Bumming Around in Broken Hill

Day 8 of our Broken Hill adventure is our last day in this fascinating outback city. We have finished the organised tours, so once again it is a leisurely stroll into town and a day left to our own devices.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned a plaque dedicated to Lieutenant Vivian Bullwinkel. This is one of a series of twenty-five which form the Heroes, Larrikins and Visionaries Broken Hill Walk. Although we glanced at some as we walked around, I didn’t read the accompanying brochure until I wrote this post.  One, labelled Wild Women of the West, says, “During the bitter strikes between the mine owners and the unions, the women stood by their men and tarred and feathered the scabs.”  What? I have stood on a picket line and stared sullenly at a bus-load of scab labour, but tarred and feathered them? Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t know where to start – even if I had the will.

A noticeable thing about the walk is that a good portion of the plaques are dedicated to women, who are often overlooked in other public displays for posterity. For example, the old Department of Lands (aka Land Titles Office) in Sydney – a stone colonial building pre-dating Federation – has niches for statues on all four sides. They ran out of money before all were filled, but every statue that does exist is of a man. Admittedly, most of them are early explorers, but surely there was room for at least one pioneering woman? So all hail to the recognition of the female spirit in Broken Hill, which includes Dame Mary Gilmore, who among several other claims to fame, was the first woman to join the Australian Workers Union, and appears on our Ten Dollar note.

We pass the Community Cultural Centre which is decorated with murals of more recent characters and events. All fourteen are painted by Geoff de Main. In my sample photos, the man leaning on a fence having a beer and a cigarette is his neighbour, the ladies with the clothes are volunteers at the local opshop, and the third is depicting an element of Aboriginal culture. (click once to enlarge)

Not far away, our meandering leads to the City Council Chamber, which I believe is referred to by locals as “the bunker” for obvious reasons if you take a look at the photo. Outside, there is a row of bust sculptures, this time of the Syndicate of Seven. Back in 1883, when Charles Rasp discovered ore on George McCulloch’s property, the latter suggested that a syndicate of seven station employees be formed to develop the claim. They complied, and if you are interested in whether fame and fortune favoured all seven, you can read more here.

Then we reach the Sulphide Street Railway & Historical Museum.

Sulphide Street Rail Museum Broken Hill 2016-03-14 (50)

This was the railway station for the Silverton Tramway Company which operated from 1888-1970 until the rail gauges between New South Wales and South Australia were unified. This complex is many museums in one: the Hospital Museum and a Minerals Display for example. Well worth a good look around is the Migrant Museum, telling the story of so many people who made the trek from all parts of the world to call Broken Hill home. Can you imagine bringing your new bride from the fertile valleys of Europe to a tin shack in the arid desert of the Australian outback? Many did so!

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There is plenty of rail memorabilia on display too. The Silver City Comet operated from 1937 until 1989. Its claim to fame was that it was the first fully air-conditioned, diesel-powered train in the British Empire. If you don’t mind a touch of colourful language, you can read the reminiscences of a former employee here, including “they were the happiest years of my life“, even though the ride was “as rough as guts“.

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Tickets Please

Tickets Please

The external appearance reminds me of my childhood train trips to my aunt at Tascott on the Central Coast of NSW. I clearly remember the round window and large step up to the carriage, and inside the seating was on green leather-look seats. In those days, Tascott station was just a small unattended platform with only a stop on request. Passengers had to get off two stations before at Woy Woy (queue Spike Milligan), run up to the driver and let him know our destination. Once off-loaded, as the train sped away, we had to hold out our ticket and the guard would snatch it out of our hand as he leant out of the last door of the train. The Broken Hill museum has drawers full of the old fashioned cardboard tickets, so I souvenired a couple of them just for old time’s sake.

We headed off for a long lunch with our friends who had moved out to White Cliffs all those years ago. I had last seen them as guests at our wedding thirty years previously. So there was a bit of catching up to do! While there, I bumped into a person who had been on the panel with me at my author’s talk earlier in the week. She is a solicitor in the child protection and family court arena. Twice now, my library talks have been the catalyst for bringing together professionals working with family and domestic violence. The Broken Hill talk had included police, womens’ refuge, and counselling personnel, as well as the legal service.

Then we headed off for the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, and just outside we bumped into Wendy Martin, whose gallery we had visited earlier in the week. She and her artist colleagues were just packing up their pieces which had been on display in the gallery. So we got to view hers in her car boot!

I have never been in a gallery when it is in the midst of switching exhibitions before. That in itself was interesting, and gave us a chance to talk with the curator and other workers, as well as view the permanent displays. The building was originally built as a shopping emporium, and the name of the Sully family (1885 -1925) is still painted on the outside. Also outside, is more of Geoff de Main’s work, this time in sculpture form.

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As we made our way back to our motel for our last dinner of this wonderful trip, we took one last photograph of the Line of Lode dominating the Broken Hill skyline:

Looking up to Line of Lode Broken Hill 2016-03-14

39 thoughts on “Bumming Around in Broken Hill

  1. An interesting look at Broken Hill. Though in many ways it seems out of the past it definitely does have it’s foot in the modern world. Naming the streets after minerals makes sense to me.

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    • Agnes Ashe was taken with naming the streets after minerals and chemical elements too! The explanatory board on the sculpture, summarised, says the canoe represents the flow of the Darling River and the impact of colonisation on the traditional people of this region. With the contrasting use of the river for food and shelter versus transport and wealth, Geoff de Main has placed the two heads facing away from each other, and poses the question: will they EVER face each other? There is a second similar sculpture in town, done by schoolchildren under the artist’s guidance.

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  2. An opshop? It really is so interesting how the Australian wild west is so similar to the US Western culture and history. It just shows you that people are the same wherever they are despite their differences! This has been an amazing journey. I have enjoyed every step of the way. Your attention to detail and your photos have really enhanced the story. This would make such a fabulous book, no doubt about it. You have really captured the essence of a cultural history. I could almost feel I was riding along with you! how marvelous you got to catch up with old friends. A real topping to the end of the journey, wasn’t it?

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    • Op shop is short for Opportunity (store). The charity shop where you donate your good used clothes for re-sale at a tiny price. Often now, you can even find brand-new clothes that are excess to factory requirements. The Oz lingo (Australian language) often shortens words e.g. arvo for afternoon. I am so glad you have enjoyed this trip, and thanks for the positive feedback! I will put up one last one on the rail trip back. Then maybe a few random ones using various phone photos of other excursions, and then we are off a BIG trip by rail around Australia – three nights on the Indian Pacific for example. No wi-fi on board though – which is a good thing – so it will be another example of catching up with the posts afterwards.

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    • Chemistry? My teacher used to stand at the front of the class, roaring at me, “you DO understand this – you are just being OBTUSE!” Sadly, no. I had no . . . #*!!* idea what he was talking about. But, yes, practically every street in Broken Hill is named after a mineral or chemical element. So, it was an education for me!!

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        • You and me so have to meet one day 🙂 I have just come back from Dubbo, where I was telling someone about your Duhrer analogy from my Dubbo Zoo photo. They knew immediately to what you referred. So I don’t think you are the nerd, I suspect I am the “pleb”.

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          • Not at all Gwen – plebs don’t get published! 😁 But I’m sorry to say I am a nerd and it’s in the genes as my daughter’s party piece is the Tom Lehrer ‘Chemical Elements’ song. 😩

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          • Just checked out the song! Oh, too funny. I hope I get to see her perform that some day. I remember having a “barium meal” examination years ago (stomach), and somewhere I learned that potassium (bananas?) helps prevent cramp when swimming. I recognised quite a few of the other elements, but on the whole this is a subject I never got my head around.

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          • Can’t say that the periodic table keeps me awake at nights, but at least Tom Lehrer somehow makes it funny. Always thought ‘barium meal’ sounds like it should be a steamed pudding.

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          • Or maybe it’s a yucky porridge, LOL. I don’t seem to hear of anyone having them these days, but in my memory it was a lot less invasive than gastroscopy and didn’t require anaesthetic.

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          • No I’ve not heard of anyone having a barium meal recently either. My mother had to drink a load of milky looking stuff before she had a scan. Maybe they’ve changed the formulation to be quicker?

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          • I just Googled and it is described as a white liquid, which I suppose is what I had. Then they tracked the path and took x-Ray’s. I was on a bed which they rotated slowly. How did you mother cope?

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          • Oh yes, looks like she had a barium meal then. It was ghastly. She was 78 and so frail and skeletally thin that the long time in the scanner was horrific. I was very angry because the doctors already knew by then what was wrong with her – we could all see it, this large lump jutting out of the back of her rib cage. They seemed to do every horrible test they could think of before telling her she had terminal, inoperable lung cancer. The primary tumour had been as clear as day on the X-ray, but I didn’t know what they were showing me at the time. It was an 8 week guessing game before we were officially told.

            This all happened in 2010 and I gave it a couple of years so that I was writing in the white heat of grief before I wrote a very, very long complaint about the whole fiasco. Eventually the chief consultant for palliative care at the hospital invited my father and I to a meeting to discuss the matter. He said he gave lectures to medical students and wanted to use my letter to illustrate concerns regarding zealous testing and then the problems with caring for the terminally ill elderly choosing to die at home. You just have to hope things have improved.

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          • What a terrible experience for you all. That sounds more like an MRI. I haven’t looked it up, but I think the drink contains a radioactive substance that shows up all parts of the body. Not just the digestive tract as the barium meal does. Good on you for pursuing your concerns. I think treatments here vary according to where you live and which teams you get. My dad chose to die at home and we managed on account of having enough in the family to rotate the nursing care, daily calls from the palliative team, and instructions for morphine doses. That was twenty years ago. Yet my girlfriend, who only died last year, slipped through the administrative cracks and was left struggling at home with just her husband, until her last few days when he finally got his point across and they admitted her to palliative care. In the meantime she endured tremendous pain because no one had commenced a morphine plan.

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          • Oh dear, how awful for her. Each time I tell someone our story I hear at least one reciprocal tale of horror. It amazes me with all the headline information about cancer and other terminal diseases that not enough people know about what palliative care has to offer and how dying at home is not always the simple answer. This week in the UK we have what’s called ‘Dying Matters’ week where various organisations are trying to get all of us, of all ages to consider what we want for ourselves and to discuss these dying issues with our families. It appears with a culture relentlessly focussed on youth we now have a ‘death denying’ environment as if nobody’s ever going to die. I think that when real people do die it’s even more shocking and perhaps this partly explains the recent responses to the deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Prince.

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          • One of the interviews we did on The Good Life was with my GP doctor about Advanced Care Planning. The subject came up again this weekend when another girlfriend came for a couple of nights and was talking about a “living will”. Many of our health authorities now have templates on the internet for people to think about what treatment they do / do not want in certain circumstances. It goes beyond a simple “do not resuscitate” instruction. Personally, of course – I intend to live forever 🙂 . . . But just in case, I have already decided what music I would like at my service 🙂

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          • There’s something over here called ‘an advance decision’ which the authorities would like people to write when they are younger just in case the worst happens out of the blue. It is particularly concerned with the living will issues when you can no longer express yourself. I signed my mother’s DNR she certainly didn’t want to hang around. And, I’ve already told my daughter I don’t want any service etc, but to be donated for medical research like both my grandparents. They both ended up going to the medical school at Cambridge University, but a couple of years apart.

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          • Well, if you donate to a medical school when they’ve finished there’s a choice of a small respectful service or nothing. And, both my very determined grandparents requested nothing. They were lifelong atheists after the First World War.

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          • Have you seen the film Still Life, with Eddie Marsan? I think the service was like that, one council employee and a minister. But all the expenses, which can be considerable even for the simplest burial/cremation, are covered by the state. In my grandmother’s case, she ended up in a “paupers grave”, which is something like a mass grave, in the sense that there were at least six others buried on top in an unmarked grave which is now a part of bushland / overgrown area in our very large cemetery at Rookwood. The average person wouldn’t even realise there are bodies in there. When my mother died in 2012, I discovered that grandma, who died in 1956, actually owned a plot she had bought in 1937. It is about 100 yards from where she ended up. How sad. It lay unclaimed all those years. My Aunty felt very bad about what had happened to her mother, so I managed to have a memorial plaque placed in a nearby rose garden. That dates back to the early nineties. My mum didn’t exactly comprehend what was going on, but it cheered up my Aunty tremendously.

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          • Ah, that is sad for the surviving family members. I think it’s very difficult for individuals if they have any strong feelings religious or otherwise about their earthly remains and then to see their loved ones disappearing in a pauper’s grave. It is often close relatives that ultimately feel responsible, and it is the living who need comforting.

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          • I feel for many it is part of the mourning process. When my girlfriend died last June, she was cremated then. It wasn’t until December that we had a simple gathering of friends and family at a lakeside, then her two children kayaked out and scattered the ashes, then back to the house for a simple meal and chat. Nothing religious – or expensive – just as she wished. But the six month delay was hard on her husband, and since the “ceremony” he is more relaxed and planning for his own future.

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          • Yes, I’m sure you’re right. A personal ceremony with immediate family and close friends probably suits most ordinary people these days.

            In another life I started a PhD looking at how the Victorians attempted to try and manage their legacy and maintain their reputations even after they’d died. It all started with their elaborate, protocol rich funerals and periods of mourning. Through some of my research reading I wondered how much true grief was permitted to be expressed deep within all the ritual. I used to think they did dying and death better than us 21st century people, but now with more personal experience I’ve changed my mind.

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          • That is very interesting. I intend to set a scene of the next book in Undercliffe Cemetery in Bradford. Some of my ancestors are buried in the non-conformist section there – in particular my g.g.grandfather who died in 1871. I have visited the cemetery and viewed the monuments of the rich and famous, and I have a photo of the modest headstone as befits the religious beliefs of my ancestors (Methodists I think). I also have a photo of what I believe is his widow, and in mourning clothes, I think. If you had any links you would like to point me toward for more information, please feel free. I think I will use his death as the trigger for my great-grandmother to migrate to Australia. Which may be close to the truth.

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          • When I read your comment I instantly thought of the most useful book (I still have it) I used when I started my research and funnily enough it’s by an Australian – Pat Jalland. I see since publishing ‘Death in the Victorian Family’ she has also published a lot more research in book form. I’m guessing ideas may have moved on since I was working on this topic 10 years ago. I did find her work the most interesting and readable. Her ideas weren’t standard and obvious, and she didn’t wondered into pretentious, psycho babble like some of the cultural commentators at the time. There was a penchant for referencing Derrida and Lacan which I think is now considered of little value. Have fun with the reading and your travels.

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