Biography of William Gay
William Gay was born in Bratton, Devonshire on 25 Feb 1812.
In 1834 he joined the crew of "Medway" as a carpenter and worked his way to Hobart where he arrived 21 July 1835. For the next eighteen months he stayed with the ship as it plied between Sydney and Hobart, eventually leaving the ship in Hobart on 26 January 1836. He had tried to convince his girlfriend in England to come to Australia and marry him but her father would not allow it. So William settled for a local girl and on 1 May 1838 he married Mary Ann Elizabeth Mansfield at St John's Newtown, Tasmania.
Mary Ann Elizabeth Mansfield was a daughter of William Mansfield, a convict who came out on the convict ship "Calcutta" which provided the settlers and convicts to establish the settlement at Sorrento, Victoria in 1803 and then Hobart in 1804. He was married to Maria, daughter of Elizabeth Cole, a First Fleeter, and James Tucker, a Second Fleeter, and hangman on Norfolk Island.
Mary gave birth to 5 sons, the last one being stillborn. Eleven months after the last birth, on 13 August 1848, Mary died having never really recovered from the birth.
William left Hobart early in 1851, taking with him his three oldest boys and leaving the youngest, Silas, with his late wife's parents in Hobart. For five months he scrounged work in Melbourne and then set sail for Portland in "Red Rover". He worked there for another five months during which time he took part in a spirited political debate in the Portland Guardian. Most of the debate was conducted in the form of poetry.
By the end of 1851 William was lured by the stories of the Gold Rush and on 2 December 1851 he set off in the company of his boys and three other men he set off for Ballarat where they arrived nine days later. They worked claims at Golden Point and other fields for some years and were present at the meeting at Bakery Hill when the diggers burnt their licenses in defiance of the authorities, an act which preceded the Eureka Rebellion. During this time William made a trip back to Hobart to collect Silas.
It would appear that the family stayed around the Ballarat area for some years. There is evidence to suggest that William spent some time in Gippsland, perhaps as a contractor for the railways. His last few years were spent in the Armidale area of NSW where he still indulged in some prospecting and plenty of political comment. His eldest son, John Wesley, appears to have settled there.
William wrote many poems during his time in the Colonies. He had opinions on politicians, the Irish, deserted wives, the clergy, education, child rearing and many other subjects. His sympathies lay with the workers and he had little time for the 'Establishment'. He never remarried and was proud of his achievement in rearing four sons single handed.
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William Gay Poems
The Crazy World
THE WORLD did say to me, ‘My bread thou shalt not eat, I have no place for thee In house nor field nor street.
FROM all division let our land be free, For God has made her one: complete she lies Within the unbroken circle of the skies, And round her indivisible the sea
The Ex Official's Lament
Alas alas! my power is gone; I thought 'twould last for ever; But now 'tis over, I must own, They've done it very clever.
A Sonnet Of Battle
RELUCTANT Morn, whose meagre radiance lies With doubtful glimmer on the farthest hills, How long shall men, reiterant of their ills, With peevish invocation bid thee rise
They shine upon my table there, A constellation mimic sweet, No stars in Heaven could shine more fair, Nor Earth has beauty more complete;
HOW long, O Lord, shall this, my country, be A nation of the dead? How long shall they Who seek their own and live but for the day, My country hinder from her destiny?
IF in the summer of thy bright regard For one brief season these poor Rhymes shall live I ask no more, nor think my fate too hard If other eyes but wintry looks should give;
Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum
O steep and rugged Life, whose harsh ascent Slopes blindly upward through the bitter night! They say that on thy summit, high in light, Sweet rest awaits the climber, travel-spent;
No My Friends No!
Hail foes to oppression, and lovers of freedom! Your day has arrived, and your power you know:-
SHE sits a queen whom none shall dare despoil, Her crown the sun, her guard the vigilant sea, And round her throne are gathered, stalwart, free, A people proud, yet stooping to the soil,
Life From 1835 To 1851
And, now, a vacancy occurs, For very nearly sixteen years, In which I'd not the least desire, To strike the harp or tune the lyre.
Dear lowly flower that liftest up Among the grass thy golden cup, I take thee from thy earthly bed And plant thee in my heart instead.
I love not when the oily seas Heave huge and slow beneath the sun, When decks are hot, and dead the breeze, And wits are dropping one by one.
The War Of The Ghosts
Three Ghosts that haunt me have I, Three Ghosts in my soul that fight, Three grandsire Ghosts in my soul, That haunt me by day and by night.
HOW long, O Lord, shall this, my country, be
A nation of the dead? How long shall they
Who seek their own and live but for the day,
My country hinder from her destiny?
Around me, Lord, I seem again to see
That ancient valley where the dry bones lay,
And ’tis in vain that long I wait and pray
To see them rise to men resolved and free.
Yet sure, O Lord, upon this land of death