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Snippets 12 May 2003
Old-timer Bert Cooper is unlikely to return to the Ridge, his cheeky grin and quick humour yet familiar in our memories. His family’s tradition was prominent on the weekend with the presence of three of his four children and two grandsons plus spouses. The Cooper kids always enjoy a reunion in the Ridge, home of their childhood – first communions, school, first jobs, weddings – and meeting old friends at the Bowling Club.

Bert, fondly known as ‘Father Cooper’, was born at Carinda in July 1907, the year this town was surveyed. He was a shearer, loved his opal mining and settled here with his wife Toots and family in 1943. They lived on Lorne Station during WWII and Toots kept house for Mr. Powell.

Their name is very much a part of the Morilla Streetscape as Coopers’ Cottage across from the Chemist was home to them for nearly 40 years. The Coopers were keen bowlers – Bert is Patron of the Club and the grass bowling green.

Our township lost a popular identity in Toots in 1988. Then Bert went to live with his eldest, Connie and her husband Cleve, in Corrimal in 1993. They have donated nearly 100 photos to the historical society. These are arranged in a Cooper family album for easy viewing, starting with 4-year-old Bert and his brothers, right through to Colleen’s wedding at St George’s Anglican Church in 1956!

Please think of the Society when you are tidying up those old Ridge photos. They tell a story that future Ridgeites want to know!
27 March 2006 00:13am
Snippets 7 May 2003
A visitor on the weekend is seeking information about his grandfather, who supposedly ‘drowned in the Barwon at Brewarrina on 5 May 1901’. It is not known why the father of ten, Frank Richardson, was in the district. Perhaps even more interesting is that the region was in the throes of the most severe drought until recent times. What water was in the Barwon after three years of no rain?

It is only by chance that Richardson’s grandson Colin happens to be travelling by coach from the coast out to White Cliffs via Lightning Ridge, Brewarrina and Bourke. He will be passing through the area where his grandfather died on the very day, all these years later.

What thoughts will pass through his mind as he gazes from the coach window speeding along the Kamilori Highway?

In the meantime, we will contact long-time ex-president of Brewarrina’s historical society, Elaine Thompson, who just may be able to cast some light onto this mysterious death. Her research of local births, deaths, and marriages is some of the most thorough in the Western Division.

27 March 2006 00:12am
Snippets 29 April 2003
Retired nurse and visiting friend of the Historical Society, Madeleine Lenz, is busily whipping the garden at the Heritage Cottage Hospital Gallery into shape. She has been on-the-job daily, a very well groomed gardener in her pearls and pretty colours. Her sporty goffer flies the Aussie flag, so step aside if you see her coming down Morilla Street. She’s a very determined lady!

Madeleine first came to Lightning Ridge in 1957 to mine, and to carry on a family tradition - her great uncle ‘Big Jim’ Denis came here in 1905. The Denis family was one of the first on the opal fields. Madeleine saw lots of changes in the Ridge during the next ten years – permanent water and electricity became available, the police station reopened, a library established, the bowling club was unofficially opened, and the first tourist attractions started. Family camping during school holidays was the order of the day in earlier years when the local population was minimal.

Nursing skills were in short supply in the 1950s and early 60s, and ‘Mrs Lenz’ was often called upon in times of crisis. Her stories are endless – of the old miners she looked after, when her claim pegs got repeatedly shifted, the hard times the men gave her, and the teething problems of a new bowling club. Goodooga’s Club manager and ours today, Ian Woodcock, says, ‘you didn’t get on the wrong side of Mrs Lenz!’ But she sat all night nursing her worst enemy, a very sick man.

As an octogenarian, Madeleine is still a force to be reckoned with. When it comes to trimming the plumbago, we simply stood back and let her do it! Her contribution to the local bush-nursing project is major from many aspects, and we thank her very much for sharing her life with us. We look forward to her next visit, and in the meantime, our garden will flourish. She probably ordered the nice soaking rain especially! Thank you Madeleine Lenz!
27 March 2006 00:12am
Snippets 23 April 2003
Joy Donovan opened the exhibition in the Heritage Cottage Hospital Gallery on Good Friday. She was the last bush nurse to serve in Lightning Ridge through 1974, and then the NSW Heath Commission absorbed the BNA scheme.

The Museums & Galleries Foundation in Sydney has Funded ‘Our Bush Nurse: Gracious Gem on the Opal Fields’, a photographic collection on view for the season in our little gallery.

An attentive group of friends and visitors attended our celebration on the morning. The Waterford family was along to admire the brass plaque that tributes their father/grandfather, Bill Waterford, who served as BNA President for 26 years. Peter spoke with enthusiasm, happily welcoming Joy back to the community.

Another friend and local nurse, Doris Fuller, reminisced of times at the end of an era in the Bush Nurse Association. She reiterated just how much Bill had contributed to the survival of the bush nursing service in the late 1960s and early 70s. The audience listened with great interest to the sincere remarks reflective of the struggle before the conveniences of today.

A new face in the audience was a smiling Janelle Fewell of Sydney. She was pleased to see the plaque on the verandah deck, a memorial to her grandmother, Olive Birk, daughter of early Ridge miner, Snowy Brown. A photograph of the young Olive and her parents hangs in the exhibition’s 1930 grouping.

In the background, gentle music from the ‘Black Opal’ ballet was playing in the gallery. A trilogy of panels describing this Dreamtime legend is impressive, and make-up a permanent display donated by Dawn Swane, the choreographer. Charlie Nettleton, the man we credit for the birth of the black opal industry, had told her the story when she was but a little girl.

2003 marks 100 years since Nettleton sold the first parcel of black opal in White Cliffs. Do visit our little gallery and enjoy the ‘Black Opal’ legend to the background music by John Anthill, well-known Sydney composer. You will also see the photos of old friends and family in our tribute to all bush nurses.

Heritage Cottage Hospital Gallery is open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10-4pm or by appointment. Please ring 6829 0747 if you would like to make arrangements for another day.
27 March 2006 00:11am
Snippets 14 April 2003
The Heritage Cottage Hospital Gallery will open its doors at 10.30 on Good Friday morning to reveal the new season’s exhibition ‘Our Bush Nurse: Gracious Gem on the Opal Fields’. Each decade presents a well-known nurse and some of her prospective patients in photographs, complemented by some text.

Also revealed will be a permanent display, the ‘Black Opal’ panel series depicting a Dreamtime legend told by Charlie Nettleton, the man we credit for founding the black opal industry. Dawn Swane of Sydney, who knew Nettleton as a little girl, choreographed the story into a half-hour Aboriginal ballet. She has donated the beautiful display to Lightning Ridge to mark 100 years since the birth of the black opal industry.

On the walls of our gallery, the dramatic story unfolds in text, as well as in sketches, photographs and in Ballet Australia’s program of the ballet, ‘Black Opal’, as performed in Sydney, 1961. As you peruse the beautifully documented legend, you will relive the ‘Black Opal’ ballet to its music, written by well-known Australian composer, John Anthill.

Be amongst the first to glimpse this exhibition. Don’t miss our opening on Good Friday at 10.30!
27 March 2006 00:10am