This is a first-hand — but little known account of Eureka, written by John Lynch, who was one of Peter Lalor’s captains in the Eureka Stockade. He wrote his story of the insurrection in the Catholic Monthly, “Austral Light,” in a series of six instalments, October, 1893, to March, 1894. The full text of the account is here made available in booklet form for the first time.
John Lynch was born at Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, on December 25, 1828, and died on March 21, 1906, at Smythesdale, Victoria. He came to Australia in the early fifties, arriving at Ballarat among the earliest of the gold diggers.
He took a leading part in the “No-Licence Agitation” on the Ballarat goldfield, and when the discontent among the diggers took the form of open rebellion at the Eureka Stockade he was called upon to act as an officer under Peter Lalor. He escaped injury in the battle, but was arrested, gaoled and tried for sedition, but was discharged for want of evidence.
After the historic fight, Mr. Lynch, who was a working miner like the bulk of the population at that time, followed his occupation for many years. When the Smythe’s Creek rush broke out in 1855, he was one of the first to arrive there, travelling through the bush, via Ballarat West, Cardigan and Haddon, to the creek, and pitching his camp near the peculiar red bluff, known as Fraser’s Hill, where he subsequently built his home, and remained for over half a century.
Two years after Eureka, December 3, 1353, there was a picturesque ceremonial at the monument on the site of the Stockade. The diggers of Ballarat marched in procession to the monument, and John Lynch read the following address:—
“Sensible of the debt of gratitude we owe to the memories of the brave men who fell victims on the fatal third of December, 1854, in their efforts to resist the oppression and tyranny of the then existing Government, we meet here, to-day, the second anniversary of that disastrous day, in solemn procession to pay their (or our) ‘names’ the only tribute in our power, the celebrating with due solemnity the sad commemoration of their martyrdom.”
The procession reformed, and marching to the spot in the Old Colonists’ Cemetery, where the fallen diggers were laid, placed wreaths upon the graves.
When, fifty years later, a large assemblage gathered at the Stockade to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Eureka, the bent form of Mr. Lynch, leaning upon the arm of his son (Captain Lynch) was a conspicuous figure, as he approached the obselik; the crowd stood back to allow him to pass, and many of the elder men doffed their hats. — (Ballarat “Star,” March 22. 1909.)
John Lynch lived most of his life at Smythesdale (the later name of Smythe’s Creek). Shortly after his arrival there, he was elected surveyor by popular vote of the diggers and was subsequently gazetted as Government mining surveyor. He was a councillor and many times mayor of the district.
He was an able exponent of the rights of the workers, a well educated man, a fine mathematician and a ready writer, often in the early, stirring days, contributing to the press. He was appointed the first examiner in mathematics at the School of Mines, and in recognition of his many services to that institution, his bust stands in the council room there to-day.
John Lynch, The Story of the Eureka Stockade, Melbourne: Australian Catholic Truth Society, [1947?], pages 2-3
[Editor: Corrected “March 21, 1909” to “March 21, 1906”.]