Chas Adlard, Australian Author

Humbug Scrub

Humbug Scrub,

South Australia.

28th October, 1878.

Dear Miss Morgan,

I enclose this letter written by your brother the day before his death. When I last wrote with this terrible news I had no knowledge of the letter. I hope that his words may be a comfort in your grief.

The mine shaft responsible for Robert's early demise has been closed and the miners have erected a monument of remembrance at the head.

Your servant,

D. Crommuit


My dearest sister,

You will be glad to know that my hands are almost healed. I am careful to hide my discomfort from others on the dig, lest they mock me. They tease me for my youth and soft manner of speech, I'll not give them further proof of my frailty.

As I write I'm huddled close to the camp fire to fend out the morning chill. A small group of kangaroos are feeding close to where I sit, not at all bothered by my presence. This is marvellous country and even though the diggings are untidy the countryside is a gracious green. No, Kate, not like England, but rather special with a Eucalypt hue. A magical green, that is faded and dull in one light and yet a shining blue-green in another. The local wattle, with their dark oxidised trunks, are presently cloaked in yellow orbs that fill the air with aniseed.

Although we are more than half a day's ride from Adelaide we are not without civilised needs. The tiny town of Lady Alice is self sufficient. We have a church, school and thankfully, a public house. I am told that nearly five hundred people are gathered here but in the quiet of morning I doubt the authenticity of such a tale.

Across the valley I can hear a few picks striking rock, I wish these men luck. I, myself have had good fortune and have seen wealth for my labour. Not, though, from my present diggings but, with the help of a pan, from a nearby river-bed.

In Barossa town it is said that the American, Mr. Menzies, is trouble bound. After much expense, the new stamping battery is fast becoming his worst folly

The more experienced diggers have taken their leave of that particular area and with them undisclosed amounts of gold. I chuckle when I think of the misused red flag. For those who do not wish to declare their wealth are unlikely to hoist a banner high.

Many of the older men at the Lady Alice are early pioneers and how I envy them. Without their brave spirit we should not be enjoying these modern times so well.

I go to the social events in One Tree Hill, a few miles to the west. I have not yet met a young lady of my choice but I am forever vigilant. Many of the younger men gather at the local Inn and I confess to have, occasionally, joined them. The Inn is patronised by not only the local populace but also by many travellers and the mood, in general, is warm.

As usual work prevails and I am forced to abandon my pen.

Much love, Robert.



The rubber-neck passed his four year old son to his wife before he himself crossed the fence. His attention was on the strand of barbwire and his own manhood and not for the painted sign that declared the area off limits. No longer hampered by his mother's grasp the four year old scampered ahead. His parents followed at a more sedate pace as they finished their cans of soft drink.

More erected signs declared impending danger and yet remained unheeded. It was sheer luck that the youngster survived. He stood on the very brink of the mine shaft until his father dragged him away to safety. The man complained bitterly about the unguarded shaft as he headed back to the family car with his son now firmly in tow. His wife hesitated briefly to throw the empty drink cans into the open void before following after them.

The cans fell thirty odd feet before landing in the water below. Only a small splash resulted from this sudden union but it was enough to wash over the wooden board. For a brief moment in time the inscription was clear:

"In memory of Robert Morgan, aged 19 years - Was he not as real as you?"

Back to the Main Page