Sunday, June 28, 2015

Woolshed Valley, the Benalla letters, and the Kelly Gang

Dry Diggings, Woolshed Creek, 1857, engraved by Frederick Grosse.  Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.
I have known for some time that the Woolshed Valley had been a haunt of the Kelly Gang in the 1870s.  The Griffiths had departed for Melbourne by then, but I like to think they may have rubbed shoulders there with some of the characters who had a role to play in the great saga of the Kelly 'outbreak.'  Constable Fitzpatrick, for instance, may have been the man who ran foul of Kelly in later years.

As time goes on, more flourishes are added to the Kelly story. A few years ago a "fossicker" found another set of Kelly armour in an old abandoned forge in the Woolshed Valley.  Recently my friend Jenny Coates verified a couple of letters written by a Benalla bank teller, one of which refers to Ned Kelly's horse being seen at the local races.    Jenny's Blog Conversations with Grandma explains her part in the story, and she links to a more detailed news story based on her research, where the reference to the Woolshed Valley forge will also be found. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Diary of a gold digger

Unidentified man, photographed by William Mariner Bent at Bendigo, circa 1870.  Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria collection. H2007.44/24
I visited the library of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria on a quiet Friday afternoon to read the 'Diaries of Edward J. Mallandain', which included an account of the voyage of the Panama from :London to Melbourne in 1852.   This had been extracted and transcribed by Charles Mallandain.  Whether Charles M had imposed his own construction on the events of the voyage of the Panama is difficult to say ( had he left out all the interesting bits about musical interludes that I was keen to read?) but apparently Edward's on-board pre-occupations were largely to do with rows between the other passengers, and noting all the bible services on the poop deck, followed by a declaration that he didn't attend.  He mentioned only a few fellow-passengers by name, and even then, usually by initials, and nothing at all about any dance or musical parties.

The difficulties he experienced in getting himself and his good on shore are nothing short of a disgrace, and it was amazing to see how badly the passengers were treated at the end of the voyage.  It was not explained why this happened, but it was a very lengthy period of over a week after arriving in Hobsons Bay that the ship docked and allowed cargo to be removed - by which time Mallandaine had gone to a lot of trouble and expense to have his unloaded while the ship was still anchored out in the bay.

Mallandaine was certainly prepared to work hard with a pick and shovel, and his efforts with these were mainly rewarded when he got to the goldfields.  On Sunday 19 December 1852 while in camp at Bendigo he "received visits of Bennett, Fielden, Griffith, Clark re Fryers Creek & Co".  He showed his gold to them.

Whether the visitors were all shipmates from the Panama I cannot say  - PROV and its passenger lists is temporariy unavailable this evening - but even if they are, there is no clue to say whether or not that Griffith was my ancestor.

However, I enjoyed reading the manuscript, so I was glad to have spent the time on it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blog of Logs

Looking for an account of the voyage of the Panama from London to Melbourne in 1852, I consulted the three volume work Log of Logs by Ian Nicholson. These volumes list the whereabouts of known accounts of ships voyages - logs, diaries, newspaper accounts.

In Volume 2 there is a reference to a voyage by:

1852   clipper ship, Captain Lane, London 30.6 to Melbourne 12.11.52; +extracts from Edward Mallandaine's diary, *RHSV  MS00065. 

As a member I can consult that record for free.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ship Panama from London

This ship Panama  is, at 1100 tons, twice the size of the one which sailed from London to Melbourne in 1852.
Now this is embarrassing. I have been caught by the oldest trick in the book.  Assuming that there is only one person, or in this case, one ship, of the same name.  Having previously searched through Trove looking for evidence of a ship called Panama arriving in Melbourne in 1852, I lighted upon a ship of that name which was on the California to Melbourne run BUT!!!  there was another one, at 511 tons, which left London for Melbourne in 1852, and that was the one that carried a George Griffiths.

Fortunately I did actually look at the passenger list for the Panama, and all was revealed.  Well, some of it was revealed.  The bit that was revealed was that the Panama had sailed from London, with the Master T S Thomas and 191 statute adult unassisted passengers.   The George Griffiths, aged 26, occupation clerk and an Englishman, arrived in Melbourne in October 1852.

The bit that was not revealed was whether or not this George was my gt gt grandfather George Griffith, a musician from Liverpool. He usually gave an age on records consistent with him being born in 1824, so by 1852 he should have been aged 28.  I don't necessarily expect to find the occupation of musician on the shipping records, but he was certainly sufficiently well educated to have the position of clerk, and this is the most likely occupation to date of any of the George Griffiths' who arrived in Melbourne around this time.

He may, of course, have come to Melbourne via a different port - too difficult to even contemplate at this stage.   

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Was George a 49er?

In the three years since I began this blog I have examined in some detail the movements of George Griffith, and discovered quite a lot more than I knew when I began, but that old conundrum of just when George arrived in Victoria is still unresolved. 

I lately drew up a timeline for known movements built up through newspapers and birth and death certificates.  George first came to notice in Beechworth in 1855 when he advertised that he was available for weddings, parties, anything.  He had a child born in Wangaratta that year, and the child died in Wangaratta in 1856.  Later in that year he was at the Woolshed diggings, and in 1857 back in Beechworth.  They lived in Silver Creek in 1857 (and a child died there in 1859), with mentions in Beechworth and Woolshed in the same year.  In 1858 they were in Beechworth, and by 1859 had followed the rush to Indigo, later known as Chiltern.  Although the child died in Silver Creek in 1859, they were still in Chiltern (or back in Chiltern) in 1860.  The last reference to George was in Beechworth in 1863, and by 1865 the family had moved down to the Melbourne suburb on Fitzroy.

But George did not sit quietly in Fitzroy - by 1866 he had followed the goldrush to Hokitika in New Zealand, probably without his family, but had returned to Melbourne by 1868.

Whether the movements in the Ovens goldfields represents constantly moving around, or merely travelling from place to place taking up musical engagements is difficult to say.  Probably a bit of both.

 However, a pattern has emerged from all this, which is that there was a commitment to following the goldrushes, and it finally dawned on me that perhaps I had been too hasty in rejecting one arrival in Victoria in 1852:

"The other 26 year old George Griffiths who arrived by the Panama in 1852 is less likely as the ship appears (from advertising in The Argus) to have been engaged in a run from Australia to San Francisco and return".
Unfortunately there was a very well-known George Griffith who discovered one of the California goldfields, which tends to clutter up search results, but at this stage I think revisiting PROV to check the passenger indent of the Panama is the next item on the list.

I have in the past been unable to pin him down in Liverpool in the 1851 Census (though he may have been anywhere in England), and this would be explained by his taking off to California by 1849. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

'Poses Plastique', 1858

Unidentified man wearing classical costume, from the State Library of Victoria Collection, H88.50/44.
The last story about George Griffith at the Ovens goldfields comes from a very interesting publication called Nobblers and Lushingtons: a History of the Hotels of Beechworth and the Ovens District, by Richard Patterson (Endymion (Australia) Pty Ltd: Beechworth, 2009.)

In this Patterson reports on a violinist called Griffiths (probably George Griffith), who took the licensee of the Telegraph Hotel, Thomas Mooney, to court for unpaid  wages.  Mooney had employed a performer called Donovan who presented a series of tableux - 'Poses Plastique' - based on classical themes at the  Hotel, with Griffith providing a musical accompaniment.  However, Mooney took exception to the tunes selected by Griffith - an Irish jig for a pose as a "Greek Statue", and "Tow Row Row" (which I think is the British Grenadiers March) for a scene depicting the Rape of the Sabine Women. Mooney dismissed Griffith for what might be characterised as a disrespectful choice of music, but Griffith successfully defended himself by saying that as a classical musician and composer, he didn't even know the tune of "Tow Row Row" (though one could point out that he knew the Irish jigs.)

Patterson gives the reference for this story as the Ovens and Murray Advertiser 14 September 1935.

Griffith's reference to himself as a composer is an interesting one, though to date the only evidence of that is a program which advertised a polka called "Beechworth" in a concert  in Beechworth. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Return to Melbourne, circa 1863-1865

Beechworth, c 1922, showing the Bank of Victoria centre right. From the family collection.
The above photo postcard of Beechworth is annotated on the back with "Taken 66 years after other card 1922".  The two storey stone building to the centre right was built in 1867 for the Bank of Victoria, at 29 Camp St, corner of Ford St.  The Bank of Victoria amalgamated with the CBC in 1927.  Someone made a sentimental return to Beechworth - perhaps Mary Jane, born there in 1857.

The building in the right foreground is interesting.  It has the look of an old hotel, but from Camp Street, when looking via Google Maps, the building has a narrow shop front and the verandah only along the front and Ford Street side. Does anyone know what this building was?

We are almost done with the Ovens goldfields - I am waiting on one more reference.  By 1865 the Griffiths had returned to Melbourne.  They'd spent about ten years in the chaotic life of the goldfields, but now the easy surface gold was gone and deep lead mining was replacing the panning and winnowing of the old days.  Economic times were hard.  The population on the goldfields began to drift back to Melbourne, or buy landholdings and turn their efforts to farming.

George and Susan returned to Melbourne with their three little girls - Mary Jane, Ann Catherine and Louisa -  leaving two little boys in the Beechworth Cemetery, it seems in unmarked graves.   Mary Jane, who turned five in August 1862 had probably started school in 1863.

Did they return to Melbourne with a nice sum in a Bank of Victoria account, or had their fortunes declined with the goldfields?  That is a question that would warrant some investigation.