Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/137

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123
A FEW IRISH CENTRES.

Celts of the great potato-producing district of Victoria are far from being singular in their good behaviour as an assembled body; for, in every part of Australia, Irishmen meet together both for business and for pleasure, and afterwards return to their homes in the most sober and peaceable fashion that any honest well-wisher of the race could desire.

Gipps Land, the eastern province of Victoria, is now almost as Irish in the composition and the character of its inhabitants as that older western district which has just been described. This extensive and marvellously-productive province was named after the governor of the day—Sir George Gipps—by Count Strzelecki, an expatriated Polish exile and an enthusiastic scientist, who, in the beginning of 1840, explored what was then a wild and trackless region, with a young Irishman named James Riley for his companion, and a few personal attendants. They approached the district from the settled portions of New South Wales, and had no sooner crossed the dividing range than they entered on what they described as a new and splendid country, clothed with the richest pasture, and intersected with numerous rivers, forming an immense inland lake and its ramified lagoons. They saw opening up in every direction fresh fields for the operations of the settler, such as no other part of the colony with which they were acquainted presented to the gaze of the pioneer. As the party advanced the vegetation became so dense that it was with the utmost difficulty they could make any appreciable progress southwards. Finding that the horses retarded rather than accelerated the advance of the party, it was resolved to abandon them, and the adventurous explorers proceeded on foot through the terra incognita.