This week’s Sepia Saturday theme concerns sewing a flag and being from Ballarat I must talk about Eureka and it’s flag.

The pictures below were painted by Charles Doudiet, a Canadian artist who was at the Eureka rebellion of November and December 1854.  His watercolour sketches made at the time of the rebellion were acquired by the Art Gallery of Ballarat in 1996. (“Doudiet, Charles Alphonse.” Art Gallery of Ballarat. Art Gallery of Ballarat, 2010. Web. 14 Sept. 2013. <http://www.artgalleryofballarat.com.au/explore-and-experience/collection/australian-collection/doudiet,-charles-alphonse.aspx>.)

The flag was first flown at Bakery Hill at Ballarat on 29 November 1854 at a so-called “Monster Meeting” of 12,000 people.  The miners of Ballarat were protesting against the licensing system, their lack of voting rights, and the acquittal of a publican who they believed had murdered a young miner; this last incident being symptomatic of a corrupt bureaucracy.  They had sent a deputation to the governor but he had dismissed the charter from the miners.  This meeting was to hear back from the deputation that had met with the governor.

Swearing allegiance to the “Southern Cross”
The flag was next flown over a stockade at Eureka, Ballarat, which was built on 30 November. (Eureka is just over 2 kilometers or less than half an hour’s walk from Bakery Hill). Very early on the morning of 3 December Government troops stormed the stockade and overpowered the 150 miners who were there at the time.  25 miners were killed, 100 were captured, 5 soldiers were killed.

Eureka Slaughter 3rd December

Miners were charged with treason but they were acquitted.  Laws were changed and the miners’ grievances were dealt with.  The flag was used in evidence at the trials.


Mark Twain wrote in 1897:

“It was a revolution – small in size, but great politically; it was a strike against injustice and oppression…It is another instance of a victory won by a lost battle. It adds an honourable page to history; the people know it and are proud of it. They keep green the memory of the men who fell at the Eureka Stockade.”(“The Eureka Massacre.” ConvictCreations.com. N.p., 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2013. <http://www.convictcreations.com/history/eureka.htm>.)

The flag is big. It is 2.6 metres by 3.2 metres.  A common flag size is about 1 by 1.5 metres or 3 by 5 feet.  A flag 1.8 by 3 metres or 6 by 10 feet is considered very large and is suggested for a 40 foot flagpole. (“Standard Flag Sizes.” Zephyr Direct. Zephyr Racing Pennants Ltd, 2013. Web. 13 Sept. 2013. <http://www.zephyr-flags.co.uk/direct/flag-resources-flag-sizes.php>.)  The Eureka Flag is said to have flown from a pole 80 feet tall. (“Eureka Flag.” Eurekapedia. Ballarat Reform League Inc., 15 Aug. 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2013. <http://eurekapedia.org/Eureka_Flag>.)

 
One of the best readily available articles on the history of the Eureka Flag is at http://www.egold.net.au/biogs/EG00273b.htm . (Beggs-Sunter, Anne. “The History of the Eureka Flag as a Cultural Heritage Icon.”EGold – A Nation’s Heritage. Cultural Heritage Unit, The University of Melbourne, 2010. Web. 13 Sept. 2013. <http://www.egold.net.au/biogs/EG00273b.htm>) The article talks about how the flag was rescued after the battle, how it came to be in the Art Gallery’s collection, and about the souveniring from the flag.  Dr Beggs-Sunter also makes clear that the issue of who made the flag is not resolved.  The sewing of the flag is often attributed to three women who were wives of miners involved in the rebellion.
 

On Monday my son and I visited the new museum at the site of the Eureka rebellion to reacquaint ourselves with the flag which had moved from the Ballarat Art Gallery earlier this year on loan to the new museum. The flag has recently undergone conservation treatment. The flag is a wonderful thing to see live.  You can appreciate the different materials used and the fine stitching, as well as its size.

The flag has been said to be the most important European textile in Australia. (Burin, Margaret. “Eureka Flag Restored and Returned for Rebellion Anniversary.” ABC Ballarat. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2 Dec. 2011. Web. 14 Sept. 2013. <http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2011/12/02/3382099.htm>.) I certainly can’t think of a more important European textile in Australia.

Inspired by this blogging prompt, I propose over the next few months to explore where my forebears were in November and December 1854 and what Eureka might have meant to them.  I know some of my husband’s forebears were miners in the vicinity of Ballarat at the time but they are not named as taking part in the rebellion.  It is estimated that in 1854 there were 25,000 miners on the Ballarat goldfields.  

 

See also

 “Art Gallery of Ballarat.” The Flag of the Southern Cross (Eureka Flag). Art Gallery of Ballarat, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013. <http://www.artgalleryofballarat.com.au/explore-and-experience/collection/australian-collection/the-flag-of-the-southern-cross-(eureka-flag).aspx>.