In common with my fellow passengers, I had an idea that if I could only reach Victoria I would speedily acquire enough money by wrenching the hidden treasures from the goldfields to enable me to return to my friends in England with my pockets full of sovereigns. But this dream was rudely dispelled as soon as I set foot on shore, for I found that the principal goldfield was at Bendigo, 100 miles distant, and that the only way to get there was to walk and carry a swag on my back.
Being compelled to do something for a living, I took my blankets and a few articles of clothing, and set out upon the journey. I tramped along over what are known as Keilor Plains, and lay down to sleep the first night under a wattle tree near the southern slope of Mount Macedon. The night was fine and warm, the mighty forest was filled with strange noises, which, though startling to me at the time, have since become familiar, and I lay there for some hours watching the stars twinkling through the umbrageous foliage above my head, and wondering whether any other human beings felt so lonely as myself. Before the sunrise next morning I resumed my journey, and, not withstanding the unacustomed labour of carrying a swag on my back, made good progress.
Sometimes a light vehicle or a horseman passed me, and after enquiring whether I was going in the right direction or not I trudged bravely forward. In three days I reached Bendigo, and joined in the general scramble for gold, but though I worked hard, and toiled from daylight till dark, fortune refused to smile upon me, and my slender monetary resources were rapidly exhausted.
Weary and dispirited, I abandoned the apparently hopeless search for the precious metal, and came to the conclusion that as I was not one of Fortune’s Favourites, I had better get hold of something which would, at any rate, provide for me the bare necessities of life.
Having had some experience as a carpenter, I set about making inquiries where work was likely to be found, and had no difficulty in procuring it at a daily wage of 15 shillings. Though the gold fever had not completely left me, I worked steadily at my trade, and by dint of industry and care scraped together about £300.
Growing somewhat sick of Bendigo, which had promised me so much and given so little, I turned my face again towards Melbourne, with the intention of returning to England by the next sailing vessel. When I reached Kyneton I heard that there was some good land at the northern slope of Mount Macedon, which could be purchased from the Governement at £1 per acre.
As I had been born in a farming district in the old country, and new good soil when I saw it, I resolved upon inspecting the locality mentioned, and without hesitation tramped from Kyneton to Rochford for the purpose of examining the available land. No sooner had I put the spade into the ground than I felt satisfied that a living could be made by cultivating even a small-holding, and as a land sale was to be held at Kilmore a few days afterwards, I chose a block that seemed to offer superior advantages and made up my mind to buy it if possible.
I attended the sale, and secured the coveted allotment at the (sic)pset price. In the purchase of the land I had expended most of my money, but I had enough remaining to buy a pair of horses, a plough, a pair of harrows, dray, seed wheat and oats, and to enable me to build a rough hut with shingles and pailings procured from some splitters near Hesket.
Without going into details, I may state that I married and settled down on the farm, and lived there from that date to this. I have brought up a large family, given most of my children a fairly good education, settled them all in life, and at the preset time, after paying all such expenses, have a good credit balance at my banker’s. I can look the whole world in the face, “for I owe not any man”, and through my life in Lancefield as not been uniformly prosperous, yet on the whole I have prospered more than I ever hoped to do.
I am not the only one now living in your district who can relate a similar experience. If I had remained in England, and know that to-day I should have been working for about 3 shillings a day, and had a wife and family living from hand to mouth, therefore I thank Heaven that I was tempted to leave my father and mother and try my luck in Australia, and though my wife sometimes urges me to sell out and return to my native country, I am determined to live and die in the fair land which has been, on the whole, so good to me.
During the last few years farming has not been so remunerative as it used to be or ought to be, but yet, speaking for myself I came to Lancefield 36 years ago a poor man, invested all the capital I possessed in the district, struggled for years to conquer adverse circumstances, and now I am in a position to retire from agriculture (sic) I choose to live in any part of the world in the enjoyment of Optium cum dignitate. This is what Lancefield has done for me, and, I doubt not, for scores of others, and though for the last two or three years things have not been so prosperous for us as might be desired, yet I ask my fellow farmers. Where could we find a better, more reliable, more productive district beneath the sun. The unanimous answer must be - There is none.
If a man cannot make a living in Lancefield he cannot make one elsewhere.