James Scobie

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James Scobie (29 November 1826 – 7 October 1854) was a Scottish gold digger murdered at Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. His death was associated with a sequence of events which led to the Eureka Rebellion.[1]



An inquest into Scobie's death was held the same afternoon. At the inquest, the hotel keeper, James Bentley, and his staff denied taking part in the death despite a sound case against them. The magistrate found that there was not enough evidence against Bentley and as a result the matter was adjourned.

Miners felt that justice had not been served and made a plan. The diggers had a meeting that grew out of control and ended with a riot outside Bentley's Hotel. This resulted to it burning to the ground on 17 October because of the miners anger. Three men were arrested and extra troops were sent from Melbourne.

These actions caused more frequent license inspections, the death of a drummer boy, soldiers were pelted with rocks and more arrests were made.

New evidence came to light and a trial was held in Melbourne's Supreme Court commencing 18 November : Queen v. James Francis Bentley, Catherine Bentley, William Henry Hance and Thomas Farrell in the murder of James Scobie. Judge Redmond Barry presided over the case. James Bentley, William Hance and Thomas Farrell were all found guilty of manslaughter and were each sentenced on 20 November to three years hard labour on the roads. Catherine Bentley was found not guilty.

On the afternoon of 20 November Judge Barry presided over the trial of the Bentley's Hotel Rioters.

Scobie's death and the acquittal of the hotel keeper at the inquest were part of the catalyst of the events leading to the Eureka Stockade.

Scobie is buried in the Ballaarat Old Cemetery. His grave is marked by a broken column, a symbol of a life cut short. [2]


A petition was sent to His Excellency Sir Charles Hotham, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Victoria regarding the investigation of the death of James Scobie. [3]


At the trial at the Supreme Court in Melbourne, a doctor provided the following evidence as published in Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer.

Dr John Alfred Carr-I am a medical practitioner ; I was called by the witness Carmichael, to attend upon James Scobie between one and two o'clock on the morning of Saturday, 7 October; I found him about fifty or sixty yards from the hotel, lying on the ground perfectly insensible; I had him removed to Bentley's hotel. There I re-examined him; he was quite dead; I have no hesitation in saying he was quite dead when l first saw him; I could detect no trace of life when I first saw him; but he was very warm, and I thought I would try what was to be done; I afterwards made a post mortem examination, by direction of the Coroner; I made these notes referring to a note-book in witness's hand) within half an hour of making the post mortem; I found bruises on the body; a bruise on the left collar bone; a severe bruise over the lips, especially the upper lip; another over the right cheek, and a graze therefrom on the right eyebrow; one on the lower part of the right upper eyelid ; and a slight bruise and graze on the right side of the nose near the junction with the cheek and close to the eye. There were two slight bruises, one on the head above the right temple, which I did not discover at the first observation, and the other at the back of the head; there was an unimportant external mark on the right shoulder; I had examined the body the night before; there was some blood, which had flown both from the wound on the nose and the graze on the cheek; the internal examination of the body showed that the vessels on the brain were congested ; there was a solid clot of arterial blood on the left side of the brain, extending into the ventricles and convolutions of the brain, and which appeared to be produced from the rupture of one or more branches of tho internal carotid artery shortly after it enters tho brain ; that rupture was caused by a blow; the viscera were perfectly healthy, and the heart especially so; there was a very strong colour of spirits from the stomach, which was frightfully loaded with a mass of undigested and unmasticatcd food; the state of his stomach would account for the deceased having met his death from a blow, which, under ordinary circumstances, would have inflicted no serious injury upon him. Any of the blows which caused the bruises may have caused the rupture of the vessels, and so produced death from the shock thus given to the system; the bruise on the back of the head was probably from a fall; I think the man must have died as instantaneously as if he had been shot in the heart. If he had survived a few minutes, there would have been a stertorous breathing; it would appear that the deceased died of sanguineous apoplexy; he was lying within about forty or fifty yards of my dwelling; I had heard a disturbance at Bentley's hotel about three quarters of an hour previously; I had not unfrequently heard similar noises at Bentley's; a spade was shown to me at the inquest; it was a square spade with sharp edges; my opinion is that the spade could not have inflicted any of the wounds except the most trifling; it is extremely improbable that any of the wounds could have been inflicted by that spade unless it were one at the side of the head, which was so slight that I only detected it on dissecting back the scalp; I examined tho skull very carefully; there was no appearance of a fracture there; I remember seeing Martin the same night; he appeared very stupid and drunk; Martin had two bruises on him, one on the left temple and one on the forehead; it was a severe blow on the temple; I was at the inquest, but did not hear all the evidence, as I was engaged during part of the time making the post mortem examination.[4]


It was reported in the papers at the time The Supreme Court of Victoria has brought to a close, for the present, the events arising out of the burning of the Eureka Hotel, and the riots at Ballarat. JAMES FRANCIS BENTLEY, JOHN FARRELL, HENRY HANCE, and CATHERINE BENTLEY, were indicted for the wilful murder of JAMES SCOBIE. After a long trial, the jury acquitted Mrs. BENTLEY, but convicted tho three men, who were each sentenced to three years' hard labour on the roads. Subsequently, THOMAS FLETCHER, ANDREW MCINTYRE, and HENRY WESTERLY, were indicted for their share in the riots at Ballarat. The jury found them guilty, but recommended them to mercy, and expressed an opinion that their offence would not have been committed if the authorities at Ballarat had performed their duty. Certainly the conviction of BENTLEY seemed to show that he ought not have been discharged by the Ballarat magistrates. The three prisoners were respectively sentenced to three, four, and six months imprisonment.[5]


  1. ^ "Eureka Stockade". NSW Department of Education and Communities. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  2. ^ "Death: Cemeteries". ThinkQuest. Archived from the original on 2001-02-22. 
  3. ^ "BALLAARAT.". The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 23 October 1854. p. 5. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  4. ^ "Supreme Court, Melbourne, Nov. 18th.". Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer (NSW: National Library of Australia). 2 December 1854. p. 1. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "THE Moreton Bay Courier.". The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane: National Library of Australia). 9 December 1854. p. 2. Retrieved 12 February 2012. 
  • "BALLAARAT.". The Argus (Melbourne: National Library of Australia). 23 October 1854. p. 5. Retrieved 9 February 2012.