Coming up with an idea for a research project was not difficult for me living on the edge of the Western coalfield of NSW. Evidence of Kandos’ past reliance on the winning of coal doesn’t take much digging.
With superior Kandos cement from kilns heated with Kandos coal contributing to the concrete footings and pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, no wonder it stands strong after 80 years. Evidence of the region’s present reliance on coal is also easy to find with many coal mines dotting the landscape.
Fascinated by the objects in the Kandos Bicentennial Industrial Museum that came from the Kandos Collieries located within a kilometre of the back door, I want to tell the story of the many men who have mined this black treasure from 1913 to 2001. Having grown up with green coloured glasses, I’m enjoying the challenge of respecting the history of coal-mining, researching the facts about this industry and recoiling at what some mines are doing to the land.
In just the same way as you always see the same type of car that you’ve just purchased, but never really noticed that model before, I am finding coal everywhere. From statues of miners in Lithgow to 1936 maps of NSW minerals in my late grandfather’s books. Being a city girl, I have not grown up with any sort of wood heating and cannot share in people’s memories of the smell of coal, but I am a poet and there’s plenty of coal miner’s poetry to be found in Kandos. There must be some time for musing underground. And before you think that coal references can be boring, even Alfred, Lord Tennyson describes the amazing knight, Sir Lancelot:
His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
So with images of burnished war horses and shining armour, I find myself delighting in rusty locomotives and duperite helmets. My Movable Heritage Fellowship project* involves researching and creating object files, with significance statements and also creating an exhibition from the colliery items in the Kandos Museum. This month’s job is to locate every colliery object and find some coal miners to help me understand what the objects did and how they work.
Written by Leanne Wicks, Kandos
*The other 2013 Movable Heritage Fellowship is awarded to Claire McMullen to assess the significance of the Charlie Wong Hing collection in the Museum of the Riverina.