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Snippets 25 November 2003
Despite local opinions recorded in 1906, the Imperial Hotel opened December 1st, 1909 in the New Town. Richard Legge owned the hotel, our first accommodation, and his brother, Herbert, managed the business, but not for long.

August Renisch, a former employee, took over the lease in August 1910 until 1918, when Tom Judge, a miner, struck opal and bought the lease. During this period, most miners lived out on the fields either on claims near or within one of the two small settlements. Old Town was at the base of Sims Hill and Nettleton was on 3 Mile flat. No doubt, the new hotel had a slow start too due to sly grog!

Max Meyers took over the Imperial’s lease in 1921 when Tom Judge went to Hebel’s Commercial Hotel. In 1925, Jack Nicholas took the lease, and in 1927, the Imperial Hotel burnt to the ground. There was an attempt to relocate the liquor license to Walgett but even the Constable stood firm at the Licensing Court. Lightning Ridge needed a hotel for the miners and crowds attending large sports days.

The new owner, Charlie Thomas of Walgett, reconstructed the Imperial Hotel in 1928 and Nicholas remained the publican. There were many lessees in the next seventy-five years but only half a dozen owners.


27 March 2006 00:26am
Snippets 19 November 2003
There were strong opinions against allowing a liquor license on the opal fields in the early years. In the Walgett Spectator issue 25 August 1906 appeared the comment:

‘The miners working at Lightning Ridge are unfavorable to the granting of liquor licenses. They consider the liquor traffic will seriously interfere with the social life on the field and is objectionable in many other ways.’

The Special Correspondent wrote in the Walgett Spectator issue 28 August 1906:

‘Lightning Ridge owes its development largely to the absence of hotels, which always serve as tripping stones to those who, though addicted to strong drink, are often hard-working, honest men with the best intentions, whilst the hotel brings with it all manner of sharpers, loafers, etc. In the absence of hotels, provision will readily be made for those who require board and lodging.’


27 March 2006 00:25am
Snippets 12 November 2003
Until 1998, St George's Anglican Church was active on the Morilla Street site. The original St George's was one of five district Churches of England built in 1912. All were built in a similar style, the other four churches were:



St Peter in the Pines at Cumborah, consecrated 18 July 1912;

St John the Evangelist at Carinda, consecrated 28 April 1934;

St Mary the Virgin at Marra Creek, consecrated 6 August 1913.

All Saints at Angledool



The original Lightning Ridge St George’s ran perpendicular to Morilla Street. In 1933, a cyclonic wind blew it lopsided, making it structurally unsound. A Sydney newspaper captioned a photo of the propped-up building: ‘Church at Lightning Ridge is well supported!’ It was pulled down and a new church built later the same year, but consecrated on 14 Sept 1935.

It is a fluke that saved the history of St George in Lightning Ridge. In 1998, the Serbian community relocated the little building to their land that was consecrated to St George in 1993 on the Ernie Sherman Way. St George's Serbian Orthodox Church is very much a part of this community and still much loved in the Serbians’ active complex.


27 March 2006 00:24am
Snippets 4 November 2003
Before 1916, the Angledool Police kept tabs on the Wallangulla opal fields. Court was held in the northerly pastoral village. Miners Rights and Dog Registrations were issued. The constable was in the Ridge on a regular basis during those formulative years. About 1914, court matters could be dealt with locally in a portion of the building that is today, the Max Fuller residence in Morilla Street.

In 1915, Tom Urwin built the first official police station to the west of the temporary one. The rather grand building served the police from 1916 until 1944 when it became a family residence. Today, Urwin's grandson, Gan Bruce, lives in the beautiful old house that is showing signs of age just across from the grass bowling green.

The first constable here after the WWII closure was Peter Anderson, posted from Angledool in 1961 into the building that serves as the Courthouse in 2003. John Mather and family were posted from Angledool to replace Anderson in 1962-64. Howell followed, then Traynor, and in 1968, Constable McEvoy arrived. By 1975, three policemen were in attendance.

The current police station was built in 1983, and a fourth constable joined the force with its unofficial opening in 1984, a year before the official opening. Two additional constables were in attendance by 1988, and in 1998, Lightning Ridge had 11 on-board. The number has fluctuated since, but always with the goal of a dozen policemen to serve our busy community. Barbara Moritz, Secretary
27 March 2006 00:24am
Snippets 20 Oct 2003
Tony Donnelly, his daughter Donna, and her daughter were recent visitors to the Ridge – three generations of the Jack Donnelly family. Donnelly and son, Jack, were early butchers at Old Town, and built a home up Opal Street that more recently was occupied by Betty & Ivan Dawson. The building burned down in 1993, and the block remains empty in 2003.

In 1918, Jack drew a block and shifted his family of 14 children from Beckett’s Tank to the Dirranbandi district. His widowed mother, Gran Donnelly, remained in their home in Opal Street into the 1920s, housing several of grandchildren while they finished school at Lightning Ridge.

Tony Donnelly lives in Nevertire and his daughter and her family reside in Dubbo. On behalf of the Donnelly family, Tony has donated a set of early opal weighing scales to the Society’s collection. He also brought us a 1911 Dance card from the first Race events held in the Ridge. One is humbled when viewing this fragile memento, remembering those formulative years.

27 March 2006 00:23am