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Snippets 11 June 2008

Snippets 11 June 2008

The star ballerina in the Black Opal ballet that was performed in Sydney in 1961 has come to Lightning Ridge and went away quite amazed with place. Judith Royle Longhurst spent time reflecting on a performance she hadn’t thought on in years.
Panels commemorating the event hang in our own Heritage Cottage Hospital Gallery.

It was Charlie Nettleton, founder of the black opal industry, who told Dawn Swane the dreamtime story in the mid 1940s. Her parents knew Nettleton at the 3-Mile in the 1930s. She went on to study ballet and choreographed Black Opal that was accompanied by the late John Anthill’s composition. Dawn’s brother Peter mined at the Grawin and was killed in a cave-in there in 1988.

Judith spent a week absorbing the character of the Ridge and gradually put together memorable events surrounding the ballet. It all came back to her. Dancing as ‘Amaroo’, she wore red tights and top and her face was painted red. The Aboriginal dancers wore navy blue and silver. This was a very modern ballet for the 1960s.

Once after a rehearsal Judith was pressed for time to get to her next job, so, just hopped in her car and drove over the Bridge. When she stopped to pay the toll, the chap did a double take when rolled down her window and handed him her money. Today it would be nothing to see someone clad in such a display of colour!

Visiting the Ridge gave Judith plenty to think about. She’s linked up with Dawn Swane after 45 years and I’m sure we’ll see her back. Thanks to Dawn for giving us the wonderful panels that tell of Black Opal, a dreamtime story. She was here in 2007 to view the presentation in the Cottage Hospital Gallery.

Come and see for yourselves. We are open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10-4 or by appointment.

Barbara Moritz

16 June 2008 01:54pm
Snippets 4 June 2008
Migration Memories, stories of the settlement of this district, was displayed at the Arts & Crafts Council for two months. This high-profile exhibition drew visitors and locals into the gallery who may have purchased local artists’ work.

It was curated by Dr Mary Hutchison of Australian National University and the National Museum in Canberra and launched at Heritage Cottage Hospital Gallery in August 2006. The exhibition was viewed in Canberra in 2007 and has been given back to Lightning Ridge.

Migration Memories is a selection of stories told by people we all know in our community. It’s a shame to have it packed away. Is there another community organization that has a secure, public space for viewing Migration Memories?

Please phone 02 6829 0747 and leave a message if you would like to discuss hosting the exhibition.

Barbara Moritz

16 June 2008 01:51pm
Snippets 28 May 2008
Time Capsule 2008 submissions are coming in steadily. Don’t forget yours! And if you didn’t get an invitation, you can, by popping into Heritage Cottage on Wednesday, Friday or Saturday 10-4pm. Or ring 6829 0747 and just leave a message.

This promises to be an interesting collection of people from far and wide. Joan Marsden was born here in 1919. She remembers putting something in Time Capsule 1988 that’s buried at the school to celebrate Back to School. Does anyone recall how long Capsule 1988 will remain buried?

Joan has submitted copies of photos of those attending the 1988 event to put in Time Capsule 2008. She’s also sent us her mother’s New Town street plan of residents and businesses in 1918. This is why we are planting a Time Capsule – 100 years since the New Town was gazetted 1908.

To follow up his submission, Glenn Regan is coming back to the Ridge, birthplace of his father, to glean the flavour of the place. He is writing a novel based on stories his father Ted told of growing up on the opal fields in the 1920s; then the 1940s when he returned as an opal buyer. His partner in opal was his cousin, Bob Molyneux.

Please don’t let the 50-word max. put you off. One chap has already sent 5000 plus his novel. Just fill a page and include a photo or memento if you can. We’ll work out the format for inclusion in the booklet that will be planted early October 2008.

Barbara Moritz
16 June 2008 01:50pm
Snippets 14 May 2008
Following on from last week’s Snippets, visitors from Warren were in town and their Auntie Lyle is 90 and may know the Davies’ ‘children’. Billy & Jan Cusack ran the dry cleaners for years, a business established by Billy’s father in Warren. They know Pittman and Parker families, all relatives of Jean Parker Davies, interviewed in 1987.

Billy and his brother first came to the Ridge in the late 1950s. They met up with Sid and George Graham, who shared their well-known verandah hospitality. The boys over-nighted at today’s Heritage Cottage and went out mining with the Brothers.

They took the teenagers to the Cathedral Cave on Angledool Field. Billy recalled the very high ceiling where earthen pillars had been bashed out – it was almost floating, he remembers. They didn’t stay long underground – long enough to see opal as thin as paper in the walls. When you picked it out, it fell into tiny pieces.

Low and behold John Landers, correspondent to the Walgett Spectator in 1921, describes this very mine as the one that produced Dunstan’s Stone or Queen of the Earth in 1906. This stone would not fit in a billy tin and, when dug out of the wall, was wrapped in paper-thin sheets of opal that crumbled away.

This description appears on page 5 of Landers’ news items in Old Chum Remembers, republished by the historical society in 2003. Next year we will republish Old Chum Remembers MORE by John Landers, the man who invited his former mining partner, Ion Idriess, to write his book, Lightning Ridge. It was published in 1940.

Barbara Moritz

15 May 2008 01:50pm
Snippets 7 May 2008
The Cooper ‘Kids’ and descendants were in town for the Bert Cooper Singles last weekend. Always good to see them back and having such a good time at this popular annual event.

Colleen donated a cassette-taped interview in March 1987 with Francis Jean Davies, who started school at Nettleton on 3-Mile flat in 1910 as Jean Parker, aged 6. Her twin sisters, Neta and May, aged 4, were the youngest of 39 pupils aged up to 15 years old. There were five Parker children when the family came from Warren.

Jenny Salmon held this interview with Jean at a retirement centre in Ashfield for a Bicentennial project. Jean describes their canvas house with prop-out windows (no glass), galvanized iron roof with pipes to direct the runoff water into a tank for drinking. They could buy bore water for bathing and laundry. They had a big veggie garden and would butcher a sheep and corn the rest of the meat after one feed.

Jean’s father cut out garments for the girls and her mother sewed them on her little hand machine. They ordered meters of fabric from Sweet Brothers in Newtown, Sydney. The children wore boots rather than shoes. Dad could mend them with bits of leather from the saddler.

The Parkers lived in the settlement and Dad mined nearby. Jean remembers the ‘limey’ smell of the diggings and how white it was. She describes the shaft and method of pig stying to keep the dirt from falling back into the mine and talks about spiders chinked into the walls underground with candles for light. But the opal seemed to cut out in 1913 just as WWI was coming. The school closed so the family moved to Walgett where seven more Parker children were born and life went on.

Jean mentions a Nettleton School 1913 photograph snapped by a traveller that she gave to the Education Museum. She tells of the canvas school building and her teacher, Tom Gibson, and his method of teaching to varied ages. In Walgett there were three classes to a room. Jean was a keen reader and read to her siblings nightly. She only completed three years of school in her lifetime.

She tells of being at Lightning Ridge when the settlement was ‘christened’ Nettleton.
She doesn’t mention other playmates’ or individuals’ names except to say that none of the people she knew there are still alive in 1987.

Jean’s grandparents were at Warren where she was born in 1904. She knew several aunties on her mother’s side and her Uncle Tom Pittman, well known in Warren, but not her mother’s senior brothers. Her paternal grandparents came from Scotland to Jindabyne where their children were born then came to the Warren district. Jean married a Davies from Double Bay and reared three of four children. We wonder where they are in 2008?

Barbara Moritz

15 May 2008 01:49pm