The Prospectors Who Missed
Since way back in 1864, when explorer Charles Cooke Hunt, threading his way from rock hole to rock hole across parched country, passed within the proverbial hair’s breadth of the spot where Bayley and Ford 28 years later made their discoveries which were to set the mining world agog, there have been many instances in Western Australian mining history of bonanzas that have been passed over by explorers and unlucky prospectors and of fortunes that have been narrowly missed through a variety of circumstances.
Fate has played some strange tricks in the gold-searching game. It is the glorious uncertainty, the fortune that is always thought to be awaiting the next stroke of the pick that has fascinated men throughout the ages, enticing them to brave hardship and death in a search for the elusive metal. What to one man has looked merely a worthless quartz outcrop has to another been a storehouse of wealth, and thousands of boots have trodden ground which later yielded wonderful slugs.
Early in 1894 a party passed within a stone’s throw of the spot, 12 miles south of Coolgardie, which all the world was to know a little later as the Londonderry, without seeing a sign of gold.
It was left to John Mills, Huxley, and their four mates to knock the precious metal from the reef, more than £30,000 being dollied by them within a few weeks. The story is told that Mills, a native of Londonderry, not long over from New South Wales, lay down to have a smoke one evening, a bold outcrop at his feet. Imagine his feelings when he found the outcrop contained gold in abundance. But Mills was not excited. After supper he told his mates he had something to show them, and leaving the camp he returned with his hands full of specimens. They worked day and night getting out the gold by the lost primitive methods, and had about 8,000oz before Coolgardie knew of their discovery.