Harry ‘Tambo’ Taylor – Stockman of the Never Never

Harry 'Tambo' Taylor 1947

Harry ‘Tambo’ Taylor 1947

On the 19th May 1924 Harry ‘Tambo ’Taylor applied to receive the old age pension having reached the age of 65yrs. His application was refused as he couldn’t show proof of his age.  Harry was born to an aboriginal mother and an Irish father on the Glenalvon Station NSW in 1859. He had his mother’s skin and his father’s blue eyes. His mother died when he was very small and the station owner took him in a raised him and he took the families name of ‘Taylor’.  What Harry lacked in book learning he made up for in his bushman’s skills. He could ferret out the hidden spring of water were others would perish, he could foresee danger where other would rush in. He would work at carrying the queens mail through tracks that others had tried and failed to travel He was to discover gold mines and rescue prospectors.

Through the years of Harrys early manhood in NSW and Queensland  he shifted from station to station, droving thousands of head of cattle and sleeping for months under the stars with his saddle for a pillow. His steeplechase victories riding ‘Speculator’ at Gloncurry and the day he was named ‘Prince of Jockeys’ after winning the Burketown Cup.  On stations across the country he was known as the finest stockman of his day. He had all the crafts of his dark skinned mother and the steadfastness of his white father.  In the year of the big comet in 1881 Harry, now a freelance stockman, left for the Northern Territory driving 3000 head of cattle.  It was after this epic journey he came to the west and started working for the well-known Durack family. After a time he became homesick for the East and returned to take up work delivering the mail run in some of the harshest country while still doing some stock work. It was while he was at the Victoria Downs Station in the Northern Territory that he heard of the gold strike in Coolgardie Western Australia.  Harry and his mate Tom O’Brien and six horses set off for the west. He was never again to leave the state. To avoid having to pay a levy of one pound per horse to bring his animals into West Australia he and Tom decided to cut overland to bring him to WA just south of Halls Creek. Fate however had other plans and when they rested for the night at a pool at Pandamus Springs. While partaking of their repast they looked up and saw on the skyline no other than Warden Jepson, Registrar Clifton and the Sargent of Police. They were on Gold Escort Duty and on route to Wyndam but due to the extreme heat they has stopped at the pool.  ‘Good Gawd’ exclaimed Tom who suggested they go over and offer to ‘Pay the Tax’ so hand in hand if not in fact but in spirit they approached the trio.  After greetings had been exchanged and offer of payment made and accepted no more was said.  Tom still slept badly that night but not Harry who could see the funny side of fate.

The next day thirty miles west of halls Creek, they stumbled on two horses and on investigation they found Jim Willis a prospector in the grip of fever.  In a land where one could travel for hundreds of square miles and never see a living sole. It is rare indeed that they should stumble upon this poor worn out prospector in the grip of death.  While Harry watered the fevered lips Tom hurried back to Halls Creek for help. A little longer and poor Jim would have passed over the great divide.  Jim was to recover and Harry was to learn how mysterious can be the law of the land. Having returned the dying prospector to town he thought his job done, he was politely informed that he had brought the message to the police to send an expedition of rescue he must bear the expense. If the ‘rescued’ could not pay their mate e.g. Harry had to bear the cost!

The pair then headed to Derby and boarded the Albany train. At Geraldton Tom made his goodbyes and shook Harrys hand for the last time as destiny swallowed them up along each their own road to seek the goal of men of all ages – Gold!  Harry arrived in Coolgardie with nine pennies in his pocket.  He looked up and down in the town for someone he knew and could ‘touch’. Never expecting not to meet a friend in this strange new land. Fate was not to disappoint Harry as he felt a shove and a cheery ‘Hullo, what are you doing here”. It was none other than Jim Maver as welcome as the flowers in May.  “Did you get the 12 pounds I sent you in Sydney” he asked. “I did indeed” and so Harry got instant credit. Jim Maver couldn’t give a fortune but he did take Harry to the  ‘Londonderry Rush’ where he was to work for 12 months. Who has not heard of the Menzies Consolidated mine that has turned out thousands of pounds for the west?  Harry Taylor was the discoverer, he took up the mine on the 7th Nov 1894 and a year later he and his partners sold for 2500 pounds.

Menzies Consolidated Mine - 1899

Menzies Consolidated Mine – 1899

 

His mind was to again to hunger for a simple life in the North West but just before he left he joined the Lake Darlot Rush and it was then that the following item appeared in ’The Bulletin’ under the pen name of G.S.L. which said while droving on the Barkley Tablelands in the Northern Territory in 1886 the writer had lent a half a sovereign to a man called Harry Taylor. Ten years later when two camel teams passed each other at Raeside soak near Coolgardie a dusty bearded rider of one camel pulled up beside him and pulled out a bit of rag which contained half a sovereign. He handed it to me and said ‘Thanks George’, when I asked what it was he said you leant it to me 10yrs ago and left before I could return it. I have kept it in my watch chain ever since.

Harry then returned to his beloved Nor west but in 1898 took up the search for a missing man, Harry Cooper, the Registrar of Baugemall who had gone out for a walk and not returned.  He was lost for three days. Harry and Constable Duffy were in command of the search party. They found him amongst the Mulga rocks one arm across his chest. He had lasted maybe a day and all around him were the rains that had fallen just hours after his death.  They did not know when they brought the body back to town of the thirsty dead that he was the son of an English knight, Sir John Ashley Cooper.  But he who died of thirst had not a chance. In England a gentle mother grieved for a son that never returned but she did not forget the rough but kindly diggers who had lifted his body and carried him home.  She sent 20 pounds to the men who had found her son.  She then had him dug up and his body returned to England and laid to rest with his family.

Harry was a stockman of the Never Never, blazer of trails, carrier of his majesty’s mail, succour of the dying, undertaker of the thirsty dead, discoverer of gold that brought much wealth to his land of birth but little to him.  Age finally called him to live out his retirement in health and peace.  So finally he was to request a letter to prove his birth and to allow him to live out his years till the age of 97 when he died at the Leonora Hospital of Carcinoma of the bowel.  He lived in Western Australia for 60 yrs and never married. No parent’s details are given on his death certificate as none knew him to tell. he is buried in the Leonora Cemetery and this plaque erected by the Friends of the Eastern Goldfields Historical Society marks his grave.

Harry Taylor - Leonora Cemetery

Harry Taylor – Leonora Cemetery

 

 

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My name is Moya Sharp, I live in Kalgoorlie Western Australia and have worked most of my adult life in the history/museum industry. I have been passionate about history for as long as I can remember and in particular the history of my adopted home the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Through my website I am committed to providing as many records and photographs free to any one who is interested in the family and local history of the region.

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Comments

  1. Hello Moya,

    Don Munro here. As always I enjoy your stories and wondered if I could use your Harry “Tambo” Taylor story in one of my newsletters.

    Kind regards,
    Don

    • Hi Don Absolutely, please do so, anything on my blog and web site may be copied, just say its from Outback Family History. Is this your family history newsletter?
      Kind regards
      Moya

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