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In the last years of the 1890s the law regarding alluvial mining vs reef mining came to head in a number of protests. It was the closest the Eastern Goldfields in Western Australia came to having a Eureka moment. Large numbers of mounted police were transported to the fields and the Premier John Forrest was attacked by an umbrella (which became a symbol of the resistance).
A regulation was introduced known as the “Ten-foot regulation”. The regulation was brought in to protect reef miners from claims of alluvial miners which subsequently put a large number of alluvial miners in the Fremantle jail. Nobody knew where the reefs started and finished. Under the new act alluvial miners were not allowed to dig within 50 feet of a reef and they were limited to only ten feet in depth. It was widely known that the layer of overburden that the gold was found under was at least 100 feet or deeper.
John Forrest went off to a Federation Convention over East leaving Edward Wittenoom to put this into action. With effigies of Forrest and Wittenoom hanging from hotel balconies and being set on fire, this upset a number of political leaders in Perth. Wittenoom even braved the wrath of miners who drowned out his speeches with hoots and jeers. Mounted police became a feature on the streets of Kalgoorlie to control the crowds turning out to protest the regulation.
Every year the Diggers and Dealers Conference blows into Kalgoorlie-Boulder like a swift tornado grasping at the town with full force. From all over Australia, the Mining sector gathers for a few days of 'wheeling and dealing' and despite no eastern state representatives attending in person due to COVID lockdowns, there were over 2400 people to talk to. All and all, this was a very positive Diggers as attendees were be able to meet in large numbers without masks and Global Tenements was happy to take part.
The young man didn’t die alone. The bullet hole in the back of his skull proved that. And how many men can bury themselves?
Although the murder happened just out of town, it seems no-one heard the shot, there were no witnesses and – as the next few years were to prove – no-one to miss him.
As the Great Depression gnawed through the 1930s, the old gold mining town of Wedderburn hosted almost as many people looking for work as had flocked there during the height of the gold rush, more than 80 years before. They came and went, drifting into town one day and gone the next.
It was a great time and place for a murder.
One fine, hot January day in 1937, at the best guess about six months after that unheard shot, Wedderburn prospector Herbert Weston made a decision that was to haunt him for the rest of his life. If such a thing were possible, it even turned him off gold – or at least the search for it.
Herbert decided to revisit an old shaft he’d dug a few years previously. He hadn’t found any gold in it back then, but his luck had been pretty poor lately and he’d got to thinking… maybe paydirt was just a few shovel-loads further down. He would sink the shaft a bit deeper and see if he could turn his fortunes around.
Herbert took his mate Neal Thompson along to help. Someone seemed to have chucked a lot of debris and soil into it since he’d last been there, which was a nuisance as it meant more work for them. The pair began to dig. A few minutes later, one spade struck something hard. Excitedly, they scraped the soil away.
But what they found was no gold nugget. It was the top of a human skull, with strands of light brown hair still clinging to it.....