The lone prospectors McLeod and Jessop


Hugh Borland

He was christened as William McLeod, but the William became Billy and as such he remained. McLeod was one of the most skilled bushmen who were in the forefront of the ‘seventies. His characteristic feature of preferring to do his exploring and prospecting without the customary mate did not excite comment among the miners. He was a lone prospector, not because of his unsocial tendencies, not because he belonged to the so-called bush hermit class, but simply that he thought he could move more freely travelling or working alone. 

Those who knew McLeod spoke of him as a man above the ordinary. They looked to him to set things right at times, “Ask Billy,” they said. His nature, like that of J. V. Mulligan, was generous, his manner was pleasant. Of him men spoke kindly. 

Gympie was the field that induced Billy McLeod to go to Queensland and, as others did, he followed each new rush as it broke out. A pastoral company in the south had such a high opinion of him that they commissioned him to inspect and report to them grazing country favourably looked upon by him as he went northward. 

He had his ups and downs as all prospectors have. A tale is told that once, while his luck was well out, he went to a homestead and asked for work. The station owner who knew him expressed surprise at this and instead of giving him work, gave him packhorses and other needs sending him off with the statement that men could always be had for station work, but explorers and prospectors such as he were not so plentiful. Twelve months later McLeod made a 300 miles journey for the purpose of repaying the loan.

 

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