228. ROBERTS, W. F.
"The other day Mackay was in Robert's office, and he was astonished to learn the significance of that peg"
Errol Coote, Hell's Airport. Epilogue.


In 1934 Errol Coote revealed that Harold Lasseter had two 'Business Partners' at the time the First Expedition set out for Central Australia. They were W. F. Roberts, an Assayer and Metallurgist, and an Accountant by the name of Edwards, a nice mix of professions if one were setting up a gold scam is the first thought. Apparently Edwards and Roberts were to share equally with Lasseter in anything he made out of the Reef. It was not an honest partnership as Lasseter had no reef to share, therefore were Roberts and Edwards duped by Lasseter or did the three of them concoct the fraud? Roberts was aware of Lasseter's story several months prior to the Baileys setting up the Central Australian Gold Exploration Company, yet he did not back Lasseter by becoming a shareholder in the Company. Roberts may have been named William Forrest, if so then he would have been an elderly man in 1930 as there are numerous records from the 1890's and later, where a William Forrest Roberts successfully applied for several patents over various gold saving devices. Apart from practical experience he seemed well qualified using the post nominals, A.S.M.B. and M.A.I.M.E. His offices were located in the Terranora Building, Reiby Place, Sydney, and Lasseter used this as his return address when corresponding with the Japanese Consol.

On the 28th of Feb. 1930 Lasseter wrote to Roberts stating that during a recent chance meeting with Mr. Dent, Managing Director of the 'Referee", the talk had turned to gold, Western Australia and surveyor Harding, who had rescued Lasseter in 1897 or thereabouts. In the letter Lasseter claimed  that Dent knew Harding and, "Apart from anything else this is a singular confirmation of my story". The letter gives the impression that Lasseter had only recently met Roberts and was peddling his reef further afield, having failed to get backing from the Government. He finished the letter with the odd line, "I'm expecting the Bailiff Monday so with best wishes", suggesting that he was in financial difficulties. Three days later he wrote to the Japanese Consol with some valuable and secret information for sale, it's not known what this information was but given his recent association with Roberts perhaps the secret location of a gold reef.

There is no direct evidence that Roberts knew the Baileys at the time they became interested in Lasseter's Reef, although three years later Roberts completed an assay for Scientific Gold Exploration Ltd, the prospectus for this classic Pitt Street mining company included several names connected with the Central Australian Gold Exploration Company. The company was set up in part to exploit the rich gold discoveries of Frank Green who was the prospector on the second C.A.G.E. Expedition, Donald MacKay was an early director and Bob Buck had been hired as guide and manager of the Aboriginal workforce. Irene Lasseter had given the Company all available information regarding her late husbands discovery and Ion Idriess was mentioned in passing as a friend of the Lasseter's and Frank Green. Of course Roberts could claim that he only assayed and reported on the samples provided, their provenance not his concern.

In late 1933 Coote was in Roberts office, gathering material for his book Hell's Airport, when Roberts elaborated on a theory regarding the location of the waterhole where Lasseter had fixed the datum peg marking his claims. "it was from this waterhole that Lasseter and Harding re-discovered the show". It seems that the notable central Australian explorer, Donald Mackay and Roberts were recently discussing matters Lasseter, when by the most obscure reasoning they concluded that the water hole was within eight miles of MacKay's 1933 encampment on the Docker River. Mackay expressed amazement and had he known at the time he would have investigated the area further, apparently Bob Buck took a photograph of the waterhole. And at the end of Coote's Epilogue the reader is no wiser as to location or name of the waterhole. That information comes many years later when Coote's business partner, Austin Stapleton, deduced that Malagura Rockhole was the critical reference point.

From the scant information available it seems Roberts had the same belief in Lasseter that Coote did and both were prepared to grasp thin evidence to support their hopes that the reef would be found. Roberts was not involved in dealing C.A.G.E. shares and he never saw any of Lasseter's gold, perhaps the partnership was nothing more or less than an old fashioned grubstake, if so then it might explain how Lasseter came by the 20 pounds to buy his one share in C.A.G.E.


R.Ross. 1999-2006

Austin Stapleton, Lasseter Did Not Lie. pg. 16,39.  Errol Coote, Hell's Airport. Epilogue. National Archives Australia,Title,Scientific Gold Explorations Limited - Mineral Oil Licence and Exclusive Prospecting Licence. Item barcode 80761. Series number A659. Series accession number A659/1 Control symbol1942/1/7186 page 408.