Picture of Captains Flat

Picture of the Lake George Mine Entrance at Captains Flat

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Captains Flat Tour - Then and Now

Over the 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 underground.

Speech by Mrs Doreen Borrow
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 childhood years.

Unfortunately our 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 death.

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 occurs.

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."

Content ©2006 Gregory S. Davies
Content: ©2006 Captains Flat Community Association
Site: www.captainsflat.org