008
[Gold chest belonging to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, c.1851-1855] - 11
c.1851-1855
Sir Thomas Mitchell
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Digital ID: 
a1836009
[Gold chest belonging to Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, c.1851-1855] - 12
c.1851-1855
Sir Thomas Mitchell
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Digital ID: 
a1836013

 

 

These adventurous diggers were some of the first to ski in the area, strapping wooden palings to their feet.

Canvas Towns


The canvas town of Ophir had materialised overnight as tents were set up along the hillsides. It was winter when the diggers first began to move into areas north of Bathurst along the Turon River. There were reports of heavy frost and rain which quickly turned the diggings to mud. Diggers then moved on through out New South Wales as new goldfields were being opened up.

Gold diggers moved from Sofala, Gulgong, Hill End and Bathurst in the Central West of NSW south to new diggings at Lambing Flat (Young), Braidwood, Tilba Tilba and Kiandra in the Snowy Mountains. The short-lived gold rush at Kiandra was waylaid with heavy snowfalls in 1860. 

On the diggings there were no class barriers. Physical strength, health and determination were attributes that would bring the most reward. The only social distinction was between the old chums and the new chums.

The old chums were native born, or had lived in the colony for a long time, possibly ex-convicts. They considered themselves superior to the new arrivals and enjoyed the prestige of being experienced diggers. New chums tried valiantly to keep up, working diligently on their appearance so they looked like old chums; wearing dirty, battered cabbage-tree hats, growing their beards and moustaches long and ensuring they were proficient in colonial swearing habits.

The diggings at Ophir Creek–near Bathurst, c.1852, by Richard Westmacott
1831-1852
Digital ID: 
a1143021
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The road to the Diggings at Bathurst, ca.1852, by Richard Westmacott
1831-1852
Digital ID: 
a1143022
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Goldwashing at Summerhill Creek, 1851 by George French Angas
Digital ID: 
a1837003
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Fitz Roy Bar, at the Junction of the two creeks, 1851 by George French Angas
Digital ID: 
a1837005
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Gold diggers arriving at Bathurst on their way to Ophir, 1851 by George French Angas
Digital ID: 
a1837009
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That's where the Commissioner put the peg, 1851 by George Lacy
Digital ID: 
a1837009
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Hullo! Jem, look here-Wow!! Won't we have a spree tonight, 1851 by George Lacy
Digital ID: 
a1837013
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Sketches in Australia: plates from G. F. Angas - six views of the gold field of Ophir ... Sydney, Woolcottt, and Clarke, 1851, and original sketches by G. Lacy - 14
Digital ID: 
a1837014
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Diggers / Tin Dish Washing and Cradling, 1874 by Samuel Thomas Gill
Digital ID: 
a128803
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About this item: 

When purchased from Maggs Bros in 1969 it was suggested by that company that these drawings may have been by Eugene von Guerard and indeed until 2007 his authorship of them was tentatively suggested. However a comparison with works by Edward La Trobe Bateman held in both the National Library of Australia and the State Library of Victoria show strong stylistic similarities between those works and these.

The Government Camp. May Day Hill, Ovens. Australia, ca. 1852-1881, attributed to Edward La Trobe Bateman View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a1359002
About this item: 

Originally catalogued as Mining camp at Bathurst / E. Tulloch, following Sir William Dixson's title and attribution. The artist E. Tulloch is otherwise unknown; the painting has subsequently been attributed to David Tulloch, an illustrator and engraver who is known to have made sketches of the Victorian goldfields. For further information, see: The Dictionary of Australian artists : painters, sketchers, photographers and engravers to 1870 / edited by Joan Kerr. Melbourne : Oxford University Press, 1992

Mining camp, Victoria or New South Wales, ca. 1855-60 by David Tulloch View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a928817
[Goldminer], 1861, by J. Anderson
Digital ID: 
a128879
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Gold diggings, Ararat, c.1855, by Edward Roper
Digital ID: 
a928798
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Sketches in Australia: plates from G. F. Angas - six views of the gold field of Ophir ... Sydney, Woolcottt, and Clarke, 1851, and original sketches by G. Lacy - 15
Digital ID: 
a1837015
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Initially alcohol was prohibited on the diggings and sly grog tents appeared along the gold fields. Owners caught selling illegally were given a 50 pound fine and a possible gaol term and had their stock confiscated. However, the demand on the goldfields was too tempting and the sly grog tents proliferated along the diggings. Eventually the government gave up its prohibition and granted licenses. Spirits were allowed to be sold by public houses which had officially paid the license fee to sell liquor. Pubs on or near the goldfields were successful as long as diggers were striking successful loads of gold in the area. After a few weeks steady business, the pub would have recouped the expensive license fee of around 100 pounds per year.

The one government measure to prevent chaos on the gold fields and a total exodus from the cities was to institute the licensing system for miners.

Accounts

Each goldfield had a butcher’s shop and many grog shops (sometimes canvas tents). A digger’s diet consisted of steak or mutton fried in fat for every meal with plenty of bread. Tea was the standard drink. A high-calorie intake was required for long hours of physical labour. Watered-down milk for coffee and fresh bread was delivered to miners each morning – with the price considerably more for the new chums recently arrived.

Ellen Clacy visited Australia with her brother in 1852. Her lively account of her travels was published on her return to London in 1853. Visiting Australia at the height of the rush, her observations on the diggings and the diggers provide a fascinating social history. She describes the food available on the diggings and the high costs of basic provisions. 

Staples such as flour, tea, sugar and other foodstuffs had increased greatly in cost.

A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - Cover
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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a1840001
A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.1
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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a1840003
A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.2
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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a1840004
A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.3
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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a1840005
A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.4
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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a1840006
A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.5
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.6
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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a1840008
A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.7
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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a1840009
A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.8
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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a1840010
A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.9
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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a1840011
A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.10
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.11
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.12
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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A lady's visit to the gold diggings of Australia, in 1852-53 : written on the spot / by Mrs. Charles Clacy. - p.13
1853
Clacy, Charles Mrs.
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a1840015

 

William Anderson Cawthorn

William Anderson Cawthorne was born in London in 1825. He was an artist, author, and schoolmaster. Immigrating to South Australia with his parents in 1841, he opened a school in Currie Street, Adelaide and in 1852 became headmaster of Pulteney Grammar School. He taught until 1862 when he became founder and secretary of the National Building Society. He is particularly remembered for his strong interest in and knowledge of Indigenous Australians and published a number of works on their history, traditions and customs.

As a young man, Cawthorne recorded his observations on the gold rush and how Adelaide had been affected by the rush to Victoria. He notes that 'Everything is horribly dear in Adelaide' and of the sharp reduction in population due to the rush to the goldfields. On December 12 he wrote,

'Adelaide is in an awful state everybody leaving it - for the gold diggings at Mt Alexander - Ballarat - Men there are getting fortunes - in a few weeks - men… going away -  leaving their wives & children behind - the Cads - work of all kinds is stopped' 


Despite his criticism of men leaving to go in search of gold, Cawthorne too travelled to the Victorian goldfields via Melbourne to try his hand. However after only a few weeks, he returned home to Adelaide, unwell and penniless.

Transcript: 

Dec 12   Adelaide is in an awful state everybody leaving it – for the gold diggings at Mt Alexander  - Ballarat – Men there are getting fortunes – in a few weeks – men are [indecipherable] on going away – leaving their wives & children behind – the Cads – work of all kinds is stopped – people are becoming insolvent right & left – altogether dreadful –

The most expanding excitement prevails  hundreds are leaving for the Victorian Gold diggings - & hundreds are making their fortune in a few weeks, this town is in a most distressed state. No money – no people   many insolvencies –

Dec 24

31 people just returned from the diggings 
Over a few weeks, some 4 or 5, got £600. – they return merely in [indecipherable] of ‘no water’ – 6d a pint. –

[Page 2]
Anecdote of dogs

Anecdote – About 90 or 100 miles S is the Biscuit plain – forms a most extensive flat of several miles – in length & breadth - & during the last severe winter – have been unprecedently overflowed – forming a lake of water varying from inches to several feet deep near open  70 miles – less – Through this lake – the overlanders  whether horseman or drays have to wade  about 3 a h weeks ago – a dray came through it - & belonging to it were 2 dogs a little & a big one – the big one managed pretty well – now walking then swimming – but owing to the depth of the water – the little dog after swimming, without scarce any [indecipherable] – for two days – as men reached a little knoll or island where they rested – both wearied to death On the morrow – they allowed the dray to proceed – the man thinking they’d follow – the big dog followed – swimming - & looking back to see the little dog trying to follow & it could not – it actually returned back - & ultimately died with his companion – both being found dead some two or 3 days after.


Dec 24. Adelaide is nearly ruined all are off to the Diggings – great remains of diggings being here - - but plenty [indecipherable] – Burra shares are very low – All sorts of reports about the one universal talk is – off to the diggings – I am going to the diggings - off to the diggings tomorrow   Goodbye off to the diggings – ‘diggings’ etc – from pulpit to the [indecipherable]

Selection from William Anderson Cawthorne diary, 1849-1859 Manuscript View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a1846054
Transcript: 

New Year

Jany 3d 1852 – Just returned from a trip to Port Elliot - Goolwer – Sea mouth of the Murray - & Currency Creek – wretched roads – bushed it all the time - & plenty of rain – the furthest point about 80 miles – a wild desolate place.
A new year!  -  Ah! A new year – it is a sad new year – every thing dull & gloomy in Adelaide and prospects very bad.  All gone gold seeking – a very bad state of things many private houses – have chalked up -  “gone to the diggings” – The same with shops – What shall happen to me in the next? - where shall I lie?   Will I go to the land of gold! I think not – I cannot write any reflections – because my mind, as well as my [indecipherable] prospects are so unsettled – if this coming year is as good as the past one – I shall have a considerable amount perhaps £ 50 – in my pocket – but alas! Affairs are very gloomy   The colonies are always up or down – you never know – how one month will be with another profits are so high – speculation so rife & credit so extensive – that any risks are undertaken – a moral indifference also as to results pervades the man. – Insolvencies are confirmed - & the Bill system continued  What am I better this year than the last? – do I love the world more? – Am I nearer the other world? – have I risen or fallen – more a devil or a God? –

[Page 4]

Gold!  Off to the Diggings –

Gold! Gold! Gold! – all for gold – Butchers – bakers – miners – hawkers – fishers – grocers – tailers – workmen – schoolmasters – clerks – officers – all! All! “for the diggings’ – many have come back everyone from £ 50 to £ 500 & this in a few weeks – some 3 some 6 or 8 weeks all off again with their families – the ministers are even going   The Wesleyan Sunday School indecipherable] has closed for want of teachers – the revenue has fallen to half the amount – Thousands are going shops are shutting – houses emptying  - money scarce – we gain the whole world & lose our own souls –

Jany 19 1852 – I am off to the Diggings!!!!!! – who would have thought it – but all are going – great & small – no exception  the colony is ruined   Sub officers going off salaries of £ 300 & £ 350 – to go – I leave my school (?) with my wife & mother – who cannot stand these times – we must go – there is no help. God grant I may be successful – The av: gains is £ 40 per week –
     -----
Jany 27th Off today – Curse the Gold Diggings – that caused some to riot.  All for a supposed fortune.

Selection from William Anderson Cawthorne diary, 1849-1859 Manuscript View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a1846055
Transcript: 

(Sketch of the diggings)
gold diggings

Feby. 24. 1852 – Returned – pennyless & ill with rheumatism - & dreadfully debilitated – Reported to have been a corpse – my wife & mother came to fetch me either dead or at the point of death – abandoned all at the Diggings & returned to Adelaide. – Abstract of the Adventure. 4 days on the voyage – heavy gale all the way – very sick – watched the horse night & day – had nothing to eat but salt horse – & filthy mutton   went on shore at Melbourne on Sunday night – at last found a lodging – bad – next day lived upon bread & water – I saw a woman murdered in the street slept on wet ground on the Yarra river – next day fared no better – slept d(itt)o; next day started for the Diggings – 80 miles away – had to stump it – pushing the cart up the hills - & holding on down the hills – bad roads worse water – very hot & very cold – rascally company – looseness of life horrid drunkenness – plenty of revolvers - & guns & shooting – got to the diggings such a sight – gold working & sinking in holes 25ft-30ft deep & in the morning, got ill – spasms & Rheumatism – no water –  returned 2 days there – saw enough – 2 days back spent them with an out & out blackguard – applied for a situation – did not get it – came back. 

[Page 6]

was 14 days coming – a job of wind, driven 100 miles out of the way – off to the S. pole – broke sails – bad food – very ill – got to Adelaide very debilitated & very hungry – mother & wife rushed down to the Port – heard I was dying – thanked god, I was back – but very ill – head all in a whirl – bad for a week afterwards - & now Feb [indecipherable]  March 5 – tolerably well – I was generally reported to have died – all the Diggers are liars – Adelaide in an awful state all gone – my school gone – no men – no children, no money –

Thursday March 18. Gold fever yet hundreds going – scores returning with gold & various excess, things very bad - I not heard that 18 sheep are dead & that 82 have the foot rot.! I am highly distracted – as I am paying to the Society 7/- per week for them – them in foul play.

April 1. fool day – I was a fool – in more ways than one. Mother has just gone Tuesday Mar: 30.1852. to Kangaroo Island to live with Mr C. – rather to take care of him I was going, but at the 11 hour decided not – my school requires nursing - & not running to & fro – Cape Willoughby – is a grey place - & the communications with very little – few & far between – shall perhaps not see them for months perhaps a year or so – poor mother how she is knocked about with Noah’s dire - can find no food whatever in the “Yatala” –

Selection from William Anderson Cawthorne diary, 1849-1859 Manuscript View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a1846056
Transcript: 

Gold fever not abated – though the spirits are not quite so favourable, the colony is in a very middling state – An escort under [indecipherable] will in future go regular to Mt Alexander, it last time brought about 7 cwt of Gold – there is now est: an Assay office – & the Govt price is £3-11- per oz.   In Melbourne I hear it is only £2-19-6 The flash brought yesterday[indecipherable] 5000 oz. The diggers only come over for a spell & then return – but the winter will cut them up.

Another day – rather poorly – when I am out & out well? – if I am well in the body, I am ill in the mind - arminianism or catholicism – calvinism, or puseyism or some other ism – worrying me to death – Descartes says – Cogito ergo sum – & what led to this – because –  my very doubting the existence of things – makes me know that I can doubt – I go further – I doubt that my doubts are doubts – funny – where then the starting point of certainty – There is no certainty – all is belief – dear me! This is a profound subject nay it is a silly subject – Locke has exposed this admirably – alas! I want a place to give utterance – I “bide my time” – I always read several books at a time – I am reading now – “Life of Cortes”, “Travels in Mexico”, “Evilina” – “Philosophy (Biography of & “State Trials.” – besides miscellaneous writings.
Good Friday. April 9 1852 – preached a Sermon to my blackguard congregation – attentive 55 males & 5 females: miners – if it had not been for me

[Page 8]

they all might have whistled for a Service – so much over the pound;550 – care about the matter – it was the first Good Friday sermon & service ever held there – at the Gaol. - how odd – praises & curses to proceed out of the same mouth! – 5 whores – who but to say – how their mouths full of blasphemies – too unutterable – singing to God “come loud anthems let us sing” – strange – can sweet & bitter come from the same spring? –   

Adelaide has got a slight start again – about £200,000 worth of gold was is now in the colony – yet 100’s are going away & 100’s purpose to follow – no new buildings – a public works going on – the trade is confined to various shops – whether of clothes or eatables – the diggings are all the go – had great anxiety about the New Ord: (Ed:) not appointed yet – & this month is the last of the old [indecipherable] Ord: I wrote once & was required to write again – I did so – I am afraid it would come out - & if so – I shall lose £40  [indecipherable]

Have heard the Miss Cooks are undergoing the painful operations of removing 1 cancer & 1 tumour –
Tuesday – The first dawn of luck has befallen to me this day – viz. I was told (confidentially) by Dr Wyatt – that the Govt intend to appoint me one of a member of the new Ed: Board! I have been writing about this to them – but scarcely imagined I should be so favoured – let me only get my foot into Govt employ I’ll guarantee they’ll I’ll not go backward I have striven hard enough – & what I get I’ll not lose – I was very thankful. 

Selection from William Anderson Cawthorne diary, 1849-1859 Manuscript View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a1846057

'there is nothing suitable here - such a rowdy lot of Women, I would not get married in this country for fear I should never get out of it.' 

Andrew Clunie

Englishman Andrew Clunie wrote diligently to his mother and sister back home in London between 1856 and 1865. His nineteen letters tell of the experiences of one immigrant who intended to go gold mining, but diversified into other businesses such as shoemaking and operating a ferry to supplement his income from gold digging. All these ventures met with little success, likewise his search for an appropriate wife.

In his last letter, dated 1864, he announces he has booked his passage home.

Transcript: 

Adelong Diggings 
July 11th 58

My Dear Mother
I received your letter a week or two back but have been too unsettled to reply till this present time. I am pleased at your writing I value it highly. I am now at Adelong Quartz reef Murrumbidgee 300 miles from Sydney and about 200 from where I wrote you last it took me a month to get here. I am doing nothing very grand, many doing better many worse, but I am still in hopes

Clunie Family - Letters from Andrew Clunie, 1856-1865 Manuscript - p.1
1856-1865
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a1844053
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of fortune. I have been here four months, I have just completed my building, a calico affair, it consists of a frame work in the shape of a dog kennel covered with calico and a large fly at top and forms a verandah, in front is a chimney built of sods at bottom, then bark with an old gunpowder barrel for a chimney pot, it is a comfortable affair and much admired.
Dear Sister I should have liked a few lines from you in reply to mine but I suppose you thought dear Mothers' sufficient. I am in first rate

Clunie Family - Letters from Andrew Clunie, 1856-1865 Manuscript - p.2
1856-1865
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health, I have just spent what I had in the undertaking, it is coming back in dribs and drabs. I have had no opportunity of sending what you requested but I wont forget it Dear Mother I have no opportunity of sending you a present just now there being no post from here but rely on it my poor dear Mother is always uppermost in my thoughts, try and be tranquil and dear Mother don't worry and fret if you don't hear from me so quick as you would wish, I am

Clunie Family - Letters from Andrew Clunie, 1856-1865 Manuscript - p.3
1856-1865
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in strong health and live like a fighting cock and doing very well. I hoped to have returned by this time but I cant return empty handed, things are getting very bad in the colony, large meetings of unemployed at Sydney and Port Phillip in fact the country's overdone. I hope this will find you all in good health your letters being so scant has left me nothing to reply to. My kind love to all

I remain your affectionate son 
Andrew Clunie
Love to all at Brompton

Clunie Family - Letters from Andrew Clunie, 1856-1865 Manuscript - p.4
1856-1865
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South Gundagai NSW 
Jan 17th 62

My Dear Sister
I received your letter of May 13th this morning and as the Mail for England leaves tomorrow the 18th I have just time to write you a few lines. I have not sufficient time to get the necessary papers from the Bankers for a remittance I have to send you, but the first of the series shall come by the next Mail but I could not let another Mail depart without writing to you, Dear Sister your news is indeed disturbing. I dare not ask how you have lived but it does seem strange to me that you should delay writing so long after what I told you in my letter. I am so glad to hear my poor Mother is well, you ask do I ever see an English paper! very seldom but the extracts are generally in the Colonial

Clunie Family - Letters from Andrew Clunie, 1856-1865 Manuscript
1856-1865
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a1844004
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papers, sometime I get hold of a Lloyds and it amuses me greatly to go through the columns of advertisements and read how a sure fortune is to be made by taking a fried fish or Beer shop & coming in about 20£ particularly when I know the locality so well, or some rubbish about Australia but if you can send a cheap paper occasionally do but I did not like to ask you when you have so much trouble at Home. Dear Sister you ask am I married, I am not that is what I intend coming home for to get a wife, there is nothing suitable here - such a rowdy lot of Women, I would not get married in this country for fear I should never get out of it. I am in good hearth in the same situation. I have a comfortable little hut on ground (I have that Priviledge on account of the ferry) there is plenty of game and no game laws and my dogs and gun I find an excellent substitute for a wife. I could be very happy

Clunie Family - Letters from Andrew Clunie, 1856-1865 Manuscript
1856-1865
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if you were so, however I send you a small sum it will be on the way long before you receive this and in the meantime I will think well what can be done, when you write direct as usual but of course you need not write until you receive the next I hope this will find you all in good health and Charles quite recovered. Dear Sister so sure and unexpected as I came to this country so surely will I return providing the Almighty spares me but I will not come in poverty to work for a bob a day and grub. Give my kind love to my poor dear Mother Aunt Sarah and all at Brompton accept the same for yourself, so no more at present from –

Your affectionate Brother
Andrew Clunie

Clunie Family - Letters from Andrew Clunie, 1856-1865 Manuscript
1856-1865
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South Gundagai Nov. 16th 1864

My dear Sister
I have received your letter. I am so glad, I have been in the most dreadful suspense not knowing whether you have received my letter or not, and the time draws near for my departure. I have not received the paper yet the letter have just arrived and the down Mail starts at 9am. Tomorrow they don't bring the papers with the letters, they wait a convenient opportunity to send the papers. I shall get them no doubt, I send you a paper by this mail.

Clunie Family - Letters from Andrew Clunie, 1856-1865 Manuscript
1856-1865
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a1844070
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Dear Sister it is my fixed determination to come and if possible to remain but we will talk that over by and by, this country is now in a frightful state, the harvest fail'd last year and appears likely to fail this year, the roads are infested by bands of armed Bushrangers that people are afraid to travel, the Mail was robb'd twice last week, again yesterday Friday and this day was sent down by a guard and the news has just arrived that the Sergeant in command is shot dead.  O this will

Clunie Family - Letters from Andrew Clunie, 1856-1865 Manuscript
1856-1865
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be a fine country when it is fenced in. I take from the papers occasionally the case of emigrants newly arrived, who after walking about for some time unable to get employment commit suicide from sheer despair. I shall leave in January for Sydney or Melbourne. I shall take a good Ship and a fast one. I shall be like Old Wellers stage coach carry very little luggage. Dear Sister you need not reply to this there will be no time, and rest assured that if the Almighty

Clunie Family - Letters from Andrew Clunie, 1856-1865 Manuscript
1856-1865
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spares me I will be with you in the spring. I leave this Colony without regret. I hope God will spare my Poor Mother yet a little longer and that he will bless and protect you and your family. I shall write again shortly. I have much more to say but for the Present I must conclude with my kind and lasting love to you all

Your Affectionate Brother
Andrew Clunie

Clunie Family - Letters from Andrew Clunie, 1856-1865 Manuscript
1856-1865
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This story has been developed with the support of the State Library of NSW Foundation.

We would like to acknowledge the generosity of St Barbara Ltd.