Wednesday 30 November 2016

Folk of Herberton's Past

A new history book entitled 'Ghosts of a Mining Town' was launched at the recent heritage walk at the Herberton cemetery.  Edited by local historian Mr Ivan Searston, this new volume is a collection of stories which has been amassed from the many 'ghost' walks conducted by the Herberton Lions Club since the early 2000's.  These stories chronicle the history of Herberton and the characters that helped to shape the town.  Ivan stated at the launch that the walks was firstly a way of telling the stories of people who are long gone but still remembered by headstones at the local cemetery and then later as simple re-enactments of the town's past.  Some three dozen of these tales have been included in this new book which are taken from five history walks.  These walks have become very popular about the North and this collection is just the first volume of several which is planed for publication in the future.  You can obtain a copy from the Mining History Centre in Herberton.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Back to the Palmer Goldfield

It had been a couple of years since I was last on the Palmer River and with the heat building up and this year's wet season approaching, this might be my last chance to get in for the year.  Our mining friend, Graham Byrne had given us permission to stay at his new mining camp on his lease at Ida for the weekend.  That along with the news that the road into the Palmer was been cleaned up, made this a proposition too good to let pass.  So we loaded up the vehicle and with some friends who wanted to learn how to metal-detect for gold on board, it was off for another long weekend exploring the heritage of the old River of Gold.

The camp site
It was starting to get quite late before we were able to hit the road on the Saturday morning for the long trip up to the Palmer River and the drive was rather uneventful until we reached the gravel road.  This end of the Palmer road had not yet been graded and the rear of the vehicle began to swing about the road.  Yes, a tyre had blown-out, no doubt on a sharp rock.  We found a place to pull over and found ourselves beside another vehicle and laughed as the other were also changing a tyre.  It was the Fitzgeralds who maintain the road and were out here to organize their next road building camp to finish off this last section of the year's road maintenance job.  So after changing the tyre and chatting with the Fitzgeralds, it was late in the afternoon before we reached Ida and set up our camp in the shed at Graham's mine camp.  After tea that evening, with light from torches and the full moon, it was out for a couple of hours work to familiarize our friends in the art of metal-detecting for gold on the Palmer.

The following morning we made an inspection of Graham's new mining plant.  He had just laid a concrete pad for a small crushing plant where he hopes to become the first hard-rock miner on the Palmer since the late Sam Elliott put through his last crushing at the Wild Irish Girl battery in 1959.  Later we the drove over to Maytown to show our friends the remains of the old town and on the way back we spent some time exploring the remains of the old houses and the mill sites about the old Ida town.  After lunch, we drove over to the North Palmer to give our friends a better idea of the extent of the goldfield and to show them the site of the Chinese village near German Bar and its cemetery.  That afternoon was spent searching for gold about the mining lease but found only old tin and nails and a few Devil's Dice.  We enjoyed the quiet of the bush camp that evening and many happy hours were spent talking about the gold that was found on this goldfield of old.

The old mine 'toms'
On the last day, before we pack-up to head off home, we decided to drive over to Thomson's Creek which had been worked extensively by machines some twenty or more years ago.  It was here that we found the most interesting heritage site of this trip.  After driving down the appalling piece of road off the ridge into the mined out creek area, our attention was drawn to several rows of low stumps embedded in the creek bed.  There was another set of these stumps protruding a few centimetres out of the mud just a short way down stream and we puzzled over this for a while until we noticed the remnant sand and rocky wash of an ancient river bed in the creek bank.  Then it dawned on us that what we were looking at was the tops of old mine 'toms'.  The old time miners, possibly the Chinese who had a village nearby, had found the ancient river buried two or three metres below the modern stream and had tunnelled in to get the gold-bearing wash.  In a number of places, the roof of the tunnel must have been unstable and they had shored it up with timber posts.  Then about a hundred years later, modern miners had stripped the earth away from above to expose the tops of these old mine toms.  We stood there and wondered at just how extensive might this old unrecorded mining project had been and how much gold might the 'old-timers' had recovered for their efforts.

When we returned to the camp, we found our friend sitting there with a silly grin across his face.  He had gone off at five o'clock in the morning determined to find some gold and after spending all morning working about the old lease, he had found his gold.  A tiny piece, not much to show for more than six hours of hard work in the heat but it was his first bit of gold and Palmer gold at that.  So we had all been successful this trip and after a late lunch, we packed up and hit the long road homeward and near Adam's dam we pass the Fitzgeralds again, as they were setting up their next road building camp.
The first hard-rock plant on the Palmer since 1959.