Old news from Armidale and New England

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Hillgrove and Metz Visitor Returns to Old Mining Centres

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The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser (NSW), Wednesday, 11 Jan, 1939

“SAD MEMORY”

Hillgrove and Metz Visitor Returns to Old Mining Centres

“Hillgrove and Metz are now nothing but a sad memory of what they once were. It almost makes you wish you hadn’t gone back,” said Mr. John Lewis, who has returned to the Armidale district after an absence of 32 years in New Zealand.

Mr. Lewis, whose home is in Rotorua, returned this summer to visit his parents, Mr. and Mrs John Lewis, of Metz, as the latter had been seriously ill.

He remarked to-day on the amazing change that has taken place in the district with the decline of Hillgrove and the growth of Armidale.

Mr. Lewis recalled the “good old days” of the metal boom, when Hillgrove was a borough with several thousand citizens and Metz a thriving community with 1500 to 1600 in habitants, and spoke of the keen rivalry that existed between the two settlements, particularly in sport.

Football and cricket were given enthusiastic support, but it was in racing that the people found their greatest enjoyment. He could remember when footraces were held up the main street of Metz, from Crough’s Hotel to the Post Office, in the light of acetylene lamps.

In those days there were race-tracks on both sides of the gorge. The Metz track of over four furlongs was first located where the Anglican and Wesleyan churches afterwards stood, and a second course was later marked off in a paddock owned by O’Neil, the hotelkeeper.

The Hillgrove course was situated between the recreation ground and the springs. The actual tracks were marked by posts set up at intervals, without the afterthought of rails to keep horses outside the posts.

“Of course,” said Mr. Lewis, “The stakes were not very high—but the bets were.”

(His words evoked a picture of bearded miners taking the odds in handfuls of gold-dust. “I’ll lay a quartpotful to a tobacco-tinful,” yells a bookie, while his clerk pays out bets from a sackful of nuggets. Rich times!)

“Dangerous Times”

They were dangerous times, too, and horse or rider often met death on the rough tracks. At Metz, said Mr. Lewis, an Armidale horse, Cogwheel, was crowded to the inside of the course and staked on one of the posts marking the track. At Cooney Creek, where a four-furlong course ran parallel to the Armidale road, finishing near the old hotel, a jockey was killed when his horse ran him against a tree.

Horse teams travelled the road between Armidale and Hillgrove, with the slower-moving bullocks carting heavier loads. To the east was the wild bush. The road through Wollomombi to Kempsey had been made, but it was a difficult journey and took about a week to cover. Four or five days was considered a very fast trip.

Hillgrove and Metz at that time supported a great number of prospectors, as well as the men working for the big mines, such as the Sunlight and Baker’s Creek. There were practically no Chinese mining there, so that many of the troubles of other goldfields were avoided.

Tramways ran down each side of the gorge, and Metz was at that time known as West Hillgrove. Owing to confusion arising from the two names the western section was later renamed Metz.

Mr. Lewis remembered the celebrations that attended the “christening.” There was a grand procession and at night a fancy dress ball. Metz at that time boasted one of the best dance halls in the district. It had been built for a skating rink and later transformed.

“When I went back,” said Mr. Lewis, “I found it difficult to locate the place where it used to stand.”

When the Bands Played!

There were two bands at Hillgrove, and one at Metz. They were all of high standard, one of them, Hughie McMahon’s band, winning the championship of Australia, at South-street, Ballarat.

“It has altered so much now,” he said, “that you almost wish you hadn’t gone back.”

In New Zealand he had seen the same thing happen in a large mining centre, and he considered that nothing save a fresh discovery of gold could restore to such towns any of their former vitality.

“Country like Hillgrove is no good for farming,” commented Mr. Lewis, “although in New Zealand our mining country is similar to what is considered good pastoral country here. At Rotorua we seldom get temperatures above 80 degrees, and there is little variation during the year”.

Mr. Lewis added that besides its thermal wonderland, Rotorua boasted excellent trout-fishing, deer-stalking, pig-hunting, and duck, pheasant and quail shooting, besides the pursuit of the more humble hare and rabbit. It was recognised as a great sporting centre.

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August 18, 2017 at 4:15 pm

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Expensive revolver

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Western Champion (Parkes, NSW), Thursday 21 August 1930

WESTERN DISTRICT NEWS

DEAR REVOLVER.

Sorry he Spoke.

R. T. Mulligan, a well-known grazier of Cooney Creek, near Armidale, knows more about law than he did a few weeks ago. Recently a robbery took place at his homestead, the articles stolen including a revolver. At the trial of two young men arrested for the offence Mulligan identified the revolver as his property. Subsequently he was charged with having in his possession a revolver that had not been licensed. He explained to the P.M. that it had been in the possession of his family for over 30 years, and he regarded it as a curio. The P.M., however, imposed a fine of £8, with 6/- costs.

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August 26, 2013 at 8:08 am

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‘Belligerent old gentleman’ (1921).

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The Bathurst Times (NSW), Wednesday 19 January 1921

A Uralla paper reports :-

The Cooney Creek Hotel was to be dismantled this week, but when the dismantlers turned up they found a belligerent old gentleman in occupation, who threatened to spill a lot of blood if they attempted to shift him. Though the occupant is 82 it was deemed discretionary to leave him alone — for the present at any rate.

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June 24, 2013 at 8:00 am

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Disposal of Cooney Creek Hotel buildings.

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Daily Observer (Tamworth, NSW), Friday 25 January 1918

BUILDING MATERIALS, 500 SHEETS IRON.

FOR SALE BY TENDER.

CHAS. WILSON and CO. (for Mr. R. J. Mulligan) will receive Tenders, up to Wednesday, 30th January, for the Purchase and Removal of the Buildings at Cooney Creek, on road between Armidale and Hillgrove.

No. 1. — All the Building Materials, Roofing, Iron, etc., in the Main Buildings of the late Cooney Creek Hotel, which contained 10 rooms, built of hardwood, weatherboards, with iron roof, lined with pine and hardwood floors, with windows, doors, brick chimneys, etc., together with the detached kitchen, covered with iron.

No. 2. — The Building of the large Public Hall, 30 x 20, constructed of hardwood, covered with iron.

No. 3. — The Building of Stables, Feedroom, and Cartshed, all built of wood, with roofs of iron, with loft, floor, etc.

Mr. Mulligan has decided to dispose of these Buildings by Tender, which close with us on January 30.

CHAS. WILSON & CO.,

Auctioneers, Armidale.

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June 7, 2013 at 8:57 am

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Armidale happenings in Nov. 1913.

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Freeman’s Journal (Sydney, NSW), Thursday 20 November 1913

ARMIDALE NOTES.

(From Our Correspondent.)

A meeting of the Catholic Federation was held in the schoolroom on Sunday, one of the vice-presidents (Mr. W. Hiscox) was in the chair. The question of urging the desirability of legislation to prevent children being out at night unless in the care of parents or guardians was discussed at length, and ultimately a resolution favourable to action being taken in this direction was carried. The question of nightly drills for cadets being minimised or abolished was also discussed, and a motion in favour of the opinion of the executive and other branches being obtained was carried. Messrs. Henry and Guest were deputed to collect further information on the question. It was also decided to establish a library, and a committee is to be appointed at next meeting to carry out same.

Hon. W. A. Holman, State Premier, delivered an address on Friday evening to a crowded hall. The Mayor presided, and a number of questions were asked. Mr. Eather, the Labour candidate, also spoke.

The jubilee celebrations of the municipality eventuate next Sunday, when a religious thanksgiving service will be held in all the churches, and on Monday a monster procession and sports will be held.

The orchardists in this district have suffered through the new disease, thrip, which has attacked especially apples and peaches. The cherry crops are likely to be prolific.

During the week the Cathedral has been largely attended by worshippers doing the mission, under the guidance of the Redemptorist Fathers, Rev. Fathers Brown and Murray.

One of our oldest and largest landholders passed away last week in the person of Mr. Francis Mulligan, of Cooney Creek, a native of Co. Down, Ireland. It is worthy of note that the late Mr. Mulligan took up a selection as soon as Robertson’s Land Act of 1861 passed, and he held the same land at the time of his demise.

Most of the small sheds have finished shearing. So far the sales locally have been very satisfactory, 15d a pound for wool in the grease being realised. The big sheds have not yet cut out. An excellent clip is expected all round, and prosperity smiles on the district.

The Jockey Club has been compelled to abandon its meeting next week owing to lack of horses. The prize money is either too large or there are too many small grass-fed race meetings throughout the northern district.

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June 5, 2013 at 8:39 am

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Circuit court judgments.

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Evening News (Sydney), Friday 22 April 1898

ARMIDALE CIRCUIT COURT

ARMIDALE, Friday. — In the Circuit Court late yesterday afternoon, George B. McNeill was acquitted on the charge of arson, by direction of the judge, without going into the defence. In the case of Bridgetta Morton, charged with pig-stealing, at Cooney Creek, the jury, after a deliberation of three hours and a half, acquitted the accused. The verdict was not arrived at till 10.20 last night. His Honor ordered the pigs to be restored to the persons from whom they are alleged to have been stolen. William Foster, who was found guilty of cattle-stealing yesterday, and recommended by the jury to be dealt with under the First Offenders’ Act, was this morning sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, with hard labor, the, sentence being suspended under the First Offenders’ Act, on accused entering into recognisances, self in £100, and sureties to a like amount, to be of good behaviour, and come up for sentence when called upon. Vincent Hudson was found guilty of cattle-stealing, and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. This concluded the sitting.

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June 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm

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Fire at Cooney Creek.

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Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), Thursday 18 April 1895

HILLGROVE, Thursday. — Concerning the fire at Cooney Creek a few days ago, an inquest was commenced on Wednesday. Evidence went to show that Patrick Fury, who is under arrest, cut twenty cords of wood and stacked them on the side of the main road, the wood and an adjoining stack being then wilfully fired. It was alleged that Fury had threatened to burn the wood, and also to cut down the trees in an orchard, the property of the landlord of the Cooney Creek Hotel.

Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), Saturday 27 April 1895

An inquest was held at the Hillgrove Courthouse last week, before Mr. William Morgan, local coroner, and a jury of twelve, touching the cause of a lire at Cooney Creek. The evidence, as reported in the local paper, is to the effect that Francis Mulligan, sheep farmer, residing at Cooney Creek, employed a man named Patrick Fury at wood cutting, and paid him for nineteen cords. There was a slight dispute about a balance of 14s or 16s. This was settled on Mulligan paying 10s 6d,. and getting a receipt in full payment. This final payment was made on the morning of the 13th instant, and Fury left the Cooney Creek Hotel then, and seemed quite satisfied with the settlement. After having twenty or thirty drinks during the day at West Hillgrove (according to his own evidence), he returned to Mulligan’s hotel in the evening and wanted more drink, but Mr. Mulligan refused to serve him, and Fury, after wanting to fight a man named Curran, went home about 9 o’clock. In going home from the hotel Fury would have to pass the firewood which was burnt. Mr. Mulligan said that he never had any quarrel with Fury, neither had he ever heard the latter make any threats against him. Evidence was given by William Stoddart and Joseph Curran to the effect that they heard Fury say he would burn the wood when Mr. Mulligan paid him in full for it, and also that he would cut the trees down in Mr. Mulligan’s orchard. The fire was discovered by Stoddart and Curran shortly after 10 o’clock on the night of the 13th. Stoddart and Curran had about two cords of their firewood burnt. When Senior-sergeant Edwards went to see Fury on the following morning the latter, in answer to an inquiry, said, ‘They (meaning Stoddart and Curran) have burnt it themselves, and want to blame me for it.” When the jury examined the remaining wood on the morning of the inquest two lots of stringy bark were found against it ready for lighting. At the Hillgrove Court Patrick Fury was brought before Messrs. H. G. Wakeford and W. Morgan, on a charge of arson, and was committed for trial.

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May 25, 2013 at 6:29 pm

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