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Tipperary Hill

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Maryborough-St Arnaud Road, Alma VIC 3465

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  • Historic area
  • Bushland
  • Site of the 1855 Alma Riots
The now quiet Victorian town of Alma is famed as the site of the 1855 Tipperary Hill Riots, also known as the Alma Riots, which led to the formation of the Maryborough Mutual Protection Society. 

In 1855 on the local goldfields, there was a dispute over ownership of a claim between a digger named John M'Crae and a group of Tipperary men. The dispute over the claim ended with "the Tips" attacking M'Crae with picks and clubs, who retaliated with a shot of his revolver, wounding one of his attackers in the face. What followed this incident was a grand movement, a general rising of the diggers in their thousands - not for war, but for justice.

"What became known as, 'the Alma Riots', started early in June 1855 as a small dispute over a claim and nearly became a racial riot ... The affair began when a digger named McCrea was awarded a claim in dispute with an Irish party on the Adelaide Lead on June 16 1855. The Irish drove him out of the claim and repeatedly knocked him down with sticks as he ran. He drew a revolver, fired three shots and wounded one of his assailants, variously known as Sweeney or Melloir. A fight between the English -also called the 'Allies' or 'True Blues'- and the Irish, took place and fourteen 'Tips' were rounded up and taken to the camp Governor. Hotham viewed this matter seriously, perhaps fearing the makings of another Eureka ... The situation at Adelaide Lead was tense."

Today Tipperary Hill is preserved as a small historic bushland reserve alongside the Maryborough-St Arnaud Road in Alma Victoria. 

The following article was published in the
Mount Alexander Mail, Friday 22nd June 1855: 

Riots at Maryborough 

A serious affray occurred on Friday last, at Maryborough, between a party of men known as the " Tipperary Boys," and a number of other miners ; and the fracas has gradually swelled into what may be called a national quarrel. The circumstances out of which it arose are stated to be as follows : -

A few days since an Irish Canadian, named John M'Crae, jumped one of four claims shepherded by a party of Tipperary men. On being ordered by them to quit the ground he refused. Ultimately, however, both parties agreed to refer the disputed point to arbitration, and it was decided in favor of M'Crae. On his attempting to take possession he was attacked by the Irish with picks, clubs, &c., and compelled to run for his life. The Tipperaries, not satisfied with having thus obtained their end, pursued him until at length, in self- defence, M'Crae drew a revolver, which he had in his belt, fired, and slightly wounded a man named Robinson in the face. This raised the fury of the " Tips," they are called, to madness. They rushed on M'Crea, took him prisoner, and made preparations for hanging him on the spot. Before, however, they had time to carry their intention into effect, intelligence reached Lieutenant Shearman, who, with all the police he could muster, proceeded to the spot, and succeeded in inducing the men to give up M'Crea, who was placed in confinement, and ultimately brought before the Police Magistrate. A report of his examination is given below.

On Saturday morning it was reported at the Camp that a large body of men had turned out from the Adelaide lead, and other localities, for the purpose of putting down the Tipperary men and that nearly all of them were armed. The Resident Commissioner (Lieutenant Smith, R .N.,) and Assistant Commissioner Drummond went and met a portion of the mob, from whom they received fourteen prisoners, all Irishmen, including those who had assaulted M'Crea, and others who were supposed to form part of the " Tip " gang. The men who had at first turned out amounted to nearly 3000, about 1000 of whom marched to the Camp with their prisoners. When at the lock- up they demanded the release of M'Crea ; The Commissioners addressed them and exhorted them to respect the law, and read the following letter from the Government upon the subject of the Mutual Protection Societies:

" Colonial Secretary's Office, 
" Melbourne, May, 29, 1855. 
Sir, - I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 25th instant, with the report of a meeting held on the 12th instant, at the Alma gold- fields, having for its object the formation of a society for mutual protection. In reply I am to communicate the desire of the Governor that instructions be given to the officer in charge of that place to express to the chairman of the meeting his Excellency's approval of the measure, and that the police be directed to co - operate with it so long as its operations are conducted on constitutional principles. 
" I have the honor to be, Sir, 
" Your most obedient servant, 
" J. Moore, A.C.S. 
" The Acting Chief Commissioner of Police, 
" Melbourne." 

After hearing this letter, the miners gave three cheers for the Magistrates., and Commissioners, and proceeded towards the Alma, with the intention, it is supposed, of following up the Irish in that locality. No further collision, however, occurred that night. 

On Sunday the excitement throughout the diggings was extreme, but the day passed of quietly. 

On Monday, the Resident Commissioner, and W. A. P. Dana, Esq., District Inspector of Police ; Mr. Assistant Commissioner Thompson, and P. D. H. Hardy, Esq., Stipendiary Magistrate, proceeded, without constables, towards the 
Adelaide lead, and met, within a mile of the lead, the " Union " party, 2000 in number, all armed, and each person wearing a piece of blue ribbon. This party is a regularly organised association. The leaders stated their complaints were against bad characters, who for some time past had persisted in turning honest men out of their claims. They expressed their willingness to abide by the decision of the Commissioners, and to abstain from committing a breach of the peace, and assured the authorities they were anxious to preserve order. It appeared that they had remained under arms at the Alma since Saturday, in consequence of rumours that the Tipperary men were assembling at the Bald Hills for the purpose of taking vengeance for the attack that had been made on their countrymen, and who were reported to be fully armed, and to have bought up all the available firearms and ammunition in the place. We are sorry to add that, in the course of the afternoon, as the party were returning to Alma, a gun was fired at them by a man who is supposed to be a member of the " Tips. " He was descried by some of the Union, who returned his fire, and severely wounded him, one slug having since been taken from his leg.

The correspondent of the Argus says - " The Tips are collecting from all quarters. Reinforcements have been sent for from Bendigo and Ballarat, and most active measures have been taken to assemble all their available force. What has already occurred is only the beginning of evils. A feeling of hostility has long been growing up between the two parties, which only required a spark to bring about a collision. This spark has been kindled by the brutal treatment of M'Crae, and matters will soon now come to an issue. The proceedings of the Union party were characterised by a degree of determination and fixity of purpose never before witnessed on the diggings. An armed assemblage of 1500 men is always an imposing sight, but when to that is added a soldier-like deportment, and a strict adherence to regulations laid down by those tacitly elected to act as their leaders, it assumes the appearance of something beyond a mere mob, and should warn those setting them at defiance that if a collision does take place it will be no child's play, but a deadly encounter, which can only be terminated in blood. I would most earnestly call upon all friends of order to interpose manfully between the contending parties. The Government has declared itself quite unable to furnish a sufficiently large police force for the protection of the diggings. Nothing, therefore, remains but for us to put down, with a strong hand, if necessary, this outbreak at its very commencement. Should blood be once shed, the consequences would be fearful to contemplate." 

ON DITS. - A party of Tipperary men, last week, hearing that a claim at the Alma, belonging to a Scotchman, was rich, jumped it, and on the Scotchman's venturing to complain, pursued him with sticks and stones to the Southern Cross  store, belonging to Mr. Penkethly. This gentleman very bravely undertook to protect him, and on the mob demanding that the Scotchman should be given up, threatened to shoot the first man who entered his store. His determined behaviour cowed the Tips, who then left, saying they would have their revenge on a future occasion. 

A Tipperary man at the Adelaide lead, who belonged to the obnoxious party, was tied to a tree and some three hundred shots were fired over his head by a mob of diggers, who then handed him over to the authorities. This very demonstration shows to what lengths they are prepared to go. 

The Protection Societies are holding meetings to consider the best means of averting a collision. They have intimated to the authorities their perfect neutrality, and that their only object is to preserve peace and order on the diggings. The police have been called in from the various outstations, and a detachment has gone over from Castlemaine ; but the whole force only amounts to twenty. 

From intelligence received yesterday (Thursday) evening, we learn that no further outbreak had occurred beyond that above reported. Fears are expressed, however, of disturbances at Daisy hill. 

The following article was published in the Mount Alexander Mail, Friday 29th June 1855: (source)
This has been an eventful week, not only for these gold-fields, but for the Colony, aye and for the British empire too, as the sequel will show.

When the claim of a single digger was jumped by a section of that party, better known than liked, called the Tipperary, one of the grandest movements on record took place in a general rising of the diggers in their thousands and tens of thousands, - not for war, but for peace, for legal justice. Who that had seen the armed musterings and soldierly marchings of the Union men on Saturday last, and the first days of this week, but must have felt his heart beat high at the proud thought that Britons could so arm and meet for right and peace! The poorest, digger - the most utter stranger when he reads or hears, of the case of McCrae's, will. feel that in the Mutual Protection Societies, and men of Maryborough in general, be has a high court of appeal, in which the rights of property are held sacred, and upheld by the strong hand- armed for the right, and sanctioned by the law.

It is most worthy of note, that when Mr. Thomas Connor, the chosen leader of the Union, and Captain Ramsay, a highly respectable digger, waited on the Resident, to enquire if I there was any truth in the report that he had sent to town for reinforcements of the military, and police. Mr. Smith assured them that nothing was further from his intention as he had perfect confidence in the good feeling of the miners, and in their determination to keep the peace. This is as it should be ; and the happy issue of the meeting, on Wednesday, proves that there should be confidence reposed by the Government in the people, who may be then trusted with any amount of power.

That meeting - the diggers' meeting - placed the Resident Commissioner in the chair, and their vote of thanks to him speaks for itself. He leaves, but at his own request, and to join his family; but as it will be seen in our advertising columns that a deputation, consisting of Messrs. Campbell, Virtue, Prendergast, Norton, Kay, Armstrong, Davis, Hastie, Tysall, Barrett, and Aldwell, having waited upon this popular officer, he will be entertained at a public dinner, and at which an address will be read to him. We shall say no more at present.



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