Piece of local history donated for miners memorial display

Cobar Miners Memorial Project chair Barry Knight (third from left) was pleased to take delivery of a church bell which is to be incorporated into the memorial park. Mr Knight was recently presented with the bell by members of St Paul’s Church Cobar Bill Houghton, Lorraine Lehmann, Heinz Goldman, Reverend Graham McLeod, Col Lehmann, Rita Stubbs and Loretta Houghton. The bell, from the Church of England Resurrection Church at Nymagee, had been stored at St Paul’s Church.

A piece of our local history is to be included in the construction of the Miners Memorial with a church bell to form part of the historical display.

The old bell comes from the Anglican Church of the Resurrection at Nymagee which was founded in 1959, and was recently donated to the Cobar Miners Memorial committee.

Committee chair Barry Knight said at one of their planning meetings which aims to build a memorial to honour all those who lost their lives in mining, the idea of a bell come up.

“It was museum curator Kay Stingemore who suggested the inclusion of a bell as part of the memorial.

“Kay advised bells were used to alert the community that there had been a mining accident,” Mr Knight said.

Mrs Stingemore said the bell connected the mines and miners to the community, both literally and metaphorically.

“When there was an accident, the bells rang and the whistles blew, letting everyone know that something had happened,” Mrs Stingemore explained.

“People would run to the mine, wanting to help, wanting to find out who had been hurt or killed.”

She said bells rang the levels and signalled the type of work at the mine.

“Not knowing the code could and did lead to accidents. In 1899, Cobar mine managers agreed on a uniform code of bell signals so it would be the same wherever the men worked.

“Uniform codes were legislated two years later.”

Mrs Stingemore said when there was a fatality at the mines, the church bells would toll for the funeral.

Mr Knight said when he set about looking for a suitable bell for the memorial he spoke with Fr Graham McLeod, who has been a guest speaker at past Miner’s Memorial events.

Fr McLeod said he did know of a bell that might be used as there was one in storage at Cobar’s St Paul’s Anglican Church.

He said the bell, which has been looked after for a number of years by the St Paul’s parish since the closure and subsequent sale of the Church of Resurrection, was intended to be sent to a church in the Pacific Islands.

Mr Knight said as the bell weighs around 50kg, the church found that it was going to be too expensive to get it there.

He said the Nymagee community is “more than happy” to hear that the bell will be staying in the local area and that locals and visitors to Cobar will be able to learn more about its history.