History of West Australia/George Rowland Fearby


FEW can deny but that Mr. Fearby's knowledge of mining is extensive. At the incredibly early age of eight years, young George busied himself on mining fields, under the careful vigilance of the paternal eye. From then till 1897, which embraces a period of forty years, he has performed great and numerous feats. A detailed enumeration of his diversified series of actions will bring to mind the story of seed-time and harvest.

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Mr. Fearby was born in New England, New South Wales, in 1850. His father was a pioneer on the Hanging Rock Goldfields, near Tamworth—one of the earliest alluvial diggings in New South Wales, originally opened up by a fortunate prospector named Wyndham. He was also for a considerable time in partnership with Danger Brothers, who had attained celebrity in the early days of the New South Wales goldfields as highly successful mining experts. Young George's predilection for, and success in, the mining world seems to have been hereditary.

In 1858, at the phenomenal age of eight, he embarked with childish glee on the alluvial fields. He had a boyish curiosity for prying into the hidden secrets of alluvial earth. That early desire, so far from being crushed by his father as a purely boyish freak, which years and better sense would enable him to outgrow, was stimulated and encouraged. One can imagine the little child amusing his fancy by peering carefully and anxiously into some remote corner, which he was sure contained the object in quest.

Slowly and surely days and years sped on, till the boyish curiosity passed into the settled regime of manly task. Still, his love had grown with his days at the wheel, and when he left the alluvial fields of New South Wales in 1869 he was an enthusiastic mining devotee. His career had been watched because of its very uniqueness. His services were immediately enlisted by a Melbourne syndicate on his return from the north-east fields of New South Wales. He was commissioned by them to make an extensive prospecting tour through New England in search of diamonds. Though the direct and immediate outcome of the expedition was not the discovery of the precious glistening carbon gem, still his mission was by no means barren of success. He discovered in the course of his tour the New England tin mines, which brought a fair amount of fame to his name. Still, he was rather unfortunate in one of his discoveries owing to a treacherous trick being played upon him by his over-clever companion. The first tin property they discovered was the Ellesmore in which his ostensible friend outwitted him and robbed him of his interest. Young Fearby had not yet schooled himself in arts sufficient to ward off deceptions of cheatery and fraud. Still, as experience, it opened his mind to the possibilities existing in the world for all kinds of roguery, and made him more guarded in future.

Mr. Fearby next journeyed to Cope's Creek, twelve miles south of Ellesmore, to a property called the Britannia. He was appointed manager of this mine on his arrival, and held that managerial trust for two years with conspicuous success. The burdensome and onerous duty of the charge may be evidenced by the simple statement that fully 250 men had to be superintended by him during his retention of the post. His skill and administrative capacity were recognised as the chief factors of a sudden expansion, an increased output, and a general development. The mine, under his experienced supervision, paid substantial dividends.

On vacating this position he travelled over large areas of the surrounding goldfields, practising as a mining engineer and expert on his own behalf. In this interim, however, he held various responsible posts. His scientific experience was often sought and bought on many important points, and his reputation as a thorough practical man was more than upheld. These services were continued for fourteen years till 1884, when he left New South Wales, in company with D. Grove, for the Malay Peninsula. He provided himself with large smelting plant and engineering apparatus, and set out for Perak in the interests of a large Melbourne tin-smelting company. He was under a twelve months' engagement to that firm, so that it was well on in 1885 before he returned to New South Wales. From June of that year he filled a perfect host of successive positions.

Firstly, after his arrival, he was appointed mining manager to the Tonkin Silver Mining Company, a property which adjoins the Great Sunny Corner Mine, in New South Wales. He was eighteen months there, and then resigned to assume the more important office of manager to the Little Dora Gold Mining Company, on the Clarence River, New South Wales. He held this latter trust for eighteen months, and on the expiration of that term returned to Sydney. After a short stay in the latter city, he decided to accept the managership of the Castle Wellington Tin and Silver Mining Company, New England. He greatly facilitated progress by erecting large tin-crushing plant and a Huntingdon mill—the first of its kind used for tin. His skill and practical utility were continually made the subjects of compliment and thanks, and his numerous experiences and record of success rendered him more than worthy of esteem.

About a year after this he was entrusted with a prospecting commission to Borneo for the Sambas Exploration Company. For months he prospected, minutely and thoroughly, the auriferous areas of that large island. The company which he represented had received a concession of 65,000 acres from the Imperial Government for gold and diamond prospecting operations. Mr. Fearby and party were not satisfied with their gold finds, and diamonds do not seem to have cropped up in any great quantity to the light of their searching eyes.

In this expedition he traversed country perfectly unknown to the civilised explorer, and proceeded eighty miles farther inland than any other white man. His reports on the discoveries in Western Borneo—the realm of the Dutch province—were the means of encouraging further exploration and developmont in that hitherto unpenetrated region. This exploratory exploit of Mr. Fearby in Borneo was generally recognised as a brave adventure. He left Borneo for London in 1892, to hand over the documents in connection with the Exploration Company.

On his return to Sydney, he was commissioned to proceed to New Zealand by John W. Jeffreys on behalf of a large Sydney syndicate to prospect for manganese. But this inorganic element did not abound so plentifully as the syndicate expected, and in eight months Mr. Fearby returned, not at all gratified with his success. He then sailed for Western Australia.

In Coolgardie he began practice as a mining expert. Since his arrival he has visited all the different fields, furnishing reports on various mines for many companies. From so experienced an expert, an opinion on the auriferous wealth and prospective greatness of the fields of Western Australia will be welcomed. Norseman he considers to be a promising field, being similar in features and general environment to Charters Towers. He has prepared exhaustive reports on several mines that were afterwards purchased by Dr. Simon, such as Hill End at Broad Arrow, and the Bardoc Gold Mines. His belief in the future of the Coolgardie Goldfields is emphatically asserted. History, he says, will repeat itself here as in the Mysore mines of India, where poor stuff reigned above 200 feet, but below that level there were well-defined reefs.

Discretion combined with a singular constructive and mathematical ability, energy wedded to a keen resolve, a love for his science that makes every difficulty appear a toy—these are the characteristics most noted along the course of Mr. Fearby's life. He has filled scores of responsible offices with signal success, and has hurried from one continent to another in his insatiable love for prospecting and mining. Few have served so many syndicates and companies as Mr. Fearby.