Making a living off the land
Opening up the land
Whitewells Station plan
Eucalyptus oil
Shepherds to sheep stations
Fencing the hay paddock
Making hay

Retaliation: Gold mining at Charles Darwin Reserve

The Retaliation Goldfield is based around the gold mine in the hills on the northern end of Charles Darwin Reserve near the Ninghan boundary. It was established  in 1923 by H.Lewis, an employee of Paddy Connolly who owned the Ninghan and Mt Gibson pastoral leases. Connolly was a businessman and noted figure in Western Australian horse racing.

“Retaliation” was named from Connolly taking the Harp Mine proceeds – the Paynes Crusoe mine on the maps. Two men worked on Mt Gibson Station for Paddy Connolly. He told them to put a well down, and put a tank on the spoil heap. After winter rain the gold was exposed in the spoil, so they collected it and started the mine. But they hadn’t chucked in their job with Connolly so he sued them for the mine and won. Under the mining laws, if you were working for someone, they owned the gold. They had to hand it all back. Finding Retaliation was the retaliation. Hugh Barnes, 2006, interview by C. Nicholson

The records of the Mines Department show that Lewis registered the Golden Harp Mine in 1914, then progressively sold shares in it to Connolly.  Lewis’ mine on Gold Mining Lease 993 went to Hayes and Cashen and was renamed Hayes Reward before Atlas Gold Mines Ltd held it under GML 1027 from 1933 to 1936 as Atlas No.1.

Atlas was a company of Claude de Bernales, the colourful mining entrepreneur renowned for raising large sums of money in London from eager investors, and living and travelling lavishly. He was very active around Kalgoorlie, and built as his mansion in Perth what is now the Cottesloe Civic Centre overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Gold had been discovered and mined to the north on Ninghan at Nyounda Hills from 1895; Paynes Find was found in 1911. Just to the east at Yandanooh Hills on Ninghan Station, Lewis and J. Parker had found gold in 1913 (the Bonnie Venture Mine).


Several other 24-acre gold mining leases in two other nearby sites, the Alma May/Julie mine, and the Winifred, were granted. The names of the leases changed as they changed hands or lapsed and were repegged with slightly different boundaries. Alex Palmer in his book ‘Paynes Find’ (Lap Industries 1998) describes the changes in lease ownership.

Tom Foley who worked on Mt Gibson Station found the Alma May, GML 1046, in 1934. Winifred Vincent bought a half share in it when Foley sold it in 1944. Hugh Barnes carted the ore from her mine (which he calls the Winifred) to the Paynes Find battery via Christmas Bore and out to the Great Northern Highway . This was the main access track to the mine. However Winifred and her father Bill Farrell used the Dalgary to White Wells Road to bring fresh meat and stores in to the miners from their farm lease at Kourigee, just to the south-west of Charles Darwin Reserve.

What’s marked the Retaliation on the 100,000 map sheet was called the Winifred, where the machinery is now. Old Tom Foley lived at the Winifred. Blind and deaf. Came down to the turn-off with his old horse and cart. The horse used to find its own way there and back. Never had a radio, never bought newspapers, incredible. Foley found the Winifred. He was offered a lot of money by Jack Green for a share but didn’t take it..Hugh Barnes 2006, interview by C.Nicholson  

This mine, now a small open cut, is now called the Julie Mine and in 2007 had been on ‘care and maintenance’ for some years.

In the 1980s Alex Palmer camped on holidays in the Paynes Find area and took an interest in the old mines, leading to his small self-published books ‘Paynes Find' (1988) and 'Field’s Gold' (1991) relating the history of the mines in the region. 'Paynes Find' summarises the sequence of leases and owners of the Retaliation Field.

Mining by hand made little impact on the landscape.



The geology and chemistry of the Retaliation goldfield seems to have presented some difficulties for processing the ore to extract the gold:

It was oily schist, needs a flotation process using eucalyptus oil. It’s paint gold – just a fine layer in the schist, like a layer of paint. The gold floats, it won’t go to the bottom, it’s no good putting it through a crusher. And some of it is in sulphides – it was too expensive to roast it. Rothsay wouldn’t treat it, nor the Mt Gibson mine. Hugh Barnes


Ore treated (tonnes)

Gold produced (kg)

Julie group



Atlas group



Winifred group



Sundry claims





Explanatory Notes Ninghan 1:250000 Sheet, 1982, Geological Survey Office, Western Australia

While mining has stalled, exploration has continued with drilling and interpretation of the geology using remote sensing. Exploration permits are current over the area in 2007.

Retaliation life

A small mining camp of timber and corrugated iron houses, workers’ quarters and sheds was built on the flat between Christmas Bore and the small hill with its row of shafts dug into its side. Seven black and white photographs in the Louis Jacob Meatchem collection of mining photographs in the J.S. Battye Library record some of the mine buildings.

Gold mining towns were ephemeral. They were erected quickly and moved quickly once the main mining was over. It is believed the timber and iron homestead erected at Whitewells in 1936 came from the Atlas mine. The crumbling cement floors and stone hearths of about six houses are all that remain on the flat.

At Retaliation there was nothing left when I first saw it in the 1940s. Hugh Barnes




Many early mines with large populations had townsites gazetted nearby. Retaliation did not become an official townsite, but it did secure a five-acre recreation reserve, Crown Reserve 21460, Ninghan Location 3865, gazetted on 13th December 1935 for 'Recreation - Tennis Courts'. This is a huge area for a tennis court or two. A cleared patch of red dirt with the remains of a pit toilet, a stone fireplace and the frame of a building suggest there was once a cricket ground there. The current address for the reserve is listed as 'Off Emu Proof Fence'. The fence, built in 1981, runs nearby and on for a thousand or so kilometres.

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