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\ ROMANTIC HISTORY
of a GREAT MINE
The Sons of
- * hwmmvwwvi By JOHN MEIKLEJOHN. wwwwvvw.vu>«
TOBIAS BROS. were among
the earliest storekeepers on Coolgardie goldfields. In late '95 the elder bro- ther, Tommy, took a well-
earned holiday and visited
his native town of Llan- elly, in Wales. Coming fresh from the new Eldorado, with the possibility of having done well, all his relatives and friends came forward with eager inte- rest to give him a hearty welcome home. Intending to return to the fields shortly, he had in view the formation of a gold-prospecting syndicate. In the position he occupied on the fields it was a good opportunity to possibly benefit some of his fellow townsmen.
His scheme was that £2000 should be the basis of capital involved, and he was willing to put up £200 of his own money towards this, if nine other men could be found to do likewise. He informed his uncle of the project, and the uncle welcomed it at once, stating he would be pleased to become a mem- ber. The proposition was put before a number of wealthy men at the prin- cipal club, and, without any trouble, the full number of names was secured. The agreement was drawn up and signed. It was really more an arrange-
ment as between trusted friends than a water-tight legal document. On Tobias' part he was pleased to under- take the direction of affairs on the
fields, and, being strongly hopeful of successful results, he asked for no other recompense or profit than what might come to him as an ordinary partner in the fortunes of the syndi- cate. No cash was called up, it being understood that as he used his own capital for the purposes of the syndi- cate, they should repay him when call- ed upon to do so.
In early '96 he arrived back in Cool- gardie, and, in order to get the syndi- cate's affairs moving quickly, he broadcasted bush wires to get in touch with Frank White and Glendinning, the men he specially wanted to prospect for them. Eventually he found them, called them in to a conference, told them his proposition, and stated his terms. They willingly fell into line, requesting, however, that Jack Carlson be brought in as an additional pros- pector, which was allowed. Camels and a complete outfit were purchased, and the party went off into the bush.
After they had gone Tobias made out a statement of his expenditure and found that altogether he had used about £500 of his own capital in the syndicate's interest. He cabled home rough particulars asking them to re- mit him the amount, together with an additional £100 or so to carry on with.
Meanwhile, mail from England was then arriving, and he received a letter from the syndicate secretary, a county sheriff and a man of big note in Caer marthenshire, blaming Tobias that he had not kept up correspondence, and asserting himself as being much dis- satisfied. There had been no real need for detailed correspondence up to that moment, and a letter of this descrip- tion came as a nasty surprise. Tobias was consequently nettled with the in- justice of the accusation, and cabled a reply explaining matters, giving them seven days in which to settle his claim, otherwise he would act inde- pendently. No reply of any nature fol- lowed, so the matter of the Welsh syn- dicate automatically closed.
Tobias then notified the prospectors and called them into a meeting. He explained how the original syndicate had let him down, and left him to bear the burden. He could not carry on with them (the prospectors) on the terms he had previously made with them. He was a considerable sum out of pocket, but did not regret this; he was willing to carry on with his own money if they cared to continue on some reasonable basis, thus making an entirely new combination. After a joint conference the prospectors em- phatically assured Tobias they would be no party to his being a loser; they would willingly continue, and gener- ously offered to allow two-thirds to him out of what they found, retaining the remaining one-third for them- selves. This was agreed to.
Before they left for the bush the prospectors asked. "If we find a reef, what name will we give it?" "Give it the name that was mentioned' at a dinner given me in Wales by the de- funct syndicate - 'The Sons of Gwalia.'" "Good-oh!" they answered. They had not been gone more than three weeks before they wrote saying they had struck a likely-looking reef near the then new Leonora camp, and had pegged out and applied for a lease. They also stated that G. W. Hall had visited them, had inspected the reef in the pot hole they had sunk, seemed favorably impressed, and asked could he do business with them. They re- ferred him to Tobias in Coolgardie. As he left, he took some samples with him.
Following Tobias' receipt of this letter, Hall came to see bim in his store at Coolgardie. Hall was then re- presenting Pritchard Morgan, the fam- ous Welsh millionaire, in the manage- ment of the North Star mine at Mal- colm. The object of Hall's visit was presumably to obtain an estimate for large supplies for this mine. Many of the items were piping and such like material which would necessitate time for inquiry. Hall had just finished his conversation, had grasped the door handle in the act of departure, when he paused and turned as if struck by an afterthought. "I saw your prospec- tors in the bush last week, and had a look at what they had just found," he said. "I will make you a sporting offer and give you £1000 for it." "No, thank you," said Tobias, immediately on the alert. "I am holding for a more ambitious figure than that."
Next day Hall was back again, the prospective order for supplies still be- ing held the main topic. After con- versing about it and, just as he was leaving, he brought up - again quite casually - the prospectors' find. "Had another look at your Sons of Gwalia samples since I saw you, and I am tempted to increase yesterday's offer. I will give you £2000 for it." "Nothing doing," answered Tobias. "I have my prospectors' interest to consider as well as my own. and I must do much better than that. Let us get ahead with the order, Mr. Hall; the other business can wait." Again Hall ad- journed.
The following day Hall returned. He went through a similar perform- ance to what he had done on previous occasions, and made a fresh offer of £3000. Tobias was adamant, would not consider the figure, and urged Hall to get closer with the order.
The next day Hall tried thc biggest bluff of any. He drove up to the store in his handsome tandem buggy outfit accompanied by his secretary and stenographer, as if he were going a journey. Tobias made a show of be- ing occupied, saying to him, "Excuse me just a moment, Mr. Hall." He scribbled a note to his odd man -
Jack - to the effect: "Saddle bay horse,
and when Mr. Hall's outfit leaves here follow it discreetly and let me know where it goes." The note despatched he turned full attention on Hall. As usual, the latter centred on the pros- pective order. As he finished, he inti- mated: "I am just leaving Coolgardie for the North Star mine, and will be gone some time. Before I leave, I will make you a last offer of £4000 for the Sons of Gwalia." In reply, Tobias opened a drawer of his desk, took from it a letter alleged to have come from his men, read from it the supposed contents, ending up with the state- ment: "It may be a guide to you in your negotiations to let you know we consider the show is worth ten thou sand." "In the face of that," Tobias continued, "I regret I must refuse your offer. Meanwhile let us get on with the order." Hall concealed his dis- appointment and left. Jack followed. Within the hour the latter returned and reported that Hall had gone only a short distance out and had returned to Coolgardie by another track.
That evening Hall was back at the store. He made a plausible excuse for
his sudden return, and, this time with-
out any pretence, went direct to his real object. "I have come to make you a further offer - for the Sons of Gwalia. I bid you now £5000 for it. This is the last offer I intend to make you." Something in Hall's manner in- timated he had really touched his ter- minal price. Tobias realised his bluff for ten thousand had not caught on. His thoughts raced quickly. If he re- fused this offer the reef might turn out very good and they might do heaps better. On the other hand, things might not go too well, and they might never get another offer. He or his brother did not wish to be saddled with the development of a reef. They had known numerous cases of men who had refused decent offers and left with nothing in the end. The inward decis- ion was to play for safety and be re-
lieved of the burden of present cost. The alleged mine was only a shallow hole, and as the prospectors had only
been engaged a few weeks the sum now offered represented a handsome
profit to each of them.
Hall would not listen to allowing share interest; he said his instruc-
tions on that point were strict. After discussing preliminary details, Tobias
consented to call in the prospectors and obtain their views. They duly ar- rived. In considering their decision on
the arrangement, it was not self inte-
rest which influenced them so much as a loyal desire to see their supporter get his money back with a profit; con- sequently they agreed. An option was
I given Hall, he paying £500 in deposit,
the balance to be paid within 90 days. Hall commenced work immediately on the property, and well within the spe- cified period the purchase was com- pleted. The partners congratulated themselves on tbe good stroke of busi- ness. Little-did they ' suspect they had
parted with a vast treasure for a mere gong.
In 1897 Tobias visited Wales again. His uncle informed him that the
county sheriff was the man responsible for wet-blanketing the syndicate; the
other members had followed his lead in deference to his high position and influence.
There happened an evening about then when Pritchard Morgan and this county - sheriff had occasion to have dinner together at the National Liberal Club. Morgan told the sheriff of the success of the Sons of Gwalia, and that he had just completed the formation of a company to acquire it with a capital of £200,000. The'sheriff was a sore listener when Morgan assured him: "My fortune would have been yours if you had only followed the lead you were on. As it is, I will make a quarter of a million out of it." He
made much more.
If the members of that defunct syn-
dicate were sorry then, their regrets
would not be less severe in following
the subsequent brilliant financial suc- cess of the Sons of Gwalia. It is offi- cially recorded as being the fifth larg- est gold produceriIn W.A. Up to the end of 1925 it had turned out nearly £5,500,000 worth of gold, repaid its capital in dividends many times over, the shares were considered gilt-edged stock, they stood for long at high: values in the markets, and the mine is still alive. As a matter of fact, this mine and the Great Fingall Consolida- ted were the only two companies out- side of the Golden Mile limits whose productions have exceeded the million ounce records.
Tobias has neyer sought the lime-
light from the fact that he was directly instrumental for the origin of such a great mine, although he might justly
I have done so. He lives quietly in com-
fortable retirement in a Perth suburb. Glendinning and Carlson are also liv- ing in the suburbs and have no com- plaints to make. Frank White died some years ago, and Hall, after his retirement, met his death in a motor accident in Wales.