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Historical Society News
The Hyde Park Gathering was held on Sunday, 14 October, in unusually cool weather but much improved from Thursday and Friday. Sixteen like-minded people turned out – those interested in Lightning Ridge happenings – and for the next few hours, conversations flowed, varying from early days to the current Post Office issue many had read about in the previous weekend's Sydney Morning Herald.
Rob Renew attended, representing the retired engineers' group, ASHET. He will be guiding a Ridge project commencing in 2013 that will focus on the innovative mining machinery and those people who have developed it. ASHET has a grant towards a positive outcome that will provide Lightning Ridge with workshops teaching story-telling techniques, recording devices to undertake interviews and information panels for displays at the Australian Opal Centre.
Karl Pirwitz first mined with Mick Bauer and Norm Voller in 1961 and filled Rob in on that era. Roland Beckett discovered the Ridge through coming up to film a fossil tree extraction and could share his enthusiasm about the town, even to the point of buying a camp. Betty Bruce could certainly give Rob some tips from her family's knowledge as Ridge pioneers.
Others present were Kay Dawson, whose father, Ted, and his two brothers began their education in the little wooden school house from 1919 to 1924; Kerry Reid, also a part-time camp-dweller; Denise Brady, whose opal-buying grandfather had the Walford House built in 1909, where her father also lived until 1921; Susan Phillips, who first came to the bore baths 20 years ago; Dr George Tripe, Ridge locum ten years ago, and his wife, Clare, who volunteered at Heritage Cottage during his tenure; Bev Ogle, Roland's partner, who taught James Able in primary school before his family moved to the opal fields; Renate Pirwitz, who met Karl at the German Club during his hobby opal mining days; Jan Cooper, who offered nature tours around the Ridge eight years ago.
Other guests were Joanna Woodman from Munich and her Sydney friend, Yuri Dobinson, who both recently visited Barbara Moritz, organiser of the annual Hyde Park Gathering. This tradition began in the 1930s and 1940s when Ridge miners came to the city to sell their opal. They'd meet near St James Station across from David Jones and discuss topics of the day, feed the pigeons and, no doubt, have a drink to wet their whistles for yet more conversation about opal prices.
Everyone enjoyed meeting, some for the first time, and light snacks sustained the various conversations.
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