Ubi caro, ibi vultures.
One morning, I woke all on a sudden. — What’s up? A troop of horse galloping exactly towards my tent, and I could hear the tramping of a band of traps. I got out of the stretcher, and hastened out of my tent. All the neighbours, in night-caps and unmentionables, were groping round the tents, to inquire what was the matter. It was not yet day-light. There was a sly-grog seller at the top of the hill; close to his store he had a small tent, crammed with brandy cases and other grog, newly come up from town. There must have been a spy, who had scented such valuable game.
The Commissioner asked the storekeeper, who by this time was at the door of his store: “Whose tent is that?” indicating the small one in question.
“I don’t know,” was the answer.
“Who lives in it? who owns it? is anybody in?” asked the Commissioner.
“An old man owns it, but he is gone to town on business, and left it to the care of his mate who is on the nightshift,” replied the storekeeper.
“I won’t peck up that chaff of yours, sir. Halloo! who is in? Open the tent;” shouted the Commissioner.
“I say, cut down this tent, and we’ll see who is in;” was the order of the Commissioner to two ruffianly looking troopers.
No sooner said than done; and the little tent was ripped up by their swords. A government cart was, of course, ready in the gully below, and in less than five minutes the whole stock of grog, some two hundred pounds sterling worth, or five hundred pounds worth in nobblers, was carted up to the Camp, before the teeth of some hundreds of diggers, who had now collected round about. We cried “Shame! shame!” sulkily enough, but we did not interfere; first, because the store had already annoyed us often enough during the long winter nights; second, because the plunderers were such Vandemonian-looking traps and troopers, that we were not encouraged to say much, because it would have been of no use.
As soon, however, as the sun was up, and all hands were going to work, the occurrence not only increased the discontent that had been brewing fast enough already, but it rose to excitement; and such a state of exasperated feelings, however vented in the shouting of “Joe,” did certainly not prepare the Eureka boys to submit with patience to a licence-hunt in the course of the day.
First and foremost: it is impossible to prevent the sale of spirits on the diggings; and not any laws, fines, or punishment the government may impose on the dealers or consumers can have an effect towards putting a stop to sly-grog selling. A miner working, as during the past winter, in wet and cold, must and will have his nobbler occasionally; and very necessary, too, I think. No matter what the cost, he will have it; and it cannot be dispensed with, if he wish to preserve his health: he won’t go to the Charley Napier Hotel, when he can get his nobbler near-handy, and thereby give a lift to Pat or Scotty.
Secondly: I hereby assert that the breed of spies in this colony prospered by this sly-grog selling. “We want money,” says some of the “paternals” at Toorak.
“Oh! well, then,” replies another at Ballaarat, “come down on a few storekeepers and unlicensed miners and raise the wind. We can manage a thousand or two that way. Let the blood-hounds on the scent, and it is done.”
And so a scoundrel, in the disguise of an honest man, takes with him another worse devil than himself, and goes round like a roaring lion, seeking what he may devour.
If I had half the fifty pounds fine inflicted on sly-grog sellers, and five pounds fine on unlicensed diggers, raised on Ballaarat at this time, I think my fellow-colonists would bow their heads before me. Great works!
Thirdly: An act of silver and gold lace humanity was going the rounds of our holes, above and below.
A person is found in an insensible state, caused by loss of blood, having fallen, by accident, on a broken bottle and cut an artery in his head. He is conveyed to the Camp hospital.
After some few hours, because he raves from loss of blood, and at a time when he requires the closest attention, he is unceremoniously carried into the common lock-up, and there left, it is said, for ten hours, lying on the floor, without any attention being paid to his condition by the hospital authorities, and then it was only by repeated representations of his sinking state, to other officials, that he was conveyed to the hospital, where he expired in two hours afterwards!
“Jim; the miners of Ballaarat demand an investigation.”
“And they must have it, Joe.”
Such was the scene in those days, performed at every shaft, in Gravel-pits, as well as on the Eureka.
Raffaello Carboni. The Eureka Stockade: The Consequence of Some Pirates Wanting on Quarter-Deck a Rebellion, Public Library of South Australia, Adelaide, 1962 [facsimile of the 1855 edition], pages 18-19
nobbler = a dram of spirits (a dram can be taken to mean a small amount, usually of an alcoholic drink; although it is actually a specific measurement, of one-eighth of an ounce or one-sixteenth of an ounce, depending on the source)
ubi caro, ibi vultures = (Latin) “where the flesh is, there are vultures”; derived from Matthew 24:28 in the Latin Bible: “ubicumque fuerit corpus, illic congregabuntur et aquilae [aquilæ]”, i.e. “wherever the body is, the vultures will gather” (in this context, “aquilae” is translated in various editions of the Bible as “eagles” or “vultures”) [Carboni uses this phrase in chapters 6 and 13]