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Snippets 5 October 2011
Part 4 – Street Names at L/Ridge

In the early 1960s, with the advent of water and electricity, more families settled at Lightning Ridge. Legal mining was undertaken right up to village borders. As more house blocks were needed, boundaries logically expanded over old diggings. Ground was made safe but the odd 'sink' could appear and did. Jokes resounded that the new swimming pool was going in or that a dunny was being moved around the back yard! Freehold blocks were for sale and most lease-blocks have become free-hold over the years.

Lightning Ridge street names continued to have meaning – famous opals, miners, and historical, geological and mining references. For instance,
Silica Street, Empress Crescent and Potch Street run off Pandora Street that becomes Ernie Sherman Way to the Bore Baths

Silica is silicone dioxide appearing as quartz, sand, flint and agate.

Empress (of Australia) is a famous opal in a flag-pattern that weighed 110 carats. It was found on Telephone Line in 1915 in the same patch as Pride of Australia, Flamingo and Black Prince. Founders were best mates Tom Urwin, Gan Bruce's maternal grandfather, and Snowy Brown, his maternal grand uncle. Empress was dropped at Grandfather Bruce's house and broken in two (Gan says three) by Jack Ferguson, a Llanillo Station worker. Three stones were re-cut.

Potch (shard of pottery or 'pot shard' so-named in early White Cliffs) is common opal without colour, made-up of a random arrangement of silica spheres, thus no regular spaces for light to enter, defract and break into the spectrum of colours.

Pandora was the largest opal of the day found in 1928 – 790 carats that cut to 590 carats. It measured 4”x2”x1”thick and was an opalised fossil. The flip of a coin decided where to dig the red-on-gray. Jack McNicol won the toss against Fred Bodel. He still had it in his pocket in 1935 as seen by Marjorie Robertson Lydiard on Angledool Station in her story, 'When the Mail was on Time', written in the 1970s. Elsewhere, it states that after WWII, Canadian fossil-collecter John Prosper Ralston bought Pandora. It was auctioned in 1965 for £6200.

Ernie Sherman Way – so named in 1996 to acknowledge Sherman Opals, buying opal continuously since 1896.

Barbara Moritz

12 December 2011 05:47pm
Snippets 28 September 2011
Part 3 - Street Names in L/Ridge

The original grid of streets bounded the lease-blocks on Mullen's 1908 survey map that was gazetted through Western Lands. They are listed below.

East to West:
Harlequin is a pattern of opal – patches of colour, usually blue and green.
Morilla is derived from 'morrilla', a low, pebbly ridge (an Aboriginal dialect).
Kaolin is a fine white clay.
Matrix is a partially-porous grey or brown low-grade rocky material with thin streaks of opal through it.
Kopi (Koe-pie) is a form of calcium sometimes found in opal and the opal level.

North to South:
Gem is a stone fashioned to bring out its beauty, probably for jewellery.
Brilliant is a cut applied to diamonds especially; lustrous, shining brightly, sparkling, glittering.
Opal is a mineral, an amorphous form of silica, not as hard as quartz, and in many varieties and colours, some of which are valued as gems.
Agate is a variegated variety of quartz (chalcedony) showing coloured bands or other markings,
Onyx is a quartz consisting of straight layers or bands which differ in colour.

Barbara Moritz
12 December 2011 05:43pm
Snippets 21 September 2011
Part 2 - Street Names at L/Ridge

Wallangulla became known as 'Old Town' when the 'New Town' was gazetted in early 1908. The second settlement, Nettleton with its own services, had formed on 3-Mile Flat. The Imperial Hotel was completed in December 1909 at the intersection of Opal and Morilla Streets. A house for White Cliffs opal buyer, Philip Francis Brady, and his family, was built half way up Opal Street towards Telephone or Cleared Line on the opal fields.

There were five named-streets running east/west on the 1908 village plan – Harlequin, Morilla, Kaolin, Matrix and Kopi; five named-streets ran north/south – Onyx, Agate, Opal, Brilliant and Gem. There was no mining on black soil to the north but rather on three sides of low, pebbly (iron stone) ridges or 'moorillas' (an Aboriginal dialect) to the northeast, south/southwest and to the west of the village.

Blocks of the New Town were made available for lease in early 1908 by Western Lands but not all applicants were successful. For instance, 'mentally unstable' was enough to negate any attempt to lease a block! We wonder how that was established.

In 1912, the Government cancelled all commercial leases on the diggings and the New Town blocks were gradually taken-up – commercial and residential. The Police and School Paddocks had been selected where they exist in today's street scape.

Barbara Moritz

12 December 2011 05:41pm
Snippets 14 September 2011
Part 1 - Street Names at L/Ridge

In 1907 AW Mullen was employed by the Western Lands Board to survey land in the district. He laid out the village of Lightning Ridge between 20th March and 4th March on land least likely to be opal-bearing, and lodged his report to the Secretary on 21st June. The site was equi-distant from the two settlements on the diggings – almost a triangle on paper.

Mullen's field notes also documented Wallangulla, the original settlement with services. He named residents; he marked locations and types of structures they lived in. The names of miners camped on the various opal fields were also documented.

His maps and diaries were thorough. He even named the trees and noted rocky outcrops in and around the dwellings at Wallangulla, cited on the north side descent of the ridge known as Sims Hill and near Wallangilla Tank on Dunumbral Run of Bundinbarrina, a huge property that ran horizontally rather than in the usual vertical layout.

Iron stone attracts lightning, hence the name Wallangulla, which means 'hidden firestick' in an Aboriginal dialect. These nomads held the ridges in spiritual esteem and avoided them except in times of flood when they served as the highways between rivers – from the Narran to the Barwon and the Gwydir and return.

In the 1870s during a terrible storm, a lightning strike had killed the shepherd, the sheep, even the dog. Because Europeans couldn't spell or pronounce Wallangulla, Lightning Ridge came into use before 1900, even by Government departments. Wallangilla and Warrangulla are derivations. Until 1963, Wallangulla appeared on maps when Lightning Ridge was finally gazetted.

Barbara Moritz
12 December 2011 05:40pm
Snippets 7 September 2011
A 'religious' dance floor at the Ridge?

Yes, but not at Saturday night's Centenary Race Club Ball! What a good night it was – posies on round tables for easy conversation; delicious hors d'oevres, main course and sweets buffet; then dancing to 'Crank'. May the Race Club members and friends be as energetic during the next 100 years as they were on the dance floor!

Three of Granny Donnelly's 45 grandchildren attended – Toots Sibley, Noel and Owen Donnelly – Granny's 1911 Dance Card was the inspiration for the Centenary Ball.

So what's a 'religious' dance floor anyway? Dennis Booth and his wife were in town from Woolongong. He remembered his first visit in 1956 when he and two apprentices were employed by Dubbo's then Welding Enterprises that drew the tender to build a dance hall. The War Memorial Hall was relocated in the 1990s from Morilla Street to Pandora Street and is the Ella Nagy Youth Hall.

Dennis, a boilermaker and welder, visited the relocated building he helped construct; he went inside to photograph the steel framework that was original. He noted the new flooring and went on to describe the 'religious' or 'holy' dance floor that they had put down.

It seems that sections of the floor timbers retained the sapwood, so weren't as smooth and strong. The weak patch was circled with a chalk line and regarded as a no-go zone for dancers until the timber dried-out. This lengthened the life of a good dance floor and the term 'holy' or 'religious' came into being.

Dennis remembered that he and two other apprentices stayed at the Imperial Hotel whilst on the job welding-up the steel frame. Another was Noel Thompson, who disappeared one afternoon to go fossicking. He found an opal that polished-up to the size of a pigeon's egg, his 'nest egg' for Thompson Trucking in Dubbo.

As a retired tradesman, Dennis still mends boilers and does fine work on model trains. We suggested that he visit the Mens Shed and meet Frans Persson, who is our local RR specialist.

Barbara Moritz
5 September 2011 07:05pm