Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/107

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course, being now no longer capable of holding its inmates, throws them forth to the open air to have a trip on the gravel, which here serves as a substitute for the bright green sod of their own native 'isle of the ocean.'"

In a community composed of so many inflammable elements, and gathered from all the nations under the sun, with every man desperately eager to build up a golden pile, and return home with the utmost speed to astonish his family and friends with the richness of his rapidly-acquired wealth, it was to be expected that there should be not unfrequently personal disputes as to the right of possessing particular pieces of coveted ground. As a rule the contending parties were allowed to fight the matter out for themselves; but occasionally their sympathising countrymen would appear on the scene of strife, hot words would be interchanged, and very soon, what was originally a purely personal quarrel would develop into a mélée between opposing nationalities.

Mr. C. R. Read, an official on the gold-fields, in a work describing his experiences in that capacity, narrates how, on one occasion, there was a dispute between a Tipperary boy and an Englishman about a piece of ground, and in the inevitable scuffle that ensued the Irishman fell headlong into a hole full of muddy water, and the Englishman partly so. This trifling incident a few hours afterwards led to a desperate fight between the Irishmen and Englishmen on the field. One Irishman was shot through the lungs and another in the head, whilst the leader of the Englishmen had his head split open with an axe.

The same official states that the Irishmen were generally the most fortunate on the diggings. The most unfortunate class of gold-seekers were those that came under the deno-