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Snippets 29 June 2005
The new Guinness Book of Records was reviewed in a recent Sydney Daily Telegraph. Local citizen, Michael Brown, spotted the ‘Largest Audience in a Circus Tent’ for a performance of Australia’s own Con Colleano, the dancing, tumbling, somersaulting acrobat on the wire. The colourful poster advertising this event caught Michael’s eye. Con performed the only act of its kind in the world! Con Colleano was born Cornelius Sullivan in this district.

He and four siblings were pupils at Opale School in Wallangulla, 1907. The family of ten handsome children later formed a circus that travelled eastern Australia. Their father, manager of the troupe, was very Irish, and manager of travelling boxing tents of the day, and their mother was of West Indian and Aboriginal descent.

The Colleano Circus hit the Big Time at the Tivoli in Melbourne, early 1920s. They travelled to Europe and to America. They eventually joined Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, and several of their members are buried in Sarasota, Florida, the Circus’ home. Con and his wife, Winnie, returned to retire in Australia, 1960s. Can’t you just picture these children in training on the opal fields in 1907 – swinging from windlass handles and scrambling up/down shafts?

Barbara Moritz, Secretary
27 March 2006 03:27am
Snippets 22 June 2005
Around 1950, Col Smee, who grew up in Walgett, remembers a Ford 3-ton truck his dad had fitted out with canopy and church pews bolted to the floor. As many as 30 people would depart from Bargalley’s Store on a weekend day and ride up to the 3 Mile to noodle the dumps with shear blades. ‘You shoulda seen the opal!!’ exclaimed Col, and added. “Then Madeleine Lenz pegged out 10 acres in the late 1950s, worked the top dirt, and made a fortune!”

The Society has other photos of a Walgett truck amongst the dumps and lots of noodlers. These are but a few taken by Jimmy Conomos from Walgett, a keen photographer and lover of opal. His nephew reported that white ants disposed of his photographs but no one seems to know what happened to his opal collection, one of the best, after his death in the early 1960s! Who says the stories aren’t as colourful as the opal?

Barbara Moritz, Secretary

27 March 2006 03:26am
Snippets 15 June 2005
The Collarenebri Aboriginal Cemetery was very beautiful on a mild winter’s morn recently. Thanks to Isabel Flick, AOM, the road is surfaced to the grounds that are fenced. Mrs Linda Hall accompanied us around the cemetery. Michaels Flick, Junior and Senior, were down from Dirranbandi repairing family graves. They were mixing concrete in a bath tub! Maintenance is ongoing and decorating graves, a ceremonial glass breaking and spreading exercise.

There are some very colourful presentations accented with ceramic trinkets and figurines representing personal hobbies and interests. Collarenebri’s Aboriginal heritage is a national treasure! We of Walgett Shire can be very proud that local citizens maintain their heritage and are willing to share it with people from anywhere.

Barbara Moritz, Secretary
27 March 2006 03:26am
Snippets 8 June 2005
A pristine copy of Guide To Australia by Osmar White, 1968, has been donated to the Society’s library by Kevin Cutting. Of particular interest is the reference to our district. On page 87, Walgett (Pop 1700) and Lightning Ridge feature: ‘At the terminus of the north-west railway line and near the junction of the Namoi and Barwon Rivers, Walgett is a small pastoral town on the margin of the semi-arid, sparsely populated far-western plans of NSW. …….

The town is of interest to tourists mainly because it is the nearest sizeable settlement to the famous Lightning Ridge opal fields, 46 miles north.’ Several paragraphs continue describing opal and its history, then ‘Although large-scale mining at Lightning Ridge ceased many years ago, there is sporadic activity among prospectors and part-time miners and worthwhile strikes of opal are still occasionally made.’ Thanks Kevin for spotting this ‘step back in time’ that highlights the drastic changes in nearly forty years!

Barbara Moritz, Secretary
27 March 2006 03:25am
Snippets 1 June 2005
‘Hoppy’ Thorley is remembered as founding Thorley’s Rush at the 6-Mile in 1907. According to Stuart Lloyd’s ‘The Lightning Ridge Book, only two claims produced well in the early years. More lately, an area adjacent to the grid crossing into MacDonald’s was open cut, regenerated and the trees are coming along nicely. Barry and Lois Thorley were here recently on the trail of Great Grandfather Philip Thorley. He was known as ‘Hoppy’ due to a gamy leg, the result of being hit with a bridle’s bit and it pierced his leg.

However, Lloyd reports that Bill Thorley found the rush, not Philip Thorley. The family historian, Lyn MacDonald, and yours truly had quite an exchange of letters over this query ten years ago. There was a Bill Thorley in the same family, who could have been here in 1907. We know of a Mrs Thorley, opal cutter, in the Ridge in the 1920s, possibly the estranged wife of Bill. With the appearance of Barry Thorley, the question reopens. Stay tuned to this column as we learn more about Thorley’s Rush!

Barbara Moritz, Secretary
27 March 2006 03:24am