John H. W. Pettit letters to his family in England, illustrated with sketches by the writer, 1852-1868 - Page 363

You are here


not at great length, and the Commissioner of Railways also, on the prospect of the lines paying, but not without having since had his figures much canvassed.  Few persons believe that the Government lines will pay, or that we ought to expect them to pay for years to come, and yet advocate further extension.  But our necessities will probably drive us to greater providence, when the present burden of half a million sterling on the general revenue in the shape of interest on the general revenue in the shape of interest on the railway debt is a little more felt.  We are quite equal to the debt of eight millions already contracted, but the general belief is, that we ought not to go further at present.
The completion of the two Government trunk lines has led the Hobson's Bay Railway Company to bestir themselves with the view of getting their line connected with those of the Government.  From terminus to terminus, the distance is not much more than a mile, and if a junction were effected, goods could be sent up into the country in the same trucks from the ships' sides.  The cost of the connecting line is estimated at £100,000, and the Hobson's Bay Railway Company at first hoped that the Government would take it in hand.  But seeing little prospect of that, they are now about to apply to Parliament for leave to bring in a bill to be allowed to do it themselves.  A draft bill for the purpose has been prepared, and was adopted at a late meeting of the shareholders. 

Dullness is the order of the day on the gold-fields, notwithstanding the late opening of the Melbourne and Murray Railway line to Castlemaine and Sandhurst.  The shipments of gold last week amounted to 17,239 ounces, inclusive of 267,543 ounces from New Zealand, transhipped in Hobson's Bay.  The shipments of Victorian gold for the year consequently amount to 1,471.057 ounces, the gross shipments for the corresponding period of last year being 1,640,245 ounces.  There is thus a falling off on the year, of very nearly 200,000 ounces.  But we have a right, of course, to look to the greater portion of the New Zealand gold as the produce of our miners only temporarily sojourning in that colony, and now flocking back in great numbers.  On the return of spring it was believed that the rush to New Zealand from Victoria would be immense, but that has not been the case, confidence in the paying nature of the ground there being very much on the decline.  This is not the case with those on the spot, but their numbers are as small as the diggings are limited.  They therefore either keep up their hopes, or the Otago papers put on the best face before folks on their behalf, as may be see from the following to date of the 24th ult. : - "There have been a variety of accounts received from the different gold-fields, and the general tone of them is such as to warrant us in saying that the mining prospects of the Province are looking up.  In the first place the escort arrived, bringing 11, 480 oz. of gold, of which 6000 odd was from the Dunstan, and the remainder from the old diggings.  This makes over 12,000 oz. from the Dunstan by escort, and may be considered as making Hartley and Reilly's reward safe, for the total quantity requisite to secure them is 16 000 oz. which must be obtained in three months.  Only two of the three months had elapsed when the escort arrived, and there is every reason to expect that the next escort will considerably more than make up the quantity.  This, of course, is without counting the large quantity that has come down by private hand.  There have been several small rushes lately in the neighbourhood of the Dunstan.  From one of these, about seven miles from the junction of the Manuherika and the Clutha, about 200 oz. were brought down the other day.  The gold was rough, and but very little water-worn, and the parties to whom it belonged t said that there was plenty more offering for sale, but that money was as yet scarce on the ground.  A considerable number of miners, are also at work with very good success on the Teviot, and there is, besides a rush to the Nevis Stream, which is some considerable distance from the Dunstan, in the direction of he Nokomai.  At the Dunstan proper the people are every day becoming more and more settled, and as the season advances it is generally believed it will be found that the locality will turn out as good a diggings for summer as it is known to be for winter."  From Nokomai, a correspondent writes under date of October the 21st, as follows:- "The gold-fields have taken a great changes during the past week.  All the diggers are making wages, and many 9 to 11 dwts per man per day.  Provisions are plentiful and cheap.  The population now exceed 1000, and a number are doing capitally on the Mon Flat and junction of  the Nokomai River. A party of fur men took to the treasury fifty-one ounces, the proceeds of four weeks' work amongst five men, only four of whom  were constantly at work.  There is a small rush to Mr. Rees's station, and a reported rush to McNab's.  The richest ground appears to be upon the bank and terraces along the Mon Creek.  Some deep sinking is going on near the Mataura and the other side of the saddle."  From our own gold-fields, the accounts are varied, as is almost always the case.  At one place they are doing nothing or well, at another better than either nothing or well, at another better than either nothing or well, or what in colonial parlance passes under the name of "first rate."  Our gold-fields are too numerous, and have been too often described to be dwelt upon in detail.  Results are all we can meddle with, and these are sufficiently indicated by the gold export returns given above. Across the border, in the neighbourhood of Albury, there is some excitement just now about a reported discovery. A man named Aldis sold twenty ounces of gold to the Bank of New South Wales, about a fortnight ago, and again, on Tuesday week, seventy ounces more, promising to bring a parcel of two hundred ounces in a few days.  It is supposed to come from a locality not far distant.  But nothing certain about the matter is known.


The English mail was telegraphed from Adelaide on the 10th, and arrived in Hobson's Bay on the 11th.  The abundance, and consequent cheapness of money in the London market, will probably have some influence here.  People talk of getting up companies for one purpose or other, under the hope of floating them on the London market, but great care will be required to avoid a repetition of what has been disastrous in the past.
The import market has exhibited greater activity of late, and this will, no doubt, increase as the harvest  approaches. The accounts of the improved rates of Australian securities, particularly those of the Victorian Railway Debentures, have been received with much satisfaction.  But the fact is not overlooked that, in quoting the latter at 100¾ to 110¼, interest due in October is included.  The wool sales accounts are also satisfactory.
The talk about new industries with us is mere talk.  We passed a Distillation Bill last session, which was to have had the effect of converting our surplus grain into spirit, and we have no surplus.  We have had introduced into the new Land Act a clause allowing of leases of 30- acre blocks of land at 4s. an acre for vine-plantings, and there are hundreds of thousands of acres of land equally good in the hands of private individuals, not deemed to be worth more than from 1s. to 2s.6d. an acre, according to locality, upon which a single vine has not been planted.  But we shall be cured of our crotchets some day, we suppose, and shall be led to give the preference to the practical, and not to the theoretical.
The clip of wool this season is very good, and we have had a fine shearing time.  A large portion of the clip is now to hand[?], some of it having been brought down by the railway.  In regard to the wheat and hay harvest, the
prospects are encouraging.  We shall have average crops if the weather continues as at present, and may look forward to a good harvest time. The vines are looking very well, no appearance of blight or of any other disease having yet presented themselves.
The Provident Institute has gone into the Insolvent Court, and the chances of a large dividend are thereby reduced.  The 15s. in the pound at one time promised, is not now likely to exceed 5s., if it even reaches that, and there will be much delay in the declaration of dividends unless the Legislature interferes in its winding up. This, it  will be remembered, was a sort of "People's Bank," into which deposits were paid to be laid out at a high rate of interest, [?] landed or other securities, which have either declined in value, or have become absolutely worthless.  Hence the disaster; and it has, of course, fallen on those least able to bear it.
The City of Sydney, one of the Australian Steam Navigation Company's steamers, trading, between Sydney and this port, was lost on Tuesday the 4th instant.  She struck a rock after rounding Cape Howe, near Green Cape, an went down shortly afterwards, in spite of all efforts to save her.  The passengers and crew are all safe.  It is estimated that the lost vessel and cargo were worth £25,000.  The passengers have,of course, lost everything, save the clothing they wore when they left the ship.  To the volunteers, who were returning from Melbourne, the loss is a severe one.  Six out of the ten rifles that were used in too [?] late Intercolonial Match were left in the vessel - namely, Sergeant Strong's Henry, Mr. Webb's Kerr, Mr. Sharp's Whitworth, Mr. Wyndham's Whitworth, Alderman Chapman's Whitworth, used by Sergeant-Major Hellyer, and Mr. Richards' Turner, used by Captain Windeyer.  Mr. Lynch, at the risk of his life, ran down below when the vessel was fast filling, and snatched up the rifle with which he shot, and saved it,notwithstanding the order of "No baggage - save your lives," had been given by the captain.  Mr. Dickson also followed the example of Lynch, and managed to secure his rifle.  The other two rifles not lost belong to Captain Harbottle and Lieutenant Campbell.
The following vessels have arrived from British and Foreign ports since our last: - October 14 - Prince of Wales, from London; Lawrence, from Mauritius. 17 - REsolute, from London; Mary Fry,from London; Norfolk, from London, 20 Mttapau, from Boston,  21 - Westbourne, from London. 25 - Amherst, from South Seas, 26 - Celeste, from Bourbon; Amelie, from Bour


This page has its status set to Ready for review and is no longer transcribable.