Tuesday, 6 June 2017

AAA Tour - Day 15 - Silver City Tours

Mine view from Miner's Memorial
Our morning was spent with Peter, our driver and tour guide from Silver City Tours, as he toured us around Broken Hill in a small bus with very comfortable leather seats.

After being gathered from our different accommodation spots and calling in at the Tourist Information Centre, our starting point of the tour was the Miner's Memorial, way up high above the town on top of the Line of Load. The wind, although not strong, assaulted us as soon as we left the lee of the bus. We had visited the memorial on our first morning in Broken Hill but the additional information Peter provided certainly gave substance and body to the names on the boards in front of us. However, as he rolled out facts and anecdotes, it just got colder and we were pleased to return to the bus.

Among the many things we found out in the next four hours, were:
Lone pine from
Lone Pine
  • Broken Hill has no underground storm water drainage. Instead, it has a complex system of humps and hollows along its road system which channels the water eastwards to large storm water collections and from there to a created wetland and in overflow, to a small reservoir outside of town;
  • the former Silver King Hotel, was the first pub in Broken Hill. At its height, there were 72;
  • the original town hall lives on as a facade in the main street;
  • the big bin which brings mined rocks to the surface is called a skip and it carries 13 tonne of rock;
  • the green tinge on slag heaps is a special die they add to the water they spray over the heaps to settle the dust. The die allows them to know where they have sprayed and its green because it looks environmentally friendly;
  • the gaol is minimum security. In former days, a team from the gaol played in the darts competition at a nearby pub. The warden would take the men to the pub, watch them play and then return them after a few sneaky beers;
We visited the Perilya Mine operation, through very tight security and Peter took us through information about the Line of Load, the discovery of silver, lead and zinc and mining techniques. Outside, an interesting sidelight was a pine tree that had been grown from a seed of the lone pine tree at Lone Pine, Gallipoli ... or so the story goes. 

In Wolfram St, we stopped outside the original home of June Gough, who left Broken Hill to pursue a career in singing: she even adopted a stage name that paid homage to her background. June Bronhill was one of the world's best opera singers.

We saw the home of a recently retired doctor who was known as Fortnight Phil or Doc Holiday because he would often put miner's off work for longer periods of time than their physical injuries perhaps warranted. It would seem he had an earlier grasp on the need to protect the mental health of the men who saw him.

We passed the Central Power Station which provided power to the mines and is now being developed as a facility for film making and the Galena St Power Station which is now a hardware store.

Celotto's version of "Birth of Venus"
One of my favourite destinations was the Belair Drive In, near the main golf course off the Tibooburra Rd. Overrun by VHS and eventually DVDs, all that remains are the small poles which once held the speakers and a brick kiosk. The saltbush is gradually reclaiming the rest.

This was a really good local tour.

In the afternoon, we visited the small gallery of Julie Hart, the daughter of Pro Hart. Her work was very nice but strongly derivative of her father. We also called in at the Palace Hotel.

The Palace started life in 1889 as a coffee palace, built by the Tempereance Movement in opposition to the great number of local hotels. It went broke within three years and reopened as ... a hotel! It is famous for its murals. Mario Celotto, owner for many years from the early 1970's, painted his own version of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" and put up a challenge to anyone to match his work, with a reward of $1000 if they could. An Aboriginal artist, Gordon Waye, took up the challenge and painted one wall of the front bar with an outback scene and over the next eight years, painted walls throughout the hotel.
Click here to view today's photos.

The Palace is also famous for being the venue of the bar scenes of "Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert".

Silverton tomorrow.

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