Prospecting in the bush.

In  1883, James McGinty and his  two  prospecting partners  found what is still the  largest gold nugget ever found in Tasmania.  It was discovered at Rocky River, near Corinna on the  wild west coast. It weighed 243ozs and was valued at £6,000. Below is an  image  of the nugget  on a booklet by R.M. Bottrill.  It’s the larger one, on the right.  The smaller one was found in the same  location after McGinty sold  the claim  to a friend

Booklt on Tasmanian Alluvial Gold
McGinty’s gold nugget features on the cover of R. S. Bottrill’s booklet on Tasmania’s alluvial gold.


A dispute broke out between two Launceston jewellers who wanted to display the nugget.  Meanwhile, McGinty hadn’t been able to find a buyer for his find  in Tasmania. He lost patience with the rival jewelers  and announced that he was going to take a ship to the mainland, where he intended to sell his find to the  Melbourne Mint.   There was horror at the thought of it being melted down, without even leaving a cast in Tassie for posterity.  In mid February the Launceston Examiner let loose;

THE MONSTER NUGGET – W regret to state that there appears to be some doubt as to whether models of the largest nugget ever found in Tasmania will be secured for our museums…….and for this, apathy of those who might be expected to interest themselves in the matter  is to blame. The owners of the nugget, Messrs. McGinty, Richard and Neil, intended to take it  over to Melbourne at once, and have delayed a week…..They now feel, however, that no great desire has been shown to obtain casts of the nuggets, and decline to waste their time in taking them to Hobart for exhibition and waiting for casts to be made……We sincerely trust that Messrs. McGinty and party will sacrifice their own inclinations in the matter, and for the sake of the little colony consent to a few days further delay.

Fortunately, the jewellers F. and W. Stewart hastily sent a wire to Willis & Co., jewellers  in Melbourne.  Willis & Co. intercepted the nugget. A cast was made and forwarded  ‘home’ by return boat.   F. and W. Stewart exhibited the facsimile  at their stand at Hobart’s Industrial Exhibition that year.  The major museums  in Tasmania received casts too.

Presumably the gold nugget itself went into the Mint’s melting pot.  What McGinty did with his share of the proceeds is a bit of a mystery. He certainly did not give up prospecting and was fossicking around  Tasmania’s wild west coast for the rest of his days.

James McGinty, Tasmanian gold prospector.
James McGinty in his final years.

Mr McGinty became  increasingly fragile  until finally, in 1920,  he was admitted to the Waratah hospital.  From there  he was sent  to an old people’s home, way down south in Hobart. Not surprisingly, he didn’t find this to his liking and soon made his way back to Waratah.  He then walked to an old mate’s camp at the Nineteen-mile Goldfield. Perhaps he thought he might find one more little nugget before he died.

That first night he ate his supper and retired for the night. He woke feeling unwell and was tended to by his mate McDonald.  When Mr McDonald woke the next morning he found McGinty sitting on a box in the corner of the tent, stone dead.  An inquest was held. After all, the sudden death of a miner at a goldfield might be viewed  as suspicious. In this case that wasn’t the case.

James McGinty Inquest
Inquest on Jams McGinty

On April 28 the Zeehan and Dundas Herald wrote an obituary under the headline PATHETIC END OF VETERAN PROSPECTOR, but really it was anything but pathetic. As the writer of the piece commented;  ‘He died as he had lived ….away in the heart of the bush, in the midst of the solitudes and strengths of Nature, where men are men; self-reliant, enduring, courageous and independent.’  It was the perfect epitaph.

Mr McGinty was buried in the pioneer cemetery at Waratah on April 25 1920.

By the way, many people believe there is still a reef of gold in the Corinna area. This  map might help if you are keen to look for it.

Prospecting map of Corinna are in Tasmania
Handy map. The circled area is where Mr McGinty and Co. found the famous nugget.

Rocky River is 33 miles south of Waratah and 8 miles from Corinna. I think I heard a whisper from old McGinty suggesting it would be wise to dig down about 5ft.  😍  Sorry, I’m still a bit wedded to imperial weights and measures.

Gold nuggets from Rocky River in Tasmania
Might be more where these came from.




  1. Great stuff. need someone to assume Simon Cubit’s mantle now that he has passed. May well be you.

    • Pauline

      That’s a very generous comment.Pat. I’m just delighted to make a small contribution.

  2. I think Nic Haygarth will be in the race for the mantle too 🙂 Such a loss, when we lost Simon. Pauline I love the way this is all laid out. Thank you x

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