1865 - 1896







Arthur Wellesley Bayley



There seems to be some confusion about where Arthur Bayley was born as we have found sources that say he was born at Loddon River in Victoria, Charters Towers in Queensland and yet another says he was born at Newbridge, Victoria on 28 March 1865. We believe that the last place and date may be the correct one. His father was a butcher named John Francis Grunidge Bayley and his mother's name was Rosanna (nee Williams).


Aged only 16, Bayley went prospecting in Queensland at various places including Charters Towers, Hughenden, Normanton and Palmer River, he met William Ford on the Croydon goldfield. Bayley was involved in a fight with a much bigger man but he managed to win and Ford who was one of the onlookers was impressed with the younger man's courage and skill. They struck up a friendship but did not prospect together at this stage.


From here Bayley returned to Victoria but when the news of gold strikes in W.A. reached him he set off for Perth in 1887.


He stared off working in Southern Cross and while working there Gilles A. McPherson staggered into Bayley's camp after almost 'doing a perish'. Bayley looked after the old digger who told him about a find he had made further east but also about the bad conditions and lack of water. Bayley was not in a position to follow up the tip but kept the information in mind for later.


Bayley then went to Greenbushes (another source says Nullagine). A partnership with another prospector led to a gold find at Top Camp on Ashburton goldfield where he met Tom Kegney and found a 68 oz nugget. Next he heard of a find at Nickol River where the field was located on tidal flats.


While he was in this area Barnes, Lorden and Trevethan found gold south of Roebourne, calling the claim 'Keep it Dark'. They did not peg the claim before going to town and spending up on new equipment. As they had taken the long way round to get to town they felt confident that no one would be able to follow their track back to the gold find. Imagine their shock on heading back to the find to meet Arthur Bayley coming into town after following their track and finding their claim.


Bayley, being a 'true prospector' was a decent and honest man. On finding the site he saw that it was being worked and had pegged out claims on behalf of the men (who had neglected to do so) and had pegged one claim for himself as a 'reward' for his honesty.


After returning to Victoria for a holiday, Bayley came back to Perth in 1892 and went back out to Southern Cross where he met Ford again and the two decided to try their luck. They set out for the Yilgarn fields but their horses died from eating poison bush and they had to make their way back to Toodyay (one source says Southern Cross) on foot. Undaunted they re-equipped and set out again.


Note: The story at this stage seems to be a bit confused but an early source (first published in 1948) does not mention Bayley returning to Victoria or the horses being poisoned but instead says that when Bayley met Ford at Southern Cross the two made money by betting on Bayley's abilities as a fast sprinter. They took bets on a foot race against a local champion sprinter. Bayley won the race and the two men collected a good sum of 'shinplasters' (1) in winnings.


Bayley told Ford about McPherson's tip and they decided to find McPherson who was at that time on a find about 300 miles north east of Geraldton. Bayley, Taylor and Harris went to find McPherson at Nannine which they did and also got onto some good gold at the same time. While working this area one source says that William Douglas attempted to 'jump' Bayley's claim but when Bayley returned, he sent Douglas packing with only a water bag and a horse. Little did Bayley know that Douglas had hidden his ill gotten gains inside the water bag.


After he had collected as much gold as he could Bayley sent word to Ford, who was still at Southern Cross, and the two men arranged to meet in Perth to discuss the next prospecting trip.


The two men waited for the rains to come to Southern Cross and while they waited they tried (unsuccessfully) to find gold at Ularring. Bayley found gold further south at a place he later claimed was Black Flag but lack of water forced them to return to Gnarlbine Soak. As they reached the soak the rains arrived, so they decided to go back north east to the spot they had found gold.


As they passed over a place later called Fly Flat, Bayley spotted a small nugget of gold and the two men specked the area finding 250 oz in a very short time. In a few days they had found a fortune. When their supplies ran out they had to return to Southern Cross where they decided not to say anything about the find, quickly re-supply and get back to the gold.


They were spotted leaving town by a 'new chum' by the name of Tommy Talbot. Talbot and his mates (Harry Baker and Dick Fosser) followed Bayley and Ford back to their find and started looking around. Talbot soon found gold but while he was talking to Bayley, Ford, un-noticed, quickly moved one of the posts on his claim to include the area Talbot had found gold in. Again the story diverges here with one version saying that an argument ensued during which Ford pulled a gun and forced Talbot and his mates off the find. The second version says that although Ford altered their claim by moving a post, Talbot had neglected to peg a claim at all and so was forced to accept the law of the goldfields. Talbot and his mates did peg a claim south of Bayley's but in the end sold out for the very small sum of 800 pounds. There is some suggestion that they were cheated in this transaction by a fourth partner who was in league with those who purchased the claim.


Bayley rode the 120 miles west into Southern Cross on 17th September 1892 and deposited 554 ounces of gold with the Mining Warden. On the way he met a party of prospectors at Gnarlbine Soak and with the intent of putting them on to the new field asked if they had a map. He was rudely rebuffed and so told them nothing.


Within hours of the news leaking out, a frenzied rush to the town now known as Coolgardie had begun and with it, one of the greatest movements of people in Australia's history.


Six months after Bayley's find there were thousands of people living in tents on the Goldfields and Western Australia's population had increased by about 400%. They arrived by bicycle, dray, horse or carrying their loads on their back, all intent on striking it rich.


It is said that when Bayley and Ford first arrived at Fly Flat they discovered a claim had already been pegged with the number 1888 on a piece of tin attached to one of the posts and it is believed the name attached to the claim was Ansden on behalf of Scott. Two skeletons were found in a nearby gully where they had been speared by Aborigines.


Bayley and Ford left the area as rich men after selling Bayley's Reward and Bayley's South. Bayley didn't long enjoy his wealth. He married and purchased a property at Avenel in Victoria but died from hepatitis in 1896 at the age of 27 (another source says 31 and based on the birth and death dates we have found this appears to be correct). Ford did much better living until 80. Talbot made a fortune not from gold but from property and died in Perth in 1952.


The following is from the West Australian Newspaper from an interview with bayley in 1894: Original article.


"I first met Ford at Croydon, and four years ago accidentally chanced on him in Southern Cross. He remained at the Cross while I went up as far as Roebourne. I was not the first at Nannine. The pioneers were McPherson and Peterkin, who were there four or five weeks before I arrived; and in spite of this, the West Australian Government gave the reward to another man. This fellow had accidentally left the colony but hearing of the reward he returned from New South Wales to Perth, and with the assistance of a member of Parliament he got the reward, on the ground that he found gold on the Murchison 12 months before. McPherson and Peterkin and our party worked the field four months before reporting it. After selling our gold I separated from Taylor, and again met Ford at Perth. We joined there, and proceeded to Mount Kenneth, about 250 miles N.E. of Perth. Having arrived there, we lost our horses through poison, and had to walk back to Newcastle. The farmers and others on the way enjoyed themselves considerably at our expense. We got to Newcastle at last bought a fresh turn-out, and started for the Marring country, where some little gold had been got by a man named Speakman. But the place was poor, and we found the fellows rushing back. We put in a couple of months knocking about the country, but did no good. About June, 1892, we got to Southern Cross, where we obtained enough stores to last seven or eight weeks. I must say we were getting pretty full of it about this time. Still we decided to start again; we struck out about 14 miles north of Hunt's track, which we knew nothing about at the time, not having a map of the country. However, we struck the track (which was very indistinct; it was marked 30 years ago) after going 30 or 40 miles, and we also found that David Lindsay and his camels had been along a part of it. We soon lost Lindsay's tracks, and after getting close to Coolgardie, we turned back for want of water, and made for the Gnarlbine Rock, where we stayed for two days. When the time was up, we struck out North-east for some country we had seen before, and which we wanted to prospect again. But we never got there. The country from Gnarlbine we found very boggy, and we could not do more than twelve miles a day. Presently we struck a native well — Coolgardie — about half a mile from where we afterwards got the first gold. This was about the third or fourth week after we left Southern Cross. The native well of which I speak is just a hole in the rock, and will hold 700 or 800 gallons of water when full. As soon as we saw the country we decided to put in a few weeks prospecting it. The place was covered with grass, and we let the horses out to graze while we went 'specking’ across the flats before breakfast. The first find was made by Ford, who picked up a half-ounce nugget at a place which he called Fly Flat. Later on we got a 7-ounce piece at the same place. After that we started picking up the gold all the time, getting about 200oz. in five or six weeks."


"After another two days we had collected another lot of gold amounting to 528oz. I conveyed that to Southern Cross, and a fortnight after returning to the field had to make another trip there, escorting 642oz. All we found was right on the surface, and all we did was to knock the stuff out and dolly it with pestle and mortar. There were 6cwt of tailings left. After the gold referred to had been extracted from the quantity of stuff, we obtained a further amount of 278oz. Prices ranged from 8 18s. 6d. to 3 19s. 6d. We got a little over 2,000oz. of gold altogether out of the claim. We only had a five-acre lease of the reward claim. We sold the latter to Sylvester Browne. The lease was jumped but we won the case. Mr. Browne paid 6000 but we retained an interest of one-sixth. My mate (Ford) and I hold 4,000 shares between us. I am certain there is a tremendous future before the mine."




1865 - Born at Newbridge in Victoria on March 28th.

1875 - Went to Rupanyup State School until 1882.

1883 - Prospecting in Queensland with is brother Tom.

1887 - Prospecting in Western Australia around Southern Cross.

1889 - Prospecting at Nullagine and Roebourne. Discovered gold and returned to Perth.

1890 - Prospecting on the Murchison gold field with a man named Taylor. Discovered gold again.

1892 - Bayley and Ford find gold at what would become Coolgardie.

1893 - Bayley and Ford sold their claim to Sylvester Browne for 6000.

1893 - Bayley married Catherine Fagan in Albany on May 24th.

1894 - Returned to Victoria and bought a farm at Avenel.

1896 - Bayley died on October 29th from hepatitis and haematemesis.


It is somewhat strange that Bayley's wife did not go to Victoria with him and Balyley left the bulk of his estate (valued at 28,831) to his brother Tom.


We have read differing accounts of the amount Bayley and Ford received when they sold their claims at Coolgardie. Some sources quote 24,000 and 40,000 for their claims.


(1) - SHINPLASTERS - Shinplasters were orders for varying amounts issued by mining companies instead of cash. They were used when legal currency became scarce and although they had no legal standing, some miners even preferred them to cash.


Links to more information:


Arthur Wellesley Bayley Early Pioneer of Avenel

Obituary, Bayley, Arthur Wellesley (1865-1896)

Bayley, Arthur Wellesley (1865–1896)

Arthur Wellesley Bayley




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