Back to Adventurous Alice Part Three – A Single Young Woman in Western Australia
Back to Alice’s Train Journey Part Three – Southern Cross to Kalgoorlie
In 1897, Florrie and Alice Head arrived at Kalgoorlie, probably with several other women from the ‘Port Phillip’. There was good money to be made as a domestic servant in the goldfields. It was also an exciting place to see for two single young women from London.
I don’t know exactly what work they did this year, but with the benefit of hindsight it is very likely that they were employed in boarding houses or hotels.
Kalgoorlie was a new city at this time. I found an excellent summary of the Kalgoorlie’s history from 1898. I really couldn’t phrase it any better:
Probably no more potent illustration of the colonising power of gold can be found anywhere in the world than is afforded by Kalgoorlie and the Boulder cities, where, in the short space of five years, a population of 25,000 persons has settled down, every soul entirely dependent for existence, upon the gold-producing capabilities of a narrow strip of ground smaller in area than many a South Australian farm.Five years and a half ago Hannan lost his horses in a dense bush ; in the search for them he found gold, and the “dense bush ” was immediately tramped out of being by intrepid men, two fair cities were planted on the soil, hundreds of homes were founded, and the close co-operation of energy and capital brought into existence a new force -a centre of industrial operations unsurpassed in the mining world, and a mighty and prodigal contributor to the wealth of the Australian Continent.…Although there may be a flavour of romance, there has been precious little poetry about the growth of Kalgoorlie. Nature does not surrender her golden treasures too easily, and Kalgoorlie did not find an abiding place without a desperate struggle and a persistent fight against terrible odds.… Organisation, however, is a ruling principle in the ethics of British colonisation, and where two or three Britishers are gathered together there shall a Progress Committee be found. So it was in the early days of the Kalgoorlie gold hunt. A Progress Committee was formed, and necessary public work was carried out for twelve months ; streets were roughly shaped, roads opened up, sanitary conditions observed as far as practicable; and a virile community soon had firm footing on what had been regarded for half a century as a worthless and uninhabitable sand and spinifex tract of country.(1)
Actually, Alice did not stay in Kalgoorlie. She was in Boulder. And I think she was employed at Mulcahy’s Grand Hotel on Burt Street in Boulder. I can’t be sure, but it makes a lot of sense.
I can’t find an image of Mulcahy’s Hotel which allows me to copy it so I’ll link to a news story about the hotel instead. You can see the hotel behind the then owner.
Mulcahy’s Hotel – as it was known – was a big place, commonly used by local groups to hold meetings. Local groups, for example, like the Independent Order of Oddfellows, Boulder City Lodge.
Of the five ‘Port Phillip’ girls known to have travelled to Kalgoorlie as single women, the first to marry was Jean Christison. In 1897 she married an Italian man named Vincent Caleo. The other girls may have attended the wedding.
Some events at Kalgoorlie were creating a stir. In 1897, new streaks of alluvial gold were discovered around the town, particularly in Boulder. Miners who had been doing it tough found new hope and set to work.
This is only an approximate explanation. A government injunction forbade miners with an alluvial mining license to go below 10 feet. But the gold went deeper. It was a tough situation, very unfair on impoverished, even starving miners who were putting up with awful living conditions. Some ignored the injunction. Others obeyed but fumed.
29 January 1898: The Golden Horseshoe mine was pegged today by alluvial diggers. It seems that the sinking of a telephone pole below the cement revealed matter, containing good gold, in consequence of which the diggers have taken possession of the larger portion of the area. (2)
31 January 1898: A mass meeting of alluvial miners was held yesterday on the Ivanhoe Venture lease to consider the action to be taken in reference to the new regulation passed by the Executive Council precluding alluvial miners from sinking more than 10 ft … Mr. Vosper received an ovation on rising to address the meeting. He vigorously condemned the action of the Government, and stigmatized the new regulation as an act of the grossest injustice. He recommended the miners to send a deputation to Perth, and in the meanwhile to totally ignore the regulation. He said that he had obtained legal advice that the new regulations were “ultra vires” … A resolution was passed condemning the regulation, as it was calculated to destroy the alluvial industry of the colony. The meeting decided to send a deputation, consisting of representatives of the different fields, to Perth. (3)
18 February 1898: Owing to developments at Kalgoorlie to connection with the alluvial question, three police officers and fourteen constables were despatched thither from Perth within the past few days. (4)
12 March 1898: To-day cases were called on at the Warden’s Court against two men for having disobeyed the warden’s injunctions not to work on the Ivanhoe Venture lease. The men did not appear, but Mr. Hare, who appeared for the company, stated that they they had been unable to procure a solicitor, and on their behalf he asked for an adjournment. This was agreed to and the cases will come before the court next Friday. About 30 additional summonses are being issued, and will be heard on Friday. Some of the men express anxiety to resist the police, and it requires all the efforts of their leaders to prevent a disturbance. Many fear that the affair will not end without a serious outbreak, as the diggers are determined at all costs to maintain what they believe to be their rights, no matter how many are sent to gaol. (5)
25 March 1898: During the day immense crowds arrived from the outside districts -1,500 from Kanowna, 300 from Bulong, and 200 from Coolgardie. A band and banners headed a procession, and all-sorts of devices were displayed. One of the illustrations showed Mr. Wittenoom, the Minister of Mines, being kicked in the rear by 10 feet -signifying contempt for his proposed legislation. (6)
29 March 1898: A serious riot occurred at Kalgoorlie goldfield, West Australia, on Thursday, The Premier, Sir John Forrest, arrived there by train and proceeded to Wilkie’s Hotel, to receive a deputation from the alluvial diggers, but while crossing-the street he was hooted by a large crowd. A deputation of 20 miners waited upon the Premier in the hotel, and requested that the 10ft. regulation be repealed, and the men imprisoned for disobeying the Warden’s injunction be released at once.The Premier was conciliatory, but said the men would have to purge their contempt and apologise before they could be released. While the Premier was addressing the deputation some police entered the room and asked the deputies to go out and pacify the crowd, which was becoming unmanageable.The Premier shortly afterwards left the hotel, to proceed to the railway station, but though he was surrounded by police and others he was jostled by the crowd, hit in the face, and bruised on the side. He tried to regain the hotel, but was unable to do so, and after half an hour’s buffetting he managed to reach the railway station door; but this was found to be locked, and before it could be burst open he was much knocked about.The Riot Act was read and the mounted police rode the crowd down in an effort to get to the barracks to secure their arms. The Premier was hustled off the platform on to the rails, but with the assistance of friends and the police he managed at last to get into a train and escape from the mob.The disturbance is regarded as the most serious that has occurred since the Eureka Stockade riots, and much indignation is felt by the law-abiding population at the violence offered to the Premier and those who tried to help him. (7)
June 1898: BALL AT THE BOULDER.The Boulder Bicycle Club’s fancy dress ball, which took place in the Mechanics’ Institute on Tuesday night, proved a great success socially, but as a spectacular event it was not quite up to expectations, the young men and women of the district being apparently too prosaical to go to the trouble and expense of getting a costume expressly for one night’s pleasure. Evening dress was the rule amongst the sterner sex, though the sombre black was relieved by the showy apparel of a pair of ancient courtiers, while a fantastically accoutred coloured gentleman was to be seen manoeuvring round the room.The ladies’ dresses were not very showy, and Miss Knuckey, whose costume was evidence of some artistic efforts, had no trouble in securing the prize offered. She was attired as “Westralia,” and looked very neat and pretty. The prize for the best decorated bicycle was won by Miss Dingle.Jackson’s Band supplied the music, and Mr McLaren made an efficient M.C. Mr Stubbing, of Messrs Brennan Bros, excelled all previous efforts at stage decoration, the platform from the rear of the hall looking like a fairy bower.The following left cards:- Miss M. Brown, blue satin bodice, white and blue ribbons to match, black silk skirt; … Miss Florrie Head, “Schoolgirl,” pale blue and white, large white hat; … Miss Alice Head, “Schoolgirl,” pale blue and white, large white hat (8)
October 1898: BOULDER DISTRICT CRICKET ASSOCIATIONTHE CINDERELLA SOCIAL.“The most successful gathering of the season” was the verdict passed by the happy crowd that attended the social on Wednesday evening in the Mechanics’ Institute, Boulder City. The scene was one of pleasure and gaiety, happiness and good humor reigning throughout. The endeavors of the sub-committee appointed to make the necessary arrangements for the successful carrying out of the function … were amply recompensed by the large number of local residents and visitors who put in an attendance to enjoy themselves with a few hours’ terpsichore.The music, which was all that could be desired, was supplied by Messrs Jackson and R. Thomas. A special feature and attraction of the evening was the stage decorations. The drapings were kindly donated by Messrs Brennan Bros., with the result that a highly effective and admirable display of the several clubs’ colors were strikingly portrayed.Various articles of cricketware were hung among the drapings as emblems of the favorite summer pastime, and Mr T. Potton is deserving of a mede of praise from the association for his able management in adorning the stage so tastefully. It should be a pleasure for the committee to report that there was such a jovial and representative gathering, and it is a foregone conclusion that the result financially should be most satisfactory.Special mention should be made of the generous and willing assistance given to the committee by the leading business people of the city and others, and to the ladies who were instrumental in no small degree in rendering the necessary assistance which is always so requisite at gatherings of this nature. It is mentioned that a similar social, under the auspices of the association, will be held during the course of a month.The following is a description of some of the dresses worn by the ladies on Wednesday evening :Miss Alice Head, blue and white nun’s veiling, trimmed blue chiffon and pearl ornaments ; … Miss Florrie Head, blue and white nun’s veiling, trimmed with blue chiffon and pearl ornaments (9)