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Arthur Wellesley Bayley (1865–1896)

by Pat Simpson

This article was published:

Arthur Wellesley Bayley (1865-1896), by unknown photographer

Arthur Wellesley Bayley (1865-1896), by unknown photographer

Herald & Weekly Times Portrait Collection, State Library of Victoria, H38849/305

Arthur Wellesley Bayley (1865-1896), discoverer of the Coolgardie goldfield, was born on 28 March 1865 at Newbridge, Victoria, son of John Bayley, butcher, and his wife Rosanna, née Williams. Educated in 1875-82 at the Rupanyup State School, he went to North Queensland at 16 and prospected at Charters Towers, Hughenden, Normanton and the Palmer. He worked with his brother Tom in 1882-85 and first met his later partner William Ford (1852-1932) at Croydon. When the gold ran out there Bayley returned to Victoria, then decided to try Western Australia. Arriving in Perth in 1887, he walked to Southern Cross and worked as a miner to raise money. A trial of the tinfield at Greenbushes left him broke. He moved to the Ashburton goldfield in the North-West, walking the 280 miles (451 km) from the coast and arriving almost destitute early in 1890; a few weeks later he struck a rich patch.

He returned to Perth and set out by land again for the north with a mate called Taylor. On the Murchison goldfield they divided £3000 for three months work and Bayley was able to return to Victoria for a holiday. He went back to Perth, met Ford and planned a joint expedition. At Mount Kenneth, 250 miles (402 km) to the north-east, poison-bush killed their horses and they had to walk to Newcastle (Toodyay) for replacements. They moved out again for the Gnarlbine Rocks along (C.C.) Hunt's track, and eventually reached a native well called Coolgardie and began prospecting. Ford made the first discovery at Fly Flat late in August 1892. Soon after, a party of Irishmen appeared, but the value of the find was successfully concealed from them. Bayley went into Southern Cross for supplies early in September and was followed on his return by a party of new-chums led by Tom Talbot. When Bayley delivered 554 ounces (15.7 kg) at Southern Cross on 17 September, he accused Talbot's party of attempting to jump the claim. Talbot and his friends, on the other hand, maintained firmly for many years that Bayley and Ford had cheated them. Bayley, they said, had diverted their attention while Ford had moved his claim pegs to embrace the most valuable ground which they had first found and worked. Bayley, however, reported the find to warden J. M. Finnerty at Southern Cross and was granted the reward claim. He thereby legally revealed the discovery and gained the distinction of being the first to mine gold at Coolgardie.

In March 1893 Ford and Bayley sold out to Sylvester Browne, brother of T. A. Browne, and Gordon Lyon for £6000 and a sixth interest in the mine. On 24 May at Albany, Bayley married Catherine, daughter of A. A. Fagan, a bricklayer. He returned to Victoria in 1894, apparently without his wife, and bought a farm near Avenel which his brother Tom managed. Arthur Bayley's unostentatious generosity, always accompanied by a wish for luck, made him many friends in the district. When he died at Avenel of hepatitis and haematemesis on 29 October 1896, his estate, sworn for probate at £28,831, was left mainly to his brother. His wife, who was not mentioned in the will, was living on an annuity in Western Australia early in the twentieth century.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 3 (Melb, 1905)
  • J. Reside, Golden Days (Perth, 1929)
  • M. Uren, Glint of Gold (Melb, 1948)
  • Australian Mining Standard, 18 Nov 1893
  • Seymour Telegraph, 3 Nov 1896
  • Kalgoorlie Miner, 14 Oct 1948
  • People (Sydney), 13 Mar 1963.

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Citation details

Pat Simpson, 'Bayley, Arthur Wellesley (1865–1896)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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