Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter V page 2

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)

We cadets were all non-experts in those days (February, 1853), and our methods no doubt were crude and unscientific. In the efforts to find the man who had murdered Maunsell, I remember being led with several others from one place to another by Fox, our commandant. Fox had no definite plan except to rush unannounced into any tent where noisy of rowdy conduct was going on. It was night, and we had to be careful lest we should tumble into some unprotected shaft. In one very large tent we heard the sound of fighting, and could see the shadows of the men inside thrown upon the canvas walls. Fox ranged his party round the tent with instructions that at a given signal each man should cut an entrance for himself. At the signal this was done, and we found ourselves looking on at a prize fight, one of the combatants just at this moment being knocked out. The winner, whom all addressed as Yorkie, was stripped to his waist and was still shaping with his fists. He showed such biceps as I had never seen on human being before. I came close beside him and desired him to be quiet. In a perfect good humour and without apparent effort a nudge from his elbow sent me staggering away, and when I again approached him he said, in quite a fatherly way, “Young man, you’ll get hurt, if you don’t mind.” Our leader decided that Maunsell’s murderer was not one of the company. All effort failed to find the man we were searching for, who, as was discovered later, had made his way to some South American port, and was there lost sight of altogether. That he, the companion of the dead man, should have been marked down as the real culprit seemed to justify our interpretation of the words so often repeated by the dying man, and some of us felt inclined to be rather conceited in ourselves in consequence. The lot of others of my fellow-travellers by the Great Britain was not so pitiable. Amongst them were four steerage passengers whose names I have quite forgotten, shop assistants who came to Victoria to seek their way to the goldfields. Although quite unused to hard manual labour, it fell out that their successes at Ballarat, whither they had gone, dispelled the delusion that gold deposits there were exhausted as many people thought even in the early weeks of 1853. Being unused to pick and shovel work, they chose a piece of ground on which they found an abandoned shaft some sixty feet deep. They had already learnt the art of fixing a windlass procured from another abandoned shaft, and after a few hours’ work they struck a mass of golden quartz nearly 100lbs. weight. The value of the find must have approached ₤4000, and the men wisely determined to ship it to London instead of disposing of it at local prices.

I happened to be on the camp when the men brought in this great nugget, and sympathised with its owners, when Mr Green, the gold receiver, refused to take delivery of it, on the ground that some quartz was mixed with it. The men dared not take it back to their tent now that the find was made public. Good old Henry Foster at length came to the rescue, and allowed the men to place their treasure in a corner of the guard-tent, but at the owners’ risk, until it could be sent away by the next escort. It appeared afterwards that these men returned to England with their treasure, and there exhibited the nugget in its rough state at the Great Globe in Leicester-square. The fact that four men, within five or six months from the time they left Liverpool, were able to show such tangible proof of their success must have given a fresh fillip to the excitement already existing at home, and had turned many eyes towards Victoria the Golden. The news here of this rich discovery brought a great crowd of wandering diggers to Ballarat, and led to the discovery within a few weeks of such leads as The Gravel Pits, Eureka, Brown Hill, Winter’s Flat, and Canadian Gully.

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