The Welcome Stranger

While on a visit to Perth, Western Australia, my husband and I visited the Perth Mint and joined the “Perth Mint Tour” The tour guide began by telling us about the significant gold nuggets found in Australia.  Surprise, surprise the largest discovered in 1869 called the “Welcome Stranger” was by two Cornishmen – John Deason and Richard Oates.

This is their story: -

In the 1850s thousands of people travelled to Victoria, Australia in search of their fortune, as part of the Victorian gold rush. They came from across Australia and around the world, and for most of them great wealth was never achieved. But for two Cornish miners, fortune did come calling on 5 February 1869.


John Deason was born on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly but moved to Pendeen in west Cornwall as a one-year-old after his fisherman father drowned. This is where he met Richard Oates, and both are recorded in the 1851 census as working the tin mines of Cornwall. Mr Deason emigrated to Australia in 1853, with Mr Oates going a year later to begin life as prospectors or "diggers".


In 1862 they arrived in Moliagul, Victoria and after seven years of getting by, and making a living, the two men struck gold on a slope called Bulldog Gully.   An enormous piece of gold encased in quartz was found only 3 cm (1.2 in) below the surface, near the base of a tree.  Weighing 11 stone (72kg) and was 61cm long (24 inches).

The nugget was so big, that as Mr Deason wrote “I tried to prise the nugget up with the pick but the handle broke.  I then got a crowbar and raised the nugget to the surface.”  They took it to the town of Dunolly, about 12 miles (20km) away, where it had to be broken into three pieces on a blacksmith anvil before it could fit on the bank’s scales.   It was weighed at the London Charted Bank of Australia who paid just under £10,000 pounds, around $3-4 million in today’s money. The pair were finally paid some £9,381.00 for the nugget.

Cornwall Gold, near Redruth, specially commissioned the statue pictured as a celebration of the pair’s discovery.  It is considered by most authorities to be the biggest gold nugget ever found!!


Judy Wright

June 2023

Perth Mint, Western Australia 

Miners and their families posing with the finders of the ‘Welcome Stranger’ nugget, 1869 – Richard Oats, John Deason and his wife.

Commissioned statue of Deason and Oats at "Cornwall Gold' Redruth.