When I was first transferred to Melbourne with work in 1991, I knew very little of Melbourne and even less of the Victorian country side. Knowing that Victoria was rich in gold mining history, I commenced paying visits to the local Municipal Libraries, to research information on as many old gold fields as I could identify. I soon found out that a life-time was not enough time to cover all the information which has been written on the subject. I have since discovered, that what has been written is just a small percentage of the stories which have never been written. Local farmers and country town folk have stories that have to be the most amazing stories you could find. I am sure these stories have the making of the stuff that makes good movies. One story which I once read was about an old man by the name of Dick Belpoole. I found the story in two books written by John Wells "Colourful Tales of OLD GIPPSLAND" and "GIPPSLAND, people, a place and their past."
The story of old Dick goes something like this. Dick was a man
who prospected in and around the hills of Noojee in Victoria. Noojee is about
90 km or 100 km East of Melbourne. The area where Dick prospected is extremely
rugged and very unlike the gold fields in the golden triangle over near Ballarat.
The topography around Noojee is extremely hilly, with quite sharp and deep gullies,
filled with dead vegetation. Where there are no gullies (which is hardly anywhere)
the undergrowth is as thick it comes. In the main it is rain forest with bracken
ferns, and in this particular rain forest area there is considerable blackberry.
If you have ever had anything to do with blackberry, you will know that you
will always come off second best and it will win. It is really nasty stuff.
If you are unfortunate enough to scratch you self on the thorns they become
infected very quickly. Why have I gone a lengths to describe this area? Because
Dick had a very novel way to beat this type of bush. Dick was clearly eccentric
but his method worked for him. You see, Dick made a suit of tin.
Apparently this suit of tin worked very well, but I have been fossicking in this area myself and in summer it is boiling and in winter it is freezing. Now, Dick either froze or he boiled. He also must have had considerable padding under the tin suit, as it would have worn his skin out. I think that Dick probably only wore the suit of tin when he was travelling to and from is diggings. Oh yes, Dick found the "Mother Lode", by the way. Why do you think I was there? When Dick returned from, where ever his diggings were, to Noojee for provisions, he was usually carrying considerable amounts of gold. Apparently the locals would buy Dick drinks at the pub, in an attempt to loosen Dicks tongue. But Dicks tongue must have been made out of tin too, as he never told a sole where his diggings were. In fact he would taunt them in a fashion by telling them that he had found the "Mother Lode".
Many tried to follow old Dick back to his diggings, but he always eluded them. They were no match for the forest and Dicks suit of tin. In the end Dick was placed in an old people's home "for his own good". It seemed that Dicks gold fossicking days were over, when a cunning gentlemen offered to take Dick away from the Home on the condition that Dick show him where his gold mine was located. Dick agreed to this arrangement. Unfortunately this is the sad part of the story, as Dick died in the forest on the journey to his mine. Perhaps that day he was not wearing his suit of tin. But in a way Dick had the last laugh, because now only Dick Belpoole knows where that "Mother Lode" is and we all know he won't be telling anyone.
How did I go finding gold in the area? Not very well. You see, I didn't have a suit of tin.
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