Volume 10

Richard Ross – The last of the Original Goldminers Part II

Richard Wilkins, Great Grandson

Part II The Sailor and Miner

The story of Richard Ross, the miner, is notable because of his sheer perseverance, actively mining from the opening of the field in August 1867 until at least 1925, and continuing to live in his Eureka Hill home until his death aged 89 in 1935. He was never lucky enough to become rich overnight by striking a bonanza, or by speculation in shares, but he was the last of the originals living on the Goldfield, bringing up a total of eighteen children, several of whom were miners themselves or married to miners.

He had more success than most of the hopefuls in the first few years of the Goldfield with the Eureka Claim returning him a small fortune, but he wasted this, went down on his luck for a few years and then, remarkably, pulled himself up by his bootstraps and from the early 1880s, reinvented himself as a secretary (legal manager), miner and eventually Mine Manager for many ventures in the Thames area. There was never a return to the riches of the Eureka days, but he was moderately successful and by 1925 was the only one of the originals still mining in Thames.

Details of his early life are sketchy, but some recently discovered notes have enabled me to fill in some of the years between 1859 and 1867. From these, it is apparent that his experiences as a sailor were more extensive than hitherto suspected.

The Sailor.

Richard Ross first went to sea 'before the mast' on the River Thames from Gravesend in early 1859 at the age of 13. He was in New York for the July 4th celebrations later that year. In March 1861, his father must have cajoled him into starting a five-year apprenticeship, training to be a Trinity Pilot working out of Gravesend. For some reason, this period with his father only lasted a couple of months, and at the end of May, he signed on to the Ida Zeigler as an Ordinary Seaman, arriving in Auckland on August 21st 1861.

Fig 1. Richard Ross Indentured to his father, Trinity Pilot, on the 12th of March 1861

It was in Auckland that he jumped ship. Despite the fact that, by now, he was an experienced seaman, he disappeared into the Wade area – a favourite refuge of others who had 'left ship' - working as a pit sawyer. It is not clear how long this work lasted, but with the outbreak of the 'Maori War', he got back to sea, although it was more soldiering than sailoring:

'First entered Thames River on H.M.S. Esk, Capt. Hamilton on November 2nd. 1863 being a member of the Auckland Naval Volunteers. Landed at Wakatiwai after being nine days on the passage, blowing from the North East all the time and accompanied by heavy rain squalls which made it rather rough as we had to keep to the upper or gun deck all the time and had to lay down to sleep on the wet deck with none too dry blankets, and to make matters worse, we had no food to eat but salt pork and biscuits made of Pollard known in those days as pastibs.

After landing we had to march from 8am. till 9pm. without a rest over rough country up one hill then across a gully to mount another hill as steep as the proverbial side of a house. The travelling was so bad that fully half our contingent did not arrive at our destination till next day and no wonder as they had to carry about 50 lbs. of baggage including a rifle and bayonet also 90 rounds of ammunition of the old muzzle loading type. We were camped at Pukorokoro for about 12 months during which time we built the Miranda and Esk redoubts both of which were earthworks with a deep trench around.'

Richard Ross’s account of the Miranda Expedition is in complete agreement with those of historians. In fact, a remarkable aspect of this and all of Richard’s writings is, despite his going to sea at 13, his recall of facts is absolutely accurate, his English perfect, and his actual writing extremely neat.

The Miranda Expedition ended for Richard in late 1864.

After returning to Auckland, I took up my old profession of sailoring and for several years, was engaged in trading to Cabbage Bay Mill, also to Waikawau and Coromandel.'

Richard clearly was valued as a pilot, an essential skill in navigating channels amongst mudflats and sandbanks that made entry to most of the Coromandel 'landings' challenging. Ironically, as pointed out by Captain Cook, this area had similarities to Gravesend! Most of his work was on cutters, fast sailing boats of about 20 tons, with shallow keels, and a lot of sail. The main cargo was timber being shipped to Auckland. He worked a lot with Captain Edwards on the cutter Bessy (Bessie).

What he does not say is that during this time, he formed a liaison with Sarah Godfrey who had been living with another sailor, Edward English. Richard had fathered a child, Clara, in 1866. As Sarah already had four children, their financial situation would have been challenging. Moreover, as has been well documented, the economy of Auckland was in the doldrums.

This might have been the reason that he decided to try his luck at the Thames Goldfields when it opened. Originally, he was booked to go down on the paddle steamer Enterprise 2. However, the weather turned bad in the last days of July and disrupted James Mackay’s plans for an orderly opening of the Goldfield. The week before, Mackay had come up from Thames on the cutter Alabama and had intended to return on her to set up shop before the Goldfields were opened on August 1st.

The storm delayed the departure of the Enterprise 2 and an armada of cutters by a day until Thursday August 1st. James Mackay and his two constables transferred to the Enterprise so they would at least arrive at the same time as the bulk of the goldminers, leaving their gear to follow on the Alabama. The trip to Thames was tricky, because as well as the aftermath of the storm, a spring tide made negotiating the mudflats up to the Shortland landing particularly tricky.

Fig 2. The Approach to Shortland is through
mudflats, with only the channel of the
Kauaeranga River navigable at low tide.
(Photo by Jon Brunette taken in 2008).

Figure 2. The Approach to Shortland is through mudflats with only the channel of the Kauaeranga River navigable at low tide. Establishing a deep-water harbour at Thames was never financially viable. (My thanks to Jon Brunette for this photo taken in 2008).

The master of the cutter Severn obviously had realised the navigational challenges as well, and decided to get Richard Ross to pilot them down:

'Came to Thames August 1st 1867 by Cutter Severn sailed by Capt. H. Dustin, and W. Downs father of Mr. Downs of the firm O’Leary Bros. and Downs (Auckland). Landed at Thames at about 10 o’clock on morning Spring tide. Enterprise was stuck on Bank all night. I was coming by Enterprise but met Capt. Dustin who asked me to pilot them down, I having been engaged in the Cutter Bessy by Capt. J . Edwards running timber from Waikawau to Auckland, consequently knowing the Thames channels well.'

The Enterprise 2 had left Auckland on August 1st at 9am and arrived at Shortland around 6pm but apparently got stuck and had to wait for the flood tide the next morning to get free and unload the passengers. Rather embarrassingly for the captain, several cutters, which had left Auckland much later, including the Severn, timed their arrival perfectly on the same flood tide.

As far as I can ascertain, this was the last serious sailoring venture of Richard Ross. Although he was only 21, the tough experiences since the age of 13 would have prepared him much better than most for the demanding life on the goldfields.

The Miner

On the first night in Thames, many of the would-be miners set up camp on a site where the War Memorial Hall now stands.

The next week was disappointing. Everyone was assuming the gold would be alluvial (indeed, entrepreneurs back in Auckland were already advertising sluicing equipment, and there was much discussion about how many sluicing operations could be supported with water from the handful of streams in Thames).

Richard Ross describes the atmosphere at the camp:

'There was indignation at a meeting — speakers J. Boyd, G. Alexander, G. Holland, Williamson. The field was declared a duffer as far as alluvial gold being in evidence.'

(as far as I can tell, all of these gentleman subsequently took out Miners Rights!).

Nevertheless, singing and reciting:

'Black Jack on the Stump and A little more Cider for Miss Dinah put us all in a good humour.'

Events then took a dramatic turn:

'Next morning it leaked out that a specimen had been found along the beach which eventually turned out to be Hunt’s find in the Kuranui Creek. A rush took place and the ground was pegged out on both sides of Hunt’s claim, the left hand spur being the favourite as the miners thought the reef was bearing North and South but as work progressed it was found out that the course was North East, consequently it ran into the Barry claim and then through the Deep Lead into the Eureka where it cut out on what is known the present day as the Moanataiari - a big slide. I may state that although the Tookey’s strike turned out so rich, no gold has ever been obtained on the opposite side known as the Kuranui Spur although it contains plenty of fine looking seams.

The Eureka Claim

Richard Ross prospected in the Kuranui valley for about 3 weeks without success. Along with John George, he initially worked on the north side of the valley because they believed the reefs were running North and South. This was not the case, and they had no luck.

After a few days, John and William Goldsworthy who had just come down from Auckland, joined them, and they extended their prospecting to both sides of the creek. As they got higher up, William went over the creek to the south side and began fossicking around. Finding something promising, he called Richard across and they set fire to the fern covering the ground. In Richard’s words:

'We found some quartz among the ashes, which on being broken open, were found to be rich specimens.'

They immediately pegged out six men’s ground by guesswork. The other two men who joined them (after the event?) were Andrew Grattan and Charles Robinson.

The regulations for a quartz claim were fairly specific, one man could take ground 50 feet in the presumed direction of the reef and 150 feet on either side of it. They were constrained on the Western (lower) side by the Homeward Bound claim; a 300 foot boundary was pegged out along this and they measured up 50’ per man in the NE direction of the reef. They should have only pegged out 300 feet (6 x 50 feet) up the hill but they 'miscalculated' and pegged out 450 gfeet, giving a total area of just over 3 acres – 'a big claim at the time. (It is unlikely, given Richard’s navigational skills, that this miscalculation would be other than deliberate!).

This was at the end of August. All people on the claim had to have a Miners Right. Andrew Gratten (sic) was the only one who already had one (#29, 12th August), Richard got his within a few days (#132, 3rd Sept. at which time he registered the claim) then Robinson (#150, 5th Sept.), George (#189, 10th Sept.) and the Goldsworthys (#s 446 & 447, 27th Sept.).

They immediately began picking the low-hanging fruit. That is, all the loose and rich gold near the surface of the reef. This would have been very easy, similar to the initial 'harvesting' on Hunt's claim, but on a much smaller scale. In Richard’s words:

'On starting fossicking, where we first found the gold, we discovered the reef outcropping and nearly every stone contained gold. We obtained 70 ounces of loose gold by panning, which gave us a start which we needed, as I don't believe we could raise five pounds among the whole party. We worked on and obtained more specimens and took out 10 tons of quartz, which we afterwards crushed at the little Battery erected at the foot of the Kuranui Creek by Frazer and Tinnes, which yielded with the specimens on hand 1340 ounces of melted gold and value three pounds thirteen shillings per oz. We then formed our holding into a company of 2000 one pound shares, Mr. Wm.Rowe was legal Manager, Mr. John Goldsworthy the Mine Manager'

These recollections were written some years later, and the figures Richard quotes do not quite agree with other accounts (including his own given to a newspaper in 1931). In the Auckland Star (4th Sept. 1931), he stated that they got 70oz of loose gold and 968oz of gold from 10 tons of quartz, which they sold to the Bank of New Zealand for £2-10/- an ounce, giving them £2420.

Possibly, the 1340oz he quotes in his earlier notes includes additional crushings of rich specimens – for instance they sent 80oz from 1cwt of crushings to Auckland on the 9th November 1867 and another 120oz a month later. The quoted value of £3-13/- an oz at first glance appears wrong, as the gold would have to be very pure, greater than 20 carats to achieve this price in Thames! However, almost certainly it is correct, as the very first miners were quite cunning and bypassed the official channels; for instance George Clarkson of Hunt's Claim fame recounted:

'The banks at Thames were buying the gold at only 25/- per ounce, so the miners sent 7,000 ounces to England through the bank on the corner of Queen and Victoria Street. The price they received from England was £3.10.0 per ounce, plus the silver extracted.'

This means that, in just four months, by the end of 1867, some one-third of the total returns from the Eureka claim had been realized.

In the next eighteen months, the company carried on mining, with some changes in shareholders and an increase in area (to 8 men's ground), producing four to five thousand ounces of gold (the exact amount is difficult to estimate).

A significant change occurred in mid 1869 when the Eureka Gold Mining Company (GMC) was formed; Grattan, Von der Heyde (who bought into the original company), Ross and William Goldsworthy each taking a 7.6% share, Robinson 11.4% and John Goldsworthy 15%. Only the last four were Thames based miners and they now only had 42% of the shares (the largest shareholder was the Thames Gold Mining company with 31%).

Just how much time Richard Ross spent physically mining during up to this time is not known. He must have employed men on his share of the claim as in 1868 he notes that he was prospecting in Thortons Bay. It also is not clear if his statement in 1917 of selling a half share for £300 and 'cutting it in nine days' refers to the original Eureka Company. Whatever the case, he was fully paid up with £1647 when the Eureka GMC was formed.

In the event, the Eureka GMC did not perform well. The Auckland directors got increasingly restless and reformed it as the Eureka Hill GMC in May 1871 with some 150 investors, most Auckland-based. All the original shareholders except Grattan had shares, although with a much diluted stake. For example John Goldsworthy had 259 shares and Richard Ross 99 out of the 4000 shares (half paid up). Possibly, these shares were transferred from what they had left in the Eureka GMC; in any case, Richard appeared to have forfeited his when a call was made on them, requiring all shareholders to contribute a specified sum for each share they held. After some years of stuttering on, the Eureka Hill GMC, (which now consisted of 11 men's ground) was sold to the Moanataiari GMC for £150 in January 1875. That was the end of the Eureka Claim as a distinct entity.

The total return from the Eureka Claim was good, but not great compared with the best claims. Alastair Isdale estimated it as £13,798 up to 1875, which is less than one-tenth that of both the Shotover and the Kuranui (Barrys). Nevertheless, the six original shareholders did very well for themselves in the early days before the geology of their claim curtailed their returns. The problem was that the Moanataiari fault cut through the top of their claim. They would not have known this when they started. Richard Ross described this problem in realistic terms in his notes:

'…….we found out we had but a short length of the reef, as it was cut clean out by what is known as the big slide or fault, which traverses the goldfield from the Hape Creek to where it comes out on the beach, about 200 yards North of the Kuranui Creek, which accounts for the poorness of the reef on the North side of the Kuranui Creek, as no payable gold has ever been found near the slide on its footwall or underside. I may mention, that at 200 feet from the surface in the slide, we discovered petrified wood and Kauri gum, the gum being in appearance the same as that obtained on the surface and would have been sold as ordinary gum, but it would not burn in the fire.'

They went down to sea level inside their claim and, although they continued to obtain gold-bearing quartz, the reef proper ran out of their ground, and water was a problem. Richard maintained to the end of his life, that there was much gold remaining in this area, but whether it was economical to recover it by underground mining was debatable. Indeed, when the Moanataiari company took over the Eureka Hill GMC, they did not actively mine underground but instead did some opencast mining from 1888-95, yielding another £4843 of gold. They then abandoned the Eureka ground and it was taken over by Thomas Glasgow in 1896.

The downward spiral of the fortunes of the Eureka Claim perfectly illustrates the challenges faced by the fortunate few goldminers who were initially successful on the goldfield but did not have the capital to develop their claim.

Fig 3. A 'specimen' from a Ross collection
(A box under the bed).

Typically, visible and easily extracted gold near the surface soon gave way to quartz which, although still rich in gold ('specimens'), required crushing. It was ultimately lower grade 'stuff' which might only contain a few ounces of gold per ton. Although it was still very profitable to extract this low-grade ore, the capital to do so (extensive mining operations, large numbers of employees and contractors, transport of ore, stamper batteries, amalgamation of claims, etc) was far beyond the resources of the average goldminer – hence the emergence of large companies, typically set up by investors in Auckland and England.

A novice 'miner' in 1867 could well miss the gold specks as shown in Figure 3 (flakes are more obvious in the insert). Spitting on it shows up the gold – as does filtered light (right). This specimen contains about 5% gold, which corresponds to 1800oz/ton. The first few cwt of quartz taken from the Eureka Claim was similar to this.

Fig 4. A highly schematic depiction of the main reefs in the Kuranui hill - early miners referred to it as The Golden Hill.

The fortunes of these companies (and their shares) have been well documented elsewhere. Some, such as the Kuranui (Hunts, Barrys, Deep Level) did very well for many years by just processing huge tonnages of moderately rich ore on an industrial scale. A few modest performers unexpectedly struck it rich when they came across 'bonanzas'. Interestingly, the Shotover (Hunts) was the only bonanza on the surface; all the others in the Thames area – Moanataiari, Cambria, Caledonian, Waiotahi and Prince Imperial varied from 10 to 490 feet below sea level.

The extent of mining in the Hill was truly breathtaking. In the search for profitable reefs, the whole area ended up honeycombed with drives, multiple levels, shafts, tunnels etc, which Fraser likened to a gigantic rabbit warren extending well below sea-level, with mining only ceasing when operations became increasingly difficult and uneconomic. Almost certainly, much gold was missed and, environmental concerns aside, a case could be made for open-cast mining the entire hill, with an operation similar to the current one at Macraes Mine in the South Island which is economic down to a few gms of gold per tonne.

Richard Ross never lost his belief that there was much undiscovered gold in the area but, unfortunately, the Eureka Claim just petered out, there was no bonanza and diminishing amounts of economic ore.

Fig 5. License for the (New) Eureka Claim, 2nd June 1882. Note: the spelling here is Otunui, also known as Otanui.

Fig 6. Richard Ross – First-Class Mine-Managers Certificate 1897

In Figure 4, on the left I have 'scooped out' all of the hanging wall part of the Moanataiari slide leaving a “hollow” shaped half-basin sloping at about 45o down under the sea (depicted in yellow). In this I have suspended the reefs (red), which tend to run NE-SW on the surface but slope down steeply to the NW out and under the sea. In early geological times gold percolated down the quartz and deposited in greater (bonanzas) or lesser amounts somewhat haphazardly at bends and at cross leaders and stringers in a manner that could not be predicted accurately by geologists.

It is not clear what Richard Ross did from 1870 to 1882. However it would seem that he spent whatever money he had. In 1873, when he appeared in a bankruptcy court, the judge remarked that his only assets appeared to be a wife and six children (the house was in her name). He may have worked on the Eureka Claim, and for a time, he was a tributer with the LeManquais brothers in the Long Drive mine. Many miners were in a similar position, and as the number of economic claims diminished and others amalgamated, it suited both miners and Gold Mining Companies to set up tributes in a defined section of their claim, the company receiving an agreed fraction of the gold revenue.

By 1882, Richard Ross had bounced back from these unfortunate few years. By then, he was 36 years old. He emerged as the driving force for setting up several mining ventures, the first at Otunui (confusingly, the claim was also called Eureka).

He gradually gained a reputation as a reliable Mine Manager, attended the School of Mines and qualified as a First-Class Mine-Manager in 1897 (he had already managed several mines). It is of interest that in 1892, one of his referees, Thomas Radford, Mine Manager, vouched that he had known Richard for 20 years and that he had worked under his supervision for a considerable time and that he 'always found him to be a good miner well versed in all its branches, and he is also a steady sober man.'

From 1897, Richard managed a large number of mines, some for only a few months and others for years. In some cases he would be working for one company but in different mines. I have put together, as best I can, a list of all his mining experiences:

Many of the mines he managed were a considerable distance from Eureka Hill and he must have spent a lot of time walking or living away from home. The duties of a Mine Manager were demanding, akin to those of a Captain of a ship. The directors of the company expected an efficiently run mine, maximum output for minimum inputs, and weekly written reports. These reports invariably conveyed optimism so as to not rattle the shareholders. All this became increasingly difficult towards the end of the 1800s when the gold was running out, as evidenced by a rapid turnover of Mine Managers. Sometimes a job would only last a few months, and in an effort to cut costs, owners might put in a man on a lower salary, or even one without qualifications – something Richard Ross pointed out on several occasions.

So what did a Mine Manager actually do? This can be answered by taking a snapshot of the Karangahake mine in 1908. The first duty of the manager was to identify promising reefs, leaders etc and initiate mining operations to access those areas and enabled the ore to be extracted. Obviously, a good working knowledge of geology was required, supplemented by reports from mining consultants from time to time. Then he had to employ the men to do the work, both directly as miners and also as contractors, the latter generally being paid per foot of progress (typically around £1). The paybook charted this out fortnight by fortnight.

Fig 7. Karangahake Paybook 25th April 1908.
Richard Ross was paid £8 a fortnight as Mine-Manger.

Fig 8. Notes on the Adams Contract in 1908 – 241ft over 6 months.

The contractors were advanced 2/3rd of the agreed price per month with 1/3rd held back for materials supplied (largely candles, gelignite, fuses, detonators):

In addition, Richard would be letting contracts for the supply of timber for the mine, and arranging for carpenters to do some of the related work. He would arrange for samples of the ore to be regularly assayed so the likely returns from the mine could be estimated before transporting it to the battery. Then, every week he would submit a report to the directors. An example is shown above. Note that they were having problems with 'gelignite fumes' – so even in the 1900s, the health hazards from this aspect of underground mining were probably as great as ever! As well as all this, the Mining Reports were regularly published in the NZ Herald, and knowledgeable correspondents from the newspapers and other experts would routinely trudge right through the workings and write long and learned articles on the prospects of the various mines. These were sometimes contentious, not least of all because they could affect the value of shares, although not to the extent they did in the 1870s when doubling or halving in price could occur overnight.

For whatever reason, the Karangahake mine did not prosper, there was a revolt at director level and Richard left the mine. The reasons for this are not clear. He was 62, had a large family at home, and probably already suffering from Miners Lung. His activities from there onwards, focussed on the Eureka Hill area, 'working on his own right'. None of these ventures were terribly successful and they seem to largely consist of tributing on semi-defunct mining claims. For instance, in May 1911 he and Alfred Howe signed a Tribute Agreement with the Kuranui-Caledonian Company for a block of their mine. What is interesting about this agreement is that the old sliding scale which enabled a company to gouge up to 50% of the tributer’s gold revenue once it was above a living wage (£2 a week) has been struck out and the company settled for just a straight 10% - obviously they were no longer in a bargaining position.

Fig 9. Richard Ross’s weekly report to the Directors of the Karangahake Mine, April 25th 1908.

Fig 10. Sliding scale formula deleted from the Tribute Agreement. They settled on a straight 10%

Richard carried on with similar work over the next 10 years. None of these ventures were particularly successful and, as described in Part 1, he really did need his NZ Wars' Medal and the pension that went with it (and his garden) to survive. Nevertheless, he did obtain a significant amount of gold over this period, as evidenced from his notebook:

While this totalled some £1,400, he was only receiving £2-5/- per oz from the BNZ in Thames because the government forbade selling directly to England for another £1 an oz (something the BNZ was doing!). In Part 1, I described the long and unsuccessful campaign by the Thames Gold Producers to get some recompense for this rort. Ironically, the boot had been on the other foot in 1867 when Eureka and Hunt's Claims, and others, were selling their gold direct to England.

Richard Ross took out his last Mining License in 1919 for the 'St George'. This was 4 acres and situated above the original Eureka and Moanataiari (and Little Mabel?) claims. It is not known if much gold was got from it, but it is worth noting the neatness of his plan; this is a characteristic of all his work. The license was granted for 42 years, which would have taken him through to 1961. Possibly he was working this area earlier, as in an interview in 1917, he boasted that he was 'getting nice gold now within a few yards of the place he first sunk his youthful pick.'

Fig 11. Gold deposited with BNZ Thames 1915-1920.

Fig 12. Richard Ross’s plan for the St George Special Quartz Claim in 1919.

For a short time, around the middle of 1925, Richard Ross had his last Mine Manager job in a resurrection of the Kuranui claim in the area of Barry's reef but extending to the north side of the stream that he and others had earlier pronounced as devoid of gold. The work centred on, of all things, the 'Ross Reef'. I suspect Richard had convinced directors Banbury, Lennox and Nichol in Auckland that this was a 'Big Find' (quoted as such by Banbury). But of course, it was not to be. It seems Richard was getting old and tired and a Mine Manager who he had criticised, 'Young Benny', soon replaced him. The venture stuttered on to final liquidation in 1930.

It is unlikely that Richard mined his St George claim from 1925 onwards; he was 80, his Miners lung would be becoming a serious impediment (Dr. Jim Liggins first noted it as a problem in 1918) and although his children described him as fit and healthy until the day of his death in 1935, it is likely that he was keeping his health problems to himself . For example, it is clear from his gardening diaries that his son Joe was doing the bulk of the work from the late 1920s.

In summary, Richard spent a remarkable 68 years on the Thames Goldfield. It is clear that his real interest was in the Eureka Hill area with at least eight of the mining claims he worked were within a mile of his residence.

Figure 13. Claims Richard Ross worked on in
the Eureka Hill area (Approximate locations shown).
See below for the KEY

Fig 14. Approximate position of the Original Eureka (1867)
and the St. George (1919) Claims, superimposed on
a photograph from 1910.

Figure 13 KEY (1). Eureka Claim, 1867 (2). Long Drive, Tributer, 1870s (3). Moanataiari, Tributer, 1870s (4) Little Mabel, Owner, 1890s (5) Moanataiari North, Mine Manager, 1895 (6) Kuranui-Caledonian, Tributer, 1911-1916ish (7) Moanataiari, Tributer, 1916 (8) St George, Own Claim, 1919 -? (9). Kuranui, Mine Manager, 1925.

In Figure 14: All of the area below and above the Moanataiari fault would have been greatly altered in the forty years from 1867 onwards by excavations, piles of mullock and open cast mining.

Indeed, it is fitting that the two claims that 'bookended', Richard Ross’s sixty eight years on the Thames Goldfield, the Eureka (1867) and the St George (1919) were very close to his residence, within a few hundred feet.

As a final reflection on a remarkable life, it would seem, from Richard’s own comments and those of his acquaintances, that it was the hunt for gold that drove him as much any desire for monetary returns. This was perhaps a case of chronic gold fever.


Walter Danby (grandson) and Norma Wilkins (grand-daughter, my mother) transcribed various notes handwritten by Richard Ross that have been used in this article.


  1. Various handwritten fragments by Richard Ross in notebooks, loose papers etc for transfer to his “diaries” which, unfortunately, have been lost. Probably written in the early 1900s.
  2. The Miranda Expedition. Mangatangi Historical Group
  3. The True Story of The Discovery of the Shotover Mine at Thames in 1867 As told to David Henry Clarkson by his father George Clarkson. The Treasury Journal Vol 1 (2008).
  4. The Observer August 18th 1917.
  5. A.M.Isdale, History of The River Thames N.Z. 1967 and his notes (unpublished) on the Eureka Claim (1978)
  6. C. Fraser, The Geology of the Thames Subdivision. Bulletin No.10, NZ Geological Survey, 1910.
  7. Daily Southern Cross Vol.XXIX Issue 5054, 1st November 1873.
  8. Gold returns listed in Richard Ross’s Gardening Diary.
  9. Letter from John Banbury to R.Ross, 14th August 1925.
  10. Richard Ross Death Certificate. Note: This contains several errors; the principal one arising from the family deliberately stating that he was 20 when first married. His true age was 23 but this would have revealed that his first 2 children were born out of wedlock.
  11. The Goldminer's Database at Goldrush Online.
  12. Figures 4 and 13: Photos cropped from Whites Aviation photograph taken in 1954.Source: National Library of New Zealand Ref: WA-36514-F. Series: emu:482467, Whites Aviation Ltd Photographs, PA-Group-00080.
  13. Figure 14: Superimposed on a photo in Fraser (Reference 6 above).


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