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First escort of gold; Leaving the Ballarat Diggings
Title : First escort of gold; Leaving the Ballarat Diggings First escort of gold; Leaving the Ballarat Diggings
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Creator : Dunn, E.C., artist
Source : B 5771
Date of creation : 1852
Additional Creator : The Illustrated London News, 22 May 1852
Format : Artwork
Dimensions : 216 x 154 mm
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
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Description :

Copy of an etching of the 'first escort of gold' leaving the Ballarat diggings, with a number of troopers escorting a wagon

Along with the image of the gold commissioners, The Illustrated London News also printed on the first page, an image of the 'First escort of gold', and 'The Ballarat diggings', all created by artist Dunn. An inscription from the paper relating to the images provides an explanation and description.

The illustrations upon the preceding page of from three of a series of Sketches we have just been favoured with by Mr. E.C. Dunn, of Chepstow, Mount Emu, Port Phillip; from whose communication the following are extracts:-

"I forwarded you a Sketch of the first escort leaving the Buninyong inn. The first evening I passed at the inn during me visit to these diggings, a labouring man named Cavenagh walked by, carrying with him his day's earnings: they mounted to 600 (pounds). His mate marched behind him, carrying a double-barrelled gun. The man and his brothers have since, I understand, realise many thousands of pounds in this way; but this is by no means a rare instance."

"The diggers are usually formed among themselves into parties of four: one digs and turns, one or two cart the earth to the water, and one washes the earth. Nearly the whole of the ground lying between the tents and the creek, except where streets are left, is completely hollowed out into pits, averaging from 10 to 30 feet deep, and 8 feet square, the latter being the quantity allowed to each digger. Each digger is expected to pay a license fee to Government of 30s per month, for which he is allowed 8 feet square to dig. The fee may be paid in gold dust. A great many pay, as so doing secures to the proprietor his pit, if it should prove a good one; whereas, if he has not paid the fees, another who applies and pays may turn him out. But by far the greater of the portion of diggers do not pay, and Government is not strong enough to compel them."

from: The Illustrated London News. For the week ending Saturday, 22 May 1852, page 401, column b.

After gold was discovered in 1852 many South Australian men went east seeking their fortunes on the Victorian goldfields. This left Adelaide, in particular, with a shortage of working men, but also with a shortage of money. The men were making discoveries of gold in Victoria, but they had no way of getting it back to their families in Adelaide.

Alexander Tolmer who was the South Australian Commissioner of Police from 1852 to 1853, suggested that a contingent of South Australian police, led by him, could escort gold from Victoria to Adelaide where it could be sold and thus circulated through the South Australian economy. The price offered for gold in Adelaide was higher than at the goldfields or in Melbourne, so the South Australian diggers were encouraged to send their finds back. The first gold escort left Adelaide on 10 February 1852 and arrived in the goldfields 10 days later. The escorts continued until December 1853. In all, 18 escorts were undertaken.


Coverage year : 1852
Period : 1852-1883
Place : Ballarat, Victoria
Further reading :

The Illustrated London News London : William Little, for The Illustrated London News & and Sketch Ltd, 1842-, 22 May 1842, page 402

Blake, L. J. Gold escort Melbourne : Hawthorn Press, 1971

Gibbs, R.M. A history of South Australia Adelaide : Balara Books, 1969

Gold escort re-enactment Adelaide : S.A. Police, Commonwealth Bank, 1986

Kwan, Elizabeth. Living in South Australia: a social history, Netley, S. Aust.: South Australian Government Printer, 1987

Stone, D.I. Life on the Australian goldfields, Carlton, Vic.; Sydney : Methuen of Australia, 1976

Internet links :

The Australian gold rush : stories from Australia's culture and recreation portal

Gold! : Victorian Cultural Collaboration

SA Memory, A rich tapestry : South Australian communities Effect of Victorian gold rush on South Australia

SA Memory, Timeline Gold fields of Australia



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