The following is a transcript of Part I (Australia) of the Memoirs of Alfred Restieaux. They have been extracted from Alfred's original handwritten manuscripts which are held on microfilm at the National (Alexander Turnbull) Library, Wellington, New Zealand. The original manuscripts are quite old and are not in good condition with a number of missing pages. It is a valuable record of very early colonial Australia. It was a time when so many of the things we take for granted were not yet part of colonial Australia. Like so many others, Alfred was a swagman who carried his swag from place to place looking for work and hoping to make his fortune on the diggings. It was an endeavour at which he was ultimately very successful.
It gives me great pleasure to be able to present as it is the first ever transcript of Part I of the Alfred Restieaux Manuscripts ... Jane Resture.
I cannot speak of my life about the Islands at present so I will begin to tell you a little about my early life on the diggings and elsewhere. I think I told you I landed in South Australia in August, l848 or 49. We left England soon after the Chartist Riots in London in the Old Barque "Cromwell" on her last trip with passengers. I was only a boy, I had very little money so I went and work as a cabin boy at the ??
You come with me you will not have to work hard and will get man's wages. But where are you going to up north? I know this country well, you trust me and you will be all right. So he spent what little money I had for me. It was not much. Then we started but he was one of those fellows who was always looking for work praying not to find it. He would only walk from one station to the next. He said he could not walk enough in this hot weather. So whatever work was offered, he was looking for something else. He would not work at all.
At last we got to one of Dutton's stations about sixty miles from town. Mr. Buchanan, Manager, do you want work said he. I do sir, said I. Well, I will give you a job to mind lambs and you can go to Mount Misery. They want a hut keeper so we went to the men's hut. I got supper, then to the wool shed to sleep. You bloody young fool. Are you going to sleep here? Yes, I am. You said you would go north with me. Yes, but we would never get there. You do not want work. I do, so we parted. I went lamb minding, but I only started one week. I could not get on with the shepherd. No one could. The hut keeper, a young Dublin man and attorney by profession said he would thrash him within an inch of his life if he gave him any more of his insolence and I stayed hut keeping for a month on the next station with Mr. Rushmore. But hut keeping did not suit me so I took my month's pay, thirty two shillings and walked into Kapunda.
This was a mining town fifty miles from Adelaide. It was sometimes called the Keep Under Mine as they always paid the lowest wages. There I went to Mr. James Whittiker, an old man who had a hotel and a store and asked him to give me a job. Yes, he wanted a lad to clean river and boats to do other jobs so he engaged to be what was sometimes called general useless or wood and water boy. My wages were small - eight shillings a week but I lived well and got along very well altogether. After a while, I was given charge of the stable and had to drive the water cart. This was promotion and I got no more wages, but I got a little in tip, not much but still something. The old man now treated me more like a son than a seasonal. He was a very bad alcoholic and I used to read and answer all his personal letters and his dealings and goings on.
Balance of Pages 5 & 6 of handwritten manuscripts..
A little toddler, her people were all killed in a fight. One of the men picked her up and brought her to town before him on his horse and gave her to a white family who adopted her and taught her to read and write and sew and do house work. She was better educated than many of the white girls in the town. We got acquainted and used to meet almost every evening and retired to the hay shed at the end of the stable to talk over our little affairs in private. The old man knew all about it and used to joke with me and asked when the wedding was to be and if I intended to apply to the Government for her dowry. It was said that any white man marrying a native girl got a portion with her. I do not know if that was true, but I think it likely the South Australian Government was very good to the natives.
We had a French cook. He was said to be the best cook in the colony, but he sometimes got drunk. He and Mr. Whittiker had a row and he left. The old man engaged a married couple. The woman was cook and housekeeper, the man to assist his wife take charge of the stables and to be generally useful. The man was all right, but the woman although a very good cook was disagreeable and took a dislike to me from the first. She used to watch me and tell the old man stories about me. He did not like it but as she was an old woman, he said nothing to her. But he told me she found out about me and the native girls. I suppose he had told her so she watched. Now the man had charge of the stable but I had to take care of my own horse. It was the old man's horse of course, but as I always worked with and rode him, he was called mine. One night, I went out to do up the horse and met Maria, the black girl and retired to the hay shed. As usual, the old woman saw us but luckily did not know who the girl was. She rushed away to tell the old man. He was in the little private parlour with the few friends enjoying himself.
There was the doctor, the chief engineer of the mine, the boss blacksmith and a few others on this occasion. He hated to be disturbed, no matter without knocking. She rushed in on Mr. Whittiker. I cannot stand it any longer, my blood boils. What is the matter now that boy Alfred? What has he been doing now? Every night he takes those nasty black girls into the stable. He has one there now. I suppose you are bloody mad. It was not you he has there. She stood for a moment then she rushed out, slamming the door after her. Next day, she and her husband, although engaged for a year left. No one was sorry. I knew nothing of this but one of the men told me after. So when I had finished my work, I went in the house when the bell rang and went to see what was wanted. And in the order then, the old man said: Look here Master Alfred, you can do as you like, but I don't want you to make a Whorehouse of my premises.
Of course the story got about and I had to stand a good bit of chaff especially from the women. The doctor said, Be the powers Master Alfred. I must be after cutting that thing off. Yeh, not yet, I hope Doctor. They had a good laugh and I went away. The old man was wholesale as well and I used to supply many of the small towns in the district. He let them have liquor and what he called one under the other. The first order he gave when that was paid, they could have more. This suited most of them very well. They had to pay us rather more than the big houses in Adelaide. But they could get small quantities from us as little as two gallons and most of them had not enough money to get a big lot from town.
I was often sent to take orders and collect bills and Boy! like I thought that having to sign the old man's name I ought to write it as much like himself so I practised and soon wrote his name very like himself. I collected a bill one day and gave a receipt. The man looked at it and said, By the Lord Master Alfred, if I had not seen you write this, I would have sworn the old man wrote it himself. It is rather his hand, is it not? Like I could not tell one from the other. That night I told the old man, he said nothing but next day when the doctor was there, he sent for me and said how do you sign receipts? I said, Receive payment in full, Alfred Restieaux for James Whittiker. He said, write it down. I did so, he looked at it then gave it to the doctor. He looked at it then at another paper shook his head and said, Dangerous, very dangerous. What is the matter? Is it not right? Ah, yes it is all right. We only wanted to see how you wrote it.
At Kapunda mine, they paid once a month. The miners one Saturday, the woodcutters another, the smelters another and the labourers another. So every Saturday is a payday. The miners worked on a percentage of the value of the ore they raised. They worked in parties or as they called it pairs. These might be six or eight in a party, but they were still called a pair. On payday, they got a cheque for what was due. The party came to the house, cashed it and divided the money. There was very little gold or silver in the country. The banks issued no paper for less than a pound, but many stores and hotels had their own orders I.O.U. ten shillings or five shillings or two and six. Some of the public houses gave tickets for as little as two pence. It was said, if you changed the pound, you got a hat full of shillings.
This paying by cheque was a troublesome system but it brought customers to the house so the old man used to have plenty of small bank notes on hand for change. Most of the cheques were changed on pay nights but most of the careful waited until Monday. One Monday night, one came in to be changed but there was not enough cash in the till so the barman told me to take it to the old man. He was engaged himself with some travellers and did not like to be disturbed. So he looked at it and gave me the key of the safe and said, Go and change it and bring me back the key. As I went out, a man said, Do you trust that boy with the key of the safe? Ah, yes, Fred is all right. I was about the only one he did trust except the Manager of the store, he had to trust him sometimes.
Mr. Whittiker had a row with the barman who left so I was called to the bar. I got on very well but it did not suit my health. I suffered from headache and loss of appetite. The Doctor said, Long hours and close confinement did not suit me. At this time all the copper had to go to the refinery at the port by bullock drays. There were no railways in Australia then and as the drays came back empty, freight were very low. The old man, as well as the other businessmen, used to get his goods up by then, but as the bullock drivers helped themselves to liquors, sometimes looking for their bullocks for a few days and having a little spree. Carriage came very high so he determined to put on a team of his own to bring up liquor and light goods. So he had a dray built, bought another horse and fitted out a good team. As my health did not improve, I asked him to let me drive it. He thought I was too young, besides he wanted me at home, but the Doctor said I must live more in the open air. He let me go on the road.
This job suited me first rate, my wages were small but the old man was not particular about a few shillings more or less for road expenses. I got on very well. I used to leave Kapunda Monday morning and reached Adelaide Tuesday afternoon, fifty miles. Wednesday, I spent in town collecting my load and doing other things. Leaving Thursday morning, getting home Friday afternoon. Saturday, I greased my wheels, cleaned harnesses and so on. The old man overhauled everything himself. He did not want any breakdown on the road. He said I got on very well, never had an accident.
One Monday, he told me he was coming to town by the mail cart and to come and see him as soon as I reached town. So as soon as I had put up my horses and had a wash, I went to the hotel and asked for him. Yes, he was staying there, but was not at home, come again later. So when I had done up my horses for the night about nine o'clock, I went again. The waiter showed me into a little room. Presently, he came in very drunk, he talked a lot of nonsense, then he looked about and gave me a parcel. Here boy, take care of this, if you lose it you will ruin me. And by God I will tell you what it is. Notes, he whispered, I do not know how much there was but the parcel was too big for my pocket so I put inside the breast of my shirt, buttoned my coat and went away where I slept at the inn. There were several beds in the room occupied by strangers to me. I was afraid to sleep there tonight and did not like to ask for a private room. My horse is a big bay, very gentle with me but spiteful to strangers. He would bite and kick so I thought the safest place for me that night was with him so I went to the stable, spoke to him and patted him, put a lot of hay under the manger and slept there.
Next morning after breakfast, I went again to see the old man. I was put in the same little room. He came looking very cross and troubled. But he was always very cross after being drunk. I told you to come yesterday. Well, I did come about five o'clock and you were out. Why did you not come again? I came again after about nine o'clock and I did not see you. Yes, you did, you were talking to me in this room. I don't remember anything about it. What am I to do with this, showing the parcel. He snapped at it. Where did you get this? You gave it to me last night and said if I lost it would ruin you and you would kill me. Where did you sleep last night? I was afraid to sleep in the house. So I slept with my horse. You slept with that vicious brute. I would not do it for one hundred pounds. Ah, he knows me and I knew I was safe there. The landlord came in, Look here, is it all right. Where was it? Fred had it. Where did he get it? He said I gave it to him. I did not know he was here. Then he told him about me sleeping with the horse. Potter said, I had more sense than the old man.
While I was at the bar, I had to go out for something. The old man came in and met a fellow going out with the till under his arm. The old man grabbed him and being very strong overpowered him. He would have given him a thrashing and letting him go but a policeman came in and arrested him. There were no police at Kapunda then but this one was travelling and had come to stay for the night. There was no lock-up so he chained up in the stable intending to take him to town the next day. That night, there was no one staying there, but the policeman. So the old man invited him into the little private parlour. The old man was very generous with his liquor and the policeman was young and was soon tight and went to sleep. We used to shut up at ten o'clock except Saturdays, then we kept open until twelve or later.
When the house was shut up, the old man said the prisoner is a nuisance. We shall both have to go to town to prosecute him. I have a good mind to let him go. You can't. Why not? He is chained up and the policeman has the key. What is this holding up the key. Where did you get that? The chap is drunk and I picked his pocket. Come on, so he took some food and a jug of beer and we went to the stable. The man was asleep and when we came out the man sat up. Well, what do you think of it now? Old man, you have got me. Do not poke fun at a poor bugger. I am not poking fun. Are you hungry? Yes. Well, take this. If I let you go, do you think you can get away? Give me the chance. Then the old man put his foot against the weather board and pushed off a couple. Can you get out of there? The man laughed. Then he unlocked the handcuffs and said, Off you go. He gave him a few shillings and the fellow went away. Then we locked the stable and went back to the house. The policeman was still asleep and the old man put the key of the handcuff back in his pocket. He pulled off his boots and left him.
Next morning, I was cleaning the bar, the policeman came in. Good Morning, how are you? Very sick. Well, take a hair of the dog that bit you giving him the bottle and glass. He said, now I must go and see my prisoner. I said, I cannot leave the bar, but here is the key of the stable. He soon came back. The fellow is gone! But he was chained up. Yes, but he slipped the handcuffs and he's gone. I laughed. He said it is no laughing matter for me. But it was not your fault, getting drunk and losing a prisoner is a serious matter for me. Now, I must go and see after my horse, I must be in town this afternoon. When he was gone, I went to the old man's room and told him. He laughed. When the policeman came back he said, Well young fellow, where is the prisoner? I am sorry to say he is gone? Well, never mind. No one knows anything about it but ourselves, so let the poor devil go and say nothing.
Things went all right with the discovery of gold, then everything was at a stand still in South Australia. Those who had a little money went to the diggings. Some who had property sold it for anything they could get if it was only enough to take them to the gold fields as there was no business doing of course. Mr. Whittiker did not want so many people, so he leased the hotel to the brewer who had been trying to get it for a long time.
The store, he could manage himself and has the Manager and John Brewster who was also employed in the store and myself all wanted to try our luck. He agreed to fit us out on credit to go overland. So he let us have the team horses, dray, harness provisions, tools and a first rate outfit to be paid for the first gold we got. This suited him very well because he sold the property at a good price which was otherwise unsaleable, of course. He ran the risk of losing, but as he knew us well, he chanced it.
So one morning, we, Cossins, Brewster and myself and two black boys, Jack a son of King William and Jeremy who had been in the kitchen sometime. Well, we started with I think the good wishes of everyone at Kapunda, black and white. The first night in camp, we were just going to supper when Maria, the black girl I told you of, came and sat down by me. What do you want, said Cossins. Ah, I am going too. Not with us. Ah, yes, I am going with Fred. She got her supper. Then Cossins and Brewster slept in the dray. We had fitted a good tilt to it. I and the girl slept under the dray, the boys went where they liked. Next morning, after breakfast, Cossins talked to her and told her to go back to Kapunda and threaten all sorts of things if she dared to follow us any further. She nodded and went on.
That evening, she came into camp again, was driven away next morning. This happened every day until we got to Wellington ferry across the lower Murray River. There was a police station there. In charge was a sergeant who was also in charge of native protection. Cossins gave poor Maria to the sergeant to be sent back to Kapunda. The sergeant was an elderly man with the family and I do not think he would play any tricks. If he did, he would certainly lose his billet which was a fairly good one. Maria cried and protested but it was no use. I was very angry too, but what could they do. Brewster was a married man and Cossins wanted to be one too. Of course, they could say she followed me, but who would believe it, as I was only a lad. Of course, Cossins wrote and told Mr. Whittiker all about it.
We crossed the river and resumed our journey. Two or three days after leaving the river, Jacky took sick and said he was going to tumble down (die). He did not care, as he would soon jump up again. The natives believed that when they died, they would live again as white men. Cossins laughed at them and said, he would be all right tomorrow. But Jacky meant it. Two days later, he died. We dug a grave close to a little grove of wattles, it was a pretty place. We put a lot of sweet scented leaves at the bottom, then rolled poor Jacky in his blanket and lowered him down. We put some more leaves on top, then we filled up the grave. But when we began to heap up the earth on top, Jeremy objected. He said the local blacks would dig him up to get his heart. They believe that if they rub their body with the heart of the dead man they would inherit his strength and courage in addition to their own. But we said that if we made the grave, all the same as the white fellows they would think that it was a white man and not trouble it. So Brewster made a rough cross, then we made a little fence around the grave. Jeremy was highly pleased and said, All the same white fellow. We did not travel because there was a good feed there for the horses so we rested and drank a few glasses to the memory of poor Jacky.
Next morning we resumed our journey. We did not hurry and we did not loiter. When we had a bit of good feed for them, we gave the horses a days rest so as to have them in good condition when we got to the diggings. At last we got to Forest Creek after a very fair journey. At Forest Creek, we heard of a new rush to a place called Bandicoote Creek. It was afterwards called Bendigo.
We decided to go to the new place. On our way we met people coming back. They said it was a failure. Little or no gold but we went on and made our camp at Bullock Creek. The nearest water to the workings (sixteen miles). We made a frame of saplings, bark walls and tarpaulin roof. We made a shoot (schute) and a place to wash the pay dirt. Just then came the rush to Golden Gully. The first which on Bendigo. John Brewster was among the first and got a claim right on it.
We took the till off of the dray and fixed it up for he and Jeremy to live in at the workings. They worked the claim and Cossins washed the dirt. Kept the account, acted as treasurer and done the cooking for a damned bad cook he was. I drove the cart. I took food and water to Brewster and Jeremy. In the morning, I took back the dirt to be washed. I suppose Cossins lost more gold than he saved, but all new hands did that. Our claim paid well, very well considering what a poor team we were. There was only one man among us. that was Brewster, he was a very strong Scotchman and a splendid worker.
I and Jeremy were only lads and Cossins was a good man in the store, a good salesman but no good anywhere else. At the end of the first month, we were able to send Mr. Whittiker what we owed him. There was no trouble in sending it. The South Australian Government put an armed escort to take Gold from the diggings to the Treasury in Adelaide. Port Philip Peafile? had one to take it to Melbourne. What is now Victoria, but was then part of New South Wales. When rain came, we shifted our camp to Bendigo Creek as there was then plenty of water there. When our claim was worked out, we washed surface dirt. We did not make much at that but more than our expenses. Then came the diggings at Iron Bark, Eagle and the Sailors Gullies and others I had forgotten the names of.
We went to Pegleg but were too late to get a claim on the lead. Then Sailors Gully was opened. Brewster was among the first there and got a claim right on it. We made our camp there. That was a real good claim if we had only known how to work it. When it was worked out, as the rainy season had now set in, Cossins and Brewster determine to go back to Adelaide taking Jeremy, the black boy with them. I had not had enough of the diggings so I stayed.
I do not know how much money they had but I heard that Cossins boasted that he would have over one thousand pounds when he landed in London. Brewster I heard set in business for himself. People who knew us thought I had been fooled. If they wanted to do so, it was easy enough. I kept no accounts. I did not believe Brewster would do anything dirty. He was too good a fellow for that, but it does not matter now.
When they left, I had about one hundred pounds in the treasury in Adelaide and not much more. I joined two brothers named Edwards, we could not agree and soon parted. Then I joined two other young fellows. Like myself, they were sailors and came to Adelaide about the same time as I did but in another ship. Tommy Jones was born in Chester of Welsh parents. His father, he said was stationmaster at the railway. Ned Power was born in Liverpool of Irish parents. His father was watchman in a big timber yard. They were very good mates but fools like myself and did know the value of money. Tom was inclined to be flash but otherwise all right. Ned was very dull but strong as a horse. Tell him what to do and he would do it. We had done very well but spent it as fast as we got it. But at last making a pretty good haul.
We agreed as the bad had now set in to take a trip to Melbourne. It did not take long to spend a little money then. So I took passage in the schooner Amicus? to Adelaide, intending to draw my money and go and see Mr. Whittiker and then come back. If I had done so, I should have gone back but I did not go. I drew my money, fell in with a few young fools like myself, went on a spree and when I pulled myself together a few days after, I found I had just about enough to take me back to the diggings. So I took passage on the old barque Merafie (?). She went down next trip.
When I got to Melbourne I found Tommy all ready to go back but poor Ned had been bad company and was suffering for it. As Ned could not leave town, we joined a man named Brown generally called Trangaroo Bill. He, having been boatswain of a vessel of that name. We went to Bendigo but not to Sailors Gully, we went to a new place I have forgotten the name of it. We've done very well there but could not agree. Tommy was flash and very cheeky, Brown was middle aged and steady. They could not get on at all together. So when our claim was worked out, we parted, although I know Tommy to be wrong, I stuck to my mate and we returned to Melbourne.
We were only away one month but had about one hundred pounds each. We found Ned all right but in debt. Tommy left us to join a party at a new diggings he thought would suit him better. Poor Ned's debt had to be paid and that left us very short of money. Tommy and I were both responsible for the debt but he was gone but said it did not matter about being hard up. He knew of a good job we could get at Kineton. We can work there one month and then go back to Sailors Gully comfortable. Ah, but can we be sure of getting the job? Yes, all we have to do is to go to the Registry Office and sign the agreement. So we went to the Registry Office. Oh, yes they wanted lots of men but we must pay one shilling each to register our name.
We paid it then the clerk told us it was with an engineering party at present at Kineton. They paid so much per day, tents, tools, wood and water found. Would that suit us? Yes. Then we must pay five shillings each, sign the agreement and he would give us letters to Mr. Ornsby the engineer. This left us very short indeed. We paid it and got our letters. Ned was very pleased, he said. We were all right now. Next morning, we started for Kineton. All we had was one shilling and six pence, a big loaf of bread and a Dutch cheese. But Ned said it was all right there was a job waiting for us.
We got to Kineton and enquired for the engineering party and found it was only a road making gang. If we had known that, we would not have gone. Road making in those days was looked upon as convict work, but it was too late now. We had no money and no food so we went to see Mr. Ornsby. He was out riding so we waited. When he came, we gave him our letters, he just glanced at them and threw them on the ground and shouted, Mr McCutcheon. But where and who is Mr McCutcheon? He made no answer but walked away. A man who was with him told us that Mr McCutcheon was foreman and we would find him at the men's camp which he pointed out. We went and saw him, he was civil but said the work was stopped.
There had been a strike that the registry office had never been authorised to hire men and they had written to them and told them they wanted none. But men came every day and that makes Mr. Ornsby very angry. I told him how we were fixed, he was very sorry but it was no fault of theirs, but I know of a nice job for one of you. Mr (?) a carpenter wants a hole dug, you can easily do it in a day. He will give you a pound for it. So I went and saw a carpenter. Yes, he wanted the hole dug and he would pay one pound for digging it. Come and show me where to dig it and mark it out. I went and he marked it out. Why? This is a grave, you said a hole. Well, a grave with a hole is it not? But what difference does it make. This is new ground. It is not like an old graveyard.
So I went to work but the ground was very hard. I could not finish it that day. He said it was to be dugged six feet deep so I went at it again next morning. And I worked until the funeral carriage. It was not quite six feet deep but very near it. They buried the man then he told me to fill it up. What am I to get for filling it up? We said nothing about filling it. You will get your pound. The man who digs the grave always fills it up. So I filled it up and got my pound. Ned got a job to cut some firewood for which he got ten shillings. So we got some cutter and made our camp by a water hole.
Next day we started again and at last got back to Sailors Gully but we had no tent, no tools and very little money so we rigged my blanket for a tent, put some brush at the back, some more brush under us, had Ned's blanket over us, make a little cooking fire in front, then I went to try to get something to cook. I went to the store first, the man knew me. Hello Fred! Got back again? Yes. Going to work here? Yes. Spent all your money? Yes. Will you trust me some tucker? Yes, anything you want. So I took a lot of things. I went to the butcher. Would you trust me some meat? Well he did not believe in credit. But I could have a little. Then we borrowed a few tools and catching traps. One thing from one and one from another and got to work of course. We did not do much at first not having proper tools but we more than made tucker and saved a very little money.
As wet weather might be expected at any time we were talking about how we could get better shelter. We could not hit upon any plan. When one Saturday night a man came and asked us if we wanted to buy his hut. It was a good log hut with bark roof built for six men but there were only four in it now. We said we would like it very well. How much did he want for it? He said there was the hut, tools, cooking utensils and all for twenty pounds. We had not so much money. Had we no money? Ah, yes, we had a little. How much? Ten pounds? Nonsense, we would rather put a firestick in it. We were very sorry but we really had no more. Could we not get any? No, we knew no one we could ask to lend us money. He went away.
Next morning he came back again. Had we any more money? No, it is Sunday and if it were not we have had no time yet. Well, come to the hut. We went. They were all ready to start. Swags rolled. Well, where is the money? Here it is. So we paid the ten pounds and they walked out and we went in before one said Come here and I will show you something. We went to the workings. He said, Here is a little bit of dirt. It will pay you to wash when the water comes. It did.
When the water came, we got nearly as much gold as paid for the lot before we got the hut. Someone played a filthy practical joke on us. I will tell you about it. As I told you, the butcher did not like giving credit. So one day I asked him to give me a shin of beef. They made no use of them except for dogs meat. He gave it. Ned borrowed a big pot. We broke the bone and put it down to stew. We had nothing to cook with it but flour, salt and pepper. I always had a good appetite but Ned was a big eater.
He was very pleased at a fine soup for breakfast. We watched it until ten o'clock. Then we put it where it would keep hot in the morning. Ned was up first. He went and lifted the lid not a bit of beef or soup but the dirty wretch had left something else. Ned was like a mad man. He danced and swore. Some of the neighbours came to see what was the matter. When Ned told them there was a great laugh. They thought it a good joke. But it was not only a dirty trick but it was cruel. They all knew we were hard up. Ned went and washed out the pot, then I scrubbed it with sand. But the owner was very angry and said we might keep it. But it was not our fault, when we were able we gave a new one and he was satisfied.
We had plenty of tools so we returned those we had borrowed. Now, we've done better having proper tools to work with. We got along very well and saved a little money. We had been in our new house a few weeks when Mr. Tommy Jones walked in. He had left his new flash mates and came back to us. Ned told him to go to hell, we do not want him. But after a little talk, we took him back so we three were together again.
We've done fairly well and I ought to have saved money. Ned and I did put by a little but Tommy was nearly always in debt. This went on a few months. Then Ned left us to join a party of Irish men who were going to a new diggings. Before he left, he gave me his share of the hut and everything he had, not forgiving Tommy for the way he left him sick and hard up in Melbourne. But it made no difference to Tom. He had the use of all just the same. I heard Ned done very well and went to town, married the daughter of one of his mates and went to farming with his wife's family. I never heard of him any more but I hope he'd done well.
I and Tom worked on a few months and got on very well together when one Sunday afternoon in walked a short middle aged man to say "hello". Master Tom, here I find you at last. We looked at him. Then he said he was Bill Jones, Tom's elder brother. Tom had not seen him since he was a child and of course did not know him but I think there was no doubt he was the man he said he was. He told us he had left his ship in Melbourne, deserted I suppose and hearing Tom was at Bendigo, he has tramped up to find him.
When he arrived at Bendigo, he had no money so he had to work for wages but hearing you were here, here I am. He did not wait for an invitation but just made himself at home. And as he was much older than we were, and had been or at least said he had been mate of a ship. Altogether, he was quite green at the diggings, ordered us about, acted as if he was still mate and we were boys under him. He even threatened to lick us if we said anything. This was too much, so I had a talk with Tommy, he said I was right but what can I do he is my elder brother and I cannot turn him out. You can't turn him out, then I suppose I must go. Tom thought a bit, then he said but the hut is yours and so are most of the other things. Ah, are they. I began to think everything was his. Well, I cannot and will not stand it any longer so I must go. Where do you think of going? Larry Tully talks of going to the Ovens diggings and I think I will join him. Ah, I would like to go too. But if I go, Bill will come. Yes, and that will not do. It is only to get clear of him, I am going.
So when our claim was worked, I said I was going away. And where do you think you are going too? Said Bill very sharply. Just where I liked, it is none of your business. Very well, but understand this, if you leave you don't come back again. Why, what have you to do with it, the place is mine, you are only an interloper here. Never mind that, if you go you shall not come back again.
After a while, I asked Tommy to come to the store and have a drink. There were several men there we knew. I told them I was going. And why they said? I was a damned fool to be driven out of my own hut like that. Perhaps I was but I had made up my mind. I said I want you all to witness that everything I leave to Tommy. All right, said Bill who had followed us. We will take care of it. I said, there is no 'we' in it. I gave the things to Tommy alone. You, I know nothing about and do not want to. He jumped up and said he would punch my head. No, you won't unless you punch me too, said a big Cornish man who was there. Bill sat down and said something about encouraging boys to cheat men. And what he would do, if he had me on board a ship. But you are not on board a ship now. And when you are perhaps you don't count much. We have seen people like you before.
I left them and did not see Tommy again for a few years. I met him on Back Creek. He was then a cripple. He told me he and Bill were working some old ground when the earth cave in on them both. When they were dug out, Bill was dead and he was badly hurt. He never recovered the use of his right side and could not work. He was then acting as MC in a low dancing saloon. He had changed his name and now was called Flash Harry. He said he was making his living, he was well dressed and had a flashy ring on his finger. But I do not think he had much else. He was killed in a drunken row soon after.
I will now tell you about my trip to the Ovens River and back again. When I left Tommy Jones, I joined Larry Tully. He was born in Sydney of Irish parents. He was a banker by trade and had been cook in a restaurant. He was a strong young fellow rather older than myself, a good worker but like more of us, could not take care of his money. He told me the reason he was leaving his mates was he wanted to make a fresh start and be steady. I had a good pair of blankets, a tin billy and pannikin, a light axe, a knife, a revolver and a few pounds in cash. Larry had about the same, but he had a frying pan instead of a billy can.
So here we were starting on a tramp of over two hundred miles with a light weather, light swags and light pockets. But we were in good health and on our first night's camp, we met two young fellows who were also going to Mount Ovens. They proposed we should travel together as they thought a party of four were safer than two were. As they seemed to be decent fellows we agreed.
We started next morning, when we got to the crossing of the river, I think it was the Wemera, but it was so long ago I cannot be sure. We stayed at the public house. They told us, it was forty miles to the crossing of the Broken River across One Altar Plain. But the water had not yet dried up and we should pass several huts on the way. We did not carry much food with us. At night we camped out. Next morning we saw a hut a little way off the road. We went to it, and asked the hut keeper if we could get breakfast. What the lot of you? Of course. No, that you can't. By the Lord Harry you would eat all I have in the place. I might give one of you a feed or perhaps two but no more. And of the other chaps, said Let us toss up who shall stay. I said Never mind, I can hold out for another hour or two. So can I said Larry. So they stayed and we walked on. Larry said. Let us wait for them. We sat down and had a smoke.
Presently, they came along. Well, did you get a good feed? No, we did not. Nothing but tough salt beef and heavy bread (damper) and a pannikin of very bad tea and had it as it was. There was not enough. Yes and charged us two shillings each. Well I suppose two shillings is the regular price of a meal. Yes, but there was not a half a meal. We laughed and went on, about two o'clock the other side of the road. We went to it, it was a shepherd's hut, but as there was a little stockyard there, we thought they milked a cow.
There was an old woman in the hut. We said we wanted dinner. She shook her head and said something in Gaelic. Then she said she had no English. We were very hungry so I tried to make her understand. I said very slowly and distinctly, we are travelling and very hungry. She shook her head. We want some dinner but we do not want it for nothing. We will pay, we have plenty of money. She understood suddenly, I will not say she spoke better English than I did, but she certainly spoke much faster. Dinner of course we could have. Dinner, why not come in. It will be ready directly. She gave us a very good dinner for the bush, butter and milk in our tea. When we have done, we asked her how much? It was two shillings each. Yes, two shillings.
Then she told a yarn, her husband, the foolish man had been to town the day before and bought a bottle of brandy. She did not like the nasty stuff. She liked the money. How much is the brandy, said I. It was six shillings. So it was six shillings. Well said I, give us the brandy and we will give you the money. How will that do? It will do very well. So she went to the big shed and got the bottle. Then, the foolish man himself came in and we soon emptied the bottle. One of the other chaps gave her a pound. She pretended to feel her pockets. Oh dear, what should she do, she had no change. I said perhaps the foolish man bought two bottles so that will make it right. Sure so it would. So she went to the chest and got another bottle. We drank that. I noticed that although she did not like the nasty stuff, she put away her full share. Perhaps she was afraid, the foolish man would get too much.
e went at the Crossing of the Broken River that day ten miles. There was a public house. We stayed at it that night. After supper, one of the men happened to say, where we got dinner? A man laughed and said, Had the foolish man been wasting his money on brandy. I laughed and told them about it. The barman said, they seemed to be making a regular trade of it. I believe they sell as much liqour as I do. Well, said a man who was sitting there, I shall not interfere unless there is an information laid. What have you to do with it? But a man told me he had to do with it.
There was a police station there and he was in charge. He was not in uniform. I said, if I had known you were a policeman, I would have said nothing about it. Ah, it does not matter, we knew all about it before they told us. There were several stations along the river so we did not carry much food. We did not make a very early start next day and camped out at night.
Next morning we came to a head sheep station. The owner, a stout elderly man was outside. I asked him if we could get breakfast there. No, you can't this is not a public house. But we are travelling and are hungry. Well, I will let you have some flour and mutton but we have no way of cooking it. Can't help that, I tell you this is not a public house. Larry said look here we are travelling and are hungry. We will pay you what is right. But a feed we must have. That is so, said the others. He looked at us, then he went in the house.
Presently, a woman, the cook came out and told us to come in the kitchen and she would give us some breakfast. She gave us a good meal, some capital corned beef, potatoes, light bread and butter and a good tea with plenty of milk. When we had finished we asked what was to pay. She did not know, she would ask the master. She went out of the kitchen across the passage into another room leaving the door open. She said we wanted to know how much we had to pay. Don't want their pay, tell them to be off. We heard it all and had a little talk. The woman came back and told us what he said. Well, if he wants no pay, perhaps you can make use of this, giving her half a sovereign. Indeed, I can. She thanked us and said we were gentlemen. Then she cut a lot of bread and butter and beef and made us some fine thick sandwiches. These carried us to the Broken River township. I have forgotten the name of it. There were no more trouble about food.
We were now on the main road between Melbourne and Sydney. Nothing more happened until we got to Wangarratta, the town at the crossing of the Oven River. It was then the last town of the Victorian side of the Murray River. Here, we hear a bad news from the diggings. All the shallow had been taken up long ago and most of it was worked out. The only mining doing now was deep sinking and sluicing. If we could not buy into a big company, we must work for wages. Larry nor I liked this idea so we said we would go no further. The others said, they had started to go to the diggings and they meant to go, so we settled our little account and parted. I have forgotten their names but they were real good fellows and I hope they did well.
There was a man in town, named Joe Bowles. He had a cattle station about twenty miles up the river. He was farming also and had a contract with the Government to supply the police at Wangarratta with hay at a good price. He had some oats almost ready to cut and was looking for haymakers, he asked us if we wanted work. Yes, what could I do. Could I mow? No. Could I milk? No. Could I drive the bullocks? No. He tried Larry. Could he milk, Oh, yes, could he drive bullocks, oh, yes. Could he mow, yes. He said, one of you can do nothing but the other appears to be able to do everything. So I will engage you both. So we made an agreement (verbal). We were to go to his station to make hay. But until the hay was ready to cut, we must make ourselves generally useful for which we were to get four pounds each per week and as much as we could eat and drink. It was too late to start that day.
So after breakfast next morning we started. About five miles from town we made a head sheep station, one owned by Parson Docker, a well- known character in these parts. Among other stories told of him, he was said to be a terrible black guard when drunk. On the four or five different occasions I saw him he was sober and behaved like any other gentleman. We went to the house and saw a tall old man sitting by the kitchen fire. He had on black or dark trousers, a vest but no coat. I think he was smoking. But I was not sure about the pipe. He said, come in, asked the usual questions, where we had come from, where we were going and so on. Then he said, perhaps you could drink a glass of brandy after your walk. I said, we would be very glad to do so. Then I will go and see if I can get you some. He went into the house. Who is that old man, I said to the cook. That is the master. Is that the Parson. Yes, that is the Parson and not at all a bad sort either. Presently, we heard women's voices, one who appeared to be elderly talking very loudly, two others more gently. You will get no brandy, said the cook.
Presently, the parson came back. I am very sorry but they tell me the brandy is all gone. But the cook will make us a cup of extra strong tea that will do us much good. Perhaps, more said I. That is all right then. The cook gave us some dinner, the parson sat down and took a cup of tea but did not eat with us. When we had finished we thanked him and went on.
When we got to the Bowles station we found two men in the hut. Both elderly men, the bullock driver and the milkman. We asked for Bowles. Yes, he was home but drunk as usual. The mistress carried on the work with the assistance of a man named Chatteston. Old Harry, he was generally called. He was Head Gardner and Head Dairyman. He was not a bad old fellow but an awful growler. It was impossible to please him, so we did not try. They said there were plenty of tucker but no cook so we agreed to do the cooking week about. But old Harry would not allow us time to cook. He said we must do it in our own time. This was too much. There was no eight hours.
Then we had to work from sunrise to sunset. So we said, we must see the boss about it. So they sent me. Yes, Mr. Bowles was in but not ready to do business. Better to see the mistress. So I told her about it. And are you going to do the cooking? No, we have agreed to take it in turns. Well, that seems fair. Yes, but Harry would not allow us to cook. He says we must do it in our own time. And that is too much. Nonsense, of course you must have time. I will speak to him about it. So he went to work, I and the bullock driver had to hoe potatoes. I could do that. It was the first work I have done in Australia. Larry had to help the milkman. Then when milking was done, they had to hoe potatoes too. It was my week to cook when I had a great row with old Harry. I wanted meat. So I went for some. He was busy so he gave me the key of the dairy and told me to take what I wanted in the dairy.
I saw several pigs' faces hanging up and thought that would be a change from salt beef. So I took down two of them and cooked them with my beef. We ate one for supper and had the other for breakfast. But at breakfast, Bowles came in. What have you got there, he said. I said, Pigs' face, would you have some? No. Then he went away then old Harry came and abused me like a pick-pocket, called me a bloody thief and so on.
I was not quarrelsome but I think if he had not been so old, there would have been a fight. At the house that evening, I told Mrs. Bowles about it and said, if I have done wrong, charge me with them but I do not like to be called a thief. Go away with your nonsense. Charge you? I will speak to Harry. There will be no more said about it. Then I had a few words with the bullock driver. He had a boy about nineteen years old, a saucy young hound. I was making bread when he made use of a most filthy expression to me. I said if you said such a thing to me again, I will kick you. Will you? said his father. Then you will have to kick me too. Do you, his father encourage him to say such things as that. Oh! he is only a kid. Only a kid? He will be getting hanged yet. No fear, but if he does, he will not be the first in our family that die that way. The boy got so bad, we had to tell Bowles.
Then they left the hut and lived alone. I asked the old man why he did not send the boy to school. He said, he had no money. Well, there is the Government school. What the bloody reformatory? When the oats were ready to cut, the bullock driver took sick. He was suffering from stricture and was often laid up. Bowles who was now sober said I must drive the team. I said, I was not a bullock driver. But he said, Nonsense. You say you can drive horses so try your hand with bullocks. I've done very well, except for yoking and unyoking. To tell the truth I was rather afraid of them.
When we got started at the hay, it did not take long to make it. What was cut in the morning, was put in the stack at night or next morning. He had left the mowing by contract to two men who had a small farm close to his station. When the hay was all in stack, we got the sack. We were only extra hands. The milkman and the bullock driver were hired by the year so we went back to Wangarratta. We had put in over six weeks there.
A Mr. Rogers who had an Hotel wanted a well cleared out. The sides had fallen in, he said we could easily do it in a week and he would give us ten pounds for the job and feed us while at work. So we took it, but it took us two weeks as more earth kept falling in. But we finish at last, we did not make much, but we lived well and got acquainted.
There was a man at Wangarratta named Meldrum. Jimmy, he was generally called, he was starting a brewery and had bought a large building. He wanted a cellar dug in it and a drain dug from the cellar to the riverbank. He offered us the job at so much per yard. I forget how much, but it was a good price and we took it. We hired an old fellow named Mickey Flaharty to help us.
A Mrs. Parker who had done some washing for me asked me where were we going to board. I do not know, at the Public House I suppose. Ah, no. That is too far off. There is a Mrs. Tremain close to. She has lately lost her husband. She is a good cook and would make you very comfortable. How much does she want per week? Oh! pay her the same as the Public House. Perhaps you could get cheaper board, but you will be helping a poor widow and she will do your washing. I asked Larry, he said all right, we must board somewhere. So we agreed to pay two pounds per week for board, lodging and washing. The first week, he was all right.
Then she asked me to advance her some money. There were two drays in from the country. If she had some ready money, she could buy provisions much cheaper than at the store. It will be all the same to you but it will make a great difference to me. I asked Larry, he said please myself. I asked how much she wanted, twenty pounds. So I drew the twenty pounds and let her have it. There was a change at ? and we did not live so well. Everything was a trouble and although she had agreed to do the washing, she would only wash one time per week. Any more was extra and must be paid for. So I gave my washing to Mrs. Parker again. Larry and Mickey did their own.
She had a son, Johnny. He was about six feet tall but very thin and weak. I think he had outgrown his strength. She used to pet him like a baby. She would cook nice little dishes and put them on the table and say, Now mind, this is now for you fellows. It is only for Johnny. Of course, she had a right to pet him if she liked but it was not pleasant for us. One breakfast I was helping myself to butter, she snapped that butter cost me three shillings and six pence a pound. I left the butter and never ate any more when in the house. But Larry laughed and helped himself very liberally so do Mickey saying three and six a pound sure it ain't worth half the money.
I was very fond of reading so I got a book from the storekeeper. After supper I lit a candle and went to a side table and began to read. She had a most unpleasant way of speaking. She snapped, Come read out don't keep it all to yourself. I said, I am not a very good reader. And I do not like reading out. But the book is here all day, you can read for yourself. No, I can't, I have something else to do without wasting time with rubbishing books. She could not read at all but I did not know it then. I did not read out. Then she snatched away the candles and blew it out, saying, There, if you won't read out, you shall not read at all. I went to bed.
Next day, I got a packet of candles from the store and when I was ready to read, I lit one of my own candles and went into the bedroom. But that would not do. She said she was not going to have lighted candles over the house. She did not want the place burn down. I took no notice then she came in and blew the candle out.
There were two good rooms at the building where we worked. One, that had been used as an office had a fireplace and there was an old table and the chair and the settee. So next day, I shifted my bed over so at night I lit a fire and a candle. There were plenty of wood about the place and read comfortably. Larry and Mickey soon after took the room but what made me more angry than all was this.
A seateh? woman was living in a house close to. She was a milliner, her husband was at the diggings and she worked at her trade. She was the only one there and had as much as she could do. She told me after she could earn a pound per day by working long hours. She had a bad attack of sandy blight, a very painful disease of the eyes. At breakfast one morning the old woman was screaming and laughing outside. I went out to see what amused her. It was this poor woman coming up from the river with the bucket of water staggering about and her little child about nine years old leading her. I went down and took the water and said, Let me carry that for you. But who are you? Never mind that, I am only one of the men working at the brewery. I took it up to the house, then I said, do not fetch any more water. I will come night and morning and bring what water you want. I done so and when her eyes got well I still fetch water as the doctor told her not to work by candlelight.
She often made some cakes and invited me to come and spend the evening with her. There were surely no harm in that. I never stayed late, and the little girl was always there. But the old woman made up a yarn about it. She said, Talk about old hands, the new chums were worse and if no one else told the woman's husband about it, she would.
You know, it is easy to get up a yarn of that kind and plenty of people will believe it. But I took no notice. Then Larry and she had a row about something and he came to me and said it was all my fault. Things were all right until I advanced the money. But you agreed to it. Yes, he did not like to say no. But he knew how it would be. I said, now do not let us quarrel about it. The advance will soon be worked out and then we can leave. So as soon as we were, I told her we would leave. What did I mean by leave. Well, we do not get along very well here so we will go.
She thought we meant to stay until the job was done. She had bought provisions and now we were going, it was a shame to treat a poor widow in this way. She had tried to be a mother to us all, now matter we left and Larry who was a first rate cook done the cooking. We now live much better at less cost.
When we finished the job, I had a good few pounds to take. Larry had not enough to pay his debts. You see, I spent my evenings with my book at my friend's house, he spent his at the public house playing cards. I had to lend him a few pounds to pay one or two little debts. But most of them were never paid. Then he got a job as cook at a Head Sheep Station a few miles off. I could have got a job at the brewery, but as these yarns were going about, I thought it better for the woman's sake that I should go away. She cried and said she was sorry to be the cause of my leaving the place, that I needn't be afraid of her husband. She would tell him all about it. I said I was not afraid but I thought it better for her good name for me to leave.
I never saw her husband. But from what I heard of him there was no reason to be afraid of him. Mickey asked what I was going to do. I said, I would try bush work a while. He said, All right. I know this country well. We will go together. He was not at all the sort of my mate I should have chosen but as I had really nothing against him, I agreed and started out.
The first place we asked for work was Parson Dockers. They were full handed. Being so near town, they always were. Then we tried Bowles. Mrs. Bowles and the children were on a visit to her father. Bowles himself and everyone else on the place except old Harry were drunk. So there was no chance there. So we crossed to the Murray River to Clark station. This was a small sheep and cattle station. Mrs. Clark was a daughter of Parson Dockers, a very nice lady. Mr. Clark asked us if we knew anything about dressing sheerp for the foot rot. I said, no, Mickey made a very ugly face and shook his head. Mr. Clark said that it was very simple. He would show us how to do it. So we were engaged for two pounds per week and rations. Now, foot rot is the disease of the sheep's feet brought on by being fed on swampy ground.
We had to pare away the hoof then press out the matter and dress them with the mixture of blue stone and other nice things. Mr. Clark told us to be careful not to get any in a cut or sore. It was a nasty job but we stuck to it until finished. Then Mickey got a job threshing oats at the next station. Mr. Clark asked me to stay and drive bullocks. I said, I was not a very good bullock driver. Ah, they are very quiet. I will yoke them for you. So I stayed. He yoked them three or four times and then left me to do it myself. He had a contract of fencing and the men were splitting the post and rails in the swamp by the river. I had to take a sledge into the swamp, a dray could not go and all the stuff to the high ground, then take it in the dray to where it was wanted.
There was an old man named Delainey on the place. He had two children, a boy between fifteen and sixteen and a girl between thirteen and fourteen, they each herded a flock of sheep. The old man cooked and kept hut for them. Mrs. Clark told me to go and live with them, but the old man said he engaged to keep hut for his own family, not all the station. If he had to cook for me, he must be paid for it. I said, why do you not speak to Mr. Clark? What is the use of talking to me then driving nine bullocks? I could not always be there as what he called proper kinds. Then I got little or nothing to eat.
There was a small empty hut so I asked Mr. Clark to let me occupy that and cook for myself. He said, Very well and gave me some cooking things and I went to the hut. They called him "Hungry Clark" but I was never hungry there. Mrs. Clark was storekeeper and when I went for rations, she often gave me the key and told me to go and take what I wanted, not much hunger about that. She did not do so with old Delainey, it would not have done at all. There were other things beside rations there.
The first day when I went home, I took a sledge load of wood for my fire. Here, said the old fellow as I passed. I want wood. I took no notice. Next morning, as I passed, he said, I had no wood. Then tell Mr. Clark. If he tells me to haul wood for you I would do so. Of course, he had to fetch his own wood, I kew that. I used to get to work about eight o'clock, work until about four and then go home and turn out the bullocks about ten hours a day.
After this, I had been two or three days in my hut, I had baked bread and cooked beef for next day and was just going to bed. I had put out the light, when someone opened the door and slipped in. Who's that? It was only me, whispered the girl. What do you want? Ah, nothing. I have only come to have a yarn. Wait a bit, I will get a light. What do we want with the light? We can see to talk in he dark. She came and sat on the side of my bed. And young as she was, she soon let me knew what she had come for. She stayed about two hours, then she slipped out again. This went on as long as I stayed there. I do not know if her father knew about it, but her brother certainly did after her first visit.
I used to take the old man a bit of wood. It was no trouble only to hitch the bullock onto a stick and draft it at the hut as I passed. This went on as long as I stayed there. I had nothing to give her, she did not seem to expect anything. But one time when I went to Wangarratta, I bought her a very gay print dress with trimming and some ribbons. The cook at the house made up the dress for her. She was very proud of it. She was never so fine before in her life. She was a poor ignorant thing. She and her brother were, I believe very good shepherds, but outside of that knew no more than the blacks. There were lots like them in the bush then.
When the job was finished, I left. Mrs. Clark, when she settled with me, told me if ever I passed that way again wanting a job to be sure and called. But I never went that way again.
Then I went up the river to Albury. This is a town at the crossing of the Murray River. But on the New South Wales side, I got a job there driving a horse team to haul sawn stuff from the Blackdog Range. This job only lasted about one month. Then, hearing good accounts from a place called Yackandandah on the Victoria side. I went there. It is in the Ovens District, about twenty miles from Beechworth, the principal town at the mines. I found it was all sluicing.
There the claims were all held by companies but while the water lasted, there were plenty of work. They worked night and day, Sundays and all. There were two shifts, they worked long hours and were always wet. It was very hard work but they paid one pound a shift out of that. You have to pay three pounds for a week for board and lodgings. I heard of a man there named Degraves who wanted a man to drive a horse team. So I went and saw him. He kept a store and kept a large boarding house. Yes, he wanted a man to drive his team, to haul stores from Beechworth. He would pay four pounds per week, my board at home and expenses.
Said, come let us be moving. I am going no further. But I thought we were going to Forest Creek. I have made up my mind, I am going n further. Oh! all right, and they picked up their swags. But we can't stop here. Of course not. But I am going no further with them. You can if you like. I shall stick to you of course. But where shall we stay tonight? I do not know the first good camping place we come to. As soon as they were out of sight just before sundown, a man said, Fred, have you made your fortune in the Ovens? I looked, it was an old acquaintance from Sailors Gully.
On the road, I thought this would suit me better than mining. So I took it. It was really a bit of smuggling. He, like the rest of them sold liquor without a license. He told me if the police arrested me to say everything was my own and he would come and pay my fine of ten pound. Perhaps, he would, but I never got caught. He was a very good man to work for. He told me what to do and left me to do it and never found fault. I worked for him until the water gave out. Then as most of his boarders left, and there was very little business in the store he told me there was not work enough for himself. So I got my discharge.
While working for him, I got acquainted with a young fellow named Dick. I forgot his other name, he was a landowner, a barber by trade and as he said a hairdresser and wig maker by profession. He had no regular work. He used to do odd jobs and was hard up all the time being a townsman. I gave him a little help, lent him a little money and so on. He used to tell me great stories about Forest Creek. He said he knew of ground where there was a good living to be got. It was much better than Yackandah. If it is so good, why do you not go back? I wish I could. But I have no money for travelling expenses.
When I left Degraves, he asked what I was going to do. I said I think I will go back to Bendigo. It is no use to stay here and spend what little I have got. Dick said, you had better go to Forest Creek. But I know no one there and I do not know the ground. Let us go together, you pay the expenses. I will soon be able to pay you back. I did not believe all he said but thought there might be some truth in it so I agreed and one morning we started.
I had a rather heavy swag to carry, two pairs of blankets, one a large pair I had used as a tent when away with the team. I had a big billy, pannikin and frying pan, a light axe and my clothes and revolver. I said I had a heavy load. Yes, what do you want with that frying pan. I should not have bought one but as I have it, I am not going to throw it away. We shall find it very useful. Well, I don't see the use of that axe. You have not done much bush travelling as you would not say that.
We stopped the first night at Beechworth, the next day we overtook two young fellows who were also going to Forest Creek. Dick knew them and they said, we might as well travel together. I did not much like their looks. They appeared to be what we called swills, but as the road was as free for them as for us and Dick said they were good fellows, I agreed.
We got on pretty well, they were rather close with their money but I thought perhaps they had very little. That was a mistake. They had plenty, having just sold out of a good claim and were going home but were going round by Forest Creek to take leave of some friends. We camped one night by a creek at a little township about forty miles on the Ovens side of the Broken. I told Dick to go and get some bread and meat and I will make a fire and boil the billy. When he came, he had mutton chops, very fat but he had another lump of fat. I said, what do you want with that fat? Is not the meat fat enough? Oh! I always take all I can get. He did too as I soon found out.
We have made our camp close to a big water hole. There was a boy fishing and was catching plenty. One of the men went to him and said, Well boy are you fishing? Yes. What do you call these fish? Black fish are they? Are they good? My word. Have you a spare hook? No I ain't got no hook at all. What have you got then? A pin. Well, have you a spare pin. No I ain't. Then he gathered up his fish and went away.
The man asked me if I had any pins. No. When Dick came, he asked him. Oh, yes, plenty of pins. He went to his swag and got what he called a housewife helper, it was a sort of book with flannel leaves in it. He had pins, needles, thread, everything for doing a little job of tailoring. He said his mother made it for him when he left home.
So our friend was soon fitted out with pins, strong thread and a little stick. He said he was a good fisherman, he baited with a little piece of meat but the fish did not bite very freely. I told him I had heard fishermen say when fish did not bite, they baited with a bit of fish and that often fetched them. So he baited with fish guts and was soon pulling them out as fast as the boy did. They were nice little fish about six or eight inches long, fat and well flavoured.
We all got to work, he caught the fish, his mate cleaned them, throwing the guts back into the water to attract the others. But he said it in French and I fried them. I do not know how many he caught but we had as much as we could eat and we all have good appetites. So Dick's fat came in useful after all. We had our chops for breakfast and some to carry with us on the road.
We got on all right until we got to the crossing of the Baker River. There they told us all the water was dried up on the plain and from the time we left the river we would get no more water until we got to the other river. I am almost sure it was the Wemera. So before leaving the river, I said, let us make a pot of tea. All right, said Dick. He was always ready for a feed. So we made tea and ate what food we had. Dick said, it was easier to carry grub inside than outside. When we had done, I put on the billy again. What is that for? To carry with us. But who is going to carry it? I will, but mind this I will drink it too. So we started.
After walking some distance, Dick said, let me carry that billy. I gave it to him but he kept stopping every few minutes to sip. Easy with that tea, we will get no more for thirty miles. No need for going so far as that, said one of the other men. I know a short cut, by which we can make the river in ten miles not at the crossing. But we can follow the river and have water all the way. But are you sure you know the way? Ah, yes. I came up that way, besides there is the car tracks, we cannot miss it. All right then. Let us go that way if you are sure.
Presently he said, this is the turn off place and see here are the car tracks I spoke of. So away we went like the fool we were, we walked and walked until almost sundown. Then the car tracks gave out. Well, where is the river? I am really afraid, we have made a mistake and it was not the right way. I thought so. Well, I am going no further tonight. But we cannot stay here. Why not? We have nothing to eat. No, and what is worse, we had nothing to drink.
Dick who was looking about said, What are those birds doing over there? I said, I believe there is water there. What makes you think that? What else would bring them as it is the way I mean to go. I am going to see so we went. Sure enough, there was a little water hole not yet dried up. So we filled our billies and has a pot of tea. We did not rig the tent, there were no sticks. Before tying down, I said, Dick you had better filled the billy. What for? We may want a drink before morning. Ah, I shall not want a drink. All right, if you can do without, so can I. I was getting tired of his little tricks. So we had no water that night.
If I had fetched, I knew he would have drunk most of it. Next morning, one of he other men went to fill his billy. He sang out, why it is all gone. Gone where? said Dick. Dried up, said I. Evaporated, said the other fellow. I took my billy and went to where the water was last night. Not a drop was left, but the grass was wet. So I took my knife and I dug a hole about as big as a bucket. And as quick as I could, I struck a little bed of gravel. And the water trickled slowly in. As it came in, I dipped it up and put it in my billy. When it was half full, one of them said, hold on we want water also. Wait until my billy is full. Then if there is any left, you can have it
Of course I knew there would be. He said something about selfishness. All right, but I dug this well for myself, you can wait until I have done or you can dig another. He waited. The water was rather gritty but the sand settled down with the tea leaves. So we had a very fair cup of tea.
When we have drunk our tea, which way now? said Dick. Said I, we came that way pointing, if we go this way, pointing again, we shall about strike the road. But said one. That is not the way to the river. Damn your river. It is the road I want. Why are you so anxious for the road? Well, I am not much of a bushman but I know when I have a road under my feet, it will lead me somewhere. But we may wander about on the plains for a week looking for your river. So I picked up my swag and started. Dick came with me, the others went to look for the river.
We walked some distance when Dick said, hold on those fellows are calling. Let them call. Ah, we may as well wait for them. We waited, when they came up, one of them said, are you sure you are right? Ah, go to the devil? Did you stop us to ask that foolish question. Right or wrong, this is the way I am going. You got us into this trouble. Now I am looking out for myself, but I do not ask anyone to follow me. Then I went on and they all came too. After walking a long time without speaking, Dick said what is that? Pointing. Only a little cloud of dust. Ah, no. It is moving. I think it is a bullock dray. If so, it is most likely on the road and we are right.
At last we came to the road we saw by the tracks. It was a horse team that had passed along. What now, said Dick. Follow the dray of course. If we had not waited for those fellows, we should have caught it. Then, we should have known where we are. So when we went, at last I saw something flash and glitter. What is that? What is what? I see nothing.
Presently, I said, look there it is again. Dick saw it and said I think it is water. Ah, no. I said, it is not water. I mean the reflection of the sun from water. I said, no. I think it is glass. It may be a window or it may be a broken bottle. But I am going to make for it on chance.
The weather was hot and we began to suffer from thirst. One of them said. Ah, God I would give five pounds for a good drink of water. I said, if you offer fifty, you could not get it here. We went on still seeing this thing flash now and then. At last, the poor devil threw down his swag and said. I can go no further. Stay where you are then, said I. Do not be brittle, said his mate who was his step-brother and much older. I said, you are foolish if you pity him, he will think he is dead. I will not try to make him think. You do not care if he comes or not. He will come but there is nothing the matter yet.
We all had a good drink this morning. Ah, but he is not so strong as you are. But we started. What? Are you all going to leave me? Well Charles, our staying will do you no good, but we find water I will try to bring you some. Well, I can carry this no further kicking his swag. His mate picked up and carried them both. It was very light, all three of their swags were not so big as mine.
We went on, this poor devil whimpering behind, but I would not wait. Bye and bye, Dick said, I see a house, if it is not deserted, we shall soon have a drink. Perhaps, they would not give us any. This poor fellow said, Won't they? If they will give me some, said I. Me too, said Dick.
When we got a little nearer, Dick said, I see smoke. We now saw what had attracted our attention. The shingle roof had been repaired with a sheet of tin and the sun shining on that was what we had seen. We went to the house, there was a woman there and a little girl, nine or ten years old. I said, for God's sake mistress, give us a drink of water. I am very sorry, but the dray should have been here yesterday with rations and water. We are using water from the lagoon and that is filthy. But I will give you a little tea. She gave us each a small cup of tea. All she had then.
She showed us the water. It was mud made up of sheep dung and other nice things. But she said, if we boiled it, the thick stuff would rise to the top and could be skinned off. So we filled our billy and tried it. As it got hot, the solid matter rose to the surface. When it boiled, it was quite clear. It had a peculiar taste and smell, but we were not particular today.
After we had had some tea, Dick said, I am awfully hungry. This was not to be wondered at, it was about thirty hours since we had eaten. So I went to the hut again, and asked the woman if she could spare us any rations. She said, she had nothing but a little flour and corn mutton. She had hardly tea and sugar enough for supper and breakfast. She said, I will give you half the flour and you may have all the mutton. But if I take all the mutton, what will you do? Oh, my husband can kill a sheep tonight, so she gave me the biggest half of the flour and all the meat. But how will you cook it? In the billy, I suppose. Ah, no, I will lend you my big pot and you can cook it all at once.
So we set to work, I boiled the mutton, one of them made flapjacks, Dick made the tea and the other fellow laid on the ground and I think he cried. The woman gave us plenty of fat to fry the flapjacks. We all had a hearty meal.
About sundown, the shepherd came home. After he had killed his sheep and had supper, he came and had a talk. He had been a long time in the colony. His wife was born in New South Wales. They had only one child living but had lost several. They were nice kind people. In the morning, we used the last of our tea and had more flapjacks and fresh mutton.
At sunrise, the man turned out his flock, but did not go himself, he wanted to see us off first. Quite right too. I asked him, what we owed him. Never mind that. But we have eaten your rations and ought to give you something. I cannot make any change. I took this to mean, 'Give what you like'. So I said to the little girl, your father does not want any pay. You can take this, giving her a sovereign. Let your mother take care of it for you and when your father goes to town, he can buy something for you. The woman thanked us and we left.
We had now a good road and we knew where we were going. After a good walk, we sat down to rest. One of the men said. Have you plenty of money? I laughed and said, No, very little. I thought you had by the way you throw it about. What do you mean? That pound you gave those people.
The man said he wanted no pay. Now don't you think what he had done was more than a pound's worth of goods if I had not mistaken. I heard you say yesterday, you would give five pounds for a drink of water. Ah, a man will say anything when perishing with thirst, said the other. You can throw away your money but not ours. We pay no part of that pound. You can stick your money up. He jumped up. Do you dare to speak like that to us? There, said I getting up. There, what the hell are you? We are gentlemen sir. Yes, there are too many of your sort of gentlemen in the country now. There needs a hanging day among you. I picked up my swag and walked on. I did not speak to them again that day. But Dick chatted just as friendly as before.
About the middle of the afternoon, we got to the crossing of the river. There was a public house, a store, a blacksmith's shop and a few other houses that made the town. We went to the public house and asked the woman in the bar if we could stay that night. I am afraid we cannot find you beds. Never mind the beds. Can you find us anything to eat? She laughed. Ah, yes, supper will be ready soon, do you all want supper? I and my mate do. I do not know about the others. I thought you were all one party. Ah, no, not at all. Then I said, Come Dick, let us have a drink. Always before when I gave Dick a drink, I invited the others to join, but not this time. I was not going to throw away any more money at least not on them.
After supper as soon as it was dark enough, I went to the river and had a good bath. The man at the stable showed me where. Then I spread my blankets on the verandah and slept soundly until morning. Then I had another good wash.
After breakfast and a drink I was a new man and we started again. We walked some distance then one of them made some remarks. I answered civilly, I was in a better humour than yesterday and I never bear malice. Long after that, we were civil to each other but not friendly as before. Nothing further happened until we got to Bendigo, there we parted. It was this way on the outskirts of Bendigo, a woman crossed the road carrying a bucket of water. I said, is that good water? Very good water. Did you get it just here? She set down the water and showed me the spring. We got a drink there.
One of them said, I propose we get some food and have lunch alfresco. It will come cheaper than going to an eating house. All right, said Dick. Then you go and get some bread and let one of these get some meat and I will boil the billy. What shall I get? Anything you like if there is enough of it. So Dick got the bread and he got some sausages. They were fried and we sat down. I do not know how many I had eaten. But I suppose three. I reached for another. Hold on, it will not run four sausages per man. I drew back angry.
Then I got up and went to the butchers and said, give me a shilling's worth of sausages. He said, these are perfectly fresh, but the hot wind has dried them. All right, you will give me a bit of fat to fry them. Ah, yes, I will give you four pounds instead of three. Meat was cheap then. So I cooked them and said, come on! So they all sat down and we soon finished the lot.
(There is still more of Alfred Restieaux's manuscript to be inserted at this point covering the balance of his time in Australia, etc. This will be inserted shortly).
END OF PART ONE
Part Two of the Alfred Restieaux Manuscripts