Still to this day in West Australia, there are goldfields remnants of the gold rush days. After the gold boom years from 1897-1923 came the bad years of decay; when the gold beneath the ground petered out and the people above it left for greener pastures. Towns which had thronged with thousands of miners and their families withered and died. The dust which had once wafted from the digger’s dry-blowing efforts now started moving of its own accord, settling on buildings and head frames and covering large areas of the goldfields with a sad mantle of rusty-coloured dust.
The boom only continued until 1923 because of the revival during WW1 when governments needed gold. After the War the rising costs of production and the declining ore bodies eventually beat the mine managements and the towns started a long downhill decline. Not only the men left the fields, whole houses were jacked up and carted away and by 1930 there was a general air of neglect over thousands of square miles.
A remnant of this era stands at Gwalia which was once one of the most important mining centres north of Kalgoorlie. Gwalia and its big mine, The Sons of Gwalia, was once home for 3000 people. It was managed for a short period by Herbert Hoover who later became President of the U.S.A. during the 1930s Depression years. At Gwalia, he was responsible for the erection of the unusual wooden head-frame, using timber imported from America. After 67 years of production the mine finally closed in 1963.
Gwalia now has 10 occupied houses. The few people who live there do so mainly because they were able to buy cheap houses. It has been reported that the sale of one house was transacted for the princely sum of $12.
The image I have chosen, invokes the reminiscence of the days of the “Sons of Gwalia” where a simple miner’s table, chair and bottles sit as a still-life snapshot reminder –
of a time long-gone;
of a time of great wealth and prosperity;
of a time buried in its own dusty memories.