years, many miners lost their lives while extracting the
ore from deep within the bowels of the Captain's Flat
mine. It is said that one miner died for every year that
the mine was open, a terrible price for any town to pay
for its industry.
On Sunday 1 October 2000, after many
years of planning, a memorial was unveiled to honour
those men whose lives were sacrificed in the pursuit of
their trades. The memorial's main structure consists of
a tall steel frame, topped with a ginny wheel, the same
kind that was used on top of the Captain's Flat mine
poppet for many years. This stands in the centre of a
small landscaped area, encircled by a hand-built stone
wall, constructed from stones similar to those extracted
from the mine itself. Set inside the wall, are three
dioramas depicting mining life. These were designed and
crafted, fittingly, from copper by a local artist. A
copper plaque listing those who perished in the mines is
also set into the wall.
The ceremony was attended by many
ex-miners and their families. A particularly poignant
moment was the placing of lit miners lamps at the foot
of the memorial, to honour each man who died. These were
allowed to burn out as the afternoon wore on, just as
the town itself died down after the mines were closed.
After the official speeches, Mr
Dumbrell, an ex-miner spoke about life underground
during the town's heyday and Mrs Doreen Borrow spoke on
behalf of the wives and families who lost loved ones
Speech by Mrs Doreen
Dedication of the Captains Flat Miners Memorial
1 October 2000
"Thank you for your
invitation to speak on behalf of the wives and mothers
of Captains Flat who lost loved ones during the period,
1938 to 1962 when the mine was operational. It is indeed
an honor and I only hope I can do justice to them and to
the memory of those they lost.
My husband David
died on the 21 of November 1957 as a result of injuries
he sustained in an underground explosion at the Lake
George Mine. He was thirty-three years old and the
father of four small children. Two of those children,
Steve and Kathy are here today.
My links to this
place go back a long way. My family, the Kerrs, came to
the Flat in 1928. Dad had great expectations that this
place would be bigger than Broken Hill and sank what
capital he had into building a billiard room. newsagency
and barbers shop. This building would in later years
become the Workers Club and it was there that I spent my
arrival coincided with the beginning of the depression
and the closure of the mine. We were to spend many of
the following years in a soul destroying poverty- ridden
existence until the mine reopened in 1938. Most of the
men had left the town looking for work, leaving families
behind. The women they left had manage as best they
could under the most difficult circumstances. They
showed remarkable resilience in doing so holding their
families together displaying great fortitude and courage
in doing so.
I left the Flat for
the bright city life during the war years and did not
return until I was a married woman with a baby boy.
There used to be an old saying - that having drank the
dam water of Captains Flat, you were always bound to
return. It certainly held true for me for after some
years I came home.
Our return to the
Flat coincided with one of the big strikes that occurred
here. David was a returned service man and when work
resumed he obtained a position at the mine and continued
to work there until his untimely death.
The life of a miner
has, as many of you here will know, always meant hard
and dangerous work. Every improvement of working
conditions had to be fought for. Captainís Flat miners
waged many courageous struggles to obtain concessions
from the management of Lake George Mines and much of
this has been documented elsewhere.
The lives of the
women in mining towns have also been hard, but this has
never received the recognition it so rightly deserves
until recent times. It was the women who shouldered the
burden of raising children, getting by on meager wages
and at times no money at all when strikes or lockouts
occurred. They were the ones who lived in constant fear
of death or injury to their men and who had to face the
shocking reality when their fears are confirmed.
In the records of
the Department of Mines the deaths of miners are
recorded briefly among other statistics such as the
amount of tonnage mined, profits obtained and geological
information. The brief statement of how the death
occurred does not convey the trauma, heartache and grief
of the family when they are told their loved one is
coming off shift for the last time.
It is impossible for
me to convey the emotions you experience when someone
knocks on your door and conveys that message to you.
Only those who have experienced such an event would
understand. I guess the same can be said of any sudden
In the aftermath of
such a traumatic event wives and families are left to
pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and get on
with the business of living and caring for those left
behind. There was no trauma counseling and women had to
draw on an inner strength to sustain them.
It is at such times
that mining towns like Captains Flat, come to the fore
with financial and moral support to sustain the grieving
members of their little community. There is a shared
grief and a sense of loss felt by all when a death
It is gratifying to
know that that community spirit lives on and is
symbolically embodied in this monument. Many of the
names inscribed are familiar to me. Some are not but
each one of them is a reminder of a short, painful and
very public tragedy. A tragedy that has been felt by all
of us and provides a constant reminder of the price that
is often paid to allow the work of mining to continue.
It is also
gratifying to see so many of the old Flatites turn out
for this occasion. Captains Flat has often been called a
ghost town and if there are ghosts here they are not
only the ghosts of those who died in the mine but ghosts
of those of us, whose history is inextricably woven into
the fabric of the towns history. I know this place holds
many memories, both good and bad, of my years spent here
and of the people who shared a small part of my life.
On behalf of the
wives and mothers I thank the Captains Flat Community
Association and all the people who had the vision, the
tenacity and the will to see this project come to
fruition. It is indeed a wonderful and fitting tribute
to our husbands, brothers and sons whose names are
lovingly inscribed on this monument.
And I again thank
those who gave me the opportunity to be here and make my
small contribution to todayís ceremony."