Buninyong and District Historical Society Inc.


Reg. No. A0030085Y
Web Site http://home.vicnet.net.au/~buninhis
PO Box 98, Buninyong, Vic. 3353.


June-August 2005

Our next meeting takes place on Thursday 18 August at 7.30 p.m. at the Court House History Centre, at the Buninyong Town Hall. Our guest speaker will be Peter Freund, theatre publicist and historian from Her Majesty's Theatre in Ballarat, who will speak on aspects of theatrical history in Ballarat and Buninyong. Should be a great night, so please come along.


Passing of Dorothy McGillivray. We note with sadness the passing of Miss Dorothy McGillivray, formerly of Mount Doran. Dorothy and her brother Ian were former members of the Society, and assisted us greatly on one of our excursion to Mount Doran in 2002, bringing the history of this former thriving gold fields community to life. Dorothy died at the end of July and was buried at Morrisons Cemetery. She was 80 years old. Dorothy was also a valued member of the local native plants group.

McGillivrays in front of Mt Doran school

Dorothy and Ian McGillivray revisit the Mount Doran school, November 2002

Gold Protest Plaque Unveiling On Thursday 25 August, the Ballarat Reform League Inc. will unveil a plaque near Buninyong to mark the site of the first protest against the gold license on the Victorian goldfields. This was in August 1851. It will be unveiled close to the plaque our Society unveiled in 2001 to mark the 150th anniversary of the discovery of gold. Members are warmly invited to come to the unveiling by Professor Weston Bate at 2.00p.m. Take Hiscock's Gully Rd. opposite Buninyong Sand and Soil and travel up to the crest of the hill and you will come to the site on your left hand side. Refreshments afterwards at the Crown Hotel.
See the Ballarat Reform League website for more information.

National Tree Day was celebrated on Sunday 31 July 2005, with trees planted on Mount Buninyong and at the Durham Lead bridge, coordinated by our wonderful local Land Care groups. A good time to observe the growth of the Bobbie Bath plantation on the Midland Highway at Mount Buninyong.

Following the natural history path, Neil McCracken and Pat Hope have been working assiduously to try to get the Yarrowee Trail extended to Buninyong, through the pine plantation at Magpie. We have written to the Ballarat City Council supporting this initiative of the Great Dividing Trail Association. Our congratulations to Pat and Neil for their great efforts.

We have also written to Cr. Peter Innes about the ancient Eucalyptus viminalis in Nolan Street, and Peter has elicited action out of the officers, who have undertaken to protect the tree and enhance its surroundings.


April - July 2005


This appears a particularly tragic tale in the era before the Welfare State. John Bennett and Jane Logan were living at Buninyong in the early 1860s. John died in December 1862, leaving a widow with young children. Jane died at the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum in July 1864, and her children appeared before the Buninyong Court as orphans, and were split up and the police sergeant at Buninyong sent some to the Emerald Hill Orphanage in December 1864. Query from Adelaide.


Thomas Fowler from Yorkshire was in the Buninyong rea in 1855-7, working as a butcher, when two of his children were born. However his name does not appear on the electoral roll or the earliest Buninyong Directory for 1857. Cemetery records however record him as the father of two infants who died in 1859 and 1864.


David Gedge was born in London in 1843. He came to the Durham Lead with his mother and father David Baleham Gedge and Ann nee Brookman and brothers Joseph, William and George. David senior was working as a miner. Catherine Gedge was born at the Durham in 1858, and died in November 1859, and was buried at Buninyong. David Gedge senior is listed on the first Rate survey of the Buninyong Shire in 1863. Young David worked on local farms, and for the coaching company Bevan & Co. before he got mixed up with some bad company and was hanged at Melbourne Gaol on 11 November 1863, along with Elizabeth Scott and Julian Cross. All three found guilty of murdering Elizabeth Scott's husband, Robert.


William Holmes and his wife Harriett (nee Banister) were married in 1868, and living at Buninyong by 1870, when their son William was born. William worked as a tanner and a miner in the Buninyong area before his death in 1909. Query from Gympie, Qld.


Adney Windsor Hopton was a surgeon in the Buninyong-Durham Lead-Whim Holes area in the 1860s. He died when he fell from his horse at Spring Creek (near Enfield) in March 1868.


William Edward Howard worked as a Miner in Victoria. He died in Smythesdale on 11 November, 1894. His wife was Caroline Stone. She worked for George Selleck in Geelong as a laundry maid for 6 months. He is buried at the Buninyong cemetery.


George Hunt, married to Mary Ann Spedding, was in the Buninyong area for some years before his death in November 1869. He is buried in the Wesleyan section of the Buninyong cemetery. His wife seems to have disappeared from the public record after his death. Query from Richmond River, NSW


William and Jane Maynard and their four children were living at Hiscock's in the late 1860s. Their son George died at Buninyong in 1907.


Robert Shinkfield, from Dorset, was a seaman who jumped ship in Melbourne in late 1853 to join the goldrushes. Eventually he became a miner at Magpie. He and his wife Sarah had 10 children before his death in 1877, aged 52.


Thomas Slattery was the school teacher at Lal Lal in 1889, and at the end of the year was given a photo album as a token of appreciation from his students.

The owner of the album would like to return it to any descendants

WILLINGTON (Wellington)

Another request for information on Thomas Willington (Wellington) who came from Gloustershire and settled in Ballarat in 1857 with his wife Mary. He established an undertaking firm in Ballarat. The old funeral parlour still exists, next to the Golden City Hotel in Sturt St, a wonderful piece of Ballarat's built heritage.


James Wimble married Emma Robinson in Tasmania in 1842, and the couple came to Buninyong before gold discovery, possibly to work for one of the local squatters. James died in Buninyong circa 1850

Significant Tree in Nolan Street, Buninyong

(This is the gist of a submission to Cr. Peter Innes from this Society in June 2005, based on the work of Neil McCracken)

Nolan St, Buninyong, ends on Bowen Hill where it circles around a very large tree. This tree, a Eucalyptus viminalis ( Manna Gum) has great significance, as it marks the site of a meeting between Governor Bowen and the local Aboriginal Tribe to sign a treaty.

An illustration drawn at the time shows the tree though a copy has not been located.

Action: This tree should be placed on the Register of Significant Trees; both for its horticultural heritage significance and its environmental significance, being one of the few old growth Manna Gums remaining in the area.

Protection of this and similar roadside vegetation is also part of the City of Ballarat Roadside Management Planning. The specific areas of concern are: the continuation of Nolan St past Winter Street, and the section of Cathcart St from Scott St to Simpson St and beyond. On the corner of Cathcart and Simpson St. there is another large Eculayptus Viminalis.

Clarification of the status of this road side vegetation is sought especially in the light of the Golf Club Subdivision and one opposite the old gravel pit in Buninyong.

  1. Has the City of Ballarat approved its Roadside Management Plan? There is a draft copy dated April 2000. One of the recommendations of the draft plan is the publication of a Map of Significant Roadside Vegetation. If the plan has been approved, has such a map been produced?
  2. Does the ODP Review currently nearing completion take account of the impact of curbing and guttering and sealing of roads in Buninyong which is part of the on going improvement of infrastructure, currently being carried out by Council.

Has any decision been made to permanently exclude the Nolan St. section where the Manna Gum is, including the street West of the Tree, and Cathcart St. South of Scott St., from curbing and guttering and sealing? If not, is it possible to specifically exclude these areas from such construction? The key concerns are: that the construction of gutters could interfere with tree root systems as well as depriving these trees from access to water run off, especially during periods of drought as well as the construction of houses preventing water from reaching remnant vegetation.

Scotsburn Union Church and Ladies Guild

At a recent cataloguing morning, we received a plastic bag of materials via Pauline Holloway. These were records of the Scotsburn Union Church Guild.

The Scotsburn Union Church Guild was formed in 1933, a ladies organization that met for fellowship, and organized social and fund-raising events for the church. This group continued as a very active group until 26 February 2002, when its handful of members decided regretfully to close the group and distribute its funds. It generously gave $1000 to the Holy Trinity Buninyong Church renovation fund.

The little timber building dates from 1884, when Andrew Scott esquire granted half an acre of his land to the Presbyterian Church for the purpose f building a church, ' on condition that the Church, when built, be open for services to all the Evangelical Denominations'. Trustees were appointed, and the little timber church was built, with services alternating between the Presbyterian and Anglican denominations, serviced from Buninyong. The last Anglican service was held in 1972, and from 1980 Ern Brown, from Ballarat, has conducted services, with his wife playing the little organ. The church was lit by candle and gas until electricity was installed in 1984, the year when the centenary of the church was celebrated.

We are honoured to look after the records of the Guild, which have been placed in a box with records of the Scotsburn Hall and the Scotsburn Tennis Club.

The Scotsburn (formerly Scott's Marsh) Union Church.


On 5 August 2001, the Buninyong and District Historical Society unveiled a plaque in Hiscock Gully Rd. to mark the 150th anniversary of gold discovery. Many descendants of the Hiscock family joined in the celebration. Now a further plaque will be unveiled on 25 August 2005 by the the Ballarat Reform League Inc., marking the site of the first political protest against the gold license in Victoria.

The new colony of Victoria was proclaimed on 1 July 1851. It was an inauspicious time to be founding a new colony, as NSW had just announced the discovery of gold at Bathurst in mid-May 1851. Who would want to stay in the new colony, much less to emigrate!

The commercial men of Melbourne in June took matters into their own hands, and advertised a rich reward for anyone who could find payable gold within a one hundred miles radius of Melbourne. The race was on, especially amongst "forty-niners", men who had ventured to California in 1849.

One such was "lucky Jim" James Esmond, an Irishman who had worked in Port Phillip before 1851, driving the mail coach between Geelong and Portland, familiar with the townships of Buninyong and Burnbank on the mail route. He returned to Sydney from California with one James Hargraves in February 1851, and made a mental note to look for gold.

Thomas Hiscock, the Buninyong blacksmith, had been interested in the subject of gold since a report had appeared in the Melbourne newspapers in 1849 speaking of a discovery in the Pyrenees. Apparently Hiscock sent innumerable parcels of rock down to the jeweller Mr Fulton in Geelong with the mail coach, but he was unsure what he was seeking.

Buninyong in 1851 was "the busiest town in Victoria outside Melbourne and Geelong." Established for 10 years, it had recently been surveyed and the first sales of land in the township were held in Melbourne on 9 May 1851. Buninyong boasted a comfortable hotel - Mother Jamieson's Inn - a Presbyterian church, Victoria's only inland boarding school, the only doctor in the region, a post office, stores and of course a blacksmith. It was well on the way to becoming "ye ancient village" whilst Ballarat was still the resting place of the local Aboriginal people. The only signs of European habitation about Ballarat were the sheep and shepherd's huts of the Scottish squatter, Archibald Yuille, who had called his run "Ballaarat."

19 year old John Stoker Thomas was with Thomas Hiscock when he discovered gold, as was his brother Edward and Thomas Hiscock's son Thomas, all looking for a stray cow. The actual date is somewhat confused. John Stoker Thomas claimed it was Saturday 2 August 1851; the gold monument erected in 1897 states 3 August, and the Select Committee inquiring into who should be rewarded for gold discoveries in Victoria decreed in 1854 that Thomas Hiscock be rewarded for his discovery "on 8 August 1851".

It is very feasible that the discoverers would test the ground for a few days, collect their gold, and establish their claim before releasing the news to the general public. So it is quite possible that the discovery was made on 2 August, but not communicated to people in Geelong until the following week. Hiscock wrote to the editor of the Geelong Advertiser on Sunday 10 August, and sent the letter and gold specimens down with the Buninyong mail, which left Buninyong on Sunday night, 10 August. (Flett, p. 348)

The discovery was announced in the Geelong Advertiser on 12 August 1851.

We yesterday received from Buninyong a packet containing some of the finest specimens of gold, in quartz matrix, that we have hitherto met with. They were found within a mile or two of the township by Mr Hiscock, a respectable resident there.

This report was picked up by the Melbourne Argus on Thursday 14 August 1851.

Alfred Clarke, a journalist with the Geelong Advertiser, was sent to Buninyong, and his first report was filed on 15 August. He reported the exodus of Geelong people to Hiscock's Diggings near Buninyong. So many came that the reef was soon exhausted, and men spread out to prospect the ranges. On 27 August Clarke published a report of gold discovered "across the ranges on Yuille's Creek." This was the report of the discovery of the Ballarat goldfield at Poverty Point by John Dunlop and James Regan.

The government reacted quickly to the rush. Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe issued a proclamation on 16 August that the gold belonged to the Queen, and that anyone digging for gold would require a license and proof that they had a certificate of discharge from a previous employment contract. News reached Buninyong on 25 August 1851 that the government would impose a license fee of 30 shillings a month on all miners, in advance, for a specific area. That night a mass meeting was held on the Buninyong goldfield to protest at the news. The Geelong Advertiser reported that "there has not been a more gross attempt at injustice since the days of Wat Tyler. It is a solemn protest of labour against oppression" he wrote, "an outburst of light, reason and right against the infliction of an effete objectionable Royal claim. It is taxation without representation" wrote the passionate and well-educated journalist, aware of the importance of "tonight for the first time since Australia rose from the bosom of the ocean, were men strong in their sense of right, lifting up a protest against an impending wrong, and protesting against the Government. Let the Government beware" he warned!

A letter from one P.W. Welsh, merchant of Geelong, appeared in the Geelong Advertiser and the Argus on 19 August, advising prospective miners that they should equip themselves with a horse and cart, a company of mates, a cradle and proper equipment. He recommended "a party of five, one to quarry, one to drive the cart to the river, and three at the cradle would do well." He advised that there were two stores at Buninyong, well stocked with supplies. On his visit the previous weekend, he noted about 120 men at work, and he passed 50 or 60 drays as he rode back to Geelong.

One of the Geelong men who reacted to the reports of Alfred Clarke and P.W. Welsh was James Oddie, who owned a foundry in Market Square, Geelong. He had a horse, but no dray, and when two acquaintances who possessed a dray but no horse proposed they get together, Oddie agreed. He collected two weeks rations, and leaving his foundry in his partner's hands, and his wife in charge of their cottage, he set off with three Geelong businessmen on 23 August. The start of the adventure was not propitious - the already wet countryside was deluged again with heavy, persistent rain, and half way up they met a disconsolate party returning from Buninyong with poor reports (Ballarat Star 2 Sept 1909). However Oddie was determined to use his two weeks' rations, and arrived at the township of Buninyong on 28 August, to find Mr Connor's party leaving for some new location which was causing much excitement amongst the adventurers at Jamieson's Inn. He sought out Thomas Hiscock, and had a panning lesson from the blacksmith before beginning his own attempts. As he had been recently warned, the work was hard and unrewarding at Buninyong, so his party decided to try the new goldfield to which his Geelong friends Connor and Merrick had already gone. He invited another Geelong man, Thomas Bath, with his wife, to come along. This adventurous Cornishwoman was probably the first white woman on the Ballarat diggings.

At about 2.00 p.m., on the afternoon of Monday, 1 September, Oddie with several other parties from Buninyong, reached what would soon be known as Golden Point. There were but seven tents pitched on a slope above the creek near Yuille's shepherd's hut, and Oddie's party took up a site "a little to the West of where Peel street crosses the bridge over the Yarrowee." A tent was made of calico and saplings and Oddie was allocated the place nearest the door, because he was the youngest in his party. And because the weather was so wet, he had to empty his boots of water each morning before getting into them.

The best sites were already taken but there was no animosity between the parties, most of whom already knew each other from their business dealings in Geelong - for example Connor's blacksmith's shop was next door to Oddie's foundry. So the men worked out a system of frontage claims, 10ft. by 60ft. in depth, with space for tents at the rear, and a 15 foot right of way separating a second line of claims higher up the hill. A right of way was also provided down to the creek, so the barrow loads of dirt could be washed. Reporter Alfred Clarke, who had arrived with Oddie, was surprised and delighted at the order which quickly prevailed on this new community in the virgin bush;-

"Six and twenty tents stretch along the hills commanding the creek: upwards of a hundred diggers are already spread along its margin, which is divided in proportion to the numbers comprising each party, by mutual consent."

Oddie and his countrymen, mostly mechanics like himself, had responded magnificently to the challenge of creating an orderly society out of nothing. In the month of September 1851, the foundation was laid for Ballarat's future democratic tradition.

By government proclamation, a court of Petty Sessions was established at Buninyong at the end of September, 1851, and a Police Camp was established under the authority of Captain Dana and his Aboriginal troopers, who arrived on 20 September 1851. A confrontation over the license fee occurred at Golden Point the following day, when the diggers' protests dissolved in the presence of the troopers. (Withers, p. 35) The seeds of resentment against the administration of the goldfields had been sown, culminating in the resort to arms and the resolve to fight for justice under the banner of the Southern Cross on 3 December 1854.

Hiscock's diggings were soon deserted for the great riches of Ballarat. It was only in 1856 that the deep quartz reefs were discovered at Hiscock's Gully, and in the following year the Imperial Mine began work. It continued as a very productive mine and important employer of local men until its closure at the beginning of World War One. There are many remnants of the activities of the Imperial Mine beside Hiscock's Gully Road, and a sign opposite the cemetery gives some information bout the mine.

Thomas Hiscock was recognised as the discoverer of the Ballarat goldfield in 1855, the year of his untimely death at the age of 46. Much later, in 1888, George Innes told the Secretary of Mines that he had discovered gold at Black Hill in 1845, but kept the discovery secret. (Flett, p. 351-2). However no one challenged Hiscock's claim to have been the discoverer of gold near Buninyong.

On 21 June 1897, on Queen Victoria's 60th Jubilee, a monument was unveiled at Hiscocks, which gives the date of discovery as 3 August 1851, and incorrectly states that Buninyong was the first place where gold was discovered in Victoria! The memorial was sited here because it was the boundary of the old Shire and Borough of Buninyong. The actual place where gold was discovered is believed to be some hundred years north of the obelisk. (Griffiths, 1988, p. 19). This is the place where the new plaque will be unveiled.

David Kerr and the Camerons of Lal Lal

Donald and Mary Cameron arrived in Melbourne from Liverpool on 27 October 1852 on the Gambia. They arrived with their first child, Rachael, and subsequently had 10 children in Victoria.

Rachael, interviewed in the 1930s when she was in her eighties, recalled her arrival in Victoria. She left her native Glasgow at the age of 11 months and landed at Geelong, and then came to Ballarat. She recalled the journey to Ballarat in a dray purchased from a kinsman, Donald Cameron of Clunes. The trip took a fortnight, with 'Mrs Cameron lashed to the top of the dray, whilst the baby was nursed alternatively by Mr. Cameron and a friend'.

Rachael lived in Buninyong about 66 years, attending the Rev. Hastie's boarding school there as a child in the early 1850s. She recalled her teacher, Miss Anne Middlemist as a young pupil teacher. They both recalled climbing Mount Buninyong on NewYear's Eve to observe the sunrise in the 1850s.

After the death of Rachael's husband David Kerr in 1934, Annie Middlemist, in her old age, returned to live in Buninyong and shared reminiscences with Mrs Rachael Kerr. (Undated newspaper cutting, circa 1938, Buninyong Historical Society Collection, under Cameron)

A letter from a descendant in Blackbutt in NSW gave us some interesting information and a copy of the marriage certificate of the couple. The marriage was conducted at the bride's home, 'Allan Vale' at Lal Lal, on 1 December 1880. David was 32, described as 'gardener, and Rachael was 29. The marriage was conducted by Rev. Thomas Hastie, and the witnesses were Robert Kerr and Margaret Mae Innes. Rachael was the eldest of the 11 children of Donald and Mary Cameron, who emigrated from Scotland in 1852 and acquired a large farm at Lal Lal.

David Kerr was a major figure in Buninyong, as demonstrated by Peter Griffiths's Three Times Blest. Kerr was a passionate public figure, and was active in local government politics as well as State politics in the 1890s. It has only just come to light that he was the nominated member of the newly formed Political Labor League in 1891, although he later became known as a liberal. Kerr has the distinction of being the foundation chairman of the Grenville Branch of the Political Labor League in 1891 (Commonweal, 3 October 1891). Kerr was unsuccessful as the Labor candidate in 1892, but did win the seat of Grenville in 1894 as a liberal.


Thursday, 18 August, 7.30pm General Meeting, 7.30pm, Court House History Centre.
Join us for a meal at the Crown Hotel beforehand at 6.00pm
Every second Monday morning,
from 22 August, at 9.00am
First Sunday of the month,
11.00am to 4.00pm
Court House open
20 October 2005, 7.30pmAGM
November Excursion - to be announced!
BHS Homepage To top of page
BHS Homepage