Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/78

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64
THE IRISH IN AUSTRALIA.

with them from the mountains. In many cases these 'pockets,' as they were called, were found to contain gold to the value of thousands of pounds, so that very soon all the claims were carried down a few feet further, and with such success that, before a month had passed, Ballarat took rank as the richest gold-field in the world. In October i there were 10,000 men at work on the Yarrowee; acre after acre was covered with circular heaps of red and yellow sand, each with its shaft in the middle, in which men were toiling beneath the ground to excavate the soil and pass it to their companions above, who quickly hurried with it to the banks of the creek, where twelve hundred cradles, rocked by brawny arms, were washing the sand from the gold." The extraordinary excitement produced By the Ballarat discoveries is thus described in a despatch of the governor of the period, Mr. Latrobe, to Earl Grey: "It is quite impossible for me to describe to your lordship the effect which these discoveries have had upon the whole community. Within the last three weeks the towns of Melbourne and Geelong and their large suburbs have been in appearance almost emptied of many classes of their male inhabitants. Not only have the idlers to be found in every community, and day labourers in town and the adjacent country, shopmen, artisans and mechanics of every description thrown up their employments—in most cases leaving their employers and their wives and families to take care of themselves—and run off to the workings, but responsible tradesmen, farmers, clerks of every grade and not a few of the superior classes have followed; some unable to withstand the mania and force of the stream, but others because they were, as employers of labour, left in the lurch and had no other alternative. Cottages are deserted,