Marvel Loch
Collage of Marvel Loch.

Naming conventions for Australian towns followed a fairly predictable pattern in the 1800's and early 1900's. A monarch or member of the British royal family was always a popular and politically astute choice. Many gold rush towns were named in deference to the particular claim or discoverer that caused the formation of a place. Sometimes an aboriginal word or variation was used. Marvel Loch may be one of the few towns named for a racehorse (although the W.A. town of Norseman is named for the horse that uncovered that town's first nugget). In 1905 Marvel Loch, apparently a beast of fine pedigree, bolted in at the Caulfied Cup - the forerunner to the famous Melbourne Cup. Four prospectors Markham, Doolette, Leneberg and Le Breton must have had a run of good luck as upon their discovery of gold in the Yilgarn goldfields of Western Australia they named their claim 'Marvel Loch' after the winning horse. Another lease nearby was called 'Jaccoletti's' and the town that developed between them adopted the name of Marvel Loch.

The story of Marvel Loch is not unlike the story of a hundred goldfields towns. It begins with a lucky find and when a claim is made and word gets out an influx of hopefuls swarm to the site. A town springs up overnight, mostly canvas, tin and hessian shanty's with one or two dishing up a blend of sly grog and acting as hotels. If the gold looks promising then more substantial buildings are constructed and the government of the day finally steps in and brings law and order as well as vital infrastructure. If the town is really profitable then the telegraph and railway arrive. Eventually the surface gold dries up and the miners drift on to the next big thing, often taking their roughly built abodes with them. Life was always tough on the goldfields of Western Australia. Gold mostly occurs in arid, desert like landscapes and the harsh environment, a lack of water, extremely hot summers and cold winters, flies and disease all contributed to hard living that often ended in a premature death. World Wars' 1 and 2 take a massive toll on the male population and the loss of so many men combined with poor gold prices begins the death knell for many gold towns. If the good gold is deep big investors set up intense operations and, in the case of Marvel Loch, continue mining for many years. However, todays miners often 'fly-in/fly-out' and live on site at the mine, having little to do with the original town. If the town is lucky then local pastoralists or tourists keep the economy alive. If not, the town dies and becomes a ghost town. As of 2012, with the original leases set to close, Marvel Loch is on the cusp of becoming a ghost town.

Frank Mazza was an Italian immigrant who worked the West Australian goldfields along with a host of his countrymen. In 1914 he and two other miners were entombed in the Marvel Loch mine after a cave-in. One was killed instantly and Frank rolled a boulder from the other miner's broken leg and pulled him to a secure place. They remained trapped underground for 4 days, tapping on the roof of the stope to let rescuers know that they were still alive. The cave-in and rescue attempt made news around the world. The three miners were 'Tributers' - men who worked for no wage and received their pay based on the gold uncovered. If the mine began to make real money then the Tributers would be sacked or put on the payroll. Such was the lot of a turn-of-the-century immigrant. Frank and the injured miner were saved and Frank was awarded the Royal Humane Society medal for bravery. He was also the last non-commissioned officer to leave Gallipoli.

An excerpt from an early resident: "We initially lived at the Marvel Loch Hotel and then moved to a corrugated iron shack near some mine Bill had a licence for. It was whitewashed and had a super bush shelter out the back, which was coolish. The lounge suite was made from old car bodies – the back end cut off and Betty reupholstered them. Quite comfortable. Bill was a big radio fan and we had his Battyphone hooked up to a 6-volt battery and a monster aerial so kept in touch with the world"


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