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
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
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.
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
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.