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IV

A poor and ill-equipped party of six prospectors in 1894 were prospecting in the vicinity of Widgemooltha and were unsuccessful. Feeling disappointed and tired they were returning. Some twelve miles south of Coolgardie one of them, John Mills, a young Irishman from Londonderry, when sitting down, rubbed his heel against an outcrop. He noticed the glint of gold. When the cap of the reef was broken, the rock was found to be richly impregnated with gold. As the men dug deeper the prospects improved. In a few weeks some £25,000 worth of gold was dollied out. The property was sold to Lord Fingall whilst it was still a mere surface show for £180,000 and a sixth interest. The Londonderry (as the mine was called) became famous and was floated into a company for £700,000. When sold, “the golden hole” from which the rich specimens came was covered with a strong plate and sealed.


  ― 77 ―
The mine was “jumped” on the plea that the regulations were not complied with, but the “jumpers' ” claim was not upheld. Months later it was unsealed, and it was found when opened up that the ore that remained was worthless!

No less remarkable than the Londonderry was the Wealth of Nations found some months later by a well-known prospector, J. G. Dunn, who had with him two Afghans and camels and was acting for a West Australian syndicate. The find was situated twenty-eight miles north-east of Coolgardie. Some 5,000 ounces were secured from it when it was sold for about £150,000. When opened up that mine, too, proved a duffer!

Numbers of other rich finds were reported. The news of a good find was always followed by diggers rushing to the locality. Wild pegging of claims occurred. Sometimes the reports received were false. There were also what were called “bogus rushes.” One of the best remembered and most sensational was caused by statements reputed to be made by a man named McCann of a great gold discovery by him “somewhere down south.” It was said that a kerosene tin filled with gold was brought from there. These statements caused great excitement.

Parties left Coolgardie on camels, in buggies, riding bicycles and on foot, but the find could not be located.

McCann also was missing, but he was ultimately discovered. He looked as if he were just recovering from a drinking bout.

He was brought before a large crowd of angry diggers and made a rambling statement asserting that he never said what was attributed to him.




  ― 78 ―

Finally he volunteered to lead a party to where alluvial gold was found. Four experienced bushmen were sent with him. They were armed and pledged to bring McCann back alive or dead.

A couple of weeks later the party returned. They had travelled four hundred miles. There was no find made and no place to show.

McCann, on his way back, in his fear of the diggers frequently asked for the loan of a revolver to shoot himself.

Fierce rage was expressed when the diggers heard they had been fooled. A meeting was held and threats were made of lynching. For safety McCann had been placed in the police lock-up.

Nothing more serious occurred than that an effigy of McCann was hanged and burned.

Another bogus rush that was said to be a storekeepers' rush was to Mount Ragged, a mountain a considerable distance east of Norseman. Parties left Norseman, Coolgardie and other centres, some with horses and camels, others on foot. They travelled hundreds of miles through arid country and endured terrible hardships. They suffered the pangs of hunger and thirst. They struggled on, and ultimately reached the scene of the supposed find. They saw at once it was a non-auriferous area. Men were waiting to sell them stores.

One of the diggers who participated in the rush told me afterwards that the diggers who had been fooled behaved splendidly. “They were,” he said, “so orderly about it. In fact, when the news that they had been duped was fully realised they only cut off one man's ears.”




  ― 79 ―

Not bogus, but tragic was a disastrous rush to Siberia. Two prospectors brought to Coolgardie 40 ounces. They said there was plenty more gold in the locality. The weather was hot and dry, but scores of men went off badly prepared for a journey through a waterless, foodless area. Dozens were lost in the bush. Ten are known to have perished. Others died whose bodies were never found. Hundreds of men suffered terribly from thirst. None of them would perhaps have got back alive but for promptness in sending out relief parties on camels and horses.

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