An Autobiography HTML version

A Trip To England
I have gone on with the story of my three first novels consecutively, anticipating the
current history of myself and South Australia. There were three great steps taken in the
development of Australia. The first was when McArthur introduced the merino sheep; the
second when Hargreaves and others discovered gold; and the latest when cold-storage
was introduced to make perishable products available for the European markets. The
second step created a sudden revolution; but the others were gradual, and the area of
alluvial diggings in Victoria made thousands of men without capital or machinery rush to
try their fortunes--first from the adjacent colonies, and afterwards from the ends of the
earth. Law and order were kept on the goldfields of Mount Alexander, Bendigo, and
Ballarat by means of a strong body of police, and the high licence fees for claims paid for
their services, so that nothing like the scenes recorded of the Californian diggings could
be permitted. But for the time ordinary industries were paralysed. Shepherds left their
flocks, farmers their land, clerks their desks, and artisans their trades. Melbourne grew
apace in spite of the highest wages known being exacted by masons and carpenters.
Pastoralists thought ruin stared them in the face till they found what a market the
goldfields offered for their surplus stock. Our South Australian farmers left their holdings
in the hands of their wives and children too young to take with them, but almost all of
them returned to grow grain and produce to send to Victoria. It was astonishing what the
women had done during their absence. The fences were kept repaired and the stock
attended to, the grapes gathered, and the wine made. In these days it was not so easy to
get 80 acres or more in Victoria; so, with what the farmers brought from their labours on
the goldfields, they extended their holdings and improved their homes. For many years
the prices in Melbourne regulated prices in Adelaide, but when the land was unlocked
and the Victorian soil and climate were found to be as good as ours it was Mark lane that
fixed prices over all Australia for primary products. After the return of most of the
diggers there was a great deal of marrying and giving in marriage. The miners who had
left the Burra for goldseeking gradually came back, and the nine remarkable copper
mines of Moonta and Wallaroo attracted the Cornishmen, who preferred steady wages
and homes to the diminishing chances of Ballarat and Bendigo where machinery and
deep sinking demanded capital, and the miners were paid by the week. These new copper
mines were found in the Crown leases held by Capt. (afterwards Sir Walter) Hughes. He
had been well dealt with by Elder, Smith, & Co., and gave them the opportunity of
supporting him. At that time my friends Edward Stirling and John Taylor were partners in
that firm, and they shared in the success. Mr. Bakewell belonged to the legal firm which
did their business, so that my greatest friends seemed to be in it. I think my brother John
profited less by the great advance of South Australia than he deserved for sticking to the
Bank of South Australia. He got small rises in his salary, but the cost of living was so
enhanced that at the end of seven years it did not buy much more than the 100 pounds he
had begun with. My eldest maiden aunt died, and left to her brother and sister in South
Australia all she had in her power. My mother bought a brick cottage in Pulteney street
and a Burra share with her legacy--both excellent investments--and my brother left the
bank and went into the aerated water business with James Hamilton Parr.