About Hamilton McMillan (Miner)


McMILLAN, Hamilton J Miner 25/05/1907 Cumberland GM Norseman, W. A. Aust. Decapitated. From the SOUTHERN NEWS. PERTH, May 24.”A shocking fatality occurred at the Cumberland mine, Norseman, yesterday morning, when a miner named Hamilton John McMillan was instantaneously killed under terrible circumstances. It appears that he was going down the main shaft in a skip, with his head hanging out. His body was crushed beyond recognition between the timbering and the edge of the skip.”The Norseman Times P2 28 May 1907 The remains of the late Hamilton John McMillan, who was killed at the Cumberland mine on Thursday morning last, was interred at the local cemetery on Saturday afternoon. The management of the mine had given their employees a day off in order that they might pay their last respects to their departed comrade, and the large majority of the workmen assembled at the graveside. Punctually at 1.30 the hearse left the hospital, followed by the deceased’s sister and her husband, who had journeyed from Coolgardie, and a large number of vehicles, the cortege being preceded by the members of the local branch of the Amalgamated Miners Association. On arrival at the cemetery the sad procession wended it’s way to the Methodist portion of the grounds, where the Rev. E. A. Pearce read an impressive burial service, after which that gentleman said a few very touching and appropriate words in reference to the awfully sudden demise of their departed comrade.Norseman Times P2 28 May 1907 The adjourned enquiry into the late accident in the Cumberland shaft, by which Hamilton John McMillan, a miner, lost his life, was continued today (Tuesday), before L. L. Crockett, Esqr., coroner, and a jury of three, viz., Messrs. Francis R. Crabbe (foreman), William Gibson, and E. M. Christie. James Kerr, said he was a driver working the winder on the Cumber land. Was on shift on Thursday, started at 7 30 a.m. Knocks were given for No. 1 level; got a further signal, and lowered the skip to No. 2 level; then got 3 knocks to lower the skip, and lowered it down to about 30ft past No. 3 level. Signals then came to haul; back to No. 3 level. Raised the skip about 18 inches at the ordinary pace. Felt a check at about 18 inches from the level. The engine was going so slowly that the check was sufficient to stop her. Almost instantaneously 2 knocks were given, to lower. Allowed the skip to drop back 3ft or 4ft. Immediately the accident signal was given, and 6 and 1 knocks came to raise the skip to the surface. Saw the skip leave the surface that morning. Saw one man in it; behind him I thought I saw another man. Did not see his face or notice him getting in. O. Strongman, sworn, said that he was working as braceman on the Cumberland, and started to work at 7.30 a.m. The skip left the surface that morning, 23 inst., at 7.35. There were two men in the skip, R. McLean and McMillan. The signal was given to lower to No. 1 level. I then went into the blacksmith’s shop. I heard signal 2 to lower ; afterwards heard 3 more knocks. Then heard 1 knock ; then accident signal: Saw the deceased brought up with two other men, and assisted to carry him. McMillan–appeared to be dead. It was about 20 minutes to 8 o’clock. Cross examined by the Foreman: Was not aware of any instructions having been given as to men going down in the skip. By Inspector Crabbe : It is not customary to go down in the skip. C. Brearley, sworn, said he was a miner working at the Cumberland, and went to work at 7.30. I walked down the ladder way to No. 2 level, and waited for the skip. When the skip arrived, McMillan and another man were in it. I did not notice anyone leaving the skip. I then got into the skip. Don’t know who knocked to lower; it went down about 30ft past No. 3 level. Saw someone on the level. McMillan called out to them to stop the skip, and it was then, brought back to the plat, the usual landing place. Did not know then who knocked. We were all standing up in the skip when going back to No. 3 level. We saw that McMillan’s head was caught by a piece of timber. He (Brearley) called to S. M. Stevens to knock the skip down. McMillan was standing with his head to the back of the skid, and his head was hanging over the back. Then lifted him into the skip; he appeared to be dead. The accident signal was given, and one to hoist to the surface, which was done. The skip was stopped at No. 1 level; don’t know by whom. When we got to the surface we got the body out. Examined by Inspector Crabbe : Have been working in the mine for two years. Have seen a notice that men should not travel in the skip. By the Foreman: There was no light on the skip. Robert McLean practically corroborated Brearley’s evidence. By the Foreman: No one in particular is deputed to signal ;anyone can knock. There is no difference in the signals between a skip of ore and a skip of men. To Mr. Carr: Have never been ordered not to ride in the skip, but have seen a notice posted to that effect. Samuel Stevens, sworn, said : I am a miner working in the Cumberland, and was working at No. 3 level on the 23rd. Saw the skip passing with three men in it. They called out to me as they passed to stop her. I signalled to stop her. I called out to them that I was bringing the skip back, and it came back in the usual way. I saw McMillan’s head was caught under the plat he was standing up in the skip, and I heard something crack. I then signalled to lower, and afterwards signalled for an accident. (The evidence of this witness agreed with that already given.) By the Inspector : There is no special signal to discriminate between men on skip of ore. For travelling in the skip there are no recognized special signals to which the driver would pay attention. By the Foreman : I gave the signals to lower, and also to hoist without reference to men being in the skip. To Inspector Crabb: I have never received any instructions as to not riding in the skip. James Sutherland, underground manager, said he was working on the Cumberland. Gave McMillan his candle, but did not see him go down. On hearing the accident signal he ran down the ladder way to No. 1 level. I stopped the skip, and got on the bridle and came up. I then went to the office and saw the manager, who sent for the doctor and the police. Have warned the men about riding on the skip, but rarely. P.C McKinley said that on the 23rd he received a message from the Cumberland, and got there at 8.30 a m. Saw the body of McMillan, who was dead. Had the body removed to the morgue, and summoned the jury, who visited and identified the body. They then visited the scene of the accident. G. Dalgieish, the manager, under cross-examination, said that he had repeatedly warned the men about riding in the skip, but they seemed to think there was no danger. The Coroner addressed the jury, and pointed out that the evidence showed very plainly the cause of death, and asked them to give their verdict in accordance with the facts. After a short retirement the Jury delivered the following verdict.:- “That Hamilton John McMillan came to his death on the 23rd inst. at the Cumberland mine by result of an accident at the 300ft level, and therat no blame is attached to anyone.” We further desire to add a rider “That proper precautions be taken by the management to allow men to travel by the skip, and that the full code of signals be recognized.”

 Halbert, James Kalgoorlie miner's memorial wall Written
Hamilton McMillan, James Halbert and Owen Owens’ names appear on the Miner’s Memorial Wall at Kalgoorlie.

About James Lindsay Halbert (Miner)

1909-1937 (right)
Not much is known about James, born 23rd November 1909 in Kundip. No doubt Midwife Mary Ann Love was first to greet him, and no doubt he also attended Kundip school for a time.
His death however did put a ripple through the mining fraternity, his family and friends.

(Western Argus Kalgoorlie, WA Tuesday 11th May 1937)
“Fatal Earth Fall at Youanmi Mine”, Youanmi, May 7.
Another mining tragedy occurred today when James Halbert (26) single, was killed at the Youanmi mine when he was working on the 200-ft. level of the shaft. With his mate, Edward George Brody, he fired out at about 1.30pm, and, on returning at 1.40pm, about half a ton of earth was dislodged and fell on him, killing him almost instantly. Halbert had been employed on the mine since December, 1930.”

(The Sydney Morning Herald Page 7 Sunday.)
After the death of James Halbert, 26 single, who was killed by a fall of earth in the Youanmi Gold Mine, on the Murchison goldfield, on Friday, the men held a stop-work meeting on Saturday the reason for which was not divulged. Meetings were held again today without a decision being reached but it is reported that the A.W.U. district organizer dissociated himself from the matter. The men affected, number 237, and have been idle since 4pm on Friday and there is no sign of a resumption. Essential services are being carried on by the staff.

(The West Australian, Perth, Tuesday 18 May 1937, page 10)
KILLED IN FALL OF EARTH. Inquest on young miner. YOUANMI, May 17 1937.
“A finding of accidental death with no blame attachable to anyone was returned today at an inquest concerning the death of James Lindsay Halbert (26). miner, of Youanmi, who was killed on May 7 by a fall of earth.

The jury added a rider that the stopes in the Pollard shaft workings should not be worked so high and that the mullocking instructions given by the District Inspector of Mines (Mr. G. Matheson) should be rigorously carried out. During the proceedings the jury visited the scene of the accident.

The inquest was held before the District Coroner (Colonel Manebridge), who was assisted by Constable P. T. Johnston. The interests of the mine owner were watched by Mr. Hubert Parker (Instructed by Messrs. Parker and Parker) and Mr. W. Ellard, district organizer for the A.W.U., watched the interests of the relatives of the deceased.”

(This was the second time Hubert Parker had sat across the table at an inquest involving the tragic death of a family member. Ed.)

(Above left: A Change of shift for the Youanmi Miner’s, 4 pm on 29th October 1936. Above right: “A day off”, James centre, both photos courtesy of the Sandstone Historical Society and Visitor’s Centre) Click on the photos to enlarge.

(Westralian Worker, Perth, W.A., Friday 21 May 1937, page 5)
Youanmi Branch Activities—The President (Mr. S. W. Beatty) and secretary (Mr. P. L. Troy) supply the following report of recent activities of the branch at Youanmi:
On Friday, May 7, “Jim” Halbert was killed in No. 2 stope at the Parker Shaft on the Youanmi Gold Mines.
(Parker Shaft….a coincidence? Ed.)
Many months have passed since workers first complained of the very unsafe conditions prevailing underground. Many men, who are experienced miners, have refused to go into places they considered unsafe and less experienced men have been employed and accidents have happened, with the result that many have had to spend months in the local hospital, while many more are away in other places and are still getting around with the aid of crutches, etc. All these accidents could easily have been fatal.
The feeling of antagonism and discontent was gradually becoming worse and worse until it was brought to finality by the lamented fatality mentioned. Men knocked off work and a mass meeting was held at which 225 passed a resolution of no confidence in the underground management.
Evidence of breaches of the Mining Act can be brought forward by dozens of members of our Union. The men remained solid and asked for the removal of the underground Foreman.
The Murchison, District Council of the A.L.P. heard our dispute and decided to support us, this being carried unanimously. They have demanded of the Government a full inquiry into the underground management.

Mr. P. Taaffe, President Mining Division, and J. Pereira, Organiser, from Boulder, visited Youanmi and at a big meeting heard our case. They both said that in the circumstance; they would have done the same thing and congratulated the men on the solidarity of their meeting. The deputation comprising President Taaffe. Organisers Ellard and Pereira, Branch President Beatty and I secretary Troy interviewed the General Manager Fitzgerald and Assistant General Manager Warrick.
The result of the deputation being that foreman Sellin was stripped of all authority, and Warrick to be in full charge of all underground work. A safety committee, which has been approved of by Inspector for Mines Mathieson, consists of Beatty and Doyle for underground, and Troy for surface. This committee, in conjunction with Warrick, will inspect any place which the men consider unsafe and also review any dispute with shift bosses, etc. The men can place the dispute at the committee’s hands any time during the three shifts.

The proposition was accepted by the men by a very small majority, and it was decided to return to work at midnight, Sunday, May 16, under protest only. The feeling still being very hostile to (Foreman) Sellin.
We are further instructed to convey the members’ approval of the way in which Organiser Ellard has shown himself to be a first-class fighter for the welfare of the men. Although not approving of some things we did and advising us accordingly, he realised that life and death circumstances are paramount to breaches of the Arbitration Court.

The President at the close of the meeting conveyed to Ellard the meeting and branch’s appreciation of his work for us in this dispute, and also wished President Taaffe and Organiser Pereira a good trip home to Boulder. President Taaffe said to the members that he was proud of the way in which the dispute was conducted, and paid a tribute to Troy and Beatty and their committee for assistance given.

Since the foregoing was written there has been a further development. On Saturday last, according to press report, when two of the strikers who drew their time found that the management had applied to them a clause in the new industrial award whereby workers suffer the reduction of one day’s holiday pay for each shift missed through their being on strike.

The news that the penalty clause of the award had been applied for the first time since the award was issued spread quickly among the men, and they refused to resume as decided by ballot. When asked to waive the penalty clause, the management proposed that the men return to work and refer their complaint to the Arbitration Court.

Following on that an application has been made to the Arbitration Court by the employers’ representative (Mr. G. F. Gill) for a compulsory conference. The decision of the Court was not available when this edition went to press.

(Westralian Worker, Friday 28 May 1937, page 7)
Youanmi Branch
Writing to the branch secretary (Mr. V. Johnson) regarding the recent industrial dispute at Youanmi the President (S. W. Beatty) and Secretary (P. L. Troy) report as follows, under date May 22:
“Men have resumed work at the Youanmi Gold Mines. Following the receipt of the following telegram a meeting was called:
Boulder. P. Troy, Youanmi: Dispute satisfactorily settled. Men to return to work immediately. Chamber Mines instructing Youanmi Co. similarly. Accrued holiday pay will not be deducted. Holiday clause in award operates as from first May. No victimisation. Sending further information by wireless. Advise when resuming work. P. Taaffe, President; Eileen Long, Act. Secretary.”

The meeting was attended by over 200 and much applause greeted the reading of the telegram, which shows a clear victory for united unionism. Complimentary remarks were passed by several speakers and a vote of appreciation and confidence was passed in the President and Secretary, who, in return, praised the loyal support of their comrades in the dispute and specially mentioned their committee, comprising Messrs. Doyle, McVeigh, Ryan, Hansen, Healy, Bohan, Hosking’s and Miller. The meeting decided that the committee which formed the strike committee and disputes
committee shall still function in the interests of the members in Youanmi.

The whole atmosphere at the mine has been changed, the civility of the staff being commented on by the men. Conditions from now on (thanks to the solidarity of the men) should be what white working men may expect and be entitled to in 1937. Looking back in retrospect it is interesting to learn several important lessons from our recent dispute. The storekeepers, for instance, organised to prevent credit and adopted an attitude to demoralise the men through the old starvation whip. Many workers on pay day paid all they could and then were politely told that all credit was stopped and food only supplied for cash. Fortunately, many of the old school of workers could instil into the workers (which the above tactics had made windy) the fact that we had the loyal support of our comrades in work throughout the whole mining industry and the Mining Executive and they would not see us starve. It had the desired effect and telegrams arriving supported the claim.

The shift bosses, with one or two exceptions, saw several of the weaker elements and said, “You chaps are silly, the mine is closing down. You are being led by extremists; I am with you.”
The self-same shift boss never hesitated to flog the truckers and boggers to get out record tallies. The self-same George Boyd attended the first meeting of the union in connection with the dispute. When challenged by several and the Chairman’s attention drawn to the fact that a shift boss was present, George, before any vote could be taken, stood forward and said he had always been a good unionist and was present as a member of the A.W.U. and not as a shift boss. The chairman asked the meeting should Boyd remain, and it decided on the voices that he could. When the men
decided not to go to work this good unionist returned to work.

Mr. Fitgerald, General Manager, ridiculed our actions and made use of such expressions: “We have done a lot for the men. It is not right to pull pump men out, and the whole thing is very bitter.” “We had nothing like this in the old days.” When Organiser Ellard, Beatty and Troy acted as a deputation on the last occasion he refused to discuss the matter; When asked by Beatty, Troy, Doyle, McVeigh on Thursday to give us a definite undertaking re victimisation, he said, “We do not approve of that and do not do it; but mind you, no funny business.”

The committee have acknowledged with gratefulness the support from the mining centres, particularly Beria, who wired immediately: nineteen pounds, fourteen shillings and eight pence: Then Reedys; twenty-one pounds, twelve shillings and sixpence; Wiluna. first instalment, Ten Pounds; Mt. Magnet, £7/10/-; local efforts (approx.), £20.
It was pleasing to see women comrades assisting us in our fight. These good women, led by Mesdames Smith and Bussula, were responsible for organising card evenings, community concerts, dances, fete. By the results they achieved and by their willingness at all times to co-operate they proved the value of and necessity for a permanent organisation of women workers as a necessary adjunct to the workers’ own fighting organisation the Union.
Telegrams of financial support were received from Boulder Big Bell. Big Bell could not remit cash, caused through circumstances over which they had no control.
The Boulder chaps did not send their lot because they knew the dispute was satisfactorily settled.
The greatest lesson was the wonderful comradeship and loyalty to the unionists in Youanmi from all mining centres, the approval of the Mining Executive, the fighting quality of Organiser Ellard, and another very, important lesson is-United we stand; divided we fall.
Onwards, miners! Join and work for the solidarity of the A.W.U.-the greatest force for good in Australian union circles.
Halbert, J. Peter Pan Mine from Stephen Halbert

(The Peter Pan Mine, Meekatharra, Western Australia, 7 December 1932. J. & A. Halbert & B. Day, Proprietors. Photo Courtesy of Glenys Rivett)

The Life and Times of Gordon Halbert

The Life and Times of Gordon Dudley Halbert – Miner, Surveyor, Assayer, Prospector and Salmon Spotter- by Pamela Bryant. 

Photo Harry Crocker and Gordon Halbert by Reg Morrison.

 Gordon Dudley Halbert nick named “King of Kundip”, “Kangaroo Jack” and “Post Hole Jack” was born on the 17th April 1903, to Rose Anne (nee Keogh, and formerly of Morac Station Mt Gambier, South Australia)  and Albert  Halbert (formerly of Kingower, Victoria). Albert and Rose lived in Coolgardie, in the 1890’s, at a time of extreme growth brought about by the lust for gold. Rose was only the third female to venture there, probably at Albert’s request. My grandmother Dulcie, Ivy, Irene and Albert (Jnr.) were born there between 1896 and 1899. Later Albert (Snr.), my Great Grandfather, nick named “Baldy”, took a road, sea and track journey to Kundip, leaving his young family at Albany for safe keeping. Whilst in Albany Rose had another girl Maud.  Ivy and Irene had died before they left Coolgardie and Maud also died in the year of her birth (1902) in Albany.

The family joined Albert in Kundip in 1902, a trip at that time made possible, by a twice weekly coach service from Hopetoun. Gordon (the sixth born to Albert and Rose) was the first white child born in Kundip and was delivered by a first time mid-wife by the name of Mrs Love. Five more children joined the Halbert clan in that way, they were Ruby, Clara, James, William and Arthur.

Albert (Snr), an ex Victorian and former Jockey accused of pulling races!, knew a little about Alluvial Gold from his childhood days and together with a Mr. Pendergast (an Irishman who had also spent time in the east of Australia) found and claimed an alluvial reward acreage in the area. Others followed and were also successful.

Initially all goods, chattels and equipment were brought up by donkey teams (sometimes 40 to a wagon) or by horse driven teams from the sea port of Hopetoun, a 20 mile trip.

As is often the case the first building in Kundip was a pub!  The second, a school, had to be lobbied for. Gordon was one of the first students at the age five sent to make up the numbers. A Mechanic’s Institute Hall, a bake-house, several “close to the wind” butchers and other stores followed. Daw’s and Lansell’s were the better businesses and remained in business until the finish of the goldfields blush. Lansell’s operated the Bake-house and the Post Office agency, the towns only means of following the ups and downs of the Great War and other matters of note. Bulletins were posted, as they were received, for the locals to view. The quartzite stone, used in the building floor and mined from a gully nearby is all that remains of the Kundip Township. The Elverdton copper mine bought to the area the first decent butcher Dick Nicholls, and soon a twice a week cutting cart service visited Kundip from the mine (Elverdton moved its operation to Kalgoorlie about 1917).

Married men’s houses at Kundip, about 40 of them, were built of gimlet, hessian, galvanized iron and kerosene tins. Single men ingeniously used anything they could lay their hands on.                                                                                                                     

Eventually a railroad was built from Hopetoun to Kundip (and on to Ravensthorpe). Workers on this project were more often than not, of Irish descent and the project seemed to take forever. Most of the work was done by hand with simple tools and wheelbarrows. When the first “iron maiden” sounded its approach to Kundip, it sent the locals children into a “tizz”, scarpering in fear and astonishment.

The first mine was established by roo (kangaroo) shooters, the Dallison brothers (Harry, Tom and Reg), from Albany. They also built the first “rough” store at Kundip.

Gordon use to accompany his dad Albert “Baldy” Halbert to the Alluvial Gold diggings as a child working eight to ten feet down and at 13 started mining at greater depths. In about 1916 he took a job at 6/- a day (a five and a half day week) in the assay office, at Kundip. Charlie Grant (Oral Historian Ronda Jamieson’s great grandfather) was the Assayer and Gordon as his assistant learnt much about chemical analysis, ores, and precious metals. 12 months later, a job earning 10/- a day as a trucker at GEM Consolidated took his eye. This took him 300 feet below ground, driving trucks on rails

and required his attendance for 5, 8 hour days and 7 hours on Saturday. After a while Saturday’s were cut back to 4 hours.

A year or so later he was off to Esperance to join the rail workers. He spent this time around Salmon Gums (60 miles from Esperance) “in the pits” shoveling, earning 4 pounds, 4 shillings for six days a week. Not happy with the Irish bosses and getting the sack for wearing an oilskin in a hailstorm! Gordon walked off carrying his gear and belongings for 20 miles, to a new beginning.

Within 2 weeks he found himself a very good job with a survey team, a job he would return to many times over the coming years. This first stint however lasted 2 and half years covering the areas between Margaret River, Southern Cross and Salmon Gums. He was driving the horses and wagons, and then walking and doing compass work for 15 -20 miles per day, cutting up all the blocks and doing chain work.

Gordon left the south west in the early 20’s to do an “Experting” course in Perth. “Experts” (they look after all the tools in the shearing sheds) where in great demand up north, as the wool industry was at that time in boom. He had always been good with tools, so it was half the year up in the nor’ west on the shearing runs and half the year back on the survey camps. This pattern of life continued for the next 10 years, always interspersed with a bit of mine work or prospecting. He was indeed a traveler, and with travel comes knowledge.

In the years of the depression and pre World War II Gordon spent nearly all of his time working mines. He worked for Claude de Benales at Kundip for a while and entered into a partnership with Stuart Campbell and Mick Lalor taking out the rights for a reserve of Magnesite at Bandalup Creek, 16 and a half miles east of Ravensthorpe. Gordon assessed this Magnesite to be 98% pure (a fact later attested too, in the 1950’s by the Americans who saw it “as one of the purest Magnesite deposits in the world” and by Canterford in 1985 who saw it as “the best of five deposits found in Australia”). It proved too big to manage however, and they later sold out to Norseman Gold Mines for a reputed 80 thousand pounds, not bad pre-war takings. Magnesite is used in the manufacture of fire bricks and these bricks are used in steel smelters. Prior to the war he also discovered Vermiculite (1300 tons of it) a substance which was then used to insulate weapons factories during the war years. 

Immediately after the war The West Australian Government seconded him to search for, survey and peg, deposits of Blacksand from which Thorium is extracted. Thorium was used in the manufacture of the atom bomb. This assignment took 22 months and saw him in and out of mangrove swamps and many dangerous places from the top to the bottom of the Western Australian coast, surviving on whatever the land served up, usually mangrove crabs, fish, oysters, wild turkey and roo.

Perhaps having had enough time on and below terra firma for now, Gordon moved to the air and water, becoming an aerial salmon “spotter” for Hunt’s at Albany, and a sardine fisherman. It wasn’t long however before a yearning for his genuine passion, mining, took hold again, and he returned to the Kundip area to work with Stuart Campbell and later Harry Crocker.

For 4 and a half years in the 1950’s Gordon worked on a Graphite site at the Munglinup deposit. The atom bomb was being worked on in America and the first atom was split using large Graphite blocks. The Americans wanted millions of tons of it and Gordon had the best of, and maybe only, supply of it here. A well known and respected Geologist (Connelly, who used to be in charge of Wiluna) conducted the option for Gordon, but 3 weeks before a deal could be sealed and monies (75 thousand quid’s worth) exchanged, the American’s discovered “heavy water” and Gordon’s dream of another big deal crumbled.

 In the period 1953-58 Munglinup produced 135.1 tons of Graphite.

 Gordon’s personal metal of choice was always Gold and he found much of it over the years, keeping him “hard at it” until near his death in 1990. In 1968, in one week, he yielded 97 ounces from 30 pounds on his eight acres at Kundip!  (Enough to scrape by on, I’d say?) This precious metal saw him through thick and thin and kept him comfortable, it was all in the chase, and never the value of a find. He lived a simple “prospector’s” life, though he must have been a rich man. He thought of gold as “dependable and steady” and he certainly knew where, and how to find it. Security of his “stash” was never high on his agenda however and it was always just lying around wrapped in rags. He was sometimes too trusting of others but was personally a much trusted and honest man.

 The substances I have highlighted were indeed very important finds at the time of their discovery. Gordon’s expert opinion and knowledge of all below ground, and above ground in relation to surveying, was sort far and wide by Locals, Shires, Governments and larger Mining Authorities alike. He has 3 Oral History tapes in the Battye Library OH 337 and 2 numbered OH 575, perhaps this is because he was a person of significance in Western Australian Mining (predominantly the Ravensthorpe Shire) or perhaps because he witnessed and could relate stories of a bygone era.  There are numerous anecdotes of his life and times printed in histories, papers and books. Many more need to be recounted, before the resources are lost.

I did hear it from his own mouth that he did find Uranium for the W.A Government, (whilst contracted to them on another search) many years, before its acknowledged discovery there. Problem was he said “at that time no one knew what to do with it”, so it was “interesting but of no interest!” This information must still be out there somewhere hidden amongst Government Mining Records. Indeed there are writings of his brother’s discovery of it also, but at a much later date. (Albert Jnr, “Stump” for short, found it for Norseman Gold Mines at Elverdton in 1954, using a Geiger counter. This deposit was thought uneconomic but the search did lead to the discovery of Copper ore which in turn led to the formation of Ravensthorpe Copper Mines. “Stump” is credited with erecting the head-frame at the Mt Cattlin Mine.) Unfortunately I cannot remember when and where Gordon came upon the Uranium, as it was of no interest to me either, but I believed him to be talking about “pre” W.W.11 times.

Some of the mines Gordon worked on were: The Two Boys, Elverdton, Gem, Western Gem, Gem Restored, Omaha, Beryl, Harbour View, Last Chance and Jim Dun There would be many others but it is difficult for me to track down such details from Melbourne.

Gordon donated his traveling camp to the Ravensthorpe Historical Society and it is displayed in its Tourist Bureau and History display rooms at Ravensthorpe. It is imperative that this display is protected and maintained for posterity. There are also photos, transcripts and other items of memorabilia there. A memorial stone and plaque was placed in the old Hopetoun Cemetery by friends Bill and Margaret Pike at the behest of Gordon’s step-daughter Heather.  

There were several fantasies expounded as to where his ashes came to rest. They were strewn from a plane over Kundip; they are in his old mine etc. But the truth is that they lie at the foot of an old fig tree near the place of his birth; it’s a place that in Kundip’s heyday was referred to as “Halbert’s Orchard”. Bill and Marg. Pike along with other friends and acquaintances gathered there with Anglican priest Ross Jones to share the moment in memoriam and farewell a true and honest old timer. A man known and respected for the way he lived his life, as a prospector, his knowledge of the land and his humorous recants. Gordon loved to lean against a tree (according to Alice Rose) and I have no doubt that is indeed where he is. It is a fitting end to a wonderful life.

 You can read more about Gordon HERE

Anecdotes by the man himself:

“You remember that old Frank Marchant? Well he had a couple of horses and a dray and he would just start them off and away they’d go to the Smelter on their own. On their own they’d go. If it was a hot day or anything like that they’d just stop and have a spell, and they’d on again, no one with them. I’ve seen them on their own….sometimes I’d see them stopped and I’d wonder what the dickens was wrong, and all of a sudden, off they’d go… He had two teams, old Frank, and he’d traveled with one and the other would be about a mile behind him probably and they’d be coming on… and he was good, he was a good horseman.”

“In school holidays, we used to knock around the old mines, or sneak into gardens to see if we could get hold of something. Sometimes we’d have to rush down old mines to save getting caught. I remember we got down one once and the old bloke didn’t take any notice of us. He’d seen where we went and he knew we’d come up sooner or later, and he waited. The first bloke that got up very quietly to look around and see if the coast was clear got knocked straight back down again by him wielding a big branch. We had to wait till about eight or nine o’clock at night before we were game enough to get out and go home.”

“There were often brawls and the like outside the pub on Saturday nights. One incident caused a bit of a stir, no one was hurt, but it did empty the pub. A fellow was there on a very cold night and they had this big stove going behind the bar, in the tap room they used to call them, big stove there and everyone came in there to get warm. This fellow couldn’t get in. He used to have a favourite place there were he used to get his grog and he’d just sit there and keep warm.

Someone else sat in his place!, and he went in and said ‘Now that’s my place your sitting in you know. The bloke said ‘It’s a free country, I think you can sit anywhere so long as you pay for your grog’. So he didn’t say anything. He went out and got down to his camp and got his detonators and his fuse and he got the paper off the gelignite and put it around a cake of soap and made a plug hole.

He returned to the pub, lit the fuse and dropped it behind the bloke in his chair. There were about 20 in the tap room at the time and the bar owner seen it (he went straight through the other side and out through the window) then everyone one saw this thing fizzling and they didn’t wait to see if it was dynamite or not.  Another bloke jumped straight through the window and he landed flat on his belly in the bar, he stayed there waiting for this thing to go off.

Someone knocked over the stove and the pub caught fire. The perpetrator put out the fire with a bit of water and then he sat in his usual seat in the tap room. When they all come back, a little at a time, looking around the corner, they saw him in his usual place having a warm. That’s one way of getting a warm, eh?”

Gordon recalls the day the railway opened at Kundip.

“You could hear this rattling locomotive coming for miles, and everyone was ready for this big day down at the pub. The pub was just across the creek from where the train stopped, where the end of the line was. Just before she was going to pull up the driver pulled the string on the whistle.  It made a terrific screech; you’d think someone was getting killed in the bush. All the kids took to the scrub. There were three kids who had to be dragged out by their back legs from under the pub floor. The pub floor was on stilts, three feet off the ground because we had very wet seasons then.”

Gordon explains his fathers expertise in dentistry.

Baldy worked for a period in New Zealand, in the shearing industry, and in the process he learned to pull teeth. This ability had its uses. One day a miner called “Old Jack”, jumped his claim at Kundip, but a rattle of the tin dish soon got rid of him. Baldy got his own back some time later when Old Jack came to him with a bad toothache. (Gordon made a very good story of this episode in a paper he delivered to the Ravensthorpe Historical Society in April 1971.)

Anecdote by Cliff Belli and his sister Alice Rose, as related.

“One day when Gordon and his brother, nick named “stump” were kids; they put a half plug of dynamite into their dad’s wood heap. You know, just to see what would happen as kids do. Well, it blew the wood heap sky high and in fear of what their father may deem appropriate punishment they took off like scared rabbits and just kept going, and going, and going . It is believed they were missing for three days. But their absence did not soften their dad’s heart and they still copped a whacking!”

 Anecdote by Dennis Walker:

“We (Our family) arrived in Ravensthorpe in May 1969 and although I was a builder by trade I had some experience at prospecting in various parts of Victoria New South Wales and South Australia. On arrival, Gordon along with The Wehr Brothers, Hans and Vanner (Werner) were some of the first people I sought to meet. (All Prospectors) Gordon at the time was working together with Harry Crocker their little operation at Kundip on “The Western Gem”, I spent some time prospecting around the area and also used to drop in on Gordon and Harry , go underground with them and have a cuppa at crib time.

During the first three or four months I did a general reconnaissance all over the district and I discovered nickel just a few kilometers out of town which I decided to peg, I invited a friend from Victoria to join in with me as a junior partner to assist in the job of pegging and to share the cost of eight three hundred acre mineral claims.

The sale of the mining rights of this prospect enabled me to continue prospecting and after another three successful lots of pegging I decided to open a gold prospect at Kundip and although at the time the price of gold was a very low $38/40 an ounce I still went ahead and put down a couple of shafts, One of my sons, Garry helped, The first, a round shaft of about a meter in diameter was south of the old “Gem Restored”, to a depth of about 20m, but only got traces of gold . The second shaft was an old pre war pit of about 4/5 meters, we sunk this to 20 meters, and this had a good showing of gold and enabled us to take a crushing to Norseman State Battery for treatment.

During all this time Gordon and Harry and Garry and myself used to see a lot of “How it was going” sort of thing at each other’s workings.

Garry and I had an electric hoist, underground lights, electric ventilation fan and of course a good diesel air compressor, and as well I had a Kango Electric Hammer/drill, all of this really impressed Gordon and Harry.

They at the time depended on “Carbide lamps”, Hand hammer and Tap” for drilling explosive holes and an old hand winch for hauling their ore.

Garry and I always called into see Gordon after work as his mate Harry run the Hopetoun to Ravensthorpe school bus and therefore left Gordon by himself from about 2.15 every afternoon to return the children to Hopetoun. In consequence of this we always dropped in to make sure Gordon was ok. One afternoon we wound our way from our shaft through the very thick Banksia track to Gordon’s shaft, we noticed a lot of smoke issuing from the shaft, we thought that Gordon had just fired but couldn’t see him around, Garry and I approached the shaft and Gordon then appeared with his carbide lamp and water bottle, he didn’t clear shaft and as 4or 5 charges went off blasting rock and dust skywards which literally lifted Gordon clear off his old mallee ladder. (He had just put his gear on staging)

In amazement I said,” Gee Gordon you cut those fuses a bit short didn’t you”, he replied, “You can’t waste it, you know, it’s pretty expensive nowadays!!

About this time we offered to show Gordon and Harry the “Modcons” of our mining, Garry and I parked our Inter four wheel drive alongside their shaft and dropped a power lead down from my Petter Diesel generator in the utility and then lowered the Kango Hammer drill, we drilled five or six four foot holes in the face in about one and a half hours, this was very impressive to Gordon and Harry. They sometimes only were able to drill one or at the most two each day.

Sometime later Gordon and Harry purchased a Kango Electric Hammer and petrol driven generator, both second-hand but still worked well.

 We kept in touch and there would be more such items as these recorded in my daily diaries.”

 References used:

Battye, J.S (Library)

Beach, Hilda Alice (Partner)

Belli, Cliff (Friend)

Challis, Heather (Partner’s daughter)

Cox, Roy (Friend)

Goldfinch, Richenda (Author) 

Halbert, Gordon (Oral History Tapes and transcripts of presentations)

Jamieson, Ronda (Recorder of Oral History)

King, Bunty and Marg. (Friends)

Kundip 1901-2001 (A Publication by Richenda Goldfinch)

Morrison, Reg (Photographer)

Pike, W (Bill) and Marg. (Friends and Carers) Hopetoun

Quartermaine, M.K. (Keith) (Mining Historian)

Ravensthorpe 1901-2001 (A Publication by the Ravensthorpe Historical Society)

Ravensthorpe Historical Society and Museum.

Rose, Alice (Friend) Perth 

Tink, Edith (Ravensthorpe Historical Society)

Walker, Dennis (Acquaintance)

Walker, Rob (Acquaintance) 

Weyland, John (Journalist)

Last Letters from the Jones’ in the UK.

Transcript of a letter from Mr & Mrs Jones of Birmingham 3rd November 1853

My Dear Daughter and son in law Mr and Mrs Perrin

It is with the utmost pleasure I am enabled to answer your kind letter of the 6th of August we received your letter on Saturday the 29th of October, and was exciting (exceeding) happy to hear you were both well at that time, your father thank god is quite well, as for myself I am thanks be to God much better than I was when I answered your first letter from Melbourn, and it is our intention by the help of God, and your kind assistance, for we can do nothing towards Paying our passage, we have some money but we want to buy some things and also many comforts which we shall want in the ship as you was so kind as to say we might procure with our own money and I also hope not to be penniless when we arrive in Melbourn.

My dear I suppose you had not received the answer I sent you to the first letter you wrote after you arrived in Melbourn, your father will put the money right with Mark as fast as we can after we arrive in your town and we feel much obliqued very much indeed for your father won’t like to get more (than he does?) while he is able that he may not have to work all the days of his life for (?) he ought to have according to his knowledge of work, but as to me my work will be but little. Perhaps I can nurse the babe a bit or do something to help, may the god of heaven grant us a safe voyage over the seas that we may enjoy the company of each other in this life as long as god sees fit.

Your brother and sister and the dear little children a dear girl they have 5 weeks old (a fat?) and beautiful infant that you ever saw, we will endeavour to bring what comforts we for you and ourselves, my dear if we have all got good luck you may not be surprised to see your brother and his family sometime if he should leave where he is, but it’s uncertain.

Mr Harper in Benacre St sent his son to know if I had heard of you and how you are getting on he desired best respects to you and he would come and help you but he have plenty of children and no money therefore I think he had better stop at home as he is still working at (Briggs?)

Your uncle and aunt they are preparing a great stock of cloths

Mrs (?) .desire respects to you and glad to hear.

You Uncle’s ship is the “Marion Moon”, Captain Tweedy, they will sail the 15th of this month

……….on hole will be all on fire as soon as they know of our going and we must start by the light of it. God bless you both from your loving Father and Mother Mr & Mrs Jones.

Transcript of a letter from Mr & Mrs Jones of Birmingham 2nd July 1855

Dear Daughter and Son in law

We received your long looked for letter on 22nd of May. We was glad once more to hear from you for we had quite given you up I knew you was alive a little while ago. Some of your Uncles friends had a letter from him and they made mention of you, they told us you had another baby and then we thought you had entirely cast us off as you did not write or authorise them to say anything, but thank God you still remember us, we are very sorry you have not met with better luck not on our account for it would have been next to impossible for Mother to think of ever getting there alive, we are too old both of us to do much good at immigration. We think Old England with all her faults is better still. You told us of the heat you had to endure and how old you looked and with all the scarcity of work and high price of provisions, not very encouraging account to draw others out there at any rate but thank God we are at present very well provided for, all we want is to see you back again but I suppose you must stop your 4 years.

Whether you are able to keep money enough to bring you back or no, your father has the Holloways Place and the Cottage and all so he is doing pretty well, the letter quite revived mother she is pretty well in health but she can see very little They was both very glad to hear from you I hope you will send oftener in future whether you are prosperous or not never mind that,  it’s Hoped Mark was successful in finding those fellows you spoke of, I suppose he had a long journey to seek them, and also that they had some money when they were found. Putting them to prison will not restore your money you must through them upon the Parish if there is one. We received the present the gold and the hair off our Grandson God bless him. We hope he will have his health and come back to the fatherland  Give him lots of kisses from us both, hoping this may find you both in health and prosperity as thank God it leaves us quite as well as we can expect at our time of life. We now conclude with our best love to you all, your loving Father and Mother Mr and Mrs (or W and M) Jones.

Dear Sister and Brother

I felt very glad to receive your letter I was very anxious to hear from you myself but more so on mothers account for she done nothing but fret about you continuously. I hope this will find you in health as thank god it leaves us all at present. We have 4 children now 1 boy and 3 girls. We are living at Erdington so I have got 3 miles to walk to work every morning but it is very healthy and we have got a large garden and a very nice house out there. I saw Mark’s sister she was glad to hear from you she is in service somewhere by the five ways. She desired to be remembered to you both. I am very sorry you did not continue so fortunate as you did at first that is a bad job having those 2 children left with you as food is so dear. Things is very dear here on account of the war but there is a great many going for soldiers , none of us knew anything of war before and I hope ,please God, it will soon come to an end but I fear not the news is more favourable now, you see the accounts in the papers there I never received but one paper from you only with the letters we had the two with this last letter we will send you one with this when you write again Please to give one all the information you can. I thank you for all you sent before.

(Turn over the next sheet, made a mistake, read it backwards and forwards you will find it out)

(We have had very cold weather ever since the middle of January it is as cold as Christmas now and colder too.)

Things is dearer according then the wages but with so many coming out what can one do. The walls are stuck up with vessels coming out as much as ever, when you write again tell us how much you paid for the letter you sent last and also what you had to pay for this. I now conclude with all our love and best wishes your affectionate Brother and Sister, John and (?) Dadge. Direct for me at the Benson’s Bull St, Birmingham, England




George Henry Perrin, son of Mark and Mary Anne Perrin tried desperately to re-connect with the Perrin’s and Jones’ of Birmingham, following the death of his mother in 1885.

Letter from Geo to PO Birmingham 1 Feb 1885

He also advertised in the UK Salvation Army War Cry Journals of the day and penned letters to Mary Anne’s Brother and Father, which were returned.

George received this letter, below from the Birmingham Post Office.

PO fr