Kalgoorlie is located in the the world's largest electorate which goes all the way north to Newman.
Boulder, which lies 5km south of Kalgoorlie, is now incorporated into the main settlement and it is administered as one entity.
Boulder was originally surveyed in 1896 and within a few years there were no fewer than 34 hotels servicing the population.
Mining has always been a tough game and miners have always worked and played hard. The town has been known both for the number of hotels and the number of brothels
catering to the miners needs. Currently gold production is about 70 % of Australia's total output.
The town owed (and still owes) much of its continued success to C.Y. O'Connor whose skill saw the construction of a water pipeline from Mundaring (in the
hills near Perth) to the goldfields.
It took us a long time to get to see Kalgoorlie but in the end it was worth waiting for. A surprisingly modern town as far as shopping and facilities are
concerned, Kalgoorlie still retains much of its mining days charm. There is plenty to see and do around the area including Hannan's North tourist mine which
will give you a good insight into what underground mining is like.
An early bard penned about Boulder:
Dusty, dirty, dim and dowdy,
Thirsty throats to mock.
Can't mistake her,
Good drought slaker,
Six pubs to the bloomin' acre,
That's the Boulder Block. "
Many prospectors had a rough time and most who arrived in W.A. with dreams of striking it rich, were to leave with less than the came with. Another disgruntled anonymous prospector wrote:
Land of politicians silly
Land of dust and willy willy
Land of blanket tent and billy
Land of dingos, dagoes, flies
Blighted hopes and blighted eyes
Art thou hell in Earth's disguise?
I could some stories of thee tell
What matter now, to thee farewell
Thou dirty sunburned land of hell
In April 2010, Kalgoorlie was rocked by a magnitude 5.0 earthquake. It damaged buildings, caused some streets to be evacuated and temporarily stopped
work at the Super Pit.
The name Kalgoorlie has several possible origins. It may be derived from an Aboriginal word, galgurli or karlkurla, meaning silky pear or may mean
'dog chasing kangaroo'. It could also mean three lines shaped like a fork 'Y" or even may have originated from the Aboriginal word kalgoorliegunyah
that is said to mean 'water from trees at the meeting of tracks'.
Boulder got its name from George Brookman who named his mining lease The Great Boulder after a small mine he had worked at Dashwood's Gully in South
The first explorer through the area was H.M. Lefroy
in 1863 and a later expedition in 1868 also failed to detect the riches which lay just below, and
sometimes on, the surface. Gold was discovered in 1893 by Paddy Hannan.
(One version of the story says that it was due to a thrown horse shoe which
forced the party to camp overnight 20km short of their intended destination but this version has not been supported by interviews conducted later
with Hannan and Flannagan.
) They discovered several good nuggets and soon other discoveries were made in the area now known as 'The Golden Mile'.
A huge gold rush ensued but the main problems were the isolation and the lack of water in the area. At one point water was costing more than the gold
that the miners sought. Some mines sank shafts below 200 feet and found not gold but water. This turned out to be a good thing as water was so scarce
that one mine regularly sold 25,000 gallons of water per day.
Another precious commodity was fire wood as it took 1 ton of wood to extract every 2 tons of ore. Woodcutting was (after mining) the second most
important occupation on the goldfields.
Two strikes by woodcutters in 1908 and 1916 brought the mines to a close for some time. The woodcutters were asking for an increase of 3p per ton and
when 3000 miners had been out of work for nearly 3 weeks, the mines gave in and the woodcutters got their increase.
While it was Hannan who discovered the alluvial gold, it was George Brookman (who arrived quite late on the field) who discovered the greatest
concentration of gold.
W.G. Brookman and his partner S.W. Pearce were dismissed by other miners as inexperienced 'new chums'. They came from South Australia, sent over by a
syndicate of 10 people to search for gold on the new fields.
According to the 'old hands' they were looking in all the wrong places, places where there was lots of iron stone, when everyone knew that quartz was
the 'mother of gold'. Pearce stated that within half an hour of first looking for gold he managed to locate some small nuggets but the men were looking
for something more substantial. They re-located their campsite to an area that had by that stage been un-touched. In Pearce's words there were 'big blows
of iron' and he found 'a big north and south formation of quartzine and iron, enclosed in diorite walls and gold showing freely in every stone broken
or picked up.' The men were almost in the middle of what today is known as the 'Golden Mile' and their find was to become the Ivanhoe Mine.
Brookman brought out crushed ore that to the naked eye showed little or no sign of gold, but when assayed it was found to have 8oz to the ton.
Despite making enough to retire comfortably on, Sam Pearce was to follow the trail of gold for the rest of his life. He was never again to find the
kind of ground he discovered at Kalgoorlie. At the age of 80 he was still living in a tent working a small lease in South Australia. He died in the
Adelaide hospital in 1932.
Despite Pearce and Brookman's discovery of the major gold producing area in Kalgoorlie, it was Hannan that was to be remembered with a statue in the town.
Despite the hardships suffered by the miners, theft was quite rare on the goldfields. Each miner was in the same position and the property of other miners
was generally respected.
If there was a theft it was usually someone passing through and when the miners held an impromptu inquiry the culprit was usually uncovered. Summary
justice then took place with small thefts resulting in the loss of an ear lobe and larger thefts like the taking of gold, resulted in the loss of an ear.
Thus marked, the offender would be unlikely to repeat the offence and they were quickly driven off the goldfields.
Alexander MacDonald (a Scottish writer) wrote in his book 'In Search of El Dorado':
"When my party stepped from the train at Kalgoorlie, we saw before us a scattered array of wooden and galvanised iron houses...In the near distance
we could see the towering poppet heads of the widely known Great Boulder mine, and the din created by the revolving hammers of the ever active stamping
machinery assailed our ears as an indescribable uproar. But beyond the dust and smoke of these Nature-combating engines of civilisation, the open desert,
dotted with its stunted mulga and mallee growths, shimmered back into the horizon."
At its height it is believed that Kalgoorlie reached a population of 30,000 people who were entertained in no less than 93 pubs which were supplied by
Mining has always been a dangerous occupation and not just because of rock falls, dangerous gases, explosives and accidents with machinery. In 1925
Silicosis was finally recognised as a condition caused by the dust inhaled by miners. A Workers Compensation act was proclaimed in parliament and miners
affected were no longer made to work underground.
Lung damage from the dust (especially from quartz) led to other complaints like tuberculosis. As T.B. is infectious it readily spread from one miner
to the next.
The First World War saw mining decline in Kalgoorlie and by the 1920s the costs associated with extracting gold were steadily rising. Mines across the
goldfields were closing and even the big mines were processing much less ore.
As bad as it was, Kalgoorlie was far better off than other Australian goldfields and by the end of the 1920s it was still producing 80% of all Australia's gold.
When the Wall Street crash triggered the Great Depression of the 1930s, Kalgoorlie was one of the few places that benefited. The gold price soared and
Kalgoorlie flourished while the rest of the world floundered.
In 1931 the Golden Eagle, a nugget weighing 70 pounds, was discovered and seemed to hail the success of Kalgoorlie even in the midst of a world wide recession.
Tension between miners of English background and those of Italian and Yugoslav origins boiled over in 1934 after a young man named Jordan was killed after
an altercation with an Italian barman named Claudio Mattaboni. A full blown riot started and many businesses and homes were looted or destroyed. At least
two deaths were said to have occurred during the troubles.
The Second World War saw another slump in mining as miners enlisted and went overseas to fight. Some returned after the war but the heart seemed to have gone
out of the area and a slow and steady decline was to follow.
Worse followed in the 1950s with the Korean War triggering high inflation and the cost of mining became almost prohibitive.
By the 1970s most mines had closed down and the few that remained open were re-working old ground. At the same time nickel was in demand and miners were moving
away to mines at Kambalda.
In 1973 the last two surviving mines merged and though the price of gold rose in 1974, inflation kept mining costs high. By 1975 it looked as though the
goldfields were finished. The gold subsidy (of 1954) had been abolished and hundreds of miners had been laid off.
The Australian Newspaper reported on September 6th 1976: 'Kalgoorlie died, aged 83, last week...' It seems as though reports of her death were grossly exaggerated.
Then when it looked as though all was lost, an investment of $8 million and the creation of the Kalgoorlie Mining Associates (March 1976) breathed new life into the area.
Fate it seemed, was against the deal and the gold price continued to fall. Just when the last mine was about to close the Australian dollar was devalued and the gold
price soared by $22 an ounce.
By 1980 gold was at record values and even the low grade ore from Mt. Charlotte (the last surviving mine) was returning a profit and shareholders got a dividend for
the first time in 11 years. The Golden Mile (actually an area 4 kilometres long, 1.2 kilometres wide and 1.5 kilometres deep) was re-born.
It was about this time that Alan Bond first took an interest in the goldfields and decided to start buying up key leases on the Golden mile with the idea of removing
the surface workings and creating a large open cut mine. He was not the first to have the idea of amalgamating the leases but he was the first to set about actually doing it.
Many lease holders were reluctant to sell, and some saw a good chance at making a big windfall from their sale. The last 'hold out' was Poseidon which eventually sold
out to Bond for a sum reported at $375 million.
Bond had gambled on the gold price remaining high and although he achieved his ambition of amalgamating the Golden Mile leases he had paid too high a price. By 1989 he
was looking for a buyer and Poseidon was waiting in the wings.
The Super Pit that exists today produces gold ore of very low quality but because modern extraction methods are very effective and gold prices are very high, it manages
to make a very healthy profit. It was first opened in 1989 and since that time has produced over 50 million ounces of gold. It takes around 7 loads of ore in a haul pak
truck to produce 2 ounces of gold.
Kalgoorlie was first proclaimed in 1895 and Boulder in 1897. Kalgoorlie is a popular tourist destination, but is surrounded by some of the ugliest countryside in the state.
Today water for the town is supplied from Perth via a pipeline. The designer was said to have committed suicide when the water was turned on and nothing happened. The
legend says that he forgot that it would take a while to get from Perth to Kalgoorlie. The folk law version is not only incorrect, but it tells us little about the man
concerned. O'Connor certainly took his own life but the reasons were somewhat more complex.
It was only a matter of weeks after C.Y. O'Connor
took his life that pumping trials began and water finally reached the goldfields on January 16th 1903. It had taken
less than 5 years to complete the pipeline and get it working. The pressure and criticism that had hounded O'Connor to his grave was completely unwarranted and the
present town owes much to the skill of a great Engineer.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
During the renovation of Warden Finnerty's historic house Jack Tree, the curator, felt that he was being bitten on the ankles but could see nothing
to account for the sensation. He said that it felt like being bitten by a cat or small dog. During the work the body of a very flat cat was found under
the building. It may have been there since the 1890s. Once the cat had been removed there were no more reports of bitten ankles.
The saddest tale of all
I have read many sad tales of people who perished in the Australian outback but this particular one seems to me to be the saddest of them all.
On Christmas Day 1915 a little old lady (Mrs Margaret Quinn) arrived at the Kalgoorlie train station from Perth. She had just completed the long sea journey
from Scotland to Australia as she wanted to see her son for Christmas. He was working 32 kilometres from Kalgoorlie at Bulong as the local school teacher but
due to a mix up in communications he was unaware that his mother had arrived and was waiting for him to pick her up just a few kilometres away from where he
was having a quiet Christmas drink with some friends.
The old lady waited until around mid-day and finally deciding that her son was not coming she asked directions to Bulong and decided to walk there as she
had come all the way over just to spend Christmas Day with him.
She was told how to get to Bulong but was also warned to keep to the track and someone suggested she not attempt to walk there on her own. Hiring a horse and
cart to take her was too expensive so she decided to press on and walk.
A day or so later someone mentioned to her son that his mother had been in Coolgardie and left with the intention of reaching Bulong but her son had not seen
her. A search was organised but it took several more days to locate her and by that time she had died of thirst. She was found 16 Kilometres from Kalgoorlie
and 6 kilometres off the track to Bulong.
It is hard not to imagine the fear and pain she experienced when she realised she was lost in the great Australian outback, all because she had wanted to spend
Christmas with her son.
Theft and fraud
Two Yugoslav underground miners had gathered up quite a nice little pile of stolen gold and they decided it was time to sell it. They got the name of someone
who was willing to purchase it and were offered a price of 600 pounds, that they reluctantly accepted.
In a hurry to do the deal they swapped the gold fro cash only to find on their return to their camp that only the top 5 pound note of each of the wads of cash
they had been given was genuine. They had swapped their gold for just 30 pounds. In their anger they reported the fraud to the local police but must have come
to their senses and quickly disappeared from the goldfields.
Murdered for gold.
Inspector John Walsh and Detective Sergeant Alexander Pitman were reported missing in April 1926. Their job was to investigate gold theft and fears were held
for their safety when nothing was heard from them for some time.
The worst fears were realised when their burned and mutilated remains were found down an abandoned mine shaft. After a lengthy investigation William Coulter and
Phillip Treffene were tried for the murders, convicted and executed. Evan Clarke who had apparently been involved in disposing of the bodies turned King's
evidence and managed to save himself.
Goldfields museum, Hannas North Tourist Mine, Super pit lookout, Hammond Park, Two-up school, Loopline rail tour, Museum of the goldfields, War museum, Sex industry museum,
Kalgoorlie Miner / Western Argus, British Arms Hotel, Palace Hotel, Hannan's statue, Town Hall, Government buildings.
Hannan's North Tourist Mine
An interesting attraction in Kalgoorlie that gives you the chance to pan for gold, go 120 metres down into an old gold mine and watch gold ingots being poured,
is Hannan's North. I had the feeling that there could have been a bit more to this in the way of information about the various buildings on the site but it was
fascinating to wander round through the old gold field relics. There is also a miners hall of fame to look through.
By far the best part of this attraction was the time underground getting a small taste of what life is like for miners.
Reviewed : 2001
Boulder War Museum - Quick facts.......
Established in the 1970s by local residents.
Open Monday - Friday 10am-4pm
Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays 9.00am - 1.00pm
(Closed Christmas Day)
Entry by donation.
Covers a period from the Boer War to Vietnam.
Phone (08) 9093 1083 for more information.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
Town Hall - Burt St. 1908, Court House - Burt St. 1900, St. Joseph?s - Moran St. 1905, Palace Chambers - Maritana St. 1900, Trades Hall - Porter St. 1900, Kalgoorlie Racecourse -
Hannan St. c1900, Government buildings 1896, Old Mechanics Institute 1896, Town Hall, Kalgoorlie Miner Building c1900, City Markets 1901, Kingdom Hall, Exchange Hotel, York Hotel
1901, St. Mary's cathedral 1896, Victoria Park rotunda 1903, Masonic lodge 1899, Chamber of mines 1895, railway station 1896, Kingdom hall 1900, Cremorne theatre 1911, Semaphore
chambers 1899, Trades hall 1900, Palace theatre 1937, Boulder town hall 1907
FAMOUS SONS AND DAUGHTERS
Premier John Tonkin, Governor Wallace Kyle.
John Cornell, Rica Erickson, Dean Kemp,
Walter Lindrum, Barry Marshall, Tim Rogers,
Kevin Bloody Wilson, Michael Patrizi.
State : Kalgoorlie, Eyre
Federal : O'Connor
Postcode : 6430
Local Government : City of Kalgoorlie Boulder