The Old Days – Gulgong Gold Rush

The New Gulgong Advertiser – 20 May 1936

“In the 60’s I lived with my father on Bobadeen where there in ’67 or ’68 came Ben Hall. Hall was the first man to pass through the gap to Bobadeen Hills which is called Ben Hall’s Gap.

Gardiner also came to Bobadeen where the two bushrangers met and spent some days together but eventually quarrelled and each went his separate way.  Gardiner making for Peak Downs where he became interested in a store and settled down to a peaceful and honorable life but was eventually arrested.  Whilst at Bobadeen the two bushrangers did some excellent practice shooting and for many years the sapling with target attached remained to be seen and as far as I know might still be there.

Gardiner showed father a nugget of gold which he said he had picked up in the vicinity of Red Hill (now Gulgong). Father went to Cooyal where he told three fencers of Gardiner’s find.  They went in search of the place and found the Old Gulgong Reef but got nothing of any account there from.

Some time later Tom Saunders came from Two Mile Flat and whilst passing through found a nugget in the vicinity of where Railway Dam is  or on Red Hill (Gulgong).  On returning to Two Mile Flat he told diggers there of his find and a mild rush was on.

After getting as they thought the  best of the gold most  of them joined in a rush to Tullawang.  Father and I then came along in 1870, and went to Adam’s Lead near where the Gulgong Saleyards now stand. Adams had sunk several shafts, each round about 18 feet.  The rush caused by Saunders’s find bought about three or four thousand people to Gulgong but a great many had left for other fields when we came on to the scene. My father and I went into one of Adam’s deserted shafts going through a false bottom and at 25 feet bottomed on Slippery Jack.  We then tried a 2nd shaft with the same result. We went into the third shaft and were then joined by Cragan, Bradley and Cook.  They took the first shift whilst father and I, who was then a boy of 13 or 14 years, went on the 2nd shift.  I had to work down the shaft as I was not strong enough to wind father up and down.  I was at work at night when a drunken man came along and looking down saw that I had got through the false bottom and onto quartz.  He spread the news and before morning there were three hundred men on the spot.

Peter Wolvendale measured our claim off and took from us an area which exceeded our measurement and on account of my being a minor tried to take my share.  Over this there was court work and Mr  Bellanclanty being a very just and straight man ruled that as I was the actual finder of the gold I was entitled to my share.  I might better have lost my share then as it would have saved much bother afterwards.

My father got possession of my share and would not hand it over to me but eventually he bought for me from Mr Thomas Isbester a 40 acre Crown Grant being portion 10 Parish Guntawang, County Phillip.  The land was transferred from Thomas Isbester to myself, William Aldridge, Isbester’s name being erased from the maps etc and my name substituted and my name William Aldridge is still in evidence on the maps etc.  This is as it should be as I did not at any time dispose of any land or sign my name to any transfer nor did I authorise anyone to deal in the land on my behalf.

If the land is not mine, why is my name allowed to remain on the maps etc as the owner? In that case the Lands Department must be using my name illegally.

In 1878 my father requested me to sign transfers enabling him to sell the land and this I refused to do. I could not write at the time as I had received no schooling.  When I persisted in my refusal he set a trap for me.  Being disgusted with the treatment that I had received at my father’s hand and quite determined not to sign away my land I decided to go to Queensland and on the eve of my departure he (father) stole a pony from Mrs McDonald of “The Lagoons” and sent it by another man to me as a parting gift.  Some distance on my way I was overtaken by the police who, finding the stolen pony in my possession brought me back to Gulgong then to Mudgee where I had to stand trial.  I had no receipt  for the pony and being an uneducated lad of about 19 years and knowing nothing of Law and how to go about defending myself was sentenced to 18 months in Mudgee Gaol.

Whilst in Gaol Clark, the solicitor and Dick the gaoler came to me and tried to get me to sign the papers and on my refusal to sign put me in the cells for three days.  They then gave me another two days in the cells on my further refusal to sign and only desisted the persecution when a man being released threatened to report them.

The swindle to obtain possession of this land from me was perhaps the greatest bit of roguery since the famous Tichburne case.  I, a lad in my teens and uneducated, being by a trick put in gaol to enable conspirators and swindlers and forgers to carry out their plans and this they did for the time successfully but the land is till my property and all the roguery in  the world will not alter that fact and whilst I have life I intend to fight for my rights and I will so arrange that when my life has ended there will be others to carry on the fight, and no one will ever get a true title to the land without my consent or that of my heirs.  There have been several transfers from me to Edward Aldridge, having been a swindle and a forgery, all subsequent transfers must be valueless.  Being a poor man I have not been able to fight this swindle in the manner I would like, but I am looking to government departments concerned to probe into the matter and to see that I get justice so long delayed.    I am now in my 79th year and am badly broken up from rough life in Queensland and find it very hard deprived of possession of my property where I hoped and still hope to spend the remaining years of my life freed from the necessity of depending on an old age pension which is loathsome to me.  Should I not have been robbed of my land I should never had to draw old age pension

by William Aldridge”

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