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Snippets 3 March 2003

Hector and Elsie Jenkins arrived back on the opal fields and were active during the Grawin Rush 1926-1929. Their 1928 sporty ‘Fronty’ Ford was the talk of the village.

We’ve a super photo of the miners packed around it, one lucky fellow behind the wheel! A Mr Frontinac had modified a T-Model engine to overhead valves, hence ‘Fronty’, and the design took the Indianapolis 500 in America by storm.

This was the year Jack McNicol found the famous Pandora stone at Canfell’s. Elsie wanted that stone. She put down ten fresh £100 notes but McNicol declined the offer. He even refused the new ‘Fronty’ Ford!

Elsie was used to getting what she wanted but not this time. History tells us that McNicol probably regretted his stubbornness.

In the 1930s, Elsie and Hector relocated to the Alice Springs area. They mined mica in the Harz Ranges and sold it to the government for the war effort. In the 1950s, their home ‘The Ritz’ in Alice Springs was a hive of activity. The Jenkins’ opal collection was one of the best the industry has ever seen. It was auctioned in the late 1970s at the Sydney Opera House.

It is wonderful to have new insight into the lives of Hector and Elsie Jenkins, people who made an extraordinary contribution to the black opal industry.

We thank their family, Max and Ella Goodridge of Walcha, for making sure that a tribute to the Jenkins is deposited in Lightning Ridge through the local Historical Society
27 March 2006 00:05am
Snippets 24 Feb 2003

Probably the only qualified gemmologist on the opal fields in the early years was Hector Jenkins. He travelled eastern Australia presenting gemstone exhibitions at Shows and gatherings. That’s where he met Elsie, a wonderful horsewoman and the Best Hack and Hunter in 1915.

They arrived in 1918 to mine on the 3-Mile but gradually went into buying when they realized the need. Jack Souter was their regular mining partner. Motorcars was another passion the Jenkins shared, and their Ford held pride of place at the camp. In 1923, they took a camping holiday to Tasmania, selling opal in Melbourne enroute.

Three young emus and the dog went too. The write-up in the papers was complete with photo of them with their ‘travelling tucker’ strapped to the side of the Ford, a freshly shot kangaroo!

In 1924, the miners of Lightning Ridge invited the Jenkins to take a collection of black opal to the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley.
Elsie’s nephew Max Goodridge and his wife Ella from Walcha have just been in town and shared the family history. They have donated photographs and items from the Black Opal Exhibition in the Australian Pavilion 1924-1925.

We have a copy of the original invitation signed by the miners, and an underground mining scene painted in oils from a photograph that appeared at the Wembley Exhibition.

….continued next week
27 March 2006 00:04am
Snippets 18 Feb 2003
So, it was through Nettleton’s experience at White Cliffs that guided Murray and him to an established opal buyer for appraisal of this unfamiliar nodular black opal. It took some doing to establish it in the world’s market place, and Wollaston held a large personal investment for a few years until his efforts came to fruition. England and America were major buyers before WWI.

In the meantime, Murphy made his first visit to the Ridge in 1905, and again, before finally relocating with his wife to Lightning Ridge, 450 miles to the east, in 1907. His son Ned and family followed. In 1911, the Murphys Sr. relocated to Sydney and bought The Black Opal Store in George Street. The former owner, Theo Lorenz, came to the 3-Mile. He was a lapidarist and champion doublet maker.

27 March 2006 00:04am
Snippets 10 Feb 2003

It was October in 1903 that Nettleton and Murray set out for White Cliffs with their first parcel of black opal. The Opal Miner newspaper edition dated 14 November reported the return of former White Cliffs miner, Charlie Nettleton. Lately, the Lightning Ridge opal fields were creating lots of interest as the local population drifted away and opal production dropped off.

Ted Murphy was the prominent buyer at White Cliffs at the time. He was an agent for Tullie Wollaston of Adelaide, the man who had travelled the country and overseas to establish a market for Australian opal.

Murphy had seen Queensland’s black opal in amongst the usual boulder, but not such a consistency in quality nor the nodules as seen in the parcel presented by Nettleton and Murray. He was willing to take the gamble, and paid the men £15, with the promise of a possible balance to follow.

Wollaston was equally enthusiastic about the potential of black opal and an unknown balance was indeed forthcoming.

Barbara Moritz, Secretary

27 March 2006 00:03am
Snippets 27 Jan 2003

The Syndicate formed to support the first shaft sunk by Nettleton, a professional prospector, was organized by Joe Beckett, keeper of the Weetalibah Hotel, Cobb & Co change station, on the road from Walgett to Angledool township.

In 1902, Beckett instigated a group of six district businessmen and property managers to support Nettleton’s endeavors. Members were Armitage, Manager of Dunumbral Run, W.F.Ferris, Manager of Bairnkine (Georongera) Station, Mr.Langloh Parker, once owner but still a resident of Bangate Station, and their bookkeeper Frank Doucott, a Collarenebri storekeeper, plus Beckett. Each man put in £25 to be managed by Mr.Ferris. He paid Nettleton £2.10.0 weekly to sink a shaft at todays McDonald's 6-Mile above the Lightning Ridge Tank (sunk 1887), then on Angledool Station.

By the way, the last Cobb & Co run in NSW was the Hebel - Goodooga - Angledool route in 1913. In the early years, coaches ran under that title, regardless of the name of the company. Everyone knew what you were talking about when you said you were travelling by “Cobb & Co”!

Barbara Moritz, Secretary

27 March 2006 00:02am