Tom CUE was born in the western district town of Casterton, Victoria in 1850. One of two sons among eight girls born to Thomas George CUE and Maria (nee COLLINS). Given a sound education Tom excelled at sports and was a well set up young man. Working for a time at his fathers general store T.G. Cue and Company Tom soon decided being a counter jumper did not suit him and he left looking for adventure. Tom worked for a short time at Castlemain in a Saw Pit, then on the opal fields of South Australia. By the early 1890s Tom was on the rich Western Australian goldfields and doing well. He was involved in many of the better gold finds and in 1892 the town of Cue was named after him. He was soon very well off and always stayed in the better hotels when in town. His prospecting outfit was of the best equipment and his trap could often be seen loaded high with provisions and mining equipment making it’s way to the latest strike.
In the late 1890’s the Murchison district was largely unexplored. It was a dangerous desert wilderness where water was so scarce it often cost more than gold. Many men perished of thirst or were killed by the hostile natives of the area. It took a tough man just to survive there; to survive and prosper was an achievement indeed.
In 1895 Tom Cue made his richest find at was to become the town of Agnew, ten kilometres north of Lawlers. Naming his gold mine The Woronga he then took on two further leases and the area became known as Cue’s Patch, (referring to the rich patch of shallow alluvial gold there) a name that was to stick until the Post Master General pointed out that there was already a town named after Tom and there couldn’t be two towns in W.A. named after the same man. Cues Patch eventually became known as Agnew.
Tom stayed on at the Woronga for about eighteen months at the end of which time he was awarded a Finders Reward of one hundred pounds for the finding of the Cue goldfield. Selling his claims Tom said he was tired of prospecting and was reported to have said. “Give me 300 pound a year, a horse, a gun and a fishing rod in Gippsland and I could ask for nothing more.”
Tom then spent a year in Queensland at Cloncurry and Chillagoe before returning to Victoria in early 1900. But unable to settle down he became involved in an expedition up the Amazon River traveling to London to help organize and finance the trip.
Even in his sixties he remained restless, journeying through the inhospitable wilderness of the Yukon to search for gold. On the fourth of September 1920 he died in Vancouver, British Columbia at the age of seventy.
Even today there is not a lot known about Tom Cue. In 1894 the Murchison Times described him as a fine burly fellow nearly six foot tall. The only known picture of Tom came when in 1991 a couple were fossicking for gold near Cue and found a metal printers plate with an illustration of Tom filling his pipe.
While almost unknown in his home state Tom Cue is one of the legendary figures of the Western Australian Goldfields and particularly in the Murchison district. His name is as well known as Paddy Hannan who found Kalgoorlie, and Arthur Bailey and William Ford of Coolgardie fame.
Across the glowing desert;
Through naked trees and snow;
Across the rolling prairies
The skies have seen them go;
They fought to where the ocean
receives the setting sun;-
But where shall fight the rovers
When all the lands are won
Much of the material for this article came from the excellent book “Agnew”, by Alex Palmer published by Hesperian Press
Other information gained personally by the author on location.
Excerpt from the poem, The Rovers, from the complete works of Henry Lawson 1885 - 1900 A Campfire Yarn. Published by Lansdowne press 1984
Above is the only known image of TOM CUE.