Remembering the Past Australia

Memories of Redcastle, Victoria

by G. W. R.
First published in
The McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser
11 March 1915

Mining Camp, c. 1855-60, David Tulloch

Mining Camp, c. 1855/60, David Tulloch (c.1829-1869)

The township of Redcastle, about 12 miles to the north of Heathcote, was at one time an important mining centre, noted for the richness of its quartz reefs, and also having alluvial workings, the auriferous area of Redcastle, including Staffordshire Flat, where there were also good reefs. Redcastle was opened in the fifties and during its prosperous days had a large population. Its reefs, generally speaking, have been idle for some time many of them for a number of years. At some future time, no doubt, when capital is available, they will be further developed.

[There is also a parish of Redcastle, in which the township of Redcastle is situated.]

In the early days, police courts were held at Redcastle by Mr W. Willoby, P.M. and Warden, who was resident at Heathcote for many years from the early days of the M’Ivor goldfield. Police were stationed there, Mr G. Moran, who was previously at Heathcote, being the last mounted constable. On one occasion there was a great and unusual noise outside the court, and the people hurried out when they heard it. It was found to be caused by a large snake, which was declared by some to be a rattle snake, but how it got into the country was a mystery.

On another occasion in the early days, in regard to a shock of an earthquake experienced in the district, which occasioned some talk, the writer remembers it being mentioned that there was a great noise at the iron lock-up at Redcastle, when it was thought that it was caused by a prisoner trying to get out, but it was found that it was the earthquake shaking the building. The writer remembers feeling, with others, the shock of the earthquake at Heathcote.

Good gold was got at Staffordshire Flat, and also at Curly Dog Gully, both near Redcastle. Particulars of the Redcastle reefs, including the reefs at Staffordshire Flat and Curly Dog, were given in previous issues of the “M’Ivor Times.”

At Curly Dog Gully, which is about three miles from Redcastle, the alluvial was very good, Alexander Montgomery, with five mates, in their claim took the grass off and had about 5 feet of wash-dirt which went an ounce of gold to the load, making £10 a week each. A Mr Crosby and others also had a good claim in it, but it was not so rich. The first claim referred to was among the best in the gully. In another claim at Curly Dog, at what is called The Bond, the last washing up by Messrs. Montgomery, Arthur Forbes and another, gave 1 lb weight of gold. Mr Wurling had a puddling machine at Curly Dog after the diggers had worked the ground. There were other gullies, but they were not so good as Curly Dog. There were a good many people at the rush to the gully. One of Mr John Roberts’ mates, Mr James O’Toole, met with a fatal accident in a quartz mine at Redcastle. He had been mates with Mr Roberts for 25 years. One of the party with Mr Montgomery at Curly Dog had been a messenger in the House of Commons in the Old Country.

Messrs. John Roberts, John Collins, Harry Innifer, James O’Toole and Joseph Berkenshire were shareholders in one of the mines, which was very rich; Mr J. M’Kee afterwards owned the share of Mr Berkenshire, who left, being one of the heirs to his father’s property.

Mr J. Roberts was in the Why Not reef after Mr J. Reed (Reed and Dunkley). Messrs. J. M’Kee and J. Collins were also interested in the Why-Not reef, which gave good yields, Messrs. Reed and Dunkley obtaining 2 ozs. to the ton from 72 tons crushed at Mr Collins’s battery. Another crushing in which Messrs M’Kee and Collins were interested with Messrs Reed and Dunkley gave 91 ozs. from 90 tons.

Various reefs at Redcastle were held to be payable for antimony as well as gold, including the Union Gold and Antimony mine, about a mile to the east of Redcastle, on the Graytown-road, which for some time was under the management of Mr W. Thomas. As well as antimony the reef carried good gold, crushings from it giving an average of 2 ozs. 2 cwt. to the ton.

The following are some of the business people at Redcastle from an early date:—

Mr John Clarke, the owner of the well-known and famously rich Clarke’s Reef, had an hotel at Redcastle, afterwards owned and carried on by Mr James M’Kee, who was an old and well-known resident of Redcastle, with also a general store, the hotel being called the Albion Hotel. The hotel and store were afterwards carried on for some time by Miss V. M’Kee.

Clarke’s Reef was discovered by a party of Italians and Austrians, including Mr Antonio Geronovitch. It gave as much as 22½ ozs. to the ton, or 265 ozs. for the crushing—the result of six weeks’ work, the eight shareholders dividing between £800 and £900 a man after paying all expenses. The Niagara Co. afterwards worked the mine, in 1870, with Mr C. H. Nagel as manager. Mr Nagel was prominently connected with quartz mining at Redcastle. The party who discovered the reef called it the Slavonian.

Mr John Collins, who was also a well-known and old Redcastle resident, had a store at Redcastle, which was afterwards kept by Mr M’Kee and a partner. They dissolved partnership and Mr M’Kee kept on the business.

Mr Collins had the store and post office till Spring Creek (Graytown) opened. He also had a store at Staffordshire-shire Flat, near Redcastle, with a person in charge of it, at the corner on the way to Curly Dog Gully.

Mr M’Kee had the post office at Redcastle for many years at his hotel and store.

Mr Adam Stacpoole had a store at Redcastle as well as at Heathcote in the early days, he having his store at Heathcote in 1853 and for some time afterwards.

Mr Peter Hessen also had a store at Redcastle.

Mrs Antonio Geronovitch had the post office at Redcastle for many years, and afterwards her daughter, the late Mrs Daniel Neilson, also for many years, and now her daughter, Miss Neilson.

Mr Robert-Gore had his store at Redcastle.

Mr Thomas Craven, general storekeeper of Heathcote, had a general store at Redcastle, with a manager in charge of it. It was next to Clarke’s.

Mr Edwin Parker carried on a butchery business at Redcastle.

Mr David Hanson, brother of Mr Henry Hanson, butcher, Heathcote, had a butcher’s business at Redcastle.

Mr Young Walker (brother of Mr Edwin Walker, who had a butcher’s business at Heathcote in 1853 and for many years afterwards) had a butcher’s business at Redcastle for some time. He was with his brother at Heathcote for many years in the early days of M’Ivor.

Mrs Spiers had a store at Redcastle in the seventies.

Mr Arthur Collins (son of Mr John Collins) also had a butcher’s business at Redcastle for a time.

Mr William Thompson had his blacksmith’s business at Redcastle for years, afterwards at Toolleen.

Mr Barker, when resident at Heathcote, contributed to Redcastle’s supply of dairy produce, afterwards having his farm at Mount Camel.

Mr Smith, from Rushworth, opened an hotel at Redcastle, which was afterwards owned and kept by Mr Antonio Geronovitch. Mrs Geronovitch now lives there, but there has been no hotel there for many years. The hotel (the All Nations Hotel) was carried on for some time by Mr James Kerr and Mr Geronovitch. They dissolved partnership in 1868, Mr Geronovitch afterwards carrying it on for some years.

Mr John Hutchinson had a bakery business at Redcastle, as did also Messrs. A. and E. Lewis, many years ago. There was also another who had a similar business there.

A Mr Brown and a Chinese each had a store at Staffordshire Flat.

Mr John Collins for many years had a crushing machine at Redcastle.

Mr John Clarke also had a crushing machine which was afterwards owned by a company, consisting of Messrs. Alexander Neilson. Wm. [William] Watson (from Bendigo), Dowdey, Russell and Thomas Neilson (brother of Mr Alexander Neilson), who went home to Scotland. The machines crushed for the public. The company also treated tailings. Mr Wm. Watson advertised a quartz crushing machine at Redcastle for sale in the “M’Ivor Times,” of 14th July 1865.

Messrs. Harrison and Co, also had a quartz crushing plant at Redcastle.

Mr S. H. Mitchell, father of Mr F Mitchell, of Heathcote, a well-known resident for many years at Redcastle, was connected with quartz crushing and mining there, afterwards coming to Heathcote. In addition, Mr Mitchell had a quartz crushing plant at Staffordshire Flat. On one occasion Mr. Mitchell and Mr. H. R. Palling, of Heathcote, took up a lease for the treatment of tailings from crushings in the early days on the site of Harrison and Co.’s old battery at Redcastle, where there many thousand tons of tailings, a quantity of which, sent to Bendigo for treatment, yielded over half an ounce of gold to the ton.

Some years ago a company other than the one previously referred to treated tailings at Redcastle.

Mr Fowler had an hotel and store at Staffordshire Flat, between Redcastle and Graytown, for some time many years ago.

Mr Thomson was agent for the “M’Ivor Times” at Redcastle in 1865.

Mr James Moody was from an early date the Redcastle correspondent of the ‘M’Ivor Times.’ He was possessed of good education and much intelligence, and for a number of years devoted his attention to mining at Heathcote from the early days before going to Redcastle, where he gave his attention to quartz mining for many years. Mr J. C. Shepherd was also correspondent afterwards for some time. He was also well informed and possessed of much intelligence, and for many years he also gave his attention to quartz mining at Redcastle before coming to Heathcote. Mr F. Carr acted as correspondent subsequently.

Church of England services were held at the school, and are still being conducted there, and also Sunday school.

Clergymen of other denominations also visited Redcastle.

Mr James Begley taught the Sunday school at Redcastle eleven years ago, but did not preach. About two or three years after, the Rev. Mr Elbury, from Elmore, and a Mr Roper (from the Church of England, Heathcote) preached. After that came the Rev. W. A. Poulton, of Heathcote. He was assisted by Messrs. Williams, Hodson, Rymer and Lee. Then the Rev. Canon Watson took charge, and for assistance, he has sent the following gentlemen up to the present time:—Messrs. Malley, Rogers and Hillard. Mr William Pook has charge of the Sunday school now, and Miss Florrie Begg is also a teacher. Mr Pook has been teaching fortnightly for about five or six years, and occasionally he takes the pulpit for the Rev. Canon Watson.

Mr Begley, who was previously agricultural instructor, Ireland, contributed a number of excellent articles on “Scientific Agriculture” to the “M.Ivor Times,” which were duly published in this paper. Mr Begley was also teacher of the Redcastle State School, the present teacher being Mr J. J. Bell.

The writer is indebted for a good deal of the foregoing information to Mrs John Roberts, previously Mrs Alexander Montgomery (her maiden name being Ellen Dobie.) Mrs Roberts landed in this country in 1835, and came to Heathcote in 1856; and in 1862 went to Redcastle, where she had been until 1912 when she came to reside at Heathcote, where her daughter, Mrs Forsman, died. Mrs Roberts afterwards left Heathcote to reside in Bendigo. Mr and Mrs Montgomery were shipmates, in the ship Tornado, of the late Mr and Mrs G. R. Macdonald, of Heathcote. Mr and Mrs Montgomery were married at Emerald Hill (now South Melbourne) by the Rev. M’Donald. She was afterwards married to Mr John Roberts, at Heathcote, while living at Redcastle.

[The information relative to the Church of England services were kindly supplied by Mrs F. Carr, of Redcastle].

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