International builder John Young.
Foreward: Shirley Jurmann (nee Louttit) has put together the most complete of profiles on the life of builder, John Young. In order to provide the scope & appreciation it warrants – I have set the exploits & achievements of Young, against a series of ‘back drops’ and ‘scenarios’ of the times – the like of which will never be seen again! (Norm Moore)
The discovery of gold at Bathurst, in 1851, brought swift change to the pace of development in NSW,resulting in rapid decline of manpower for Victoria. But there was a royalty to be paid, and ‘golden bonanzas’ were worked in secret for a long time.(maybe from 1840) Even wealthy station owners were oblivious to reasons why some of their field hands wore boots & britches with ‘qualities’ - equal to their own.
A monthly ‘expedition’ to town for replenishment of supplies was an ‘important affair’ to the owner of a station - it meant the entrainment of the whole his workforce in order to “show off” his whereabouts It was customary for the ‘boss’ to allow staff the joy of an hour or two of freedom after the loading of supplies, and for him - a visit to his favourite club.
A pre-arranged signal between the field hands would send one scurrying down a laneway to knock on the back door of a Jeweler’s shop. The door would partly open and a hand thrust forward- the ‘golden contents’ of a snot soaked handkerchief shaken into it, and the door quickly closed - a few minutes later - the ‘procedure’ was reversed. This ‘arrangement’ helped the poor- but denied the government its tax – “a calamity was surely in the making”!
Despite the offer of a 200 guinea reward by a Melbourne ‘Mayoral committee’ –nothing ‘official’ was found until two prospectors – “oblivious of this” - rode into Geelong and produced a horse’s feed bag holding 60 lbs weight of gold nuggets! (2011-12 val. $1.440 m)
The news of this changed the very fabric of Melbourne society - for it was not yet a city, and the ‘rush’ to NSW had already left it without a major part of its critical workforce. Many of the remaining male population deserted toward Bendigo & Ballarat overnight, leaving the town under reign of “Petticoat Government”. (An integral part to Melbourne’s history)
Above: Ballarat painted by Eugene von Guerard in1853-4 -from a sketch of earlier times
The Government of Victoria could now see their state ‘moving’ but lacked finance to tend the very basics of infrastructure. The so called ‘Settlements’ (if there was one) where major gold strikes occurred were connected via a bridle trail or rutted dray track but never a bridge over a creek. Many in the thousands that joined the rush, lacked experience in dealing with such conditions and when flooding occurred found their carts bogged to axles, horses to their bellies and suffocating in mud.
It was enough for some who had lost everything, and they returned to Melbourne where there was another type of ‘rush’; that of building a city, and an abundance of jobs from which to choose. There too, was still a chance for a little fossicking for left lying in the cracks, crevices & gutters of streets were nuggets and ounces of gold dust scattered and ‘abandoned ‘by the odd drunken prospector. (It is known that the gutters were swept & panned- N. M.)
Above: Canvas Town, between Princess Bridge and South Melbourne, 1852 Source: State Library of Victoria
However, this is not just about a gold rush which, from this point,1851 thru to 1854, has been amply documented by numerous and highly credentialed Historians & Authors. By then, Colonial Authorities had ‘sorted’ their financial problems with a system of tax laws, including the ‘atrocity’ of that placed on miners culminating in the tragedy of the Eureka Stockade at Ballarat in 1854.
Ballarat, where John Young was to erect some of his buildings now bore some semblance to a township. The ease of picking gold nuggets from the roots of grass had gone but school kids could still grab a nugget or two for pocket money from rain washed mullock piles, some “former residents” of ancient river beds now worked by miners to depths of 200 feet.
Above: Sourced from History of Ballarat http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks13/1304971h.html
Hard rock mining was underway and nearby Bendigo had 105 head of stamps (21 banks) pounding the gold laden quarts day & night with the sound heard at 30 miles distance. Gold amalgam was cleared from mill plates with square mouth shovels and stamp box screens constantly removed to clear apertures and the amalgam in stamp boxes, now hardened into a solder like substance, chiselled from shoes & dies.
Gold was arriving in Melbourne at a rate of ”ounces by the million” and “tons by the dozen”. From 1851-1896, 61 million troy ounces (1,900 tonnes) of gold was recovered. More than 2 tonnes a week was flowing into the Melbourne Treasury. The greatest yearly return recorded was 3 million plus troy ounces (95 tonnes) in 1856. It was in these times John Young arrived in Ballarat and sought to go about his trade.
But Victoria was in a state of utter turmoil. Populations in all areas were doubling & trebling overnight, and although the government’s coffers were fillin