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History of Megalong - 3

Megalong and Mining
There was a brief revival of mining in the valley in 1943. A shale mine was re-opened on the Megalong Valley side of Narrow Neck Mountain, a little further south than the original shale mines of the 1885 period, by Genders Brothers of Lithgow. The shale was mined and transported to Mittagong, N.S.W., and reported to obtain petrol to bolster up the diminishing supply of petrol available during the time of the Second World War. This operation was a kind of war effort to keep the motor vehicles moving and assist to maintain supply of much needed coal for industry.

During 1945 Coal mining began on the Megalong side of Narrow Neck Mountain approximately three miles further south. By this time shale mining had ceased once again and much of the equipment and buildings were removed and re-used at the newly developed coal mine. This mine (Sunny Ridge Colliery) operated for approximately five years and produced good quality coal.

The coal was hauled by motor vehicle to Blackheath and was sold to local users for 1 pound 10 shillings per ton. During the early stages, the Blue Mountains City Council was the main buyer for their electricity power generating plant at Katoomba. Also, much of the large coal was sold to the N.S.W. Government Railways and delivered to Mount Victoria for gave the pioneers of Megalong some ready cash while they developed their land. Prospectors investigated coal and shale mining localities in the valley from time to time and about 1932 a coal mine operation got underway for a short period close to Megalong Road, approximately three miles from Blackheath. There are few records of this operation but it is known to have produced coal mainly for the local fuel market.

One of the principals of the Sunny Ridge Colliery was Mr Scott Bonner who then lived in Megalong Valley and was the well known manufacturer of Scott Bonner lawn mowers.

Megalong and the Church
Christian worship was carried on in various places in Megalong from the 1890′s. Reverend Scott Fletcher (afterwards Professor of Philosophy in the Queensland University) commenced services in the Miner’s Hall. Next was Rev. F. V. Pratt of the Congregational Church, Katoomba. He and his friend Douglas Mawson (later Sir Douglas) were keen walkers and they hiked through Megalong and Burragorang Valleys, both sharing in the early services in quaint localities. Later Rev. Ian Stebbins carried on services at various homes and it was during this time that the first protestant church was built. It was constructed of piesa walls and corrugated iron roof and was built by volunteer labour on land donated by well known local citizens Donald Boyd and family. It was opened for worship in 1923. This church was serviced by several ministers. The Rev. Leslie Barbour worked towards the building of a new church which was built by a well known Katoomba builder and of a pioneer family, Ben Esgate, and was completed in 1943. After the passing on of the Rev. Barbour a Sunday School Room was built and dedicated in his memory in 1961.

In an early report on the old hotel, it was stated that a room was always available for Father McGough who came from Katoomba on Sundays to offer mass for his flock. Later a Catholic Church was built close to “Euroka” property by the six foot track, next to the Megalong Cemetery, but soon after this church was accidentally burnt. Following this unfortunate mishap, mass was conducted in various homes by visiting Priests from Blackheath and Katoomba. John Kirby and family gave continued support and many services were conducted at their home until the year 1922, when the second church was built on the site of the first. With local helpers with finance and labour, under the supervision of Steve Gibbins, a builder living at Blackheath, the job was soon completed. In 1952 this church was moved to a site by the entrance to “Euroka” property on land donated by the Ward family.

It is sad to know the pioneers and old timers have gone and their wonderful stories have died with them. We would be interested and amused with stories of romance and adventure of the early days but unfortunately not many have been recorded. You may hear tell of the shy young man who, more than fifty years ago, courted a neighbour’s daughter but the said neighbour was not impressed, feeling that his prospective son-in-law did not have enough “go” in him. However after long months of waiting, a cat was eventually the direct cause of happy ending. It was one of those occasions when the young man had been asked to tea. When the meal was already spread on the table, one of the cats (no doubt there were many of them) sprang up without warning and began with zest to devour the food. Seizing the chance of a lifetime, our young hopeful reached for a bag of sovereigns in his pocket and hurled it with unerring aim at the miscreant. Whether it was the gold or the initiative is not known, but father was persuaded that night to give his consent. Then there was the time that a settler meeting a friend of his, offered to share with him a beast which he had killed and skinned up in the hills. the two set off together and in due course each arrived home with half a bullock and happy thoughts of good fresh meat for some time to come.

A few weeks later the second party, while riding out in search of one of his bullocks that had strayed, passed on his journey the first party who was also riding : “Did you happen to see a red baldy bullock?” he called to his neighbour. “Yes” was the reply “you ate half of it about three weeks ago.” Megalong, the “Valley under the Rocks” has been sheltered from the world of noise and bustle through countless years. Even when the shale mines were working and there were many people in the Glen, normal life among the settlers was not disturbed and it would seem that nature had decreed that its little masterpiece should not be spoilt. Perhaps the loudest noise in bygone days was the crack of stockwhips as men searched for cattle in the hills or drove them to market across the “Black Dog” track.