Moreover, my ancestors' souls are sustained by the atmosphere of the house, since I answer for them the questions that their lives once left behind. I carve out rough answers as best I can. I have even drawn them on the walls. It is as if a silent, greater family, stretching down the centuries, were peopling the house.

Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Could this be our James Ralph at Eureka?

Today I was doing one of those 'quick searches' (hours of rambling through time and space on the internet) just to make sure that there was not new information posted connected to Elizabeth, and I found a relatively new website called and on it a reference to a situation involving a miner, James Ralph, his feisty wife (unnamed) and a pistol. It was a tale told at the 'Eureka Celebrations' - a 50 year remembrance of the Stockade held in 1904. I missed this text when searching before, because the newspaper it appeared in, the Morewell and Yinnar Gazette is not online on TROVE. There is a reference to the stories of Eureka as told by Mr Isaac Hayward. Mr David Maine, Mr John Kemp and Mr George Firmin in the Morwell Advertiser 9th December 1904, but this is a couple of lines only, and does not mention the name of Ralph. The same search brought up a post from a descendant of Mr Kemp answering a post on Rootsweb in 2004, giving the same text. I won't reproduce the whole thing here, just the bit about this 'James Ralph': 

Mr Firmin tells a sensational story of the brutality of one of the Commissioners. It appears that while the disturbances were in progress a miner named James Ralph was in trouble with the authorities. His wife went down to the camp one evening to get tidings of her husband, when one of the Commissioners came out of his tent and held a revolver at her head. "You coward." Exclaimed the woman, "that's all you're good for is to frighten women and children; you're afraid to tackle a man like my husband." The Commissioner was in a boiling rage, but he threw away his revolver, and it eventually passed into the possession of Mr Ralph it was found to be loaded in three chambers. Mr Firmin is now endeavouring to trace Ralph, and if possible, the revolver will be obtained for the Ballarat Historical Record society. 
Now we do know that Elizabeth and James were in Creswick in 1855. They married on the 1st of May 1854 and James appears to have been running a cartage business, as well as being a miner. He could have been there..... anyone who can shed light on this, please make a comment on this blog!

Going back over some newspaper items, I now think that the 'Lal Lal' James Ralph was not the man married to Elizabeth. The latter was definitely in New Zealand from about 1862 until (and I am more positive about this date) September 1868 because he is the informant on son William Saunders Ralph's birth registration then. However the (rather fixated on his lease) James Ralph listed all the dates he was been writing to the Land Department and gives the strong impression that he has been writing them while resident in Victoria, Australia (The Argus, 16th June 1871) from April 1868.  A 'James Ralph', engineer,  listed as a member of the Lal Lal School committee in 1866, could be the same man - see at  Lal Lal School. Yet another reference is a 'James Ralph' on a genealogy indexing website called 'Ancient Faces'. This one is married to Ellen Moiler, and is supposedly connected with Lal Lal and died in 1889. This last fact is incorrect, as there are trees with a James Ralph married to an Ellen in 1889. I think this one is too young to be the Lal Lal bloke.

Lignite not withstanding, I really like the Eureka reference, but can't claim it unless some evidence surfaces. I wonder if they ever found the pistol?


  1. I am a relative of George Firmin. I am familiar with the story of the pistol. George was keen to have the pistol located, but I don't believe it ever surfaced.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Marian. the incident so fits 'my' Elizabeth and James, that I would love to claim it, but honesty compels me to mark this 'unproven'. My searching at this stage is not thorough - I have not searched the Victorian archives or Ballarat Historical Society archives and don't know if more mentions of the incident exist - particularly any which include the name of the wife of 'James Ralph'. Who knows what may be included in a diary or contemporary letter? Just another fascinating story from the diggings and the Eureka Stockade. Incidentally, I have an ancestor who was a private in the 40th Foot which was involved with the Eureka Stockade. We are not sure if he was present and/or fighting,as he was a regimental boot-maker, but he was certainly serving there at the time. He had strong views about the miners and wrote in to the newspapers, considering them 'lawless' and defending the part of the soldiers as loyal subjects.