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The Biggest-Ever Mining Swindle in the Colonies
John Robert Peach

Robert Philps, later a Minister for Mines and a Queensland Premier, called it “the biggest ever mining swindle in the Colonies”. He for one certainly knew, because Robert Ross himself sold Philps a swag of the Company shares in early 1888.

This is the true story of multiple gold frauds by Robert Ross near Yeppoon Queensland, and a dubious Sydney Company involving many leading identities now well known in our history. Some made fortunes almost overnight and some ended up mortally wounded.

The Supreme Court sessions featured most of the leading ‘silks’ in the Colony and even our later first Prime Minister Edmund Barton and all the sworn evidence and verdicts were meticulously recorded and then first sealed under Statute for 30 years.

Played out for over four years without an ounce of genuine gold produced, the various schemes saw about one quarter of a billion dollars in present day value change hands and not one person received even a slap on the wrist and crime paid well for some.
Two of the “celebrated” Ross mines were widely claimed as ‘at least equal to Mt Morgan’, then the richest single mine in the World! This truly excited the Colonies.

An ongoing story of true events and real people, unique in our history but well concealed at the time, and then quickly buried before any serious detail leaked out!
As it turned out there was no gold at all in the five main mines, but plenty of easy money to be made!

An unknown history, and an intriguing story, based almost entirely on original sworn documents kept secret at the time, only now, 117 years later, revealed by author John Peach.

ISBN 9781876819774

Release date: 15 July 2008
RRP: AUS$69.95
History, 600 pp, hardback
RRP: NZ$79.95
RRP: US/CAN$34.95
RRP: £34.95





John Robert Peach

Author John Peach and wife Von (nee Yvonne Smith) have lived in Yeppoon, Queensland since 1972, except for a few years temporarily in Albury from 1988. Previously the family spent a few years in Tewantin after leaving the Upper Murray and Mitta Mitta in 1966.

John was born in Albury in 1932 but spent his childhood in Lockhart, NSW where his father Joe was manager for Younghusbands Ltd Stock and Station agents.

Educated at St Gregory’s Agricultural College, Campbelltown he matriculated with Honours in 1948, being Dux, Champion athlete and a College Captain. After two years at Sydney University and a resident of St John’s University College he went west, travelled widely and finally settled in the Tallangatta area of Northeast Victoria, married Von and had a family. John and Von had previously travelled widely but, now retired from active business in both Tewantin and Yeppoon, they love their native land, which is truly the best.

Both are fifth generation Australians. Like his ancestors John has been widely involved in his community and during his younger days played a variety of sports.

He is the only surviving formation director of Genetics Australia, Bacchus Marsh (Victoria), a former President and VP of the Federated Chambers of Commerce of Queensland and a 41-year Charter Member and now Honorary Life Member of Lions International.

This is his first book of this nature and he freely admits that the years and effort involved could not have been possible prior to his retirement from more active duties.

Thankfully his wife of 55 years, who has now born the pitfalls of living with a night-person and budding author, is almost ready to forgive him, but really has been helpful and understanding, as have all close family, and this is greatly appreciated and has made this book possible. Hopefully the readers of this unique Australian history will appreciate and enjoy it.



Our new South Land certainly had no auspicious start and progress had mainly been slow and painful, but there was no doubting the power of what arrived out of the blue in 1851 in the form of gold, and lots of it, rich for the picking.

Not only was half the small population of the young colonies of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia quickly off to the new gold strikes and rushing around like a swarm of rabbits to every smell of a good show, but they knew they had barely six months before a much bigger swarm from overseas would also move in.

Those fast off the mark did well and some extremely so, but a pegged prospecting claim as little as four paces square in a vast landscape of the Crown’s land did not guarantee riches, no matter how hard an individual miner scraped and dug and went without life’s basic comforts.

The alluvial gold and shallow nuggets were breathtaking to those who started with little or no wealth, but this exciting treasure hunt could not last for very long on any field so packed with diggers.

However, the first two years saw extraordinary output that startled the world when it found out. The bravest had then set out to join in and so the new blood for our young nation was essentially widely sourced and resolute. A crucial test of this was to come sooner than many would have expected.

The early goldfields, especially in Victoria around Ballarat, Mount Alexander (Castlemaine), Mayday Hills (Beechworth) and Bendigo, were so extremely rich for the picking that some now arrived with unrealistic dreams. These were not quelled as the easier alluvial beds became worked-out, as experienced ex-Californian miners proclaimed that the deep mother-lodes must surely be underneath.

In some cases like Ballarat they were right, but gold veins in deep, hard rock were not the thing for diggers with picks and pans or rocker cradles.
Later those not satisfied or new chums often took off to newer finds or sought ways to settle down. Records show that almost all the vast influx of gold rush immigrants would stay to become part of our pioneer foundations, even if they did not find their pot of gold.

In many ways their rush to also acquire a decent place to live as well and to prosper provided the second major headache to entirely unprepared Lieut. Governor La Trobe and his staff. He was already labouring under a system still requiring official endorsements, and many decisions that each took six months for two-way communication with a Colonial Secretary or Parliament in England.

But the gold bug had spread to many who had at first cursed their staff for walking out, and once again, the really big bucks were to move back to the top end of town.

Some of the landed gentry had even expressed the opinion that being used to wealth, they were far better fitted in putting it to good use than ‘those … unruly diggers’.

In certain cases, if judged by the reckless spending of some of the newly rich, they were then partly correct. However, later dubious practice by some of them was to prove that the gold bug could strike deep in all levels of society, and blue blood or respected position or wealth was no guarantee of purity of soul.

A more worthy side effect that injected new heart and interest in the further out rural settlement, came with the sudden surge in demand for the essentials of life, including grog, by even the thousands just passing through on various rushes.



John Robert Peach's website