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Snippets 16 June 2010

Lightning Ridge is located 768 km from Sydney and 72 km north of Walgett. The sign 'Population ?' welcomes you to town. About 5000 people live in this multicultural community and the population is supplemented by over 80,000 visitors who come mostly during the winter months to experience the lifestyle and to try their luck at 'fossicking' for opal.
The first registered opal miner was Jack Murray, a boundary rider, in 1901. Charlie Nettleton, a miner from White Cliffs, saw the potential in the unusual nobbies or nuggets of opal that had dark body tones – black opal. He and Murray walked to White Cliffs to sell the first parcel of stones in 1903. Many of his mates followed them back to the Ridge.

In the 1890s, there were Germans at White Cliffs, who bought opal and sent it home to Idar Oberstein, gem-cutting capital of the world. Gradually they settled in Australia and shared their expertise in cutting and polishing.

Barbara Moritz
21 June 2010 07:33am
Snippets 9 June 2010
At Easter, the Historical Society launched a 6-sided brochure, My Own Boss, Migrant Opal Miners at Lightning Ridge, published by Sydney's Power House Museum as part of a series on Immigration to Australia in the Migrant Heritage Centre.

This sleek document is illustrated and encapsulates 100 years of opal mining plus the development of town services over the decades. It answers the most FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions): “Why is it called Lightning Ridge? Who found the first opal? When was the water laid on? When was the Miners' Association formed?”

My Own Boss will be serialised in ten parts in the following weeks. If you would like a copy, they are for sale at Heritage Cottage next to the Crocodile Caravan Park and Opal Books, Etc at Bluey Motel, both in Morilla Street, at Whiz Bank Bargains in Opal Street and at the Lightning Ridge Visitors Centre in the Lions Park. This in-a-nutshell history sells for $4.

You will want this brochure in your bookcase as a reference and/or to send away to interested friends/family. It is a compact, verifiable history of Lightning Ridge for the first time.

Barbara Moritz
21 June 2010 07:31am
Snippets 2 June 2010
The Methodist Nursing Service (MNS) events at Brewarrina on the weekend were well attended by interested people of the district. Several were part of the story and enjoyed revisiting the days of 1946-1966 when 'Gus' transported the Sisters on their Methodist and health service patrols. Inspection of the nurses' cottage in Wilson Street, where the ambulance driver resides, also offered a look in the newest ambulance working around Brewarrina.

We had a super hamburger at the district-famous Pippos DeLuxe Cafe that is a part of the MNS story. Our very own Dot Fazeldeen, who now lives in Bre, served us. She had already told the author of Angels of Augustus, Stephanie, and her publisher, Jackie, that she thought she had seen the vehicle somewhere on the 3-Mile diggings; they should ask Brian McCudden and be sure to contact the Historical Society.

We have requested scanned copies of certain 1940s photos from the 'girls'. They will visit Lightning Ridge at a later date in their serious search to locate anyone who remembers Gus, the 1945 Ford ambulance. It has been suggested that a human interest documentary could result. Ken Dawson remembers Gus and the Sisters visiting the Ridge during the 1950s.

Please slide a note under the Heritage Cottage door if you can vouch for seeing Gus somewhere at Lightning Ridge in the past decade. If so and he's no longer there, we know what became of him, sadly. Crunch! However, we could be lucky......

Barbara Moritz
21 June 2010 07:26am
Snippets 26 May 2010
A couple of months ago, Snippets extended a call to find Augustus George, the 1945 custom-built Ford ambulance, used by Brewarrina's Methodist Nursing Service (MNS) that served the inland 1946-1966. Known fondly as “Gus”, the vehicle was sold to a district grazier in the mid 1950s. Could the chassis be found on a puddling dam around the Ridge?

Angels of Augustus is the story of the MNS and was published in 2006 and launched at NSW Parliament House. Stephanie Somerville has written the account from her mother's diary – Marjorie Wilkinson was one of the pair of “Angels”, who first served.

Gus served as a camper van as well as transport from Bre to Goodooga, Hebel, New Angledool and Lightning Ridge, giving support to communities, missions and properties. Later, the Angels extended their service to Bourke,Yantabulla, Weilmoringle, and communities near Hungerford. They could attend to dental aspects and conduct Methodist Church services and marriages as well.

You can buy the book at the Ridge Visitors Centre. There are lots of photos in it – Bush Nurse O'Brien, a beefy Irish woman, stands at the Lightning Ridge BNA gate with her overweight dog. Sister Marj noted in her diary that he shadowed Nurse's black-stockinged legs to the point that he could have been mistaken for her third leg. Also, the Tree of Knowledge stands tall in the main intersection outside the Imperial Hotel across from where Gus is refuelled. In another snap, Marj is being lowered in a bosun's chair by an unnamed miner.

On Friday, May 28 at 5pm, Brewarrina is celebrating the MNS by opening a photographic exhibition and prize-giving for the school art competition at the Visitors Centre in Bathurst Street. Then, on Saturday at 10am, tea will be served and a memorial unveiled in the front entrance grounds of the District Hospital, Barwon & Doyle Streets. Open House of the 9 Wilson Street historic cottage that once belonged to the Methodist Sisters, follows from 12 midday until 3.30pm. Elk & Ice Books, publishers of Angels of Augustus, share the sponsorship of these events.

Barbara Moritz, Secretary
25 May 2010 04:18pm
Snippets 19 May 2010
….and more about the Lightning Ridge bush nurses, the niece of the first bush nurse in 1914, Ethel Price, was visiting the Ridge this week. Cecily Atton of Heathcote was born in her Aunt Ettie's private hospital in Haberfield Sydney, as were her two sisters, Pat and Jean.

At Lightning Ridge, Nurse Price lived at the Imperial Hotel as the Cottage had yet to be built. The building contract was taken up in 1915 and the structure completed in March 1916. But the community was too poor to furnish it until 1917 by which time Nurse Price had moved. In 1922, she married the Lightning Ridge postmaster of her era, William Kirkland. Scottish-born, he served on the opal fields until he went to WWI.

William Kirkland is remembered for a shooting incident in 1913. He was out with young men and fired on what he thought was a kangaroo. But it was one of his companions on hands/knees stalking a roo. With the realisation of what he had done, he put the loaded gun to his own head but a mate wrestled it away until he regained his senses.

This occurred before Nurse Price so the men took a very sick Jack Prentice Junior to Walgett and he was sent on to Sydney, where he died in hospital. The deceased's father was the early butcher in New Town, Lightning Ridge, who drew the 'Wellwood' block on the way to Walgett in 1911.

Nurse Price and William Kirkland adopted two children from her hospital. They were very close to their three young nieces – Pat, Jean and Cecily Price. Ettie died aged 90 in 1974.

Pat and the late Jean have followed the development of our nurses' project at the Historical Society with great interest. Pat once lived at Wee Waa so has friends in the district and visits the Ridge regularly. We are pleased that Cecily arranged to take time from her very well-organised tour group to spend an hour reviewing displays at Heritage Cottage Hospital Gallery.

Barbara Moritz
25 May 2010 04:17pm