My great, great, grandfather, Augustus Courts Yandell, arrived at the Mount Alexander goldfields (later named Castlemaine) in 1851 and his descendants have lived in Castlemaine ever since.
This digital story highlights aspects of A.C. Yandell’s life and that of his daughter Margery (Lilly), son-in-law Robert Bailie, and grandson Dave Bailie, and includes recollections from his great grandson, David, my father. Interwoven in the story is information about how to research similar stories and links to historical information.
A.C. Yandell's voyage to Australia, 1849-50
10 December 1851
All this news of gold nuggets to be found has made me eager to try my luck. Henry Davies and I have joined up with two Cornish miners some years our senior and have paid £4 each for our passage. We leave for the diggings tomorrow.
11 December 1851
Our ship is a 350 ton Brig, about 100 feet in length. It has brought a cargo of timber from St John’s, New Brunswick and only about three feet in depth of this was taken out before we passengers all crawled in like a lot of rats. I believe there to be nearly 400 passengers with no less than 25 stowaways. The Yankee skipper threatens to offload them at some hot place…
12 December 1851
It is an uncomfortable journey.
Our meals, if you can call them that, consist of two ship’s biscuits a day. The cook capsizes two coppers full of boiled beef and pork into a large tub, rings a bell and the scramble begins. “First come first served” is the motto as we run to the tub with our forks but even if you can secure a piece of meat on your fork and hold it high as you return to your place, you are still not assured of being able to eat it. I have seen several men punched on the nose and the meat transferred to another fork held even higher.
14 December 1851
We arrived today after three and a half days travel, a very fast time so I’m told. I am glad to be off that ship. The four of us gathered up our swags and went in search of lodgings in Melbourne. This proved difficult to procure at any price. Fortunately I came across a friend from Adelaide who had an empty room. 14 of us are camping here for the night. We’ve met a man who has come back from Mount Alexander to buy tools and returns there tomorrow. We’ve agreed that I will accompany him to secure a claim and pitch our tent.
15 December 1851
Last night’s accommodation was a treat compared to the sleeping arrangements on the ship. How I would like to be back there tonight but instead I am having my first experience of camping out in the bush, near Gisborne.
It has been a long and difficult day. I have never before had to walk so far in a day, certainly not carrying a swag of some 78 pounds. We walked 17 miles to a place where it seems diggers often stop for a rest. I became fearfully thirsty but although there was a hut where spirits were being sold there was no water. Eventually I persuaded the owner to sell me a pannikin of cold tea and being so thirsty I gladly paid the half-a-crown he asked. Happily our camp for tonight has plenty of water nearby.
16 December 1851
We awoke at five this morning and after a quick breakfast headed off again on the dust-beaten track. An escort carrying gold to Melbourne passed us at noon. There were four carts, all laden with gold, and four bushrangers who had been captured, guarded by 20 mounted soldiers.
We have met several people going the other way, who have told us the same thing - there is plenty of gold to be had but we must be sure to carry plenty of water with us.
20 December 1851
I have been busy these last several days, seeking out and marking a claim at Red Hill, Chewton, and selecting a spot for the tent. Now my mates have arrived and they’ve pronounced it no good!
13 January 1852
We’ve moved to a new spot on a hill. My mates, being Cornish miners, insisted on sinking a proper shaft 6ft by 4ft which we’ve dug out to 40ft. We are getting about 2oz of gold for every load of 20 buckets but it’s not enough compared to what others are getting. We are going to try elsewhere.
I was not happy to hear that the person who took up my first claim has taken £1000 worth out already.
29 January 1852
We have followed rush after rush without much success so Davies and Penrose have given up and returned to Adelaide.
14 February 1852
A new rush to Bendigo has started and hundreds are leaving Forest Creek. I’m not going to go, this new claim is good.
A.C. Yandell was a successful gold miner, claiming to have found his own weight, 14 stone (89 kilograms) in gold. When gold ran out as far as most diggers were concerned, only the large mining companies remained in business and in subsequent years Yandell owned several mines. Unlike many of his contemporaries Yandell remained in Castlemaine. His parents and brother moved to Castlemaine also and he worked with his father as a builder and plasterer, including on the first building used as a courthouse, and building the first stone house in Castlemaine. Learn more about his business as a botanic chemist in this slideshow:
Yandell married twice, first to Rebecca Cooke on 16th August, 1854. They had five sons and two daughters but only John George, born 1860, survived infancy. The grandson of John, also called John, still lives in Castlemaine. Rebecca died in 1866.
On 1st January, 1868 he married Margery Hokin. Margery was born in Adelaide in 1848. Her father was one of the first settlers in Western Australia, arriving with his parents, four brothers and one sister on the Parmelia in 1829.
A.C. Yandell is remembered in Castlemaine for his work with the Castlemaine Pioneers and Old Residents Association and as a borough councillor as the following slideshow shows:
Augustus and Margery had 16 children, eleven daughters and one son survived into adulthood.
Marriage of Miss Yandell
Mount Alexander Mail, Thursday 12 August 1897, page 2.
When it became known that Miss Lilly Yandell, eldest daughter of Cr A. C. Yandell, was to be married yesterday afternoon in the Wesleyan Church, many of her friends and those taking special delight in seeing the ceremonial and the bridal party, mustered in such great strength that they filled the entire sacred building. They had some time to wait before the bridal equipages came in sight, time being not fastidiously kept as a rule by those taking the principal part in such happy events. However, patience was rewarded by the spectators being able to scrutinise, admire, and comment on what came under their notice, from dresses to the wearers enclosed in them. Many eyes were directed—towards the bride-groom who is a stranger in the town. He is Mr Robert Bailie, who resided at Stawell at the time, Miss Yandell was living there, and, from an acquaintance formed there came its ripening fruit into the marriage of yesterday. The Rev Mr Woodfull, of Maldon, united the happy pair. Mr F. Graham, of Ballarat, was the best man.
The bride was, of course, the principal source of attraction, and she looked radiant in a costume of cream flowered silk, trimmed with silk lace, with train trimmed with ribbon and lace, with wreath and veil, and was attended by four bridesmaids — Misses V., R., and L. Yandell, sisters of the bride, who wore cream lustre skirts, China silk blouses, with cream velvet picture hats; and Miss Bailie, niece of the bridegroom, attired in a becoming costume. The mother of the bride wore a flowered merveilleux, and Mrs J. G. Yandell, of Prahran, fawn shot silk, trimmed with silk and lace. The bridegroom’s gifts were -to the bride -a handsome diamond and sapphire brooch; and to the bridesmaids pretty brooches of pearls and rubies. After the ceremony was concluded the bridal party left the church to the strains of the “Wedding March,” played by Mrs Iredale, and were driven round the Botanical Gardens and back to the residence of the bride’s parents, where they were grouped and photographed, after which all sat down to a déjeuner, at which the toast of tbe bride and bridegroom were proposed in hilarious terms by Mr Graham, and was felicitously responded to by the bride-groom. Other toasts followed, “The Bridesmaids“, “The Visitors”, and the “Host and Hostess”, all of which called forth jovial response.
In the evening, festivities were indulged in, also dancing, long after the married couple departed for Bendigo by the evening train, to which they were escorted by a train of the guests. After a short stay at the Serpentine they will proceed to New Zealand.
Robert and Lilly took over the Castlemaine Coffee Palace in 1908. This slideshow traces the history of the establishment from humble beginnings to boutique hotel.
Memories of the Midland
The Midland has always felt like a special place to me. Almost everyone who has visited Castlemaine knows it and I love to tell the part my family had in its history. My grandfather’s brothers, Bob (Robert), Frank (James Francis) and Jack (John), had all passed away before I was old enough to remember them but I remember Aunty Bessie and Robert’s wife Margaret well.
As a child I remember visiting (great) Aunty Margaret at the Midland, walking through the travellers’ lounge and up the steps to her private sitting room. Occasionally my mum would leave my older brother and me with Margaret while she worked or ran some errands. I particularly remember walking through the huge (to me) kitchen and going out past the laundry with its enormous copper to the backyard with the old-fashioned clothes lines propped up with y-shaped poles where the hotel linen hung.
More than twenty years later my husband Don and I spent our wedding night in one of the balcony rooms of the Midland Hotel.
About The Midland Hotel, Castlemaine. (2016). themidland.com.au. Retrieved 4 October 2016, from http://themidland.com.au/history.html
Castlemaine Health » History. (2016). Castlemainehealth.org.au. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from http://www.castlemainehealth.org.au/about-us/history/
Hutchinson, D. & Ploeckl, F. (2016). Measuring Worth -Australian Compare. Measuringworth.com. Retrieved 23 September 2016, from https://www.measuringworth.com/australiacompare/
Officer, L. & Williamson, S. (2016). Measuring Worth - Gold Prices and the Ratio to the Price of Silver. Measuringworth.com. Retrieved 23 September 2016, from http://www.measuringworth.com/gold/
Pioneer women of Castlemaine and district. (1975). Castlemaine, Vic.
Records of the Castlemaine pioneers. (1996). Castlemaine, Vic.
Parts of A stranger in the town are based on a research project the author completed for H.S.C. Australian History in 1981. Information for that project was obtained through personal communication with David H. Bailie, David A. Bailie, Elsa Bailie and Margaret Bailie.
All other information obtained through personal communication with David A. Bailie.