DAVID WALL | Deberigny Blog
THE RECENT TRAGIC EVENTS on the Black Cat Track – Salamaua/Wau – reminded me of a great friend I had in Maprik in the sixties and seventies, Bill Babbington.
Bill was a remarkable person – a man who put his age up to fight in World War I, and put his age down to fight in World War II. A plantation manager, gold miner and Department of Mines officer.
His stories about mining in pre-war New Guinea were a great source of information about those fascinating times. He spoke of Errol Flynn and other famous characters of that era.
He struck it rich twice and went on fabulous world tours.
When I knew him in Maprik, where he was known as Masta Gol, he was respected and liked by the local people. His honesty and expertise in helping them find precious metals was greatly appreciated.
I last saw Bill in the early 1980s when he was in declining health in an RSL Repatriation Hospital in Sydney’s northern beaches. He died shortly after and his sister kindly returned some photos of my children that I had sent him.
To this day, my wife Debbie values an opal that Bill polished and prepared for her. This gemstone is often commented on by others when Debbie wears it.
I shudder to think of what Bill would have thought of the recent tragic events on a track he knew so well.
Bill Babbington, soldier, planter, miner and gentleman, those of your friends still around continue to miss you.
Richard Leahy writes:
Bill Babbington was a great friend of my father, Mick Leahy. They met during the 1930s on the Morobe gold fields centreed on Wau, Edie Creek and the Watut.
He was the first to find gold near Timine Village pre-World War II and was allowed the usual ten reward claims for his discovery. Bill amassed a considerable fortune from this mine and lived very well as long as it lasted.
In the 1950s he returned to his old pre-war diggings at Timine and hoped to find gold that had eluded him previously. It was during this period that we as kids in those days enjoyed the great privilege of getting to know Bill pretty well.
He was a most generous and gently spoken man and would retail us with wonderful stories of the pre-war period as well as his terrible experiences in World War I. I even spent a few days camping with him at his Timine alluvial mine.
Later, while we were at boarding school in Sydney, he regularly corresponded with my sister Megan and me, sending us a one pound note with each letter.
His last posting in PNG with the Department of Mines was at Amanab in the West Sepik. A few years ago I had occasion to carry out some air charter work between Vanimo and Amanab. The people there rembered Bill fondly.
BABBINGTON, William Benjamin, NGX 192; A/Sgt; 4 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment; Enlisted – 21 July 1941; Embarked for M/E – 1 Nov 1941; Returned ex M/E – 27 Feb 1943; Discharged – 3 Jun 1946; Enlisted – SALAMAUA, NEW GUINEA; Date of Birth – 30 Jan 1902; BORN – LONDON, UK; NOK – FAY, Alice, Mother [Source: New Guinea Volunteer Rifles Nominal Roll – World War II]