There’s a name that keeps popping up on this website and throughout my books — WG Manners, my grandfather. Since today is his birthday, I thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce him to you properly.
Born in 1863, old WG Manners (I’ll call him WGM) was part of the mining industry from day dot. His father, William Manners, was manager of the Queen Victoria Gold Mining Company in Ballarat. They were both mining heroes.
The sixth of nine kids, WGM left school at 15 and was an apprentice with several local engineering firms. He was one of the first two engineers to graduate from the Ballarat School of Mines. After working in Ballarat, he headed off to Silverton and arrived in Broken Hill in 1886. Here he worked alongside HH Schlapp and other early pioneers. He worked on the BHP Mine then, at age 23, became the engineer at Block 14 Mine.
He later surveyed the railway line for promoter James Smith Reid, north from Broken Hill out to Tarrawingee. This led him to became the first engineer for the Tarrawingee Lime and Flux Company. WGM then headed west as engineer on the Golden Crown Mine at Kanowna in 1895, opening his engineering business that same year. Kalgoorlie was never the same after he moved there in 1900. Our family business, still called WG Manners & Co, celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2015. The same family company sponsored the public mining float of Croesus Mining NL in 1986 (now Mannwest Group).
So I Headed West
That’s old WGM’s story in a nutshell. He wrote a book, which I later published, full of humor, pride, disappointment and tragedy as it traces Australia’s formative mining history. Books from our early mining days are fascinating. They reflect the absolute modesty of those who were going about their daily professions with dignity and pride.
Some of WGM’s stories of early company flotations would make todays entrepreneurs green with envy. For instance, in 1895 alone 50 million pounds was subscribed for WA mining companies. These were being floated in London at the rate of one per day (that rate continued for two years). Converted to dollars in 1993, when the book was published, one year’s raising would be equivalent to roughly $11 billion. Imagine what sort of figure that would translate to in 2017.
If you want to read more about WG Manners or Australian mining history, download So I Headed West (as a PDF) for free. All I ask is that you share your favorite part with me!