1872 June – A description of Hill End


THE quartz capital of New South Wales continues to increase in size, discomfort, and mud. Crowds of strangers still flock to it, and all seems in some fashion, to live and, apparently, thrive. Coaches arrive daily, from all parts of the country, loaded with weary passengers. Enormous waggons, with gigantic loads, lumber continuously in long lines into Clarke-street, and drawn by such regiments of horses and mobs of bullocks, that I am afraid to state what numerical strength of either draught animals is required to get a freight of goods into Hill End; for the roads—all the roads—are more than frightful, they are absolutely perilous, and the mud—the dreadful mud!—in wet, is only to be exceeded by the abominable dust in fine weather.

Let the passengers by the coaches speak of the latter. They only can conceive how travellers across the Great Desert fare during a simoon[1]. They can tell how with throats like gravel tunnels, and stomachs like dust bins, they vainly struggle with the viands provided and set before them (mockery) at the inn at Sofala, where the coach stays to enable them to have dinner (ha! ha!), which dinner is like the Dead Sea fruit, “pleasant to the eye, but dust and ashes within the lips”. They can describe the dreary trudge up “Monkey Hill,” where they have to alight from the coach ankle deep in fluffy, whitish, powdery dust, where, solemn and silent, in weary woe, they toiled heavily upwards, sullen and dismal, and misanthropically hating each other, and reviling, in their hearts, the coachman who compelled them to get down. They know that when ghastly, with grey dust, they all rushed frantically into the public house at the summit of “Monkey Hill.” They drank to such an extent of drinks – forbidden by the sons of Recab[2]—that any philanthropic statesman of Permissive Bill tendencies being present, would afterwards have advocated, with his most earnest eloquence, in his place in the House, the abolition of Monkey Hill from the road between Rydal and Hill End. I say, they might tell yon of all these things. The subject is too much for me; besides, have I not undertaken to give you some description of the outside mining affairs in this district, and I have not commenced as yet.

Clarke Street looking south with Captain Gus Pierce's Great Varieties Theatre (tent show, left) and Merlin's photographic cart (right), Hill EndHoltermann Collection, ON 4 Box 10 No 70133

Clarke Street looking south with Captain Gus Pierce’s Great Varieties Theatre (tent show, left) and Merlin’s photographic cart (right), Hill End
Holtermann Collection, ON 4 Box 10 No 70133

My first impressions of Hill End were decidedly favourable—I do not mean in regard to its mining prosperity, because that was of course an after consideration, and at which I did not arrive at an opinion until after some careful examination, for which I was, in some wise, fitted from previous experience; but, as to the place itself, of course I was prepared for some degree of personal discomfort, and was not in the least disappointed in any anticipation I might have had on that score. But my experiences of former gold-fields’ townships were entirely upset by what I saw, or did not see here. The streets were thronged by a motley crowd; the stores and places of business crowded with customers; the little theatre so densely packed by an admiring audience, that there was not what is facetiously called “standing room,” and even the public-houses, whose name is legion, were crammed. Yet I saw less, far less, drunkenness than can be met with in any street in the metropolis after 10 o’clock at night. There were very few inebriates, no filthy disheveled women, no crouching loafers, no abject vice. The general aspect of the crowds of decently dressed folk who thronged “The Hill” was that of respectability rough indeed in many respects, and loud and noisy too, in some instances, but not disreputable, and altogether good-humoured.

[Empire  Friday June 1872 P. 4.]

[1] Simoon n. A strong, hot, sand-laden wind of the Sahara and Arabian deserts.

[2] Recab from Jeremiah 35:14