Sunday, June 1, 2014

Reminiscences of the Ballarat Goldfield by J. Graham Smith.

Reminiscences of the Ballarat Goldfield by J. Graham Smith.  Hardcover book published by Pick Point 2002, 229 pages with some black and white illustrations.

“James Graham Smith’s writing begins with his landing in Melbourne from Glasgow with his mates. What follows are his adventures gold digging, contact with bush rangers, ex-convicts, troopers, squatters, gentry, love, theft, murder, mystery, mateship, hard times and good, and the interesting every day folk who came to Ballarat from all over the world in the search for gold. The period Smith writes about is from 1852, and includes the events before, during amid after the battle at the Eureka Stockade.”

Gold plays an important part in the history of Victoria, particularly around Central Victoria and even more particularly around Ballarat and Bendigo.  Without gold, a village like Clunes (the home of Huc & Gabet, and just a hop, skip and jump away from Ballarat) would probably not even exist, or if it did, it probably wouldn’t have some of the awesome civic buildings that it has today*.

James Graham Smith was one of the early arrivals to Ballarat and fortunately he had the inclination to write about his experiences later in life.  Sadly, he didn’t live long enough to see his meisterwerk in print. The Eureka Stockade was one of the experiences that Smith experienced and it was also an important event in the history of Ballarat and Victoria… and Australia.  (For those not up with the whole Eureka Stockade thingy, click here.)  Smith didn’t just write about Eureka, he also wrote about the everyday life on the goldfields which is something of great interest to many Australians for whom their ancestors experiences are a vague blur on the family tree.  I always imagine 1850s Victoria was a bit like Deadwood but with less glitz and glamour and from what I can tell James Graham Smith has avoided using Deadwood type expletives… although I’m sure he would have wanted to.

* Goldrush prosperity = awesome civic buildings  

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