Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Golden Age departure for Australia July 12 1854

There was much to-ing and fro-ing between Natal and Australia during the mid to late 19th c. Byrne settlers, disillusioned by conditions found in Natal, set off for the Australian fields. Some returned to try again. Australians were tempted by the South African gold and diamond fields, like those who sailed on the St Kilda. (See previous post.)

From the Natal Mercury 1 February 1854:

The following extracts from the letter of a Natal Emigrant to Australia, received by the last Mail, may supply useful cautions to those who meditate a like perilous adventure.

'So long as you can gain anything more than a living, I wouldn't advise any married man to come here. Illness has been universal and a doctor's bill is no joke, I have incurred £5 myself, besides awful rheumatics. You know of course that Byrne is here, a storekeeper at the diggings. I was at Geelong, in Court, the other day when he was called as a witness, but in coming down he broke his leg, and couldn't appear. Rents are frightful, £100 per annum, for one room, and I have to live besides three miles from town at another rent. 

Geelong is worse than Melbourne, nine inches in mud, in short the place and the climate is as bad as it can be, I have not met one who likes it. I believe you will soon have some of our people back again, some are at the diggings, but I have not heard of any doing well. The only persons who can ensure a living well, are carpenters, masons, and hard working labourers. Labourers who can stand any climate, - they get, - the former, £1 to £1 5s. and labourers 10s to 15s per day, but expenses are in proportion, nevertheless they do exceedingly well. Professional men are cheap enough and get cheaper every day.

'Trade is the way to make money. If I had capital I could double it every two months with safety. There is no comfort to be purchased. I send you a paper to show you the way we commit robberies here. We don't steal a few paltry pounds, but 2,300 ounces of gold. I may tell you that the escort from the diggings has been stopped, and 2,300 ozs of gold taken, the escort consisting of eight troopers, all shot dead but one; so says the report at present. They were attacked by 20 bushrangers, and shot from behind the trees. It is a common thing for one man to rob another of from £200 to £500. Last week £1,000 was taken from a digger. 

My room is a back room, 10 x 9, stinks like a p....y: the yard behind is full of green slush and the front little better. When you hear grumblers in Natal, ask they if they are gaining a living; if they are, they are better a hundred times than those who are doing the same here. As for houses and stores they are not to be got. Talking of winter and not requiring warm clothing, I have nearly perished of cold. All that they have written about this colony as to climate is lies, lies, lies, from beginning to end. Every imaginable disease rides rampant here, and a few extra ones to boot. Grown people die, and children won't live.'

Australian Gold Diggings

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