Menzies has what is arguably one of the most unpleasant climates of any town in W.A. with the lowest of lows and some of the
There isn't a great deal in the town to attract visitors but there are a few interesting buildings and some interesting
attractions surrounding the town that make visiting worth while.
Nearby Lake Ballard features 51 metal sculptures created by artist Antony Gormley. The sculptures were apparently inspired
by various residents of the town.
There is a campsite next to the lake so you can stay overnight after taking your time to explore the lake and its islands.
The lake is only a real lake after there have been sufficient rains. Most of the year it is a dry clay pan.
The arrival of the rains from Cyclone Bobby in 1995 turned the usually dry Lake Ballard into the ideal breeding ground
for 10,000 banded stilts. The birds set up house, had their chicks and then one day just flew away never to return.
How they knew rains had reached the lake remains one of natures mysteries.
There is a large caravan park in town for those who don't want to, or cannot camp at more remote campsites.
The local town hall used to have a clock tower with no clock. The original clock was ordered from England but the ship
(Orizaba) bringing is across sank near Rottnest Island, and a replacement was never ordered. That was until the year 2000 when
one was finally put in place in time for the new year celebrations. (I think keeping the clock tower empty would have been
a little more interesting.) A sizeable amount of cargo from the S.S. Orizaba was salvaged but the clock was never located.
It is just possible that the Menzies clock was sold to another town and has been adorning the clock tower in another part
of the state all these years.
Menzies was first settled in 1894 (and declared a municipality in December 1895) and although it was once quite a large
town it has now declined to a small settlement.
The town was named after Leslie Robert Menzie who went prospecting in the area with John McDonald in 1894. Robert Leslie
Menzies is sometimes quoted as the source of the name but that is incorrect.
Menzie was an American who spent time looking for gold in America, Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
J.J. Brown, C. Kirby and C. Jackman found gold 20 miles north of Goongarrie. They dug a shaft six feet deep and found
a reef bearing good visible gold.
Menzie and McDonald with their Aboriginal tracker Jimmy and Cumbra, an Afghan camel driver, were prospecting when
Menzie met Brown at the Goongarrie.
Menzie agreed to inspect the shaft, with the idea of purchasing it if it proved suitable. Running short of water,
Menzie travelled to a rock soak eighteen miles east of Goongarrie to replenish his water supply. On the return
trip he strayed too far west and missed Brown's camp. His poor navigation turned out to be a good thing as he stumbled
across a rich alluvial gold deposit.
On October 1st 1894, Menzie registered Lease No. 1380 in the name of L.R. Menzie and Sir George Shenton and Lease
No. 1381 for L.R. Menzie and R.F. Scholl. These were to become the Lady Shenton and Florence mines and were very
successful. A series of other mines also operated nearby.
Although the town was named after Menzie, the first gold find there was made by James Speakman in 1891. Speakman
reported the find but did not return to the area.
In the book Twentieth Century Impressions of W.A. written in 1901 the following was written about Menzies.
'The news of the Menzies (gold) discovery speedily attracted people to the spot, but the earlier comers found
themselves very soon in difficulties. Food supplies ran out, water was not obtainable in any quantity, and consequently
much hardship had to be endured.'
The Lady Shenton mine was named after the wife of a major investor (George Shenton) and by 1903 it had produced 132,000
ounces of gold. By 1910 almost all mining had come to a halt as the gold bearing ore ran out.
In 1896 a typhoid outbreak killed 28 people and in the following 10 years it is believed that over 500 people died
just from this one cause. The local cemetery is one of the larger ones in the goldfields and reading the inscriptions
on the headstones (many of which are actually made of metal not stone) gives an insight into the hardships of the early years.
At its peak, the town had a population of about 10,000. There were thirteen hotels and two breweries.
Although gold ran out quickly the town was able to hold on longer than most in the area as the railway ended there.
It became the staging post and supply depot for other smaller centres further out.
TALL TALES AND TRUE
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Goongarrie National Park. Town hall, Railway station, Old police station, Cemetery, Baker’s oven, Old hotel, Old post office.
BUILDINGS OF NOTE
Town hall, Railway station, Old ploice station, Old Menzies Hotel, Railway Hotel (Now called Menzies Hotel), Lady Shenton Hotel.
State : Kalgoorlie
Federal : O'Connor
Postcode : 6436
Local Government : Shire of Menzies
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