Bank on the Wyalong goldfields

Bank under canvas on the goldfields.

 

The old White Tank hotel at West Wyalong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold was discovered in the central west of New South Wales in 1893, at Wyalong.  It was feared the diggings might pollute the water supply; a dam known as White Tank.  Accordingly, the official  town was laid out about three miles to the east. But the miners, being independent types, had other ideas. They wanted to live close to their claims and simply refused to move. And thus the town of West Wyalong grew up in an ad hoc manner along a winding bullock track, initially just tents and shacks.   As the mines flourished, West Wyalong’s population skyrocketed while the ‘government’ town stagnated. A deep rivalry developed between the two.

Things came to a head in August 1900.  Discussions had been underway about bringing the rail line  forty miles from Temora. It was arranged that the Minister for Works, Mr Edward O’Sullivan, would meet the Wyalong council at 2pm on Saturday, August 4. A welcome party drove out to welcome him, but after waiting  a very long time they heard a band playing in the distance. To their fury they realized  the Minister had gone to West Wyalong instead. Subsequently, in response to a storm of protest, Mr O’Sullivan said;

The wars of the Roses were a trifle compared with the wars of the Wyalongs. There is Wyalong, a government township, and West Wyalong, a private township. The latter has three times the population of the former…….It is true that the Under-Secretary notified that I would go to Wyalong, where the Mayor and aldermen live. I started on the Saturday referred to with the intention of proceeding to Wyalong, but on the way the road was found to be very bad and as night was approaching I accepted a suggestion to be taken by a bush track, which, unfortunately, led me to West Wyalong. I certainly was not aware of this as I thought I was on my way to Wyalong, and the municipality. However, my arrival at West Wyalong seemed in some way to have been anticipated as a band awaited me and a procession was formed.

Wyalong Road

 

NSW Miniter Edward O'Sullivan

NSW Minister Edward O’Sullivan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turned out that two prominent West Wyalong residents, Messrs Hartigan (hotel proprietor)  and Coonan (solicitor), were  chiefly responsible for Wyalong’s humiliation. They  had met the Minister  at Temora and lured him through the scrub.  Meanwhile, the main street of West Wyalong had been  decorated with flags and banners.

That evening a grand banquet was held for Minister O’Sullivan. Wyalong’s Mayor Moriaty rejected an official invitation, but  reluctantly attended as a private citizen. He must have found it difficult to swallow his meal.  The Minister claimed that he visited Wyalong next morning, but this was disputed.

 

Mayor of Wyalong Mr J Moriarty

Mayor J. Moriarty

An incensed John Smethurst, the town clerk,  rejected  O’Sullivan’s ‘excuses’;

The Minister says he took the bush track (about ten miles longer than the main road) ‘as night was approaching’.  A strange reason. Did he take the same long road on his return because day was approaching?’

No one is aware of the early Sunday morning visit the Minister says he made. In the afternoon the Minister went to the hospital (again by a back track). 

The Minister ‘very much regrets the incident’. Unfortunately his regret has not yet taken the form of an apology.

It scarcely seems possible, but there was worse to come for Mayor Moriarty.

COCK’S EGGS

 

 

At the next meeting of the Wyalong council the following telegram was tabled;

West Wyalong – To John Smethurst Esq., J.P. Town Clerk. – Kindly ask Mayor Moriarty to deliver me 15,000 ‘cock’s eggs’ instanter. Banquet at my hotel. No bad ones necessary. F.E. Welby, Metropolitan Hotel.

Now what was intended as a good joke by Welby and his cohorts went a lot further than they ever imagined. The Town Clerk passed the message on to Moriarty’s home, where it was received by his gullible fourteen year old son. An infuriated Moriarty declared  it was the most painful thing he had ever had to deal with;

‘My boy borrowed a horse and cart, and  obtained all the eggs procurable. He then took them to Welby’s hotel. As he was in the act of delivering the eggs he was ridiculed by Messrs.  Coogan and Welby, who called several women and children to join in ridiculing the lad. They refused to take the eggs because they were not ‘cock’s eggs’.  I knew nothing of the occurrence until I returned home.’

Alderman Pike called it ‘a dastardly outrage‘.    Mayor Moriarty went on;  ‘I have been informed that the wire was not concocted by boys, but was the work of leading merchants, solicitors and bankers, men holding high and responsible positions, who were evidently prepared to take the consequences.’

Whether there were any consequences was not reported. Certainly some of the aldermen didn’t take the matter as seriously as the Mayor thought they should.

The railway finally arrived from Temora  in 1903. To avoid more trouble,  the  tiny station was located in the mallee scrub, half way between the two towns. It was  known as Wyalong Central.

 

 

1 Comment
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