Legendary Western Australian gold mining town.
There is nowhere else in Australia quite like Kalgoorlie. Unlike most goldmining towns, which last for as little as a couple of years, it sits on the edge of the famous Golden Mile and has an economy which has been driven by gold since 1893. The main street, Hannan Street, is awash with glorious buildings all bearing testament to the wealth that has been generated. It is a city to be savoured. A unique expression of the potency of gold fever and the wealth that can be generated by this hugely valuable metal. Modern Kalgoorlie is far removed from the town as described around the end of the 19th century: "When my party stepped from the train at Kalgoorlie, we saw before us a scattered array of wooden and galvanised iron houses … In the near distance we could see the towering poppet heads of the widely known Great Boulder mine, and the din created by the revolving hammers of the ever active stamping machinery assailed our ears as an indescribable uproar. But beyond the dust and smoke of these nature-combating engines of civilisation, the open desert, dotted with its stunted mulga and mallee growths, shimmered back into the horizon."
Kalgoorlie is located 595 km east of Perth via the Great Eastern Highway and is 360 metres above sea-level.^ TOP
Origin of Name
It is accepted that Kalgoorlie probably comes from a Wangkathaa Aboriginal word "karlkurlah" meaning 'silky pear', a plant common to the area. Boulder was named after the Great Boulder Mine.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
The Kalgoorlie-Boulder Visitor Centre
The sensible starting point for any exploration of Kalgoorlie-Boulder is the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Pure Gold Visitor Centre which is located in the Town Hall building at the corner of Hannan and Wilson Streets. It has a wide range of maps and guide books; can advise on accommodation and restaurants; and is a handy booking agency for the many tours that are offered in the area around Kalgoorlie.
Kalgoorlie Walking Tour
If you are happy to pay $12 (in 2014) you can purchase a Souvenir Map and Information Booklet and hire a headset which offers detailed descriptions which cover most of the significant buildings in Hannan Street as well as the Questa Casa bordello (brothel). Some of the most important buildings, as you make your way from the Visitor Information Centre up Hannan Street to the WA Museum, include:
Buildings and Points of Interest on Hannan Street
1. Statue of Paddy Hannan
The Paddy Hannan statue is located on the corner of Wilson Street and Hannan Street, outside the Visitor Information Centre. It is a replica of the original statue which was completed in 1929 and made from 90 pieces of soldered copper. The original is housed inside the Town Hall.
Hannan is the man credited with discovering the gold lode at Kalgoorlie which is now recognised as 'the richest goldfield in the world'. Hannan's find drew attention to an ore body that later became known as the 'Golden Mile'.
Hannan was born in County Clare, Ireland on 26 April, 1840. He was a genuine gold obsessive, a sufferer from gold fever. In 1862 he worked underground at Ballarat. Between 1868-1880 he went to the New Zealand goldfields. In 1889 he was prospecting at Southern Cross and he joined the race to Coolgardie when gold was discovered there.
In June, 1893 Paddy Hannan, Thomas Flanagan and Dan Shea headed east from Coolgardie and discovered gold around modern day Kalgoorlie. So rich were the deposits that on 17 June Hannan returned to Coolgardie with 100 ounces of gold (3.1 kg).
Sadly the men who found the 'Golden Mile' did not reap great riches. Tom Flanagan was relatively well off when he died in Bendigo on 16th November 1899 leaving an estate of £817/-/-; Dan Shea died in 1908 having continued to prospect for new fields up to 1904; and Paddy Hannan, who became the potent symbol of Kalgoorlie, never became rich.
Hannan has been greatly honoured. The main street of Kalgoorlie is named after him; one of the locally brewed beers was Hannan's beer; and for many old miners Kalgoorlie was always known as Hannan's Find or, more simply, Hannan's.
In 1904, at the age of sixty-one Hannan was granted a pension of £100 by the Western Australian Government. It was increased to £125 and by 1911 had risen to £150. He retired to Fallon Street, Brunswick, Victoria, where he lived with two female relatives until his death on 4 November 1925. He is buried in the Catholic section of Melbourne general cemetery.
2. Kalgoorlie Town Hall
While visiting the Visitor Information Centre it is worth inspecting the Town Hall. Built in 1908 it is a typical, grand Edwardian structure. The Council Chambers upstairs have huge tables and beautiful leather chairs. There are chandeliers, stamped-metal ceilings and a grand sweeping staircase. It is claimed that Dame Nellie Melba performed in the Town Hall Theatre on a number of occasions. The original statue of Paddy Hannan is also housed in the building. It is open weekdays from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.
The Bust of C.Y. O'Connor
Located inside the Town Hall is a bust of Charles Yelverton O'Connor C.M.G. M.Inst.C.E., Engineer-in-Chief 1891 to 1902, a remarkable and tragic figure who designed and constructed the Fremantle Harbour, the Goldfields Water Supply from Mundaring to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie and all railways and other public works throughout Western Australia during the period when he was Engineer-in-Chief.
Here’s O'Connor's life story as told by the National Trust: “In 1891 John Forrest, Premier of Western Australia, employed C.Y. O'Connor, an Irish born engineer working in New Zealand, as Engineer-in-Chief and told him the colony required 'Railways, harbours, everything'. O'Connor immediately began work on Fremantle Harbour and improving the colony's rail system.
“When gold was discovered at Fly Flat near Coolgardie in 1892, then at Hannan's (later Kalgoorlie) in 1893, thousands flocked to the arid Goldfields. The lack of fresh water was a huge problem and resulted in poor sanitation, diseases such as typhoid and many deaths …
“Premier Forrest visited in 1895 and saw for himself the enormity of the problem and, as more than half the colony's population now resided in the Goldfields, he was under considerable pressure to find a solution to the water crisis …
“After exhaustive enquiry O'Connor and his team recommended a scheme to pump water from a dam east of Perth through a pipeline to Coolgardie …The cost was enormous but Premier Forrest was determined the scheme should go ahead and in July 1896 put the proposition to Parliament. There was criticism from several politicians and after long debate Parliament approved the raising of a loan from England of £2,500,000, more than WA's entire annual budget …
“Critics in the press and Parliament attacked the scheme from the beginning because of the amount of public money being spent. O'Connor was also accused of giving jobs to former colleagues from New Zealand. Sunday Times editor FC Vosper, who was also a politician, ran a personal attack on O'Connor's integrity and ability through the paper.
“Parliamentary debate over a contract for caulking the pipes and controversy over land dealings along the pipeline route prompted a formal Government enquiry into the entire scheme in February 1902. “O'Connor was in South Australia at the time of the enquiry and returned to face more press accusations of corruption and incompetence. With Forrest's move into Federal politics, O'Connor now lacked political support.
“The new Premier, George Leake, had long been an opponent of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. O'Connor came under increasing strain from the attacks on his personal and professional integrity and, tragically, took his own life on 10 March 1902, just a month before pumping began.
“Lord and Lady Forrest officially opened the scheme ten months after O'Connor's death, in three separate ceremonies at Mundaring, Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie on 22 and 24 January 1903.
“The scheme cost £2,655,220, only slightly more than O'Connor's estimate made seven years earlier (which did not include the extension to Kalgoorlie). Water has flowed to the Goldfields ever since.”
Most Western Australians today regard Charles Yelverton O'Connor as a man of genius.
3. Government Buildings Complex
Further up Hannan Street, and dominating the whole street, is the Government Buildings complex (204 Hannan Street) which was built between 1896 and 1899, at a cost of £22,000. When built it housed the Wardens Court, Court of Justice, Mines Department and Post & Telegraph Office. The buildings are dominated by an impressive clock which was formally started by Warden Finnerty from Coolgardie in 1900.
4. York Hotel
Located over the road from the Government Buildings Complex, between Wilson and Cassidy Streets, this remarkably ornate hotel was constructed in 1900-1901 and officially opened on 23 February, 1901. The architect, Daniel T. Edmunds, practiced in Kalgoorlie between 1899-1912 and was responsible for the City Markets which are over the road. When it was opened the local paper recorded the interior in the following glowing terms: "The eastern main entrance brings the visitor to a luxurious lounge hall, from which rises the main staircase leading to the residential portion of the hotel. The staircase is built up in a remarkably artistic way, with a single flight to the first landing, two side flights, and above that a bridge. Over all is a very handsome circular dome which admits plenty of light. In the decoration of the interior, money seems to have been lavishly spent, and to admirable effect. Among the most notable features is the wide variety of artistic design and beauty of colouring of the stamped metal ceilings. Rich-hued and finely carved woodwork also calls for special mention. In no part of this hotel is there anything for simply garish display."
5. Palace Hotel
Further up Hannan Street is one of the city's most historic hotels: the Palace Hotel at 137-139 Hannan Street, the corner of Hannan and Maritana Streets. Although it appears relatively modest, it was built in 1897 for the astronomical sum of £17,000. At the time, because the town was awash with gold money, it was recognised as the most luxurious hotel outside of Perth. It was the first hotel in town to have electricity and it had its own water processing plant until the arrival of O'Connor's pipeline in 1903. The furniture came from Melbourne. Today its unique features include a mirror which was donated by Herbert Hoover (he was the Mine Manager at Gwalia) who reputedly fell in love with a barmaid before he returned to the United States and eventually became the 31st American president.
Located at 135 Hannan Street, the Exchange Hotel has, in recent times, become a tourist magnet because - looking back to the 1960s and 1970s - it has decided that women working at the bar topless (known as 'skimpies') would attract locals and tourists. The hotel was built in 1900 and has been listed by State Heritage which has explained its importance: "The original building on this site was a timber and iron construction and, with the Club (Cohn's Buildings), was one of the first two hotels in town. The site has been home to the hotel ever since. The building was built for the Wilkie Brothers, contractors for the Southern Cross-Kalgoorlie railway line. The contract value was approximately £8,000 pounds.The decorative motifs and elements that adorn the building's facade are drawn from a variety of styles and give the building its ornate appearance. The hotel was saved from damage during the 1934 race riots when Bill Trythall took over the licence from the licensee whose foreign name made him vulnerable to assault." Check http://www.inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/957d40ac-0f47-4b35-982b-fe3859dd1f9c.
5. Kalgoorlie Miner and Old Western Argus
Located at 117-119 Hannan Street, next to the Exchange Hotel, are the offices of the Kalgoorlie Miner and Old Western Argus which was the first three storey building in town. It was from here that the town's first daily newspaper, the Kalgoorlie Miner (established 1895 - Monday to Saturday) was published. In its boom years between 1894-1906 Kalgoorlie had 12 different newspapers of which the Kalgoorlie Miner was the most successful.
6. WA Museum, Kalgoorlie-Boulder
One of the most distinctive buildings on Hannan Street (it can be seen the entire length of the street) is the Ivanhoe headframe at the WA Museum which is located at 17 Hannan Street. It is both a museum and a viewing platform with the top of the Ivanhoe Headframe being accessible by both lift and stairs.
It is an ideal way to discover the history of the Eastern Goldfields and particularly Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Among the permanent exhibits are the largest collection of gold bars and nuggets in Western Australia; a detailed history of the prospectors who searched for the precious minerals; and interesting insights into the lives of the families of the miners. The permanent exhibitions include an authentic Miner's Cottage, a botanic garden, the offices of mining officials, the first West Australian bank and artefacts made from local timber. The museum is open every day from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm. For further details contact (08) 9021 8533 or check out http://museum.wa.gov.au/museums/kalgoorlie-boulder for additional details. Within the museum grounds is the:
7. British Arms Hotel
The British Arms Hotel is next to, and only accessible through, the WA Museum. It is reputedly the narrowest hotel in the Southern Hemisphere. Today it houses three galleries: Dr Rout's Dental Surgery, the Union Banner Display Cases with a collection of historic union banners, and an Edwardian Parlour with potted plants and heavy furnishings. For most of its life the British Arms was ideally located to lure passengers alighting from the Loopline tramway which ran to and from Boulder and miners coming home from working on the Golden Mile.
Beyond Hannan Street
The Famous Brothel - Questa Casa
Questa Casa, sometimes known as 'The Pink House', is the only remaining brothel from a time when there were over 30 brothels operating in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. There is a daily tour at 3.00 pm which lasts an hour, takes visitors through the workings of the bordello and explains the historic origins of this legal brothel which has been operating for over 100 years. It is located at 133 Hay Street, tel: (08) 9021 4891. Check out http://www.questacasa.com.au for more details.
A total change of scenery is offered at the two hectare Hammond Park, "a lush green oasis in the middle of the outback", which is located between Hawkins, Lyall and Parsons Streets. It has a native bird and animal collection with kangaroos, emus, peacocks and fish. There is a miniature Bavarian Castle which reputedly is decorated with some 40,000 local gemstones, a huge band rotunda, a duck pond, children's playground and picnic facilities and a kiosk. It is open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. from April to August with hours extended to 7.00 p.m. from September to March.
Karlkurla Bushland Park
This 200 ha bushland park is located in Nankiville Road in the suburb of Hannans. It is a fine example of regeneration as, at the end of the 19th century, most of the eucalypt woodland had been removed to fuel the steam engines in the area. Today it has over 2,000 trees and shrubs and 4 km of walking tracks with a lookout and fine wildflower displays in season. Information on the plants is marked along the trails.
Attractions in Boulder
Super Pit Lookout
The most popular attraction in the Boulder area of Kalgoorlie-Boulder is clearly signposted about 5 km south of Kalgoorlie on the Goldfields Highway. It is a lookout over a huge hole in the ground which, when it is completed will be 3.8 km long, 1.35 km wide and 500 metres deep. It was originally known as the Golden Mile. It then became the Fimiston Open Pit and eventually became known simply as the Super Pit.
The story is remarkable. As explained on the informative signage at the lookout: "Where small operations had once controlled the famous Golden Mile, WA businessman Alan Bond started buying up the individual leases to create one big company and one big pit, from which gold could be extracted at far less cost.
"Bond's company failed to complete the takeover but, in 1989 the entire area was combined. Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines Pty Ltd (KCMG) was formed to manage the assets and operations of joint venture partners, Normandy Australia and Homestake Gold of Australia Limited.
"For the first time, all leases and infrastructure of the Golden Mile, Mt Charlotte (and Mount Percy to the north) had been brought together. Significant changes - the most since gold was first discovered in Kalgoorlie by Paddy Hannan in 1893 - occurred."
There is a fascinating historic photograph which shows how the Super Pit was once 22 separate gold mining companies all with their own shafts.
Geoffrey Blainey in The Rush That Never Ended observed: "He (Alan Bond) had almost pieced together the jigsaw of leases which were in separate hands for nearly a century. It was now possible to operate a gigantic and ever-descending super pit, in which massive equipment could tear out the old underground workings and the unmined gold in between." For more information contact number (08) 9093 3488, or log on to http://www.superpit.com.au.
The Geology of the Golden Mile
One of the information boards at the Super Pit Lookout explains: "Golden Mile mineralisation is characterised by a very complex pattern of closely spaced faulting, shearing and intense shattering of rocks. Lodes have several characteristic orientations, with slightly different mineralisation styles. There are over 800 ore lodes within the Golden Mile Dolerite over an area of 5 km in strike and 2 km in width, and to a depth of over 1 km. Individual lodes may be up to 1800 metres long, 1200 metres in vertical extent and 10 metres wide. Highest gold grades are typically associated with gold-silver-mercury tellurides and alternation minerals with high vanadium contents. The gold is mineralogically complex and refractory during processing."
Loopline Railway & Museum
There was a time when the historic Loopline Train, a reminder of the public transport which was available to the early settlers, took visitors on a journey which included a detailed commentary and visits to the Chaffers Power Station and Super Pit Lookout. It stopped operating in 2004 as the KCGM Super Pit operations expanded. Today the Railway Museum and Railway Station are located on the corner of Burt and Hamilton Streets, are open from 9.00 am - 1.00 pm every day and offer museum exhibits to visitors. There is a plan to relocate the original loopline track. Check out http://www.boulder.com.au/attractions/loopline-park/ for details.
Historic Walk in Boulder
Boulder was surveyed in 1896 and proclaimed a municipality in 1897. Burt Street is now regarded by the National Estate as one of the most significant historical streetscapes in Western Australia and the visitor can simply walk its length and admire its significant buildings which include the Hotel Metropole (1900), Tattersall's Hotel at 61 Burt Street, Orr's Emporium at 63 Burt Street, Brennans at 79-83 Burt Street, the courthouse (1900) at 99 Burt Street, the Grand Hotel (1897) with its intricate ironwork at 121 Burt Street, the Masonic temple at 132-134 Burt Street, the post office (1903), the Albion Hotel (1898) at 60 Burt Street and the Chemist Shop (1900) at 46 Burt Street. The walk is literally no more than two blocks between Brookman Street to Hamilton Street.
Boulder Town Hall and the Goatcher Curtain
The Boulder Town Hall In Burt Street was opened on 23 June, 1908. It features a prominent clock tower, wrought-iron balustrades and pressed-tin ceilings. It operated as a theatre for many years and singers, including Dame Nellie Melba and Eileen Joyce, performed on its stage. Today its great attraction is a rare surviving stage curtain (complete with original pulley system) by Phillip Goatcher who was famed in his day for his lavish drop curtains. He was reputedly paid £50 for the 6.25m x 8.45m curtain which was restored in 1997 at a cost of $200,000. Goatcher's curtains were used in theatres in London, Paris and New York. It can be viewed on Tuesdays at 1.00 pm and on the third Sunday of the month (Boulder Market Days). Check out http://www.boulder.com.au/attractions/town-hall/ for more details.
Boulder Fun Time Two-Up School
Want to try your luck in the only legal two-up school in Australia? The rules of the game are artfully simple: two coins, preferably old pennies, are thrown in the air. There are three possible outcomes: two heads, two tails, a head and a tail. You bet on the outcome. It is played legally in a rustic setting at Sheffields Restaurant which is located at the rear of the Recreation Hotel on the corner of Burt and Lionel Streets. For more information contact (08) 9093 3938 or check out http://www.boulder.com.au/attractions/two-up/.
Other Attractions in the Area
Hannans North Tourist Mine
Located 7 km north of Kalgoorlie, via the Goldfields Highway, this $25 million interactive and educational attraction highlights the past, present and future of the mining industry in Australia. It was opened in October 2001 as part of Australia's Centenary of Federation. It "combines an historic gold mine and heritage precinct with interactive galleries, a changing display of art works and specifically designed gardens. It includes displays on prospectors, mineral discoveries and the government's role in mining alongside the latest technological developments. On the heritage site visitors can tour the 1893 underground mine, watch a gold pour demonstration or try their luck at panning for gold. The seven hectare site displays a diverse collection of mining memorabilia including historic headframes and numerous heritage buildings." The Hall of Fame is open Sunday to Friday 9.00 am - 4.30 pm, tel: (08) 9022 1664. For more information check out http://www.hannansnorth.com.au which provides information about the experience.
The Longest Golf Course in the World
Nullarbor Links Golf Course
A very typical Aussie outback joke the Nullarbor Links Golf Course is the world’s longest golf course with the first hole in Ceduna, South Australia and the 18th hole 1365 km away at Kalgoorlie. Check out the details at http://www.nullarborlinks.com. It is real and can be a lot of fun for committed golfers.
Hole 17: Kalgoorlie Golden Mile Par 4 and is 339 metres. Located at the Kalgoorlie Golf Club this is pure bliss after the rough and tumble of many of the holes across the Nullarbor. Although the Kalgoorlie Golf Club is located on the edge of the city, it is in fact in the middle of the desert, edged by the iron-rich red sands and with greens and fairways that look like luxurious carpet. It was designed by Graham Marsh (he was born in Kalgoorlie and went on to win the US Open), is truly a wonder to behold, and is rated one of the top courses in Australia. It is a sublime way to finish the course.
Robbie’s Guide to the Nullarbor Links
A rolling open fairway greets you – and a good drive should leave just a wedge to the green. The green is elevated, and well protected by large deep bunkers.
The notes on the website explain: "The discovery of gold by Paddy Hannan in 1893 led to one of Australia's great gold rushes. Since then Kalgoorlie-Boulder has developed into a major service hub for Western Australia's active resource industry. Dominated by magnificent historic architecture, Hannan and Burt Streets provide a focus for modern cafes, restaurants and accommodation, hotels, clubs and watering holes. The huge KCGM Super Pit stretches along the eastern flank of the twin City, pointing north toward the Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame - a showcase of the mining industry. Surrounded by beautiful forest, the golden City boasts colourful characters and culture, world class sporting and indoor swimming facilities, traditional two-up games, and the famous Race Round.
The idea for the Nullarbor Links concept was born out of the need to change how travellers perceived the Eyre Highway. The majority of people crossing the Nullarbor had a race track mentality. Bob Bongiorno saw Nullarbor Links as a way to slow people down and make the crossing part of the holiday and not something to be endured and traversed as quickly as possible. His aim was to create awareness of many of the "self find" attractions and stories on the Nullarbor. This Golf Course is not only a game but also an interpretative journey with holes and Tees named after significant geological features or significant events or people in history. Bob Bongiorno is father of Nullarbor Links and this tee is dedicated to his vision." The tee is called the Bob Bongiorno.
Hole 18: Kalgoorlie CY O'Connor Par 4 and is 365 metres.
Located at the Kalgoorlie Golf Club this is equally impressive and is a pleasant return towards the club house. There are plenty of bunkers and challenges along the way.
Robbie’s Guide to the Nullarbor Links
Long hitters can fly the left hand corner of the dog-leg par 4 and go for the green in two, but most golfers should hit towards the right hand edge of the bunkers that are visible from the tee. There is plenty of space to lay up with the second shot. The green slopes from front to back.
The notes on the website explain: "The Pipeline CY O'Connor built, tells the story of the Mundaring to Kalgoorlie pipeline designed by Engineer-in-Chief CY O'Connor. The pipeline carries fresh water from the hills on the outskirts of Perth to the eastern goldfields of Western Australia, across a distance of 560 kilometres. It took five years to build and was completed in 1903. It is still in use today and supplies water through 8000 kilometres of pipe to almost 100,000 people and 6 million sheep throughout the goldfields and surrounding agricultural areas.
Alf Caputo was the secretary of the Eyre Highway Operators Association and the project manager of Nullarbor Links from the announcement of the project in 2004, to its completion in 2009. In 2004 as chairman of Kalgoorlie Goldfields Tourism, Alf met Bob Bongiorno who at the time was Chairman of Eyre Highway Operators Association. Bob told Alf of his vision of establishing The world's longest Golf Course. In his dream the course would stretch from Ceduna in SA to Norseman in WA. Alf immediately saw the potential of such an idea and set about making the dream come true. The only stipulation was that the course finish in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Alf's hard work and dedication to the cause saw an absolute pipe dream become one of the most important tourism icons in Australia's Golden Outback." The tee is called the Alf Caputo.
Mt Charlotte Reservoir and Lookout
Mount Charlotte Reservoir marks the end of the Golden Pipeline and the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. The water from the pipeline was stored in the reservoir and then distributed throughout the city. Mount Charlotte is 419 m above sea level and offers fine views across the city. The lookout runs off Sutherland Street which, in turn, runs east off the Goldfields Highway. There is a very detailed downloadable information sheet about the reservoir - see http://kalgoorlietourism.com/downloads/Mount_Charlotte_Reservoir.pdf.
C Y O'Connor's Pipeline
Driving to Kalgoorlie from Perth it is impossible to miss C Y O'Connor's 557 km pipeline which runs beside the Great Eastern Highway from Mundaring and was the lifesaver for the parched desert around Kalgoorlie which has an average annual rainfall of only 252 mm per annum.
The story of C Y O'Connor is a tale of a man of remarkable vision who was destroyed by public cynicism. Charles Yelverton O'Connor had the brilliant idea to dam water in the Perth Hills and build a pipeline 557 km to the goldfields.
In 1896 the Western Australian government committed itself to the construction of the Mundaring Weir and the pipeline which would connect the waters of the Helena River to Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie.
The Mundaring Weir was completed in 1900 and the laying of the pipes began in 1902. The construction of the dam and the pipeline are two of the great engineering feats of Western Australia. Without earth moving equipment they changed the nature of Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie.
Most Western Australians today regard Charles Yelverton O'Connor as a man of genius. His story has been fictionalised by Robert Drewe, a Western Australian by birth, in The Drowner and O'Connor's tragedy is a constant reminder of how a good man can be hounded by critics beyond a point of sanity and endurance.
O'Connor was born in Ireland in 1843 and emigrated to Western Australia in 1891 to take up the post of Government Engineer-in-Chief. During the next decade he was instrumental in extending the state's railways and establishing Fremantle harbour.
O'Connor devised the plan to construct a water pipeline from Mundaring to Coolgardie. The plan was laid out in 1895 but it was so vigorously opposed in Parliament that approval to start work wasn't granted until 1898. O'Connor was vilified by people who insisted he was a crazy dreamer. A vicious press campaign was waged. He was so distressed by the attacks that in March, 1902 he committed suicide (his suicide note included detailed instructions on the construction of the pipeline) on Cottesloe Beach. It is one of the tragic ironies of the story that when the pipeline was completed in 1903 it immediately liberated wheatbelt and Eastern Goldfields towns from their dependence on unreliable wells, poor rainfall and waterholes. Water which had been transported 500 km by train to thirsty communities was converted into a daily output of 5 million gallons being delivered along 557 km of pipes. The National Trust has published a detailed book - The Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail Guide - which is an excellent guide to all the main, accessible features of this remarkable pipeline.
The Golden Quest Discovery Trail
Another book worth purchasing, particularly if you are intending to explore beyond Kalgoorlie-Boulder, is the Golden Quest Discovery Trail which has detailed information and guides to the gold towns (many of which are now ghost towns) including Ora Banda, Menzies, Laverton, Gwalia, Broad Arrow and Coolgardie. The trail explores 965 km of the Goldfields region with stops at various relevant town sites. The guidebook comes with two CDs full of history, stories and anecdotes.
* Prior to the arrival of gold prospectors the area had been sparsely populated by people from the local Wangkathaa First Nations language group.
* The first Europeans to explore the area were H M Lefroy in 1863 and by C C Hunt in 1864 who were searching for useful pastoral lands.
* By the early 1890s the goldfields north of Perth were producing low yields and the state government offered a reward for new discoveries.
* In 1892 Arthur Bayley discovered gold near Coolgardie which drew prospectors to the area.
* In 1893 Paddy Hannan, Tom Flanagan and Daniel Shea discovered alluvial gold nuggets near Mount Charlotte. Like most discoveries it was accidental. A horse lost its shoe forcing them to camp near where they discovered the gold.
* On 17 June 1893 Paddy Hannan registered his claim at Coolgardie. Within three days some 700 men were prospecting in the area and by the end of June the number had risen to over 1,000. This was the goldrush to beat all goldrushes. Known as Hannan's Find or just Hannan's it was "the richest goldfield in the world".
* Hannan's Find drew miners to the area and it was a South Australian syndicate which discovered the famed Golden Mile near Boulder to the south of Kalgoorlie.
* By 1894 over 100 leases had been taken out in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder area but the local quartz deposits did not produce high yields.
* In 1894 a Canadian miner, Larry Cammilleri, discovered the lode matter which made the Golden Mile famous. The lode was composed of ironstone, with small quartz veins, greenstone, diorite and porphyry, which contained the gold.
* The first battery was established on 10 April 1894 and 2,008 tons of ore from the Great Boulder Mine yielded 15,000 ounces of gold.
* Kalgoorlie's first post office was established in 1894.
* In 1895 Kalgoorlie was surveyed and proclaimed. That year also saw the appearance of the town's first daily newspaper.
* The railway reached the town in 1896.
* By 1897 the two towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder were gazetted.
* By 1902 Kalgoorlie was a wild and booming town with an estimated 93 hotels and 8 breweries serving a population of 30,000 people.
* In 1903 the School of Mines was established and C Y O'Connor's pipeline reached the town bringing fresh water from Mundaring Weir.
* By 1910 both Boulder and Kalgoorlie had electricity. There was a tramline running up Hannan Street and more than 25 brothels were operating in Hay Street.
* Today there are still many mines operating in the goldfields district. About half of those are gold mines, including the massive Super Pit, and there are also mines for nickel, chrysoprase, copper, granite, lime, salt, sand and silver.^ TOP
Kalgoorlie-Boulder Pure Gold Visitor Centre, Town Hall, corner of Hannan and Wilson Street, Kalgoorlie, tel: 1800 00 4653 or (08) 9021 1966. It is open 8.30 am - 5.00 pm Monday to Friday, and 9.00 am - 2.00 pm Saturday and Sunday.^ TOP
The local website - http://www.kalgoorlietourism.com - is remarkably comprehensive and detailed with information about tours, accommodation and eating.^ TOP