The Goldfields Journal of William Diaper
(Alias Cannibal Jack)
edited by William W. Emilsen
ISBN 085905 262 1, (1999 new), Casebound, dust jacketed, 235mm x 155mm, 140 pages text, 39 illustrations and 5 maps, sect
380grams $40.00 + POST
Cannibal Jack's old journal was discovered behind a mirror in a Sydney theological college. Emilsen has edited this Defoe-esque account into one of the most readable books of the goldrush period. Written on poor paper with ink made of charcoal and urine, the journal of William Diaper, 'rogue, thief and liar' has nothing in common with the writings of De Rougemont or Munchhausen.
He writes from a unique perspective on the goldfields and its people.
"I, William Diaper, (alias John Jones, John Osborne, John Jackson, Feejee Jack, Caladonien Jack) this day sit down to write something, not knowing what else to do with myself, and knowing still less what to write about; but let that be as it may, I intend to write, to use a vulgar saying, just as the maggot bites, and hit or miss, slash, gutter, strike out, right and left, in my own style, and risque all consequences; and perhaps by so doing I may take the fancy of the harem-scarem, dare-devil portion of the community (for whom I in particular write) and thereby secure to myself some little praise if less profit. I dare say the whole narrative will be tinged according to the different moods I may be in, -- sometimes bearing the impress of the most desponding melancholy, and at other times elevated to the highest degree; for, be it understood, that, I am one of those unfortunate characters, who are elevated at the most trifling success, or depressed, at times, by the most trivial mishap. Perhaps the contents of the bottle may also exercise its influence, according as it looks up -- pretty full or rather low. At surmounting difficulties, however, which I conceive to be of moment, I have always found my heart to be even too large for my body."
William Diaper arrived in Fremantle in 1837 on his way to Sydney. The California goldrush, South America and the South Pacific intervened before his return to Australia in 1851.
His travels in the Australian gold rush were North and West of Sydney to Maitland, Cassilis, Bathurst, Windsor and then south via Bong Bong, Braidwood, Araluen, Cooma, Omeo, Albury, Bendigo, Kilmore, Melbourne, Ballarat, Castlemaine, thence to Mt Gambier, then back to Geelong and Melbourne. Finally by sea to Sydney where he set sail for Hawaii to become a beachcomber.
This unique tale is pleasurable, informative and fascinating reading. It will become an essential item on the shelves of any Victorian, NSW or Pacific historian and will entertain any goldrush enthusiast.