1849 - 1932







William Ford


William Ford's father (also William) was one of four brothers from Ireland who decided to seek their fortunes in different countries. One went to America, another to India, one brother seems to have gone missing and William's father came to Australia.

According to one source William Ford Jr. was born at Ararat in Victoria in 1852 but another source says he was born at Wickliffe west of Ballarat on April 16th 1849 and we believe this is the correct information.

Called 'Golden Willie' for his mop of reddish auburn hair, William Ford was to become Golden Willie for a completely different reason later in life.

He worked as a driver for Cobb & Co. then as a miner at Ararat before heading off to Charters Towers in Queensland.



He met Arthur Bayley on the Croyden gold field in Queensland before travelling to Western Australia. It was at Croyden that Ford found gold and was a partner in the Golden Queen mine. He eventually sold his share in the mine and moved to Broken Hill in 1888. Ford then decided to go to New Guinea but changed his mind while on the way and decided instead on Western Australia.

He arrived in W.A. in 1889 and first went to Greenbushes. Soon afterwards he took a job for wages at Southern Cross and after 12 months he had enough money to explore further east. He went prospecting in the Parker Range where he found more gold.

While visiting Perth he met Arthur Bayley again in early 1892 and the two men planned a prospecting trip east from New Norcia. This trip was a failure because most of the horses died after eating poison bush. The party went to Southern Cross for provisions and set out east again.

It was on this trip that the men discovered gold at Fly Flat in what was to become the Coolgardie area.

In Ford's own words: 'In the morning we went out for the horses, in order to give them a drink. I was leading my horse over what is now called Fly Flat, when I picked up a piece of gold weighing about half an ounce. I think we were more excited over that little bit of gold than any we found afterwards.'

Ford's account mentions a pegged claim dated 1888 but he says he saw no evidence of the owner and never found out who it was so the stories of two skeletons found in a nearby gully may just be fanciful.

A party of four men arrived at Fly Flat that included Jack Reidy and German Charlie. Ford and Bayley spoke to the men but they appeared to be more concerned that Ford would follow them and they quickly moved on.

Ford said: 'They were very green, for a blind man could tell that we had found gold, otherwise we would not have stayed there. We had between two and three hundred ounces of gold at the time.'

The credit for Ford's and Bayley's find has always been given to G.A. McPherson, who legend tells us was the one who inspired Bayley to prospect in the area in the first place. Ford tells a different story in that he followed George Withers' tracks and had they followed Gilles A. McPherson's information they would have ended up at Lake Darlot and not been on the gold.

Ford's words again: 'We picked up and followed Withers' tracks. The story has often been told, but nearly always wrongly.'

After Ford and Bayley returned to Southern Cross for provisions, they were followed out of town by Tommy Talbot and his friends. Talbot lost Ford's tracks at Gnarlbine Soak but then bumped into Jack Reidy who put Talbot back on track again.

Ford admitted that he and Bayley had to threaten Talbot and his friends with guns to keep them from stealing gold from his claim. When the rush began he had to make similar threats to keep others from jumping his claim until Warden Finnerty arrived. Ford remained guarding the claim for 6 months until he and Bayley sold out.

Despite the fact that this was a new find and the Government would make a lot of money from it, they refused to give Ford and Bayley a reward for the find and simply extended the Yilgarn field almost to the state border.

As for the 'wild blacks' of the area who were rumoured to be so aggressive, a group of them took up residence near Bayley and Ford who were prospecting at Fly Flat. They caused no problems for the prospectors and even used to help with work around the camp.

Ford had wandered Australia for 8 years, convinced that he would eventually find the 'mother lode'. His family teased him about his wanderings but when he returned to Melbourne in 1893 he was a very rich man. Ford shared his good fortune with his family and met his friend Bayley again when he too returned to the east.

Ford married Alice Kate Corbett and the couple settled down together.

Ford died aged 83 (one source says 80) at Chatswood in New South Wales in November 1932. He left behind his widow, one son and one daughter.




1849 - Born April 16th. Some sources say 1852.

1889 - Arrived in W.A.

1892 - Discovered gold at Coolgardie with Arthur Bayley on September 17th.

1893 - Returned to Melbourne.

1932 - Died November.


Links to more information:


William Ford

William Ford

William Ford




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