Great Northern Junction Company

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Great Northern Junction Company
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Town Ballarat
Closed 1873
Known dates 1867-1873

The Great Northern Junction Company was a a gold mining company in Ballarat, <1867-1873.

Site[edit | edit source]

The company operated a gold mine on Creswick Road, on the northern edge of Ballarat, at the Dead Horse Lead[1]:

"...the Great Northern Junction Company, at the foot of Mount Rowan and the Dead Horse ranges, on the Creswick road...Z"[2]

Background[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

In May 1867 the company announced it had forfeited unpaid shares:

GREAT NORTHERN JUNCTION COMPANY (Registered)—NOTICE.— The Public are hereby cautioned against dealing in the undermentioned Shares in the above company, the same having been Forfeited for non-payment of calls, and Sold by public auction:—

  • Isaac Wheeldon, Nos. 881 to 930, and 951 to 960
  • John A. Huxtable, Nos. 211 to 220
  • Bernard M'Gann, Nos. 1486 to 1490.

THOMAS RICHARDS, Manager. Ballarat, 9th May, 1867.[3]

In May 1868 the company had reached gold and was preparing to wash its first loads. This led to increasing speculation in the area with new companies taking claims around the site:

The New Northern Junction is the name of a new company formed to mine on sixty-three acres of private property, which the promoters have taken up in anticipation of the rush for land in the neighbourhood of the Great Northern Junction Company's claim, as soon as the latter commence to wash. There are 204 promoters' shares issued at £5 each, and the ground adjoins that of the Great Northern Junction.[4]

In July 1869 the company was looking for ways to bring in more money:

The Great Northern Junction Company have called an extraordinary meeting of shareholders in the company, for the purpose of considering the propriety of subdividing the shares and increasing the capital, and for the transaction of other business.[5]

1869 Flood[edit | edit source]

On 16 October 1869 the mine was flooded, and several people were killed, following heavy rain in the district:

FRIGHTFUL ACCIDENT AT THE GREAT NORTHERN JUNCTION COMPANY'S CLAIM. The flood was nowhere attended with such a disastrous result as at the claim of the Great Northern Junction Company. This claim is situated about three and a half miles out on the Creswick road, on a flat into which pours a great deal of water from the Dead Horse Ranges, Mount Rowan, and a large tract of hilly country. The low-lying ground upon which the claim is has, however, never before been so flooded as to give the least cause of apprehension, and there fore the heavy fall of rain on Saturday morning did not at first alarm anyone on the claim.

The men on the day shift, numbering 58, went below at eight o'clock on Saturday morning to work as usual. At ten o'clock Mr Andrew Robertson, mining manager, went below to the western workings, and after going to the main level, proceeded to the No. 3 jump-up. When there he received the first intimation that water was coming down the shaft. He then made as fast as possible for the shaft, not suspecting any danger, but to ascertain what was amiss. By the time he got there the water was up to his knees in the chamber. He then gave orders for all the men to get to the surface as fast as possible, as it appeared that the mine was likely to be swamped. The order was attended to in the eastern and western workings, and Mr Robertson took his stand at the shaft at the lower level to " signal" the men up. While here he pushed all the men that came up into the cage, and kept signalling. He stopped there until all the men had got up safely, with the exception of one, Thomas Montjoy, who got jammed by the cage, and had his back severely injured. The cage was signalled back, and the man was got out. Mr Robertson then called T. Henderson, the captain of the shift, to help him to get Montjoy away. They both carried him to the jump-up, and at this time the only remaining light was extinguished by a strong current of air. They got to the jump-up with the injured man and placed him in the cage, and Henderson went with him holding him in till they got to the top of the jump-up into the other level.

The water was by this time up to Mr Robertson's breast in the chamber. He returned to the shaft to see if the cage was still going to the lower chamber, but he saw no signs of it. He then went back to the jump-up, and was hoisted up to the other level. He then looked for a light to take to the top chamber, and after finding a candle-box placed a lighted candle in it, but he had no sooner entered the shaft than the light was extinguished. He lit another candle, but with no better success. He then went in the dark to the top chamber, and took his stand at the centre prop in the opening set, placing his hand in the shaft to see i£ the cage passed and repassed, as there was still a possibility of the men ascending in the cage up the end shaft furthest from the pump, as the rush of water down there was nut so great as ill the other shaft. So soon as he felt the cage with his hand, he called out to the men to get in at once, which they did, sometimes five at one time, and frequently only one, while often the cage went up empty. As Mr Robertson saw the cage standing with no one oll'ering to get in it, he told Mr Henderson, captain of the shift, who stood close to him, to get in the cage, which he did. After this some few men ascended, but latterly he could not prevail upon anyone to get into the cage, as the force of the water coming down the shaft was so great that the men were of opinion that they would be smothered going up. An opinion also seemed to prevail among the men that the rush of water down the shaft could not last, and that they would incur greater risk by ascending than by stopping where they were.

Mr Robertson then went to the pump shaft and hand in to see if there was any possibility of a keeping his head above water if no other resource was left. ever, that anything of the kind was out of the question, for the force of the falling water was so great that he could not keep his hand in the shaft. He then called to the men he supposed to be there—for they were in perfect darkness—and asked them if they had any objection to his going up the shaft, and seeing if there was not a possibility of stopping the rush of water down the shaft. He had heard sounds through the noise of the water, sometimes as if some men were there, and after he had called out he thought some one answered him, but he could not hear what was said. Shortly after the cage came down, and he called out as he had done all along for the men to get in, but none got in. Mr Robertson then jumped in himself, and the cage began to ascend. For some time previous to this there was no possibility of giving any signals. He got to the surface almost suffocated with the force of water, and with the loss of his hat. He asked some one to lend him a hat, as he wished to descend again, but the men around took hold of him and would not allow him to descend again. He then turned his attention to the shaft, and thought there might be a possibility of covering it in and preventing the water from going down. It was soon discovered, however, that the water had cut a channel into the shaft some feet below the surface, near the end of the bob-pit, and thus destroyed all hope of stopping it. Mr Moore, the legal manager, then suggested that it would be advisable to got a number of bags and fill them with sand or any available substance, for the purpose of making a dam round the bob-pit. This was done, but as the bags had to be collected from the farmers and others around, and as the ground in the vicinity of the claim was covered with water, the work could not be other than a very slow one.

After Mr Robertson came to the surface two other men came up, and the cage was still kept running to enable any others to ascend. When the manager left the lower workings they were filled with water, and he believes one man, named Smith, was left there. Smith could not have got as far as the shaft, as the manager neither saw nor heard any one there. By the time Mr Robertson got to the surface it was about noon and it was discovered that the following men were below:—Thomas Gilmour, married, with four children; Robert Organ married, with either six or seven children; Wm. Smith,a Swede, with wife and two children, grown up; Thomas Montjoy, married, with two children; Frederick Disney, Frank Bennetts, John M'Donald, Thomas Attewell, Thomas Smith, and John Osborne. The last three were lads. William Smith is the man who, it is feared, was left in the lower workings, and if so, he must be drowned. One of the men who ascended after the manager, states that he saw Montjoy lying down before he came up. He asked for a drink of water, which was given him, and he was placed on some dry laths with a coat over him. He appeared fearfully crushed, and said he knew he was dying. A number of the men who came up the shaft before Mr Robertson were bleeding from the nose and ears, from the force of the water falling upon them, while in cases where five men came up in the cage at the same time some of them got severely bruised. Chapman, who came up after the manager, says that he only saved himself from suffocation by placing his hat over his face, and so keeping off the water. As far as could be judged the greatest depth of water in the shaft was 90 feet, while the chamber at the level in which the men were left is 60 feet from the bottom of the shaft. As there is an incline of between 30 or 40 feet in the eastern workings, hopes are entertained of the men being saved; by retreating as the water rose, they might have had air enough to sustain life. It was generally considered at the claim, however, that the chances of their recovery alive were very remote. The pump, a 12 inch column, was set going immediately Mr Robertson came to the surface, while two tanks, raising 200 gallons of water each, were set to work with the winding engine. The pumping engine, working with a 5 feet stroke, was kept going at the rate of 15 strokes per minute, and was throwing up an immense body of water.

Those who were on the surface when the water commenced to go down the shaft on Saturday morning say that it came so suddenly as to take all by surprise. Planks were nailed round the shaft, but owing to the water about, this work could only be carried on very slowly. The claim of the Rose Hill Company, on the other side of the Creswick road, lies on lower ground than the Great Northern Junction claim, and has been threatened with a flood before during heavy rains. Early in the morning, therefore, the shaft was dammed round, and. all the men were got up at nine o'clock in the morning. As soon as the state of affairs at the Junction claim was made known, a large number of men from the Rose Hill went over to render what assistance they could, for the men who had come up the shaft were rendered so weak by the water falling upon them as to be almost unable to work. In some instances men had to be dragged from the cages, being too weak to get out themselves.

Capt. Sleep, the chairman, and a number of the directors visited the shaft on Sunday to render what assistance lay in their power. On Saturday the depth of water in the road prevented all access to tho claim. At 1 o'clock on Sunday the water in the shaft was 4 feet above the upper level, and it was estimated that the level would be reached in a few hours. Since pumping was commenced the shaft has been descended about once every four hours, in order to ascertain the decrease in the depth of water. All connected with the claim, and particularly the men who were below, speak in the highest and most grateful terms of the coolness and courage shown by Mr Andrew Robertson, the mining manager. A number of the directors proceeded to the claim at about 9 o'clock last night with Mr Barker, expecting that the water would have been down to the chamber of the upper level. It was found at half-past 11 o'clock that the water was 12 feet above the chamber of the upper level.[1]

Most of the miners were rescued, with William Smith found later. Two miners, Thomas Montjoy and McDonald died:

Between 12 and 1 o'clock on Tuesday, 19th, the rescuers and the rescued came within communicating distance. The buried men heard their rescuers at work, and they began to help themselves then, as knowing there, was more than hope at hand. Frank Bennetts, T. Smith, and others set to work with their hands, putting away the soft sandy drift that had fallen down and cut them off from the outer drive, and shouts of 'Come on down here' from the rescuers was answered from the buried' party. A hole was soon made, and Disney crawled through, his long-imprisoned comrades gradually following, all receiving the heartiest congratulations from their rescuing comrades. At five minutes past one, Thomas Smith,- a lad, nephew to Mr W. C. Smith was the first to come up, and all the other six, viz., Frederick Disney, Frank Bennetts; Thomas Attewell, Thomas Selman, Jobn Osborne, and Robert Organ, came up one after the other, all being up by 2 o'clock, and all apparently none the worse for their long burial. Two men, John M'Donald and William Smith, yet remained below.[2]

Fatality[edit | edit source]

A miner was killed in an accident at the mine in November 1869:

ANOTHER FATAL MINE ACCIDENT. An accident occurred on Thursday night in the claim of the Great Northern Junction Company, which resulted in the almost immediate death of a miner named Robson. The deceased was engaged at the month of the drive, at the lower level, sending up trucks, etc. The ordinary medium of communication between the miner in this position and the braceman is a slab of iron, technically called a "slate," upon which each writes his communication. It would appear that Mr. Robson had written something on the slate and put it upon the top of a loaded truck. Whether from his not having placed it securely on the cage, or from what ether cause is not yet known, the slate fell from the truck upon his head, fracturing his skull in such a manner as to have caused instantaneous death. An inquest upon the body was being held on Friday afternoon. Robson was one of the last men who escaped from the lower level during the late flood, and after a narrow an escape has now met his death, in less than a month from that time, in the manner described.[6]

Financial difficulties[edit | edit source]

In September 1870 after many of the calls on shares were not paid, the directors told the miners they would not be paid. A writer to the Ballarat Courier described their actions as a swindle:

SIR, —In justice to the working men I think it should be generally known that the Great Northern Junction Company when stopping their mine on Saturday last, coolly told the men employed there that there was no money for them unless the calls came in. Can you point out to your numerous readers any reason why a board of directors should not be placed in the same position as those men in the salting case, since one is as big a swindle as the other. I think Sir, you will agree with me that the present state of affairs on Ballarat is in great measure brought about by such nefarious tricks as the above.[7]

Closure[edit | edit source]

The company was in finicial trouble, and a liquidator was appointed in June 1872:

Re Great Northern Junction company.-In this matter Mr J. F. Gomm was confirmed in his office as official liquidator, and the further hearing was adjourned till 15th August.[8]

The company was liquidated in 1873 and all its assets were sold by the Bank of Victoria:

By the rules of the company the directors had power to forfeit shares if a call was not paid within one month from the date on which it was payable. The directors published a notice on the 4th, 5th, and 7th October (1870) of their intention to forfeit. On the 10th of October, at seven o'clock in the evening, the directors met and declared 1500 shares forfeited, there being 2000 shares in the company, and most of the other 500 had been previously forfeited.[9]

The company was left without any shareholders, and the liquidator argued in court that these forfeitures were not legal. They took action against the shareholders to try to recover the money owed on the unpaid calls. The judge found that the case could not be upheld, but recommended the matter be dealt with in the Supreme Court.[10]

The People[edit | edit source]

  • Andrew Robertson, mine manager, 1869.[1]
  • Thomas Gilmour, miner, 1869.[1]
  • Robert Organ, miner, 1869.[1]
  • William Smith, miner, 1869.[1]
  • Thomas Montjoy, miner, killed, 1869.[1]
  • Frederick Disney, miner, 1869.[1]
  • Frank Bennetts, miner, 1869.[1]
  • Thomas Attewell, miner, 1869.[1]
  • Thomas Smith, miner, 1869.[1]
  • John Osborne, miner, 1869.[1]
  • T. Henderson, miner, 1869.[1]
  • John McDonald, miner, killed, 1869.[2][1]
  • Thomas Richards, manager, 1867.[3]
  • William Robson, miner, killed 1869.[6][11]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1869 'FRIGHTFUL ACCIDENT AT THE GREAT NORTHERN JUNCTION COMPANY'S CLAIM.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 18 October, p. 1. (SUPPLEMENT TO THE BALLARAT STAR), viewed 04 May 2019,
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 1869 'CATASTROPHE IN A MINE, BALLARAT.', Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 - 1875), 1 November, p. 204. , viewed 05 May 2019,
  3. 3.0 3.1 1867 'Advertising', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 10 May, p. 4. , viewed 04 May 2019,
  4. 1868 'BALLARAT.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), 22 May, p. 5. , viewed 05 May 2019,
  5. 1869 'BALLARAT.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), 24 July, p. 6. , viewed 05 May 2019,
  6. 6.0 6.1 1869 'ANOTHER FATAL MINE ACCIDENT.', Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954), 27 November, p. 14. , viewed 05 May 2019,
  7. 1870 'NON-PAYMENT OF WAGES.', The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1869 - 1883; 1914 - 1918), 13 September, p. 4. , viewed 05 May 2019,
  8. 1872 'COURT OF MINES.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 17 June, p. 3. , viewed 05 May 2019,
  9. 1873 'IMPORTANT MINING CASE.', The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), 14 April, p. 4. , viewed 04 May 2019,
  10. 1873 'COUNTY COURT.', The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1869 - 1883; 1914 - 1918), 9 May, p. 4. , viewed 05 May 2019,
  11. 1869 'Advertising', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 20 November, p. 3. , viewed 13 Jan 2018,

External Links[edit | edit source]