Gates of Gold

Gates of Gold



Gates of Gold



The Discovery of Gold,

its Legacy

and its Contribution to Australian Identity



Marji Hill






Gold! Hidden Stories of Australia’s Past, Book 1




Published by The Prison Tree Press 2022

Suite 124

1-10 Albert Avenue

Broadbeach, Queensland 4218

Copyright © 2022 Marji Hill

Copyright © 2022 Artwork by Marji Hill

Editor: Eddie Dowd

Paperback ISBN: 978-0-6454834-0-6

EBook ISBN: 978-0-6454834-1-3


The Prison Tree Press

Suite 124

1-10 Albert Avenue

Broadbeach, Queensland 4218

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.


All the material contained in this book is provided for educational and informational purposes only. No responsibility can be taken for any results or outcomes resulting from the use of this material.

While every care has been taken to trace and acknowledge copyright the publishers tender their apologies for any accidental infringement where copyright has proved untraceable.

Every attempt has been made to provide information that is both accurate and effective,

however, the author does not assume any responsibility for the accuracy or use/misuse of this information.






Gates of Gold is about the discovery of gold, its legacy, and how it has defined and shaped Australia’s identity.

READ about the discovery of gold in Australia and how it changed the face of Australia forever.

DISCOVER how the golden frenzy brought about a population explosion with diverse communities and religions, different races, and different ideologies.

LEARN about the arrival of the Chinese, who contributed greatly to the Australian story, but whose migration to the goldfields gave birth to racist, anti-Chinese sentiment.

FIND OUT why the discovery of gold had such a catastrophic impact on First Nations people and how they found ways to survive even when the odds were pitched so much against them.

READ about a landscape transformed and the devastation of its ecosystems

and much more…


I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community. I pay my respects to elders, past, present, and emerging and extend my respects to all First Nation peoples today.

In the spirit of reconciliation, my mission is to increase understanding between the First Nations and other Australians and to provide people from all over the globe some basic understanding of Australia’s first people, their history, and cultures.

In my life, I’ve been fortunate to have had several mentors. Alex Barlow, my late partner, would always say to me “If you manage your time well, you can achieve everything you want in life.” That started my quest into the world of time management and learning how to maximise my productivity.

John Foley, the barrister, helped me to expand my vision and has inspired me to make possible what seemed impossible. Sherien Foley has always been there to challenge and kickstart me and I remember her words when I hit rock bottom with my work many years ago and she said to me “There’s only one way to go and that’s up!”

This current series of books about gold grew out of a brainstorming session I had with my old friend, Gail Parr, while staying with her and her husband, George Sansbury at Maryborough in Queensland. We thrashed out the concept and from this grew these five books.

I would also like to acknowledge the late and great Jim Lynch who introduced me to the Charters Towers gold story many years ago and to his, son, Mark Lynch, Chairperson of the Citigold Corporation, who has always supported and encouraged my creativity in relation to the gold story both in books and in art.

And finally, thank you, Eddie Dowd, my backstop and mentor, who has helped me get my books into their final form and ready for publication.

Marji Hill





“The irresistible attraction of gold in the nineteenth century brought to Australia thousands of gold-seeking travellers from around the world”.


                                                      Marji Hill






 Chapter 1 The Lure of Gold


Migration to the goldfields


The irresistible attraction of gold in the nineteenth century brought to Australia thousands of gold-seeking travellers from around the world, lured by the discovery of gold in Victoria.

These were people seeking a new life of hope and prosperity who journeyed to down under by ship.

The cheapest way to make the journey from the British Isles and Europe was on a slow sailing ship. The trip would sometimes take as much as seven or eight months to reach its destination.

Life on board the ship was difficult. Rough seas, sickness, and poor quality food took their toll.

Some of the travellers wanting to prospect for gold died on the ships. Those that did make it to Australia were often weak and unfit for the hard work of mining for gold and the tough day-to-day life on the goldfields.


South Africa


My father’s parents, Alexander Hill and his wife Margaret Shearer, together with Alexander’s brothers, left Northern Ireland in the 1880s. They headed to Johannesburg in South Africa.

Like many other Irish men and women, they left their country to find a new life in another part of the world. They wanted to escape the hardships and tough living conditions so they migrated to other countries where they could get a fresh start with new opportunities.

The discovery of gold in South Africa offered the opportunity. My family joined thousands of others searching for a new and better life.

The Johannesburg goldfield was proclaimed in 1886, the same year the Croydon goldfield in North Queensland, Australia, was proclaimed.

Within a year of the discovery of gold in Johannesburg, the whole Reef was estimated to have some 7,000 people, with 3,000 residing in Johannesburg itself.

The world’s largest gold rush in history had begun and South Africa would never be the same.

The dream and prospect of a better life and fabulous wealth were obviously irresistible. News quickly spread around the world about what was happening.

My grandparents departed Ireland and became part of that mass of humanity heading for Johannesburg which they now saw as the land of opportunity.

My father’s older sister, Christian Alice Hill, was born in Johannesburg around 1890. Between her birth and that of my father in 1898, the Hill family left South Africa and migrated to the goldfields in Western Australia. My father, Leslie Clement Hill, was born in a miner’s tent at Coolgardie.




Gold was discovered in Coolgardie in 1892 by Arthur Bayley and William Ford. They found more than 500 ounces of gold. A couple of weeks later, Bayley registered his claim in Southern Cross, 187 kilometres away.

Coolgardie is 550 kilometres east of Perth, Western Australia, and approximately 40 kilometres west of Kalgoorlie.

Irish prospector, Paddy Hannan, discovered gold on the Golden Mile a year later. This new gold district was 40 kilometres east of Coolgardie and was said to be the richest square mile of gold reserves in the world.

News spread like wildfire and triggered the last of the great Australian gold rushes.

During the 1890s on the east coast of Australia, people were suffering a severe depression.

Many migrated to the goldfields in the West, flocking to the blossoming gold rush towns in search of a better life.

Gold prospectors from all over the globe also arrived in Western Australia searching for a new life, wealth and prosperity.

After their long and difficult travels by ship, they then had to face challenging journeys ahead of them to reach their destinations on the goldfields.

Gates of Gold

Woman in a miner’s tent

Some found gold and others found only hardship ─ the housing was poor, there was a lack of fresh water and food, and a lot of sickness and death soon followed.

But the discovery of gold carved the way for an industry that has significantly contributed to the growth and development of the Western Australian economy. Within ten years the population almost quadrupled.




Earlier, in the 1850s, thousands of people from all over came to the goldfields in Victoria. This created a population explosion and the face of Australia changed forever.

Not only did people come from other parts of the world but also from within the Australian colonies themselves. Men and women downed their tools and left their jobs with the goldfields as their destination.

My maternal grandmother’s parents, Henry and Henrietta Shaw, were among those who travelled overland to reach the goldfields. When they arrived at Wentworth at the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers, Henry Shaw gathered his heavy equipment together and prepared for the long trek northwards. His rig consisted of a large wagon with horses and bullocks, and he was planning to do contract work along the way.

Bullock teams were a mainstay part of Australian life. Henry Shaw organised a covered wagon for the womenfolk – Henry’s wife Henrietta, Henry’s young sister Emily, and his baby daughter ─my grandmother ─ Lucy Matilda Shaw, born in 1878.

After her birth, my ancestors loaded their bullock team with their possessions and set out from Melbourne on their expedition north. They travelled overland for nine years (1878-1887) on the rough and often trackless country. They slowly continued north and eventually reached the goldfields of Croydon in Queensland’s gulf country.

A year later in 1879 Lucy’s brother, my great uncle Thomas Henry Shaw, was born at Wilcannia in New South Wales. After this, the family continued north via Cunnamulla and Charleville in Queensland.

After arriving in Windorah, Henry Shaw decided to base himself at Canterbury a small town 80 kilometres west of there on the track to Birdsville. Henry ran his carrier business together with a “Sly Grog” shanty. Another child, Florence, was born.

Tragedy also struck.

Emily, Henry’s seventeen-year-old sister, suddenly died in 1882.




After this, Henry decided to move on. The next stop was Connemara where he and his business partner purchased property. They experienced a couple of very dry seasons so they sold up. Henry and his family headed north to the Croydon goldfields in 1887.

Croydon was the last of the big goldfields in Queensland and was declared a payable field in 1886.

Henry, now 46 years old, decided to settle in Croydon and he developed his contracting business on the goldfields. The last of his two children were born at Croydon.

When the Croydon goldfields reached their peak in 1891 the gold mines had produced 72,000 ounces, had crushing mills with over 200 stamping heads, a population in excess of 6000 people and 58 hotels.

In this period gold yields from the Croydon goldfield were second only to those recorded at Charters Towers in North Queensland.


Mystique of gold


Such was the lure of gold that men and women uprooted their families, left their home countries of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, Europe and other parts of the world, and took perilous journeys to the continent down under.

Once they reached their destination the gold seekers took long hazardous treks across remote country in search of gold.

Gold has captured the minds of men and women throughout the ages. It’s always had a magnetism, a mystique, seducing and intoxicating people, luring the unsuspecting into its spell.

More, gold has possessed people and haunted the minds of men and women forever.

In Bernstein’s words[1] gold has

motivated entire societies, torn economies to shreds, determined the fate of kings and emperors, inspired the most beautiful works of art, provoked horrible acts by one people against another, and driven men to endure intense hardship in the hope of finding instant wealth and annihilating uncertainty.


The metal gold

Time out for some interesting facts:

  • The word “gold” comes from the Old English word for yellow which is “gelo”;
  • Gold is a metal that is prized because it is a metallic substance, estimated at comprising only 0.0000005 per cent of the Earth’s crust;
  • Its chemical symbol is Au which is short for In Latin this means glowing dawn;
  • Gold, unlike other metals, is the only metal that is the colour yellow;
  • As well as being prized for its beauty gold is malleable;

Gold is versatile with multiple uses. Some of its characteristics are:

  • its use in electronics, ornaments and jewellery and advanced technology;
  • can be beaten flat into sheets or leaves and an ounce of gold can even be stretched over a long distance;
  • can be drawn into wire, cast, carved, and polished;
  • can be embossed, hammered, cast, stretched and twisted;
  • has a consistency that is nice to feel;
  • can be made into thread and used in embroidery;
  • doesn’t tarnish;
  • conducts heat and electricity, reflects light and is untouched by most acids;
  • has the ability to melt at an amazing 1064 degrees centigrade and to boil at 2808 degrees centigrade.


Gold as investment


Throughout the centuries gold has been a symbol of wealth and power, a valuable commodity and a popular form of investment. Particularly in times of political turmoil and uncertainty, the tendency is for investors to put significant amounts of their money into gold. This is a method for safeguarding other capital investments.

It’s a way of diversifying risk in an investment portfolio so it’s really like insurance in times when the financial world is volatile.

Evidence of this happened on 8 March 2022 when the gold price went beyond US$2,000 an ounce because of world uncertainty surrounding the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The world’s main trading currency is the United States dollar and when the dollar is fluctuating in value, gold is often used as a hedge.

It’s an effective way of protecting capital against a weakening dollar. When the dollar falls gold tends to rise in value and when the dollar rises the gold price drops.


The legacy of gold


Gold in Australia is etched into the Australian psyche. It’s been the catalyst for creators – in art, literature, music, and jewellery. It has formed part of legends associated with a bygone era.

Gold is pivotal in our national story. Gold features in defining moments of Australian history and its discovery is engraved into the Australian story and its destiny.

One outcome of the discovery of gold was the population explosion which impacted the life and cultures of First Nations people. For example, the immigration that occurred formed the basis of today’s multicultural melting pot that now defines Australia.

The Eureka Stockade on the goldfields at Ballarat in 1854 was a fight for the establishment of democratic rights that cemented the nature and direction of relationships between citizens and governments.

The many Chinese who migrated to the goldfields in search of greater prosperity stimulated the rise of anti-Chinese sentiment resulting in racial riots and prejudicial attitudes that still exist in our society to this day. Ongoing tension and resentment from the European gold miners towards the Chinese came to a head in anti-Chinese riots at Lambing Flat and other places.

Tensions between law and order created a legendary past of bushrangers. They were criminals who bailed up travellers, stole their money, gold, and possessions but were celebrated for their bravery, chivalry and their stance against corrupt colonial authorities.

In summary, while the outcome of the gold discoveries was progress and saw the creation of cities, and transportation systems and generated great prosperity, it also had its negative side.

Its impact on the cultures of Australia’s first people has been catastrophic ─ on the part of the colonial authorities and settlers, there was a fierce attempt to obliterate the cultural and spiritual life of Australia’s First Nations people.

[1] Bernstein, Peter (2000) The Power of Gold: the History of an Obsession. New York, Wiley, p.1




There are five (5) books in the series:

Gold! Hidden Stories of Australia’s Past


Book 1

Gates of Gold:

The Discovery of Gold, its Legacy and its Contribution to Australian Identity

Book 2

Shadows of Gold:

Eureka and the Birth of Australian Democracy

Book 3

Gold and the Chinese:

Racism, Riots and Protest on the Australian Goldfields

Book 4

Ghosts of Gold:

The Life and Times of Jupiter Mosman

Book 5

Blood Gold:

Native Police, Bushrangers and Law and Order

on the Goldfields