William Bibby’s story, as captured in Golden Raub, is like that of so many other young men of his class in England at the end of the 1850s, began with him leaving a burgeoning and turbulent industrialised England to start life afresh in the new world of Australia. This son of a Liverpool labourer was little different from many who did the same and escaped to places such as Canada and America. Yet the record suggests he passed through life as if meant to make his mark somehow.
Why wherever he went, did his name appear in such a public way?
Although it was gold and the getting of it that became his life and in which he made his name, the records show that his place in gold mining history was not always measured by the amount of wealth won, but how and what was done to get it. It was all about opportunity; William made the most of any opportunity and it is this that made him different.
Many books have already been written about the England of William’s time and drawing an imaginary picture here would add little to the story of his early life. That is not to diminish the importance to his story of his having grown up in Liverpool. His early life and the strong inﬂuence of his mother, a teacher, would have formed his character and given him the desire to learn and better himself and escape from what he must have seen as a life not for him.
His experience of the groundswell of the industrial age working in the railway workshops at Crewe and watching the thousands of migrants exiting Liverpool docks during his time at Laird’s shipyards in the late 1850s must have been what drove him to step out of the grey, humdrum, and crowded life he saw around him.
Historians write that the railway town of Crewe was the best example of industrialisation in progress in England in the nineteenth century. The emerging social structure combined with the economics and politics of the time were driven by industrialisation; it was also described as very claustrophobic for the working man. In the late 1850s it would have been worse for those at the workface such as William, a young man approaching his twenties, who had already had a taste of foreign shores and even war.
In the early gold rush years, rumours of easily found wealth spun around the world. Ships carried the news. What tales of adventure and riches William must have heard from visiting crewmen and read in the news while working in the busy port of Liverpool which was the epicentre of migration from England in the nineteenth century.
Like so many others he was seeking a type of freedom and independence not available for the likes of his class. He wanted to escape what each must have seen as a life of another weary and dirty grey-lined face in the industrial crowd – just like his father.
Unmarked and forgotten graves, an old pickle jar, a stamp shoe worn to a slipper, abandoned mines in Victoria and remotest Queensland, floods and rebellion. All are stops and clues along the way as Victor Bibby treads in the footsteps of a gold mining pioneer to discover long-lost relatives and the truths about his own family, bringing alive an historical account of life on the goldfields and events that made colonial history. A fascinating tale of a toolmaker from industrial England who created a new life in Australia as an engineer, innovator and gold miner before struggling against the odds to find fame and fortune as a mining pioneer in the Malayan jungle.