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Page 16                                            SOUVENIR-CHARTERS TOWERS, 1872 TO JULY, 1950

Although a large quantity of gold was lifted by miners by means mentioned above, much larger quantities were taken by fewer individuals from the batteries. Probably the largest theft was from a retort at the Excelsior Mill. Presumably the retort was lifted from the furnace, placed in a wheelbarrow, wheeled to the neighbouring dam, cooled and the gold removed. Thaddieus O'Kane the then editor of the "Northern Miner," stated, a little later, that the gold was then probably on its way to England in a cask of tallow. Thaddieus had to face a libel action, as the owner of the mill was also a leading butcher.

A graphic description (purely imaginary) of the theft was written by a leading musician of the town. He supposedly saw everything from a position on Towers Hill. For his somewhat humourous effort, he suffered unhappy consequences for he was more or less hounded out of town. He paid a return visit many years later having fared well elsewhere.

Most of the gold filched from the Mills was pilfered by stamp feeders (where the stampers were shovel fed). pan feeders and amalgamators. There were others of course. Please remember that not all of these possessed fingers with an effinity for the glitter. There were many of the mill employees who, showed a strong resistance against temptation.

Although the companies offered large rewards for evidence which would lead to the conviction, etc., delinquents who faced a Magistrate were few. One conviction at least may be recalled by old timers. The offender was sentenced to several months' imprisonment.

Lack of printing space forces a hurried conclusion of this compilation. 'Tis hoped that what is written will not convey to readers the idea that the Towers miner was a scamp, rogue or common thief. He wasn't. The sticky-fingered ones were few. Speaking generally the miner of those days was a splendid type; a good law-abiding citizen.

Speaking generally, we can safely say that the Charters Towers goldminer earned more respect than condemnation.

Some Incidents

1. A new chum mill employee soon became quite an expert amalgam pilferer. With trouser pockets heavily laden, and clothes wringing wet, he stood before a roaring fire for some time. 'Tis said that some of the mercury evaporated. and that the wetter and colder portions of his clothing condensed it and it trickled into his boots, to the great surprise of "choom."
2. One of the several jobs of an employee (also a chum) at the Burdekin Mill was to see that the wooden flumes carrying tailings to the river were functioning properly. A tongue of warped timber on the bottom of a flume faced millwards, and after a time had gathered a considerable amount of amalgam. Garnering it he took it to a fellow employee and asked what it was. "Good Lord, man !" replied the mate, "you'll get the sack if you are found with that. Give it to me." And he did.
3. Some pan feeders splashed their easy earnings rather lavishly. Bookmakers fielding at various unregistered race meetings handled a good deal of this easy money. The Mine Manager and Mill Manager of a leading producer, hired- a. cab and proceeded to a meeting at Stockholm. Their arrival was timed for mid-afternoon and stood on the outskirts of the betting ring just before a race started. The books were roaring, "Come on you pan feeders, what about having a fiver or tenner's worth of this good thing ?" The two looked, noted and remembered. Some pan feeders of last week were not pan feeders of next week.
4. Another Millchester employee had hoarded a tidy pile of amalgam. Intending to go on a southern tour in the near future, he converted his hoard into good Commonwealth currency-sovereigns-nearly a hundred of them. He very unwisely showed his gold to a friend (?) stating that he would not be short on the tour. The sovereigns and friend vanished simultaneously. The loser, on arriving later at a southern port, was greeted most cordially by his friend, and ruefully noticed that the latter's expenditure was more lavish than it had ever been before.
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