Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter V page 4

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)


Here is a description of proceedings that came under my own observation, indeed under my own direction as officer in charge of the police party engaged. Commissioner Johnstone, under whose authority the police were acting, was present on the occasion. This description in its general features stands good for every expedition of the kind that I have been engaged in.

The scene was Canadian Gully in 1853, a narrow strip of country less than a quarter of a mile in length, looking as if it had been cut out of the virgin forest. The excitement began when the diggers found themselves surrounded by a cordon of police. Some disappeared down into the 'shafts' where, unless they found tunnels in which to hide, they were soon discovered; others made a dash for the forest. There were touches of comedy in the proceedings. Some of the runaways seemed not overanxious to get away, for they halted behind the first tree they reached, where the pursuing constable found them so occupied that he had necessarily to wait their convenience. These men always had their licenses, but the delay enabled friends who had none to escape.

A standing rule on such occasions was, that any person was free to come within the cordon of police, but no one must pass out on the other side. The police line included a portion of the main road to Ballarat. Johnstone and I were on horseback within the police line, overlooking proceedings, when a stranger also on horseback came up and addressed us. He was greatly interested in what was going on, and asked what it all meant. He was delighted at seeing a 'digger hunt', a sketch of which he had seen in the Illustrated London News just before sailing for Australia, and to witness the scene in real life so soon after landing was a piece of good luck he had never expected. He told us he was a medical man who had come to join Dr Rankin of Buninyong in his practice. When he passed on I thought I saw the Commissioner wink. There was rather a large haul; not one of the victims, not even the newly arrived doctor, but had to pay his fine of five pounds.

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