The SANDS OF TIME Collection – 1. Gympie Gold

1. Gympie Gold
Andrew Fisher & James Nash — 930 x 675 mm
© Robert Morgan

ANDREW FISHER (1862-1928)

Born at Crosshouse, Ayrshire, Scotland on 29 August 1862, Andrew Fisher received little formal education.  By the time he was ten he was working down the mines and when he was only sixteen he became the secretary of the local branch of the Ayrshire Miners’ Union.  In 1885 Fisher and his brother, James, emigrated to Queensland where Fisher became a mine manager.  By 1889 he was active in the newly formed Australian Labor Federation and in 1893 he was elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly as the Labor member for Gympie.  In 1899-1900 Fisher was briefly the Secretary for Railways and Public Works in Queensland.

The first Federal election in 1901 saw Fisher elected to the new Federal House of Representatives as the Labor member for Wide Bay.  He held the seat until his retirement in 1915.  Fisher’s rise in the Labor Party was rapid.  In April 1904 he became Minister for Trade and Customs in J. C. Watson’s first Labor ministry and in 1907, upon Watson’s resignation, he assumed leadership of the party.

The volatile nature of Federal politics at the time meant that in a period of eight years Fisher became Australia’s sixth, eighth and tenth Prime Minister.  He first held the position in 1908-09, then from 1910-13 and finally 1914-15.  In his second term as Prime Minister Fishers established the Commonwealth Bank, created maternity allowances, and was made a Privy Councillor.

In October 1915 Fisher retired and handed over the prime ministership to W. H. Hughes.  From 1916 to 1921 he was the Australian High Commissioner in London.  He returned to Australia briefly in 1921 but was back in Britain in 1922.  He died at South Hill Park, London, on 22 October 1928.

JAMES NASH (1844-1913)

James Nash, discoverer of the Gympie goldfield, was born on 5 September 1834 at Beanacre, Wiltshire, England, son of Michael Nash, farm labourer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Prosser.  At nine he left school for farm work and migrated to Sydney at 23.  He alternated between labouring work and prospecting on various goldfields in New South Wales.  Quiet and solitary he was an indefatigable walker; once he walked 600 miles to the Taloon diggings and returned unsuccessful.

Nash moved to Queensland in 1863, working at Calliope and Nanango.  He found rich gold on an extended prospecting tour in 1867 near the Mary River, and his report on 16 October started ‘one of the wildest rushes in Queensland history’.  It has been called the salvation of the depressed colony: the Bank of Queensland had closed, a financially embarrassed government had stopped work on the Ipswich-Toowoomba railway and unemployed were marching the Brisbane streets.  The government had offered £3000 reward for a payable new field, but the terms had not quite been met, and for his discovery of a field which was to produce gold worth £14,538,328, Nash was granted only £1000 after twelve months’ debate.  The field even lost the name ‘Nashville’ and became ‘Gympie’.  He and his brother won a further £7000 from their claims, but unwise investments in mining stock and an ill-fated drapery store, soon dissipated their winnings.

In 1888 the government graciously made him Gympie’s powder-magazine keeper at £100 a year, and after his death on 5 October 1913 granted an annual pension of £50 to his wife Catherine, née Murphy, whom he had married in 1869 at Maryborough; they had three sons and two daughters.

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