They Wished Upon a Star – book review

They wished upon a star : a history of Southern Cross and Yilgarn  by P.T. McMahon.

Did you know that ‘MIRRABOOKA’ is the aboriginal word for Southern Cross???


On that ancient sea bed of Yilgarnia, one of the oldest land surfaces in the world. Yilgarnia, timeless and mysterious, a land of such antiquity, that figures alone are beyond the conceivable.
Charles Laseron wrote in the Face of Australia: “It was here…….. before there was any living thing either on the earth or in the sea”  The Yilgarnia has remained almost unchanged geologically for seven hundred million years and its solitude may well have remained virtually undisturbed but for the gold in its rocks

This excellent book has very little information on it, even on the State Library web site. It was published in 1972, 45 yrs ago. If you are interested in the Southern Cross and Yilgarn area you will find it very interesting. In the foreword by the Hon Lionel F Kelly, he states ‘This book is a historical gem, it would be difficult to find a single important event that has not been included. It is a true story interspersed with records which has resulted in a first class story which is easy to read.’

Typical Mining Camp

Typical Mining Camp

The book is dived into ten sections entitled:-

Early Exploration
Discovery of the Yilgarn Field
Frasers and Yilgarn Group
Wheat an Pastoral Activities
“Little Rats, A Hermit and Hoppers”
“Oil Hoax, Migrants and Murder”
Yilgarn Today
The Depression

There are only a few photographs in this book but some I have not seen before, such as the following one showing the breeding of thoroughbred racehorses by the uncle of the author, Owen McMahon, who was also one of the districts first farmers.

The uncle of the author, Owen McMahon, Breeding racehorses

From the ‘Biography’s’ section I would lie to share with you two that I found interesting:-

He unsuccessfully tried to ‘Jump’ the Fraser’s Mine, he was brother to a doctor who was practising in Kalgoorlie at the time. He amassed a substantial wack out of ‘Long Reef mine in a Lennonville mining deal, but he was a born gambler. He once set out on a trip back to Tipperary with £800 in his pocket but stopping off in Perth he decided to put the whole lot on a horse with the result that he had to borrow his fare back to the Murchison.

Born in Glasgow Scotland in 1902, he came to Australia in 1910 and first settled in Bruce Rock. He came to Southern Cross in 1923 and he established a farm of 1000 acres, six miles north of the Cross. By 1929 he had 400 sheep and was well on the way to success when the depression struck. Most of the other farmers around abandoned their properties but he held on a battled through. In 1969 he had 15,000 acres in crop and 5500 sheep. He also built a fine modern shop in the main street of Southern Cross called ‘Yilgarnia’. His son became a champion shearer.

Wheat Crop grown by the Rev Orchard

Some well known names feature in this section such as, Warden Michael Finnerty, George Spencer Compton and Daisy Bates.

Staff of the Southern Cross Times

Staff of the Southern Cross Times c1910

Should you wish to read this book you can only access it in person at the State Library as they only hold two copies and both, unfortunately, are ‘Not for Loan’. I am happy to look up any names in my own copy.
The ISBN is 095980580X

South Kalgoorlie -How it came to be

Western Mail 26th Dec 1946
Ex-servicemen have banded together for a building project at Kalgoorlie

The Housing Problem   –    Enterprise on the Goldfields        by K, Douglas

DUE to the initiative and willingness of a band of ex servicemen, a model community centre is well under way to being completed at Salisbury-road, South Kalgoorlie, The area is adjacent to the Kalgoorlie racecourse, and in the heyday of the goldfields was a well built on area.

A Basic House

A Basic House

Those responsible for the scheme are members of the 2/28th Battalion Association, and the 24th Tank Attack Association, who found they had men in their associations who had no accommodation for housing their families.

WITH other goldfields men who had served in the A.I.F,  R.A.N., and R.A.A.F., a total number of 22 formed themselves into a mutual help organisation, with the Intention of providing homes for themselves and their families.

Many Hands Make Light Work

Many Hands Make Light Work

By each man contributing to a fund, £1,300 was. raised. This purchased the land, and by dispatching two of their members to Wiluna, the Lake Way Hostel, a dwelling of 22 rooms, was bought. Materials from this dwelling will complete the first six homes.

The first foundation stump for the first house was sunk on September 20 and, of a total of 22 homes to be built, three are now occupied with two more in course of construction. It is hoped to have the 22 completed by June of next year.  The South Kalgoorlie School is adjacent and, in the plan for the area, trees and hedges are to be planted. Provision is also made for a recreation centre and park, this making it a complete centre in itself.

Material for the houses is carted by road from Wiluna, where further purchases have been made, to complete the 22 as planned. There is no set plan for the homes; the men may build to their own individual designs, these being such that in the majority of cases extensions can be made if the occasion arises, and when additional material becomes more plentiful, The only restriction laid down is the limit to the floor space, this being 800 square feet. This has been done because of the shortage of floor boards.

Work Done in Spare Time

The designs chosen have been original. One has the kitchen at the front of the house, but mostly they are of the normal design for a three or four roomed home. Erection of the buildings is being carried out by two experienced tradesmen, on wages, while the remainder of the work is done by the men themselves in their spare time. Each man averages about 20 hours a week, which is credited to them at a flat rate, and a book entry is made of the time put in. The credit shown reduces the ultimate cost of their home.  Experience has shown up to date that this idea will work, and the men will each obtain a home for between £300 to £350 which, at present-day cost, would be at least £500.

The homes are drawn for in lots of five. Every man in the scheme will work until the 22 dwellings are complete. Financial assistance was made available by the district Repatriation Committee by way of a loan, and further assistance is promised by this committee as required. The loans will be secured by a mortgage on the assets of the members’ fund, and will be repaid from the rent obtained by the eventual occupants of the 22 homes.  Recently the public were afforded the opportunity of seeing what has been done up to date, when the houses that have been completed were thrown open for inspection.

Mr. J. R. Hylton, president of the Kalgoorlie Sub-branch of the R.S.L., and a member of the Repatriation Committee,  Said –   “The Lord helps those who help themselves. The young men who were in the last war are coming back and finding it difficult to house their families, so they have set about helping themselves. Due to the enthusiasm and initiative shown, the Repatriation Committee has been pleased to assist them in this scheme,”

Those who looked through the completed homes expressed the opinion that they were indeed a credit to “the men concerned, and wished them luck in their enterprise.

The Moorine Rock Hotel

The Moorine Rock Hotel in the 1930's with truck outside.

While headingto Perth you will have to have driven past the Moorine Rock Hotel, you may have even stopped there for refreshment. Recently, courtesy of OFH reader Peter Green, I have been lucky enough to be given permission to post the following … [Continue reading]

No Bull and the Brady Murder !!!

This building will be instantly recognised by many located at 14 Wilson Street, Kalgoorlie. Today it is an excellent Italian restaurant called Orecchiette's. However if you compare the two photographs you will see something missing. ie The Bulls … [Continue reading]

The Buck Brothers – Goldfields Heros

Grave of John and Frederick BUCK, Kalgoorlie Cemetery

The following is a brief story about two of our Tunnelling Heros from the Goldfields - Courtesy of John Reading of the Tunnllers.Org NOTE: Although all the brothers returned from Australia all died young the oldest being John at age 44yrs.  Do you … [Continue reading]