Holtermann according to Shellard

Reminiscences of an old gold digger. The great rush to Hill End, Tambaroora, New South Wales. By Frank Shellard  in The Queenslander 24 Jan 1914 p8

Frank Shellard wrote a fascinating first hand account of mining in Hill End, which included a none too flattering description of B.O. Holtermann. While the article clearly contains some errors of fact, it says much about Holtermann and the way he was perceived. 

B.O. Holtermann in his carriage and pair outside the girls' section of the Hill End Public School

B.O. Holtermann in his carriage and pair outside the girls' section of the Hill End Public School

“…Holterman, the local manager of Beyers and Holterman's Gold Mining Company, Hill End, made a big pile, estimated to be £150,000, trading in mining scrip. His claim had three partners, Beyers, Holterman, and Kerr. They sold out, and it was floated into a limited liability company with Mr. Emmett, of Sydney, as legal manager, and Holterman as local manager. He was a natty little German with a wax-pointed moustache, and always dressed as if he had just come out of a band box, and strutting about, proud as a peacock. Publicity was his religion, and he always contrived to have his name before the public for something clever that he had done. When the cable telegraph was laid from Europe to Australia he managed to send the first telegram to Germany, when he had to pay well for the privilege. At one of his crushings he had a special retort made in Sydney to eclipse the size of Khroman's [Krohmann’s] famous cake [1]. He succeeded in getting a cake so large that a trolly had to be made for it to be dragged up to the Joint Stock Bank, where it lay on the floor a long time—safe enough, for no man could steal it. It looked well in the newspapers as "Holterman's Great Cake of Gold." At another time he had a very large slab of quartz, full of gold, hoisted up the shaft, and exhibited at his house on the hill, charging 1/ per head for each visitor, and the proceeds were handed over to the local hospital. While this so-called nugget was on show he had it photographed, with himself on guard, standing by it with his left hand resting on it, with a revolver in his right.[2] The photographer secured a large order for some thousands of copies for distribution all over the country. Holterman being the manager, he had the power of engaging the men to work at the mine, and any one who could play a musical brass instrument was sure to get a job. He soon had the making of a fine brass band. As he provided the uniforms and instruments, it was called Holterman's Band, and used to play at his house and about the town.[3] Having plenty of money he could buy almost anything, even brains, for he found a scallawag with plenty—a brokendown barrister, who was loafing about the public houses. Holterman secured his services, took him to Sydney, and made him his private secretary, using his abilities to his own advantage.[4] He did many charitable actions, but they were spoiled by his inordinate vanity, and the puffing they got in the newspapers. He built a castle at St. Leonard's, North Shore, Sydney Harbour. This castle had a high tower, and on the top of it he had "Holterman" painted in large letters. The tower is used by the shipping as a land mark to this day. In his castle he had a splendid photographic studio fitted up to date, and engaged a clever photographer to go all over the country taking views and puffing up his employer in the newspapers. But he got wet on one of his trips, took a chill and died, leaving a widow and children unprovided for. She was a very nice lady and some of her friends induced Holterman to pay her passage home in the mail boat.[5] Having splendid instruments he was enabled to produce some of the finest photographs in this country, so he presented all his stock to the late Queen Victoria, who sent him her autographic thanks, which he had framed and hung up at his castle. He went into many businesses. He bought the right of a new sewing machine and opened a shop for it in George-street, Sydney. He then had a new lozenge which he named "Holterman's Drops," and it was supposed to be a cure-all for all complaints. He invested in house property in Sydney, notably the Post Office Hotel, which had been lying idle for some time, as it was old-fashioned ; but Holterman renovated it in splendid style and put a friend in to manage it, and it soon became a popular resort for Hill End lucky diggers. Many other ventures he made pay through having plenty of money and brains to help him; but when he died he was comparatively a poor man, with about £600 a year, exclusive of the £300 a year for being an M.P. for St. Leonard's, North Shore. He was a prominent man about Sydney. When Lord Belmore, the Governor of New South Wales, went home he sold his equipages to a livery stable keeper in Sydney. Holterman bought one of the carriages and a pair of showy grey horses, with silver plated harness, and then he could be frequently seen taking a ride in Lord Belmore's carriage with his lordship's coat of arms on the panels, which he would not have taken off. At one time he took it up to Hill End, and his band went out to meet him, and escorted him through the town playing, "See, the Conquering Hero Comes." They stopped at every public house on the way, then Holterman gave the signal, which meant a drink for all hands, until they got to his house; then the crowd dispersed. He being a temperate man he did not leave his carriage all the journey through the town. He had some good points. He was good to his immediate friends, and they looked over his weakness. 

Beyers was a totally different man to his mate Holterman. The former was quiet and a generous friend to many, and without any ostentation. He and Holterman married two sisters. Beyers had a large family; Holterman had none.[6] The former lived at Hill End, and was returned M.P. for that place, but the latter resided mostly in Sydney….”


[1] At the Metropolitan Intercolonial Exhibition Sydney 1872, Krohmann’s mine from Hill End exhibited a cake of cast gold the size of a 'two gallon bucket' [about 7½ litres], weighing 5620 oz (159kg)


[2] This sounds like confusion with the well-known 1872 image of Holtermann beside the nugget, resting his right hand on the specimen and his left hand on his hip.


[3] The contents of Holtermann’s St Leonards house at auction 27 June 1876 included a drum, 2 cornets, 3 saxhorns, a French horn and clarinet


[4] This is probably barrister George Thomas, who died at Holtermann’s residence June 1874


[5] Merlin died 27 Sept 1873. Mrs Merlin and 3 children returned to London via Patriach  three weeks later.


[6] Holtermann had three sons and two daughters


Alan Davies