190a. MULLARD, Isaac T.
"I have last week met a man named Mallard who tells me that he knows this country well".
Lasseter to M. J. Calanchini, W. A. Mines Department, 14th Feb. 1930.
The aim of this short biography is to establish Isaac T. Mullard's place in the Lasseter Legend, he should be better known to history as Lasseter's Reef and Mullard's Reef are one and the same, located in the Warburton Ranges and discovered by Ike Mullard in 1900, he alleged the reef produced a seven ounce floater of gold. Lasseter and Mullard knew each other and kept the same company, the Bailey's, W. F. Roberts, Frank Green, Jack Jenkins et al. In due course Texas Green M. H. R., Errol Coote, Lexius-Burlington, H. W. B. Talbot, Michael Terry, Paddy Whelan and several others associated with the search for Lasseter's Reef realised that Lasseter had a definite location in mind when he left Alice Springs in July 1930, and turned attention to the Warburton Ranges. A high publicity but low value gold rush followed with Ike Mullard in the van, Harold Lasseter had intended to peg his gold reef.
Isaac Thomas Mullard was born in Kincumber, N. S. W. in 1853 and seems to have avoided public notice until June 1884 when two bench warrants were issued at Gosford for his arrest on charges of sly grogging and lottery scams. Mullard never answered to these charges, the Maitland Mercury reported that, "The accused party had left the district", apparently for the West Australian goldfields. He kept a low profile for ten years until the 12th Sept. 1894 when he and his mates, D. W. Mogford and Albert Glaizier, who were travelling from the 45 Mile Rush to Bardoc, witnessed the immediate aftermath of a murder..
The culprit, said to be of northern European appearance, was seen filling in a prospecting pothole in a surreptitious manner, and thinking the fellow was onto gold Mullard and mates approached the lone prospector, who was somewhat agitated and stated that he wasn't having any luck, but his mate was prospecting alluvial gold nearby and proceeded to show the way for a short distance before returning to his workings. Mullard and party continued looking for the mate without success and during camp that night pondered the strange antics of the prospector, deciding all was not as it seemed. Next morning the trio returned to the pothole with a closer inspection in mind, finding the prospector had decamped during the night they proceeded to clean out the workings, and uncovered a body, no doubt the missing mate, who had been killed by a blow to the back of the head with a miners pick. The police were duly informed and something of a farce ensured, four false arrests, two misidentifications and several months later the killer, seen everywhere, remained at large and the victim, buried three times, was only identified as a 60 year old South Australian.
In May 1896 Mullard's name was mentioned in the Wardens Court at Kurawah (Broad Arrow) a wages dispute for £23 12/6 owed by a Mr. Bennett to Mullard for timbering the Banjo lease, and he was said to be amongst the first to Yundamindera in 1897, where he had some success. He was also successful on the billiard table, the Evening Star reported from Kanowna that Mullard had played Caulfield for £20 each on the table and 500 up, Mullard won by seven points. In August 1898 a warrant was issued for his arrest, "ISAAC MULLARD, medium build, age about 38 years. height 5ft, 8in, black hair and moustache, dark eyes, slightly Jewish nose, rather long visage, dark and sallow complexion, small scar on one cheek, a billiard-marker, native of Sydney; being indebted to George Friday in the sum of £27 10s. To be arrested at any seaport of the colony, but not elsewhere. Dated Broad Arrow, 27th July 1898" in short confined to the colony!
Mullard had no intentions of leaving the goldfields, for the time being he was doing quite well, questionable debts not withstanding, and on the 15th of November 1898 he applied for a Billiard Table Licence in the premises he occupied in the boom town of Kanowna. His timing and locale where fortuitous, the following January the Western Argus reported that Mullard's claims on the Moonlight Lead had returned 43 ounces of gold from 20 tons of ore, three months later a 70 ton parcel of wash returned 166 ozs. apparently sufficient to finance prospecting further afield.
By 1900 Mullard was prospecting out of Laverton, in that year, based on information given to him by Aboriginals, he set out for a location about 50 miles east of Laverton to prospect for gold and in particular a rich specimen said to be as big as a human head. Three weeks later and 250 miles further east Mullard's ad hoc expedition, just himself and two Aboriginal guides and three horses, arrived in the Warburton Ranges and there located the "desired spot". Underprovisioned, short of ammunition and "the presence of many wild natives", allowed only a days cursory prospecting, Mullard found one specimen, a floater containing 7ozs. 4dwt. of gold about 15 feet from a quartz reef. He supposed the specimen "had been magnified by previous accounts into a piece as big as your head". The return to Laverton took three weeks on slim rations and bush tucker, the menu, when available, consisted of roasted crickets, bardie grubs, bob tailed lizards and goannas, he refused to eat roasted bush cat.
Apparently Mullard's remarkably rich gold specimen aroused little interest, but his skill as a billiard player continued, on 26/10/1901 the Laverton Mercury reported on a billiard match between Ike Mullard and Tom McGillick for five pounds a side and 500 up, McGillick won by 80 points and, "about £60 changed hands over the match", there were many rematches with honours about even. In August 1903 he and a mate by the name of McKenna were on temporary riches through the keen eyes of an Aboriginal woman in their employment, they named their mine 'The Golden Queen' and reports from September note that Mullard's claim at Laverton returned nearly 55 ounces of gold from 15 tons of ore, followed by further small crushings averaging about an ounce per ton. In November 1907, "Brick" from the Laverton Mercury reported on the Linden mining field. On a hill above here are Hanks and Party-three Hanks Bros-and Ike Mullard, known among the men as 'The Sultan of Johore' they have about 60 tons of stone at grass, and their reef is exposed right through the lease."
Brief census records show Mullard as a resident of Kalgoorlie until 1918 when he retired to his roots on the NSW Central Coast, taking up residence amongst numerous close knit family at Morisset, apparently past misdemeanours forgiven and his debt to George Friday repaid. But after seven years, retirement seems to have palled, and August 1925 found him leading a six man expedition out of Kalgoorlie heading for the Warburton Ranges, reluctantly backed by the Central Prospecting Board with ten camels and equipment and provisions for six months. Mullard's companions were John McKay, recently resigned from the N. S. W. Forestry Department and living at Morisset, Oliver Page, "a well known identity of the eastern and northern goldfields", and George Barrett, said to have had considerable experience on the Northern Territory goldfields and the two Aboriginal guides who had travelled with Mullard to the ranges in 1900. Mullard's expedition had the usual objectives of prospecting for gold and minerals as well as, "examining the pastoral potentialities of the district and locating water supplies for travellers", the expected secondary objectives when prospecting the Warburtons on a Government subsidy. Sam Hazlett and Frank Hann spent many a happy year prospecting for grass, water and stock routes.
Before leaving Kalgoorlie Mullard was interviewed by the local press where the details of his 1900 trip to the Warburtons came to light, and the Western Argus introduced the elderly prospector as "Mr. I. T. Mullard, more familiarly known to the people of the North Country as 'Ike' Millard". During the interview Mullard went into some detail about a waterhole he had discovered on his 1900 journey that wasn't marked on the latest topographic maps of the area, apparently this unnamed oasis was a permanent spring fed pool about 20 feet across and located some little distance away from the ranges, direction not stated, of course, "but the approaches to the pool were treacherous because of soft decomposed conglomerate in which the horses would have sunk to their barrels", he also mentioned the discovery of a remarkable gnamma hole on a hill of conglomerate, at the end of a short passage there was, "a large deep pool of beautiful fresh water covered by an unbroken roof of conglomerate" I recall there being a lot of conglomerate and floaters in Lasseter's geology.
In late September Inspector Spedding Smith received a message via Laverton that Mullard's expedition was 75 miles east of Burtville and travelling well, "The party reports that the camels and other equipment are in first class order", nothing further was heard until the following February when the Prospecting Board reported on the failure of Mullard's expedition. Apparently the party started breaking up when McKay returned to Laverton, (he may have delivered the above message) the Board noted that, "unfortunately one member was not used to the West Australian bush, although he may have been a very good man in the eastern States bush". Mullard and his mates battled east for a while but drought conditions and ten camels made it, "impossible for three men to go on", bearing in mind each man was over seventy, and one of them had been injured after McKay left, no doubt struggling to do the younger mans work. The expedition returned to Laverton towards the end of October, more or less intact with no loss of camels or equipment and each man quietly went his way.
The Board ended their report with the following recommendation to the Mines Department, "No expedition should be sent out for the Warburton Ranges unless in a good season and such party should consist of two or three young vigorous men with light equipment and riding camels". This proviso would preclude Mullard from Government assistance if he contemplated any further expeditions to the Warburton Ranges. For the time being he had retreated to an environment where gold mining in all its forms, legal and otherwise, was well understood. And I can't help thinking that many a young Bailey, Elphick and Mullard ear paid rapt attention to 'Uncle' Ike's perhaps somewhat risqué stories of the Golden West, and perhaps older ears paid a keener interest.
In October 1929 Lasseter wrote to Texas Green, MHR Kalgoorlie (and well known to Mullard) outlining a proposal to pipe water from the headwaters of the Gascoyne river to "a vast gold bearing reef in Central Australia". In subsequent correspondence Lasseter variously located this reef about 250 miles south west of Alice Springs, or at the western end of the MacDonnell Ranges or somewhere in the South West Aboriginal reserve, but clearly in Central Australia and therefore eligible for Federal Government assistance in relocating the reef. Lasseter suggested, that for £2000, he would survey an 800 mile route for a wooden pipeline from the Gascoyne to the reef. Three months later Lasseter was officially informed that the Government was not interested in his scheme, politely pointing out that Lasseter had his priorities reversed, that is, first find your gold reef then water problems may be considered.
And so to the last week of Jan 1930 and Lasseter's preferred option for finance had been rejected, he then proceeded to move his reef out of the Northern Territory and into Western Australia. On the 3rd of Feb. Lasseter wrote to Herbert Gepp and introduced Ike Mullard to the plot, "I have last week met a man named Mallard who tells me that he knows this country well", according to Lasseter, Mullard's visit came as a surprise and at the instigation of the West Australian Mines Dept. Gold reefs, waterholes and the Warburton Ranges were discussed in a circumspect fashion, but, one thing I got from him that may be useful is a copy of the map of his journey in search of this reef showing location of waterholes along route". Lasseter added that Mullard had discovered a permanent spring at the end of his route and had camped seven men and ten camels there for three months, a reference to Mullard's 1925 expedition.
Although Lasseter penned the letter to Gepp in early February he did not post the letter until the 22nd, some 19 days later, in the meantime, on the 14th of February Lasseter responded to the West Australian Mines Dept. correspondence from last October, the letter that asked awkward and specific questions and had "lain in a disused mail box for three months". In his reply to M. J. Calanchini, Lasseter specifically stated "that to the best of my knowledge and belief the Warburton Range is nearest to its location", and this is the first time Lasseter mentions a specific landmark and confirms that his reef is in Western Australia, and that he found it 33 years ago, travelling west from the MacDonnell Ranges. He makes two brief references to Mullard (Mallard) having met him the previous week, (three weeks earlier in his first letter to Gepp) and that he knew the country well, "he has been in your Govt. employ as a prospector". Lasseter concluded with a preference to travel to his reef from a point on the North West Stock Route at about the 23rd parallel in a six wheeled caterpillar tractor, "but Mr. Mallard tells me he knows a better way from Laverton", no doubt using camels.
It's not known if M. J. Calanchini, the Under Secretary to the West Australian Mines Department, had a sense of humour or not, but he was known for his complete discretion and deep knowledge of mining affairs in his vast State, he would not have bothered to check the archives for reference to Lasseter's misspelt Mr. Mallard, Ike Mullard was indeed well known in the northern goldfields, his 1925 misadventure to the Warburton Ranges had set a well established precedent, young vigorous men, lightly equipped, and good seasons were the prerequisites for Government assistance when prospecting in the Warburton Ranges, Ike Mullard was now 77 years old.
Lasseter again wrote to Gepp on the 22nd, enclosing his letter from the 3rd, explaining that since that date the missing letter from the West Australian Mines Dept. "has come to hand ~ has been delayed 3 months in transit & only asks for further particulars", Lasseter supposed that the delay in replying was behind Mullard's visit and the Mines Dept. had, "suggested to Mr. Mallard that he come & have a private confab with me". As a result of Mullard's visit Lasseter concluded that, "it seems useless to try & keep the existence of this reef secret any longer, I am going to try & organise a syndicate to prospect it. About £3000 would be required to do the thing thoroughly". Gepp wished Lasseter every success and four months later Lasseter's £3000 syndicate became the £5000 Central Australian Gold Exploration Syndicate.
It was a difficult month for Lasseter, on the 28th of Feb he wrote to W. F. Roberts, occasional assayer and metallurgist to John Bailey, citing a recent meeting with Mr. Dent, Managing Director of The Referee newspaper, as proof of surveyor Harding's existence, apparently Dent was well acquainted with Harding, both men being in Western Australia at the same time, "Apart from anything else this is a singular confirmation of my story", (was Lasseter's veracity being questioned?) He concluded with the cryptic line, "I'm expecting the Bailiff Monday so with best wishes". A couple of days later he placed an add in the Sydney Morning Herald seeking £150 equity in his "new brick cottage". On the 3rd of March he wrote to the Japanese Consulate suggesting he had some secret and valuable information to transmit to the Emperor of Japan, Lasseter's return address if the Consulate cared to contact him, was W. F. Roberts office in the TerraNorra Building. On the 5th the advertisement for equity in his home reappeared and again on the following Saturday, with an amendment, "will consider good motor, part payment", and the following week unequivocal confirmation that the Western Australian and Federal Governments were not interested. Two weeks later, on the 1st of April (the only significance in the date is the irony) Lasseter wrote to John Bailey, "For 30 years I have known of a big lode of high grade ore in Central Australia".
Lasseter's letter to Bailey was in a similar vein to correspondence to the Federal and West Australian Governments, his secret knowledge of a vast gold reef in central Australia that remained unworked for want of water. For the next six weeks Bailey consulted friends, Government Departments and Archives and found enough circumstantial and concocted evidence to support Lasseter's story and on the 14th of May 1930 started feeding the press, "A syndicate formed and led by Messrs. H. B. Lasseter and John Bailey of the Australian Workers Union, is to go by plane into Central Australia to search for a reef which, it is reported, contains fabulous wealth". On the 17th the Newcastle press (Newcastle becoming a significant locale in Lasseter's affairs) opened a nice piece of puffery with, "The sensation in mining circles for the moment is the much talked of flying expedition to Central Australia to pick up a reef discovered by H. B. Lasseter, many years ago". On the 20th, The Daily News headlined a page six article, "AUSTRALIAN ELDORADO, Search in Central Australia, Story of Old Discovery", This article prompted Lasseter to write to Gepp. mildly complaining that Bailey had, "spilt the beans as far as keeping it quiet is concerned".
Two days later Ernest Bailey, Secretary to the Central Australian Gold Exploration Syndicate wrote to Arthur Blakeley, Minister for Home and Territories requesting a Pound for Pound subsidy to finance an expedition to Central Australia, enclosed was a statement from Lasseter opening with, "That he discovered a reef some 30 years ago approximately 600 miles west of Alice Springs", Blakeley's Secretary pointed out that Lasseter's position was about 300 miles N. N. E. of Laverton in Western Australia and the Syndicate should approach that State for assistance. Advised to do so Bailey wrote to the Premier of W. A. mentioning that Lasseter was uncertain about the reefs exact location, "but he is of the opinion that it is in Western Australia". Bailey wrote to Colonel Brinsmead, Director of Civil Aviation in mid June requesting information about flying conditions and regulations for the central parts of Australia, "approximately 400 miles West to North West of Alice Springs". Obviously The Central Australian Gold Exploration Syndicate had no intention of travelling to the South Western corner of Central Australia. The Syndicate received no assistance from Western Australia and from the Federal Government, the mild cooperation of bureaucrats and a £73 3/- rail concession, and from the New South Wales Government free rail transport from Sydney to Broken Hill.
Lasseter as guide to the First C.A.G.E. Expedition, left Alice Springs on 24/7/1930 and travelled to Illbilla in the Ehrenberg Ranges, about 230 miles due west, the location chosen for its convenience in having a cleared airstrip, an established bush camp and a known water supply, but still 150 miles north east of Lasseter's desired location, Lake Christopher, the radial point to other landmarks and where he was supposed to rendezvous with W. Johanson from Boulder City W. A. By various means Lasseter separated from the Expedition and travelled alone to Lake Christopher, located at the western end of the Rawlinson Ranges and nearly a hundred miles into W. A. and Lake Christopher is a great deal closer to the Warburton Ranges than any convenient point in south west Central Australia. Lasseter arrived at the Lake perhaps mid November and waited no more than three weeks for Johanson who failed to arrive. Lasseter then returned east along his tracks when his camels bolted just north of the Hull River gap, here he sheltered in a cave for several weeks before continuing his journey. Mentally and physically weakened he perished at Winters Glen, Bob Buck discovered the body and buried Lasseter on the 28th March and the wider world knew Lasseter's fate on 25/04/1931.
On the 20th May 1931, less than a month after Lasseter's death had been reported, the Warburton Range Gold Exploration Company was formed, significantly one of the directors was W. F. Roberts, assayer and metallurgist, Lasseter's confidant and occasional consultant to John Bailey, another Director was Sir John Butters who occasionally received the sharp edge of Lasseter's pen when Sir John was Chief Commissioner of the Federal Capital Commission. The objectives of the Company were to "relocate a large auriferous quartz reef claimed to have been discovered some years ago by Mr. I. T. Mullard", and of course the usual wider search for pastoral and mineral opportunities. Isaac Mullard was chosen to lead an expedition to the Warburton Ranges where something of a gold rush was underway. Various press releases boosting Mullard's credentials and the Company's shares, mentioned that Mullard was said to have been the discoverer of the Black Swan mine at Broad Arrow and the sporadically rich Linden at Yundamindera, and several other valuable gold prospects, "and to have had experience in Western Australia extending over a period of thirty years".
Mullard and his nephews, J. B. and E. K. Mullard, arrived in Kalgoorlie on the 18th of June to find camels suddenly scarce and provisions expensive, but within the month had cobbled together an expedition that left Laverton on the 28th July with eight months supplies, apparently unconcerned about reports of two white men having been murdered in the area. Mullard did well to secure camels and equipment, the Kalgoorlie Miner reported that there 20 men in five or six parties already in Warburton's and more would be leaving shortly, H. L. Paine leading a Government survey party was already well advanced towards the ranges, and a police expedition to Sladen Water to investigate the killing of the prospectors would be underway as soon as camels were obtained. Tracks east of Laverton would be well travelled over the coming months. Yet no one sighted Mullard.
Mullard's first expedition was a failure, "driven back by shortage of water in the desolate country traversed", it is not known how far east the party travelled before returning to Kalgoorlie where they marked time until early April 1932 when Mullard assembled a second expedition, his nephew E. K. Mullard had returned east and Paddy Whelan joined the party. According to Whelan he was approached by Mullard who, "believed he (Whelan) had found something good in the Warburton area on a previous visit to that country", Mullard offered Whelan 25,000 shares in the Warburton Range Gold Exploration Company, equivalent to £2500 par value, and £500 cash on return to Kalgoorlie, to act as guide to his discovery. This sizable expedition with Mullard as leader, his nephew, James B. no doubt second in command, and Whelan, four Aboriginal guides, eight camels, two horses and six months provisions, left Laverton on the 3rd of May 1932. The expedition travelled about 300 miles east when Whelan demanded the agreement be put in writing, a nonsense of course and why not done in Kalgoorlie? Naturally there was a dispute and Whelan and Mullard parted ways. On June 6th, Constable Polack at Laverton received a report that one of Mullard's party was sick and laying on the side of the road about 70 miles east of Laverton, when Polack arrived next day he found the spinifex pedestrian was Paddy Whelan and in very poor circumstances. At his request Whelan was returned to White Cliffs Station and the manager, Mr. Brockman, grubstaked him for a fortnights prospecting, Ike Mullard continued to his objective.
In mid July Brockman drove Whelan to Laverton where he took the train to Perth and on the 28th the Mines Department announced that Whelan had found a rich gold reef in the Livesey Ranges, the following day the Livesey Range gold rush started, a very expensive affair to a place the discoverer had never visited, and Whelan agreed that the six pegged claims he found on the reef could be Lasseter's. This revelation caused Ern Bailey, company secretary to C.A.G.E. to thunder away to the West Australian Government that they had a legal and moral obligation to grant Whelan's claims to C.A.G.E. Errol Coote saw the opportunity to exercise his snippet of 'private information' gleaned from Lasseter at Illbilla showing Lake Christopher as the radial point to certain landmarks, Charles Lexius-Burlington saw opportunities everywhere starting with Lasseter's Gold, No Liability, "the area to be immediately prospected is the gold discoveries at a location between the Warburton Ranges and Lake Christopher". H. W. B. Talbot was commissioned by Livesey Gold Mines N. L. to return to the ranges with Whelan and thoroughly check his claims, this did not happen, Whelan inventing various ways and means to avoid getting there. As a high farce gold rush I've not found its like in Australian history, the stuff of movies.
Mullard's second expedition returned to Laverton about the 18th of August and had very little to say to the press except they had reached the objective, presumably the large auriferous quartz reef located somewhere in the Warburtons, "but nothing of value was discovered there", and had nothing to say about Whelan who was comfortably settled in Perth enjoying the proceeds of a deal done with Livesey Gold Mines (and one or two others) and no doubt relieved to learn that his return expedition to the Livesey Range, under the lead of Bill Talbot had been delayed by lack of camels. And more than likely it was Mullard who confronted Whelan at about the vicinity of White Cliffs Station and asked Whelan to sign an agreement, this he refused to do and Mullard simply dumped him by the side of track as Ike Mullard would, with sufficient supplies and water to get to the station and two Aboriginal guides to get him there, Whelan being an indifferent bushman, as later events would prove.
Less than a year, later Isaac Thomas Mullard died at Lisarow 21/07/33, at his nieces resident where he had been staying for the past four months and in poor health due to a heart condition "and it was a sudden attack of this complaint that caused his demise". A brief obit in the Gosford Times mentioned Mullard's many successful years on the W. A. goldfields and "just prior to his death was planning to again visit the goldfields" the following day the S.M.H mentioned his passing and his recent expeditions to W. A. on behalf of the Warburton Range Gold Exploration Co. There were "a very large number of mourners". The following month the Bailey family and on behalf of Mullard's brothers sisters and relatives placed a notice in the local press thanking Mullard's many friends for their condolences and floral tributes. It seems Ike Mullard was well regarded and I can't help thinking that he would be likeable but roguish company and entertaining if not enlightening about the camp fire.
Now to Lasseter's Mr. Mallard who knew "a better way from Laverton", (as Ike Mullard would, having travelled the track a couple of times to 1930) Mallard is a rewarding example of a pattern emerging in Lasseter's otherwise excellent written word, a quirk for misspelling proper nouns. Murray Hubbard, author of Lasseter's biography, 'The Search for Harold Lasseter' first mentions this oddity when commenting on a Lasseter letter to the Department of Defence, Lasseter writing that he had worked at Harland & Woolfs shipyards, Hubbard found it, "curious that he misspelt the 'Wolff in Harland and Wolff. Surely if he had worked there he would know how to spell the name", indeed! The ubiquitous patent medicine of the era, Argyrol, was always written by Lasseter as Argerol, the cure for his sandy blight and missing from the medicine chest, "I leave my everlasting curse on Jenkins for omitting the Argerol". The discredited Centralian map maker, Captain Kendrick, "The syndicate which is putting up the money asks me to use Captain Kendricks maps for guidance", was A. J. Kendick, gadabout geologist, promoter of exotic mining companies and favourable commentator on gold in Lasseter Country. So when enquiry in the usual places fails to locate any creditable Mr. Mallard it's time to apply the pattern and tweak the name, the choices are obvious, and five minutes prospecting in the National Library's newspaper archive, Trove brought I. T. Mullard to light and his part in Lasseter's fraud.
The Goldfields press widely and in some depth recorded Mullard's expedition to the Warburton Ranges in 1925, and this is reflected in Lasseter's correspondence to Gepp and Calanchini, Mullard's story became Lasseter's story, especially when he started to ease his reef out of the Northern Territory and into Western Australia where the Warburton Ranges was the nearest landmark to the reef, Lasseter, "verified Mr. Mallards report by reference to reports in the Mitchell Library", meaning that Lasseter had read the Western Mail and Western Argus for August 1925, the article in the Western Mail was headlined WARBURTON RANGES STATE PROSPECTING PARTY, Lasseter mentioned to Calanchini that Mullard, "has been in your Govt employ as a prospector". A second set of press articles for June and July 1931 regarding the Warburton Range Gold Exploration Co. directly linked Mullard with W. F. Roberts who was Lasseter's confidant and business partner, according to Coote, and they all knew John Bailey.
John Bailey was President of the Central Branch of the Australian Workers Union and Chairman of the Central Australian Gold Exploration Co. that backed Lasseter's expedition to central Australia, Bailey mentioned that he and Lasseter were old acquaintances of long standing, and Bailey was related to Mullard where there was much common ground in Labor politics and gold mining. Bailey also used the professional services of W. F. Roberts to assay gold specimens from his salted Arnheim Land Gold Mine, Roberts in turn backed Mullard's 1931 and 1932 expeditions to the Warburton Ranges, and among other roles was Lasseter's business partner, apparently a simple arrangement where Roberts would receive half of anything discovered by Lasseter. Significantly Mullard and Roberts did not have shares in C.A.G.E., both men aware of the unfolding fraud and did not take any action until immediately after Lasseter's death.
Lasseter would have history believe that he and Mullard met for the first time at Lasseter's residence at Kogarah during the last week of January 1930, perhaps; but I suspect at least four months earlier, at about the time Lasseter wrote his well targeted letter "out of the blue" to Texas Green. M. H. R. Kalgoorlie and soon to be Minister for Defence. Prior to October 1929 Lasseter had not mentioned gold or central Australia in a well documented record on a great many things, war machines favoured along with forestry, wooden ships, resettlement schemes and bridges but the precious metal and the far outback were not in Lasseter's orbit and this is quite evident in his opening gambit, he had no idea what he was writing about, as if misunderstanding an overheard or second hand conversation. For a nonsensical letter it got surprising results starting with an interview with Herbert Gepp and Dr. Keith Ward, (Ward concluded that Lasseter was quite unbalanced). In October 1929 someone put the idea into Lasseter's head that there was a missing gold reef to be found in central Australia, and the time and circumstances being right, Lasseter put pen to paper.
But first, lets consider Ike Mullard and gold, he had more than 30 years experience on the W. A. goldfields and in the leading mob to several gold rushes, his discovery of the Black Swan mine at Broad Arrow is doubtful, but he was well enough established at Kanowna by November 1898 to open a billiard parlour, a fine source of goldfields gossip. A couple of months later he was well pegged on the Moonlight Lead, a night time rush where claims were pegged by the light of the moon and the claim jumpers arrived next morning, Mullard successfully defended his rich ground in the Wardens court where he was well known and not always for the right reasons; debts, bets and claim disputes. He would have known champagne days on the Golden Queen claim, "from which some very rich stone is being raised, Some of the specimens have been purchased in Morgans by the residents, Mr. W. Burgess being the purchaser of one at a good figure.", and if that seven ounce specimen ever existed it probably came from this mine and Mullard knows it didn't come from the Warburton Ranges. He was said to be a fine axeman and bush carpenter, timbering mines a speciality, and obviously a competent enough bushman to undertake the hazardous journey to the Warburton Ranges and return on such a slim outfit.
Lasseter on the other hand knew very little about gold and many references to the contrary are acknowledged, some of these initiated by Coote in order to boost Lasseter's reputation as a master prospector "his early life was spent amongst gold and gold-finders, numbered with whom was his father, W. J. Lasseter." Lasseter's father was the occasional wildly inebriated vermin inspector for the Colac district and a rabbit trapper, there is no record of him involved in mining or prospecting. There are a couple of second hand and recycled references to Lasseter prospecting on the upper Clarence River, again there is no official record although I suspect that lack of a miners right wouldn't stop Lasseter from prospecting, if he knew how, strangely enough both Paul Johns and A. J. Kendick prospected the same area at a later date. Another source has Lasseter rolling gold nuggets, by inference from central Australia, across the kitchen table. When Lasseter started arguing the point re sampling methods, Herbert Gepp had to caution him that it was the lode that must be sampled and not nearby surface indications and pointedly added, "as you know, there have been more mistakes in mining made due to sampling, than probably due to any other operation", and Dr. Woolnough gave firm reminders about the pitfalls of secondary enrichment. When Philip Taylor returned to Illbilla in mid December 1930 he, "Examined the box of samples left here by Lasseter, the biggest lot of rubbish a man could pick up!", and the Canberra brass filings hoax may have been perpetrated on Lasseter and not by him. In short there is not a skerrick of first hand or official evidence to support the claim, mostly made by others, that Lasseter was an expert prospector.
So Ike Mullard, sly grogger, billiard champ, gambler and successful prospector meets Harold Lasseter, urban dreamer and schemer and ignorant of the Outback and gold, prior to the meeting Lasseter had placed his reef in S. W. Central Australia, but after meeting Mullard, Lasseter moved his reef to the Warburton Ranges and thereabouts; there's a sense that the purpose of the meeting was to put plan 'B' into effect, starting with the discovery of the long delayed letter from the West Australian Mines Dept. An unlikely pair of scammers but they may have combined talents and experience to effect a minor fraud in the larger scheme of things and that was nothing more than have the Government finance and outfit a prospecting holiday to the Warburton Ranges. A common enough dodge at the time and practised by thousands of prospectors across Australia. Mullard knows that age precludes him from Govt. assistance, but, providing he tells a plausible story Lasseter may be successful. There's a line in Lasseter's letter to Gepp that causes me to at least consider the possibility that Lasseter and Mullard where partners, "believe he would be a very good man to have in party especially as he seems conversant with the blacks lingo", and if successful, then Mullard would be included in Lasseter's expedition as the guide as he knows the way from Laverton to the Warburton ranges.
But I'm of the opinion that Lasseter believed Mullard's story and was going it alone to Mullard's Reef with every intention of pegging the choicest ground for himself (and perhaps Mullard) Failing to get Government backing he duped C.A.G.E. into funding his expedition to a convenient location, and once there declaring that the expedition was too far north by 150 miles, thus placing the impassable Lake Amadeus (and Blakeley's Big Breakaway) between the Expeditions base at Illbilla and Lake Christopher, his intended destination. With failing logistics and impossible ground ahead Blakeley was forced to abandon the Expedition, leaving Lasseter and Johns in the field, and after he had served his purpose, it wasn't too difficult to send Johns on his way. Lasseter's plans went awry at Lake Christopher, conveniently attributed to the failure of his guide to the Warburton Ranges, W. Johanson, to rendezvous.
A couple of postscripts, and I'm sure there will be plenty to follow considering Ike Mullard's part in the Lasseter Legend; that seven ounce four pennyweight specimen is over 140 times the sum total of all other gold found in the Warburton Ranges to date, I'll grant Michael Terry and his mates and other genuine prospectors who pounded likely rocks to sand, and if they had water to pan the result, a pennyweight.
Mullard first mentioned his discovery 25 years after the event, remarkably similar to the lapse of time in Lasseter's story of anywhere between 18 and 33 years, why leave a fortune unannounced for so long? In 1900 a seven ounce specimen from the Warburtons would have caused a rush within days on the simple premise that where a seven ounce specimen has been found there may be a seventy ounce specimen waiting, and Lasseter's 14 miles of three ounce quartz would have the reef pegged end to end within the month, and Governments planning railways and pipelines. In 1925 Mullard was just adding some colour to an already colourful past, after all he was, "well known in the north country", whereas Lasseter had to invent a past to account for his discovery and Mullard was part of that past.
The Maitland Daily Mercury 29 January 1927 Pg 6. Hubbard Murray, The Search for Harold Lasseter,pgs,26,27,46. Police Gazette Western Australia, No. 31, August 3rd 1898, pg 260. Stapleton Austin, Lasseter Did Not Lie, pgs,16,39. National Archives Australia,