Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Welcome Stranger

On 5th February, 1869, near the town of Moliagul in Victoria, two gold miners John Deason and Richard Oates dug up from under the roots of a tree, buried about 5cm (2ins) deep, the biggest alluvial gold nugget ever found. It weighed 69kg (155lbs or 2220 troy oz).
It was called "The Welcome Stranger".
They were paid ₤9,563 by the bank for it. In today's terms that's around $1.5 million which must have been a fantastic amount of money in those days. At today's gold price it would be worth $3.5 million.
No wonder both men quit mining, bought land, and retired to the easy life.
They had been, the day before the find, refused credit by the local store for a bag of flour they needed to supplement their meagre rations.
No picture or cast was ever taken of the nugget and the replica below is based on a couple of sketches made at the time.

Why my interest in all this?
There had been a photo of the event in the possession of my family as long as I can remember and I spent some time to seek it out.
It appears that the picture, taken by a local photographer at the time, William Parker of Dunoly, is a re-enactment.

The little boy standing behind the lady kneeling between the two miners with their crowbar and pick is my maternal grandfather.

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