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Hannan, Paddy

In Kalgoorlie, the famous gold-mining town in Western Australia, the main street is Hannan Street, the railway station is Hannan Station, there is the Hannan Hotel and in the local pub you can drink a pint of Hannan lager.

They are all called after Paddy Hannan, who led a party of two other Irishmen in the discovery that made Kalgoorlie a gold-rush town and opened up an arid desert area of Australia for development.

Patrick Hannan was born in 1840 at Gorteen, in Dangan, Quin, the son of John Hannan and Bridget Lynch. Little of the family history is known but, viewed against the turmoil of the post-famine years, this is not surprising. It is likely that he attended Kilmurry school, though there is no documentary evidence for this. It is known, however, that Paddy emigrated to Australia in 1863. He was the first of six brothers and sisters to do so. His uncle, William Lynch, was mining at Ballarat in Victoria and it seems that this is where Patrick first worked in the mines. He later spent some time prospecting in the Tuapeka District in New Zealand without meeting much success. He then returned to Australia and took part in some of the great gold-rushes of that era, to Terama in New South Wales, Teetulpa in South Australia and to the rich fields around Southern Cross in Western Australia.

In 1892, Hannan heard rumours of a find a considerable distance into the Australian desert. He set out from Coolgardie with Tom Flanagan and soon met up with Dan O'Shea. At what is now Kalgoorlie, one of their horses strayed. During the search for the horse they found gold in some quantity. On the nearby ridge of Mount Charlotte they found water, an essential prerequisite for their work. Then Paddy found a series of gullies where gold was clearly visible. Within two days they had unearthed 100 ozs. of gold. Paddy Hannan rode to Kalgoorlie to register his claim and was awarded the space of ground which is still known as "The Hannan Award". News of the find spread like wildfire, within two days they were joined by 400 men and in a week this had grown to 1,000. The gold-rush was the greatest in the history of the country. The towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder were born. By 1895 the mines that constitute the Golden Mile had begun to reveal their riches and a great promotion boom started in London. Hundreds of mining companies were floated to speculate on the rich reefs. The mining and investment boom reached its climax in the years 1897-1903. In 1896 a railway line from Kalgoorlie to Perth was opened, thus connecting Perth with the "City of Gold". In 1903 a pipeline brought water 350 miles from a reservoir near Perth. Not only did it bring water to parched towns of the goldfields, it also nurtured the wheatbelt towns along its route.

Paddy Hannan, however, did not make much out of the great find. Businessmen and speculators who could command the capital for large scale mechanical excavation made the real bonanza. Paddy left Kalgoorlie in January 1894, his intention being, in his own words, to enjoy a holiday. He stated that he was not in the best of health and had not seen the sea since 1889.

In July of 1897, Paddy Hannan came back as a visitor to Kalgoorlie. He was recognised and was entertained officially by the Mayor. He was driven in a coach drawn by five horses for a tree planting ceremony at the spot where he had first camped in June 1893 and where he had found his first gold. "The Kalgoorlie Miner" reported that Paddy was accorded a welcome at Hannan's Club and elected an honorary member. A reporter who interviewed Paddy in 1897 described him as "very pleasant and genial, as his nationality could not well prevent him from being, while in appearance a ruddy complexion betokens a healthy and vigorous outdoor life. Concerning himself he is not disposed to be very communicative".

Paddy Hannan went off prospecting again but found very little. In 1904 the Western Australian Government granted him a pension of 100 a year, which increased to 150 in 1910.

In 1910 Paddy went on his last gold-prospecting expedition from which he returned to stay with relatives in Victoria. He lived with two nieces at no. 6 Fallon Street in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. Unlike other old-timers from the goldfields, whose stories grew more colourful with age, Hannan remained reticent about his achievement.

Paddy Hannan died on November 4th 1925, leaving an estate valued for Probate at only 1,402. The Sunday Times of Perth wrote "The annals of our goldfields history will ever remember at the pinnacle of the roll of honour the name of Patrick Hannan, the discoverer of the richest goldfield in the world, to which fluctuated in an incredibly short time the most cosmopolitan crowd that riches ever beckoned from the far corners of the earth..... The State owes today to Hannon and the kind of men who were contemporaneous with him in the discovery and all the hardship that it meant, a debt which it can never pay".

There is a monument to Paddy Hannan in the street named after him in Kalgoorlie. It is a statue of a gaunt, bearded man with a miner's water bag - the water bag is a drinking fountain. There is a bust of Paddy Hannan in the de Valera Library in Ennis. It was presented to the library by the town of Kalgoorlie in 1988.

Paddy Hannan is buried in Melbourne's general cemetery. In recent years the grave was restored by the Chamber of Mines in Western Australia.

Extract from ‘Ramblers from Clare and Other Sketches’

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