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III

Bayley and Ford always indignantly denied that it was not they who discovered Bayley's Reward. As Ford said, “From the time we pegged it out until we sold, our title was never questioned.” They were experienced prospectors who had been looking for gold in various parts of Western Australia and had made a good discovery in the Murchison, but were not satisfied and travelled south. In July they reached a place called by the natives Coolgardie. Ford thus writes about what happened:

“In the morning we went out for the horses in order to give them a drink. I was leading my horse over what is now called Fly Flat when I picked up a piece of gold weighing about half an ounce. We were more excited over that little bit of gold than any we found afterwards. That day we picked up about 80 ounces on the flat, the largest of them being about five ounces.”


  ― 98 ―

Ford goes on to say:

“There must have been a wandering prospector out there in 1888, as we saw where he had pegged out a claim which had the date 1888 on it and he had tied his camel down at the water. This claim, however, had no gold. Whoever he was he must have cleared out or else was killed by the blacks. I tried to find out who he was, but could not.”

Ford further states that the weather was very rainy and they had to sleep in wet blankets for more than a month. “It was lucky for us,” he adds, “that it was wet, as the blacks made for outback, where food was more plentiful.”

Bayley and Ford were not the only prospectors east of Southern Cross. The rainy weather had induced another party to follow in their tracks. Bayley and Ford, having discovered a good alluvial field, were determined to keep it to themselves until it was convenient for them to announce it. Ford writes:

“One afternoon up came a party of men with a black boy. They camped a little way from us. Bayley and I walked down to them. I knew two of them: Jack Reidy and German Charley. In the morning they brought their horses, and we asked them to stop as we could get colours of gold and it would only take a few more days to prospect the country and then we could all go together. They would not, and we threw our hats up when we saw the last of them. They were very green, for a blind man could tell that we had found gold, otherwise we would not have stayed


  ― 99 ―
there. We had between 200 and 300 ounces of gold at the time.”

About ten days after that Bayley and Ford had to go to Southern Cross for provisions. When they arrived there the miners were on strike. They bought a light load of provisions and did not tell anyone about their finding alluvial gold in Fly Flat. When they were leaving they said they were going out to see what a prospector named Jack Reidy was doing. It was raining when they started back. They met Jack Reidy as he was returning to Southern Cross. They told him they were going to see what “he” had found. He said he had had no luck, and they then informed him that they would travel northward to the Murchison. They got on their horses and started for their camp, Fly Flat. Reidy was evidently suspicious. He felt they had made a good find. So convinced was he of this that he afterwards related how he followed them for a few miles and on reconsideration, thinking he was mistaken in the impression he formed, he turned back.

It was when Bayley and Ford returned to Fly Flat that the really important gold discovery was made. The Fly Flat find was merely rich alluvial, but the presence of a gold-bearing reef indicated the possibility of a valuable goldfield. Ford thus writes of what happened:

“After we got back to Fly Flat, Bayley went over what was afterwards our prospecting area. In a leader he found rich gold. We shifted our camp to there and got about 200 ounces. The gold was in decayed quartz. I started prospecting a big blow and found gold at both the north and


  ― 100 ―
south ends. I went to what was later Bayley's Reward and picked up gold and saw gold in the reef, but did not touch it as we had enough gold in the camp. I commenced to make bags to pack the gold we had, for we had to report the find. Bayley was away horse-hunting. He had his work cut out attending the horses as there was very little water.

“Three young men were camped at the water. They were for ever poking about our claim. One morning they asked me to show them the pegs. I pointed them out to them. We walked past where the gold was in the reef, but it had not been touched. I came back to the tent and packed the gold in bags.

“Bayley came back about six o'clock. He asked if I was at the reef, and I told him I was only down to show the chaps the pegs.

“He said, ‘They have been at the reef and have taken the stone.’

“He went to them next morning, and they gave him some stone, but I do not think all they took.”

I have given the story of each of the two parties. Perhaps it was well for Talbot that it was not he and his mates who received the reward that went to Bayley and Ford. Later he became interested in pastoral properties, wisely invested the money he made out of them and became a wealthy man. It was more than forty-two years after the Coolgardie discovery that I last talked to him. He was then sixty-three years of age; low-sized and a typical bushman; tough, wiry


  ― 101 ―
and weather-worn. His black hair was tinged with grey; he had quick, ferret-like eyes; his hands were horny; his clothes were ready-made, ill-fitting and not too new; he was possessed of tireless energy and was ever on the move, travelling about attending to his multifarious interests; a saving man, but not mean. For years he lived in the Eucla country on his station, Mundrabilla, with his family. That was before the Trans-Australian Railway was built. For four years his wife never saw a white woman. But that was long ago, and later the family lived in a beautiful villa near Perth, commanding a picturesque view of the Swan river.

I jokingly remarked to him that he was reputed to be worth a quarter of a million. “If you are,” said I, “you deserve it, you have well earned it.”

“I'm not worth that much,” he replied. “I don't know what I'm worth, and that's a fact. When I left England I was but sixteen years old. My father gave me £8. I have that £8 yet.”

Talbot had attached to his watch-chain a gold nugget. It was the first he had picked up at Coolgardie.

The story told by Talbot and the story told by Ford as to the discovery of the Reward reef at Coolgardie differ wildly. It is still a matter of contention amongst old prospectors as to which story was true. An old prospector friend of mine, Jim Cassidy, told me that Bayley freely admitted that Talbot's party first discovered the reef, but did not peg it out.

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