Page 6 from Diary of a miner working on the Ballarat goldfields, 1855 Jul. 8-1856 Jan. 1

Ballarat: Sunday 8th July, 1855: Got home and found the tent afloat and my blankets wetKindled fire and cleaned up tent. Boiled kettle and prepared supper. Ironing my blankets, I burned one of them.’

So goes life on the goldfields. This diary of a miner appears to have been written by a Scotsman, probably from Glasgow or nearby Dumbarton. He writes a very detailed account of daily life on the goldfields; the gravel pits, the panning for gold and the food; where apparently ‘duff’ was the staple... ‘supped on cold duff and beefsteak or mutton pie’… ‘We had a rare tuck out of roast beef mutton & potatoes, and plum duff and sauce, and a glass of champagne to send it down’. (‘Duff’ is ‘a flour pudding boiled in a bag.’ (Oxford English Dictionary)

Not only was there duff on the goldfields, but there was a tiger, escaped from a circus;

‘…while the Bengal tiger kept at the Montezuma was being taken along on a cart in a strong box…the cart capsized and the box split in two pieces and out sprang the Bengal gent. This was just at the foot of Bakery Hill a little past Coe the Bakers, and opposite Hopkins Store. The tiger sprang into the store and went through the shop into the kitchen where it found a leg of mutton which it seized and commenced devouring it. The storekeeper was behind the counter at the time and vanished into a box. A large crowd collected round about but Joe did not wait to see how they would manage to take him… He is allowed to be the largest sized tiger ever exhibited and he certainly looked a noble though savage animal in the cage.’  (Friday 10th August)


Ballarat gold-fields, IMP00/02/62/12

The lively goldfields would also host a murder;

‘Heard today of a butcher being shot by mistake for another person near the Creek last night. A wife and husband affair. The butcher was shot through the heart in his tent his shadow being taken for that of the intended person who was in the tent lighting his pipe. The murderer got off…’

But these occurrences did not disturb the miner from the real motivation of panning for gold:

Harry bought back from his friend Bell that piece of gold which he (Harry) found a short time ago, and when cleaned by him tonight with soap and water and a brush it looks handsome and, from its shape and form, will make a gorgeous brooch for a lady’.


[Mourning brooch made from the hair of Miss Anne Drysdale], H3488

 The Library holds many other digitsed goldfield diaries and images.


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