Digger's Rest is a shanty hotel in a sleepy Victorian town whose inhabitants live for the memory of the booming gold-rush days. Little disturbs the lifestyle of quiet marriages and barely profitable farming until the arrival of George Ogilvie, an old gold-digger and mining entrepraneur known as the 'battler' for his many made and lost fortunes. After disguising himself as a hawker and raining gifts upon the whole town, Ogilvie is eagerly welcomed by his old sweetheart Mrs Smith, the owner of Digger's Rest. In him she finds represented all the glory of her former years.
In Act Two it is revealed that Ogilvie has lost his latest fortune in the failure of the Southern Cross mine in the west, which has driven him to return to the east in search of the long lost Crown Jewels reef. He proceeds to work the town's inhabitants into a gold fever frenzy. Much to the disappointment of his straight-nosed wife Bella, the fever is caught even by the level-headed Sam, eventually prompting her to leave him right before Ogilvie announces that he has found the reef.
Act Three picks up some time later as the town is being transformed, flooded by miners and burgeoning with new infrastructure. Watty, Mrs Smith's son, has recently married Clara, but the two are driven by business and find no occasion to rest and celebrate. The original inhabitants are greedily watching the share prices climb until the reef unexpectedly ends and the mine falls flat, just as Bella makes a reappearance. The only person to come out on top is Sam, who had seen the error of his ways and decided to sell out with the hope of winning Bella back. The curtain closes on Ogilvie receiving word that the Southern Cross mine has made a turn for the better, and the Battler departs to chase gold in the west, leaving the town to return to its humble ways – which, they discover, are not so bad after all.
TERRIBLE NICK – Old fossicker
ANDREW – Old fossicker
JACK CONROY – Estate agent and auctioneer
SAM CLARKE – A bullock driver
WATTY – Mrs Smith's son
CLARA – A girl working at the shanty
BILLY – A rousabout
BELLA – Sam's wife
MRS JONES – An immigrant
MRS SMITH – The store and shanty keeper
GEORGE OGILVIE – A mining man
1922 : Playhouse Theatre, Melbourne ; 18, 22 May.