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Snippets 27 December 2006
John Roset came to Lightning Ridge from the north coast NSW in about 1985. He’d had a melanoma scare, and decided to sell his business and come to the Ridge to take it easy. He settled near Canada’s open cut at the 4-Mile as a machine operator, and did contract jobs with his loader and backhoe.

John was community-minded and joined the Lions Club, established in 1983. They were preparing a bit of ground in Gem Street as a park so John donated his time and machinery to dig the trenches for the watering system to nurture young trees. Rod Adams recalls each tree was planted with care, i.e. dropped into a hole with a pellet, and the auto-drip system did the rest.

John was generous with his time and machinery in the community. He also contributed greatly to the Rescue Team according to the Lightning Flash, May 1990 when they reported his death.

John Roset died in April 1990 within months of a melanoma diagnosis. He’d gone to Dr Aalders for something unrelated so the news was a shock. The community was saddened to lose their new friend, and the Lions Club appropriately named the park after him.

In 2006, the lovely trees in John Roset Memorial Park across from the Olympic Pool are a token to a generous man we remember as we travel in Gem Street.

Barbara Moritz

1 November 2006 02:22pm
Snippets 20 December 2006
The ridge above 3-Mile flat was a skyline of windlasses by 1910. It is mentioned in the Walgett Spectator June 1911 edition as ‘producing well at 60-70 ft. on 3-Mile Hill’. Gradually, however, the name Lunatic Hill came into full use as recorded in a letter addressed to Stuart Lloyd, author of The Lightning Ridge Book, published in 1967.

Arthur Turner reports that he was 19 when he and his father first came from White Cliffs to the flat in 1907. He returned in 1909, and won the first bicycle race. The talk was that certain lunatics were mining up the ridge and sinking three times as deep as on the flat! Author Ion Idriess mined there in 1909-1910. His book Lightning Ridge, published in 1940, is a colourful account of mining activities in the heyday of the 3-Mile.

In 2006, the Lunatic Hill open cut is left open as a token to the old timers. One can look into the drives and even see props, all remnants of early mining. The levels of the earth are defined clearly from various angles. In sharp contrast, the reclaimed land to the south represents modern mining techniques and is a reminder of the regulations important to the future of the opal fields. A kilometre-long man-proof fence marks it as the largest opal mining opal cut in NSW.

Barbara Moritz

1 November 2006 02:20pm
Snippets 13 December 2006
‘Snowy’ Edward Charles Brown (1885 – 1945) came to the Ridge with his mate Tom Urwin in 1906. Both were successful miners. Snowy’s parents brought the rest of their family to the opal fields in 1908, and 5 of their children, including Snowy, married locally – Min Brown married Tom Urwin!

Snowy was not only the first Justice of the Peace in Lightning Ridge but was highly respected for his business acumen and did his in-law’s books for years, eg. Regans Store. The Society holds the original ledger in safe keeping for Snowy’s grandson, Ian Birk.

In the early 1920s, Snowy and Kit Regan Brown went to Croydon where they ran a mixed business according to the late ‘Etta’ Marietta Regan Beveridge, their niece, who remembered her visit in about 1923. She travelled with her Auntie Min Urwin and cousin Pearl and the elder Regans. The Walgett Spectator, March 1922 edition, says Snowy and his family went to Campsie (Kempsey?) to run a billiard room.

The Browns had returned by February 1926 since it is recorded that Snowy and Tom Urwin bottomed on nobbies ‘as big as hen’s eggs’ on top of the 4-Mile, the newest opal rush mentioned in the Spectator until the Grawin fields broke out.

Snowy cut and polished ‘Light of the World’, the largest opal of the day, found by Klein and Stephan at the Grawin in 1928. It surpassed the Pandora stone, unearthed six months earlier by Jack McNicol at the Ridge.

Peg and Stumpy Regan had relocated Regans Store, featuring sweets and cordials, to the Grawin where Etta‘s brothers attended school under Teacher Plumb. That was the closest the Grawin ever got to a village!

Snowy signed the Western Lands Petition 1929 for a recreational reserve in the Ridge. In the early 1930s, Snowy, Kit and their two teenaged daughters and some friends went up to the Cracow Gold Fields in Queensland when the price of opal got so bad. They found no gold after 6 months so returned to the Ridge.

Snowy was back working his claim at the 4 Mile in 1933 as recorded in a letter. They lived across the street from Spicer’s Cottage (now Heritage Cottage) in what was the built the first post office on the footpath in front of Juergen’s, Morilla Street, in 2006. The Browns had gone to Ashfield near Sydney by the mid 1930s where they opened a billiard room, says their son-in-law, Wal Birk. But credit took over so it was short-lived.

Daughter Olive started nursing in 1937 where she met her husband Wal. In the early 1940s, Snowy and his brother Bob went up to Capella Downs Station in Queensland, owned by their recently deceased bachelor brother Ernie.

During Snowy’s absence in 1942, Olive & Wal married. Auntie Peg Regan's second husband, Walter Burns, gave Olive away. Kit & Snowy came back to Granville where Snowy died in 1945. Kit lived with Wal & Olive until her death in 1971.

Barbara Moritz

1 November 2006 02:18pm
Snippets 6 December 2006
Albert Spicer and Laurie Hart struck opal at the Deep 4-Mile back in the early 1930s. The mine became famous after it was photographed on the official tour of the Governor General, Lord Casey, and his wife in 1934. Also American journalists paid a visit in the same year. The mine was written up in the Lone Hand magazine and other publications.

Both miners were Englishmen. Spicer worked on properties around Cunnamulla in the mid 1920s. He married a Bourke girl, Margaret ‘Maggie’ Page in 1926, and she worked in the homestead. Their son, Malvern, was born in 1928 at Cunnamulla.

Spicers came to Lightning Ridge in 1932 and lived at the 3-Mile in a substantial bark, bough and canvas hut on the site of Jenner’s camp in 2006, behind the Big Opal. Bert Spicer was a champion adze man and started building a cottage in Morilla Street, the main street of Lightning Ridge.

The cypress pine weatherboard siding has stood the time, the inner slab dividing walls are rough-hewn as are the rafters and the verandah posts, and wire ties hold the corrugated iron roof in place. Ant bed floors with some concrete, locally forged door hinges, and remnant canvas wall linings add to today’s Heritage Cottage provenance.

Spicers sold to the Graham brothers, New Zealand timber getters, in 1937, and went to Parkes where Laurie Hart, a bachelor, visited them once, recalls Mal. The proud new owners probably added the bark panels in the cottage. Sid and George were buried locally, and the cottage block was declared an historical reserve in 1982.

The Historical Society was formed to maintain and manage Heritage Cottage, and the 1915 nurse’s cottage was relocated to the back yard and restored, 1999-2002. Volunteers open the buildings for inspection on certain days from Easter through October annually.

The Heritage Cottage Hospital Gallery is a free attraction and celebrates the colourful history of the opal fields. We celebrate 25 years as an organization in 2007!

Barbara Moritz

1 November 2006 02:15pm
Snippets 29 November 2006
The Black Hand intersection at the Knud Nexo corner on the 3-Mile road is livening up with the advent of the Yellow Car Door Explorer tour. In the 1960s, the sign, a large black hand to the wrist with the index finger pointing to the west, was a landmark. There was an opal ring on the fourth finger and wide bracelet.

Some say Sally Smith Felton, Beverly Vroom’s mother, created it. The Cram brothers believe it was designed and painted by ‘Skipper’ Putland, an artist in a wheelchair, who can be seen with his family on the 1962 Roger Climpson film. Both families lived in the vicinity.

This icon went missing for several years, and more lately, has been modified and is back in position. It still points to the Castlereagh Hwy as written on the finger. But until very recently, the Hway tip of the finger was missing. Yours truly had fossicked it across the road towards the Bird of Paradise and took it to decorate the feature wall at the new Visitors Information Centre. At last, someone identified the bit and reattached it!

The other fingers point to 4 Mile, Belahs, Hawks Nest, 4-Mile Flat, and Snowy Brown’s. The Black Hand corner has gained significance with the mine over the road – the Black Hand Mine, of course. It was featured on Channel 7’s Sydney Weekender, 9 September 2006.

Other icons could be placed around the field to identify the origin of names. The Car Door Explorer tours are a beginning of this process.

Barbara Moritz

1 November 2006 02:11pm