BAYLEY, Arthur Wellesley (1865 1896)


BAYLEY, Arthur Wellesley (1865 1896)
prospector, discoverer of the Coolgardie goldfield
was born at Newbridge, Victoria, on 27 March 1865. When only 16 years of age he went to North Queensland and did prospecting and mining work at Charters Towers, Hughenden, Normanton, Croydon and Palmer. He then went to Western Australia and landed at Fremantle with about thirty shillings in his pocket. He walked to Southern Cross, and while working there a few months later heard that gold had been discovered about 130 miles to the east. Bayley kept this in mind and determined some day to prospect this country himself. In January 1889 he went to the Nullagine diggings and Roebourne in the north-west. He had some success, and after returning to Perth worked again at Southern Cross. Hearing that gold had been found on the Ashburton he again returned to Perth, made to the north and found good gold at Ford's Creek. While prospecting the Murchison he found Bayley's Island in Lake Austin which also yielded good returns. He became associated with W. Ford whom he had known in Queensland, who had heard of gold having been found to the east of Southern Cross, and in June 1892 the two men with five horses set out to find it. Soon after reaching the site of Coolgardie they found a nugget, and within a few days had picked up about 80 ounces of gold. More rich alluvial gold was found and the two men were then compelled to return to Southern Cross for supplies. On returning to the field a quartz outcrop with gold in it was found, which became the famous Bayley's Reward mine. The two men returned to Southern Cross with 554 ounces of gold, which they showed to the warden on 17 September 1892. A reward lease was granted to them, and on 20 September the Coolgardie field was declared open. There was a tremendous rush to the field from Southern Cross, much gold was found, and in a few years Coolgardie was a thriving town. Bayley and Ford sold their claim to a company for £6000 and a sixth interest and Bayley, having returned to Victoria, took up land near Avenel, and lived in prosperous circumstances. Though a strong athletic man he fell into ill health, possibly on account of privations he had suffered while a prospector, and died at Avenel of congestion of the lungs on 29 October 1896. He left a widow but no children.
Bayley was an energetic personality with great courage and resource and was much liked. No matter what his circumstances might be he was always willing to help anyone in a less fortunate position. His success as a prospector was the result of great experience and perseverance. His associate Ford, a man of reserved and cautious temperament, though 13 years older had a love and respect for Bayley "that amounted almost to reverence". Ford went to the east and lived at Sydney, where he died on 16 October 1932.
The accounts of the finding of Bayley's Reward do not always agree. The varying versions are recorded in the paper by Sir John Kirwan mentioned below.
Sir John Kirrwan, "Early Days", Journal and Proceedings Western Australian Historical Society, December 1941; Seymour Express, 6 November 1896; The Age, Melbourne, 31 October 1896; J. Raeside, Golden Days, p. 131 et seq.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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