Bill Babbington, Masta Gol

September 14, 2013 at 1:23 am (Commentary, East Sepik District, expatriates, Papua New Guinea, Territory New Guinea)

Megan Leahy and Bill Babbington at Zenag on the verandah of Mick Leahy’s property in the early 1960s.
(Photos kindly supplied by Richard Leahy)
The recent tragic events on the Black Cat Track – Salamaua/Wau – reminded me of a great friend I had in Maprik in the sixties and seventies, Bill Babbington.

Bill was a remarkable person – a man who put his age up to fight in WW 1, and put his age down to fight in WW II. A plantation manager, gold miner and Department of Mines Officer.

His stories about mining in pre-war New Guinea were a great source of information about those fascinating times. Tales about Errol Flynn and other famous characters of the era he spoke of.

He struck it rich twice and went on fabulous world tours.

When I knew him in Maprik where he was known as Masta Gol, he was respected and liked by the locals. His honesty and expertise in helping them find precious metals was greatly appreciated by them.

I last saw Bill in the early eighties when he was in declining health in an RSL Repatriation Hospital in the Northern Beaches, Sydney. Shortly after this he died, and his sister kindly sent back to me some photos of my children that I had sent him.

To this day, Debbie, my wife, values an opal that Bill polished and prepared himself for her. This gemstone is often commented on by others when Debbie wears it.

I shudder to think of what Bill would have thought of the recent tragic events on a track he knew so well.

Bill Babbington, soldier, planter, miner and gentleman, those of your friends still around miss you!

BABBINGTON, William Benjamin, NGX 192; A/Sgt; 4 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment; Enlisted – 21 July 1941; Embarked for M/E – 1 Nov 1941; Returned ex M/E – 27 Feb 1943; Discharged – 3 Jun 1946; Enlisted – SALAMAUA, NEW GUINEA; Date of Birth – 30 Jan 1902; BORN – LONDON, UK; NOK – FAY, Alice, Mother.

Source: New Guinea Volunteer Rifles Nominal Roll – World War 2


Click on the above to see a letter written by Bill to Debbie.




  1. J.Richard leahy said,

    Bill Babbington was a great friend of my father’s Mick Leahy. They met during the 1930s on the Morobe gold fields centered on Wau, Edie Creek and the Watut. He was the first to find gold near Timine Village pre-World War II and was allowed the usual ten reward claims for his discovery. Bill amassed a considerable fortune from this mine and lived very well as long as it lasted.

    In the 1950s he returned to his old pre-war diggings at Timine and hoped to find gold that had alluded him previously. It was during this period that we as kids in those days enjoyed the great privilage of getting to know Bill pretty well. He was a most generous and gently spoken man and would retail us with wonderful stories of the pre-war period as well as his terrible experiences in World War I. I even spent a few days camping with him at his Timine alluvial mine.

    Later at boarding school in Sydney he regularly corresponded with my sister Megan and myself sending us a one pound note with each letter.

    His last posting in PNG with the Department of Mines was at Amanab in the West Sepik. A few years ago I had occasion to carry out some air charter work between Vanimo and Amanab. The people there rembered Bill fondly.

    • deberigny said,

      Richard, thank you for your comment. It’s better than my post!



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