© Copyright Chris and Kerrie Jones 2018 All rights reserved
To really get the most out of a visit to Waratah you must call upon your fertile imagination. This town and the areas surrounding it are rich in history and the bones of many successful and unsuccessful enterprises lay exposed here. When you hear the story of how Tin and other minerals like osmiridium, gold, silver-lead, and copper were discovered here by James ‘Philosopher’ Smith in the 1850s and how he lived his dream of finding the “mother lode” of ore.
Then you see his hut and how he lived and the way the town grew from the great wealth the mines that were built because of Smith’s discovery generated, you can’t help but visualise how the town must have looked and felt back then. The town is now a pretty but sleepy hollow compared to what it was before the mass exodus of people as the mines closed in 1947. The signs are everywhere from the foundations of the once productive ore processing plants to the houses, pubs and shops that once bustled with commerce. You can’t help letting your imagination take you back in time.
You know you can never imagine the scenes exactly as they were and yet the remaining buildings, ruins and the mass of photos from the museum give you a pretty good hint. For instance, the Caravan Park where we are staying is next to the perfectly preserved Theatre that was built in 1880 and it’s easy to imagine the town folk filling the hall for an amateur production and the excitement that would have been associated with it. The only remaining pub paints a picture of miners and workers enjoying drinking and singing and the revelry that was associated it. The long ago dismantled buildings that housed the 150 crushing machines that ground the ore every day and every night except midnight Saturday till Sunday night can be imagined from the remaining foundations and ruins.
The determination of the last miner who built his own stamping plant can be seen as he would have toiled in the howling wind and snow so prominent in the area.
On the way to Savage River we found the only remains of a once bustling mining town called Luina that was originally developed as a township in 1898 when, following the discovery of copper and tin, miners were brought in to extract the valuable minerals. Shortly after the nearby Whyte River was the scene of a brief gold rush, but all this activity was short-lived.
By the end of World War I the copper-tin mining operation had closed down and it wasn’t until 1967 when Cleveland Tin poured millions of dollars into the area and built a company town of over 60 houses, that Luina returned to life. Today, the only hint man ever walked here are some roads no longer leading to anywhere. Channelling and guttering no longer collect stormwater from the roofs of the 60 houses that once existed here. Neat little bridges and driveways cross the channelling to make a pathway to the long gone houses. There were many settlements like this in the Waratah/Tarkine forest areas and most have been completely reclaimed by the pristine forest.
Waratah itself lives on and it appears it will do so for a long time if its people are any indication.