Story and photos by subcommittee member Kathi Miller, Senior Tenement Geologist, Norton Gold Fields Ltd
HEART OF GOLD DISCOVERY TRAIL SERIES
Western Australia’s gold history is both colourful and fascinating. Following the challenges of the First World War, the 1930s brought revitalisation to the gold industry with a rise in the gold price and an increase in foreign investment. However, it was the discovery of a gold nugget in 1931 that created a national sensation and saw many prospectors return to WA.
In early 1931, Larkinville, near Widgiemooltha, was an alluvial field of hard-won dust.
“The area is useless,” a prospector said after six weeks of digging and shaking the dirt. He gave up the search for gold, removed his tools and abandoned the lease on which the Golden Eagle nugget lay buried beneath a road.
James Joseph Larcombe was the next man to peg out a claim over the vacant ground. Men digging the land around him had found very little gold. Some of them were in desperate circumstances, almost starving and living only on porridge.
James went to work dryblowing the old creek bed. He found some colour (small specks of gold). He almost gave up the claim, but when gold was found on a neighbouring property, he stayed a little longer.
James’s 16 year old son, Jim, joined him on the field. Young Jim had left his heavy work of supplying wood to the State Battery at Coolgardie, which was an ore-crushing facility run by the Western Australian Government for use by prospectors and miners. Jim admitted to knowing nothing about prospecting but he would have a go.
Two days later, Jim uttered a joyous yell. He’d unearthed a heavy slug of gold from a hole in the road.
He struggled to carry the nugget in his arms. “Sluggo,” Jim called out. The diggers on the field ran over. “They were like a flock of sheep with four or five dingoes behind them,” James said.
Young Jim Larcombe had struck it rich. He’d found a fortune in one big piece of gold. The Golden Eagle nugget weighed 1,135 ounces, and in 1931, the Larcombe’s received an offer of £6,000 from a buyer.
The Golden Eagle, a nugget which roughly resembled a bird with outspread wings, was a triumph for the men who dug for gold with pick and shovel. Newspapers across Australia reported the sensational discovery at Larkinville. A new gold fever set in attracting investors and many prospectors to Western Australia. Today the Golden Eagle nugget is still the largest specimen found in WA.
The gold industry has played and continues to play a fundamental role in Australia’s history, economy and social fabric, and is vital to our future.
A replica of the Golden Eagle nugget, sponsored by The Perth Mint, will be unveiled in Elizabeth Quay on Saturday 7 October, marking the start of Perth’s first virtual gold trail.