Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/75

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61
A BIRTHPLACE OF FREEDOM.

greatest excitement throughout New South Wales and Victoria, and a general movement of the population set in towards the "diggings" discovered by Hargreaves. Victoria was in danger of losing all her able-bodied men, when, at the critical moment, Esmond published his still more astonishing discoveries at Clunes, about 20 miles to the N.N.W. of Ballarat. This timely intimation had the effect of not only stopping the exodus to New South Wales, but of inducing a general rush to Victoria from the other colonies. The result was the gradual development of the famous Ballarat gold-field, "the riches unearthed there," according to the historian of the era, "not only quickly attracting all the other prospectors, but setting the colony on fire with excitement from end to end." Patrick Connor and Thomas Dunn—unmistakable Milesian names—were the leaders of the first two parties that commenced actual work on this, the most celebrated gold-field of our century. Mr. Withers, in his "History of Ballarat," expresses the opinion that "the honour of discovery seems to be tolerably evenly balanced between the two parties, though it may perhaps be held that the balance of priority inclines to the side of Connor's party, and it is said in support of Connor's claim that he was always regarded as leader of the diggers at the meetings held in those first days when the authorities made their first demand for license fees." Connor is dead, but Dunn still survives at a ripe old age, and steadfastly maintains his claim to the title of "Father of Ballarat." "I shall give you," he says, "a full and true account of our gold prospecting and the first discovery of Golden Point, Ballarat. Our party consisted of Richard Turner, James Merrick,George Wilson,Charles Gerrard, James Batty, and myself, Thomas Dunn. We started from town (Geelong") on Tuesday, August 5th, 1851, met with an accident