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GOLD MINE AT TRUNK LEAD (POST OFFICE, LATER BO PEEP), VICTORIA

The pink ‘ONE PENNY POSTAGE’ stamp of Victoria is postmarked TRUNK LEAD/ SE 17/ 02/ VICTORIA, and the Ebay vendor describes the postmark as follows: Good/fine strike of Trunk Lead 17 Sep 1902. Post Office west of Ballarat (from) 21 Oct 1873 until renamed Bo Peep RO [Receiving Office]1 Nov 1907. This RO closed less than 2 months later. Premier (stamp auctions)record this datestamp from 2 dates in May 1906 only. Extreme rarity 4-5R and ERD (earliest recorded date) by 4 years (Figure 1).

Hugh Freeman & Geoff White’s ‘The Numeral Cancellations of Victoria’ 2001 describes the barred numeral (BN)‘821' for Trunk Lead as opened in 21.10.1873. W. of Ballarat Transferred from railway Station Jan-Feb 1896. Rarity of the BN ‘R’, Type 8.

The position of Ballarat in south-west Victoria is shown high-lighted in red, Trunk Lead is shown at the green arrow and Bo Peep Hill is shown at the blue arrow (Figure 2).

Gary Watson, John Webster & David Wood’s ‘The Post Offices and Hand-Held Datestamps of Victoria, Volume 1, has three entries for BO PEEP and one more entry for BO PEEP HILL, the latest closure date for BO PEEP (3) was 31/12/1907, as seen in the Table at Figure 3.

The Trunk Lead Gold Mine was 8 km due west of Ballarat on the Carngham Road, and it was one of the largest in the vicinity employing up to 100 people. It had 2 main drives running north-east and south-west, each of about 1km in length and they each had numerous exploratory drives. The main drives ran below and alongside of the gold bearing quartz reefs. The miners worked 10 to 12 hour shifts 6 days a week only seeing daylight on Sundays during the winter. They received no holiday pay or sick leave, made about $3 a week and were paid in contract for the quantity of gold-bearing quartz that they recovered. More fortunate individuals were shareholders in the mine.

The quartz was dug with a pick and shovel from the narrow seams of gold buried in the bed of a river from 65 million years ago, slid down into a holding area waiting for a skip to be parked beneath them, then taken to the main shaft and raised to the surface in a cage by the poppet. The quartz rock was crushed by a battery and the gold extracted with a combination of ‘syanide and and amalgum’ (sic). Children were employed to push the skips inside the mines. The men knelt on the damp ground in tight spaces and worked by candlelight. The air was contaminated with dangerous gases, and silica dust and the air was low in oxygen. The kept a canary in the mine to warn them of a dangerous atmosphere and there were very few medical facilities for diseases which were common, and the miner was lucky to live for more than 35 years, most died of the lung disease, silicosis.

The Trunk Lead mines drives ran south-west towards the Haddon mines and north-east towards Cardigan, and its main shaft was about 100 metres deep. The fear of flooding from an underground river brought about the Trunk Lead mines closure. The running costs versus the price of gold bore a similar fate for most of the mines around Ballarat about the turn of the century. The Trunk lead/Koke train station was on the Skipton line. A branch line was temporarily extended to the mine to transport large quantities of quartz for railway track ballast.

A substantial Chinese community resided at the site and worked in the mine. They were badly discriminated against by the other miners and probably only offered poor payment, and dangerous work. Two Chinese miners died in an accident at the mine. The Trunk Lead Gold Mine Company produced 1,293.363 kg gold between 1871 and1885, and the mine manager was John Pounder Roberts, and he may have been succeeded at the mine by William Rogerson, as general manager of the Trunk Lead Company, around 1877. He died at the age of 45 in August 1882 after having been shot 3 months earlier, as a result of his attempt to prevent the stealing of gold at the Trunk Lead Company.

I am indebted to Lindsay Drife’s website (http://drifegenealogy.com/trunklead.htm) for most of the text in this paper.

 

 
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