Clare contribution to the Eureka Stockade
The Eureka Stockade could be termed Australia's 1916
- a rebellion that Australia might be free . A rebellion
in which Clare people played a crucial part.
Clare's reputation for being in the coalface of political
change is legendary. They don't call it the Banner
County for nothing. It was the Clare Dragoons who took the
Banner into battle - they have been battlers in Clare ever
O'Connell and de Valera were elected in Clare and things
were never the same. Dromoland's William Smith O'Brien
was one of the leading Young Irelanders - doing his bit
so that Ireland might be free.
And, Clare's reputation for going into battle hasn't
been confined to these shores. They've led the way
into battle in foreign fields - one of the most famous battles
taking place 150 years ago. It was the Eureka Stockade -
the event that shaped the future of Australia.
Two Claremen played their part in this seminal episode in
Australia's history. Timothy Hayes and Michael Tuohy
answered the call to arms - their place in Australian history
is secured. They fought the fight and lived to tell the
A remarkable story with Clare folk at its core. Hayes'
exact parish unknown, but there's no denying his Clareness
- Timothy is always referred to as the Clareman who was
the second most important figure in the Stockade escaped
after Peter Lalor while his wife Anastasia was the woman
who sowed the Southern Cross banner that was raised aloft
Michael Tuohy's Clare origins are much clearer - he
was born in Scariff in 1830. He survived the Great Famine
but buried many family members and friends. He never forgot
that food was being exported from Ireland to line the pockets
of English absentee landlords, while a million Irish men,
women and children died and a further million were forced
to immigrate. Although he had travelled 12,000 miles to
escape the tyranny of the British government, once again
he faced the same tyrants. There were many more people who
looked on the British Empire rulers as tyrants.
Hayes and Tuohy were miners - unhappy miners at that. All
miners who were digging for gold held a grievance against
the ruling class as firmly as they ever held a shovel. It
was empire stuff and the way she treated her subjects.
The Victorian Colonial authorities worked from the premise
that all gold belongs to Queen Victoria and
that the diggers making claims on crown land were a necessary
evil that needed to be controlled with an iron fist.
The authorities did just that.
The license fee levied on diggers was one pound ten shillings
- exorbitant when you consider that in 1851 a squatter could
buy twenty square miles of land from the Victorian government
for one pound ten shillings. The miners had enough.
They were determined to assert their rights and mobilised.
10,000 diggers and their supporters attended a mass meeting
in November 1854 and the Ballarat Reform League was born.
The chief aim of the league was to over throw British authority.
If Queen Victoria continued to act upon the ill advice
of dishonest ministers and insists upon indirectly dictating
obnoxious laws for the Colony, under the assumed authority
of the Royal Prerogative, the Reform League will endeavour
to supersede such Royal Prerogative by asserting that of
the People which is the most Royal of all Prerogatives,
as the people are the only legitimate source of all political
Timothy Hayes was chairman of the league, while commander-in-chief
was his mining partner Peter Lalor from Laois. He was given
a mandate to resist force by force and he soon
had diggers erecting a simple fortification about 200 meters
from the remains of Bentley's hotel. They enclosed
about an acre of relatively flat ground that had some miners
huts and stores on it, but no shafts.
As the sun was setting, Captain Ross sword in hand hoisted
the Southern Cross that was sown by Anastasia Hayes. Lalor,
rifle in hand jumped on a stump and asked those present
to swear on oath to the new flag. Lalor took off his hat,
knelt and swore the oath on behalf of the assembled miners.
We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each
other, and fight to defend out rights and liberties.
By December 2, miners were openly drilling and ready for
combat. The blacksmith inside the stockade continued to
make pikes for the diggers who didn't have access to
firearms. Drilling stopped around midday when the Catholic
Priest Father Smyth arrived to tend to the needs of the
Irish Catholics. They listened to his pleas not to fight,
but sent him on his way empty handed. The battle for independence
was about to begin.
December 3 was the day - the first volley was fired by diggers
as the soldiers and police breached the stockade at the
north and west end. This slowed the soldiers advance, but
it was always going to an unequal struggle. Those in the
stockade were there to be slaughtered.
Thirty pikemen using primitive pikes that had been made
in the forge in the stockade, used their simple weapons
to slow down the government advance. The pikemen, under
the leadership of Patrick Curtain, were unsung heroes of
the stockade, using their flimsy pikes against muskets slowing
the advance enough to allow many of the diggers to flee
Of 30 pikemen who took part in this life and death struggle,
only 5 or 6 survived to tell the tale. About 20 or 30 Californian
Rangers armed with revolvers under the leadership of Charles
Ferguson, had left the stockade at around 1.00am to look
for a cache of arms. Fearing that they had been lured out
of the stockade, Ferguson returned with the Californian
Rangers just before the stockade was invaded by the government
forces. By now many of the diggers lay wounded in the stockade.
Those who tried to escape were ran down by the cavalry that
had now surrounded the stockade. Within 15 to 20 minutes
of the first shot been fired, the back of the revolt had
been broken, the troops and police were in complete control
of the stockade, suffering few injuries.
Three privates lay dead or dying. Michael Rooney, Joseph
Wall and William Webb. Twelve more were wounded, Captain
Wise was also wounded, shot in the right thigh and upper
part of his leg, Although surprised by the attack, the diggers
had fought a hard battle. The foot soldiers took the most
casualties among the government forces as the cavalry and
the foot and mounted police had not been involved in the
Peter Lawlor wrote three months after the Eureka massacres
- as the inhuman brutalities practiced by the troops
are so well known, it is unnecessary for me to repeat them.
There were 34 diggers casualties at which 22 died. The unusual
proportion of the killed to the wounded, is owing to the
butchery of the military and troopers after the surrender.
Thirteen people were arrested and committed for High Treason
in January 1855. Timothy Hayes and Michael Tuohy were among
the 13. They brought to the Old Melbourne Jail, where they
were held in vile conditions, fed barely anything and were
repeatedly stripped naked and searched.
Hayes was the first Clareman in the dock. He had been the
chairman of the final mass meeting at Bakery Hill on the
29th November 1854 when he stood up and whipped up the crowd
into a frenzy by calling out your liberties, will
you die for them!! The crowd roared its approval and
burnt their mining licenses.
In his trial, Catholic curate, Father Smyth swore that Hayes
had gone to mass during the attack at the stockade. The
jury believed the priest and acquitted Hayes - he was carried
shoulder high through the streets of Melbourne in celebration.
Tuohy was also acquitted and was the longest survivor of
the 13 who stood trial for High Treason. He took part in
the 50th anniversary celebrations at Ballarat in 1904 and
continued farming till he died at the age 83 from pneumonia
at the Ballarat Hospital in September 1915.
Tuohy and Hayes had played their part - but the contribution
of the two Clare women in this defining episode in Australian
history cannot be underestimated.
At the age of 34 on the 5th of October 1852, Anastasia Hayes
arrived in Melbourne with her five children and husband
Timothy. A survivor of both the famine and the defeat of
the Young Ireland movement in 1848, she had no love for
the Victorian colonial authorities. Her husband Timothy,
Peter Lalor and Duncan Gilles formed a mining partnership
on the Ballarat goldfields. The family lived in a tent on
the goldfields. She gave birth to their sixth child in the
tent. Anastasia took on a job at a nearby Catholic school
to make ends meet.
She was known as a firebrand on the goldfields, complaining
about how the miners were treated. In another age, she would
have been one of the leaders of the Eureka rebellion. In
1854, she encouraged her husband Timothy to become a leader
of the rebellion.
After the rebellion was crushed. Anastasia was at the forefront
of the resistance, she was involved in the operation with
anaesthetic when Peter Lalor's arm was removed to save
his life. Then there's the story of Clare born Briget
Callinan and her heroic deeds to save the lives of her brothers.
Nineteen years old Bridget and her two younger cousins searched
among the dead and dying at the Eureka Stockade for her
three brothers, Patrick, Michael and Thomas as the police
and soldiers were arresting, beating and in some cases killing
They found her brother Michael who had two bullets in his
thigh and her brother Patrick who had two bayonet wounds,
one between his shoulders and one under his left breast.
Bridget confronted the heavily armed police and soldiers
causing a diversion which allowed her two brothers to escape
with the assistance of her cousins.
She was a heroine in an heroic event - an even that changed
Australia. The proof came within a year of the rebellion
when all the demands of the Eureka stockade were met. These
included the abolition of diggers licences, manhood suffrage
and the abolition property qualifications for members of
The Clare people involved in the Eureka Stockade had helped
Courtesy of the Clare Champion
By Joe O Muircheartaigh