2001 ASSLH conference – The working miners of southern New South Wales: Subsistence men, entrepreneurs or proletarians?

Barry McGowan
Australian National University


European miners in the colonial and post-Federation period worked in one of three ways: independently on their own account, in co-operative groups, or as wage employees for companies or syndicates. The term “working miner” was used by contemporary observers, and will be used in the discussion here to describe both those working on their own account and those working in co-operative groups. This paper discusses the relationships between working miners and their wage-based colleagues and the relationship between the mining fraternity generally and other occupational groups. Examples will be drawn primarily from the Southern Mining region of New South Wales during the period 1850 to 1914.


In this paper I discuss the concept of the independent working miners in colonial and post Federation Australia in the period 1850 to 1914, and argue for a greater recognition of their importance by historians. European miners in the colonial and post Federation period worked in one of three ways: independently on their own account, in co-operative groups, or as wage employees for companies or syndicates. They also worked as tributers.1 The term “working miner” was used by contemporary observers, and will be used in this paper to refer to all miners, including tributers, who were working on their own account or in co-operative groups.

The first part of my paper discusses the role of the working miner within the historiography, and their neglect by historians and statisticians. I argue that miners should be viewed as part of a wider, more adaptable rural work force, and provide a number of examples of this adaptability drawn from the southern mining region of New South Wales.2 In the second part of the paper I discuss the question of definition, in particular the relationship between working miners and their wage based colleagues, and whether it is possible to classify the working miner as an entrepreneur, a member of the working class or something else. Particular attention is given to the discourse on subsistence miners.

From the outset I should mention that this paper is based on a regional study of mining in south east New South Wales. Mining within this region was confined to gold and base metals such as copper, silver and lead. It did not include coal mining, and therefore I do not refer to the experience of coal miners. Neither do I refer to Chinese miners, of whom there were large numbers in the region, particularly in the Braidwood area. This is not because these categories are unimportant, but because their consideration is outside the scope of the paper. My focus is on European gold and base metal miners.

The working miner and the historiography

Some historians have argued that the working miner was a fleeting phenomenon, a product of the gold rush era, and that this mode of employment soon gave way to wage employment. For instance, Geoffrey Serle commented that by 1858 wage employment was the norm, and that the opposition by the majority of miners, particularly the family men, to large scale mining was “turning to resignation, not without bitterness and disillusion”.3 Ritchie, in a more colourful vein, also took up this theme, describing, perhaps over dramatically, the “would be Croesuses” leaving the fields and slinking back to the capital cities to “swell the caged ranks of the wage-slaves…”4 In this paper these views will be challenged. It will be argued that the working miners were considerably more prominent and persistent than most historians have realised.

A number of historians have argued that miners should be viewed as part of a wider, more adaptable rural work force. Geoffrey Blainey referred to those who “alternated the seasons between mining and sheep-shearing and harvesting, and found a miner’s wage the highest”, and those who “owned an acre or two and cows and poultry and gladly worked intermittently in the mines”. In addition, there were thousands of miners who “retained the optimism of the old order”, by speculating in mining shares, while gaining the “regular wage of the new order”.5 Blainey subsequently commented that most men could be divided into two groups, those working for themselves or in the family business and those working for wages, with the two groups overlapping, and people often moving “from wages to independence or back to wages”. Many small farmers or their sons would leave home to earn money by shearing sheep or working for wages for a few months in gold-mines, or working as railway navvies.6

Other historians have also commented upon the adaptability and versatility of the rural and mining work force. John Merritt stated that in the 1870s and 1880s, the nomadic bush workers “could turn their hands to many things: fencing, dam sinking, bush carpentry, building roads and railways, rabbiting, droving, hunting dingoes or harvesting wheat”. In addition, “Clearing, earth moving, building, usually ceased during the shearing season and contractors and their employees would seek work as shearers or shed hands”. Mine employees and urban based workers also turned to the shed.7 Geoffrey Bolton also commented upon this phenomenon in north Queensland. Most mines had a fairly rapid turnover of employees, with many leaving their wages jobs to go mining on their own account or to undertake seasonal work in the sugar industry.8 Charles Fahey has also referred extensively to the versatility of the rural labourer, although he makes no mention of their involvement in mining.9

In her study of the gold and copper mining community at Bethanga in north east Victoria, June Philipp commented that the gold miners, almost all of whom were reef miners, could turn their hand to a wide variety of different tasks. She referred to them as “Swagmen seeking seasonal employment for wages…”, who “might turn their hands to other tasks and from time to time work on their own account-for example as timber splitters and carters or as prospectors. Some were smallholders, owning or leasing plots of land often located in the vicinity of gold field towns and usually insufficient to provide a living even at subsistence level”.10 Susan Lawrence has also referred to the “persistence of what has been identified as informal mining”, with the mining “restricted to short periods separated by much longer periods, sometimes as long as several years, in which miners are employed in other forms of labour, primarily farming”.11

The relationship between labouring and mining was perhaps best described by Henry Thomas Fox, a visitor to the Major’s Creek field in early 1852. In his diary he stated that there were few who worked who did not make “excellent wages for labourers”, but “it is only for this class that the gold diggings are fitted”.12 Another statement along similar lines was made by Commissioner King before the 1852 Select Committee on the Management on the Gold Fields. He stated that while the number of miners who could not be engaged in harvesting was gradually increasing, nearly every man on the diggings at present “could make himself useful” in this area.13

This adaptability and versatility never found its way into the official statistics. Miners and other workers were categorised then, as now, into distinct occupational groups, a product of the penchant for neatness, precision and categorisation so beloved of statisticians and economists, and of the trade based nature of worker representations through unions and other employee and professional associations. In the 1871 Census it was stated that it was only possible to record one occupation for each individual. Thus if it was considered that persons were working primarily as miners or labourers they were classified as such by the Statistician and presumably by other officials, such as the wardens and registrars. The Statistician noted, however, that multiple occupations were common, and that many gold miners were also proprietors and occupiers of land. He stated that the were others

forming an important part of the working class in this country, who in the shearing season would be employed as station hands, and might at the time of the year when the Census was taken have been doing “job work “ as miners, carriers, labourers on the roads & c.

Only the principal occupation followed was recorded by the Census, that is “the one from which each person was chiefly deriving his income at the time of the Census”.14 Part time or informal miners were, therefore, included in one or another employment category depending on their circumstances at the time of the Census.

Farmers and labourers were correctly classified as such for as long as they were so employed. However, this classification clearly masked the degree to which such persons were also engaged in mining activities. It has also masked the distinction between those miners working on their own account, and those employed by mining companies or syndicates. Timothy Coghlan, the NSW Statistician, admitted of some movement between other occupations and mining, not so much as a norm, but rather as a response to the early gold rushes or to depressed economic activity and employment generally. The implication was that this was a temporary phenomenon and that in normal circumstances the persons would assume their rightful occupations in industries other than mining.15 Obviously, if large numbers of part time miners fell into this multiple occupation category on a regular basis, then the official statistics have grossly understated the number of persons dependent or partly dependent upon mining for their livelihood and the numbers of those who could be classified as working miners.

There were many examples of this part time or multiple occupation category in the southern mining region, all of them related to gold mining. On the Major’s Creek gold field at the height of the rush in late 1851 it was stated that many men had returned home to look after their crops rather than pay a licence fee for half a month.16 At Araluen in early 1853 it was commented those miners who had built huts, and who were obviously of a more settled disposition, had erected temporary stockyards, and that poultry and calves were kept. In addition, many of the miners resided at Reidsdale on the tableland. The diggings were regarded as a spare time activity and if the miners were unsuccessful they could return to their farms.17 On the Nerriga field all the miners at Oallen in 1856 were local farmers.18

The same pattern emerged in subsequent periods. At the Spring Creek Jacqua field near Goulburn in 1869 all the miners were described as having gone harvesting while awaiting the arrival of a crushing machine, and in 1870 most miners were reported as tending their own selections while mining matters were at a standstill.19 The latter comment implies strongly that most of the miners on this field were also farmers. On the Cowra Creek field it was commented in 1899 that many leases were worked until shearing time when they were left dormant. It was expected that those who remained would not interfere with them in the men’s absence.20

A similar pattern can be seen in the Southern Tablelands. The principal miner owner on the Brindabella gold field was William Reid, who was also a local guest house and hotel proprietor.21 At Brook’s Creek in 1862 many of the diggers travelled to Gundaroo to assist in reaping for a few weeks as many of the farmers were short of hands and their crops were very substantial.22 By 1880 the men were fossicking in the winter and working as farm labourers or shearers in the other months.23 At Mac’s Reef the first initial gold find in 1865 was made by John MacEnally, a local free selector, who discovered gold while working for another landowner, Cartwright, the field coming to an end with the death of two miners, one of whom was a free selector.24 The Cartwright family was also involved actively in gold mining at Bywong in the 1890s.25 On the nearby Dairy Creek field the main miner was a local landowner, James Kershaw.26

On the Nanima field near Murrumbateman in August 1872 all the hands on nearby Nanima station had left to take up claims, and a few months later delays in obtaining assay results had allowed many of the men to return to the station to help it through its busy time. Others had stopped work on their leases to work on their farms as they could not afford to pay for labour to work the claims in their absence.27 Among the miners were George Butt and George Crocker, both of who were from local farming families and were prominent again in the 1890s, one of the main mines of which was on Butt’s property.28 One of the more successful miners on the nearby Spring Range gold field in the early 1900s was Southwell, a local landowner.29

Much of this versatility was related to seasonal ebbs and flows in working patterns, a process commented on extensively by Jenny Lee and Charles Fahey. In these instances the miners supplemented their income by “off mine” work, which fortuitously in many cases coincided the off season in mining, that is summer.30 The position of these miners became considerably more precarious, however, with the onset of severe drought conditions in the late 1870s and early to mid 1880s. In these instances working off mine was not a matter of choice so much as necessity and many miners were forced to work temporarily on the roads and railways or at their previous occupations, pending good rains.31  On the Mongarlowe gold field in 1880 one third of the Europeans followed other occupations during part of the year, and in 1882 most of those owning water races had abandoned their claims and sought employment elsewhere, particularly on the railway contracts.32 In 1883 there was “a regular stampede to the railway works Goulburn to Tarago” in 1883.33 A similar pattern also occurred at the Major’s Creek and Shoalhaven River fields.34

These examples confirm that there was a strong relationship between mining, farming and labouring work generally. Working “off mine” was often viewed as a seasonal activity, which compensated for periods of dry weather in the non winter months, and which took advantage of the shearing and harvesting periods, particularly where miners were working their own farms. This phenomenon was not confined to one district or to one era for the examples span several generations over a wide geographic area. While this activity included all types of mining, it was particularly prevalent among self employed gold miners, that is, the working miners. That this practice was an integral part of rural culture in the colonial and immediate post colonial is not surprising. Similar physical skills were needed and in the event of a local gold find the best placed persons to profit from it would be those who were already in the locality.

The blurring of distinctions between the working miners and other workers, was further exacerbated by the large numbers of miners who were oscillating between work as independent working miners and as paid employees of mining syndicates or companies. Both forms of mining coexisted on most gold fields, particularly on the alluvial fields and those with both alluvial and reef mining. The working miners would have been aware of what the wage employees on neighbouring claims were earning, particularly when such details were publicised in the local press, or were otherwise common knowledge. While the latter may not have known what their more independently minded colleagues were earning, it is difficult to imagine that the reverse was the case. It could be expected, therefore, that the working miner would react to any marked discrepancy between current earnings and the opportunity cost of wages foregone, particularly if the costs and inconveniences arising from a change of occupation were minimal. Certainly the skills needed for both types of work were almost identical. It is unlikely, however that the predominantly wage based miner was as versatile, for while he may have possessed the skills, he may not have had the opportunity or capital to venture into these more uncertain enterprises.

Base metal miners in the region also oscillated between work as working miners and other occupations, although the context differed. In the very early stage of a base metal field most miners were engaged as independent working miners. However, this type of mining could not be advanced without a substantial investment in plant and equipment, such as smelters and reduction plants. Invariably, the mining leases were acquired by large companies or syndicates, and the vast majority of miners worked as wage employees. This was the case on all the base metal fields in the region, for instance at Currawang, Frogmore, Captain’s Flat, Kyloe and Kangiara, to name the most significant. The only exceptions were, and then only for a time, the silver mining ventures at Kangiara and Wallah Wallah, but even here ultimately large companies or syndicates prevailed. Wage employment in the base metal mines would still, however, have been attractive to working miners on nearby gold fields, who were, for example, earning less than wages on their own claims.

Entrepreneurs, members of the working class, or subsistence men?

Clearly, the working miner has a place in the historiography, but the question remains, what manner of person were they? How did they define themselves? A number of historians have discussed the question of status and identity.

Blainey stated that as late as 1900 most wage based metal miners still did not belong to a union and described the Amalgamated Miner’s Association (AMA) as non militant. He claimed that gold miners did not use their union as a battering ram against company mining because they “still hoped to make a fortune”. For the metal miners, as long as the field was new or the price of metal high, there was little prospect of conflict between owners and men, but once metal prices fell, tensions quickly arose, particularly if wages were cut or working hours were extended.35 These views have been challenged by a number of historians. Both Patrick Bertola and Charles Fahey have referred to the use of the tribute system as a means of reducing labour costs.36 According to Fahey, tributing was associated with a considerable degree of industrial confrontation at the Bendigo gold mines. The description of the AMA as nonmilitant certainly appears at odds with Brian Kennedy’s account of the serious conflicts which arose at Broken Hill in 1892 and 1909, to cite just two instances.37

Nevertheless, the gold fields in the southern mining region of NSW were largely non unionised and even at the base metal mines, industrial disputation was rare, with the AMA appearing to be more visible as a community organisation than an industrial. In addition, the two large base metal mining concerns at Currawang and Frogmore predated the formation of the AMA. Bolton has stated that in the 1870s it was the “prospect of being ones own master which attracted many to the north Queensland fields” He stated that by this time “mining had become well imbued with those traditions of mateship, cooperative individualism and belief in the equality of all white men which Russel Ward has called the ‘Australian legend’”.38 These observations are more relevant to the miners of the southern mining region than the confrontational model depicted elsewhere.

A similar view is provided by Humphrey McQueen, who commented that “Gold contributed to the consciousness of the labouring class in a number of ways all of which served to reinforce the belief that there was something to be gained under capitalism-perhaps that most prized of all possessions, independence”. Gold, silver, or some precious stone, combined with land sustained the hope of aspiring labourers, to “hold out to them a chance of escape from wage- slavery. It could never offer sufficient to retire but it could set up a business or a farm.” These ideological consequences were described “as important in subordinating the labour movement as were the very real riches and widespread prosperity which gold engendered”.39 He also questioned whether “every mine-employee was a wage-slave”, as some miners earned very high returns as tributers or as wage employees.40

In her discussion of the reef miners of Bethanga in Victoria, a mining settlement similar in size to some of those in the southern mining region, Philipp argued that the miners fell into neither the category of small scale capitalist nor working class proletariat. They should rather be described as “subsistence men”, a theme taken up more recently by Susan Lawrence in her history of the Dolly’s Creek gold field in Victoria.41 Philipp stated that:

from time to time they might be compelled to work for wages, their constant endeavour was directed at avoidance of wage labour. Neither the scale of their independent operations nor their expectations qualify them as entrepreneurs or small capitalists. They were subsistence men; they aimed to make a living to gain and independence on the basis their own hard manual labour. Above that, success was not expected, if it came it was a matter of luck and a cause for celebrations.42

To categorise this:

large and shifting body of men, in the post gold era, as small independent producers staunchly upholding the capitalist ethic of personal gain was to discount their origins and their experience in the colony and to provide them with a niche in the social order which the great majority never attained and which many did not value as a goal to be pursued. To describe them contrawise as wage labourers and therefore as forming part of a working class is to ignore a way of life that was in constant flux and its appraisal by those whose way of life it was.43

Curiously, in none of the above accounts have the writers referred to these men as working miners, attempting rather to describe them as members of an aspiring capitalist or entrepreneurial class, as members of the proletariat with an underdeveloped class consciousness, or as subsistence men. Nor in these accounts is there any recognition of the role of families in these activities, for women and children often assisted in panning and sluicing or even mined in their own right, and young boys worked in the mines on the horses and drays and ore picking.44 The accounts also ignored the extent to which the wage based miners worked and lived in close physical proximity to the mine owners, a situation less likely to engender feelings of class consciousness than otherwise. The question of identity is, however, important for the answer may provide some guide as to the likely development of mining society and perhaps even the development of a broader Australian pysche. It may be expected, for instance, that a community dominated by subsistence miners would be more fractious than a more affluent one.

Some guidance on the question of identity and status can be derived from contemporary reports on the level of earnings on the mining fields. There was, for example, a considerable diversity in earnings from one gold field to another and within a particular field. This diversity was particularly evident amongst working miners on the alluvial gold fields. Miners were described as “getting wages”, “getting good wages”, “just getting wages”, “making little more than a living” or “just making tucker”. In my work it is only these latter two terms which are considered synonymous with subsistence earnings. While it is difficult to define exactly what the level of subsistence wages was, there are enough examples about to suggest that it was in the order of 12s 6d a week.45 In the early months or years of a gold rush many miners earned more than wages and even good wages. On the gold fields of Bell’s Creek, Jembaicumbene and Major’s Creek earnings well above the average wages level were obtained long after the initial boom period. In Philipp’s Bethanga the earnings of the “subsistence men” far exceeded anything that could be regarded as subsistence in the strict economic meaning of the word. The tributors of one claim earned about £6 a week and earnings on another claim were £12 2s 6d, suggesting earnings that were well above the going rates at that time, at least in NSW.46

I would argue that there were very few fields of substance that could be described in subsistence terms, for such fields generally only supported a relatively small number of miners, and then often only in a situation of general economic depression as in the 1890s. While on the good wages and wages fields there would be a proportion of miners who were earning subsistence wages, they were not as prevalent as some historians have suggested. Most contemporary accounts support the contention that the miners had a very clear idea of the relative worth of their earnings. For example, in one of the more insightful comments on this subject in 1913 it was stated that on the Araluen gold field in the 1850s and 1860s, £4 a week was sometimes paid to each man, but generally £3 10s and £3 were regarded as the standard wage. As the very rich claims began to peter out some decrease in the weekly allowance occurred. For those in cooperative companies the wages were regulated by the amount of gold found each week. If they struck it rich and were fortunate enough to escape the floods, they could be much better paid than those employed. Towards the end of the century the miners were working for a much smaller reward of £1 10s or less. This would still, however, have exceeded subsistence wages.47


We can thus take Philipp’s analogy a step further. These men were neither capitalists, small scale entrepreneurs, or members of a proletariat. But neither were they subsistence men. Many men may have been prepared to work for a time as subsistence miners for very poor returns, or perhaps no returns at all. What led men to mine on their own account, however, was the expectation of a return better than they could get by working for someone else as an employee. While for many mining was a way of life, they were all motivated ultimately by the same goal-to establish an independence, though not necessarily in mining, but in another trade or enterprise. Without occasional and sometimes considerable recourse, and willing recourse at that, to wages labour, then the ultimate dream of the working miner, that is, independence, could rarely be achieved.

For some historians this may be an uncomfortable conclusion, rendered more so by the inference that if the miners were disposed to work under these arrangements, then so too were large numbers of others in the colonial and post Federation work force. These were workers who exercised their agency outside union structures, not because they were ignorant of such concepts, but because it did not suit their purposes to embrace them. In this regard they were similar to the rural workers described by Charles Fahey.48 However, unlike the latter they were not engaged in a struggle, or at least not one that they referred to in such terms.

The working miner with his desire for an independence lingered on for many years, well into the 1930s. Ultimately, these men and their families took their traits with them into the wider Australian community, where they were absorbed into a broader Australian pysche. One question for historians is the extent of this phenomenon. I have hinted that it may extend well beyond the ranks of the miners. If this is the case then it maybe timely to revise some of our assumptions on so called working class attitudes, for many of these attitudes clearly embrace a measure of entrepreneurial ambition.

Endnotes1 Patrick Bertola. “Tributers and gold mining in Boulder, 1918-1934”, Labour History, No 65, November 1993, pp 54- 74. Bertola defines tributers as those “who contracted with a company for the sub-lease of a portion of mine; from this tributers or their employees could extract ore for sale to and treatment by a company, paying the company or leaseholder a royalty on the gold won and an agreed sum based on a scale of charges for service and stores the company provided”.2 I have defined the boundaries of this region as Goulburn in the north, Harden in the west , Braidwood in the east and Cooma in the south.

3 Geoffrey Serle, The Golden Age, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 1977, pp 220-224
4 John Ritchie, Australia As Once We Were, Heinemann, Melbourne, 1975, p 97
5 Geoffrey Blainey, The Rush That Never Ended, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, third edition, 1978, pp 294-295
6 Geoffrey Blainey, A Land Half Won, Macmillan, South Melbourne, 1980, p 243
7 John Merritt, The Making of the AWU, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1986, p 43
8 Geoffrey Bolton, A Thousand Miles Away, a History of North Queensland to 1920, the Jacaranda Press, in association with the Australian National University, 1963, p 290
9 Charles Fahey, “‘Abusing the horses and exploiting the labourer’: The Victorian Agricultural And Pastoral Labourer, 1871-1911”, Labour History, No. 65, November 1993, pp 54-74
10 June Philipp, A Poor Man’s Diggings: Mining and Community at Bethanga, Victoria, 1875-1912, Hyland House, Melbourne, 1987, p xii
11 Susan Lawrence, “Poor man’s diggings: subsistence mining in the nineteenth century”, Journal of Australasian Historical Archaeology, vol. 13, 1995, p 59. Susan Lawrence, Dolly’s Creek, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2000, pp 181-182. David Day, also commented that, “Contrary to popular myth, the common experience on the gold fields was probably one of independent digging interspersed with varying intervals of wage labour”. David Day, Claiming of a Continent, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1996, p 140
 12 Fox commented further that “the discomforts felt by those who had been accustomed to the comforts of a house and town life is wholly unknown to them. To this class the certainty of good wages with the not improbable chance of something handsome renders this the most adventurous work they would be employed in”. Henry Thomas Fox, Private log, 11 April 1852, Mitchell Library
13 “Minutes of evidence taken before the Select Committee on the Management of the Gold Fields”, Votes and Proceedings, NSW Legislative Council, Vol 2, 1852, p 101. The statement arose following questions from the Commissioners aimed at the practicality of preventing mining during the harvesting and shearing seasons.
14 Registrar General, New South Wales Census of 1871, Sydney, Para xxv, p 89
15 Timothy Coghlan, Labour and Industry in Australia; From the First Settlement to the Establishment of the Commonwealth in 1901, Oxford University Press, London, 1918, Vol 11, p 1439. He stated that a good many miners (that is coal miners) employed themselves searching for gold in 1879 and 1880, particularly in alluvial mining, the gold discoveries at Temora in 1880 being attended not only by coal miners but unemployed mechanics. He also referred to the success of the fossicker’s scheme in 1893 and 1894, stating that the “relief to the labour market obtained in this way was very great”. ibid, p 1464.
16 Goulburn Herald, 8 November 1851
17 Sydney Empire, 25 March 1853
18 Goulburn Herald, 6 December 1856
19 Goulburn Herald and Chronicle, 4 December 1869, December 1870
20 Manaro Mercury, 13 March 1899
21 Queanbeyan Age, 2 May and 30 June 1888
22 Golden Age, 23 January 1862
23 Yass Courier, 16 January 1880
24 Queanbeyan Age, 11 November 1865
25 ibid, 10 and 17 March 1888
26 Errol Lea-Scarlett, Gundaroo. Roebuck Society Publication No.10, Canberra, 1972, p 90 and 123. The Kershaws continue to reside as landowners at Dairy Creek.
27 Yass Courier, 30 July, 12 and 26 November 1872
28 Jennifer Butt, Our family tree from Dorset to Yass, privately published and undated, pp 32-33
29 Queanbeyan Age, 28 July 1900. The Southwells continue to reside as landowners in the Spring Range area.
30 Jenny Lee and Charles Fahey, “A boom for whom? Some developments in the Australian labour market, 1870-1891”, Labour History, No.50, May 1986, pp 1-27
31 NSW Department of Mines. Annual Report, Government Printer, Sydney, 1878, p 79; 1881, p 60
32 ibid, 1880, p 129; ibid, 1882, p 65
33 ibid, 1883, p 78
34 ibid, 1878, p 79; 1881, p 60; 1883, pp 77-78
35 Examples of metal fields where this consensual mode was particularly evident were the copper mines at Burra, Kapunda and Moonta in South Australia and the tin mines of Irvinebank in Queensland. Blainey, The Rush that Never Ended, op cit, pp 123-125 and pp 299-304
36 Bertola, op cit, pp 54-74; Charles Fahey, “Labour and trade unions in Victorian gold mining; Bendigo, 1861-1915”, in Gold: Forgotten Histories and Lost Objects of Australia, Iain McCalman, Alexander Cook, Andrew Reeves, (eds), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001, pp 67-84
37 Brian Kennedy, Silver, Sin, and Sixpenny Ale: A Social History of Broken Hill 1883-1921, Melbourne University Press , 1978, pp 62-74, 102-112
38 Bolton, op cit, p 63
39 Humphrey McQueen, A New Britannia, Penguin Books, Ringwood, 1976, p 146
40 ibid, p 145
41 Philipp, op cit, p 53; Lawrence, op cit, pp 9-12. No information is, however, provided on earnings.
42 Philipp, op cit, p 53
43 ibid, p xii
44 Women were precluded from working in more formal mining operations, and young boys were only engaged in picking the ore or driving the carts. However, at times, women and children did mine. On the Mongarlowe field in 1892, for example, a women and her two daughters made an average of £2 10s a week fossicking over the old workings. Braidwood Dispatch, 3 December 1892. During the 1930s depression rural families often went on fossicking picnics, with the whole family participating in the sluicing. Barry McGowan, Lost Mines Revisited, Barry McGowan, Canberra , 1996, p 145. Sometimes Aboriginal women and children mined alongside aboriginal men. At Caoura on the Bungonia field in 1862, for example, the most successful among the 30 miners present were two Aboriginal families. Goulburn Herald, 5 March 1862.
45 I also equated good wages and wages with the upper and lower end of tradesman’s wages, which in turn corresponded closely to the amounts cited in contemporary accounts. Barry McGowan, A measure of production: a suggested method of assessing gold production on historic mining fields, presented at the Australian Mining History Association Conference, University of New South Wales, 10-11 July 1998.
46 Philipp, A poor man’s diggings, p 36; Registrar General, Statistical Register of New South Wales, Sydney, various years.
47 Braidwood Dispatch, 1 March 1913. On one of the last claims worked on the fields the men were accepting a sovereign and a half a day and sometimes nothing at all. The dredge workers were skilled workers and were highly valued, and obtained very comfortable salaries for many years, at least equal to those of the palmy days on the diggings.
48 Fahey, op cit, “Abusing the horses and exploiting the labourer”, op cit, pp 106-113.