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Snippets 20 February 2008
The Society’s backyard was a thicket after regular rains commenced before Christmas. The saltbush is higher than the fence in some places, reducing the significance of interwoven Chinese jade – growing at the front of Heritage Cottage brings good luck and growing at the back of the Hospital Gallery, holds the luck.

Thanks go to Lionel at the Crocodile Caravan Park next door, who came in on his ride-on mower and cut the meter-high grass. He could run into corners and between plants with ease. The rest is snipped by hand until our hand mower is repaired. Volunteer Frank is tinkering with two machines in hopes of building a ‘goer’. He loves fiddling with machinery so let’s hope he’s successful so we can maintain our beautifully trimmed and green backyard, a first for this time of year.

This is the coolest and wettest summer in man’s memory. Water lies along the highways and by-ways – about 250mm of rain has been recorded to date. That’s half the annual average but it could stop tomorrow! That’s Australia – on the edge of the Outback – at Lightning Ridge.

Barbara Moritz

8 March 2008 05:01pm
Snippets 13 February 2008
Celia Denis Hull died February 12 near Gympie in Queensland. She was born in 1925 and grew up at the Ridge. Celia had been in poor health and in the care of her daughter, Rhonda and Rob Brophy. A local Memorial Service was held this week and the Brophys and her son Jim will bring her ashes to Walgett’s cemetery to be placed beside her mother, Emma Jones Denis, at a later date. Celia’s sister Nola Rennie of Castle Hill plus many of younger generations survive her.

In 2004, the Brophys brought Celia to Walgett to place her husband’s ashes in the cemetery. ‘Jake’ Ernest Hull died in 2001. The trio came on to the Ridge and Celia lamented the vacant block beside White’s Pharmacy where her father, ‘Son’ Denis, had built their home in 1934. His parents, ‘Big Jim’ and Cecelia, lived next door.

The elder Den(n)is family was one of the first on the opal fields in 1905 and lived in a bag hut. They came from Collarenebri where ‘Big Jim’ was a blacksmith. He is named as ‘a miner’ at Wallangulla or Old Town in the 1907 surveyor’s diary. Three children, ‘Son’ Jim, Mona and Clara, accompanied their parents. The eldest daughter, Margaret, was in boarding school.

‘Son’ spent his live in this district as a shearer and timber cutter. His portable timber mill provided lumber for local constructions including the second Anglican Church in 1935. This building was relocated in 1998 to Sherman’s Way and is restored as St George’s Serbian Orthodox Church.

There were nine children in the ‘Son’ Den(n)is family. They moved to Walgett in 1940 where Celia married ‘Jake’ Hull four years later. Some of you probably knew Celia’s youngest brother, retired shearer ‘Timber’ Allan Denis, at the Sheepyard. He died suddenly in 1998.

In 2005, Celia Denis Hull sent the Historical Society a Denis family photo album of 100 photos spanning 100 years – 1905 through 2004 - dedicated to her mother, Emma Denis, and all the women of Lightning Ridge who lived and reared ‘large families’ without any conveniences at all. ‘These women were the heart and soul of the Ridge and along with the Bush Nurses, a lifeline for everyone,’ Celia further inscribed.

The Historical Society prepared a DVD of this collection for various members of Celia’s family and it was played at her Memorial Service. The solid connection made with descendents of the Denis family is typical of the Society’s efforts to maintain links with early families in local history. Come and visit Heritage Cottage Hospital Gallery in 2008. Our opening exhibition is Good Friday, 10.30am.

Barbara Moritz

1 March 2008 08:06pm
Snippets 6 February 2008
The wooden wagon on the corner of 3-Mile Road and Bill O’Brien Way is looking much smarter under the corrugated skillion roof built by Nexo Engineering under the Shire’s 2007 Heritage Grant program. Betty Dawson gave the wagon to Fire Opals in the early 1970s. It has had several positions in the town but is now a feature on the Visitors Centre reserve.

George Mulder of Fire Opals, also past President and Life Member of the Society, has coordinated the project that represents community history. Barriekneal donated the postholes and Fitzway concrete gave us the cement. The wagon wheels will sit on blocks.

Due to drought conditions in 1946, the Bunyans came to Lightning Ridge from Dirranbandi. They were drain delvers and tank sinkers and used the wooden wagon to cart their personal possessions from site to site. It stayed with daughter, Betty, when she married local Ivan Dawson in 1952. A slightly larger wagon stands at the Bottle House in Opal Street.

Thanks to community spirit and cooperation, the deteriorating Dawson Wagon is presented neatly for posterity and is perhaps even a photo opportunity for visitors.

Barbara Moritz
1 March 2008 08:03pm
Snippets 30 January 2008
Migration Memories, an exhibition of select stories of district settlement, has returned to Lightning Ridge. In August 2006, Dr Mary Hutchison of the Australian National University worked in conjunction with the National Museum to present this colourful exhibit at Heritage Cottage Hospital Gallery, Morilla Street.

In 2007, Migration Memories reopened at the National Museum with a companion exhibition of stories from Robinvale in the Riverina. Some Ridgeites travelled to Canberra for the opening in September and others viewed it in October. The text panels, some showcases and display formwork plus the personal items of interest have been returned to the community.

Experience Migration Memories, again, or for the first time at the Arts and Crafts rooms in Pandora Street. Volunteers are present from 10 to 2 daily. Peruse local arts, crafts and now, stories.

Barbara Moritz

26 February 2008 08:20pm
23 January 2008
The Lightning Ridge Race Club was formed in 1909 and the Jockey Club in 1911 with the first 2-day event held in September of that year. The Black Opal Bracelet race featured with the prize donated by E F Murphy, the first resident opal buyer and relocated to Sydney. Mrs ABJ Francis, the first lady opal buyer, presented the bracelet to the winner, H C Lewis’ Eurool ridden by H McDonald.

In earlier years, there was also the unregistered track at Ryan’s Flat, today’s Bill Waterford Equestrian Centre since 1998. Horses of all heights could run so the spectrum of entries was broadened. During the heyday of the 1920s, two race meetings monthly were well attended.

In 2007, the racetrack was under threat of closure. However, a new Committee has taken the task of refurbishment very seriously. Money was raised to dress the track and all effort is being made to lift the credibility of the annual race meeting, Easter Saturday, 22 March.

Barbara Moritz

26 February 2008 08:16pm