Wednesday, April 23, 2014

At the Ovens goldfields, 1850s.

This photograph by Walter Woodbury, said to have been taken circa 1855, shows the mining settlement at Woolshed Creek, a village of canvas and shingles.  Woodbury set up a studio in Beechworth in 1857, so it is possible that the image dates to this later period.  Source:  The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum. Inventory no: 2003-5001/2/23789


I am now going to wind back the dial on the time machine to 1855 when we will find George and Susan Griffith on the Ovens goldfields of northern Victoria.  I have already mentioned the children born and baptised in Fitzroy between 1865 and 1876, but there was an older group of children born among the tents, bark huts and gold workings in the Ovens Valley.  These were:

Edward George,  born 14 Apr 1855 at Wangaratta  (died 24 Feb 1856 Wangaratta)
Mary Jane           born 10 Aug 1857 at Silver Creek
George                born circa 1859 Indigo                     (died 1859 Indigo)
Ann Catherine    born circa 1861 in NSW
Louisa                 born 2 Jun 1863 at Beechworth

George was listed in the 1857 Ovens Directory as a Professor of Music, Woolshed.  Woolshed Creek was north west of Beechworth.  It had long been a matter of puzzlement to me as to whether George used his musician's hands to dig for gold, and I spent a bit of time researching this in the dark ages of research prior to the widespread use of the WWW.   I was able to find some traces of him, which didn't really resolve the question.   He invariably gave his occupation as 'musician', but it turned out that he did have a Miner's Right.  This information came from the card files of Fay Johnson, who had recorded that in the 1856/57 Electoral Roll - Legislative Assembly - Reid's Creek and Woolshed Division (Ovens District) on page 31, George GRIFFITHS of Woolshed, miner, was included on the roll by virtue of a Miner's Right.

Ros Shennan, another researcher of the Ovens history had recorded an advertisement which was included in a publication called History of the Parish of Beechworth about the Catholic Parish of Beechworth, by Father Leo Lane.  In this ad for St Patrick's Day at St Joseph's Church, Beechworth to be held on 17 March 1858, a Grand High Mass was to be held with orchestral accompaniments provided by Mr G Griffiths, first violin; Mr Welchman, second violin; Mr P Hurley, flute; Mr W Radford, viola; Mr Barlow, cornet; Mr Jenkins, sax tuba, Mr Wright violincello and Herr Esther double bass.

I found this interesting because it placed George's musical skills at the top end of the scale of fiddlers, with the capacity to play complex liturgical pieces, and also as the first violinist - the orchestra leader.

That was about the extent of my findings until last year when I decided to give the Ovens and Murray Advertiser (1855-1866), based in Beechworth  a thorough going over to see what else I could find about the activities of the Griffiths family, and shed more light on what type of music George was performing, and was he combining that with mining.

The next few posts will have a look at those findings.

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