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John Francis Connelly's Explorations
JOHN FRANCIS CONNELLY, explorer and
prospector for gold in Western Australia's hinterland, was born in Victoria in 1860. A gin case was his cradle; a bullock cart his con- veyance as he travelled throughout the gold- fields of Victoria and New South Wales in the wake of his father.
Educated at Camden College, v New South Wales, young Con- 1 nelly naturally turned to the t fields for his livelihood. His a early experience included lead r and platinum discoveries. After r a term as draughtsman and ( surveyor on New South Wales i railways he engaged in the s management of a goldmine, f But m 1889 he married and
set out for Western Australia 1 to undertake mineral explora- í
Among the passengers the S.S. South Australia carried to the West were two miners, each from the same district of the parent State and each destined to play an important
part in the mining history of j Western Australia. They were J. F. Connelly and Paddy Han-! nan, discoverers of the Murchi-; son and Kalgoorlie goldfields j respectively. ;
It might here be mentioned that the harsh dictatorial atti-' tude of the Colonial Govern- ment (a relic of the penal days) towards its civilian popu- lation was then on its last legs and Hannan was unfortunate to suffer from the last dying kicks of the maladministration and
was wrongfully imprisoned at| Forbes. His mates had forged his mark (signature) in a mining deal by imposing on Paddy's inability to read and write. Hannan was later re- leased without a stain on his character. Hannan then decided that he had had enough of N.S.W., and intended to give
W.A. a trial.
A Toss Up
Q/H arrival in Perth Connelly
and Hannan tossed a coin to decide which fields they would later prospect. 'Hannan . won the toss and chose# the
Eastern fields and Connelly chose the Murchison, with gratifying results to both as
will later be seen.
Securing an appointment as mining adviser for several W.A. and S.A. mining syndicates, Connelly at once proceeded to Southern Cross, then in its embryo stages and .reported on the leading mines of Southern Cross. Parker's Range, and Golden Valley-quartz reefing I centres each widely distant but!
on the same metalliferous zone. He related the privations and exodus from that promising goldfield induced by the sever-, ity of a prolonged dry summer J
Following on this early visit an exhaustive report on the "Southern Cross Quartz Reef- ing Field, Yilgarn Goldfield,"
/as written by him and pub-! ¡shed in "The West Aus-! ralian" in May. 1889. This ttracted wide attention from lining investors and others nany of whom, directed by Connelly's early practical nowledge of the field's pro pects, made handsome, even irincely profits. i In June, 1889, the Green- bushes tin fields, then in the mbryo stages of development,
ON THE FIELDS: Mcpherson, Johnston and Peterkin, fun.,
three seekers after gold on the Murchison field.
afforded Connelly ample scope for securing some good tin min- ing propositions on behalf of prominent citizens of Perth, and his further Mining Observations on the Bridgetown Tinfields written in "The West Aus- tralian" were widely appreci-
ated. His energies were next! directed to a hastened inspec- tion and report on the Wongan Hills-Victoria Plains gold reef workings for a Perlh syndicate; and a side report on the alleged, newly discovered, auriferous deposits of Bettv's Bog adjacent thereto, for the Commissioner of Lands
'J'HE same year found him,
together with Mr. F. C Monger, of York, at the stam-
pede from Cossack to' Nicoll ¡Bay gold rush situated on the coast equi-distant from the port and Roebourne. A Chin- ese had found a gold nugget ; of considerable size exposed to
the wash of the open sea. Pro , ceeding further northwards
aboard the Otway to Derby, a long and lonely overland iourney of several hundred) * miles with pack horses was
made to Mt. Jackson and the I Ruby Queen goldmines, on the i East Kimberley goldfield. On i this occasion it was necessarv i at times to make midnight marches, with the hooves of the horses muffled in blankets to avoid the treachery of the Fitz- roy blacks. For his first ex- ploring expedition in the West (subsidised by Mr. F., C. Monger) Connelly chose to ex- plore the Murchison in 1890.
On the Murchison
JT was during this expedition I that his qualifications were put to severe test. Start- ing from Champion Bay, some 70 miles of arid sand plain had to be contended with as a pre- liminary introduction to a trip of 400 to 500 miles into the interior, then in the grip of a severe drought. Sparse natural feed and uncertain waters were, the order to the distant upper reaches of the Murchison Val
jley-itself only a chain of shal
I low holes and salt lake de
pressions. At that timo /the Murchison .was really one vast sheep and cattle run. and one of its furthermost outposts was
Annean station owned by ,
Messrs. Cruikshanks and man- aged by Mr. Richard Robson. In his reminiscences of the early days the letter stated "that it was so lonely in that part of the country that his black boy used to clear out and leave him, and for months on end he was alone."
Connelly left Geraldton in May. 1890, and his party con- sisted of a German geologist named Bernd, a Mr. Little and a couple of natives. The "Geraldton Express" comment- ing on the expedition * said: "The party seems well equior ped but their implements were so judiciously selected that tney weighed only^ three hundred- weight. * Mr. Connelly seems to be the right sort of person to lead an expedition."
After many adventures but no serious mishaps he reached the homestead of Annean Station in July, 1890, the object being to push on eastward to a big range out by Mt. Yagahong. Robson observed that it was likely prospecting country and Connelly decided to go out and see for himself. Robson relates
how he fitted him up with a
rough map. After a few weeks « in the country Connelly found nuggety gold on what was after- wards known as the "Nannine Line of Reef," and marked the site he had pegged out on the map he possessed and fixed the position with field instruments from a trigonometrical survey peg on the top of a hill near the homestead, and Mt. Orbel (Meekatharra). Connelly re- turned to the station and showed Robson the nuggets of gold he had found and which Robson weighed on a pair of apothecaries scales.
It is worth mentioning here that whilst examining the area Connelly camped at Little Gap Creek, near the scene of his , find under a river gum and , carved the following inscription ! thereon: '*'90 N.S.W. J. F. CONNELLY. PERTH." and ¡ that tree is now preserved te . goldfields history by the West . Australian Government pro . claiming an acre reserve around
fHE gold discovery was made
on Sunday, July 13, i890, and Connelly and party con- tinued on their journey and ar-| rived at Mt. Gould Police Sta-| Ition and reported it to the offi ¡cer in charge. As a result of his discovery Connelly received the W.A. Government reward of £500 for being the first to report payable gold on the Murchison. Robson in his re- miniscences says: "I think he was the right person to get it,
as he ga^e the benefit of his . discovery to the conftnunity."
The news soon got abroad, and the first miners of note to arrive on the field were two mates, named Peterkin and Mcpherson, who had been, up to October, 1890, tin mining around Bridgetown. They ar- rived at Annean Station and asked Robson where Connelly had found the gold, showing him a cutting from "The West Australian" and asked him if the report was true. Robson showed them the map which Connelly had dropped at a paddock gate 10 miles north of Annean, and which had been picked up by one of his natives who recognised it as a "White man's paper-talk" and brought to him in due course.
Peterkin and McPherson went to the spot indicated on the map and a few months later they were followed by Bailey
and party. They all agreed to * keep their gains secret and silently raised a fortune of 1,000 ounces upon which they returned to civilization, having been forced to leave the field owing to drought conditions throught the district. On their return they found that their j claims had t>een jumped by Dugles and other parties, and a dust up that ensued led to I Bailey hitting Dugles over the
¡head with a shovel. Dugles | immediately went to Gerald-
ton and spilled the beans to the outside world and asked for police protection, and the rush to the «Murchison then began
To be continued.