Jim Chesson's Race

Don PHILLIPS: My wife’s father’s family moved from NSW to Cue in the mid-1890s. They were the Chesson family and figure quite a bit in the early days of Cue and Day Dawn. Trish’s grandfather was a hotel owner in Day Dawn. The most famous of the brothers was Jim who owned (in partnerships) mines, processing plant and even a timber collecting company. He was one of the original owners of the Big Bell mine. The story of Jim’s arrival in Cue is an interesting one.

Jim Chesson was the first Chesson brother to arrive in Cue. He had been a miner in New South Wales. He was also an excellent runner specializing in Sheffield Handicap racing, run over 130 yards. These races had prize money and were bet on and Jim was saving his winnings in order to move to Western Australia to look for gold. He planned one more race with the idea of making enough money to finance the trip and although he and most others, including the press thought that he had won the race the judge decided that he had only come second. He still planned to go to WA, and as luck would have it on his very last day at the coal mine where he worked just as he clocked off there was an underground collapse in the mine with over one hundred people being killed.

He sailed to Fremantle arriving at the end of February with the gold mining equipment he had bought in Sydney, caught the train to Geraldton and then on to Mullewa. As he had little money he decided to walk the 200 miles to Cue reckoning on taking 10 days to do so. After about nine days of walking he heard about Cue’s first athletics meeting which was to be held in two days’ time. The programme included a Sheffield Handicap race with a prize of 20 sovereigns. Still with 35 miles to walk he decided to get to Cue in time for the race. The next day he walked 25 miles with the idea of having to only walk the last 10 the next day giving him time to enter the race.

However after only walking half a mile the next day he found a prospector without water or food close to death. Jim stayed with him for quite a while giving him food and water and then, leaving all the water that he had in his water bag with the prospector, set out for Cue to get help and to enter the race. By the time he had arranged for the prospector to be collected he had missed the start of the race.

Jim then let it be known that he believed he could beat the newly crowned Cue champion and that he would back himself with 20 sovereigns, and that person accepted the challenge. The challenge race was arranged for the next day. Jim covered as many bets as he could and just managed to win the race.

A year later Jim sent for the rest of his family and the Chesson brothers became well known in the towns of Cue and Day Dawn as mine owners, hotel owners and members of parliament. There is a Chesson St in Cue even now. This story is one of many in the book Gold on the Murchison – A tale of twin towns- Cue and Day Dawn, by P.R.Heydon, from which this story is taken.

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