He sold a gold mine for a bag of potatoes and a pot

By Bill Hummelstad

Pass by Paulo Marcolino’s headstone in Grafton’s old cemetery and there is nothing remarkable about it or the inscription. In fact, it’s about as basic as it gets, only a step or two up from World War I battlefield crosses that read ‘Known unto God’.

But Paulo Marcolino was much more than just some poor Italian immigrant who died at the age of 54. He was a gold prospector and a great example of the resilience of immigrants who, having come to the other side of the world, met hardship and disappointment head-on with perseverance and triumph.

Details are a bit hazy but Paulo Marcolino arrived in Victoria ‘at the time of the Ballarat riots of 1854’ near enough to 18 years of age. He worked the mines at Ballarat for the next 18 months before moving on to Castlemaine where he spent the next three years. His memoirs reveal a long list of Victorian and NSW towns he called home, including Beechworth, Bargo, Orange, Wellington and Sofala, before he set off for Port Curtis in Northern Queensland, where he stayed for seven years, before heading back to northern NSW around Tenterfield.

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