(Cairns... Far North Queensland)
THE EUREKA FLAG
The Eureka Flag was a flag born out of adversity and over 150 years later is still looked upon as a symbol of nationalism
This flag was first used by gold miners at a town meeting held in November 1854 and subsequently flown as they came to fight for justice in the rebellion of the Eureka Stockade at Ballarat in Victoria, Australia.
Lead by Peter Lalor the Eureka uprising took place on 3rd December 1854. It followed years of constant discontent on the Victorian goldfields and has come to be regarded as a `milestone in Australian democracy'. The Eureka flag is closely associated with this struggle for democracy.
THE OATH OF THE EUREKA FLAG
The miners in Peter Lalor's patrol were all sworn in by him before the ‘Battle of the Eureka Stockade’.
A government force consisting of detachments of British Regiments, the 12th and 40th, plus mounted and foot police of the Victoria Police, attacked an entrenchment of aggrieved gold miners at Ballarat at daybreak on 3rd December 1854. The resulting action, the attack on the Eureka Stockade, is today among Australia's greatest legends.
For two days earlier the gold-miners in revolt seemed to hold the future of Victoria in their grasp. A well-armed group of 'Californian’s' and Canadians were among parties of 'foreign anarchists' set upon achieving Parliamentary democracy…and nothing less.
But the Irish seemed to predominate, and English Chartists, Scots, Swedes, at least two Italians, a Jamaican, and an African-American said to be from Baltimore, Maryland, were involved in the uprising. The Ballarat Reform League gave some semblance of organisation to these strands of indignation about gold licensing fees, a desire for political reform, and the general disorder at Ballarat.
To complicate matters, a further force of 800 troops, including a Naval Brigade from HMS Fantome and HMS Electra, with howitzers and shrapnel ammunition, was on its way from Melbourne.
Gold Commissioner Robert Rede (who later officiated as Sheriff during the 1880 hanging of bushranger Ned Kelly) decided to strike quickly without waiting for the large reinforcement from Melbourne.
Captain J. W. Thomas (40th Regt) and a scout led the combined government force to the Stockade in the early hours of 3 December. The Stockade was all but deserted; few miners believing it would be attacked on the Sabbath. The Stockade was thus taken with minimal casualties, but these increased when mounted police attacked bystanders.
Of some 120 men captured at the Stockade, only 13 were committed for trial. The State Treason Trials commenced in February 1855. Successive Melbourne juries refused to convict any of the defendants. Democratic reforms ensued, with peace being eventually restored on Victoria's goldfields.
Charles Doudiet's (recently discovered) contemporary sketch captures the moment when the Eureka Hotel was torched by a mob on the 17th October 1854. Many historians believe this was the catalyst for the Eureka Rebellion. This sketch is currently in the collection of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.
Research in the 1990s has led to many interesting discoveries about the Stockade, and circumstances leading up to the attack. Included among these are the Charles Doudiet watercolour sketches, purchased at auction in 1996 by the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery (home of the original Eureka Flag). Doudiet, a Canadian miner, was apparently at the Stockade. He helped carry away the fatally wounded Canadian leader, 'Captain' Henry (according to letters and information supplied by a Canadian source) Ross.
Other than a watercolour by J. B. Henderson, showing the attack, and supposed to be contemporary, the Doudiet sketches may provide the only genuine images of Eureka available today.
'Captain' Henry (or Charles, according to official documents in Victoria, Australia) Ross is believed to have been the designer of the famous Eureka Flag. It has been suggested that his flag design might have been influenced by the flag of Quebec, Canada.
The Eureka Flag was also described as The Southern Cross and is thought to resemble that constellation. The flag has been used since by both sides of Australian politics for various purposes.
Interestingly, only two people, one killed, the other captured at the Stockade, were Australian born. Both were from New South Wales. That colony (now State) was also the scene in 1804, of Australia's first serious armed uprising (of Irish convicts) at Vinegar Hill near Parramatta.
The password at the Eureka Stockade on the night of 2-3 December 1854 was... 'Vinegar Hill'.
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© Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870