Little prospect : subsidised gold prospecting, employment relief on the West Coast during the depression of the 1930s.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis examines the origins and operation of the subsidised gold prospecting scheme. It also sets out to explain the significance of goldmining as a depression relief measure and to give some indication of the impact it made on the lives of those men who became the diggers of the 1930's. In an effort to achieve the latter objective the focus throughout is regional. The West Coast, home of the gold rushes of the 1860's, is taken as a case study. Although in some respects the West Coast experience was unique, its gold seekers share much of the common experience of those engaged on the gold scheme elsewhere. This thesis is based largely on the records generated by the Unemployment Board and the Employment Division. The correspondence between these Wellington based bodies and the separate organisations on the goldfields throws much light on the day-to-day operation of the scheme. They tell us less, however, about what it was actually like to work on the scheme. This shortcoming has been met in part at least by the existance of the Ross Borough Council Records, the recollections of men who were there and by the fortuitous survival of the diaries of one participant, Rab Clark. Clark was the Secretary of the Blackball Miners' Union throughout the 1930's and became a supervisor of the gold scheme. His comments thus provide a useful insight into the attitudes of the many coalminers who found themselves looking for gold rather than coal during these years. These three sources proved invaluable to a mere Cantabrian attempting to reach an understanding of life on the 'Coast'.