Why Wee Jock, an Irish Terrier, Received the RSPCA’s Purple Cross

The most-celebrated resistance in Australian history is probably the Eureka Stockade Rebellion of 1854 when miners, also known as “diggers,” had had enough of exorbitant prospecting-license fees, police brutality in collecting those fees, and having no representation, let alone a vote, in the Legislative Council.

It was the murder of a digger named James Scobie, and the subsequent acquittal of his alleged killers by a government board of inquiry that made things worse.  Clashes with the police and demonstrations lead frustrated miners to organized themselves into military companies. At one point, police surrounded 150 diggers who refused to leave their structure and opened fire on the government forces.  At the end, twenty two diggers and five troopers were killed.  The Eureka Stockade uprising speeded up the enactment of reforms, and among the most celebrate figures of the rebellion was a little Irish Terrier known as Wee Jock.

Among the dead miners was the Wee Jock’s owner who’d been mortally wounded. Wee Jock guarded his master’s body for hours as it lay unclaimed on the battlefield, then later accompanied it on the death cart, howling continuously and refusing to be separated from his person.

In 1997, Wee Jock was posthumously awarded the RSPCA’s Purple Cross which honors bravery and exceptional behavior in the service of man. It was presented in a ceremony that took place in front of the original Eureka Flag that the men died defending at the Eureka Stockade. Detective Sergeant Peter Lalor, the great great-grandson of Peter Lalor, the leader of the diggers at the Eureka Stockade, accepted the award on behalf of the Eureka Trust.

In 1999, a sculpture commemorating the Pikeman’s Dog was unveiled. The centerpiece created by sculptors, Charles Smith and Joan Walsh-Smith was a bronze Irish Terrier, his expression one of anguish. On the the 160th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade in 2014, the sculpture was moved to a more prominent position as part of a new monument within the Eureka Stockade Memorial Park. There, Wee Jock’s bronze is at the forefront of twenty two golden stockade posts representing the number of diggers killed in battle.

 

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