The Last of the Bushrangers Chapter 1 page 2

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Story of the KellyGang - the Sup Hare's book

The Last of the Bushrangers.

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The Last of the Bushrangers by Sup Hare

(full text transcription)

Early Days in Melbourne

After staying in Sydney a few months I returned to Melbourne with two mates whom I had picked up there, one a fellow passenger I met going to Sydney . The voyage lasted seventeen days. My other mate was a runaway convict from Norfolk Island . He had been employed as workman and gardener in my other mate's family, and was a very hard working old scoundrel. Melbourne at this time was a place to be remembered; the scenes that occurred in the streets and in the hotels would hardly be credited. The principal objects throughout the day to be seen in Collins and Bourke Streets were wedding-parties. Diggers used to come from the diggings with pounds' weight of gold, for the purpose, as they called it, of "knocking it down,” and they managed to do this in a marvellously short space of time. You would hear of a man calling for two or three dozen of champagne (£1 per bottle), throwing it into a tub, and having a bath in it. Again, men would call for two slices of bread, put a ten pound note between them, and eat the note and bread as a sandwich. Hardly a day passed without seeing six or seven wedding-parties driving up and down Collins Street, dressed in most gorgeous attire. It was said the same women were married to different men over and over again. When the man had spent all his money he would go back to the diggings to make another "pile," and when he had made it he would return to Melbourne . In those days there were no hotels, theatres, or places of amusement on the diggings, and any one who wanted any enjoyment had to run down to Melbourne. Gold was easily got — a man had only to sink a hole from four to twenty feet deep, and if he was on the "lead," the probabilities were he would get some pounds' weight of gold. At this time it was most difficult to secure any accommodation in Melbourne . You might offer any sum of money you thought fit, and yet not procure a corner to sleep in. I happened to get a bed at Hockin's Hotel, at the corner of Lonsdale and Elizabeth streets. I was awakened in the night hearing some one who was being garroted calling out for help; but help there was none. The colony was infested with convicts from the other colonies, and the most daring robberies in the streets of Melbourne were of nightly occurrence.

Days at the Diggings

My two mates and I started with our swags on our backs from Melbourne to Bendigo, and camped out all the way up. The roads were very bad, and it was impossible to get a conveyance, so we humped our swags. As we went we joined in with large parties of men, all bound in the same direction as we were, for the purpose of our mutual safety. All along the road we heard of gangs of bushrangers sticking up parties of men. The dreaded spot on the road was the Black Forest , between Gisborne and Woodend. Having passed that we were tolerably safe. It took us eight days to reach Bendigo , and we pitched our tents on Golden Gully. Our first duty was to take out a licence to dig for gold, which cost us 30s. each, and then to sink a hole, which we bottomed, and took two or three ounces of gold. We then sank another, but were not so successful. About this time a new rush broke out at a place not far from Golden Gully, called Kangaroo Flat. We left our tent pitched in the same place, and went off to peg out a piece of ground, and set to work to sink a hole. This we bottomed, but it was also a " shicer." We sank another, and found it a little better, and got a few ounces out of it. All the diggers were very unsettled. It was the general belief that a mountain of gold would be discovered, and every one was anxious to be first in the rush, so as to mark out a portion of the mountain. Rumours of new finds frequently reached us, but those that were far off always appeared the most attractive somehow.

I must give some idea of the life on the diggings in those days. The parties consisted of from three to six men. One had to cook for the week, turn about. The leads of gold were always found in three gullies, and on each side of these gullies the diggers pitched their tents. Every party was provided with firearms, and at night it was the custom to fire off and reload them after dark. It was a peculiar sight to see the fires lighted all round each tent, and the diggers sitting about, and many of them having lighted candles as well. Bendigo in those days consisted of an irregular number of stores and tents erected where Sandhurst is now built. My ex convict mate turned out to be an excellent workman, and would do anything for me. He always volunteered to undertake my part of the cooking, and was famous for his "damper," which was baked in the ashes. As there were no bakers in those days we had to bake our own bread. There was a quartz reef in Ironbark Gully, at the back of Bendigo . On Sundays we went there with a hammer and broke off a handkerchief full of specimens, which were quartz covered with gold. This reef belonged to no one, and any one might have taken possession of it. Quartz crushing was unknown in those days, and I believe since then this same reef has yielded several hundred thousand pounds' worth of gold.

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