Revelry aplenty at miners’ rebellion

Trouble is again on the agenda in Sofala as the town prepares for its biggest yet Rebellion on the Turon on March 17-18 , as disgruntled miners take on Her Majesty’s redcoats.

This goldmining village near Bathurst prospered in the gold rush in the 1850s hard on the heels of Edward Hargraves’ discovery of the precious ore at Ophir.

Organised by Sofala Progress Association, the event hopes to draw hundreds of visitors to the to relive the excitement.

The action kicks off at 10am on the Saturday with the reading of the Riot Act, declaration of martial law and opening shot from an authentic 1820s cannon. The Rebellion on the Turon re-enactment takes place at 1pm.

Event organiser Carlo Jensen said Sunday also begins and ends with cannon fire “but hopefully the stage coach won’t be robbed at 11am on both days. It’s also possible the miners could be disgruntled enough to hold a Rebellion on the Turon again at 1pm.”

Across the weekend there will be exhibition stalls, Cobb & Co coach rides, penny farthings, pistol and sword duels, a working blacksmith, an 1850s surgeon, music and traditional games. Sofala Royal Hotel will host a bush band on Saturday evening.

Carlo warned visitors may be press-ganged into the re-enactments as prospectors or townsfolk and could be baled up by a bushranger at any time.

“Troopers, or ‘redcoats’, will roam Sofala harassing visitors to take out a gold license, which will be issued by the gold commissioner for $2,” he said.

Gold was discovered on the banks of the Turon River at Sofala in 1851. In the first few months of the gold rush, miners complied with the law of the day, but those who were not striking it rich soon objected to paying the 30 shilling licence fee.

Throughout late 1851 and into 1852 there were hostilities in the booming settlement, with fierce words between miners and the government until things came to a head in 1853.

The rebellion includes a re-enactment of events of February 18 that year, when more than 1000 miners, heavily armed and singing Irish protest songs, marched on the banks of the river demanding rights for miners.

The event is free (if you can avoid the bushrangers holding you up for a $2 gold coin).

Regional Express operates daily direct flights to Bathurst to and from Sydney. Sofala is about 40 minutes drive north from Bathurst and 3½ hours’ drive west of the Sydney CBD. It is just under four hours’ drive from Canberra.

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