EUREKA—GOLD GOLD GOLD!
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
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.
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.
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.
Rocky River is 33 miles south of Waratah and 8 miles from Corinna. I think I heard a whisper from old McGinty suggesting you should dig down about 5ft. Sorry, I’m still a bit wedded to imperial weights and measures.
HERE IS ANOTHER STORY ABOUT THE LURE OF GOLD
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