"THERE'S gold in them thar hills."
The origins of the phrase are little known, but it is sometimes used in old western movies and more commonly linked to cartoon character Yosemite Sam.
It is also a line that could be well suited to Mount Gibraltar.
It's not that Mount Gibraltar is known for gold deposits, but it is the site of a rare form of valuable rock found, in its best form, in only two areas of the world, Bowral and parts of Russia.
The technical name is micro syenite, but the Highlands source is best known as Bowral Trachyte.
It is an igneous rock, similar to granite, but formed from finer grains that give the finished appearance of olive green or dark grey.
Trachyte found in the Highlands and Russia is believed to be of the highest quality, with few holes in it from the earth's cooling process.
Veins of glassy crystals such as sanidine, hornblende and aegerine add to the character of the rock that is renowned for having very few flaws or cracks.
Bowral trachyte became a favourite of architects in the late 19th and early 20th century as they realised the value of the stone that could be supplied in large slabs.
It has taken pride of place in many historic buildings in Sydney and Canberra as well as the Southern Highlands.
These include Australia House in London, Equitable Life and Queen Victoria buildings in Sydney, the National Library and Treasury Building in the ACT, Bowral courthouse, Hampton Bridge in Kangaroo Valley, Pyrmont Bridge and the Hawkesbury Bridge.
It was also widely used in kerb and guttering in many parts of Sydney and the Highlands, as well as in headstones and monuments throughout Australia and overseas.
Quarrying was started by William Charker, who formed the NSW Trachyte Stone Quarrying Company from a site at the top of Cliff Street in 1885.
Meanwhile, two friends Thomas Loveridge and Hudson formed the company Loveridge and Hudson that soon became a major player in the new local industry.
They began extracting stone from a site near the first main bend of Oxley Drive from the late 1880s.
One man who proudly touts the qualities of the much sought after stone is fourth generation quarryman and stonemason, Bill Pope of Bowral, whose grandfather started another quarry on the side of Mount Gibraltar during the early days of the industry.
His great grandfather was a Scotsman who relocated to Australia in the 1800s to work on Bluestone in Melbourne.
Mr Pope said his grandfather, Francis John Pope relocated from Melbourne to Bowral in 1897 and started the Pope Quarry "just down" from where the water reservoir is now located in Oxley Drive, Bowral.
He said the State Government of the time had already started to lease land along Mount Gibraltar for people keen to establish trachyte quarries, and his grandfather took advantage of the opportunity.
Meanwhile, Mr Pope said the stone at the original Loveridge and Hudson site was considered to be of poorer quality so the company soon moved further down the hill to extract trachyte from a section of mountain next to the Pope family quarry.
They took over the quarry originally established by William Charker and continued to source large amounts of high quality stone for almost a century.
He said the Pope Quarries, and Loveridge and Hudson Quarries became major sources of Bowral trachyte and the two businesses often worked together to meet large orders.
"My grandfather employed up to 40 people in his quarry and Loveridge and Hudson employed similar numbers," Mr Pope said.
The various new quarrying businesses on the mountain prompted a shantytown of tents and huts on the side of Mount Gibraltar in the areas near Cliff Street through to Victoria Street as quarrymen aimed to live near their workplace.
The area was dubbed "Struggletown".
Many cottages constructed in the area during the early days still remain today, several featuring Bowral trachyte in their structure.
Learn more about Bowral trachyte and one family's involvement in the extraction of the valuable stone from Mount Gibraltar in the next installment.
Part 1 of a two part series
Some information in this article was sourced from the book created by Mount Gibraltar Landcare and Bushcare group, The Gib Mount Gibraltar Southern Highlands.