Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XV page 5

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)

Before leaving the subject of the Dargo High Plains, a story may be related here showing how a solitary constable may be called upon to undertake at times a very serious piece of business. The remains of a miner were found in the hut of another miner who was known as the Cranky German. The body had been hacked to pieces and placed in various kerosene tins in the German’s fireplace. None of the residents dared to approach the murderer, who wandered about threateningly, carrying a long handled shovel. Constable Lloyd, known in later years as orderly sergeant in Melbourne to the Chief Secretary, came on the scene. The Cranky German had taken to the plains, and when Lloyd approached, ‘went’ for him with his shovel. The constable might have used his revolver, but he preferred to capture his man alive. Jumping aside, he avoided some downward blows delivered by the German, then a sweeping horizontal blow meant to cut the constable’s head off was dodged, and when the swing of the long handled shovel brought the German round with his back to Lloyd the latter quickly had him down and the handcuffs on. The accused when tried for murder was defended by a local solicitor and, although manifestly quite insane, was hanged, while a man who was also convicted of a very deliberate murder about the same time, at Moe, was reprieved. One curious thing about this latter case was - that the reprieve was announced in the Melbourne press almost before the sittings of the Court were closed.


The Grant and Omeo mines took second place after the Walhalla group, consisting of the Walhalla, Wellesley, North Gippsland, Long Tunnel, Empress and other companies. Gippslanders in the middle and later sixties talked of nothing else but these mines. Walhalla is situated in a deep ravine along which runs Stringer’s Creek, an insignificant watercourse, the bed of which formed the only available dray track, for the ranges on either side approached quite close together. The name Walhalla must have been given in irony, for in its original state the place would have been more appropriately called Avernus. The story of the discovery of the reef is curious. A mounted constable was on the lookout for some men - one of them named Stringer, it is said - who were stripping wattle-bark without a license. These he chased into the scrub, where he could not follow. The men made their way up the creek, and after enduring some hardships came to a spot where they found a reef showing gold at the surface. The news soon spread, and a trial crushing was made by a man named McArdell, who reported 20 ounces to the ton. McArdell must have dropped upon a rich patch, or else his estimate was wrong, for further trials failed to confirm fully his report. The returns were, however, good enough to excite speculation, and the ground was quickly marked out. The shares were mostly taken up by local men - Gairdner, Pearson, R Firebrace, Clements, and others. One claim, the ‘Walhalla’, under the management of Mr Henry Rosales, one of the best known experts of the day, showed such good prospects from the start the Bank of Victoria financed it without calling on the shareholders to contribute anything, with the result that the first crushing paid all preliminary expenses. It is said that the shareholders never had to pay a single call. But this had its drawbacks, for, when the scrip was issued, although the monthly dividends reached as much as ₤7 per share, speculators were shy of purchasing shares with a liability of ₤10. It was only a matter of bookkeeping however, for by crediting the shareholders with the profits as against the liability for calls, new scrip, fully paid, was issued without a single penny being taken out of the pockets of the shareholders, and the shares jumped up to a market price of something like ₤250 each. One man, a mechanic connected with the mine, held one hundred shares. He gave up work and retired to city life, drawing ₤700 per month. When calling at the General Post Office each month for his cheque, he would be followed close by a crowd of parasites. The pace was too fast, and the lucky shareholder before long passed away into the darkness.


The greatest by far of all this group of mines, the greatest mine I believe in the Commonwealth, is the Long Tunnel. As showing how eager speculators then were, I bought some shares at ₤12, my first mining investment. I could have them for ₤10 a day or two before, and still the market price kept steadily rising. I had the singular experience, for me, of growing richer through this unearned increment at the rate of several thousands a year. For one whose normal income was strictly limited, the situation was interesting.

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