Bendigo Cemetery Walking Tours

Federation Tour

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Bendigo And The Federation Story

The movement toward the Federation of Australia’s six colonies on 1st January 1901 evolved slowly from the first British settlement of New South Wales in 1788. In 1847 the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Earl Gray, suggested the need for a central legislative power, then in 1856 Charles Gavan Duffy, an Irish rebel immigrant and former member of the House of Commons, urged for federation of the colonies to form an Australian nation.

On October 23, 1899 the then Premier of NSW, Sir Henry Parkes, made his now famous oration at Tenterfield stressing the necessity for national defence, a uniform railway gauge and postal service and the abolition of customs tariffs between the colonies. A colonial conference (including New Zealand) was held in 1891, but shortly afterwards Parkes retired and the federation movement faded.

It was at a people’s convention held in Corowa in 1893, organised by the Australian Natives Association, the Federation League and other public organisation, that Dr. John Quick, representing Bendigo, was given the task of writing an enabling Bill. He proposed that delegates be elected from each of the six colonies who would then debate on a Constitution, which would be returned to the people to vote on. No other country before or since has attempted such a fully democratic process.

In Referendums held in 1898 and 1899 Bendigo citizens voted overwhelmingly for the proposed constitution – 13% higher than Victoria as a whole.

Bendigo’s influence extended further when Miners on the Western Australian goldfields (primarily those who had been on Bendigo Creek and other Victorian diggings) threatened to secede and set up a separate State. Subsequently Western Australia joined with the other colonies on 31 July 1900.

Bendigo – The Name

In 1851 when gold was discovered the diggings were named from Bendigo Creek where a shepherd nicknamed after the world champion prizefighter, William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson of Nottingham had established a residence.

The township, which developed, was first named Castleton after an English mining town, but a few weeks later was changed to Sandhurst, no doubt an association from the famous military academy.

When gold production declined it was felt the name ‘Bendigo’ might more readily attract much needed overseas financial investment. In 1891 a poll was conducted and residents voted in favour so the City was the officially named Bendigo.

John Crowley – The Shamrock Hotel 1827 – 1899

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Although not directly related to the Federal movement John Crowley, in partnership with William Hefferman, bough the original restaurant and theatre, which developed in the social centre of the City where many important public meetings were held.

On 16 April, 1898, Alfred Deakin, an ardent Federationist (who later became Australia’s second Prime Minister) gave an address to the Australian Natives Association Conference in the Shamrock Hotel which is considered by many historians to be a major turning point for the Federation movement.

John Crowley was born in County Cork, Ireland. At 19 years of age he immigrated to America and conducted a drapery store. In 1853, he arrived in Bendigo and entered into partnership with Heffernan, which was dissolved in 1864. After some years in Melbourne he returned to Bendigo and resided at Marlboro Lodge in Wattle Street. Amongst his varied interests Crowley was connected with Mining companies, a Life Governor of the Bendigo Hospital and a Director of Sandhurst Trustees.

William Gay – Federation Poet 1865 – 1897

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Born on Bridge-On-Weir, Renfrew Shire, Scotland. Suffering from consumption he immigrated to New Zealand and the to Victoria, arriving in 1888. Initially a teacher at Scotch College, Melbourne, he had other tutorial positions but each time was forced to retire because of illness.

The last four years of his life were spent in Bendigo where he wrote his most famous individual poems. He was foundation President of the Bendigo Philosophical Society and commenced a communication with Alfred Deakin, who, although they never met, did much to ensure William had the opportunity to earn an income from publishment of his literary and poetical works. In his renowned address at the Shamrock Hotel in 1898, Deakin specifically mentioned the poetry of William Gay being an inspiration for the cause of Federation.

Australian Federation

From all division let our land be free,
For God has made her one: complete she lies
Within the unbroken circle of the skies,
And round her indivisible the sea

Breaks on her single shore; while only we,
Her foster children, bound with sacred ties
Of one dear blood, one storied enterprise,
Are negligent of her integrity.

Her seamless garment, at great Mammon’s nod.
With hands unfilial we have basely rent,
With petty variance our souls are spent,
And ancient kinship under foot is trod;

O let rise, united, penitent,
And be one people, mighty, serving God!

The inscription on his monument – “Yet ever upward through the night I go” is the final lines from William’s Verse “Vestigia Nulla Restrorsum” which commences “O Steep and rugged life whose harsh ascent, slopes blindly upward through the bitter night…” and relates to Williams acceptance of hiss illness and impending death.

William Dixon Campbell Denovan – Red Ribbon Rebellion 1854, 1829 – 1906

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Born in Scotland, the son of a British diplomat, Denovan was a schoolteacher before he arrived on the Bendigo diggings, 16 February 1853. He immediately took out a gold license and in the following months became involved in reform on the gold fields relating to the gold license tax, Parliamentary representation and land for the people.

During July and August 1854, meetings were held on the Bendigo diggings with delegates of Anti-Gold License Associations being sent to Melbourne to plead their cause. The wearing of a red ribbon was a sign that those who wore it pledged to no longer pay the license fee. On 28 August, a cold rainy day, over ten thousand diggers massed to protest outside the Government Camp (Camp Hill, Rosalind Park) where armed soldiers prepared for a revolt. However, because of the respect Gold Commission Panton had earnt for judicious administration and the strict control by the Anti-Gold License Committee, a potentially violent disturbance was averted.

In December a further meeting was scheduled in Ballarat. On reaching Castlemaine on his was there, Denovan heard of the fatal Eureka Stockade incident was turned back.

Denovan was associated with many community endeavours. He represented Sandhurst in the Legislative Assembly (1861), was an original member for Land Reform, involved in the survey of the Coliban Channel to secure a permanent water supply and from 1879 – 1892 he was Town Clerk of the City of Sandhurst/Bendigo. He died alone and in poverty aged 77 years. An “In Memoriam” notice of 13 July 1907 says of him “The man that every man should wish to be.”

George Drury – Public Benefactor 1826-1890

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Although not related to Federation, this monument is relative to the history of Bendigo. George Drury was born in Kent, England and arrived in Bendigo in 1854. He was a prospector on Tyson’s Reef and also worked at Epsom, Huntly, Elysian Flat and Specimen Hill. On his death handsome bequests were made to the community including the Bendigo Art Gallery where the Drury Court wing opened in 1897 was named in his honour.

Thomas Jefferson Connelly – Federationist 1858 – 1892

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Born in Bendigo, Connelly was the first son of an American citizen who conducted an ironmonger business in High Street – Campbell and Connelly. He was named after Thomas Jefferson the famous statesman who wrote much of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 and became the third United States President.

T Jefferson Connelly trained as a lawyer and was well acquainted with Dr John Quick. In the 1880’s there was a strong sense of patriotism among those born in the colonies. Unlike the immigrants they had no other place to call “home” and this lef to the formation of the Australian Natives Association. Connelly was one of the foundation members of the Sandhurst Branch become President and later editor of the official journal “National Australian”. He was elected to the Bendigo Council and in 1897 he became the first native-born Mayor.

The predicated brilliant career of T Jefferson Connelly ended abruptly when he died of apoplexy (cerebral haemorrhage) aged 34 years. In 1893 Alfred Deakin unveiled a portrait of Connelly (donated to Bendigo Art Gallery by the ANA) and stated “No man more fervently desired the union of the colonies or who more devotedly strove towards the great end.”

Sir John Quick 1852 – 1932

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Born in Cornwall, John Quick was two years of age when his father died of ‘Colonial Fever’ shortly after the family arrived in Sandhurst. At ten years he was working in a quartz crushing battery but strove to educate himself to eventually graduate as a Doctor of Law.

His involvement with the Australian Natives Association and the foundation of the Bendigo Federation League led him to being a delegate at the Corowa People’s Convention in 1893. It was there that he moved the resolution “That in the opinion of this Conference the Legislature of each Australian Colony should pass an Act providing for the election of Representatives to attend a Statutory Convention or Congress to empower and adopt a Bill to establish a Federal Constitution for Australia and upon adoption of such Bill or Measure, it should be submitted by some process of referendum to the verdict of each Colony.”

This led to Dr Quick drafting the Enabling Bill, which was accepted by all colonies, followed by the People’s Referendums of 1897 & 1898.

According to Australian historian, professor Geoffrey Blainey, in his Melbourne Herald newspaper article, 2 January 1986, “John Quick should be a hero of Australian history but he is almost forgotten – yet the evidence is strong that if his unique formula had not been devised at Corowa and not accepted by political leaders and the public, federation would have been a hope rather than a fact in 1901.”

On his death John Quick’s funeral cortege from his Melbourne home to Bendigo Cemetery was greeted by thousands of people paying tribute along the way. It was Bendigo’s first State funeral. A statue was erected in his honour (1931) by the Citizens of Australia located in the Queen Victoria Gardens, Pall Mall, Bendigo. Sadly, a small street in Canberra is the only other public tribute to this great man’s contribution to Australia’s federation.

(NB. The stained glass window in the Wesleyan (now Uniting) Church, Forest Street, was donated by his widow and Quick Street; Long Gully was named after a local Mine Manager in the 1880’s.)

James Henry Curnow 1861 – 1932

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Born in Cornwall he and his parents arrived in Sandhurst in 1863. Later James founded the estate and auctioneer agency, J H Curnow and Son (now named Curnow and Dyett). Elected to Bendigo City Council in 1901 he was five times Mayor. Perhaps Curnow’s most important community work was with the Sewerage Authority. He was Chairman of the Bendigo Branch and for many years the elected country representative of the Victorian Board of Health Commission.

Curnow was a prominent member of the Bendigo Branch of the Australian Natives Association and was Secretary for some years.

Renowned local sculptress Ola Cohn designed a commemorative water fountain erected in his honour at the Williamson Street entrance to Rosalind Park. Also it is of interest that he was one of the early cremations at the Fawkner Crematorium.

The proximity of this grave to that of Sir John Quick is remarkable. They were both born in Cornwall and came to Bendigo at two years of age and were to be involved with the Australian Natives Association and Federation movement. Curnow died on 25 April 1932, to be followed by Sir John just a few weeks later on 17 June.

Queenie Victoria Bacon – Born 1901

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Elisha and Elizabeth Argall departed from Plymouth, England on 22 March 1883. They arrived to start a new life in the thriving gold mining town of Sandhurst and settled in Bell Street, Long Gully. Like their fellow countrymen the Argalls were loyal subjects of Queen Victoria and when their 10th child (and 5th daughter) was born after the death of Victoria, England’s longest reigning monarch, she was named in honour of the Queen.

Queenie married Alfred Bacon and they had one daughter who they named after the two Princesses – daughters of King George VI – Margaret and Elizabeth ( Australia’s current monarch).

As her life began at the same time Australia was becoming a nation in its own right, Queenie’s monument could be considered a link in the chain of Bendigo’s history relating to Federation.

Copyright: Bendigo Cemeteries Trust 1998
Printed 1998
Researched and compiled by Greta Balsillie
Original booklet Typeset by Gayle Saunders

Copying of all or part of this booklet is prohibited without written permission of the Bendigo Cemeteries Trust, PO Box 268, Eaglehawk 3556.

Telephone 03 5446 1566
Facsimile 03 5446 9958