The Irish influence on Ballarat
“Gentlemen and savages – Men of Ballarat and fellows of Bungaree” These were just some of the inflaming words spoken by the controversial Victorian politician C. E. Jones, at a political meeting in Ballarat, 1864. Jones was attempting to trade on the popular Old World idea of the Irish as lower-caste, illiterate and priest-ridden trouble makers who were intent on lowering the standards of this new society in Ballarat. In fact these ideas about the Irish presence in Ballarat were completely inaccurate.
The Irish were the second largest national group (the largest being the English), to influence the history of Australia during the gold rush and colonial periods. From 1851 to 1901 the percentage of the population considering themselves Irish remained at around 20%. Most of these immigrants came from the southwest counties of Clare, Tipperary, and Galway.
The Jewish contribution to Ballarat’s History
Ballarat Synagogue, cnr Princes & Barkly Streets, Ballarat. Gold Museum Collection.
“Hidden away in plain view”, that is how many people describe the location of the Ballarat Synagogue. On the main tourist route from Melbourne to Sovereign Hill, a large stone structure on a bend of road near the East Ballarat Fire Station, hints at a connection to a Jewish community in Ballarat. In fact there have been people of the Jewish faith involved actively in Ballarat’s history from the beginning of European settlement here.
The Phoenix Foundry: Locomotive Builders of Ballarat. The History of a Ballarat Engineering Company. By Bob BUTRIMS & Dave MACARTNEY.
Here at Sovereign Hill we are in an enviable position as we are able to portray the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Australia. Our museum contains the best collection of working steam engines in Victoria on permanent public display. Because of this we have developed several online education resources and face to face programs designed to support teachers and students studying this period of Australian history. We are continually searching for more material to help our understandings of this subject. Recently we discovered a new book focusing on one of the key foundries which grew from the gold rush period of Ballarat’s history. Marion Littlejohn, one of our Education Officers, has reviewed this book, which we feel would be a useful addition to any year 9 reference library for Depth Study 1 – the Industrial Revolution.
During the Christmas school holiday period this year Sovereign Hill has focussed on some of the strange but true stories of the Ballarat gold rush period. These have included stories about a deep sea diver, zebra, tiger and diggers dressed as women. As entertaining as these weird and wonderful stories have been, we must remember that as a museum it is our responsibility to be as accurate in our portrayal of goldfields’ history as possible.
For that reason all of these activities had to have some basis in fact, and this makes the stories even better. In this Blog we will explore two of these activities and the amazing true stories that they are based on.
Ballarat and the Industrial Revolution
Pennyweight Gully, near Castlemaine. Photo taken by Marion Littlejohn
Many townships sprang up during the Gold Rush era of Colonial Victoria, but many of these towns withered and died as soon as their gold ran out, to the point that many are now ghost towns. However there are several exceptions to that. Many prosperous Central Victorian towns can trace their beginnings back to the discovery of gold. Towns such as Stawell, Ararat, Maryborough, Castlemaine and St Arnaud were larger at the time gold was being mined, but they still survive decades, even a century after the gold ran out. Ballarat and Bendigo are today major regional centres, and although there are still gold mines in or near both, they do not rely on gold to continue to grow. So what are the things that decided whether a town would grow, survive or die after the gold ran out? We think the answer involves the Industrial Revolution in Australia.
In our previous post on the Industrial revolution in Australia, we discussed how the people coming to the goldfields brought the knowledge and skills of the Industrial Revolution, and very soon were putting this knowledge to practical use in the search for gold. Here at Sovereign Hill we have many examples of these technological advances, and the benefits and/or downfalls of the use of machinery in gold mining. More importantly we also have some examples of steam technology being used for purposes not directly linked to finding gold. It is these other industries that give us the clue as to why Ballarat thrived, but towns nearby (Clunes, Smythesdale, Creswick etc) struggled after the gold mining phase of our history dwindled.
Days of my Youth
By Charles Napier Hemy Ra, ARA, RWS, 1841 – 1917
Edited by Peter McGann
Published by Viglione Press, Black Rock, Victoria 2009
This fantastic little book is a great way to personalise students experiences of our History, and provides an opportunity to debate the classification of a source as primary or secondary. Charles Napier Hemy was a renowned maritime artist of the late 19th century. At the age of 10 he accompanied his father on a trip around the world, culminating in a visit to the Goldfields of Victoria in 1851-2. In 1904 Charles sat down on board his yacht Van Der Meer in Falmouth harbour and wrote a journal of his recollections of his travels under sail, and adventures on the Goldfields. Continue reading
Burke and Wills Memorial Fountain
Yesterday, Sovereign Hill, together with our project partners: City of Ballarat, Heritage Victoria, DEECD and the Royal Society of Victoria received a commendation at the Victorian Community History Awards for our project around the Burke and Wills Memorial Fountain in Ballarat. We were thrilled to receive the recognition for this collaborative project and would like to encourage schools to use this as a model to get involved with their local history.
Value of Local History
Often Local History is forgotten within the broader context of national history, but this need not be the case. This project, which centred around the research, retrieval and reinternment of a time capsule, shows that there are often strong links in local history to the national story. The connection between Ballarat, gold and the Burke and Wills expedition is very strong. There are many other examples around Victoria of local stories, identities and monuments connecting to our national history.
Studying local history with students can lead to students identifying more strongly with the material. It can often be more immediately relevant and offer more opportunities for active involvement.