The gold rush of the 1850s was a major shock to Tasmania.
Our young men flocked north to Victoria seeking their fortunes, leaving us with a declining population and acute labour shortages.
A government geologist was appointed in 1859 to assist our fledgling mining industry, but his role was not understood by the public and, spurred on by TheMercury, anger grew that he didn't find them a goldfield.
The government responded in 1863 by offering a huge reward for finding a payable field, but this wasn't seen as enough.
Businessmen in Launceston, who were feeling the effects of the rush to Victoria more than southerners, demanded that the government employ Edward Hargraves to find gold for them.
Hargraves was the man who falsely claimed to have first discovered gold in Australia. He said that, for a huge fee and expenses, he would do the same for Tasmania.
The government very reasonably told Launcestonians that if he was able to find gold, he could claim the reward they were already offering. The mob, however, was in no mood for logic.
Donations poured in to pay his fee, and a substantial contribution was extorted from the government. He came down in 1864 to huge fanfare, rode around the colony and found nothing.
Sensible people pointed out that it was difficult to find gold when you never got off your horse.
Payable gold was then found anyway, at Lefroy around 1868 and at Beaconsfield around 1877.
In 1880, opportunistic MPs remembered the old legislation and called for the reward to be paid.
The government explained that paying a reward was pointless now, as the idea was to get men to go out prospecting 17 years before. Again, logic went out the window and they were forced to establish a Reward Commission and call for reward claimants.
The commissioners decided that Lefroy was the first payable goldfield discovered after the reward was announced, and the amount awarded should be £3000. There were 15 claimants.
The hearings began with John Barrett. He'd been the first person to claim the reward, which he'd done in 1863.
But another claimant, Ned Dally, said he'd found the gold in 1857 and told Barrett about it. Dally's discovery was reported in Hobart, but the then-Police Magistrate at George Town, William Gunn, wouldn't allow it to be mined.
He said it would take convicts from their work.
Finally, the Reward Commission announced that the reward for discovering the Lefroy goldfield would go to prospector Sam Richards. The decision was unanimous.
Old Ned Dally was understandably highly indignant, but even if he'd been allowed to work his find and prove it, he wouldn't have qualified, as it was before the reward legislation was promulgated.
Mind you, he would have saved the public purse £3000.