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”

The Clock


Gertie and her baby daughter, were home alone in their cottage in the Vale of Clywdd. Arthur was away working at the colliery down the Gap Road.   It was a welcome diversion from the young mother’s daily routine when the old Indian hawker Ali Khan called by in his horse drawn waggon. She was hoping to buy a new clock.

“I have recently received a shipment from the Ansonia Company in America of some very handsome chiming mantle clocks. They have very efficient brass movements,” advised the man.

Gertie chose a manogany coloured clock with an attractive pattern carved into the case. The pendulum was a gleaming golden colour and the spring mechanisn was calibrated to maintain the time for 28 days without rewinding with the huge old brass key.

For the next forty years the clock sat on the mantlepiece over the fire in the lounge room. Arthur never missed rewinding it on the last Sunday of every month. In later years, the 6 pm chimes of the clock would signal it was time for the family to be quiet as Arthur turned on the radiogram to listen to the ABC news.

Many years after my Grandfather’s death, my Aunt kindly passed the clock on to me. At some point in time the spring had broken and it now needs to be rewound once a week. The sound of its chimes bring back many happy childhood memories of times spent visiting my Grandfather. It now has pride of place on a cabinet in my home.


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Eliza’s Journey


Eliza leant against a tree beside the banks of Jack Hall’s Creek near Coonabarabran, the picture of misery and desperation. Although she was only 40 years old, her thin, weary body looked like that of an old woman. What can I do, she wondered. I am so exhausted, so alone. There is nobody I can turn to. Why did Ned steal those sheep from Snowdens. Now he is facing court and no doubt will end up in jail. Only a few months ago we buried another baby. Maybe it was a blessing that little Edward John only lived a couple of days. Rosetta is only one year old, then there’s Bertie and Charlie.


As Eliza gazed into the dry creek bed, she fingered the rope that she had found in the shed. “Oh how I wish I could see my Mam and Dadda again” she sighed. Her thoughts took her back to the smallholding she grew up on in Dungannon, Co. Tyronne. There was her older brother Robbie, working beside their father planting potatoes. Life was not easy, the fungus had taken hold and most of the crops were rotting in the ground over winter. As the situation worsened, many communities suffered starvation and destitution. However, Eliza’s family were part of the strong local Presbyterian community, who all banded together in support of each other, which eased their deprivations a little.


One day, her young man, Hugh came over to tell her that he had decided to leave and travel to Australia as part of the Australian Government’s Assisted Immigrant Scheme. “Don’t worry love, if it works out, I will send for you and we can be married” Hugh said when Eliza had started to cry.


And so it happened, that in 1860, when she was only 17 years old, Eliza joined Hugh in Wollongong and they married by special license in Dapto. A year later Isaac was born. Over the next few years, the young couple moved first to Bathurst and then to Hartley in search of laboring jobs for Hugh. Eliza gave birth to four more babies three of whom she also buried shortly after birth.


Soon after burying their son Alfred at Hartley in 1868, Hugh decided to try his luck at gold prospecting out towards Gulgong. He left Eliza with the two young children Isaac and Elizabeth in a slab hut for shelter in Gulgong and set out towards Two Mile Flat where, he had heard, that gold had been found. Eliza never saw him again. Hugh disappeared without trace, leaving his family destitute. On 20 August 1869, young Isaac and Elizabeth were taken in and given shelter by the Randwick Assylum for Destitute Children. Later, after she had found a position in service at Gulgong, Eliza managed to visit her children once, however she did not have the means to support them.


Men were flocking to Gulgong in search of their fortunes in gold, and Eliza saw an opportunity for herself as a Palmiest, telling people their fortunes. She became know by the locals as “The Breeze of the Winds”. A tall dark haired, goodlooking, blue eyed larrikin of a man soon caught her eye. In no time Ned Aldridge left his wife and family and moved in with Eliza. Life was so much fun in the beginning. Ned had found a fortune in gold. He and Eliza were often seen riding around the streets of town in his buggy. Eliza was dressed in the height of fashion, and Ned took great delight in calling into the various pubs in town, shouting the bar drinks. Rumour had it that he actually shod his horses with golden shoes.


Eliza gave birth to four more children, again losing three of them to disease. Ned lost his fortune as quickly as he had gained it. He seemed to have an irresponsible devil-may care attitude, which made life very difficult for his family.


Gulgong was very much a man’s town, the women where often left on their own. Ned loved to spend time with his mates in the pub, and particularly at Mr Bindu’s ‘Star Hotel’ . One day in late November 1871 many people, including Ned were loitering about relaxing and enjoying the fine weather. In the evening they moved towards The Star, in Queen Street. It was reported in the press the next day that “there proceeded loud and angry words…… The altercation in words soon came to blows. Not only fists, but bludgeons, iron bars and fire pokers, driving picks and loaded whips were freely used. It appeared that two men, Mr Aldridge and another had some words and Mr Bindu urged Mr Aldridge to enter the Star. The door was then closed against the ingress of those without. The door and windows were smashed in amidst the uproar of the crowd. “ Two policemen soon arrived and took three main protagonists into custody. The reporter wryly commented “The damage to the heads and bodies of the belligerents must have been considerable, but may probably be repaired at a less cost than that of the door and windows of the hotel.”


Fortunately, he was a gifted judge of horse flesh and Ned enjoyed some success racing his horses in the district. His mare, Locket came third in the prestigious 1874 New Years Handicap Race at Home Rule and he was reported to have been paid prize money of £132 at the 1876 Gulgong Annual Races in June. In that same year, Eliza gave birth to another son, Herbert Charles, whom she immediately called Charlie.


The following year their house was partially destroyed by fire and later two of Ned’s best racehorses “Friendless” and “Locket” were stolen. Once again Eliza was faced with poverty and despair.


Although the horses were eventually recovered and returned to Ned, Eliza pleaded with him to move away and make a new start elsewhere for the sake of their family.


Whether or not it was in response to Eliza’s pleading Ned found work managing stock on a property near Coonabarabran. They moved there in about 1880. For a short time life became more settled for Eliza and her children. However with the births of yet three more babies and the grief of burying two of them, her resilience had hit rock bottom by the time Ned was charged with the theft of the sheep.


Charlie had been looking everywhere for his mother, who had gone out for a walk just after lunch leaving him to mind the toddlers. The sun was setting by the time he reached the creek. There was no sound other than the birdsong as the galahs, parrots and crows settled for the evening and the chirping crickets took over. He walked into the grove of trees beside the creek. It was darker, cooler in there. Suddenly something caught his eye. He looked up and to his horror, saw his mother hanging from one of the branches. There was a rope around her neck and it had been secured somehow, over a branch. She was so still. The young boy sank to the ground, feeling numb and overwhelmed by his grief.








Eliza’s J

Drifting Back in Time



unsure-joe-bampton-david-and-mary-ann-leakeThe influenza epidemic had already claimed many victims. Mary Ann had been unwell for some days, and her anxious husband and family felt so helpless as they watched over her. The fever increased, and her thoughts drifted back in time, back to her family home in Fox Row, Ogley Hay, Staffordshire. A letter had arrived for her, from her fiance, David so far away in Australia

“My dear, I am counting down the months now, to when you will join me here and we can be together. I have been able to secure a plot of land from the Colliery. It is below the escarpment at the other end of the Vale to the Mine. There is a well in the front of the block that is producing sweet water, and the creek flows by the lower fence. Jim has offered his spare time to help build our little cottage, which I hope will be ready for you to move into when you arrive. “

A smile flittered across Mary’s face, as she recalled her father finally giving his permission that upon reaching her 21st birthday she could leave her home and country to join David in Australia. He had asked for her hand in marriage over three years ago, prior to joining Mary’s brother, James on board the sailing ship, “La Hogue”. The young men travelled to Australia as Assisted Migrants, lured by tales of work available in the coal mining industry

At last it was time to leave her employment as a servant to one of the better off Birmingham merchants, and prepare to farewell her parents and siblings. As Mary was packing her metal trunk for the voyage, her mother handed her a farewell gift of a photo album of precious photos of the family. They both had tears in their eyes, as they hugged, knowing it was very likely that they would never see each other again. Her mother took comfort in the knowledge that Mary was to be accompanied by her old friend, Ann

“This is really happening,” she thought, with mixed feelings of excitement, sorrow and fear, as she boarded the ship “Northampton” in Plymouth. Early the following morning, Mary was up on deck, gazing at her last views of the southernmost coast of Cornwall. “I wonder what Australia is going to be like?” she pondered

It was early evening on Christmas Eve when the ship was towed into Neutral Bay. Mary had been leaning on the rails, eagerly taking in the views of the harbour. How different it all seemed to anything she knew and was familiar with. The weather had been hot and steamy and she was feeling the effects of the heat. However, now a gentle sea breeze was easing her discomfort.

She felt so excited now at the prospect of spending their first Christmas together with David, after three years apart. However, she was soon to be disappointed when the Captain advised that because of the Christmas public holiday, landing would be delayed.

It was her brother, James that she first saw in the crowd of people waiting to greet the passengers from the ship. Then, standing head and shoulders above him, there was David, who had just appeared from behind a pill

At last, she was on land again, and in the arms of her brother, and smiling shyly up to her fiancé.

David had arranged accommodation for Mary at a boarding house in the Rocks area, not far from where he and James were staying. The next couple of weeks passed in a whirl as David and James showed her the sights of Sydney Town, and made final arrangements for their wedding. On the morning of her wedding day, she carefully dressed in the pretty dark blue gingham frock that her Mother had helped her to make. She loved the pretty lace trim that her Aunt had given her to decorate the cuffs of the sleeves. The cameo brooch that her mother had given her for her 21st birthday looked perfect, pinned to the front of her lace-trimmed collar. Mary and Ann walked up to the nearby Wesleyan Parsonage in Prince Street, where David and James were waiting with the minister.

The following morning, the young couple travelled in a horse-drawn cab to the nearby Central Railway Station. They had left plenty of time to visit Lomer’s Photographic Studio, opposite the railway terminus. David had arranged for Mary to sit for a portrait to send to her mother.

The train was at the platform, when Mary and David arrived at the station. Her husband took her elbow and helped her up into the carriage. Waiting for the last leg of her long journey to begin, Mary gazed out of the window taking in the vision of the recently completed platform. She thought how fitting it was that her great journey had begun and ended in a steam train.












Sunday Evening in Gulgong


Edward Aldridge, who was better know to the general population of Gulgong as “Ned” was feeling very sore and sorry for himself. It had been a pleasant Sunday afternoon and the weather was fine. Along with many of the locals, Ned, was drawn outside into the streets, enjoying his day of rest, following the usual week of heavy toil.


As the sun set, and the cooler evening air moved in, many of the people congregated in Queen Street, near the Star Hotel.   Soon loud and angry words arose from the crowd. He could not recall later how it all started. Somehow, Ned found himself caught up in the melee as blows, not only with fists, but bludgeons, iron bars, fire pokers, driving picks and loaded whips, were wielded in wild abandon.


Concerned that his friend would find himself in trouble yet again with the constabulary, the publican, Mr Bindu urged Ned to come inside. He then closed the door to the crowds outside. Unfortunately that action led to the door and windows being smashed in before two policemen arrived and took three main offenders into custody.


Upon reading a report of the incident in the Town & Country Journal the following Saturday, 4 November 1871, Ned could not help but raise a rye chuckle at the conclusion of the article, which commented, “The damage to the heads and bodies of the belligerents must have been considerable, but may probably be repaired at less cost than that to the door and windows of the hotel.”


Arriving in Lithgow




My long journey is finally over. David and I arrived at the cottage in the Vale of Clywdd yesterday afternoon. It was so very hot and I was feeling exhausted after the excitement and many challenges of reaching Australia only three weeks ago.

I felt such mixed emotions as the ship sailed through the entrance into the harbour. I was excited to be seeing David again, curious about this new country, anxious about how I will cope with my new life and sad about leaving my family. Sailiing into the harbour, the trees looked odd to me, not the soft greens I am used to. They are dull olive green mostly, and look scraggly. They do have a clean, pleasant smell though.

Yesterday morning we boarded the steam train to Lithgow. Our buggy driver delivered us to the main entrance of the new station and my trunks were soon loaded onto the waiting train. The carriage was comfortable and David insisted that I should sit by the window.

At first, I could see a mixture of cottages, vegetable plots, and paddocks with mainly horses, cattle and hens. The countryside soon became less and less inhabited, with some scattered small villages. The engine worked very hard pulling the train up the steep incline to the “Blue Mountains”. I could see uninviting rocky, scrubby, dry country. It all felt so unfamiliar and challenging.

I just hope that I can learn to love this place as much as I do my new husband.

The Funeral



The cemetery was such a bleak place, without a blade of grass to be seen. There were few leaves left on the trees, showing the effects of their struggle to survive during the long years of drought. The cool May winds were blowing clouds of gritty dust over Susannah as she stood, head bowed, holding her small toddler’s hand. Her husband stood beside her, nursing their surviving twin, Charlie in his arms.


It all felt like such a blur to the grieving mother, standing beside the small grave ready to receive the tiny coffin of her beloved daughter, Gracie. She recalled the shock and dismay she had felt when told late in her pregnancy that she was carrying twins. Although it had been a constant struggle to provide food and clothing for the children, Gracie’s cheerful little personality had brought so much joy since she and Charlie had arrived in February the year before.


The little girl had fallen ill more than a month ago. She became lethargic and was unable to keep food down. Her thin little body became rapidly wasted despite every effort to provide her with tempting broth and porridge. Susannah knew there was no cure for Tubercular Enteritis however she prayed that her daughter would be spared.


The sound of the clods of dry earth falling on the coffin brought Susannah back to the moment.   Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…

Chat with my Mum

1946 Sue and mum, Edna Aldridge nee Leake\


“Mum, I remember hearing that when I was born, somebody commented that I had eyes like a Black Eyed Susan. Is that how you chose my name? “

Taking in a deep breath, and with some hesitation in her voice, my mother replied, “Not really, your eyes were more bluish green. I have never spoken to you about your father, have I? When you were little it was easier to let you believe that your father had been killed in the War. It was your Dad who wanted you to be named after his mother, Susannah. “

“I have never felt comfortable to ask you about him. What was he like? What really happened? “

“He was much older than me, I was 27 and he was nearly 40. His hair was dark with a wave in it like yours and you have inherited his eyes. “ Mum stared out into the distance for awhile before continuing, “I was teaching at Mudgee when we met. He worked on a property at Spring Ridge near Gulgong. It was his job to drive the children into school in the farm buggy. “

“In August after I discovered that I was pregnant , we married at the Mudgee registry office.   Your father could not commit to life as a married man and left me. I joined my sister in Sydney, and you were born there. When you were about 5 months old I did take you to visit his mother, Susannah. That is the only time anybody in his family saw you.”



I keep thinking about that bloke, Frank, who visited us at Bobadeen. Remember that nugget he showed us. He said he found it on Red Hill, just near here. Those shafts over there on Adam’s Lead are deserted, we’ll have a look down there Will” said old Ed to his twelve year old son. Although he was a slightly built lad, the boy winched his father down the first shaft with some degree of hope and excitement. After going through a false bottom, the old man found nothing but Slippery Jack. The second shaft returned the same result.

Their enthusiasm had waned by evening after their day of hard labour had revealed nothing. Will’s thin young arms were aching from winching his father up and down the shaft. His ragged shirt was no protection from the cool, damp evening air. Will shivered, wishing he could rest awhile by a warm campfire. He had eaten nothing all day other than a slice of dry damper and small hunk of salted beef, washed down with a pannican of tea.

” We’ll stay on awhile longer. I’ll winch you in the bucket, ” said Ed.

It was later in the night when a drunken man came along. He saw that the boy had got onto quartz. Before morning he had spread the news and more than three hundred men had crowded around the spot.

“We must get this claim measured off before someone jumps us” thought Ed with a degree of trepidation.

Sailing to a New Life

It was with some degree of trepidation and much excitement that young Mary Ann Bampton boarded the ship “NORTHAMPTON” at Plymouth on 17 September 1880. She was emigrating to Australia to join her fiancé, David Leake in Sydney. Only recently had she left her employment as a servant, working for a large household on the outskirts of Birmingham.


Although she had to share with other single women, her accommodation on board was spacious, and clean. Early in the morning of September 19th, as she watched the southernmost coast of Cornwall, the Lizard, disappear from view she felt a great sadness come over her, knowing that she may never see her parents William and Emma again.


Despite the voyage taking longer than expected, Mary Ann’s time on board was harmonious and comfortable. As the ship was towed into Neutral Bay in the evening of Friday 24 December, Mary Ann was delighted at the prospect of joining her older brother, James and fiancé David for their first Christmas Day together in Australia. However, she was soon to be disappointed when the Captain was advised that because of the public holiday, landing would be delayed until the following Tuesday.


Following her marriage to David on 15 January at the Wesleyan Parsonage in The Rocks, Mary Ann posed for her portrait at photographic studios of Albert Lomer near the Central Railway. She wore her best gingham dress trimmed around the neck and sleeves with lace and proudly displayed her shiny new wedding ring.Mary