FROM PHIL READY’S READY OR NOT
PETER MARK READY 1829-1862 AND SARAH ANN BENSON 1830 -1910
On the 21st April 1851 Peter Mark Ready aged 21 married Sarah Ann Benson at St Mary’s Cathedral Sydney. The ceremony was conducted by John Kavanagh and witnessed by Peter Mark’s sister Bridget and their cousin William Curtis. The first of their five children Sarah Ann Ready . named after her mother, was born on the 7th March 1852. ( Sarah Ann Benson – daughter of Thomas Benson and Hannah Hutchings )
Caught up by Gold fever Peter Mark set out with Sarah and their daughter for White Hills in the Maryborough district of the Victorian Goldfields.
The road up from Melbourne through Castlemaine was crowded with traffic of all kinds whilst the town of Maryborough was made up of canvas and very lively. Freight was 40 pounds per ton from Melbourne and flour sold at famine prices. However, as mutton was quite cheap, the whole town lived on that and damper. The water supply came from the deep creek at Carlsbrook five miles away and sold for 1 shilling 6 pence a bucket. The gold lead however ran for 8 miles with a great deal of it on the surface and some very rich gold was obtained. because of the shortage of water the washdirt had either to be stacked until the rains came or carted to Carlsbrook.
The mine at White Hills was sunk through what was known as white cement but once through into the pipeclay underneath the nuggets picked out paid the men very well for their hard work. Gold was found in almost every hole dug despite the distance from water and within three months of its beginning there were 30 000 men on the field.
It was here at White Hills living under these conditions in a canvas shelter with a shortage of water and an open fire for cooking that the second of Peter Mark and Sarah Ann’s daughters was born. Elizabeth Hannah on 30 march 1853, followed 4 years later on 12th June 1857 by their first son Peter. Three years later again on the 12 January 1860 Catherine Louisa was born, hopefully by now in something a little more substantial.
Hearing of a rich new discovery of gold at Back Creek near Amherst which was situated on the main road between Castlemaine and Adelaide and where gold had been discovered by a party of travellers in 1852, Peter Mark decided to try his fortune there. Packing their few possessions the family set out for the new diggings at Back Creek.
Amherst had been the centre of the district with many hotels and businesses and in 1857 a hospital had opened which was to operate for another 76 years.
The diggings at back Creek had commenced in late 1858 when a few parties of diggers were prospecting in shallow ground skirting the two flats near Amherst later famous as Kangaroo and Scandanavian Flats. A lead following down to one of the fltas bottomed out at a depth of fourteen feet on some very rich paydirt and very soon there were 30000 men working on this field. Other leads were soon discovered nearby and these turned out to be the richest three fields in the Colony. Nuggets from 10 to 80 ounces were often found and one party found 64 ounces in their first lead of washdirt.
With the number of men growing at such a rate at Back Creek it was only a short time before framed calico covered stores arose with tools , clothing, provision, bottles of ales and spirits and other items required by diggers brought up from Melbourne in carts and wagons. These were soon disposed of by the storekeepers and the hawkers who threaded their way around town.
With the amount of gold being dug up money was abundant and as a result business was brisk. Soon there were dancehalls, billard rooms, barber shops and restaurants and by 1860 Back Creek had taken over from Amherst as the district’s centre A substantial Police Camp already existed in the town by this to deal with the unruly elements which usually tagged onto these mining towns. The town also had its own Gas Works and the Courthouse Hotel ( later it was to boast 40 hotels ).
By 1861 the name of the town had been changed to Talbot and a fine theatre , The Theatre Royal, which played to packed houses and was unfortunately burnt down later that year , was built. A Brewery and a Court House were also completed and a private hall later to become the Town Hall erected.
On the 2nd June 1862 tragedy struck Peter Mark’s Family at Back Creek.
Peter Mark had commenced work at 8pm with several of his mates at their claim at Rocky Flat. After about 1 1/2 hours at the windlass, Peter Mark and some of the others stood around a fire near the claim. When the others left, Peter Mark, Franci Park and Robert Louden went to a shanty nearby where they drank 3 gins each. According to Francis Park , they were all quite sober when he (Francis) went to his tent, whilst Peter Mark and Robert Louden returned to the windlass. Louden suggested that they have something to eat or lie down for a while but Peter Mark was determined to work and started to wind up the windlass. Louden then went to assist him and they wound up the bag of mullock to the top.
After securing the windlass Louden turned to help Peter Mark take the bag off the rope but found him missing. He called for assistance and Francis Park ran over to assist in removing the bag.
Mathew Green who was working one hundred feet below at the bottom of the shaft heard some gravel fall and then a noise like a bag falling. He had just stepped back into a drive where , about ninety to a hundred feet along, another mate was working , when Peter Mark crashed heavily to the bottom.
Mathew called to the others to get a doctor . They secured Peter Mark to the rope and hauled him to the top but as the doctor stated he was quite dead, his neck being dislocated and his skull fractured.
At the subsequent inquest, the jury brought in a verdict that Peter Mark was accidentally killed by slipping down a hole at Rocky Flat and that no blame attached to any of his mates.
Peter Mark’s funeral was held on Thursday 4th June 1862, just nine weeks after the birth of his second son , Henry James Ready, on the 31st March. The funeral which cost 7 pounds 5 shillings was paid for by George Moore whose father , also George Moore, had arrived aboard the Atlas I on its second voyage to the Colony arriving on 24th July 1822 from England.
The Talbot Times of Friday 6th June 1862 carried an article:
” A sad accident happened on Monday evening last at Rocky Flat resulting in a miner named Peter Hogan ( surname of Thomas Hogan his stepfather) meeting with a very sudden death. The particulars of this melancholy case are reported in full in another column to which we refer our readers. The accident happened about two and one half hours after the various ‘night shifts’ had commenced their work in their claims and on it being known along the lead all the miners to the number of 150 ceased work and hoisted flags to half mast high on their claim as a token of respect for the departed.
That accidents of this nature are not more frequent on our leads is somewhat surprising when we pause to consider how unprotected are all of the shafts and how, in the darkness of the night, men work at the mouth of their claims as though they bear a charm against accident. The funeral of the deceased took place yesterday and was attended by a very large number of persons chiefly miners.
The deceased leaves a widow and five children in destitute circumstances and for whose relief a subscription has been opened. “
Devastated by the loss of her husband and her means of support, left in this newborn town of miners and those whose livelihood depends on them, with five young children to feed Sarah was in a perilous position. It was fortunate that John Thomas Hogan, Peter Mark’s half-brother was around. He supplied the information for Peter Mark’s death certificate although he was unaware of what Peter Mark’s father’s given name was and as so often happens in cases where people are faced with a sudden crisis such as this , John Thomas got the name of his sister-in-law wrong giving it as Sanders instead of Benson ( interesting ! ) .
The other miners too had been most considerate and had not only shown their respect by stopping work but had rallied to aid the grief stricken widow.
Peter Mark’s grave , no longer evident, at Amherst Cemetery bore the name of PETER Mk READY HOGAN.
OTHER SITES OF INTEREST.
CHILDREN OF PETER MARK READY AND SARAH ANN BENSON
- SARAH ANN 1852
- ELIZABETH HANNAH 1853
- PETER 1857
- CATHERINE 1860
- HENRY 1862