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Snippets 31 May 2012
Good to see Margaret Molyneux Lohsie and Dave Davies back in town after several years. No doubt, many mining memories will be shared as old friends gather to welcome them and to reminisce.

In the 1960s, many women in the community worked the old mullock heaps while their men were underground. Others were down there digging, side-by-side. Margaret was one of those women and she is featured in action in more than one publication in our 1960s clipping collection.

June Barker and Barbara Moore even had their own girl-friendly rumbler, designed and welded up by Don Moore. It was looking very lonely tucked in the corner of Moore's backyard when we rescued it for the historical society's collection. It stands beside Heritage Cottage as you wander back to the Hospital Gallery for a look at the photo and nurses' memorabilia.

In fact, a group of retired engineers in Sydney under the name of ASHET have just announced their success in getting a government grant to document the history of locally-developed mining implements and machines at Lightning Ridge.

ASHET members visited the Ridge in 2011 and were impressed with the ingenuity of opal miners, especially in the days of isolation, which meant improvising to achieve a positive outcome. In their travels around the heritage diggings near the town, the retired engineers saw several innovations that prompted their desire to gather the stories of machinery.

We'll learn more about their plans in the next weeks so watch this space. In the meantime, come down to the historical society next door to the Crocodile Caravan Park, and checkout a few examples of ingenuity nestled in the yard as garden gnomes.

Barbara Moritz
4 June 2012 06:50pm
Snippets 23 May 2012
(May 16 Snippets was a repeat of May 9)

Thanks go to Ray Christianson at Pig Hill for a new rusty bit – an old Malvern Star (MS) 3-Star, lady's bicycle frame. According to MS website history, it was made in 1951 in Melbourne as determined by the serial number 51M/3925 engraved on the seat tube. Tyres are non-existent except for a few shreds on the front wheel. The smaller back wheel is marked ‘Perry 40-14 England’ so not original.

The back mud guard is lined on either side with small holes, perhaps to lace-on an extension so the lady's skirt didn’t get caught-up in the spokes. The supports from the frame to the wheel hubs are slimline curves – very feminine and graceful – not the usual chunky, straight ones. The back is supported by two curved pieces about 3 inches between them.

Ray found the bike in the next camp that had been vacant for years, then burnt out. Good spotting Ray! Passers-by can see this icon in a surprising place at Heritage Cottage – not at eye level!

Barbara Moritz
4 June 2012 06:49pm
Snippets 9 May 2012
The Major Mitchell Rock in Walgett Shire is on the Castlereagh Highway at the south side of the Jimmy Harper Bridge that crosses the Narran to Angledool. It is the fifth monument created in NSW to commemorate the NSW Surveyor General 1828-1855.

The visiting senior surveyors of the NSW Institute, who instigated the Rock, identified hidden treasures in Heritage Cottage. Thinking there might be a theodolite (measures horizontal or vertical angles) in the corner, we rousted out two brass instruments in dove-tailed, wooden boxes that were donated over the years. The surveyors identified them as sighting telescopes and hinted they were worth polishing.

So they are, and it has been revealed that the larger of the two instruments is inscribed: Flavelle & Roberts, Sydney and Brisbane, 761; the smaller one: J.Archbutt & Sons, No. 429, 201 Westminster Bridge Rd, London. Google reveals many options but, generally, Flavelle & Roberts operated from 1891. John Henry Archbutt is well-known for precision instrument-making but only between 1864 and 1867 was he registered as J.Archbutt & Sons.

Come into the Cottage and see the new display that features these instruments. They are associated with paper copies of the plaques that are mounted on the Rock located about 25 minutes north of Lightning Ridge. Also included in the display are the late, local surveyor Ken Thornburn's survey records of mining claims 1974 into the 1980s as he filed them in juice cartons. He donated them before he retired to Victoria.

Take a drive north and visit the Rock. It's a nice stroll down to the river and you might even decide to take a picnic and go fishing in the weir.

Barbara Moritz
10 May 2012 05:24pm
Snippets 2 May 2012
Major Mitchell Rock Co-ordinator John Read's first question after his greeting at Heritage Cottage on Sunday afternoon was, “Just testing your knowledge, but what did the early surveyor use for his precision instrument's site cross-hairs?”
Now, the answer is something you don't forget once heard – as we had, at Saturday night's presentation, 'Controversial Major Mitchell'. The automatic answer, of course, is horse hair. Well, it isn't, and thankfully, the correct answer was forthcoming!
In fact, old-timers used spider web, yes, especially a redback's web. The early surveyor nurtured a redback spider in a small tin, carried in his kit. When he wished to renew the cross-hairs, he pushed the spider out of the tin – the drop of web was the strongest for the job – taking care to coax him/her safely back within. There definitely was a knack to this procedure on all counts.
Senior Surveyor Read even caught his colleagues off-guard with this bit of trivia. Perhaps we will view redback spiders in a different light henceforth.

Barbara Moritz
4 May 2012 09:08pm
Snippets 25 April 2012
The Walford House plaque will be revealed on 5 May, Saturday, at 4pm. Deputy Mayor David Lane will do the honors on the IGA-side of the front verandah, Opal Street, in the company of descendants of Albert Walford and Phil Brady, the original owner from White Cliffs. Interested family and friends are invited to attend this celebration of the facade restoration, undertaken through Walgett Shire's Heritage Fund with the support of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Brady had a modest box-like, corrugated iron house built in 1909 for his family when he became the second resident opal buyer at Lightning Ridge. He followed in the footsteps of Ted Murphy, also from White Cliffs (1907) but relocating to the Black Opal Store in George Street, Sydney.

The House was extended soon after to accommodate the visiting priest by adding the room that projects out towards Opal Street. (Catholic services were held in private homes until Our Lady of Fatima was built in 1956.) The verandah extended the floor space and was imperative against the strong, morning sun. Brady sold the house around 1920, went to Queensland briefly, but ended up in Sydney and remained in the opal industry for the next 30 years.

The 'White House' as it was locally known, was solitary on the Walgett road, then lined with opal mines to the edge of the village (Harlequin Street). In 1921, Stan Kennedy was mining on the uphill side of the House block, just outside the window of the room where his daughter Alice was born. A bottle of ginger beer was lowered down the shaft to annouce her arrival.

The late Greg Sherman mentioned overnighting in the White House in the 1930s, when it was a boarding house, with his opal-buying father Ernie Sherman. The roof blew off in a mini-cyclone in 1956 and local grazier, Harry Underwood, paid to put it back on for pensioner-owner, Ernie Ward. Les Strasek remembers Mrs Cumming took in his washing there when he first came from Coober Pedy in 1960. The late Albert Walford, stockman and opal miner, bought the House in 1963 and it remains in his family.

Join friends and family and meet the Brady grandchildren from Sydney at 4pm on Saturday, May 5. We'll be on the IGA-side of the verandah in Opal Street to commemorate the achievement of the facade refurbishment of the first 'real' house in the Ridge – the Walford House.

Barbara Moritz
4 May 2012 09:08pm