An Australia guided by the spirit of the Eureka Tradition as symbolised by the diggers' flag and oath:
"We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties"
MEDIA RELEASE 8 August, 1997
FRAGMENT OF EUREKA FLAG
HAS BEEN WITHDRAWN FROM CHRISTIES SALE
The fragment of the Eureka Flag which was to be auctioned by Christie's Melbourne on Sunday 17 August 1997 has been withdrawn from sale pending determination of ownership. Christie's have taken this action on the instruction of the vendor, Mr Lex McClintock of Melbourne.
Mrs Evelyn Healy (née Shaw) of Sydney has through a Melbourne firm of solicitors, Arnold Bloch Leibler, sought to stop the sale as she claims that the fragment and accompanying documents belong to her and that she wants them to be given to the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.
Mrs Healy is willing to take the matter to the courts if necessary. Mrs Healy's legal costs are being covered by a philanthropic fund which believes that the rightful place for this and other souvenired fragments of the Eureka Flag is alongside the original Eureka Flag in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.
The story behind this fragment is a colourful one.
Evelyn Shaw was born in Ballarat in 1912, her grandfather William Shaw was a foundation member of the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery Association. During the Depression Evelyn's political and social conscience was awakened by the contrast between her own privileged background and the plight of the many unemployed people she saw in Ballarat. She became politically active in the anti-fascist movement in Melbourne after leaving Ballarat in 1936, following a successful exhibition of her art in Ballarat in December 1935.
Once in Melbourne, Evelyn played an important part in the rescue of the Eureka Flag from obscurity through her involvement with the Melbourne Artists' Branch of the Communist Party of Australia. The group were wanting to make a replica of the Eureka Flag for the 1938 May Day parade in Melbourne.
Evelyn told the group that she believed she knew where the original Eureka Flag was, as she had seen it in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. Evelyn wrote to her mother, Myrtle Shaw, who spoke with the Gallery custodian William Keith. Mr Keith was very helpful and even gave a fragment of the flag to Myrtle Shaw who sent it and a detailed description of the flag with sketches to her daughter. Evelyn showed these to Rem McClintock, a senior member of the Artists' Branch of the Communist Parry. Evelyn recalls he "was quite shocked to see the enclosure with the letter and cradled the flag in his hands" (Evelyn Healy letter July 1997)
Rem McClintock took the letter and fragment to show it to the Young Communist League. When Evelyn asked for the letter and fragment back, Rem McClintock said the Young Communist League still had them. "Later he became very vague about what could have happened to it" (Evelyn Healy letter July 1997).
Evelyn Healy tried on a number of occasions over the years to trace her mother's letter and was amazed to see it reproduced in the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 July 1997 with a story of its forthcoming sale. Mrs Healy contacted Christie's and wrote to the vendor Lex McClintock (Rem's son) to request the fragment of flag and her mother's letter be returned to her. Mrs Healy believes that the Eureka Flag is a symbol of democracy and as such is public property.
The Ballarat Fine Art Gallery is eager to hear from others who have souvenir fragments of the flag. The Gallery has already had seven fragments returned. It is impossible to know how many were taken and given altogether. From the very day 3rd December 1854 that the flag was torn from the flagpole in the Stockade by the soldiers and souvenired by Trooper John King, fragments were taken.
The original flag complete with bullet holes and bayonet tears hangs in a special room of its own in the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery. It is one on the very few prototype flags of historical significance that still exists in the world.
8 August, 1997
For further information
Contact Margaret Rich Director,
Ballarat Fine Art Gallery
Telephone (03) 53 315 622