― 491 ―

Appendix 2: Geographical and Historical Background

Geographical Background

Map of novel's geographic setting.

Adelaide road map.

North Adelaide road map.

The Silent Sea has three principal settings: "Lancaster House" in N. Adelaide, where Helen Paget lives (see Maps B and C, pp. 488 and 489); "Ouranie", a sheep station near "Buda", the childhood home of Doris Lindsay; and the "Colmar Mine", where Victor Fitz-Gibbon is employed as purser. In addition, a number of actual places in several Australian colonies are mentioned–including Mount Gambier, Albany, Wilcannia, Broken Hill and Bendigo (see Map A, p. 486).

Catherine Martin gave fictional names to most of the SA (South Australian) geographical locations in the novel, including the Alma and Victoria Mine and the adjacent township of Waukaringa, both of which she called "Colmar".note However, in many cases these fictional names can be identified with real geographical counterparts–e.g. "Port Callunga" (401:7) probably represents the SA seaside resort of Port Naorlunga–thus making it possible to trace the novel's geography on the map of SA c. 1890.


Lancaster House in Adelaide is described as standing "on a rise beyond the Torrens, about a mile to the north-west of the city" (31: 21); it has a view of North Terrace from a knoll to the s. of the house (466:26) and "glimpses of the sea" (i.e. Gulf St Vincent) to the w. (425:15). It is approached by a "wide plane-tree avenue" (33:27). These details suggest that Martin located Lancaster House on Montefiore Place (now Montefiore Hill) near its junction with Montefiore Road, which now heads n.n.w. to become a continuation of Jeffcott Street but then curved away to the n.e. (see Map C). Jeffcott Street can perhaps be identified with the "Jeffrey Street" where Lance Fitz-Gibbon has lodgings, "less than half a mile away" from Lancaster House (410:6). The location of Lancaster House, as well as its library, garden and fountain, further suggests that Martin may have had in mind Montefiore, the Italianate mansion of Sir Samuel Way. Chief justice of SA and Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, and a friend of Catherine Helen Spence, Way was noted for his entertainment of visitors in academic and artistic circles. (The copy of The Silent Sea at

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the Barr Smith Library, University of Adelaide, contains his bookplate.)


Ouranie, the Lindsay sheep station near the little town of Buda, borders an immense plain which, "sixty miles" to the n.e., turns into arid salt-bush country (64:12). This would locate it in the general region of Booleroo Centre (see map A), and it is possible that Martin had in mind one of the sheep stations in this area. The best known of these, Pekina, was about 274 kms n. of Adelaide, near present-day Orroroo, and had a permanent water source in Mucra Springs (cf. 41:32). There was a property known as Bouda Hut in the same area. An early explorer of this region reported that, on leaving the Narien ranges (which lie e. of Bouda Hut and the Pekina run), and steering "north-east across the immense plain", his party was "quite astonished at the extent of the plain which lay in our course. In a north-easterly direction not a hill was to be seen, and the level plain in the blue distance looked exactly like the sea".note The novel's "Buda" shares the fate of Yatina, near Pekina, which dwindled after being bypassed by the Quorn-Terowie section of the Great Northern Railway line (cf. 48:16): as the Jamestown Agriculturist and Review of 23 August 1881 reported, this had the effect of "completely damning any prosperity that might ultimately accrue to the town".note The possible identification of Ouranie and Buda with this area of SA is perhaps also supported by its regional landmarks, e.g. Mt Robert and Murraytown (recalling Ouranie's manager, Robert Murray), and by its early residents, the White brothers, cattle-station owners who, like the novel's Mr White of Noomoolloo, had been unfavourably known for their dealings with Aborigines.note What connection Catherine Martin might have had with this region is not known, but there may have been a link through her brothers' pastoral ventures.

Colmar and the Railway

The Colmar Mine is the name given in the novel to the Alma and Victoria gold mine (where Frederick Martin was employed as mine accountant in 1890), whose workings, with those of several other mines, were scattered along a reef rising up to 30 m above the and saltbush plain on Melton Station, s. of Lake Frome in e. SA. These mines were known collectively as the Waukaringa goldfield. The Waukaringa township was situated c. 1 km s. of the mine site.

Although "Colmar" is in the "Hundred of Colmar" (111:3), Waukaringa, in Lytton County, was in fact outside the area of SA in which county administrative divisions were designated, on a historical English model, as Hundreds. In other respects the geography of the Colmar mine site corresponds to that of the Waukaringa goldfield,

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which was located c. 40 kms n.n.w. of Yunta railway station. Yunta ("Nilpeena" in the novel),note which is a small town on the Barrier Highway, about 325 kms n.e. of Adelaide, had a population of 58 in 1891. The novel's "Euckalowie Ranges" (125:20) derive from Buckalowie Hill, part of a range lying w. and s.w. of Waukaringa. "Yarranalla", "twelve miles further off than Nilpeena" (342:19) probably represents Mannahill, the next station on the railway line to Broken Hill, 43 kms e. of Yunta, and itself a productive goldfield (1885-90). The alluvial goldfield of Teetulpa, about 26 kms e. of Waukaringa, may have served as the model for the "Broombush Creek" diggings (although in the novel these are n.w. of Colmar, 166:5).

"Malowie", the "change-o'-gauge" station (229:34) on the Great Northern Railway line in the novel, represents Terowie: in 1887 the broad-gauge SA railway line was extended beyond Terowie to Cockburn, on the NSW border near Broken Hill, on a narrow-gauge light rail line. Terowie was advertised in the Terowie Enterprise and North-Eastern Advertiser as "the Break-of-Gauge Station" at which "the through train to the Barrier remains thirty minutes" (cf. 229:32) (31 January 1890, p. 4). According to the timetable, the Adelaide train left Terowie at 8.18 a.m. (Terowie and North-Eastern Advertiser, 24 January 1890, p. 2) and, according to the novel, it passed through "Kilmeny" at 8.30 a.m. (238:2). Kilmeny is identified as "the second railway-station beyond Malowie, and twelve miles distant therefrom"; it is "a straggling little township, its chief features being a big flour-mill and two public-houses" (232:5-7). The second station from Terowie (C. 22 kms) was Ulooloo, which is not recorded as having a flour mill or a hotel at that period; however, the intervening station (c. 9 kms from Terowie), Yarcowie (also called Whyte-Yarcowie, later its official name), did have two hotels and a flour mill. In 1891 it had 29 houses and a population of 158. Martin may have intended to create an entirely fictitious "Kilmeny" by combining aspects of the two stations, or she may simply have confused them. Further afield, the rail junction at "OswaId township" in the novel (345:11) represents the junction at Petersburg (changed to Peterborough in 1918), and the instructions given by Trevaskis to Dick for the train journey to "Port Pellew" (345: 11) make it clear that this is Port Pirie. Port Pirie at this date had six hotels, but no Kangaroo Inn (345: 13).

Historical Background


Gold had first been found in SA in 1846, although one field after another had quickly been worked out in a succession of shortlived rushes. In 1886 the discovery of gold at Brady's Creek at Teetulpa

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sparked a frantic goldrush: according to the Terowie Enterprise and North-Eastern Advertiser Of 14 February 189o, 'the public still have fresh in their recollections the excitement which was occasioned by the discovery of gold at Teetulpa a few years ago' (p. 3). Many years later, a participant described it in terms which mirror The Silent Sea's account of the rush to Broornbush Creek (219: 2-1 g):

It was a scene of feverish bustle. Rich men and poor arrived from all points of the compass to seek their fortunes. They came in Hill & Co.'s coaches, in turnouts, on wagons and on foot.

The coaches were crowded with men of all types-some with picks and shovels, some with tents, some with swags, and some with nothing. Many had never seen a pick and shovel before. They came how they could.note

A hospital was established (cf. 290M as part of the large (mainly canvas) township which sprang up at Teetulpa. As the goldfield declined, miners and services shifted to Waukaringa, but the hospital was still at Teetulpa in 1890 (cf 363:7).note One of the two mail-coach services between Teetulpa and Yunta was run by Circus Jack Davey (cf. "Circus Bill", 264:35), a former circus proprietor noted for his ability to drive a team of horses with one hand while playing the cornet with the other. He later ran a coach service, in opposition to Hill & Co., between Yunta and Waukaringa.

The Alma and Victoria Mine

The first gold finds in the Waukaringa area, in 1873, were alluvial, as at Teetulpa, but by 1875 it was realised that Waukaringa's real wealth lay in the gold-bearing ironstone reefs that striated the saltbush plains. The difference between alluvial and reef mining, as it affected the miners themselves, is reflected in The Silent Sea (e.g. 221:3-6), and was spelt out in William Lane's The Workingman's Paradise in 1892:

An alluvial field is where you can dig out gold with a pick and shovel and wash it out with a pannikin. You don't want any machines, and everybody digs for himself, or mates with other fellows. Reefing fields employ men.... It takes so much capital for sinking and pumping and crushing ... that companies have to be formed outside, and the miners mostly work just for wages.note

In 1888 the Register described Waukaringa, in a lengthy report, as "the most developed and best mine" in SA and predicted that it would become "a mining centre of the utmost importance" (29 February 1888, pp. 5-6). Four years later the Observer reported that, in SA, "Waukaringa, alone, has proved a success" (2 January 1892, p. 18). Most of the gold at Waukaringa came from the Alma and Victoria Mine, which, in the opinion of the Register, had "made the place". This mine

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had several changes in operating companies and directors, but was operated 1886-95 by the New Alma and Victoria Gold Mining Company, which, in the three years to December 1891, paid Out £24,000 in a series of twelve dividends. In developments reflected in the novel a stone chimneystack (cf. 113:2 1) was erected on top of the reef in 1881 and raised 9 m. higher in 1887, and a weighbridge (cf. 151:24) was installed at the mine in March 1889.note In 1890, 65o men were working at the mine and it was yielding gold valued at £4. 2s. 8d. per oz. (see note 4 for p. 240).note

The Alma and Victoria Mine was not only the largest single gold mine in SA; it had, according to the Register, also experienced "more vicissitudes than any other in the colony" and had at times "been in very low water ... through bad machinery and bad management" (p. 5). There were in fact management problems from the start: a succession of managers on yearly contracts came into conflict with the directors of the successive operating companies, mainly over whether the general manager or the board of directors was to manage the mine, with one director declaring in 1882 that "a barrel of dynamite should be placed on top of the machinery, the Manager placed on top and the whole lot blown up".note Miners' strikes, frequently replaced machinery, the scarcity of water, and the high cost of cartage were additional problems.

The changes in the mining industry in the 1880s included the introduction of American and English machinery for crushing quartz, and of younger, scientifically-trained mining engineers and metallurgists, many of them American, like the novel's Joseph S. Dunning (115:5), who supplanted the predominantly Cornish managers whose skills had been learned on the job–hence William Trevaskis' curt dismissal of Victor's qualifications in metallurgy (129:20). The general manager of the Alma and Victoria Mine 1887-80, Thomas Denny, was the co-inventor of several items of improved mining machinery, and was given carte blanche by the Company to develop new mining methods (South Australian Weekly Chronicle, 25 February 1888, pp. 7-8). In its 1888 report, the Register noted "a sense of actual work, an absence of idle men, and general satisfaction" at the mine; however, three months later, in a letter to the same paper (11 May 1888, p. 7), Denny had to defend himself against claims of apparent inconsistencies in the amounts of amalgam reported as monthly yields at the mine under his management (cf 138:1-2). The mine manager 1889-94 was William Hosking (cf. the novel's "William Trevaskis" and "Rehoboam Hosking"). He appears to have been unpopular and short-tempered (cf. 233:8): on 14 March 1890, after some miners had, in Hosking's opinion, spoken of him insultingly, the Terowie Enterprise and North Eastern Advertiser reported that there was "another labour trouble" at the Alma and Victoria Mine, "owing to the Manager of the mine, Mr.

  ― 496 ―
Hosking, unjustly locking out five of the leading committee men of the Amalgamated Miners' Association ... public sympathy is with the men" (p. 3).

After a period of poor results and the dwindling of the ore-bearing lode, crushing at the mine ceased in 1894.