A MINER ON BAYLEY'S
Returned from the rush, I made my way to Bayley's to seek employment for
my pony and his master. Nor did I seek in vain, for I was duly entered on
the pay-sheet as "surface hand" at 3 pounds 10 shillings per week, with
water at the rate of one gallon per day. Here I first made the
acquaintance of Godfrey Massie, a cousin of the Brownes, who, like me,
had been forced by want of luck to work for wages, and who, by the way,
had carried his "swag" on his back from York to the goldfields, a distance
of nearly 300 miles. He and I were the first amateurs to get a job on the
great Reward Claim, though subsequently it became a regular harbour of
refuge for young men crowded out from the banks and offices of Sydney and
Melbourne. Nothing but a fabulously rich mine could have stood the
tinkering of so many unprofessional miners. It speaks well for the
kindness of heart of those at the head of the management of the mine that
they were willing to trust the unearthing of so much treasure to the hands
of boys unused to manual work, or to work of any kind in a great many
How rich the mine was, may be judged from the fact that for the first few
months the enormous production of gold from it was due to the labours of
three of the shareholders, assisted by only two other men. The following
letter from Mr. Everard Browne to Lord Douglas gives some idea of what the
yield was at the time that I went there to work:--
"I am just taking 4,200 oz, over to Melbourne from our reef (Bayley's).
This makes 10,000 oz. we have brought down from our reef without a
battery, or machinery equal to treating 200 lbs. of stone per day; that is
a bit of a record for you! We have got water in our shaft at 137 feet,
enough to run a battery, and we shall have one on the ground in three
months' time or under, Egan dollied out 1,000 oz, in a little over two
months, before I came down, from his reef; and Cashman dollied 700 oz. out
of his in about three weeks and had one stone 10 lbs. weight with 9 lbs.
of gold in it, so we are not the only successful reefers since you left.
I hope you will soon be with us again.
"If you are speaking about this 10,000 oz. we have taken out of our reef
in six months, remember that Bayley and Ford dollied out 2,500 oz. for
themselves before they handed it over to us on February 27th last, so that
actually 12,500 oz. have been taken out of the claim, without a battery,
in under nine months. The shoot of gold is now proved over 100 feet long
on the course of the reef, and we were down 52 feet in our shaft on the
reef, with as good gold as ever at the bottom. The other shaft, which we
have got water in, is in the country (a downright shaft). We expect to
meet the reef in it at 170 feet."
Besides Massie, myself, and Tom Cue, there were not then many employed,
and really we used to have rather an enjoyable time than otherwise.
Working regular hours, eight hours on and sixteen off, sometimes on the
surface, sometimes below, with hammer and drill, or pick and shovel,
always amongst glittering gold, was by no means unpleasant. It would
certainly have been better still had we been able to keep what we found,
but the next best thing to being successful is to see those one is fond
of, pile up their banking account; and I have had few better friends than
the resident shareholders on Bayley's Reward.
What good fellows, too, were the professional miners, always ready to help
one and make the time pass pleasantly. Big Jim Breen was my mate for some
time, and many a pleasant talk and smoke (Smoke, O! is a recognised rest
from work at intervals during a miner's shift) we have had at the bottom
of a shaft, thirty to fifty feet from the surface! I really think that
having to get out of a nice warm bed or tent for night shift, viz., from
midnight to 8 a.m., was the most unpleasant part of my life as a miner.
As recreation we used to play occasional games of cricket on a very hard
and uneven pitch, and for social entertainments had frequent sing-songs
and "buck dances"--that is, dances in which there were no ladies to take
part--at Faahan's Club Hotel in the town, some one and a half miles
distant. "Hotel" was rather too high-class a name, for it was by no means
an imposing structure, hessian and corrugated iron taking the place of the
bricks and slates of a more civilised building. The addition of a
weather-board front, which was subsequently erected, greatly enhanced its
attractions. Mr. Faahan can boast of having had the first two-storeyed
house in the town; though the too critical might hold that the upper one,
being merely a sham, could not be counted as dwelling-room. There was no
sham, however, about the festive character of those evening
Thus time went on, the only change in my circumstances resulting from my
promotion to engine-driver--for now the Reward Claim boasted a small
crushing plant--and Spring came, and with it in November the disastrous
rush to "Siberia." This name, like most others on the goldfields, may be
traced to the wit of some disappointed digger.
The rush was a failure or "frost," and so great a one that "Siberia" was
the only word adequately to express the chagrin of the men who hoped so
much from its discovery. Being one of these myself, I can cordially
endorse the appropriateness of the name. What a motley crowd of eager
faces throngs the streets and camp on the first news of a new rush--every
one anxious to be off and be the first to make his fortune--every man
questioning his neighbour, who knows no more than himself, about distances
and direction, where the nearest water may be, and all manner of similar
Once clear of the town, what a strange collection of baggage animals,
horses, camels, and donkeys! What a mass of carts, drays, buggies,
wheelbarrows, handbarrows, and many queer makeshifts for carrying
goods--the strangest of all a large barrel set on an axle, and dragged or
shoved by means of two long handles, the proud possessor's belongings
turning round and round inside until they must surely be churned into a
most confusing jumble. Then we see the "Swagman" with his load on his
back, perhaps fifty pounds of provisions rolled up in his blankets, with a
pick and shovel strapped on them, and in either hand a gallon bag of
water. No light work this with the thermometer standing at 100 degrees in
the shade, and the track inches deep in fine, powdery dust; and yet men
start off with a light heart, with perhaps, a two hundred mile journey
before them, replenishing their bundles as they pass through camps on
"Siberia" was said to be seventy miles of a dry stage, and yet off we all
started, as happy as kings at the chance of mending our fortunes.
Poor Crossman (since dead), McCulloch, and I were mates, and we were well
off, for we had not only "Little Carnegie," and who, like his master, had
been earning his living at Bayley's, but a camel, "Bungo" by name, kindly
lent by Gordon Lyon. Thus we were able to carry water as well as
provisions, and helped to relieve the sufferings of many a poor wretch who
had only his feet to serve him.
The story of Siberia may be soon told. Hundreds "rushed" over this dry
stage, at the end of which a small and doubtful water supply was
obtainable. When this supply gave out fresh arrivals had to do their best
without it, the rush perforce had to set back again, privations, disaster,
and suffering being the only result. Much was said and written at the time
about the scores of dead and dying men and horses who lined the
roads--roads because there were two routes to the new field. There may
have been deaths on the other track, but I know that we saw none on ours.
Men in sore straits, with swollen tongues and bleeding feet, we saw, and,
happily, were able to relieve; and I am sure that many would have died but
for the prompt aid rendered by the Government Water Supply Department,
which despatched drays loaded with tanks of water to succour the suffering
miners. So the fortunes, to be made at Siberia, had again to be postponed.
Shortly after our return to Coolgardie a "gold escort" left Bayley's for
the coast, and as a guardian of the precious freight I travelled down to
Perth. There was no Government escort at that time, and any lucky
possessor of gold had to carry it to the capital as best he could.
With four spanking horses, Gordon Lyon as driver, three men with him on
the express-waggon, an outrider behind and in front, all armed with
repeating rifles, we rattled down the road, perhaps secretly wishing that
someone would be venturesome enough to attempt to "stick us up." No such
stirring event occurred, however, and we reached the head of the then
partially constructed line, and there took train for Perth, where I
eagerly awaited the arrival of my old friend and companion, Percy Douglas.
He meanwhile had had his battles to fight in the financial world, and had
come out to all appearances on top, having been instrumental in forming an
important mining company from which we expected great things.