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Snippets 22 November 2006
The paved and stone-lined drain running along Brilliant Street is a natural watercourse. Somehow ‘The Dooley’ has withstood town development. She can run a banker during heavy rains as the catchment of the ironstone ridge (Black Prince Drive) drains, and water escapes to the black soil plains of the golf course.

According to our local author Gan Bruce, whose family has lived on the opal fields for nearly 100 years, a solitary Dooley Ward used to ‘sit on the edge of the great gutter, playing his cornet to nobody in particular’. From 1916-20, he lived at the eastern edge of the village, about where the Walford's home is today, corner Brilliant & Morilla Streets.

However, the late Ted Dawson, who was a little boy here 1919-1924, recalls a Labor politician of the day named Dooley, who campaigned at Lightning Ridge, a memorable occasion for schoolboy Ted. Perhaps it was Mr Dooley, who stood on the banks of the little creek at the eastern edge of the village, jabbering ‘to nobody in particular’, rather than local resident, Dooley Ward, playing his cornet!

It is thanks to a 1990s community work program that erosion and the mud of the Dooley is minimal. Prior to improvement, you can be sure a child or two came to grief in those muddy waters on the way to school!

Barbara Moritz

31 October 2006 08:16pm
Snippets 15 November 2006
Until 1961, the Tree of Knowledge stood ‘six inches off the centre of Morilla Street’ at the intersection with Opal Street, says the late Bert ‘Father’ Cooper, resident for 50 years.
Snowy Brown named the landmark according to his eldest daughter, the late Olive Birk.

Brown was the first Justice of the Peace in the village, 1908. Court could not be held in the Hotel and the police paddock was diagonally opposed. Until there were facilities, legal decisions (and probably a few not-so-legal ones) were made around the Tree!

At this logical meeting place just outside the Imperial Hotel, known as the Digger’s Rest since 1963 but burned down in April 2006, was a community notice board. It hung in the fork of the Tree and was lit by a hurricane lamp before electricity. The odd dozen eggs, also assorted parcels, might be left for collection at the base of the solitary bimbil box tree that got pretty scraggy and was losing limbs.

Council removed the well-known Tree of Knowledge without warning. Citizens of the day regret not replanting a tree – this may have been the first round about in the district! In 2006, there is a plan to place a token tree trunk with a commemorative plaque in the corner of the courthouse grounds. This could become a feature in our future of tourism.

Barbara Moritz

31 October 2006 08:14pm
Snippets 8 November 2006
Sherman Way is the extension of Pandora Street from the end of the town to the mineral baths. In 1996, this well travelled section was named to honour Sherman Opals’ 100 years of opal buying.

Ernie Sherman, an Englishman, came to Australia in the 1890s and dealt in opal in White Cliffs during its heyday. He came to the Ridge in the boom of the 3-Mile and was the only continuous buyer during WWI. We read in the Walgett Spectator of his participation at Nettleton in those early years of mining.

Ernie based himself in Sydney after WWI and continued to liaise with miners at the Ridge. He married and they produced twins in 1921. Opal took him around the world, and over the years, Ernie brought other members of his family to Australia. We have a photo of him and his sister Bertha on the opal fields in 1924.

His son, the late Greg Sherman, remembers coming to Lightning Ridge as a teenager with his parents during the Depression. They stayed in the boarding house, known in the 1920s as the ‘Big White House’, and today as the Walford house. Greg joined the Air Force during WWII then went into the family business.

Ernie’s grandsons, Warwick and Peter, naturally came into opal buying. Japan loved black opal and Sherman Opals specialized it and developed the market. When Greg retired in the late 1980s, he continued coming to the Sydney office, also a workspace for his interest in Air Force Reserve activities. Celebrating 100 years in 1996 was a grand achievement for the Sherman family!

Warwick withdrew from the family business in the late 1990s. Peter continues in the Castlereagh Street office and is a regular visitor in Harlequin Street, Lightning Ridge. It brings a smile to see the Sherman’s Back Holden Ute out and about or to catch a glimpse of the trendy Peter at Wong’s or up the street!

Sherman Opals has supported local miners in good times and bad for over 100 years. Since the Japanese economy faltered, the black opal specialists have diversified by linking with an established Queensland boulder opal dealer.

Barbara Moritz

31 October 2006 08:11pm
Snippets 1 November 2006
Pandora Street parallels Morilla Street, and before 1996, extended to the artesian bore baths. To celebrate 100 years of Sherman Opals, the stretch from the last houses to the baths was renamed Sherman Way.

The Pandora stone was named after a racehorse owned by Stoney Rowe. It was the largest opal of the day and mined in early 1928 on Angledool field east of Gem Street. Jack McNicol won the toss of a coin from his mate Fred Bodel, and struck it rich!

The Pandora just fit into a Capstan 100 cigarette tin (14x7 cm). It is described as a 790 ct, red on grey, and measured 4x2x1 inches thick! Harold Frazer cut it to 590 ct.

McNicol refused 1000 offered by Elsie & Hector Jenkins. The stone went to London and Berlin, but in 1935, it was stored in a Sydney safe deposit box when Jack announced that he might accept 1000! Another story is that he finally forfeited the stone when he couldn’t pay the bank storage costs.

Someone said that McNicol was offered 1230 but refused it, eventually accepting 800! The Walgett Spectator, 15 July 1931, says that ‘Taylor & Co, Sydney jewellers, will display the Pandora’.

We know McNicol was a groom on Angledool Station in the early 1930s. The late Marjorie Robertson Lydiard, the manager’s daughter, reported that Jack carried the Pandora stone nestled in cotton wool in a Capstan cigarette tin in his hip pocket. He loved showing it off to anyone. He travelled in horse/sulky and raced the horse in local meetings. Marjorie thinks he eventually sold the Pandora for about 500.

A 1935 item interviews Jack. He said he left the Ridge for a few years, returned in about 1935, and was mining again near the old hole where Pandora was found. We read that John Prosper Ralston bought the stone after WWII. Where is it in 2006?

Barbara Moritz

31 October 2006 08:06pm
Snippets 25 October 2006
In the early 1920s, the late Ted Dawson, but a schoolboy, remembers that the full length of what we call Opal Street was known as Cleared Line or the Pony Fence track. The ‘First Hill’ (pre-school hill since 1979) is where some Aboriginal families lived. None of the children attended school at that time. ‘The Big White House’ (next to Festival Supermarket) was prominent and has been owned by Walfords since 1963.

In the mid 1960s, the road to Walgett still went up this track past the Walford house then ‘White Hill’, where artist Tex Moeckel was building the Bottle House. Dorothy & Jack Ezzy's ‘Fern House’ was adjacent. They were miners and traders of opal, had the hire car service and were ticket agents for Airlines of NSW. Nearby was ‘Huck's’ (Vivian Huckel) open-air opal cutting and polishing workshop, decorated with abandoned harness and bits found around the Ridge.

Known as ‘Opal Village’, this complex was the first stop for coaches coming to the Ridge for a fossicker's holiday. Next stop, was the Diggers Rest or was it vice versa? The Walk-in Mine was also on the agenda. Easter 1967 saw 35 coaches descend upon Lightning Ridge. How many will we see Easter 2007?

Barbara Moritz
29 October 2006 03:55pm