178.   MALLARD.       

"it was suggested to Mr Mallard that he come & have a private confab with me".
Lasseter to Herbert Gepp. 21/02/30.

 

I have no intention of tracing Mr. Mallard, knowing full well that the search will lead down the same tortuous paths as the search for Harding, Johanson, Kendrick, Dent and all the other souls that peopled Lasseter's imagination. There is no need to ask, 'Who is Mallard?'. he doesn't exist. But as far as Lasseter is concerned Mallard does serve a useful purpose.

There are three references to Mallard, all in Lasseter's hand and dated February 1930. The first letter to Herbert Gepp dated the 3rd infers that Mr. Mallard paid Lasseter a visit the previous week and gold reefs and water supplies were discussed. At the time Lasseter was puzzled as to how Mallard came by his name and address, but by the time he penned the second letter to Gepp he had concluded that the Western Australian Government had passed on his details to Mallard.

We are lead to believe that Mallard's visit was prompted by Lasseter not replying to Western Australian Mines Department correspondence, that pointed letter from Calanchini dated 30th last October, asking very direct questions about the reef, the letter that had lain in the disused mail box for more than three months. Assuming Lasseter replied immediately, it seems Calanchini's letter finally arrived on Feb. 14th and the third reference is made to Mallard, "I have last week met a man named Mallard who tells me that he knows this country well and also that he has been in your Govt employ as a prospector. If that is so and you wish to send him out (or any other party for that matter) I would be quite willing to give you descriptive drawings of known landmarks". And makes a final reference at page four of his reply to Calanchini, "I would prefer to go in from a point on the N. W. Stock route about the 23rd parallel of latitude, Mr Mallard tells me he knows a better way from Laverton. However that is for you to decide". Calanchini did decide, and not in Lasseter's favour.

And the Mallard story may have ended here, except for a small anomaly in the sequence of events. Lasseter makes his first reference to Mallard in the 3rd Feb. letter to Gepp, yet seemingly withholds this letter for eighteen days and encloses it with the note dated 21/2/30. In the interim Calanchini's letter turns up, might this be a case of post anticipation and why withhold the first letter?. The probable reason for the delay, and the invention of Mallard, is nothing more or less than a face saving device by Lasseter and a second string to his bow in an approach to private enterprise for financial support. When he wrote to Calanchini, Lasseter was quite aware that three days earlier Arthur Blakeley had decided not to provide financial support in the search for the reef, leaving the West Australian Govt. or private enterprise to fund his vague enterprise.

Calanchini received Lasseter's unconvincing reply a fortnight later and Harding and Mallard were nothing more or less than red herrings to him, he probably didn't waste time checking for the ex Government employees and wrote at the foot of Lasseter's letter, "I cannot recommend assistance in this project  C. 28/2/30". Expecting a negative response from West Australia, Lasseter introduced Mallard to Gepp on the 21st of February as the excuse for ditching all Government assistance, now that the secret was out, and trying his chances at forming a private syndicate to search for the reef. Thus retaining a measure of credibility for future backers and an inference that there are competitors in the field, as a spur to some quick action.

LASSETERIA

R.Ross. 1999-2006

NATIONAL ARCHIVES AUSTRALIA. Title. Mines and Mining Not Elsewhere Included A-L Central Australia. Series Number A786. Control Symbol. C64/7.