Posted by: jkirkby8712 | November 23, 2010

Mine news depressing while neighbourly hostilities erupt.

This writer has been a little busy over the past few days – my head mixed up in Genealogical matters  – searching through online versions of old newspapers seeking little bits of family ancestral news.  A bit of a ‘new light’ has been thrown upon some of the original settlers here in Australia,  facts that I’d not been previously aware of, and my searching, while answering a few questions also opens up a whole lot of new questions!  I currently in regular contact with at least two distant cousins, who for a change, are just as interested in the family background as I am myself. Usually it’s a bit of a solo effort  – most people you come across in your researching are interested but generally not enough to be too bothered – too many other things in life to occupy oneself with!   Of course, in many ways, I can appreciate that attitude – my own research came to a major standstill for the best part of two decades whilst the family were growing, and employment roles took a bit more of a priority than they do these days.

Of particular interest has been reading some of the memoirs of the early families. Many of them were part of the coach building industry  [before cars began to take over at the beginning of the 20th century].  The daughter of one of our coach building ancestors described a couple of aspects of the business she enjoyed been a part of as a young child – an example with the following brief paragraphs.

“One great pleasure was watching the buggies being painted and Dad drawing fine lines along the spokes of the wheels, and transfers with gold size on backs of buggies.  Emily used to get one shilling for putting the first coat of paint on a wheel.  She loved stirring the little kegs of white lead with a stick, and the varnish and paints, and also putting the marker into the rim of a tyre and wheel so they would bolt up properly after cooling.

Doing the tyres was really worth a watch.  In cold weather they were heated at two forges, and to grow tall enough to make the bellows blow was a real treat, as Emily was small and at first was lifted up to reach the handle.  In the summer they were done outside as there was a round solid slab of iron beside a (tyre hole) as it was called.  The tyres were put on an outside round fire and heated and then quickly lifted to just touch the wood of the wheel which had already been laid on the round iron and by quickly slipping in the marker where Dad had marked both tyre and wheel, the rim was then belted on with a sledge hammer and then quickly cooled down with buckets of water thrown all over the rim as it would start to burn the wood”

Meanwhile, it’s back to 2010.  It is disturbing to hear that little progress in terms of a rescue of the trapped miners in the New Zealand coal mine has been achieved. I think friends and relatives have been hoping that there would be another ‘Chile style’ miracle rescue as occurred in October, but as the days go past, it is becoming more and more obvious that these men have been lost. It also seems that the town of Greymouth is struggling to come to terms with the tragedy that is slowly unfolding on a mountainside 28 miles away. This report on the affect of the disaster on the town, appeared in the Telegraph  newspaper a few hours ago, and was written by journalist Bonnie Malkin

“Scattered through the town are 29 families awaiting news of their loved ones, including two Britons, who have been missing since a powerful explosion ripped through the Pike River mine on Friday afternoon.  In the latest reports coming out of the area, rescuers admit hopes are fading for the 29 men, after a remote-operated robot broke down shortly after being sent into the tunnel. The robot was equipped with a camera which would have provided the first pictures inside the Pike River mine. But in a blow to rescue hopes, Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the robot had short-circuited shortly after entering the mine.  Certainly, the disaster has hit the mining town hard.  In Greymouth’s close-knit community of 10,000 people, almost everyone knows someone who is missing.

While the close relatives of the men gather twice a day for updates from the police, their expressions worsening as the rescue is further delayed, the rest of the community is also grieving.  While many churches have been left open so that residents can light a candle and say a prayer for the miners, a sign on the window of the ANZ Bank simply reads: “Our thoughts are with you all”.  At the nearby Salvation Army building a drop-in centre for residents has been set up. Air New Zealand has sent in support teams and the Red Cross is operating as an information centre for the relatives of the miners.  But spirits in the town remain low. Streets are mostly deserted, and the mine rescue is the topic of conversation in every shop, café and motel.  Captain Charles Prattley, local Salvation Army officer, said the entire community was “depressed”.   “There doesn’t seem to be so many people out on the streets going on with their lives, everything has quietened down and seems very subdued,” he said.  “People are not doing their shopping or doing ordinary things, everything seems to be on hold.”  Robin Kingston, assistant priest at the Holy Trinity Anglican church in Greymouth, acknowledged that the wider community was losing hope as the days ticked by without news of any rescue attempt.   “The feeling around the place is that things are not looking at all good and the chances of getting the men out alive are becoming less and less,” he said.  “People are becoming quite pessimistic. “They don’t want to give up hope entirely, but they are accepting that short of a miracle this is not going to be a good outcome.”

The windswept coastal town, wedged between the mouth of the Grey River and the shadow of the Southern Alps, was founded on coal mining. The first European to visit the area was Thomas Brunner in 1846, who discovered coal in the Grey valley, and several other places in the region.   It is not the first time that the area has been hit by a mining tragedy. In 1967 an explosion rocked the Strongman mine, just 18 miles from Pike River, killing 19 of the 250 men who were working underground at the time”.

A further matter of quite serious concern in the Asian region is the report I have read this evening that North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto the South Korean  border island of Yeonpyeong, triggering an exchange of fire as southern armed forces went on their highest state of alert.  In what appeared to be one of the most serious border incidents since the 1950-53 war, South Korea’s government convened in an underground war room and air force jets were reportedly scrambled to the Yellow Sea island. Two South Korean marines were killed when North Korea shelled the border island, according to the military..  In an MSN report it was noted that   ‘about 50 North Korean shells landed on the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong near the tense Yellow Sea border, damaging dozens of houses and sending plumes of thick smoke into the air, YTN television reported. “A North Korean artillery unit staged an illegal firing provocation at 2.34pm local time (1634 AEDT) and South Korean troops fired back immediately in self-defence,” a South Korean ministry spokesman told AFP’. It’s not clear what has prompted this sudden ‘attack’ by the North, but it must be viewed with some considerable concern by South Korea, and really, by most of the western world.  Instability between the two Koreas could have serious consequences for all of us!

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