This section is from the book "Robbery Under Arms; A Story Of Life And Adventure In The Bush And In The Australian Goldfields", by Rolf Boldrewood. Also available from Amazon: Robbery under Arms; a story of life and adventure in the bush and in the Australian goldfields.
WONDERFUL DISCOVERY OF GOLD AT THE TURON.
We have much pleasure in informing our numerous constituents that gold, similar in character and value to that of San Francisco, has been discovered on the Turon River by those energetic and experienced practical miners, Messrs. Hargraves and party. The method of cradling is the same, the appliances required are simple and inexpensive, and the proportional yield of gold highly reassuring. It is impossible to forecast the results of this most momentous discovery. It will revolutionise the new world. It will liberate the old. It will precipitate Australia into a nation.
Meanwhile numberless inconveniences, even privations, will arise -- to be endured unflinchingly -- to be borne in silence. But courage, England, we have hitherto achieved victory.
This news about the gold breaking out in such a place as the Turon made a great difference in our notions. We hardly knew what to think at first. The whole country seemed upside down. Warrigal used to sneak out from time to time, and come back open-mouthed, bringing us all sorts of news. Everybody, he said, was coming up from Sydney. There would be nobody left there but the Governor. What a queer start -- the Governor sitting lonely in a silent Government House, in the middle of a deserted city! We found out that it was true after we'd made one or two short rides out ourselves. Afterwards the police had a deal too much to do to think of us. We didn't run half the chance of being dropped on to that we used to do. The whole country was full of absconders and deserters, servants, shepherds, shopmen, soldiers, and sailors -- all running away from their work, and making in a blind sort of way for the diggings, like a lot of caterpillars on the march.
We had more than half a notion about going there ourselves, but we turned it over in our minds, and thought it wouldn't do. We should be sure to be spotted anywhere in New South Wales. All the police stations had our descriptions posted up, with a reward in big letters on the door. Even if we were pretty lucky at the start we should always be expecting them to drop on us. As it was, we should have twenty times the chance among the coaches, that were sure to be loaded full up with men that all carried cash, more or less; you couldn't travel then in the country without it. We had twice the pull now, because so many strangers, that couldn't possibly be known to the police, were straggling over all the roads. There was no end of bustle and rush in every line of work and labour. Money was that plentiful that everybody seemed to be full of it. Gold began to be sent down in big lots, by the Escort, as it was called -- sometimes ten thousand ounces at a time. That was money if you liked -- forty thousand pounds! -- enough to make one's mouth water -- to make one think dad's prophecy about the ten thousand pounds wasn't so far out after all.
Just at the start most people had a kind of notion that the gold would only last a short time, and that things would be worse than before. But it lasted a deal longer than any of us expected. It was 1850 that I'm talking about. It's getting on for 1860 now, and there seems more of it about than ever there was.
Most of our lives we'd been used to the southern road, and we kept to it still. It wasn't right in the line of the gold diggings, but it wasn't so far off. It was a queer start when the news got round about to the other colonies, after that to England, and I suppose all the other old world places, but they must have come by ship-loads, the road was that full of new chums -- we could tell 'em easy by their dress, their fresh faces, their way of talk, their thick sticks, and new guns and pistols. Some of them you'd see dragging a hand-cart with another chap, and they having all their goods, tools, and clothes on it. Then there'd be a dozen men, with a horse and cart, and all their swags in it. If the horse jibbed at all, or stuck in the deep ruts -- and wasn't it a wet season? -- they'd give a shout and a rush, and tear out cart and horse and everything else. They told us that there were rows of ships in Sydney Harbour without a soul to take care of them; that the soldiers were running away to the diggings just as much as the sailors; clergymen and doctors, old hands and new chums, merchants and lawyers. They all seemed as if they couldn't keep away from the diggings that first year for their lives.
All stock went up double and treble what they were before. Cattle and sheep we didn't mind about. We could do without them now. But the horse market rose wonderfully, and that made a deal of odds to us, you may be sure.
It was this way. Every man that had a few pounds wanted a horse to ride or drive; every miner wanted a wash-dirt cart and a horse to draw it. The farmer wanted working horses, for wasn't hay sixty or seventy pounds a ton, and corn what you liked to ask for it? Every kind of harness horse was worth forty, fifty, a hundred pounds apiece, and only to ask it; some of 'em weedy and bad enough, Heaven knows. So between the horse trade and the road trade we could see a fortune sticking out, ready for us to catch hold of whenever we were ready to collar.