Eureka Stockade  ( Massacre Hill) (1949)

 

 

 

 

Director:      Harry Watt. 

Starring:      Chips Rafferty (Peter Lalor),  Jane Barrett (Alicia Dunne),  Jack Lambert (Commissioner Rede),  Peter Illing (Raffaello),  Gordon Jackson (Torn Kennedy),  Ralph Truman (Governor Hotham),  Sydney Loder (Vern),  John Fernside (Sly Grog Seller),  Grant Taylor (Sergeant Major Milne),  Peter Finch (Humffray).   

Australians battle the government during the 1854 miners' revolt

 

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

 

"The story of the world is the story of man's fight for freedom. In that fight England had her Magna Carta, France her revolution, America her Declaration of Independence and Australia Eureka Stockade."

"Already a land of great pastoral wealth and vast estates, but also a land of great poverty, where under the blazing skies, water was life and only those who controlled it lived it easily. But always there were rumors -- rumors of a new life. And always they were scoffed at until 1851 Edward Hargreaves alone in a creek at Ophir shouting 'gold' and Australia had to face the notion that she had become a nation. " In 10 years, the Australian population nearly tripled.

Policeman Commissioner Rede goes in to see the Governor Latrobe of Victoria. Latrobe says he is going to make Rede the Chief Commissioner of the Ballarat Gold Fields. The politician says that the nation is headed to bankruptcy. So many workers have left their jobs to go searching for gold that it has put a real strain on governmental incomes.

So the government has decided to institute a system of taxes on the gold fields by license. Rede is to make sure that the taxes will be collected. He tells the governor that nearly half his force has deserted to the gold fields.

1854. Ballarat. [Ballarat is now a city located on the Yarrowee River and lower western plains of the Great Dividing Range in the state of Victoria, southeastern Australia, approximately 105 kilometers (65 mi) west-north-west of the state capital of Melbourne.]

Gold hunter Raffaello Carbone tells his buddy Peter Lalor that in Ballarat they will build up a new utopia. No longer will they be pushed around by the rich and the strong. Just then Commissioner Rede comes riding up on his horse to tell the men to get in line for their gold hunting licenses. Peter tells Raffaello: "Looks as though you got to pay to get into your El Dorado."

The license has a monthly fee of 30 shillings. Our two heroes get their licenses. As they walk to get something to eat they notice the police chasing after men who have no license. A policeman stops Raffaello and Peter and asks to see their licenses. They show the policemen their papers.

Just then another fellow comes by ande the policeman asks him for his license. The new fellow says he just got off the boat and hasn't decided what he's going to do. He's from Scotland. While the Scotsman keeps talking Peter sneaks around and puts his license into the Scotsman's left hand. Raffaello acts like the Scotsman is pulling a joke on the policeman for the fellow had his license all along. The policeman gets angry and tells the newcomer that he will discover that it's not a good idea to be playing jokes on the police. He rides out.

The newcomer's name is Torn Kennedy. He thanks the guys for getting him out of a real jam. Peter says it seems that in this land of freedom they have to pay for the gold even before they find it.

Raffaello and Peter start digging on their claim. Torn hears a man shouting that he has found a huge hunk of gold. He rushes over to have a look at it. Torn then rushes over to Raffaello and Peter to tell them about the nearby finding of gold. Our two fellows just keep on digging.

Another newcomer talks with Raffaello and Peter. He says he is Frederich Vern late of the Bavarian guards. Torn arrives and gives Vern some tea. Now the three guys ask Vern to join them because they have to hurry and find the gold. Vern accepts their offer.

The Eureka Hotel is now having its Grand Opening. The proprietor comes outside to say that drinks are on the house. A hug crowd of men pour into the place.

One day policemen come riding hard into the mining area and someone shouts out the warning: "Digger hunt!" A lot of those who have no license take off running. They grab anyone who doesn't have a license. These prisoners are put in irons.

The mail arrives and a big crowd of people gather around the post master. A boy picks up the letters for Miss Alicia Dunne. Vern gets to talking with the young fellow and the boy shows him some gold that he dug up at his school.

So naturally, the four partners show ups at the elementary school where Alicia Dunne is the teacher. The school is just a bunch of picnic tables spread out on the ground. The men start disrupting the class and Alicia goes over to scold the men. When she mentions there is no claim on this land, then the men start setting up to dig.

Alicia tells them to get out of here because there's no gold to be found here. Vern begs to differ and show her the chuck of gold he got from the boy. Alicia looks at it and says: "You poor man." Peter looks at it and says that this is mica. It seems that the boy has played a trick on Vern. He looks over at the boy and his friends who are all laughing.

She says that the men are fools. They will abandon everything in their lives, including their families, just for a chance to finds some gold. Furthermore, she believes that the gold hunters are ruining the country. Raffaello says that this is not their country. Alicia retorts that then they should make it their country. The men object that the country doesn't want them. Alice replies that, of course, the country wants them. The men says the country won't give them the vote or let them buy land. Peter says: "So, you see Miss Dunne, all we can do is to get as much as we can, as quickly as we can." Her reply is: "Yes, and spoil everything while doing it. . . . The decent things in life have been forgotten, abandoned."

The Governor of Victoria Latrobe is put under such pressure that he resigns. Sir Charles Hotham succeeds him.

Hotham talks to the people of Victoria. He decides to "cure" gold fever and the first thing he will do it raise the license fee from 30 shillings to 40 shillings. He's off to a bad start. Even Rede says that this will mean trouble. The governor counters by saying that the colony is in great danger.

Alicia and Peter start becoming friends and she goes out on picnics with him. Peter talks about one day having a farm in Australia. Alicia says that Peter doesn't really want to be a miner. Meanwhile, Torn is catching a baby Koala bear.

The news arrives that the license fee has increased to 40 shillings. The news spreads like wildfire. And the police are sharing the fines. The news spread like a wild fire. The miners are furious.

The police make another lightning raid on the miners and they start running to get away from the policemen. The police have an informant among the miners. He rats on those miners that don't have a license.

The police start clubbing runaways with their batons. The knock out some with their fists. This time a very large group of men is taken to jail.

The miners sends a deputation to air the miners' grievances. The men put a lot of hope on this deputation. Peter is not happy with the lack of support for the deputation among most of the miners. In a bar he tells a group of non-supporters that they make him sick. They let the police push them around and then they won't even support the efforts made on their behalf.

Some of the activists says that Mr. Bentley, the proprietor of the Eureka Hotel and bar, is over-friendly with the police. Bentley says that the police are entitled to a drink just like everyone else. Torn and an acquaintance get thrown out of the bar for being drunk.

Peter talks some more with Alicia about his idea of having a farm. He says if the government would let them have some land, many of the miners would abandon their claims. Alicia loves to hear this kind of talk because of her negative view of the effects of mining on the colony.

Torn and his buddy are still drunk and the buddy wants to get more liquor from the hotel after hours. Mr. Bentley tells the fellow that they are closed. Mrs. Bentley comes to the window and tells the fellows to go away. The buddy calls her a dirty old cow and that brings the men inside to the woman's defense. She tells the buddy off and so the fellow throws his empty liquor bottle at her. It crashes through the window and almost hits Mrs. Bentley on the head. She screams. The buddy runs as the men start running after him and Torn.

Mr. Bentley grabs a shovel as he runs. Torn is so truck that he falls down behind some wagons where he can't be seen. He just stays there as the men run by him. The men finally catch up with the bottle thrower. Bentley hits the man with the shovel.

Torn sees the men and Mrs. Bentley running back from where the man was hit. He gets up and looks for Jamie Scobie. He finds Jamie dead on the ground. He starts yelling "murder". He runs around yelling murder and all the miners start getting roused up. He says that the murderers were Bentley and his gang.

A trial takes place, but the problem is that no one saw who struck Jamie down. Kennedy says he knows it was Bentley, but he didn't see the blow being struck. So, the judge, Commissioner Rede, has to let Bentley go. The miners are even more furious than ever.

Outside the courthouse, the men call for a meeting about the failure of the justice system to protect the miners. At the meeting Peter is upset because he fells vengeful action will spoilt the efforts of the deputation to get a fair hearing with Governor Hotham. So Peter goes down to talk with Rede.

Rede is impressed by Peter and suggests that he become the miners' leader. Peter says he's not up to that job. He just wants to warn Rede that the men are really angry and implies that they may resort to violence. Rede assures Peter that if the miners use violence their violence will be met with violence.

The men become a mob and go after Bentley. They march with their torches in the night to the Eureka Hotel. The police tells Mrs. Bentley not to worry because she has police protection. The police go outside to meet the miners. The police are easily pushed out of the way and the men group around the hotel.

Peter gives a good speech on why the men shouldn't resort to violence. It looks like he has turned the tide as some men start leaving the crowd. But then Bentley looks out a second story window. A men sees him, shouts out that there's Bentley and throws a rock through the window. The rock knocks over a lantern and a fire starts.

Windows are broken and torches thrown into the hotel. Benteley leaves his wife behind to fight the fire as he runs for it. The fires soon start destroying the entire hotel. Bentley tries to ride through the men, but is brought down from his horse and captured.

Peter grabs Torn and insists that he not participate in this mob mentality any more. He sees Mrs. Bentley screaming for help and convinces Torn to come help him to save Mrs. Bentley. Peter runs up and sweeps Mrs. Bentley up in his arms. While he is bringing her down the steps, a support beam falls on Torn's leg and pins him. He runs outside and puts Mrs. Bentley on the ground and then goes back into the fire to Torn.

Police on horseback arrive and disperse the mob. Rede sends a messenger for reinforcements.

The two spokesmen for the miners are presenting their case to the governor now. The governor says he wants to give the miners hope and will set up a commission to what's the best course of action for the miners and the country.

Just then the messenger arrives from Ballarat. The governor reads it and then says to the miners' representatives: "You might be interested to know, gentlemen, that the Bentley hotel was looted and burned last night by a mob of your law-abiding citizens." He then sends a message to Rede to arrest the leaders of the mob and put them on trial immediately. And he is sending Rede military assistance.

And here comes the military assistance. A miner tries to talk to the commander, but he merely dismisses all the concerns of the miners by saying they are no-more than "rebels".

The miners that saw the troops coming go to talk to Peter. Peter says this time the authorities are right. Vern criticizes his friend for being a spokesman not for them, but for the authorities. Peter objects to that saying he just speaks for himself.

Torn is bandaged up by Alicia. Peter comes to talk with her and he talks with Torn too. Torn asks Peter whose side is he on anyway? Alicia scolds both men. It makes Torn so mad that he immediately leaves the house.

Peter says that he can't be with the miners now because he still keeps thinking about that terrible mob. Alicia scolds him for being intolerant. She urges him to get his values straight. The men need leadership. They need men like Peter and he just can't refuse to help them.

A man rushes in to say that the police have arrested Torn as one of the mob leaders. Peter responds: "The fools! Looking for scapegoats." He says he will go see Rede. As he leaves,. he says to Alicia: "You were right, Alicia."

Rede in on uncertain terms tells Peter that the mob leaders must be prosecuted. Peter says there were no leaders and Torn had not hand in the burning. Torn was with him saving Mrs. Bentley. Moreover, police persecutions are only making things worse. Peter finally tells him that there's virtually no communication between him and Rede. Rede is just completely unbending. He says: "We're men, Mr. Rede, not serfs."

A meeting is held and it is decided the miners will resist the military assault on the miners. They also took a new name: "The Diggers' Reform League". Raffaello suggests that what they need is a grand flag. Peter looks up at the stars and says there's their flag: the Southern Cross.

Peter says that he is with the new group. That makes Raffaello very happy.

Rede speaks with the informer who tells him that there's going to be trouble. He even tells the police that the miners are getting their guns out. The informer says this is risky business and wants money. They keep telling him to see them later.

Torn comes over to Peter and thanks him for getting him out of jail. He also says that he has now stopped drinking altogether. Peter says there's big trouble and the miners are going to have to stick together.

Vern leads a group in the burning of their licenses. Rede sees this but it's just him and his assistant. He rides away.

Rede goes to Alicia's home. She has just finished sewing the Southern Cross flag. He tells her and the Peter group that they are asking for trouble. He says their new flag will have blood on it, if the miners don't settle down. Peter suggests that the police stop their persecution of the miners and present their case to the governor. The inflexible Mr. Rede says rebels like the miners have no right to present any demands to the governor.

A large force of policemen begin another raid on the miners. Their primary target is Vern for leading the burning of the licenses. A policeman goes to arrest Vern, but Vern and the men resist the arrest. The policeman is thrown to the ground and jumped on. Other miners pull the policemen off their horses.

A real battle begins with the miners fighting the police with their horses and batons. People on both sides are getting badly hurts. A miner is pushed into a mud hole.

The soldiers come in and get ready to fire at the oncoming miners. The first shot is sent over the heads of the miners. Rede tries to read the law to the miners and is hit by a hard-thrown stone. Rede has the bugler blow the tune to retire.

The miner thrown into the mud hole dies. Peter says they will raise the flag on Bakery Hill.

At a meeting they make Peter the commander. He has the men say the oath to the Southern Cross. Those who don't want to take the oath should leave now. Many men do leave. Around 500 men stay. They take the oath.

Peter starts the training of his men. He also starts the building of a primitive stockade. Some of the men say they should attack the soldiers, but Peter says killing soldiers will loose them the support of the Australian people. No, they must become a disciplined force ready to defend themselves against the police and military.

Rede wants to wait out the situation, while his officers want to attack.

Torn asks Peter if it will come to fighting. Peter tells him that they are already fighting.

The next morning Peter's forces are down by over 100 men. The informer tells this to Rede and advises him to attack right away. They must strike before Monday because a thousand armed miners are on the move from another mining area and will arrive Monday. With this new information Rede agrees to an early morning attack on Sunday.

Early Sunday quite a few miners attend religious ceremonies. The police and military are up on top of a hill. The bugle sounds and the men advance toward the stockade. The keep coming as some of their number drop dead. The miners are also suffering quite a few casualties. The soldier reach the stockade and many get into the fort. Now the cavalry comes running in on horseback. Their horses jump over the lower parts of the stockade.

Peter is hit in the left arm Torn rushes over to him. He puts him in a ditch and then covers him so he won't be seen. Some of the miners, such as Vern, run for their lives. The Southern Cross flag is cut down and falls on the ground.

Torn run over to Alicia's house. He tells her about Peter and she wants Torn to take her to him immediately. They hear the sound of the approach of a horse. Peter hides up the chimney. It's Rede. He asks Alicia where is Peter Lalor? Alicia give him no information and Rede leaves.

At nilght Torn and Alicia go back to the stockade. There they find Raffaello. They take Peter out of his hiding place and take him to the church The priest tells someone to go get Dr. Moore. Rafaello goes to find the doctor. He finds him at a poker game in a tent bordello. The doctor keeps saying he won't come with Rafaello. But then Rafaello says the miners will pay him, the doctor quickly goes with Rafaello.

The miners have to hold Peter down because getting out the bullet is going to be painful. To cover the sounds made by Peter, Rafaello starts playing the church organ and singing hymns. The others join in on the singing.

The group decides to get a wagon and move Peter to a private house in the boonies.

The governor wants everyone looking for Peter Lalor. Peter is on the move with the wagon with Alicia as his nurse. The convoy runs into some police so Raffaello lets himself be seen by the police and they chase after him.

Now the wagon can get through the area. They come to a small, run-down cabin.

The Melbourne Victoria, January 15, 1855 says that there is growing agitation at the shooting of the diggers by the police and military. Mass Protes Meetings are being held everywhere as public indignation sweeps the colony.

The mayor of Melbourne says at a public venue that he voices the public feeling against the government's actions of shooting down the diggers in Ballarat. "This was a despicable action."

The lawyer for the prosecution speaks with the governor. The governor is worried. The lawyer says that if the case goes against the government, it might be wise to grant the diggers' claims.

The trial begins. Peter is operated on.

The diggers are found "not guilty". Torn rides to the cabin to tell Peter and Alicia that the men were found not guilty and their primary demands are being accepted. Legislation is passed the abolishes the license fee and gives the immigrants the vote. Furthermore, Crown Land will be granted for settlers.

At a Crown Land Sale in Ballarat Peter Lalor with his wife Alicia make a bit on some Crown Land. Rede is there and he rides over to speak to Peter. Peter has lost his left arm to an amputation. He asks Rede if he has come to arrest him? Rede says no. The people have spoken on that matter and he follows the will of the people. Alicia says that Peter is going to run for public office. Redde tells Peter: "Congratulations, Mr. Lalor." Now he rides on.

[The Australian National Flag has three elements on a blue background: the Union Jack, the Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross.]

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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