191. MULLARD'S REEF.
|"it is probably not more than 50 miles from my reef".|
Herbert Gepp. 03/02/1930.
On the 15th of August 1925, Isaac T. Mullard lead a prospecting expedition out of Kalgoorlie to the Warburton Ranges, nearly 500 miles to the north east via Laverton, his companions were John McKay, Oliver Page and George Barrett and two Aboriginal guides who had accompanied Mullard on an earlier expedition to the Ranges. The expedition was equipped by the Central Prospecting Board with ten camels and six months provisions. Mullard gave an enlightening interview to the 'Kalgoorlie Miner' prior to departure.
According to Mullard, in 1900, he and two Aboriginal guides, with three horses and short provisions, left Laverton headed for parts north and east, "The immediate objective of that journey was to pick up a bit of gold 'as big as the size of his head' so the aborigines had informed him". Apparently Mullard had expected to travel no more than fifty miles, three weeks later and some 250 miles further north east he arrived at the desired location, in the Warburton Ranges. He was only able to spend a day prospecting, "because of the presence of many wild natives, the scantiness of provisions, and a shortage of ammunition". Mullard and his guides spent a couple of hours specking and found one specimen, a floater, containing over seven ounces of gold, "it lay 14 or 15 feet away from a quartz reef". After an absence of six weeks and three days Mullard and party returned to Laverton.
The 1925 expedition had broader objectives, apart from prospecting for gold and minerals, the Mullard expedition would assess the country for pastoral possibilities and locate water supplies for future travellers. The Central Prospecting Board, representing the Mines Department, reluctantly granted Mullard and his party assistance, noting the age of the men, Mullard was 72, Page about the same age, McKay was from New South Wales and "a believer in the virtues of the divining rod'" and Barrett was apparently the youngster of the party. The expedition was a failure, McKay left the early, unable to handle the rigours of the West Australian bush, and Barrett suffered an accident, now short handed the expedition returned to Laverton, having failed to reach its objective.
In February 1926 the Prospecting Board gave a brief account of Mullard's expedition, the failure due to drought conditions, inexperience and the age of the men and made the following recommendation, "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", Mullard returned to Sydney where he had been resident since 1918. In late January 1930, Ike Mullard paid Harold Lasseter a surprise visit.
A week later, on the 3rd of Feb. Lasseter reported some brief details of this meeting to Herbert Gepp, who had interviewed Lasseter the previous November about his 14 mile gold reef. Apparently Lasseter had learnt a great deal from Mullard, "one thing I got from him that may be useful is a copy of the map of his journey in search of this reef", the map showed the location of water supplies along Mullard's route which ended at a permanent spring where he based seven men and ten camels for three months, the spring was thirty miles from the West Australian border and would be an excellent base for a prospecting party, "as it is probably not more than 50 miles from my reef, I say my reef on the assumption that I was the original discover". Lasseter now had his gold reef with the all important Government reference, "of course I have no title to it now".
For obscure reasons Lasseter did not post the letter to Gepp until the 22nd of February, meanwhile he replied to a letter from the West Australian Mines Department that had, "lain in a disused mailbox for 3 months". In answer to some pointed questions by Calanchini, the Departmental Secretary, Lasseter stated that as his reef had never been surveyed he could not give its exact position, "but to the best of my knowledge and belief the Warburton Range is the nearest to its location", after three months obfuscation Lasseter has finally indicated a landmark, he also mentions the visit from Mullard, "who tells me he knows this country well". and knew of an easier way to the reef from Laverton.
In his letter to Calanchini, 14/2/30, Lasseter confirms many of the so called facts that have become settled in Lasseter lore. He found the reef in 1897, and relocated it three years later with surveyor Harding, (the same year that Mullard was in the area) they sampled the reef by picking up floaters at regular intervals and private and Government assays went over three ounces to the ton, the ironstone reef was more than ten miles long but difficult to distinguish from the air. Lasseter added vague references to waterholes, the nature of the reef and the lay of the land. Calanchini had a well documented file on the Warburton Ranges and all who had been there with Government assistance, it was immediately obvious that Lasseter's Mr. Mallard was the well known Isaac Mullard.
On the 22nd of Feb. Lasseter again wrote to Gepp, enclosing his letter of the 3rd, and a possible explanation for Mullard's visit, as the West Australian Mines Department had not heard from Lasseter for three months, "it was suggested to Mr. Mallard that he come & have a private confab with me'", a nonsense of course given Mullard's age and reputation. Lasseter added that as there was no further point keeping the location of the reef secret, "I am going to try & organise a syndicate to prospect it'''. Gepp wished him luck and two months later Lasseter had a proposal for John Bailey, soon to be Chairman of the Central Australian Gold Exploration Syndicate.
In May 1931 the Warburton Range Gold Exploration Co. Ltd was registered in Sydney with a nominal capital of £2000, the directors were Sir John Butters, H. G. Bennet, S. Mordin and W. F. Roberts. The objective of the company was to relocate a "large auriferous quartz reef claimed to have been discovered some years ago by Mr. I. T. Mullard". The Company Secretary, H. D. Vautin, contacted A. E. Green, Postmaster General and Member for Kalgoorlie seeking assistance with procuring camels for the expedition, for various reasons Green was unable to help and no doubt recollecting that he had heard a similar story from Lasseter the previous year. Nevertheless Vautin thanked Green for his efforts and added that Mullard had now found suitable men for his expedition and equipped it with horses, camels and supplies for eight months.
Mullard now 79 years old made two attempts to reach the Warburtons in 1931 and 1932, the first of these expeditions included his son and nephew and left Laverton on 28/07/31. The objective was to rediscover a large quartz reef that Mullard had located years earlier, "from which rich ore was obtained". Mullard and family were forced to return within weeks, due to the shortage of water. Mullard's second expedition left Laverton on 03/05/1932, included in the party were his son and Paddy Whelan, according to Whelan he and Mullard came to an arrangement whereby Whelan would receive 25000 shares and £500 cash after Whelan's leases had been pegged and registered. About 300 miles into the journey he and Mullard had a disagreement over formalising the arrangement and they parted ways. Whelan returned to Laverton then onto Perth, where, with the help of others, he instigated the Livesey Range gold rush. Mullard and son returned to Laverton on the 18th August, "and up to date have reported nothing of any consequence". Mullard returned to Lisarow, New South Wales, where he died the following year.
Bearing in mind that Lasseter had never been to central Australia prior to July 1930, and had little if any experience in gold mining or prospecting, many have wondered how Lasseter came by his story, there is now no doubt that Mullard was the source. What has not yet been determined is whether Mullard was an innocent and generous fellow with his information, or party to a collusion. Both men had a mutual acquaintance, W. F. Roberts, who according to Coote, was Lasseter's business partner and one of Mullard's backers on his 1931/32 expeditions. W. F. Roberts was an assayer and he carried out the assays for John Baileys second attempt at a Lasseter type fraud, (it was successful!) and, according to the Bailey influenced press, Lasseter and Bailey were friends. At this point one would favour collusion. But if such were the case then where and why did it all go wrong? Lasseter perished at Winters Glen, no gold reef, thousands of pounds lost, reputations damaged. The only winner from Lasseter's reef was Ion Idriess with Lasseter's Last Ride and perhaps Bailey and his cohorts with some experience in how to get it right the second time.
Or it just might be that Lasseter fooled the lot and lifted Mullard's story and made it his own, there is a great deal of evidence for this possibility, given Lasseter's past form and circumstances at the time. And might explain why Lasseter was stranded at Lake Christopher. Perhaps he was mislead to that point.
So, as a result of Mr. Isaac (Ike) Mullard coming to light a great deal of LASSETERIA will have to be reviewed, starting with entry 178. Mr. MALLARD. (Lasseter had a quirk for misspelling proper nouns) and LANDMARKS and the significance of landmarks after the event. The reason for Lasseter's journey to Lake Christopher becomes clear and why he pegged his reef where he did.
National Archives Australia. TITLE, Mines & Mining, A-L Central Australia, S/N A76, C/S C64/7, B/C 168885, pgs 9, 41-46. The West Australian, 18/08/1925, pg 6. 25/07/31, pg 13. 28/07/31, pg 13. Western Argus, 18/08/1925 pg 17. 23/02/1926 pg 31. 28/07/31 pg 4. Sunday Times, 01/01/1933, pg 3. Kalgoorlie Miner, 06/01/1933 pg 4.