Uniquely Tasmanian stories

I am obsessed with the Tasmanian high country and west coast, its beauty, its people and its cultural landscapes. How have we portrayed it, how have we used it, how should we conserve it? I love the stories of highland people, but also the peaks, tannin-stained red rivers, ancient rainforests and glacial valleys that have intertwined their lives.

On the Ossie: Tasmanian osmiridium and the fountain pen industry

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Checklist of the 250 osmiridium diggers in 1922

Osmiridium diggers meeting their wives and receiving their stores at the Nineteen Mile Hut, probably in 1921. JH Robinson photo from the Colin Dennison Collection, University of Tasmania Archives.
Four generations of Waratah’s Thorne family, including osmiridium miner and buyer JH Thorne at right. JH Robinson photo courtesy of the late Nancy Gillard.

The diggers were grizzling. In 1921 Tasmania enjoyed a world monopoly on ‘point metal’ osmiridium, that is, osmiridium grains that were just the right size to fuse onto the nibs of gold fountain pens. The ossie price was generally high. Tasmania’s niche in the market was unchallenged. The diggers on the fields west and south-west of Waratah should have been happy.

They weren’t. Part of the problem was that few had a grasp of economics. They did not understand that they dampened demand by rushing their ore to market. Remotely located diggers working alone felt cut off from the metal market. Some were convinced that they were the victims of collusion between precious metal buyers who were determined to force down the price.

Secretary of the osmiridium pool, Chris Sheedy, is third from left at back. Second from left in the front row is Chris Sheedy senior, onetime foreman of the Brown Face at the Bischoff mine. Photo courtesy of John Turnbull.

Calls for government to intervene in the market were finally answered when Premier Sir Walter Lee agreed to introduce an experimental monopoly. As of 1 January 1922, precious metals dealer Overell & Sampson held the only Tasmanian osmiridium buyer’s licence—so now there could be no collusion. Could the company get the diggers a better price for their metal? Almost 250 men banked on it, selling their osmiridium through the government scheme. The list of sellers compiled on 30 June 1922 is now a handy checklist for historians and genealogists. Here are the men in one long list by rough alphabetical order as set out in the government records.[1] My only addition is some comments in the column at right.

Name Value of os (£, s & d) Weight of os (oz, dwts & grains) Comments
Anderson, Thomas 35-15-7 2-3-9
Aylett, George 40-11-3 2-7-5
Aylett, William 85-9-8 5-0-12 Later at Adamsfield
Allan, G & W 97-10-7 5-10-1
Allan, BJ 40-10-0 2-0-12
Allan, J 40-0-0 2-0-0 Jim Allan, Nineteen Mile Creek
Baptist, J 50-0-0 3-14-21 John D’Ahren Baptiste, aka Hooky Jack, later at Adamsfield.
Baptist, J (Reserve) 100-5-0 5-0-6
Beale, W 30-6-6 1-14-8
Berryman, E 133-7-10 8-18-17
Berkery, M 27-18-7 1-12-0
Buckingham, H 11-3-3 0-11-20
Betts, WA 46-14-4 3-1-23 Betts Track named after a Betts prospector.
Biggins, Norman 26-5-0 1-15-0
Billinghurst, J 20-11-0 1-3-16
Booth, George 31-18-9 2-2-14
Booth, William 45-2-5 2-17-4
Boyd, H 53-6-0 3-5-11
Brown, G 20-0-0 1-19-21
Bryant, JH 71-8-9 4-13-14 Former Derby shopkeeper. Committee member of the osmiridium pool.
Burness, J 16-15-0 1-2-8
Burness, Charles 18-5-0 1-4-8
Brettoner, JE 18-5-0 1-4-8
Blake, UJ 12-12-3 0-16-3
Bosich, L 13-15-0 0-18-8
Brodie, W 1-11-8 0-1-14
Button, A 47-19-5 2-9-18
Booth, George Jnr 32-9-2 1-12-11
Burge, J 11-14-2 0-11-17
Burke, RH 2-11-0 0-3-0
Bynon, R 42-11-3 2-5-17
Blair, F 8-0-0 0-8-0
Burness, HB 21-5-0
Callaghan, B 75-13-6 4-10-12
Carpenter, T 53-18-4 3-6-18
Carmody, H 37-0-0 4-0-0
Clementson, M 13-3-5 1-3-15 Matty Clementson, ‘the [Mount] Stewart king’.
Coghlan, J 17-0-0 0-17-0
Crawford, T 53-0-7 5-10-5
Casey, W 75-0-7 4-0-13
Casey, W 43-14-11 2-18-8
Cashman, John 39-18-2 2-9-15
Caudry, William 15-0-0 1-0-0 Caudry’s Reward reef mine, Caudrys Hill, the first mine of its kind in the world. Also had a lease at Mount Stewart.
Caudry, William 100-0-0 5-0-0
Caudry, Thomas 62-17-6 3-2-21 Brother of William Caudry.
Cooney, J 45-17-6 2-5-21
Cumming, R 47-19-7 2-9-18
Chellis, WH 128-11-8 6-8-14 Walter Chellis, Castray River, champion axeman & publican.
Cook, Henry 48-13-10 2-18-2
Cady, W 31-7-8 1-16-22
Davidson, J 19-0-7 1-2-3 Jack Davidson, stalwart of the Nineteen Mile.
Devlyn, Fred 73-9-6 4-0-3
Devereaux, H 28-9-7 1-12-3
Dixon, J 49-4-7 2-15-15
Doak, William 5-18-9 0-7-23 Doaks Creek at Adamsfield named after him.
Doran, William 47-14-7 3-0-7
Donovan, D 42-0-0 2-6-0
Dhu, Hugh 47-2-4 2-14-20
Dunn, Steve 34-8-6 2-0-12
Drew, M 21-11-7 1-5-16
Duffy, James & Manion, Thomas 1-2-0
Devlyn, John 6-5-7 0-8-9
Dixon, TF 12-13-2 0-16-8
Dwyer, S 42-11-10 2-13-4 Sammy Dwyer, from NSW, last man at the Nineteen Mile, 1950s
Duffy, J 27-4-2 1-14-23
Dunn, John 23-13-4 1-3-16
Donohue, J 18-16-0 1-0-6
Davies, D 20-6-6 1-2-3
Dickson, C 42-10-7 2-5-16
Davie, A 48-10-0 2-10-0 Probably Arthur Davey, one of the stalwarts of the Nineteen Mile.
Dettoner, AC 11-12-4 0-11-16
Davies, C 25-0-0 1-5-0
East, G 61-16-8 5-5-20
Easther, C & Garrett, T 100-4-2 5-0-5
Easther, C 52-4-7 4-16-8
Eastwood, William 38-16-8 2-13-2
Elmer, William 57-19-1 4-6-9
Ellims, V 79-19-0 4-11-18
Evans, Charles 58-10-7 3-8-3 ‘Chillie’ Evans, a well-known digger.
Eames, G 71-10-7 4-0-15 Jones Creek digger George Eames, whose dealings with osmiridium buyer Robert Krebs in 1923 helped bring down the government monopoly scheme.
Etchell, Thomas 18-16-3 1-4-10 Brother of well-known bushman, Luke Etchell, with whom he lived at Guildford. They were also pulp wood cutters and snarers.
Fenton, S 58-18-1 3-6-23
Ferguson, WJ 18-5-5 3-4-6
Flowers, S 31-17-0 3-5-19
Forbes, A 47-5-0 6-3-0
Finlay, R 50-19-10 2-12-7
Fenton, AW 43-2-6 2-13-13
Ferrari, S 99-3-11 5-5-8
Frazer, JD 10-8-3 0-11-21 John D ‘Scotty’ Frazer, a well-known digger who disappeared in the bush in 1923, thought to have drowned.
Findon, John 14-0-0 0-14-0
Fahey, James 69-8-4 4-0-17
Farquhar, John 27-4-8 1-8-8
Flight, W 12-18-6 0-15-5
Finlay, JH 1-18-4 0-1-22 Jack Finlay, remembered by osmiridium fields poet Mulga Mick O’Reilly as ‘Jack Fennelly’.
Garratt, T 52-4-7 4-16-8 Probably Tyson Garrett of Savage River.
Grant, William 19-9-1 1-3-6
Grant, Charles 43-10-6 2-8-12
Grills, H 51-15-8 3-19-4
Grosser, PA 79-11-0 4-15-0 Magnet’s Phil Grosser, of Mount Stewart and the Nineteen Mile, later at Adamsfield.
Grubb, John 18-16-4 1-0-9
Gould, J 21-1-2 1-2-17
Gatehouse, H 79-11-8 3-19-14
Gurney, C 3-3-0 0-3-17
Harper, Thomas 25-8-8 1-9-3
Hamilton, William 21-7-6 1-11-17
Harrison, J 25-0-0 4-16-3 Is this Wynyard’s James ‘Tiger Cat’ Harrison, real estate agent, ‘human cork’ and prospector, who dealt in live marsupials, including thylacines?
Henderson, C 14-11-10 0-18-18
Hines, William J 0-12-7
Hodson, H 17-3-3 1-1-5
Hughes, Victor 24-14-9 3-8-5
Humphries, Albert 43-12-3 2-11-16
Humphries, Albert 36-6-10 1-19-12
Humphries, R 52-0-10 3-6-1 Probably Magnet resident Robert Humphries, of the Mount Stewart field.
Hancock, J 31-13-10 2-0-5 Probably Jos Hancock, of Flea Flat, Nineteen Mile Creek, whose hut was used as a location in the movie Jewelled Nights in 1925.
Hanlon, T 93-8-3 5-5-22
Harvey, Joseph 72-17-7 4-9-0
Humphries, HH 34-18-4 1-14-22
Harrison, M 32-0-0 1-12-0
Hope, A 22-1-8 1-2-2
Hollow, J 43-4-2 2-3-5
Hill, Kenneth 19-8-0 1-3-10
Inglis, AL 33-6-8 1-13-8
Inglis, AL 208-0-0 10-0-0
Jones, RW 100-0-0 10-0-0 Probably Robert Walter Jones, aka Wally Jones, who later went to Adamsfield and was osmiridium buyer HB Selby & Co’s agent there.
Jones, CH 22-14-4 1-10-7
Jans, FC 77-6-5 4-6-0 Fred Jans, later at Adamsfield, where he died in 1944.
Johnston, L 31-15-0 1-11-18
Jones, TH 60-0-0 3-0-0 Possibly Tom Jones, after whom Jones Creek was named.
Jones, John 16-0-1 0-17-16
Jenner, H 8-5-6 0-8-12 Harry Jenner, later at Adamsfield.
Keltie, William 18-3-11 1-2-23
Kenny, J 57-17-6 4-7-9
Kinsella, A 39-2-8 2-8-21 Possibly related to Bill Kinsella of Wilson River.
Kelcher, John 38-9-11 2-10-2
Knight, W 16-18-7 0-19-22
Kelly, James 16-18-5 1-2-13
Keenan, C 22-16-8 1-2-20
Kershaw, F 11-19-5 0-14-2
Lane, R 31-14-4 1-15-15 Roger Lane, who worked with the Maywood brothers at the Nineteen Mile.
Leary, M 34-6-3 2-11-14
Long, Thomas 32-3-11 2-0-7
Long, Thomas 27-3-10 1-8-7
Leach, George 10-1-10 0-11-21
Loughnan, E Jnr 50-15-7 3-6-17 ‘Peg Leg Ted’, one of the discoverers of payable osmiridium at Mount Stewart. Had a prosthetic leg. Loughnan Creek is named after him.
Loughnan, James 54-3-5 3-8-10
Lyons, T 3-15-0 0-5-0
Loughnan, E Snr 42-16-3 2-17-2
Llewellyn, John 47-0-0 2-15-0
Loughnan, George 51-5-11 2-14-18
Mackersey, L 24-1-8 1-18-0
Maywood, A 32-14-2 2-9-13 Brother of Ted Maywood, with whom he worked at the Nineteen Mile, along with Roger Lane.
Maywood, E 16-10-0 1-10-11 Ted Maywood, who worked at the Nineteen Mile with his brother and Roger Lane.
Mills, James & Jenner, H 1-3-4
Mills, J 57-16-3 4-15-18
Mills, J 19-2-6 1-2-12
Moore, A 28-16-8 3-14-5 Probably Savage River digger Albert Moore, brother of Reuben Moore.
Morgan, William 87-8-0 5-11-12
Moore, RR 74-3-9 4-3-17 Probably osmiridium digger and buyer Reuben Moore, who died at Savage River in 1925.
Moffitt, LJ 53-15-10 2-13-19
Martin, J 6-0-0 0-6-0
Manion, Thomas 26-4-2 1-12-23 From the Beaconsfield family of Manions?
Mallinson, RD 17-0-0 0-17-0
Meares, RK 11-11-7 0-13-15
Matthews, T 15-0-4 0-17-16 Possibly ‘Winger’ Matthews, who appeared in Marie Bjelke Petersen’s novel Jewelled nights as ‘Wingy’ Matthews.
Major, J 85-2-10 5-0-4
McAvoy, D 82-1-11 5-19-1
McAidell & Hill Probably CL McArdell and Harry Hill, the latter being a well-known digger who was later at Adamsfield.
McCaughey, LB 37-3-1 2-4-20
McDiamid, William 0-10-0
McGuiness, A 32-2-9 1-18-19
McGuire, J 44-18-9 3-14-12
McCormack, Charles 33-5-0 2-4-8
McGuiness, F 28-4-1 1-10-21
McCaughey, M 43-14-4 2-8-6
McCaughey, William 15-14-9 0-16-14
McQueeny, F 11-14-2 0-11-17
McArdell, CL 30-19-9 1-16-11
McDonald, Alex 8-10-0 0-10-0 Of Flea Flat, Nineteen Mile Creek, where he shared a hut with Jim McGinty until the latter’s death in 1920.
Newman, M 21-15-9 1-5-9
Newman, M 37-18-7 2-4-15
Nelson, H 40-0-0 2-0-0
Osborn, WH 44-4-3 2-13-10
Oakley, H 21-16-4 1-8-1
Oakley, J 38-5-11 2-12-4
Oakley, H & Loughnan, J 7-10-0 0-10-0
Oakley, RP 9-18-1 0-13-5
Papworth, S 40-0-0 4-0-0 Later of Adamsfield.
Pearson, Robert 103-15-8 6-0-6
Prouse, Charles A 141-8-0 8-9-10 Charles Arthur Prouse, son of Tom Prouse. Together in 1922 they were pictured with two large nuggets found on the upper Nineteen Mile, the one found on the dump by his father being a record 4.5 oz. Charlie Prouse later went on to Adamsfield, where he was the first bride groom on the field, marrying the bush nurse, Constance Brownfield, in 1928. Also an osmiridium buyer at Adamsfield.
Prouse, William 67-9-5 3-12-10
Parsons, Norman 35-12-6 2-7-12 From Caveside, was part of the syndicate trying to work a hydraulic show at the Little Wilson River.
Prouse, J 78-16-7 4-5-8
Paine, Hy 16-18-5 1-2-14 Possibly Harry Reginald Paine, later the author of a book about Waratah, Taking you back down the track …
Paine, W 18-8-4 0-18-10
Power, T 18-10-0 0-18-12
Prouse, H 20-4-0 1-2-14
Paine, Thomas 51-7-6 2-11-9
Reimers, J 36-5-0 3-3-6
Richardson, A 47-15-0 4-2-3
Richards, J 48-10-10 4-12-22
Ruggeri, R 27-12-8 1-12-13
Russell, J & Casey, W 2-6-12
Russell, J 67-5-7 3-12-19 Osmiridium pool committee member.
Russell, J 43-14-4 2-18-7
Ramsay, James 62-17-6 3-2-21
Ruffin, H 36-10-0 1-16-12
Rearden, S 6-18-1 0-8-3 Syd Reardon, from Lorinna, alcoholic prospector.
Schill, F 1-7-0
Shea, M 79-16-8 4-9-20
Sheedy, Chris 39-15-9 4-7-4 Secretary of the osmiridium pool.
Sims, W 12-14-7 1-6-1
Simpson, PC 34-5-6 1-17-21
Stanley, H 58-11-1 3-13-20
Smith, WH 34-0-0 2-0-0
Smith, R 70-0-5 4-17-22
Spencer, T 81-2-6 7-1-3
Sutton, WH 7-17-6 0-10-12
Stanton, JM 65-10-11 3-16-19 Reward lease holder (with Edward Loughnan jnr) at Mount Stewart.
Symons, GC 15-0-0 1-0-0
Spencer, John 88-8-1 5-6-18
Stebbings, A 74-6-8 4-6-13
Shady, William 30-5-0 2-0-8 William Antonio Shady, son of Syrian hawker and shopkeeper Antonio Shady, osmiridium buyer. Became a Waratah storekeeper.
Smith, Martin 38-7-11 2-6-1
Sullivan, J 36-1-4 2-1-11
Symons, James B 45-18-4 2-11-22
Symons, James B 105-0-0 7-0-0
Shaw, Thomas 114-2-2 6-13-17
Sewell, J 8-2-6 0-8-3
Spencer, James 25-7-6 1-5-9
Symons, Charles & George 154-10-0 7-14-12
Scoles, J 6-8-11 0-7-14
Symons, Charles 81-5-7 4-15-15
Thomas, T 15-7-5 0-18-2
Thurstans, F 61-14-3 4-10-15
Thorne, A 66-7-9 5-6-4
Thorne, Charles 95-4-11 5-10-20
Thorne, W 33-6-9 2-3-4
Tudor, Lionel 91-4-8 6-18-3
Tudor, Lionel 110-5-0 7-7-0
Tunbridge, E 39-3-9 2-17-6
Turner, H 1-12-11
Taylor, James 18-5-0 1-4-8
Tudor, Henry 111-2-2 6-2-8
Thorne, Harold 12-12-8 0-14-13
Thorne, H & W 44-5-0 2-8-12
Venville, D 36-19-2 2-7-12
Watkins, J 24-15-7 1-8-6
Wilson, R 54-0-0 4-0-12
Wilson, W 37-17-6 2-10-12
Whyman, Victor 59-12-1 3-14-22 Driver for his brother Ray Whyman, storesman and packer on the osmiridium fields. Claimed to be the model for the singing driver in Marie Bjelke Petersen’s novel Jewelled nights.
Whyman, Arthur 30-11-3 2-0-18
Whyman, Phillip 52-6-8 2-17-8 Proprietor of the Bischoff Hotel.
Wilson, J 35-8-3 2-1-12
Wilson, Percy W 34-18-1 2-3-21
Woolley, James 4-12-1 0-5-9
Walters, WA 25-8-4 1-5-10
Wragg, H 12-10-0 0-12-12

 

[1] From AB948/1/98 (Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office).