History of West Australia/Thomas Newman

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Thomas Newman HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

THE grandiloquent mind which loves the soaring heights of Miltonic grandeur gets dizzy and faint at times, and asks for one draught of homely, honest narrative to quench a parched thirst and to restore vitality. A simple thought, pure and tender, clothed in quiet, unpretentious diction, touches chords of deeper emotion than the majestic tones of verbose oratory.

On the gold fields, where science must find expression in language concrete and abstruse, it is a welcome change to review the annals of one whose life teems with no ordinary human interest.

Mr. Newman was born in Liverpool in 1868, and received his education at Padcroft College near Windsor. He entered the service of Messrs. Crowther Brothers, merchants and mine-owners, Liverpool. This firm possessed extensive interests in Montana mines and in the Colorado silver mines of America. Mr. Newman remained in their employ for two or three years, till a serious illness which he had contracted in the interim necessitated his severing connection with them and his taking a lengthened trip round the world.

In New Zealand he became possessed of a desire to attach himself to gold-mining. He was getting rapidly convalescent in that salubrious and congenial insular climate, and his "quondam" energy and enthusiasm returned hale and hearty. To satiate a desire for prospecting, he travelled all over the Thames Goldfields, and examined with a curious eye the abandoned claims round Te Aroha and Wharangami. Being the first gold mines he had ever set eyes upon, it is not surprising that he gazed long at their features. Reflection mingled with imagination as he moved from the empty sepulchres of the golden dead.

He returned to England in excellent health, after an enjoyable and pleasurable tour. But he could not brook the narrow routine of English conventionality. He had tasted the sweets of perfect liberty and colonial freedom; and he went to Ceylon, where he had spent a short time in the course of his former tour. He engaged in planting there for five months, till an attack of fever forced him to sail for Albany, Western Australia, to recruit his health. He arrived at that port in 1893, when the first rush to Hannan's was taking place. It was strange news to him, for he had not previously heard of the Western Australian goldfields. Fortunately, he met Mr. Bayley at Albany, who informed him of the great auriferous wealth of Coolgardie and Hannan's. Encouraged by these auspicious tidings, he decided to go to the fields. Friends and acquaintances in Albany laughed at what they termed a futile freak, and tried to dissuade him from his purpose. Even the kindly old threat of "you will be sure to die" hurled at his undeserving head by those animated with the best of feelings towards his weal did not disturb his equilibrium nor thwart his intention. As yet his health could not be termed robust; but if the flesh was weak the spirit was truly willing. To keep his mind employed on this dreary journey, he speculated on the chances that the future had in store for him. He was not a little relieved when he met on the way the late Mr. Arthur Anderson, then manager of the Hampton Lands and Railway Syndicate (now the Hampton Plains Estate Company), whose excellent companionship was eagerly embraced. His description of his experiences on this maiden expedition is lively and interesting. His troubles and trials dated from the time that he alighted from the train at Northam. "For love or money," he says, "I could not obtain a vehicle to convey us for the remainder of the journey." By an interposition of fortuitous luck Mr. McDowell, the contractor of the line between Northam and Southern Cross, offered us a berth in the material train as far as Doodlakine, the terminus of the line. Luxuries in the way of cars and carriages were unknown in these rustic times. But Mr. Newman and his comrade felt perfectly comfortable, stretched on a bed of chaff piled on the top of general wares in the truck. They reached Coolgardie after an exciting journey of ten days' duration.

Mr. Newman confesses that upon his arrival, like many other fortune-hunters, he had very confused ideas as to the actual situation. His delightful imaginations about immediate wealth and all the other happy dreams that cross the uninitiated mind were soon dispelled by the cruel surrounding reality. He found the Golden Realm to be a disappointing combination of a few tents, and an absence of accommodation and conveniences. Having learnt his first lesson, he was not slow to put it into practice. He willingly accepted the offer of Mr. Anderson to explore with him the Hampton Plains blocks. He soon became skilled in detecting the faintest existence of gold. After gaining sufficient insight into the secrets of prospecting, he determined to strike out for himself, and with this intention he journeyed to Perth and purchased a camel. On his return he set out for the Mount Malcolm district, where he pegged out thirty-six acres. Unfortunately, he had to abandon this lucrative claim through want of water. One can imagine his surprise when a couple of years later, in London, he saw a "sandwich" man floating down Bishopsgate Street, with the notice gilded on his back—" Buy Shares in the Mount Malcolm Properties," which comprised the Juliet line of reef that he had to abandon, and which had now been successfully floated in London for £250,000, and from all accounts is developing very well.

In June, 1896, he went to London with the intention of floating a company on similar lines to the West Australian Company. His efforts were successful, and a company, called the Newman Exploration Company, with a capital of £100,000, was formed. The names of the signatories of this company are: C. A. Moreing, Allen H. P. Stoneham, Percy John Ogle, Cecil Campbell Drew, Henry Frederick, G. Weber, John Girdwood, and Lord Castleton. The company owns a large number of leases, which are being developed for flotation purposes. It holds, in addition, 130,000 acres of mineral and pastoral territory, 50,000 of which is freehold, and 80,000 leasehold. The territory lies in a very promising part of the colony (near Albany), through which auriferous belts run.

To detail all Mr. Newman's numerous experiences would be impossible, but the general tenor of those already depicted shows how coolly he could adapt himself to emergencies, "new chum" as he was. He is one of the frankest of men, quiet and unassuming. With a modesty that one should like to see more characteristic of other pioneers, he has accomplished tasks which would have daunted men more experienced than himself. His love for mining is innate. If one met him on the street, he would be apt to describe him as a genial, good-hearted Englishman, just arrived. Neither the hard life of his venturesome prospecting career nor the hand of sickness has changed him, notwithstanding that he has undergone all the horrors of thirst, the cruel exigencies of hunger, fatigue, torment, and misfortune.

Mr. Newman's generosity has won for him feelings of the deepest respect. He has a sound judgment, and has acquired a valuable knowledge of mining. His success on the goldfields, which shows as brilliant a record as any, could never come to one more deserving.