Story of the Eureka Stockade: Narrative by one of Lalor’s captains [review, 15 January 1948]

[Editor: A review of The Story of the Eureka Stockade (1947?) by John Lynch. Published in the “Book reviews” section of The Advocate, 15 January 1948.]

Story of the Eureka Stockade

Narrative by one of Lalor’s captains

The only account of the Eureka Stockade written by an active participant, apart from Peter Lalor’s own narrative published in the Argus in April, 1865, is the lively description of and comment on the event by John Lynch, one of Lalor’s captains in the fight. There is, of course, Carboni Raffaello’s picturesque and delightful book on Eureka, but Carboni, according to his own frank confession, which is corroborated by Lynch, hid in his hut throughout the fighting. In the chimney, says Lynch, Carboni “lay safely ensconced, like a snail in its shell, until all danger was over.” Lynch, however, was in the thick of the fray and his story is of inestimable value, especially at the moment when Harry Watt’s film of Eureka is in the making.

John Lynch was a native of Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland, who came to Australia in the early ’fifties and died at Smythesdale, Victoria, in 1909. He took a leading part in the happenings that led up to the rebellion and was chosen to act as an officer under Peter Lalor. He was arrested, gaoled and tried for sedition, but was discharged for lack of evidence. He lived most of the remainder of his life at Smythe’s Creek, or Smythesdale, was elected surveyor by the diggers, was gazetted as mining surveyor by the Government, and was councillor and many times mayor of the district. He was a well-educated man, an able writer, a fine mathematician, and was appointed first examiner in mathematics at the School of Mines, Ballarat, where a bust was subsequently placed to his memory. When, 50 years after Eureka, a large crowd gathered to honour the jubilee, John Lynch was an honoured figure present. Many of the men doffed their hats as he passed through to the obelisk.

It was to mark this fiftieth anniversary that John Lynch wrote his story of Eureka for the Austral Light, an admirable Catholic monthly magazine which was established in 1892 but which died out, unfortunately, in 1921. Lynch’s story was published in six instalments in the issues October, 1893, to March, 1894. It is a vigorously-written narrative, covering the events relevant to Eureka, particularly as Lynch saw them himself. It is seasoned with forthright comment and there are valuable pen pictures of the principal characters of the drama. He expresses scathing contempt for the “rhetorical belligerents” who were prominent in the “reign of tall talk and high falutin’,” before the fighting, but were conspicuously absent when it began. Carboni Raffaello, for example, he describes as “nothing more than mountebank revolutionary — a two-penny Cataline”; of Frederick Vern, he says that “those who saw him run averred that his performance was such as to suggest a past-mastership in the art of desertion.” His brave leaders, such as Lalor, were unobtrusive but resolute.

Lynch’s account of Eureka was republished in the Australian Catholic Digest, January-June, 1944, and so widespread was the interest it aroused and so insistent the demand since for back numbers containing the story that the Australian Catholic Truth Society decided to publish it for the first time in booklet form. This is now on sale, in a handsome coloured cover. It can be recommended as a handy, reliable description and explanation of Eureka, much cheaper in price than the available books on the subject but equal in worth, apart from its unique merit as the work of “one of Lalor’s captains.” It should be particularly useful and informative in schools.

— F.M.

The Story of the Eureka Stockade. By John Lynch. Australian Catholic Truth Society. Pp. 40. Price 9d.

The Advocate (Melbourne, Vic.), 15 January 1948, p. 10

Editor’s notes:
Cataline = Lucius Sergius Catilina (108 B.C. – 62 B.C.), known as Catiline, was a Roman politician; he plotted to overthrow the Roman republic, and was widely regarded as a traitor, villain, and murderer (he has sometimes been referred to as “Cataline”, instead of “Catiline”)

Co. = an abbreviation of “County”

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