Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/29

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15
A SURVEY OF THE SOUTH.

judiciously, and founded a patriotic and influential Irish-Victorian community. All the colonial towns were deserted, and people in the most reckless manner sold their houses and lands at an immense reduction on the cost price, and hastened away to the diggings. Hobson's Bay, the harbour of Melbourne, was a forest of masts; ships lay anchored in hundreds, unable to proceed on their voyages, the sailors having deserted in a body for the up-country goldfields. Every week a mounted escort brought down from Ballarat to Melbourne an average yield of 2,500 ounces of gold, and much larger quantities were sent away privately. But these astonishing yields were soon afterwards eclipsed by the discoveries at Mount Alexander, which proved to be literally and without exaggeration "a mountain of gold." The quantity sent from this mountain during the second week of December, 1851, was 23,650 ounces, more than one ton in weight. The influx of population consequent on the gold discoveries may be gathered from the fact that in the one month of September, 1851, 16,000 new arrivals appeared on the scene, whilst in the following month the number had increased to 19,000, and each succeeding month had to be credited with a similar rate of progress. At Bendigo, 25 miles north of Mount Alexander, 70,000 men were simultaneously seeking their fortune. The public revenue had jumped from £380,000 in 1851 to £1,577,000 in 1852. Melbourne, as the commercial centre on which the goldfields depended for supplies, and the principal point of departure for the up-country districts, had developed into an important city. Its streets were thronged with lucky diggers, some of whom were dissipating their easily-acquired riches in the wildest profusion, lighting their pipes with fifty-pound notes, purchasing gorgeous dresses for their female companions of