GOLD IN THE BLOOD?
Many years ago one of my elderly Larcombe aunts sent me a yellowed newspaper cutting of a famous gold find in Western Australia, It was The Golden Eagle nugget, discovered in 1931. I can only presume that the Jim Larcombe in the article was a distant relative.
The find was a symbol of hope during the Great Depression. When Mrs Larcombe was first told, her informant said it only weighed about 25oz. It was feared she may collapse with shock if its true size of 1,136oz (32.2 kilos) was revealed.
The nugget was actually found by Jim Larcombe’s 17 year old son, who had only been working with his father for about five weeks. It was quite close to the surface, in an area where many people would have walked or driven over it. There is an urban myth that when the lad held it up his father said. ‘Put that dead bird down and keep digging, Jimmy!’ To be honest, it was far too heavy for Jimmy to have lifted by himself.
The Larcombes were working a small claim at the Larkinville goldfield near Coolgardie. A previous prospector had abandoned the claim after spending six weeks on it without result.
Most people would have lodged the nugget in a bank vault, but Jim Larcombe had other ideas,
‘We’ll take it home’, he decided. And so the Golden Eagle was transported to his humble house. ‘I wanted to put the bedstead across the doorway,’ said Mrs Larcombe. ‘But Jim said ‘Don’t be silly, it’ll be alright on the kitchen table.’ Quite sensibly, Mrs Larcombe was taking no risks. She made her husband put the nugget under the bed, and Jim Larcombe, tired out by weeks of hard work and excitement, was soon fast asleep.
At 4am Jim heard a noise and sat bolt upright. Good God, had someone broken in? But it turned out to be his wife, trying to drag the huge nugget from under the bed. She hadn’t slept a wink, and told her husband she was going to scrub it in the bath, to see if really was gold. ‘ Don’t worry, it’s all gold alright’ Jim told her. He was worried she was gong to rip the lino dragging it across the floor. But Mrs Larcombe insisted on giving the nugget a good scrub in the bath, revealing the glistening gold in all its glory. By this time it was morning, and she made Jim take his find straight to the bank.
After being offered six thousand pounds by a private collector, the Larcombes sold the Golden Eagle to the Western Australian Government for a similar sum. It was melted down to boost the State’s coffers, but fortunately a replica was made. I had a chance to handle it at The Perth Mint recently.
In true Aussie style the Larcombe family bought a pub with the proceeds, calling it THE GOLDEN EAGLE.
What else would a thirsty miner buy with his new found riches?
Of course the Golden Eagle did not come close to equalling the largest ever alluvial gold nugget. It was found on 4 February 1869 at Moliagul in Victoria. This nugget weighed an astonishing 71 kg . Today it would be valued at around four million dollars.
Now it doesn’t quite equal the find by Jim Larcombe and son , but my great-grandfather John Singleton once struck gold on his property called Springhill, near Ulverstone in Tasmania.
The story was written up in The Examiner, on May 26 1908;
GOLD IN DUCK’S GIZZARD
Mr J. Singleton of South Road, North-West Coast, had occasion a few days ago to kill some ducks, and in the gizzard of one of them were found several well worn specimens of a yellow metal, which Mr Allen, an Ulverstone Jeweller, has pronounced to be pure gold. The ducks are generally about a creek adjacent to the house, and it is supposed the metal was picked up by them in the bed of the stream. Years ago, says the N.W. Post, traces of the precious metal were found in the same creek.’
I’m sure it was really my great-grandmother Emma who dressed the ducks! Anyway, there was great excitement and hopes of untold wealth, but sadly the family failed to find any more. Oh dear, my life could have been so different.
FOR THE WORLD’S LARGEST NUGGETS, INCLUDING THE GOLDEN EAGLE, CLICK HERE.
Here is a link to another story about Australian Gold. It involves Elizabeth Macquarie, wife of one of our most well known early governors.
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