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Snippets 5 July 2012
Does anyone remember the Lightning Ridge wallpaper that was last seen publicly in the Log Cabin (Opal Bin in 2012) drops of sketches of the Diggers Rest, Rainbow Street Hut and Graham Brothers Cottage (Heritage Cottage in 2012) on an off-white background?

Its origin has been speculated ever since Barry Graves, principal of the school 1964-68, included the Diggers' sketch, snipped from the wallpaper then mounted on a board, amongst his memorabilia given back to the community. Could Harold Hodges have commissioned the wallpaper design he gave Lightning Ridge so many weird and wonderful things.

Over the years, the Society has acquired a few rolls of this wallpaper from various sources. One man rang from Brisbane to report that he'd found some in a garage sale, did we want it? The loo at the refurbished 1915 bush nurse cottage (BNA) features it. Thought has even been given to how else to re-introduce this nostalgic art-form into public spaces for the pure pleasure of seeing it.

Then the phone inquiry came a lady was looking for the cottage with a double chimney. She'd lost her bearings in the much-altered town since she spent six weeks here with her husband, a member of the brickie team from the Blue Mountains, working on the Wallangulla Motel in 1977. Doreen McGarrigle's two children were in school and as an artist, she passed the time doing sketches around the town for Lifestyle Wallpaper. Eureka!

Doreen was thrilled to realise that the Cottage was still in use and came straight down. She saw the wallpaper in situ and was photographed holding a drop. Her work with Lifestyle, an English company, lasted four years so, at last, we know who commissioned this special edition wallpaper.

Doreen's posting us the original sketches from her stint at the Ridge. Barry Graves' contribution must've been a project In Memory of his years at the school. We'll ask him when he attends the All School Reunion September 21-23, 2012. It'll be here before we know it!

Barbara Moritz
9 July 2012 08:49pm
Snippets 28 June 2012
The latest fund-raiser for the Australian Opal Centre, THE WALK from White Cliffs to Lightning Ridge, is under way and the Walkers have been recently photographed, still smiling. Perhaps the originators, Gunnel and Jurgen Hecht, and their friends began 3 days early to settle-in to the ambitious pace of about 30 kilometers a day for 686 km. Support vehicles will never be far away.

Camping places have been pre-selected and rest days in the various centres will give the Walkers an opportunity to fund-raise for the AOC. Also, on-line donations can be made at, where THE WALK is described in full when you click on the icon at the top left of the home page. Don't be afraid to scroll down and read the messages of encouragement even the dog and the cat have made donations with comment!

The country is rolling until Wilcannia, where some people will return to White Cliffs. However, the dedicated band will have softer going up the Darling on the flat, dirt road. They expect to reach Bourke in just over two weeks and Brewarrina on 14 July.

With luck, Annie Deane, Jenni Brammall and Leigh Black, will intercept the party at Tilpa and walk the Louth-leg, 2-4 July. Annie will push her bike as did the old-timers, but hers is for cycling back to retrieve her vehicle and catch-up to walk further. The camp fire will be a welcome beacon at the end of the day bet she sleeps well after such a rigorous routine.

Another local team plans to drive towards Brewarrina on Day 25 (19 July) and join the seasoned Walkers for 3 days. However, they plan to break off at the Cumborah turnoff to drive back to the Ridge. Camping along the river also gives the chance for reminiscing old-timers on-foot between places were common place but you can be sure they were never as cosy in camp as our Walkers will be on their journey over the same track. CHEERS!

The plan is to meet THE WALK achievers at the T-junction on July 25 and walk with them into town. Day 31 starts from about 20km south on the Castlereagh Highway so would reach the Agi-corner about 4pm on the Wednesday. We'll know more closer to the time so will keep you updated.
26 June 2012 08:33pm
Snippets 21 June 2012
Ken Mawhinnew passed through town especially to visit Fossickers Park on the 3-Mile. He built the stone cottage on the Barclay Brothers' Mining Purposes Lease that Brad McKay is refurbishing. Ken regaled us with stories of coming to the opal fields in 1973 at the invitation of Lance Barclay. He described the original surroundings that Brad has tidied in conjunction with the fossicking heaps of yet-to-be-processed-dirt from the Lunatic Hill Open Cut. The cottage was not Ken's to sell on the MPL so he hasn't used it in years.

Ken and his partner Ann O'Shea live on the Queensland coast in the second house that Ken built. They had independently visited the Ridge long before they met in a Sydney workplace about 1990. They are regular visitors to good friends artist Reg Procter and his wife Fay, who are usually in the Ridge at this time of year. This visit they are particularly glad to see the Mawhinnew stone cottage regaining its provenance on the 3-Mile. The claim is once again a happy place through tourists, who love getting their hands dirty in an attempt to find their own opal at Fossickers Park!

Barbara Moritz
26 June 2012 08:31pm
Snippets 14 June 2012
Joy Williams' opal bracelet, pictured in the Ridge News recently, is a Janie Marshall bracelet Janie saw it and confirmed that she mined the five opals and had them set in the distinctive design of horseshoes running around Joy's wrist. Therefore, a jeweller's stamp on the back of the centre horseshoe (a horizontal-8 with a 3 in one of the circles) probably represents '83, the year of the inaugural Jim Marshall Black Opal Bracelet at the Easter Races.

Janie presented the prestigious prize to the winner of this feature race that tributed her father, and again, in 1984 and 1985. Then, from 1988 to 2005 and in 2007, the Jim & Betty Marshall Memorial Opal Bracelet included a tribute to Janie's mum. (The 2006 Races were cancelled due to rain.)

Janie is well-known for her energy, generosity and support, especially when it comes to the Lightning Ridge Race Club. In about 2008, she initiated the restoration of the 1911 Samuels Cup for the Club's Centenary in 2011. This treasured item is on view in the historical society's exhibition space at the Hospital Gallery, next to the Crocodile Caravan Park.

Barbara Moritz

26 June 2012 08:29pm
Snippets 6 June 2012
Horse racing is a general subject until it's associated with black opal. So continuing last week's search for information on Joy Williams' opal bracelet, the Black Opal Stakes in Canberra cropped up. In conversation, visitor Vicki Tacheci remarked that she believes her father George may have planted the seed for naming the race. He was a member of the ACT Jockey Club, also known as the AJC that could be confused with the Australian Jockey Club in earlier years, and currently known as Thoroughbred Park.

His mate Jack Thomas, then president of the AJC in Canberra, threw out the idea of establishing a prestigious race. Czech-born George Tacheci was a real estate agent in the Capitol City after working on the Snowy Mountain scheme. On holidays, he was a hobby opal miner at Lightning Ridge guided by Felix Monch from the late 1960s.

The first Black Opal Stakes was run in 1973 and won by Rich Reward as confirmed by John Bevans' contact in Canberra. The Bevans family, opal miners and cactus collectors, supplied the black opal for the race from 1989 through 2010 the Club had it set into a pendant for the prize. Since then, a trophy is awarded rather than a piece of jewellery.

Vicki Tacheci was last in the Ridge in 1971 when a teenager. Revisiting the opal fields and catching up with Felix and Melody Monch has captured her sense of adventure. She's been camping on the field on the claim of her father's friend and near where he mined with Felix. Coincidentally, the subject of racing stirred her memories, thereby adding to local knowledge, so we can give credit to the man who probably named the Black Opal Stakes in Canberra.

Barbara Moritz
26 June 2012 08:28pm