Derailed by drink
The directors of the mine resumed operations, installing a German foreman, one Andrew Kershman, who gave them to understand he’d had experience of quicksilver mines in Europe. Perhaps, listening with his broken English, Kershman mistakenly thought the directors had asked if he had experience of debauchery in the beer halls of Munich. If so, he was right to answer in the affirmative. He was veteran. A big man frequently derailed by drink, he once came fully rigged out in Prussian uniform, topped with a spiked helmet, to The Junction Hotel in Jamieson and rode his horse through the bar. The hoof marks remained in the linoleum until fire destroyed the pub in 1961.
The mine never made money, although it was nearly sold for profit a number of times. And maybe this is all it ever was; not a viable dig so much as a scam to pull money from Rothschilds and other mythically gilded fellows. A bauble to flash at English investors. A confidence trick promising everything and delivering nothing. Like a Mayan temple, now lost in the wilderness, its vine-covered artefacts a mystery to contemporary explorers. A crusher to break up the ore. A furnace to roast it and condense the mercury. A dream from the start.
It is a fine place to visit. To sit and listen to the trees nuzzled by soft airs, the Quicksilver Creek with its tinkling water and the Jamieson River with its profounder notes, and the black cockatoos calling. These were sounds known and needed by a thousand generations of Aboriginals and a few generations of whites. And I hope Kershman, this far from drink, when the crusher was shut down at the end of the day, sat listening, knowing peace. Because when you close your eyes in a place like this, you can’t help but be pleased we failed here, and are gone.