History of the Burra Burra Mine.
By James Thomas Senr.
No. 4. SOCIAL LIFE
I promised in my last to say something about the social and economic state of Burra in the olden time. We of the early days are often twitted with the re
mark, "Oh, 'twas good to be you, here in the good old times," almost envying us the golden opportunity that we had for the accumulation of wealth. Well, let us see about this matter! I have previously explained that the surface laborers on the mine got a pound per week and underground men were allowed to earn 30s, that was if they worked the whole time, but wet weather sometimes prevented that, in which case they were "docked." Fortunately they had no rent to pay, as most of them lived in dugouts in the banks of the creek. Now just imagine the life lived by the women with children to be immured in these holes, with the light penetrating through the open doorway only, and the ventila- tion confined to the same source. These were not the only inconveniences. The inaccessability of the huts made the work of getting the necessaries of life to them strenuous. The fuel, water, and all that was required had to be brought down those rough hewn steps ; the butcher,
baker, grocer, all had to shout down the chimney to the inmates and then the women would climb to the surface to be served. The chimneys were all alike, surmounted by a flour barrel, so it was difficult to know one from another, but the tradesman called down each barrel and then the women learnt of his pres- ence. Then to find room for the wood- heap, the clotheslines, the water-barrel, and other outside matters would tax their ingenuity, as outside the doorway was a drop to the bottom of the creek. Their only view from their door was the creek bed and the opposite barren hills. That is one phrase of the "good old times" and the one bright spot in their outlook was the Sunday when they with their husbands would go to church, or visit their friends, up or down the creek. They had little furniture to polish, all home-made out of old cases and their light was either a slush lamp or a tallow
candle. To stand in the front rank of creek society they must burn candles (slush-lamps were used by bachelors) and a candle-mould was a necessity ranking with, the camp-oven in import- ance. The husband was expected home a little after three o'clock coming from underground to again go underground in his dugout, but he, too, anticipated his week-end and Sunday, when they could get out into the sunlight together with their children if any. A good pro- portion of the people attended places of worship and were religious folk, and their religion seemed more intense and emotional than that of to-day. But we had others who desecrated the Sabbath. One set who had a nag of any kind went kangarooing, seldom bagged any, but might get smaller fry — bandicoots or wildcat, but they considered it sport and were satisfied. The Burra was repre- sented by all colors and nationalities, even a few negroes, so all had their own ideas of pleasure and followed their own peculiar taste. Some would fancy cock- fighting and might be seen with a roos- ter under their arm going to some se- cluded spot to meet another by appoint ment. Others again, fancied dogfight- ing and they would cut the ears and dock the tail of a mongrel to make a bulldog of him. But they were soon to have places, to spend their leisure hours and spare cash. A Mr Paxton, one of the mine directors, in order to show his faith in the stability of the mine built four hotels and a square of houses (Paxton's Square). The hotels were, Burra Hotel (the present hospital), Lord's Hotel, and the Pig and Whistle; these were in Kooringa proper. There was a little hotel at Aberdeen called "Southampton Arms" to be strangled to secure the monopoly of the drink traffic, so he built Opie's Hotel on the north boundary of the mine proper- ty and just across the chain road from Mr Stacy's Southampton Arms. Now those hotels were soon in full blast, and Burra was soon transformed from a peace-loving, law-abiding community, to a drunken, wife beating rabble. This applied to the rowdy element. Of course there were many quiet respectable people who never visited an hotel. The first publican that I remember was a Mr
Wren of the then Burra Hotel, and Messrs. Cowper kept the other two. I will enumerate the shops such as I re- member, general stores, Boord Bros ; Thomson & Kekwick ; Marks & Gollin ; Thomas Bath ; Samuel Drew ; Warren Bros. ; Doctor Moore ; Mr Greenwood, chemist. Mr P. Lane and Hy. Dawson, saddle and harness makers. Mr Lange was the stipendiary magistrate and Mr Powell clerk of court. These details and names may not be generally interest- ing but it may be to a few who possibly may be descendants of the persons men- tioned, and if not it may gratify curiosity and is no harm. I know some in Kooringa who knew some of them. But we have now got up into the year 51, a very eventful year, and more interest- ing reading for the public. This year will embrace some stirring events, which I will try to portray, events which had a lasting effect on the future of the Burra and its invironments. The discovery of gold in the Eastern States, and the rush of every able man to that El Dorado, travelling by any and every available means, many having to walk and carry their swag, having spent their money in the aforesaid pubs. Then we must say something about Black Thursday, the big flood that swamped all the dug- outs in the creek, and the unique sight on its banks the next morning. But I must reserve this for your next issue when I will try to interest your readers. (To be continued.)