One hundred and sixty years on, the tumultuous events that led to the Eureka Stockade remain deeply etched in the history of Ballarat, Vic.
Story By Nathan Dyer
Val D'Angri remembers clearly the first time she saw the tattered blue and white flag bearing the Southern Cross. “They rolled it out before me and I sort of knelt down,” Val says. “It was a very reverent moment. Then I said out loud: ‘We have to save this’.”
It was 1973 and the Ballarat art teacher had been called upon to save what was left of the original Eureka Stockade ensign. For decades kept from public view at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, the flag was in desperate need of restoration. Although Val did not know it at the time, her own story was deeply entwined with the flag: her great-great grandmother, Anastasia Withers, was one of three women who reputedly stitched it from a bolt of dress fabric.
Less than three-quarters remained of the original flag that flew above the Eureka diggings on the fateful Sunday morning of December 3, 1854, when a 300-strong force of police and British redcoats swooped to crush a rebellion led by Irish digger Peter Lalor. What remained was tattered and punctuated by hand-cut squares, taken over the years as souvenirs.
During the winter school holidays that year, Val spent two weeks painstakingly stitching the flag back together. “I didn’t ask for anything, I was just so pleased to be doing it for Ballarat,” she says. Val recalls when the flag finally went back on public display later that year: “It was lovely; it was like looking up at a stained glass window in an old cathedral”.
This Story is from Issue #99
Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2015