Big ‘n’ Bizarre

A road trip of Australia’s fibreglass monuments

The Big Gold Panner

This week we’ve left the coast behind us and travelled inland to the historic gold mining town of Bathurst to meet the Big Gold Panner, a five metre high wire and fibreglass structure that’s locally known simply as “The Man”.

Balanced on one knee and with his head bent forward hopefully over his pan, this persistent bloke has been trying his luck with the same pan and the same pond of water since 1979, which probably explains his blank, slightly comatose expression. His location on the front lawn of the Gold Panner Motor Inn at the eastern approach to Bathurst has ensured him a high degree of visibility and iconic status among locals, while also paying homage to Bathurst’s heady gold rush origins.

When The Man was first constructed, the fact that he had only two stabilizing points of entry into the ground (the knee and foot) led to concerns he could easily topple over like a common drunk. Historically this wouldn’t have been entirely out of place, as many amateur prospectors in the gold rush days were quite partial to a bottle of rum, but in 1979 this wasn’t considered to be an appropriate message for tourists or locals. To keep him respectfully upright, The Man was therefore given a third stabilizing point in the form of his fossickers’ pick ax (or mattock), which leans casually against his right hip as if he’s supporting it, when it’s actually supporting him.

The pond he’s working in is actual running water, thanks to a complex underground pumping system and pipework that runs up his leg and down his arm into his pan (another reason, perhaps, for that awkward expression on his face).

Like any modern, self-respecting bloke in the public eye, The Man has had several outfit changes over the years and can accessorize himself according to the season and events on the local calendar. This tradition began in 1991 when the then owners of the motel had The Man’s outfit painted in Bathurst 1000 motor race colours. A true metrosexual, he’s also not averse to exposing his legs once a year when he’s dressed up in a kilt and Tam O’Shanter for the Highland Gathering Sports Day held by the Scots private school. He also wears a red nose on Red Nose Day and sports a Santa hat in December.


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