Hero’s welcome down under

On January 1, this year, chieftain of the Lalor clan, Margot Coogan fulfilled a life long dream when she visited Ballarat in Australia, where Peter Lalor rose to fame.

On January 1, this year, chieftain of the Lalor clan, Margot Coogan fulfilled a life long dream when she visited Ballarat in Australia, where Peter Lalor rose to fame.

The youngest brother of James Fintan Lalor, Peter emigrated to Australia in 1852. He first worked in the construction of the Melbourne-Geelong railway line, but resigned to take part in the Victorian Gold Rush. He began mining in the Ovens Valley, then moved to the Eureka Lead at Ballarat.

Just two years after arriving in Australia, Peter rose to fame for his leading role in the Eureka Rebellion, an event controversially identified with the “birth of democracy” in Australia.

He has since been hailed as Ballarat’s favourite son and a giant of Australian history.

Margot’s said she was moved to tears when she stepped on to the famous Bakery Hill, where he first raised the Southern Cross flag and where his left arm was seriously wounded, requiring amputation.

“I flew into Melbourne and went to spend one day and one night in Ballarat, but I got such a warm reception I stayed for over a week,” Margot said.

“The Eureka Stockade was fought in Ballarat on December 3 1854, led by Peter Lalor, born at Tinakill, Raheen and brother of James Fintan Lalor.

“I was brought to everything associated with Peter Lalor in Ballarat. But the highlight was stepping out of the car at Bakery Hill and seeing the flag of the Southern Cross and then going onto the museum and arts centre where the origianl flag which was hoisted by Peter on November 30, 1854.”

Marogt also visited the Blood of the Southern Cross light show at Sovereign Hill which tells the story of the Eureka Stockade in dramatic fashion.

According to Margot, the people of Ballarat were grateful for her gift of stones and water from St Fintan’s Well in Cromogue in the parish of Raheen, Margot’s own parish and near where the Lalor’s grew up. Margot left the stones and water, which were blessed by Fr Jack Walsh on Peter’s grave, which she visited in Melbourne Central Cemetry.

“I laid two wreaths on Peter Lalor’s grave in Melbourne Central Cemetry- one on behalf of the Lalor clan and the other in memory of my late father Joseph Coogan and my grandmother Sarah Lalor. It really touched their hearts.”

“I have wanted to travel to Australia ever since I was a child and my father would tell me stories. It was great to see all the places associated with Peter like the museum and arts centre which had traced his life from his birth in Tinakill. It was sheer beauty.

“I toured with Peter Lalor, Peter Kennedy, Prof Paul Williams, Ann Rowland, Prof Clare Gervasoni and Peter Lalor Philp. But everyone was so nice and warm and welcoming to me, It was a very emotional time.”

Margot even made the front page of the local newspaper in Ballarat, The Courier where she was pictured beside Peter Lalor’s statue. She also visited the Houses of Parliament and seen Peter’s rooms and sat in the same chair her ancestor sat in over one hundred years ago.

Margot has already been invited back, and she hopes to take up the invitation before the end of the year.