One of the activities undertaken at the 160th anniversary of the Eureka rebellion is a relaunch of an expanded memorial to the Pikeman’s Dog.
The Pikeman’s dog – wee Jock – was an Irish terrier that exhibited strong loyalty, bravery and perseverance in staying by the side of it’s master during the Eureka battle and refusing to leave even when the body was put on a dray and taken to the Government camp, then the Cemetery for burial.
The pikemen at the stockade were the true heroes of Eureka, many of whom died in the first minutes of the attack, but their resistance with their pikes against overwhelming odds of the English military carbines provided valuable time for others to quickly ready themselves.
The Eureka rebellion is seen as an important event for various democratic traditions in Australia. This includes both direct democracy, through grassroots organisation on the goldfields via monster meetings and formation of activist groups like the Ballarat Reform League that actively debated the relative merits of moral force versus physical force in effecting social change. The Ballarat Reform League charter also had at its heart the Chartist demands for full and fare representation and manhood suffrage.
The only specific demand that wasn’t conceded in all the democratic reforms enacted after the rebellion, was short duration of parliament. Yet, this demand is key for ensuring accountability of representatives within a reasonable timeframe.
The Ambassador to Ireland Noel White launched the Pikeman’s Dog memorial outlining the importance of the Irish immigrants to the Eureka rebellion, but also stressing it’s importance as a formative event for the implementation of representative democracy in Australia.
Transcription of speech by Noel White, Ambassador for Ireland
Speech at unveiling of Pikeman’s Dog memorial for #Eureka160 anniversary on December 3, 2014:
…They made a stand. They set down a marker. Arbitrary governments would not be tolerated in this new world: government and power would derive from the people.
The significance of the events, the singular stance against arbitrary and exploitative government does not lack for contemporary significance. In the globalised joined up world that we inhabit today it promises much, it opens up opportunities. But that very globalisation can also be a disruptive force, to give rise to unease, to discomfit and it prompts uncertain and insecure reactions.
The case then for strong multi-lateral institutions built on the foundation of shared values, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is as compelling today in our multi-polar world as it has ever been. So the advancement of democracy, and of democratic values, a central concern at the Eureka Stockade, is justified in its own right.
It was Koffi Annan who described democracy as a universal right that does not belong to any country or any region. He added that participatory governance based on the will of the people is the best path to freedom, to growth, and to development. So the protection and promotion of human rights remain a fundamental principle in foreign policies around the world. Ireland is no exception, inspired by its own historical experience and the conviction that development and peace and security, and human rights are all interlinked and mutually reinforcing.
Those at the Eureka Stockade took a stand. They resorted to the only recourse left open to them. They took up arms. They effected change.
Today we have recourse to other methods to articulate our views: freedom of speech, freedom of association, universal suffrage – these are not to be taken for granted. Paradoxically, when the demand for representative democracy across the globe has never been stronger we are witness to incresing disaffection with political processes and declining voter turnout and participation.
Representative democracy as a concept and as a practice deserves all the support it can get. Those at the Eureka Stockade understood this. I salute those of you who have kept this flame alive in Ballarat. I salute you all for guarding the memory and the idealism of the men and women of the Eureka stockade.
I salute you all for providing a constant reminder of the need for vigilance in the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is entirely fitting that this place that teems with historical significance should provide the home for the truly wonderful Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka.
And what of the dog? The poignant drama of that story. It conveys more about the events at the Eureka Stockade than can possibly be conveyed in this intervention, that’s for sure. The Pikeman’s dog captures so much of what this is all about, succinctly and without fuss.
The memorial linkage with the pikemen whose courage, and for that matter fate, was never in doubt, speaks to the Irish connection in a special way. It is not necessary to be of a pro-dog disposition, and here I declare an interest, it is not necessary to be of a disposition to be moved by the tenacity, loyalty and perseverance of our canine companion. He has been wandering out there too long, like a lost stray. It is wonderful to have him back.
Ladies and gentlemen, the resilience of what happened at the Eureka Stockade, its propensity to fascinate, focus and divide opinion is testament to its enduring relevance. All that it represents resonates within popular imagination today, louder and more clearer than ever.
We do well to come back to this place, and to continue to come back to this place, to commemorate those who made a stand for natural justice in this place, 160 years ago today. And in so doing to remind ourselves of our responsibility to future generations to nurture and protect our hard earned and very precious representative democracy.
Symbolism in the Pikeman’s Dog memorial
The new memorial consists of 22 large golden stockade posts – representing the number of confirmed diggers killed in battle and buried at the Diggers Memorial – erected in a triangle behind the statue of Wee Jock, on high ground.
At the time of awarding the building the new memorial in July, the sculpture artists Charles Smith and Joan Walsh-Smith told the Courier:
“This ‘new incarnation’ will be a much more significant memorial than the original, and much more accessible to the public,” they said. “We have set the golden stockade post/poles in a graphically precise angle to each other, which both leads the eye to the dog and the pike, while, at the same time, creating a sense of controlled visual ‘unease’. Essentially, the impression is one of ‘controlled collapse’ while suggestive of purpose and final victory.”
Canine loyalty and perseverance
Here is how Christopher Crook described the scene in 1854 in a letter of reminisence to the Geelong Advertiser in 1904 (Eurekapedia):
Upon that fatal Sunday morning, when the strife was practically over, I visited the scene. I saw eleven bodies lying upon the ground, to be recognised by relatives or friends Some had been taken away before my arrival. I saw the little terrier whining piteously beside his dead master. While viewing this solemn scene a dray arrived in which was placed the body of the man who in life was the owner of the dog. When the little dog saw his master removed, his grief knew no bounds. Those interested tried to drive him away: they could not beat him back. He got into the dray and sat upon his master’s breast, revealing in most unmistakable language that his master was taken from him. No human being could have lamented more at the loss of their dearest relative or friend than that affectionate and faithful dog be wailed the loss of his master. Though fifty years have passed away, this pathetic scene is vivid in my memory as though it occurred yesterday. It is one of those scenes which time cannot efface
In 1997 the RSPCA Purple Cross Award was presented to the Pikeman’s Dog posthumously by Dr Hugh Wirth, National President of the RSPCA. The ceremony occured at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery on 30 November 1997, in front of the original Eureka Flag that the Pikeman died defending at Eureka Stockade in 1854. Detective Sergeant Peter Lalor, the great-great-grandson of Peter Lalor the leader of the diggers at Eureka Stockade accepted the award on behalf of the Eureka trust.
Two years later the statue of the Pikeman’s dog was unveiled on December 5 1999 at Eureka Park by the Premier Steve Bracks and the Irish Ambassador Richard O’Brien.
Ken Prato’s poem – The Pikeman’s Dog
At the Eureka dinner on Wednesday evening I sat down a struck up a conversation with a local by the name of Ken Prato. Ken has lived a life of doing itinerant rural jobs as a shearer and in carpentry and building. He has been both an employer (as a builder) and an employee as a shearer and a union delegate for the AWU.
He pulled forth a short pamphlet: The Pikeman’s Dog. A Poem by Ken Prato. This poem utilizes the brief descriptions in reminiscences and diaries and places them into poetic form. About two thirds of the poem uses the direct words from these sources, he told me. Poem reproduced with Ken’s permission.
The Pikeman’s Dog – Ken Prato
I quote from the text of a letter
written December 1904
At a time of sad reminiscng
About the diggers of Ballarat and their war:
Sir. Please allow me confirm your story
Describing the Eureka affray,
With special reference to that Terrier dog,
I know, I was there on that day.
The sound of his piteous howling haunts me still
When my dreams take me back all the way.
To that dreadful scene fifty years ago
When those bodies were thrown on the dray.
Six unclaimed bodies of diggers
Who fell for democracy’s cause.
In a battle so bloody as any have seen,
No matter how savage the wars.
More died that day but families had come,
In grief, to carry their dead
To rest where peace would be with them at last,
Where no more blood would be shed.
Wives crying for absent husbands,
Little children scares into quiet.
All this the tragic aftermath
Of the Ballarat Goldfields riot.
But none could echo the anguish
Of that little dog whining forlorn,
Who’d stood, so brave by his masters side
As the troopers attacked with the dawn
The diggers fought well and fierce,
No word spoken on either side.
A score of pikemen were called to the van
One by one they fell, and they died.
The dog’s master was one of the fallen,
Struck down by a cavalry sword.
That terriers eyes were brimming with fear.
Please don’t let him die, they implored.
Through the ordeal of fire all morning
As troops overran the Stockade
That faithful terrier stood jealous guard
At the side of his stricken comrade.
When those nightmares return
I still hear him
As he howls on his dead master’s breast.
I hear once more the pitiful crying
As the body is thrown with the rest.
On the dray to be taken forever,
And cast onto history’s page.
The struggle he fought to stay with his friend
Added more to the trooper’s rage.
But he would not be beaten back,
Or taken from that death cart.
No amount of force could prevail
Upon such a loyal heart.
He clung to that well-loved breast
All the way to the Government camp.
The solemn crowd bowed their heads as his crying
Echoed over the soldiers tramp.
No human could have lamented more
The death of their dearest friend
Than that faithful terrier bewailed the loss
Of his master unto the end.
On hundred and fifty years inward.
Our little dog has been well recognised.
A monument stands on Eureka’s site,
His devotion immortalised.
Alongside the donkey of Simpson
He is enshrined in our country’s folklore.
His devotion on that most tragic of days
Will be remembered forevermore.
And those diggers who laid down their lives
In that smallest of senseless wars
Have long been buried in heroes graves,
Pioneers for democracy’s cause.
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