Uninterested in the conversation inside their Grandfather’s house at Wembley, Don and Courtney decided to head outside to split some logs. Their Grandfather, John Dundas, directed them to an old hollow tree stump which he had removed some time ago. They got to work with their axe and wedges and while they did not chop it up completely, they did enough work to alter its shape.
The next morning, on Sunday, 13 July 1930, John went outside to stack the firewood. He looked over the old tree stump and noticed that there were some strange looking stones within it. He picked them up and was surprised by their weight. Clearly these were no ordinary stones. He then scraped off some of the dirt.
The gold glitter showed through. There was no doubt that they were solid gold.
John had found 75 ounces of smelted gold in his garden, worth an estimated £240.
First thing Monday morning John went to Perth and handed the gold over to the Commissioner of Police. In the usual manner relating to objects found, he was advised that the gold would remain with them for three months and at the end of that period of time, if no one came forward, he would receive it back to do with it as he pleased.
Unexplained and unexpected treasure was as fascinating to people then as it is now. The story was reported in the majority of Western Australian newspapers and was even picked up and printed in newspapers from other states in Australia. The mystery of the gold in the hollow tree was an added intrigue to what would otherwise have been a simple story of finding lost property. It raised several questions. Why was the gold placed in a tree? Who was the original owner?
In 1930 Wembley was a relatively new suburb and it was noted that the tree stump was originally located in the front yard and was thought to have been there for years, well before John built his house on Nanson Street. In September 1929 he removed it from the ground and put it in the backyard. No one could hazard a guess as to how long the gold had been within it and opinions as to why it was there were speculative.
Despite the Detectives’ main theory that the gold was stolen, no one was able to recall any old cases with matching details. A search on Trove to try to find similar reports of stolen or missing gold also yields far too many varied results to be able to pinpoint where exactly it might have come from.
Theories as to how the gold got there are limited only to your imagination. Perhaps, as the police suggested, it was stolen from the goldfields and the thief placed it in the tree and never had the opportunity to collect it later. Perhaps an old prospector made his way to Perth and, wary of carrying such a fortune, decided to secrete it in a safe spot where no one (including himself) could find it. Perhaps the story was less exciting and the gold was simply picked up by a bird and stored in the hollow part of the tree.
Regardless of any attempt to try to solve the mystery, the original story, John Dundas’s golden treasure in his garden, is still just as wonderful on its own. Three months passed and no one came forward to claim the gold. In early November 1930 it was returned to him and he sold it to the Perth Mint for £239.
- 1930 ‘WEMBLEY BACK-YARD A GOLD MINE’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 14 July, p. 1. (HOME FINAL EDITION), viewed 23 Jun 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article83575864
- 1930 ‘GOLD FIND AT WEMBLEY.’, The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), 15 July, p. 8. , viewed 23 Jun 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article33338973
- 1930 ‘WEMBLEY GOLD’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 8 November, p. 10. (LATE CITY SPECIAL), viewed 12 Jul 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article83825220