Wednesday, 7 June 2017

AA Tour - Day 16 - Silverton

Old Silverton Gaol Museum
Our last day in the area was spent at Silverton, to the north west of Broken Hill.

Silverton once had 3000 residents, compared to today's tally of 52. It became a town in 1876 after silver deposits were found there a year earlier. It is therefore an older town than Broken Hill.

Today a few residents seem to enjoy living the twenty odd kilometres from Broken Hill but it is the past, people come to see. There is a small caravan park, Penrose Park, which has had several uses over the years. It has been a racecourse, a picnic ground and a sportsground. The area was named after John Penrose, a popular early resident who was a brewer.

We started our day at Beyond 39 Dips, a reference we think to the many dips in the road from Broken Hill. Its a gallery, a cafe and a tourist information office (they have the maps of the town), so after a browse, we sat on the front verandah in the sunshine and drank our hot chocolates.

The old gaol was our next stop. Refurbished by the Broken Hill Historical Society, this place has too much information and is in need of curation. That said, it was fabulously interesting. Lots of old photos, details and artifacts but in the end, we were swamped by it all.

Silverton Hotel
For lunch, we went to the Old Silverton Hotel which has been used in 19 movies over the years, including "Razorback" and "A Town Like Alice". One wall is covered with photo snaps of famous visitors. I noticed several actors, politicians and sportsmen I knew, in various poses around the pub. INXS was notable. Everywhere you look there is something worthy of examination. Lunch was taken on the side verandah, again in the sun, where it seemed warmer than 14C. Shadows seemed colder. Out the front of the building is a replica of The Road Warrior's Interceptor from Mad Max 2 - a loose interpretation as the original model was a VW Beetle. There were Beetles dotted everywhere around Silverton.

After lunch, we went to Silverton's most spoken of attraction, Adrian Bennett's shrine to the movie Mad Max 2. We had a chat with Adrian, a native of Bradford in England's north. He saw the movie as a nineteen year old in Bradford and packed up his world effects and came to Silverton to create his museum. The place is amazing. He has so many genuine artifacts from the movie, a massive amount of photos from the production phase of the movie, video clips and lots of props from the movie. Recently, he was interviewed for the new David Stratton program on ABC TV. You have to admire his passion and commitment. This was an attraction which lived up to expectations.

We visited some art galleries and then the old school, which closed in 1970 but has been lovingly refurbished and stocked with loads of school related things by the Broken Hill Historical Society and a small handful of older locals. Mary Jane Campbell was assistant teacher here in the early days of the 1880's. She loved to write poetry and went on to become Dame Mary Gilmour. The desks are covered with old text books and school magazines. There was a geometry set similar to those I used fifty years ago. The volunteer gave us lots of information about the school and local families.

Lunch at the Silverton Hotel
We left Silverton for an hour, travelling further north west to a hill above the Mundi Mundi Plains. You are supposed to be impressed with the flatness. Well it was certainly flat but I didn't quite see the curvature of the earth. I'm certain my camera will show it but that's because I took shots with a wide angled lens. Five kms further away from civilisation we reached the Umberumberka Reservoir, which still acts as a water supply for Broken Hill in times of drought. Several creeks flow into the reservoir, including Umberumberka Creek, which flows through Silverton. Flows is a tricky term, as the creek only flows after rain. In between, it is just a sandy bed with redgums. There are picnic tables and toilets available at the reservoir but scant evidence that it is used other than by tourists.

Back in Silverton, we found our way via a sandy dirt road to meet Helen Murray at her Silverton Photography Gallery. She is such a down to earth person and we had a good chat about several things, including photography. I loved here approach to the work and her desire to get the best shot she could "in the camera", instead of manipulating it post photo. She also had a gorgeous dog who greeted us as we arrived and was happy to receive my attentions.

On the way back into town, we stopped by an open carriage sitting on tracks that no longer exist. It marks the only attack on Australian soil during the First World War. On New Years Day, 1915, two Turkish camel drivers opened fire on carriages of residents from Broken Hill - 1200 of them - who were travelling in converted mining carriages to a picnic day held by the Manchester Unity Order of Oddfellows at Penrose Park at Silverton. They escaped over the low hills to the camel drivers camp where they were tracked down and shot by police and soldiers. Two people from the carriages died immediately and 21 were wounded. The attackers, Badsha Mahommed, an ice ream vendor and Mullah Abdullah, a butcher, hilled two more on the way to the camel camp, before they died in the gunfight there.
Click here to view today's photos.

That was about that. Silverton is a really interesting place and well worth spending the day exploring it.

Shopping, fuel and back to our maison sur roues.

A town walking tour of Broken Hill tomorrow morning and then we start the journey home.

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