Tag Archives: gold

September 14, Part 2

Leaving the park, we headed for the center of town. Beechworth, the one-time center of a booming gold rush, is really beautiful, and its historic places and feeling have been wonderfully preserved. Even here, birds were abundant, and I was delighted to see king parrots and rosellas in the trees.

Judy and Geoff recommended the tour of the old town, and so we set off with a very knowledgeable guide. The previously mentioned Ned Kelly was a big part of this town’s history, as the abundant gold made it a desirable target for a bank robber. Among the Kelly-related destinations here, we saw the jail cell in which he was eventually confined, located beneath the Shire Hall, and we also visited the Court House where Kelly was tried.

The guide shared that, while Kelly was charismatic and was often able to charm people in the towns he robbed, he was most definitely not the Robin Hood figure some held him to be. In fact, he robbed from both the rich and the poor, and then kept it. He was also a cold-blooded murderer. So, while he had some fans, he was no hero.

We walked through the historic district, viewing buildings that were important during the heyday of the local gold rush, which took off in 1852. We learned that the streams around Beechworth yielded four million ounces of gold in the first ten years. Impressive.

Then we parted company with our guide and did a bit of shopping—primarily for rocks. The rugged hills around Beechworth hold more than gold and the quartz that held it. Also found here are jasper, citrine, amethyst, rock crystal, agate, turquoise, chalcedony, tourmaline, cairngorms, garnets, and various conglomerates. The garnets take the form of marble-sized crystals that are held in the granite of the nearby hills. Just wonderful. I love rocks and minerals and was delighted by everything, but my only purchase was a handful of rough garnets. But I was very pleased with those.

Next stop was the Burke Museum, named for the famed but ill-fated explorer. This is an excellent regional museum that covers history from Aboriginal pre-history up through the gold rush, also covering, of course, Ned Kelly and his gang. The brochure said they had 30,000 items, which gives some idea of the level of detail on offer. Next, to the historic brewery, which now creates only soft drinks, including sarsaparilla and ginger beer. Then past the Power Magazine, en route to the award-winning Beechworth Bakery (said to have the best pies and bread in the state of Victoria), where we stopped for cake and coffee.

The surrounding countryside was inviting, but there was already too much to do, just seeing historic sites and shops. Geoff did a good job of selecting a scenic route that showed some of it, but by 6:00pm, the sun was low on the horizon, soon to set, so it was time to get on the road for the long drive back home. Being in the country, the stars were brilliantly visible for most of the drive, but then we were near Melbourne. And as we climbed back into the Dandenongs, clouds again obscured our view. But what a splendid day. Really feeling blessed to have such friends.

Just in case you decide to visit, here is the town’s tourism page, with info on hotels and restaurants, as well as, of course, the historic sites.https://www.explorebeechworth.com.au/


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Australia’s Gold Rush

The discovery of gold in Australia had, in many ways, a similar effect to the discovery of gold in the United States—a stampede of hopeful fortune seekers. Victoria is not the only place where gold was discovered, but it most closely parallels the explosive growth and ostentatious wealth of California’s great Gold Rush. In fact, many of those who did not strike it rich in California headed for Australia after Aussie gold turned up in 1851.

However, the experience of the gold fields in Australia is more deeply ingrained in the national identity of Australians than California’s is in Americans. That is probably because the United States had a fair bit of history and national identity in place when gold was first struck, while Australia was still quite new. So it was life in the gold fields—the adventure, the “mateship,” the irreverence—that grew into both the legend and the reality of how Australians view themselves. It was, in a way, the experience of the gold fields that gave birth to Australia’s national identity.

This excerpt from the poem The Roaring Days, by iconic Australian poet Henry Lawson, sums up the sentiment.

The night too quickly passes
And we are growing old,
So let us fill our glasses
And toast the Days of Gold;
When finds of wondrous treasure
Set all the South ablaze,
And you and I were faithful mates
All through the roaring days.

Ah, then their hearts were bolder,
And if Dame Fortune frowned
Their swags they’d lightly shoulder
And tramp to other ground.
Oh, they were lion-hearted
Who gave our country birth!
Stout sons, of stoutest fathers born,
From all the lands on earth!

Bendigo was one of the centers of the Victorian gold rush. Mines there went deep, and many survived into the 20th century. I visited the Central Deborah Gold Mine, which was started in 1851 and continued in operation until 1954. The life at this city mine might seem rugged, but was luxurious compared to life in the tented campgrounds of the rural gold fields. There’s a lot more info about the Central Deborah Gold Mine in the book, if you’re interested, but the photo of it is below.



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