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Snippets 3 May 2006
About the time the Diggers Rest Hotel’s name came into being, a man named Bob ‘Buster’ Murray arrived in town to try his luck on opal. He sang and played the guitar at the pub and later formed the Mullock Heap Boys. Other members of the band were Felix Monch on trumpet, Joe and Sepp Jakitsch on guitar, Keith Lewett played anything, and Nick Kortikaas on drums. Graeme Anderson has a 45 rpm recording of the copyright song registered with APRA in 1966 to Bob:

Black Opal of Australia

If you ever see an opal, colours fiery bright,
Remember where they came from, a place as dark as night.
The bowels of the earth that hide them, don’t want to let them go
But miners burrow down to them just to see their colours glow.
Carefully they gouged at the clay that held them well,
Until a sound like breaking glass, and they unfold their spell.
The colours are so pretty – flashing reds and green
Across the stone they dance – the brightest you have ever seen.
An opal is the one stone that never seems to fade.
Its pattern is so different – you see there, every shade.
The black opal of Australia is the one and only stone
That’s found with all the colours of the rainbow all around!

Bob left the Ridge in 1971. He’s lived in WA for many years prospecting for gold but is retired now and manages a CTC in Cue. He’s writing a book of opal mining adventures with Ping and Ron Gardiner in the 1960s. He remembers the central caravan park was fondly called the Hollywood Dust Bowl! His sister in Wollongong is looking for his slides of those ‘daze’!

Barbara Moritz, Secretary

2 June 2006 02:31pm
Snippets 26 April 2006
The Diggers Rest Hotel was turned into a sooty tangle of rubble when fire destroyed the 1928 building on 23 April around midnight. Until the early 1980s, this Lightning Ridge icon offered modest accommodation, but lately, served a good Aussie meal in a friendly atmosphere.

The original Imperial Hotel was very much the ‘Local’, and was built in 1909 at the termination of the Walgett Road that came from the south, up and over the ridge, and down into the village. In 1978, the entrance to the town changed to the western side when the New Town Hotel Motel was constructed in stages.

The original hotel was built in the Queensland style of construction – placing the uprights on the outside to save lining the building – probably an economical decision. It burned in the night on March 1927. An old timer remembers the multi-coloured fire as the spirits went up in flames! She was 11 and lived around the corner.

In about 1963, the name changed to the Diggers Rest to honour not only the opal miners but also returned soldiers, many of whom were coming back to the fields after a long absence. About then, one Brian Maloney painted caricatures depicting the ever-positive opal miner on the walls. After the recent fire, these humorous images were the first thought in many minds as the rubble smouldered. Fond memories are prominent in conversation up and down the street.

There was some panic about the famous Diggers Rest sign, a fear that it would be nicked and fall into the wrong hands. There was a scramble to make the owners in Newcastle aware of its sentimental value. Hopes are high for the construction of another single story, L-shaped, low-key design. We are assured that by Christmas, a new Diggers Rest in a similar profile will open its doors to welcome us all!

Barbara Moritz, Secretary

2 June 2006 02:31pm
Snippets 19 April 2006
An email from Adelaide suggested that a relative of Charlie Nettleton, founder of the black opal industry, had information to reveal to us if we were interested. This lady’s daughter had given her a photocopy of a news item we originated seeking family history. Of course, we responded positively and were given the phone number.

Jean Nettleton Searle is 89 years old and sounds very lively on the phone. Initially, a link seemed possible. Jean was born in Broken Hill and remembered her father had a brother Charlie. She has one brother Ken, aged 90, in Melbourne. His son, Peter, has the family Bible, so we’d have to get in touch.

However, Jean insisted that her grandfather, William Nettleton, had come from England and that didn’t fit into the family picture we had established through Victoria’s Births, Deaths & Marriages. Jean needed to see this paperwork to continue our dialogue and we also provided her with details of our more recent discoveries of Charlie’s step-brother’s family in Melbourne.

The second phone conversation with Jean revealed no further links, but the names Ken and Peter Nettleton were beginning to ring a bell. Upon searching through the large file assembled on our subject, Charles Waterhouse Nettleton, a nicely penned letter dated 1997, answering our enquiry and signed by Ken, sprang to the fore.

Ken’s son, Peter, had redirected our letter to him from Perth, where he practiced law. A tourist had given the Society Peter’s name in our quest to discover CWN’s origin. Ken was sorry to tell us that there was no connection with his family. He concluded the letter with the fact that his Uncle Charles had died at age 21 in Broken Hill!

We sent a photocopy of Ken’s 1997 letter to his sister, Jean Searle, in Adelaide. We were disappointed too that we couldn’t claim her as a Nettleton family contact. In any case, we’ll pay her a visit when next in South Australia – she loves people and a chat!

Barbara Moritz, Secretary

2 June 2006 02:30pm
Snippets 19 April 2006
Arthur William ‘Bob’ Bishop was born in 1881 and came to the Walgett district with his family in 1893. He and his father Ted were amongst the first seven opal miners on the Ridge. They had a property near Walgett and first came to mine in about 1903.

Ted became known as the ‘Opal King’ at Sims Hill in 1905! Bob came mining in the quiet times – he had a knack for construction and had many buildings to his credit – but finally went to Albury until 1953.

He returned to Lightning Ridge for the final ten years of his life. Bob lived in a modest hut and shared his memories often. His obituary in April 1963 remarks that ‘more valuable than any opal were Bob’s many true friends’.

Uncle Bob features in his niece, Hazel Gamble’s, write up of the Bishop family. His grand nephew, Paul Chapman, emailed the Society for information about Bob. Len Cram had interviewed him on cassette tape in 1961, a candid commentary, and we sent Paul a copy. In exchange, we have family photos and a copy Hazel Gamble’s, ‘Where Sandelwoods Bloom’. We expect to see Paul up here later this year.

Barbara Moritz, Secretary

2 June 2006 02:29pm
Snippets 12 April 2006
Our Easter Exhibition, ‘A Step Back in Time’, features two watercolours donated by local artist, Reg Proctor. They will be revealed on Good Friday at 10.30 a.m. with the hope that visitors will linger for a cuppa and chat on the back verandah. Walgett Shire gave us a small community grant in support of this effort.

Cooper’s Cottage is a 1916 corrugated structure in Morilla Street that gave modest shelter and represents an unchanging miner’s lifestyle. In contrast, mining machinery has changed dramatically over the years as depicted in complementary photos.

The second Post Office and general store was a place where citizens shared greetings and knowledge. Accompanying photographs and text expand upon this theme. The little organ from St George’s Anglican Church, 1912-1998, is a new acquisition. Throughout the gallery space, memorabilia and photos support ‘a step back in time’.

This exhibit will run through October apart from two weeks in August when the National Museum in Canberra presents Migration Memories curated by Dr Mary Hutchison. Details for this event will be announced closer to the time.

Barbara Moritz, Secretary

2 June 2006 02:28pm