Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/73

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59
A BIRTHPLACE OF FREEDOM.

landscape. A pastoral quiet reigned everywhere. Over the whole expanse there was nothing of civilisation but a few pastoral settlers and their retinue—the occasional flock of nibbling sheep, or groups of cattle browsing in the broad herbage."[1]

An early settler has given a graphic description of the quietness that reigned supreme: "I often passed," he says, "the spot on which Ballarat is built, and there could not be a prettier spot imagined. It was the very picture of repose. There was in general plenty of grass and water, and often have I seen the cattle in considerable numbers lying in quiet enjoyment after being satisfied with the pasture. One day I met the keeper of a shepherd's hut, and he told me the solitude was so painful that he could not endure it. He saw no one from the time the shepherds went out in the morning till they returned at night. I was the only person he had ever seen there who was not connected with the station." Mr. F. P. Labillière, barrister of the Middle Temple, says he "well remembers the neighbourhood of Ballarat for two or three years before gold was thought of. Some months before the discovery he passed near the field, if not over it, on the occasion of a day's excursion, which as a boy he made to Lake Burrumbeet with some friends from Buninyong. The whole country then was devoted to sheep pasture. There were no farms, and not a fence was to be seen along the bush road, or rather track between the lake and Mount Buninyong."[2]

But a time was at hand when all this Arcadian stillness and simplicity would have to make way for the busy hum and strange ways of camping crowds of all nations, when the