227a. ROACH, Michael, W.

"I found the datum pegs which are stout posts each marked M. R."       H. W. B. Talbot, Diary, Second C.A.G.E. Expedition, 8.

 

Mick Roach receives a passing mention in later editions of Lasseter's Last Ride, and in H. W. B.  Talbot's diary of the Second C.A.G.E. Expedition. Roach was a knockabout prospector of the Lasseter era, operating throughout Western Australia, where he was 'well known', northern South Australia and the Northern Territory, he was involved with Paddy Whelan and the Livesey Range gold rush, and known to Frank Green, perhaps a measure of the company he kept.

The Second C.A.G.E. Expedition left Ayers Rock on the 3rd of October 1931 travelling west, and wherever possible retracing Lasseter's tracks through the Petermann and Rawlinson Ranges, according to Idriess, "When well on the route, the second expedition were surprised to see the pegs of a mining claim, and traces of prospecting work. It was a pegged out reef, and the prospector of the party was surprised to read the names of Harold Wilkinson and Mick Roach of Kalgoorlie, men he knew, on the pegs". The surprised prospector of the party was Frank Green, who knew a great deal about the Lasseter fraud and later married his widow. Bill Talbot who was the geologist and chronicler on this expedition records the suspicious circumstances that lead to the discovery of the pegged mining claim.

The Expedition arrived at Piltardie Rockhole on the 7th October and set up camp for several days while Buck and Johnson Breadon forayed to the west for water and suitable Aboriginal subjects for the Expeditions filmmaker. Buck returned to camp on the 10th and early the following afternoon Talbot and Blatchford "were informed by Buck that he and Green had been up to inspect a reef which Lasseter had pegged and that Green was most impressed with the reef and that he was going to sample it tomorrow.~ I will not comment on this beyond saying that  we have been here four days and only heard of the reef last night. Green has done nothing except the cooking in that time." Next morning Talbot and Blatchford, who was the West Australian Government Geologist, carefully inspected the reef and four claims, located about two and a half miles W. N. W. of Piltardie, "I found the datum pegs which are stout posts each marked M. R".  Talbot did not speculate on who M. R. might be and he does not mention Harold Wilkinson. It was probably through Frank Green that Idriess learnt the identity of M. R.

In early May 1931 V. G. Carrington, the Government Resident for Central Australia, wrote to the Department of Home Affairs, setting out the circumstances of Lasseter's death and the discovery and burial of the body by Buck, and commented on Lasseter's last letters, in particular Lasseter's statement that he had found and pegged his reef and taken a photograph of the datum peg, "No trace of any pegs was found by Mr. Buck nor were any specimens found". On the 11th of May, Carrington wrote to Canberra, again concerning matters Lasseter, and finished his correspondence  with, "Mr. Buck has now informed me that he did find the pegs which Mr. Lasseter put in but is unable to say whether the country is gold bearing". Carrington made no comment on Buck's startling and belated recollection, such was the rapport between himself and H. C. Brown, the Secretary of the Department, that the obvious conclusion need not be stated. The claims that Buck suddenly remembered finding may have been pegged by Mick Roach and later rediscovered by the Second C.A.G.E. Expedition.

That Roach had been in Lasseter Country sometime before October 1931, was confirmed, in a fashion, almost a year later when Paddy Whelan and the Livesey Range caught the publics attention. The Argus reported from Laverton W. A. on 10/09/1932 that the first expedition to follow up Whelan's spectacular discovery would be lead by R. B. Lugg, of Nannine, "accompanied by Mr. M. W. Roach, prospector, who claims to have been on the scene of the reported discovery about a year ago", thus placing Roach in the area at least a month or so before Buck and Green made their convenient discovery. In mid November 1931 Roach successfully applied for a 40 acre gold mining lease at Winnecke near Arltunga, and if there is any truth in the press report, then it would seem that had Roach travelled on from the Livesey Range or Laverton to Alice Springs via the Petermanns and found time and reason to peg the four claims found by the Second C.A.G.E. Expedition.

A thought provoking co-incidence occurred while the Expedition was camped at Piltardie. A couple of days after setting up, Arthur Roach, at the head of the Eclipse Gold Expedition arrived, travelling through to Alice Springs from the Musgrave Ranges. Walter Smith who was the prospector and camelman on the Eclipse Expedition, has suggested without evidence, that Arthur Roach and Mick Roach were related and that there had been some contact between Lasseter and Arthur, the inference being that Arthur Roach, through the Eclipse Expedition, was following up some underhanded arrangement between Lasseter and the Roach's. Smiths speculations are not unreasonable, prospecting families were common enough on the Australian goldfields during the Depression, and it wouldn't be the first time that a distant contact had been commissioned to peg a false claim in a remote place for others to exploit at their convenience and for devious purpose. In fact Paddy Whelan and the Livesey Range gold rush would be a fine example of a storekeepers rush and manipulation of the share market, some of Whelan's backers in the Livesey Range Gold syndicate realised nearly 700% on their original investment.

LASSETERIA

R.Ross. 1999-2010                                                                                                                                                                           20100111

Ion Idriess, Lasseter's Last Ride, 229. The Argus, Sat 100932, 18. R. G. Kimber, Man from Arltunga,102,103. Max Cartwright, Ayers Rock to the Petermanns,98,99. H. W. Talbot, Diary, 1931 Expedition to the Petermann and Rawlinson Ranges, 6-8. National Archives Australia, Title, Central Australian Gold Exploration Synd. Assistance to Prospect. Series number,A431. Control symbol
1948/1143. Barcode,
68988.