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Snippets 8 April 2003
To mark 100 years of the birth of the black opal industry, a special presentation to Lightning Ridge has been made by Dawn Swane, Sydney, in the form of three framed panels.

The theme is a Dreamtime legend about black opal as told to her by Charlie Nettleton in the early 1940s.

The dramatic story unfolds in text as well as in sketches, photographs and in Ballet Australia’s performance program, ‘Black Opal’, a ballet choreographed by Ms Swane.

The National Sound and Film Archive in Canberra has recently transferred the only recording of the ballet’s score onto CD. The music was composed and conducted by John Anthill, well known in Sydney, and recorded by Dawn’s colleague and former part-time Grawin miner, Michael Swan, at the 1960s performance.

Swan also packed-up the comprehensive panels carefully before handing the precious cargo to Peter Sherman for a swift and safe flight to the Ridge. We would like to thank Sherman Opal for the on-going support of our local Historical Society.

We are also very glad to have Swan as our man-on-the-ground in Sydney!

The ‘Black Opal’ panels will be on permanent display in the Heritage Cottage Hospital Gallery, and revealed with the 2003 photo exhibition at our opening on Good Friday morning at 10.30.

Heritage Cottage will re-open Friday, April 11th, and be open for inspection Saturdays and Tuesdays or whenever you see welcoming signs. Please pay us a visit!
27 March 2006 00:09am
Snippets 01 April 2003
Charlie Nettleton, the man we credit as the founder of the black opal industry, sold the first parcel at White Cliffs in 1903. He was a gold prospector at heart, but had mined opal before arriving at Lightning Ridge. Little is known about his personality except that he believed a legend from the Dreamtime naming black opal, the love stone.

One little girl remembered this dramatic story told to her by Nettleton, and when she grew up to study ballet, she choreographed it. ‘Black Opal’ is a half-hour ballet and was performed at the Elizabethan Trust Theatre at Newtown, Sydney, twice in the 1960s. John Anthill, well known in Sydney, composed and conducted the musical score. It is without orchestration, innovative for its time.

Dawn Swane and her family got acquainted with Nettleton in the late 1930s at the 3-Mile, Lightning Ridge. She remembers his dark chiselled features, and her family’s photos of him complement those in the familiar Stuart Lloyd book. Dawn’s personal memories are valuable to this community, as she even visited Nettleton with her mother during his last days at Lidcombe Hospital in 1946. She has just made a very special donation to the town of Lightning Ridge. …… to be continued

27 March 2006 00:09am
Snippets 24 March 2003

So what about the first post office at Lightning Ridge? It was built in late 1910 in Morilla Street, the main street of New Town, just across from today’s Community (Anglican) Church site.

Johnson was the first postmaster at Lightning Ridge. The telegraph line was put in and operable by early 1911, and there was also a Savings Bank branch in the Post Office.

At this time, the two settlements on the opal fields were still active. The Old Town Post Office, operating since 1906, was sorting mail for Nettleton on 3-Mile Flat, where an official agency was announced in 1912 just as the government called for consolidation into New Town. We are in possession of the brass postal Seal “Nettleton, NSW” which was fossicked in a creek bed, 1980s.

No more commercial licenses on the opal fields would be issued. Although the village had been gazetted in early 1908, many continued to satisfy their shopping needs in the settlement closest to their mining claim. In 1913, Postmaster Johnson went to Collarenebri and was replaced by William Kirkland, a Scot, who came from the Coonamble Post Office.

By 1914, the increased postal demand in New Town had given rise to construction of a second Post Office. It was built down towards the hotel, on today’s vacant lot between Bluey Motel and St Vincent de Paul. Local lad Bob Bruce was a clerk and operated the telegraph until 1918.

The first post office remained a residence. Joyce and George Boules were the last residents. The building was pulled down in the early 1980s to reveal the beautiful new home built by Helen and Kevin Williams, owned today by Justin and Jurgen, opal buyers.

27 March 2006 00:08am
Snippets 17 March 2003
Joyce Canfell McIntosh remembers Dolly, Joyce, Jerry and Keith Brown plus Cocky Bruce as her playmates in learning tennis and going to dances in the Imperial Hall, late 1930s. In their spare time, the boys would fossick on the 3 Mile especially after a rain, but the girls would rather play with their dolls.

The boys played eucha for chocolates against the old ladies in the card room. Apparently, quite a bit of blinking and ear scratching went on between Jerry Brown and Cocky Bruce to keep up with the Grannys of the town!

Goats were everywhere in those days, hence Billy Goat Lane ran parallel between Harlequin and Morilla Streets. Queenie Allport sold goats milk that Roy Canfell delivered. He helped in Canfell’s butchery, later worked by Artie Dawson.

Bob’s sudden death in 1941 unhinged the family, and Canfell’s Store closed when the girls returned to their older sisters’ in Bollon. Roy worked on Lorne Station and continued delivery runs for Dawson, also Reeves Store. He settled in Narrabri.

Mick Canfell remarried a widow, Elsie King, in 1945. In 1951, his health was failing so he went to his daughter’s in Grandchester, Queensland, where he was buried in the mid 1950s. Elsie Canfell lived out her life in the Ridge and her long-time companion, Bob Bruce, resided in the Canfell house until his demise in 1989.

The second post office was pulled down in 1993, and today, the block next to Bluey Motel remains empty. Now, the third post office block is also blank, another stark reminder of just how quickly our history can vanish.
Please become aware of our history, and thoughtful in preserving what remains of it for future generations.
27 March 2006 00:07am
Snippets 10 March 2003
The Canfell brothers, Mick, Jim and Tom, were amongst the earliest miners on the field. As shearers, every time the sheds cut out, they were back mining opal. We know the name well not only from Canfells Field but from print on every dumpster in the street – Mick Canfell’s grandson Mick is a familiar face too.

January visitors to the Ridge were Joyce Canfell McIntosh and her daughter Kaye Walton from Charleville. Joyce lived in Morilla Street from 1937 through 1942 when her father Mick Canfell returned after 20 years on the land near Bollon, Qld.

Joyce and three siblings lived with their father in the second post office and former Dominick’s Store. Canfell’s Store and card room was a popular hangout in west Morilla Street (as opposed to Reeve’s Store east of the Imperial Hotel) for the old-timers. Joyce remembers Charlie Nettleton as a regular customer often loafing on the wide verandah, and glad to have his old mate Mick back in town.

Voilet, a few years father older than Joyce, ran the store while she and her little brother Roy (father of today’s Mick Canfell), attended school. Bluey Searson worked the adjacent butcher stand. Bob Canfell, the eldest son, was a pensioner resultant from childhood polio, but he helped where he could.

To be continued….

27 March 2006 00:06am