CHAPTER 6: The Spider of Billy Barlow
George Coppin in Melbourne, Victoria – Victoria’s Gold Rush – American Entrepreneurs – Entertainers on the Central Victorian Goldfields – Gustavus Vaughan Brooke’s Last Farewell – The Spider of Lola Montez – Coppin on Tour –
More About George Coppin
George Coppin returned to Australia, from his successful first tour of America, to settle first in Adelaide, South Australia, and then in Melbourne, Victoria. Melbourne, unlike Sydney, had not been founded as a penal colony, and from the start had considered herself far less brash and wild than her tarty sister. Sydney, of course has always considered Melbourne dowdy and dull.
The Woolloomooloo Lair: Author unknown. Early Sydney song
Bourke Street on Saturday Night : Melbourne song by P.C. Cole and Fred Hall, 1918
Gold-Fever in Victoria
|Shades of ev’ning close not o’er us, leave our lonely bark awhile.
Morn alas! will not restore us yonder dark and distant isle;
Still my fancy can discover sunny spots where friends may dwell.
Darker shadows round us hover, isle of beauty, fare thee well.
Melbourne, Victoria’s capital city, woke from her genteel slumbers to find herself a bustling, busy assembly point for the diggers preparing to make the journey inland to the new gold-towns. For a time she was to produce drunken, delinquent larrikins of her own who were easily as dangerous as those in Sydney. Ships lay idle in Port Philip Bay, their captains unable to find sailors willing to man them, while in the tent-cities of Bendigo and Ballarat more and more places were being given names like Sailor’s Gully, Sailor’s Creek, and Sailor’s Flat.
Hundreds of families and single men simply walked inland from Melbourne, or from the nearby port at Geelong, but there was soon a thriving coach-service, for those who could afford it, set up by the American, Freeman Cobb, and his American partners. Cobb initially brought everything from America: his coaches, his drivers, his horse-handlers, even his horse-feed. Cobb & Co became a familiar name all over Australia, surviving even the coming of the railways, to be finally put out of business, after the First World War, by the motorcar.
Americans were conspicuous from the start, for their entrepreneurial skills. The only warehouse where diggers could get their supplies and top-grade mining tools was begun by an American. Here you had a choice of either red or blue shirts. All the stock was imported from America, where the earlier goldrush had produced high-quality tools, and slaves harvested the cotton for the mills that made the shirts. The finest hotel boasted an American owner, American bartenders, and the main coach-station for Cobb & Co.
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The fast Yankee clipper-ships, sailing around Cape Horn, bringing supplies and immigrants, easily outran heavy English sailing ships taking the long route around Africa.
|As you wallop around Cape Horn
Heave away Haul away.
You’ll wish to God you’d never been born
Bound for South Australia.
American Capstan Shanty. Traditional.
The entertainers came along with the rush, sometimes deciding that they were actually gold-diggers, and staying on. British and American music-hall/vaudeville stars, theatre companies, singers, and actors of comedy and tragedy, and of course the Minstrel troupes (from both England and America) arrived in Melbourne to set up tours of the goldfields. The few women who appeared on stage in the gold-towns were showered, not with flowers, but with gold nuggets, as were many of the men. The performers carried with them the tools of their trade: banjos, fiddles, flutes, fifes, drums, bones, triangles, tambourines, makeup bags with burnt cork and pearl dust, and trunks of costumes.
IN THIS SECTION:
HEY HO RAGGEDY-O:
A Study of the Billy Barlow Phenomenon
(written by Joy Hildebrand)
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