Gawler is a tiny rural community, several kilometres inland from Ulverstone, on Tasmania’s north-west coast.
On April 4 1929 a tragic event left residents of Gawler in a state of utter grief. During widespread flooding in northern Tasmania, eight young people drowned when their covered Ford truck plunged from a bridge into the Gawler River. Six of the victims were from the same local family. How on earth does a small, close knit community recover from something like this?
Tough times continued in Gawler as the Great Depression deepened. However, just before Christmas 1933 came news worthy of celebration. Gold had been discovered by the river. The Advocate newspaper reported on the raising of capital and the exciting early finds;
December 23 – GAWLER RIVER MINES Increased Capital. At an extraordinary meeting of the Gawler River Gold Mining Co., held in Melbourne it was resolved to increase the capital of the company of the company to 100,000 pounds in shares of 1 pound each. The company is operating on an area of 134 acres at Gawler River, about three miles from Ulverstone. Prospecting for reefs has been going on for some time on the Gawler River, particular attention being paid to an outcrop……. the stone assaying from 10 dwt. to 2 oz.of gold to the ton. It was announced at the meeting that mining operations are to be resumed after the holidays.
The target was soon reached;
In early March there was an even more positive update; GAWLER GOLD MINE Big Developments Reported According to reports, big developments are taking place on the Gawler goldfield, where Gawler River Goldmines is proceeding to prove the lode, where it is being shown that highly payable gold exists. The chairman of directors (Mr. A Mather) stated at Ulverstone yesterday that workmen had cut a splendid quartz reef of seven feet width across to the hanging wall. Dish returns, he said, averaged 3 ounces of coarse gold to the ton.
At the end of April Mr Mather reported what was described as ‘a birthday lode’. ‘The width of the reef was as present showing fully ten feet, and gold was showing freely in the stone…. Commenting upon the discovery he said it was the most important development in all his mining experience.‘ (Advocate, 28 April 1934)
It created such an important sense of hope for the future.
ALL THAT GLISTERS……
But sadly, things were not as the company had represented. The following is from a parliamentary report in The Advocate, September 27 1934;
In the Legislative Council Mr Hubert Nichols made the following statement;
Dealing with the Mining Act, Mr Nichols said that something should be done to put an end to the extravagant claims made by promoters of companies. Recently the Gawler Gold Mining Co. had advertised in Melbourne newspapers that returns of the company which it controlled in the North-West had averaged from 3 to 13 ounces of gold to the ton. As a matter of fact, samples sent to the Mines Department contained not a trace of gold. Those responsible for such lying advertisements should be punished.
Mr Nichols’ electorate of Mersey included Gawler. He went on to say that poor Tasmanian men had been borrowing to invest in what was clearly a fraudulent scheme. The dream of prosperity was shattered almost before it had begun.
As the years went by the story of the Gawler Gold Mining Company faded from memory. The abandoned mine became an exciting place for local kids to explore, no doubt without the knowledge of their parents!
GAWLER WAS NOT THE ONLY SMALL TOWN HEAVILY IMPACTED BY THE 1929 FLOODS. CLICK HERE FOR THE STORY OF DERBY.