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22 June Snippets 2011
The historical society's Dolly Raffle will be drawn when four books are sold. Joan James of Harlequin Street kindly dressed and donated the gingham-clad Zena, complete with her be-ribboned, straw hat. She's a country girl, 60cm tall with blond plaits tied in bows and her patten-shoes stand her upright on an attractive, wooden stand. Zena is wearing a blingy Z-pendant made of potch and colour by Lyn Russell. Thanks ladies, for your donations.

Zena's Raffle draw is likely to coincide with the Opal Festival in late July and her lucky winner can personalise the pendant. Tickets are two for $1 or five for $2. Pop into Heritage Cottage on Wednesday and Friday, 10-4pm to buy your tickets for Zena. She is also at the Sunday Markets keeping an eye on the society's ironing board of books for sale.

You may also buy one of Graeme Anderson's opal clay pie rings at $3 each for your microwave. No need to have a soggy, hot pie but rather a crispy one, using Graeme's design. Nice inexpensive gift too, and cheaper than an opal! He's kindly donated a supply.

Reg Procter's recent 'Past & Present' exhibition at the Lost Sea Opal's Artspace was well visited. The charcoal sketches and watercolours of early Lightning Ridge and opal field scenes were well received. 20% of sales were generously donated to the Society. Thank you Reg!

Donations and grant funding keep the local historical society solvent. We would like to thank the community for supporting us. We always need volunteers if you have a spare half day.

Barbara Moritz
24 June 2011 06:30pm
15 Snippets 2011
If you've noticed the gal-sheets over the windows of the Walford House next to IGA, please don't panic! That is not how the facade will look, once completely repaired. A Walgett Shire Heritage Grant allows work to be done that will lengthen the life of this 1909 structure, eg. making it secure, treating white ants and improving the drainage. The Albert Walford family, owners since 1963, is right behind the project.

In 2004, the historical society began consultation with them in hopes of achieving positive results to celebrate 100 years of the little building. Then the Shire went under Administration and circumstances changed. Matching the funding 'in kind', materials and/or cash has been in the planning ever since.

The main cottage was built originally for the Phil Brady family, opal buyers from White Cliffs. They took possession about the same time as the Imperial Hotel (later renamed the Diggers Rest) opened in December 1909 at the bottom of Opal Street. The verandah was added shortly thereafter.

In about 1920, Bradys sold-up and went to Queensland; they were in Sydney by 1930. The two sons continued opal buying and cutting in their Waverley workshop, right through the 1950s. Two grandchildren in Sydney are donating cash, especially towards the refurbishment of the Walford House verandah, which is the last stage of the project.

Cypress trim and infrastructure repairs plus improved roof drainage will give the Walford House exterior back its provenance. The metal twin chimneys are distinctive and reminiscent of miners' cottages in Broken Hill. Within, a canvas-dividing wall is original and floorboards are laid on earth. By the way, the room to the south (up the hill) was added by 1915 for the visiting priest and Catholic services. A high, altar-like table stands in this room is it original?

Through this grant, the Walford House will regain its provenance for photographers but will not be open to the public. It reflects the street-scape of early Lightning Ridge, when the main road from Walgett passed its front door and dropped down to the corner pub.

Thanks go to Walgett Shire Council for supporting heritage tourism at Lightning Ridge, important to the future of our Shire.

Barbara Moritz
24 June 2011 06:28pm
Snippets 8 June 2011
The 'new' feature near Nettleton's First Shaft Lookout as read about in 25 May Snippets is not really new at all. Since Good Friday, the 6-Mile Circle or 'Abraxas' has been in place at the break-away viewpoint looking towards the 9-Mile. It's a wonder that no tourists mentioned this phenomena to the Visitors Information Centre or to any locals as they have been seen walking the maze/labyrinth.

However, an exclusive few, including two of the creators, resident for the past seven weeks at the Crocodile Caravan Park, have been quietly travelling the Green Car Door Explorer Tour to the 6-Mile and walking it. The experience has been topical in conversation at the 4pm gathering of 'crocodiles' in the Entertainment Centre and has sealed their comradeship.

Who are the creators? Poppy and Marion, two lovely ladies selling sox under their red canopy at the Sunday Market, have given Lightning Ridge this special gift. They and friends, Peter and his son Rory, had great fun making and testing-out their second maze/labyrinth, the first built on Peter's property near Toowoomba. They had such a sense of accomplishment that when the girls moved on, Peter said he would join them wherever next, they decided to create another.

The 6-Mile Circle/Abraxas took the team 6 hours to complete. The inspiration and meaning came from Aphra, a lady in her 80s, shared with her young friend, Poppy. The method is established completing the outer circle and working inwards using a string-line. Buckets of sandstone bits kept coming for placement on the designated, spaced, ever-decreasing circle.

One could say the Star Circle of White Cliffs is a variation of an Abraxas, since only those remnants that occur within the designated circle have been/can be used to create and maintain the symbol. That is the 'wholeness' or 'all within the whole', which is the meaning of the esoteric word, 'Abraxas', says Poppy. It assists the decision to go forwards, not knowing where, when or why. You are aware of your surroundings nature and its purity and peace.

Now that all has been revealed, the Ridge community can continue to enjoy the 6-Mile Circle. You can add a piece of sandstone or re-position one that has strayed from its spot. The original inuksuk* at the entrance has already been duplicated for balance. It is up to us to maintain this bright, happy attraction at Nettleton's First Shaft Lookout.

Poppy and Marion are leaving town this week to seek employment but will be back, they know not when. We'll miss their smiling faces (and warm sox) at the Markets as well as their positive energy, some of which they've left behind for us at the 6-Mile. Watch for updates on the next Abraxas/Labyrinth somewhere in this lovely country on

*Inuksuks (the actual plural is inuksuit) are stone figures created by the first inhabitants of the Canadian north, the Inuit. The Inuit have lived in the areas now called Canada, Alaska, and Greenland for thousands of years and inuksuit can be found in all these regions.
The word "inuksuk" is an Inuktitut word meaning "to act in the capacity of a human" and comes from the word "inuk" which can be translated as "human being".

Barbara Moritz
7 June 2011 08:02pm
Snippets 1 June 2011
Sheryl Brennan visited Lightning Ridge recently, tracing the footsteps of her opal mining uncle, Eric Catterall, on the 3-Mile in the 1960s and 70s. He'd had childhood polio and walked with crutches so needed to mine at his own pace. He developed the concept of the automatic hoist that is operated by one-man and many variations are still used in bringing the opal dirt to the surface, especially the super hoist.

Eric was a loner in his private life, also a poet and philosopher. He published his collection of literary works in the early 1960s. He spent lots of time with his greyhounds and exercised them behind his Ferguson tractor. The smell of kangaroo carcases in various stages of decay was without boundaries and his camp site was littered with bones. In the heat of summer, Eric dug into a side hill on 4-Mile Flat for a cooler space to house his dogs. The digging was done by a tyre he rigged-up with protruding nails to work off a motor.

Sheryl visited Bea and Nils Tape, who were just getting friendly with Eric when he suffered a heart attack or stroke and died at his camp on his 69th birthday, 1977. They took her to Eric's old camp. Sheryl also visited Eric's grave at the local cemetery. His friend, the late Frank Gunnarson, put down a plaque in 2003. Another friend, the late Madeleine Lenz, put a memory plaque to Eric on the Hospital Gallery's verandah floor about the same time.

Sheryl went away with new knowledge of her eccentric, bachelor uncle. She's preparing his story to enhance our Catterall Collection. There may be a few more surprises.

Barbara Moritz
30 May 2011 09:19pm
Snippets 25 May 2011
You will experience a very subtle surprise at Nettleton's First Shaft Lookout the 6-Mile Circle; a style of maize, perfectly measured out on the ground and marked with rocks mostly sandstone. Who has spent so much time building this new feature at the end of the Green Car Door Explorer Tour?

There's another similar pseudo mandala on the opal fields the Star Circle of White Cliffs. It was designed and started in 2008 over a 3-month period by German architect and artist, Siegwart Geiger. He was visiting Barbara Gasch and Doug Brook, both Life Members of the Australian Opal Centre, at the time.

Star Circle is more a patchwork of textures rather than a maize. The marked-out spaces within the huge circle are filled with matched-up gibbers and/or old rusty bits. Only those items occurring within the circle area can be used.

Children from White Cliffs School helped Siegwart and, since then, other citizens have joined in to develop this on-going work of art. The community has taken ownership and it's featured on a photo greeting card from White Cliffs.

So, what is the story with the 6-Mile Circle? Will someone please come forward and tell us? Make the trip for a look/see and you will feel happiness and appreciation, perhaps just a tiny bit of the pleasure someone experienced whilst creating this beautiful mandala-like representation. But will the sandstone melt away with a deluge?

Barbara Moritz
30 May 2011 09:18pm