The Bal Gal of Cobar

Presented by John L. Symonds
At the Notable Cornish Women Seminar

Kernewek Lowender 2005, Kadina SA AUS

The fabric of this story weaves through my 81 years of memories with many golden threads. In doing so, you may think, at times, I have left the subject and gone off into my memory space, leaving you behind. So that you can follow the golden threads, I am giving you advance notice that my story has some definite pattern to the weaving of the threads.

Golden Links over the Past Horizon

Childhood Memories of Stories Told

My parents were remarkable story tellers. My Mother had taught English at High School. She had a very retentive memory and could recite the whole of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha”. I still hear her voice dusting through my ears as she told us of Hiawatha. Part of that poem lingers on and has some related memories to my present story:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Bright before it beat the Water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

My father could tell in wonderful detail of events in his time as a boy. Apart from being a High School teacher, he was also a Methodist local preacher. His stories told to children in their part of a service would sometimes have a piece from Longfellow’s “Voices of the Night - A Psalm of Life”, duly fitted to his children’s story line:

Lives of all great men remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Foot prints in the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

My Mother would also tell us of Longfellow’s “Tales of a Wayside Inn”. When I started to prepare this story, her recitation to us brought that back again. Just in case you all think I have wandered off the subject and into memory space, the reason for the memory will be evident shortly. Longfellow related his story just as if he had a memory of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” because the first section is the Landlord’s Tale – “Paul Revere’s Ride”:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

Golden threads of my own memories came crowding into that ride of 1875 as I was piecing together the background to my own ride in the Spring of 1947 in post WWII Britain. I took a holiday ride by bicycle, from Birmingham down through SW England across Exmoor into Devon and Cornwall and on to Lands End. With relief, you can hear that we seem to be back on track and heading for Cornwall!

But wait a short moment while we push and walk up the hills onto Exmoor, through snow, wind and rain. Off from the north side of the road as I was going to the west, emerged a very elderly little man, lined of face and blue with cold. With a broad Somerset accent, he sought my advice on where he was because he had been lost in the snow all night.

I sat him down, dug into the panniers on the bike and produced a hot drink and a block of Australian Fruit Cake, made and sent to me by my Mother. The colour came back to his face and, with a dazzling smile on his now rosy red-brown face, he told me he had not had cake like that in 50 years and that he was 82. That will be one Exmoor man who would have remembered my ride because I set him off in the right direction and his step was jaunty again.

The sky was clearing, the snow had stopped and so had the rain. A south-westerly breeze was clearing the air, the sky was brilliant blue. I reached the high point on the edge of Exmoor, Span Head, 1650 feet above sea level. There, stretching before me to the west down a rugged coastline, was the “shining Big-Sea-Water”, sparkling in all its glory. Down below me to the southwest, were brown and green and rugged ranges and fertile land where my ancestors had left their “footprints on the sands of time”. Looking at my map, I realised that, in the far distance about 100 km away, were the white clay waste hills near St Austell - a view of Cornwall never to be forgotten. I tried to take a photo but no colour film was available in those days unfortunately!

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Left: Clovelly, Devon       Right: Boscastle, Cornwall

Down off the moor, a hair-raising ride took me into Devon with many places seen which will not be mentioned here, but with a stop at Clovelly to see a wonderful village by the sea. On into Cornwall through Kilkhampton, Bude with a stop at Boscastle at the YHA for a night.

From there on, Cornwall showed itself as the wonderful mining county that it was, with the remains of engine houses to be seen in many places, but also with so many villages named for Saints of the past – Teath, Tudy, Kew, Minver, Wenn, Eval, Mawgan, Columb and so on. The coast roads and tracks that I followed made it possible to have miraculous views of the Cornish coast. Lovely villages, large and small, were passed through and eventually I reached St Agnes where this part of the ride must stop to pick up another golden thread for the story back in the 18th Century.

St Agnes Parish and Nearby Parishes

All around the land in the St Agnes Parish area, there are many Cornish mines for copper and tin particularly. The remains of the mine engine houses can be seen east, north-east and south-west of St Agnes. To the south-west are the large mining centres of Illogan, Redruth and Camborne. Down the coast from Newquay, past Penhale Sands which buried St Piran’s Chapel, to St Agnes through Porth Towan and on to Hayle, the old engine houses stand in lonely dignity, often right at the cliff edge.

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Top Left: St Agnes Village & Parish Church    Top Right: Porth Towan & a distant mine chimney
Bottom Left: Wheale Coates Engine House - SW view         Bottom Right: Wheale Coates – NE view

Now let us leave this bike ride at St Agnes and go back in time to the late 18th century to develop another of the golden threads which make up the fabric of the story.

18th Century Mining Families

Cornish miners were involved from a young age in many places around the St Agnes Parish area, as well as down into places such as Illogan and Redruth. Copper and tin were particularly important but there were other materials such as slate not far away. They met lasses in and around the mine works, married and had their children. In due course, their boys became miners and their girls became bal maidens.

St Agnes Parish Church was central to their family activities – marriage ceremonies, baptisms and burials. At this point we will follow a golden thread which is woven into the fabric of our family story in Cornwall and Australia.

Thomas Woolcock was a miner, born in Cornwall in 1765. He married Sidwell Reynolds (b.1779) at St Agnes Parish Church on 12 April 1790. They had six children, three girls and three boys, the fifth child being Ephraim Woolcock, baptised at St Agnes on 14 December 1800. Ephraim married Elizabeth (Bessie) Willoughby (b.1801) at Illogan on 26 November 1821. They had seven children, four girls and three boys, all born at Nancekuke Gate, NE of Illogan and south SW of St Agnes. The seven children were baptised at St Agnes Parish Church.

The first girl Elizabeth we will not be following but the other three girls all emigrated to South Australia but at different times – Emma (b.1826), Sidwell (b.1827) and Mary Ann (b.1833). Their mother Bessie died on 11 May 1835, possibly from problems arising from another pregnancy.

Their father Ephraim remarried to Jane Johns at Illogan on 5 August 1837 and they had two more Woolcock sons, one of whom went to Ballarat VIC and died in Forbes NSW. There were 12 Woolcock children from that marriage. Ephraim died in 1844. Jane Woolcock nee Johns remarried to a George Trevillian and many Trevillian children resulted. Jane Trevillian died in Kooringa SA in September 1856. A complicated family history to follow, indeed, and possibly more so for the three Woolcock girls!

After their mother Bessie died in 1835, it seems that Emma Woolcock was working in the mining industry in the area, possibly as a bal maiden, though not proven as yet. She left home sometime after 1837, emigrated and appeared in South Australia about 1847/8. Soon after her arrival, she had a daughter born out of wedlock but the father was named in the South Australian records. She married a John Trevillian at Kooringa in 1848. John Trevillian was working as a mine carpenter at the Burra mine but they decided to move to a new mine location near Armagh, west of Clare SA.

As a result of the author working on the Armagh Land Records with Helen Perry, the Curator of the Clare Regional History Group, John Trevillian’s name appeared not only as a landowner but as one of the committee of the Armagh Methodist group, arranging to construct an Armagh Chapel. They had 10 children and it is likely that Emma would have been seeking help for this brood. One solution was to persuade her sister Sidwell to emigrate from Cornwall to South Australia and to join the Trevillian family in Armagh. The persuasion must have worked as shall be related further on, resulting from the author’s involvement with the Cornish Association of New South Wales.

The Woolcock Bal Maidens

Although we do not have any clear evidence of Emma working as a bal maiden in Cornwall, she had headed for the Burra mining industry after her arrival in South Australia. Meanwhile back in Cornwall, Sidwell had left home too. She was recorded in the 1851 UK Census as head of household in accommodation on Illogan Downs, employed as a mine assistant (bal maiden) in the 1851 Census. At first, she appeared to be living alone but it was found that Mary Ann was listed as living with her as a member of the household on Illogan Downs, also recorded as a mine assistant (another bal maiden). With Mary Ann about five or six years younger, Sidwell no doubt looked after her sister’s well-being. Later evidence gives the strong feeling that they were great friends. On 14 January 1854, Mary Ann married Samuel Pearce, a miner at one of the Illogan mines nearby.

No longer with the need to care for her sister, Sidwell Woolcock decided to emigrate to South Australia to assist sister Emma with her growing family. We have not been able to find on which ship Sidwell sailed to Adelaide but she certainly was living with the Trevillian family by about 1856/7. All the indications in subsequent years show that Sidwell was a very capable woman with many skills and a shrewd ability to organise operations.

In 1857/8, she met a Norwegian man, Henrik Kruge, who had arrived as a sailor on one of the vessels which called at Port Adelaide. Whether he had signed off from the ship or had “jumped ship”, we do not know. From his family background in Norway and his father a sea captain, it seems probable that he had signed off and sought work in the expanding South Australian operations associated with mines and railway activities. He had many skills which included carpentry, blacksmithing and rope work as one would anticipate from a man well trained in the shipping industry.

StBarnabas1.jpg - 13864 Bytes We have no idea how Henrik Kruge came to meet
Sidwell Woolcock but they did meet and were
married at St Barnabas Church on 19 June 1858.

Whether it was the Cornish accent of the Trevillian and Woolcock families, the surname Woolcock came up in the SA records in great variety – Woodcock, Wilcock, Willcox and so on. The Trevillian name was in great variety too – Trevallyan, Trevillan, Trevelyan and so on. We eventually found the marriage lines for Sidwell and Henrik as Henrik Kruge (age 24) marrying Sidwell Woodcock (age 24) and it was at St Barnabas Church in Clare.

Just how they decided on their new style of life as hawkers is still a mystery. It seems that they purchased a waggon and bullocks and traded around the Clare district and probably as far as Kooringa/Burra and Kapunda. At some stage, they decided to go further afield. We can only offer a potential route that they could have taken on their way to New South Wales where we know they established their final homestead.

On the Road to the East

A route taken by many miners travelling east into Victoria for the gold mines would have been across the River Murray at Wellington, Swanport (now Murray Bridge) or Mannum. Each of these crossings would have been a long way south of Armagh and Clare. Since Sidwell was from a mining family, it is possible that they could have moved across into Victoria in the direction of Avoca, Castlemaine and Bendigo to head north towards Hay in NSW.

Without any real indication of the route taken, it does seem a long and wearisome way to get into NSW in that area where they settled, not far north of Hillston. There has been an indication, in some local notes about Gilgunnia, that Henry and Sidwell had come along the rivers and creeks into New South Wales. Nothing definite has emerged about their route.

Reference to the 1866 Bailliere’s South Australian Gazetteer and Road Guide and its accompanying map provided some guidance in its text and map even though published eight years after the two started out on their long, slow journey.

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The Gazetteer describes North-West Bend as the name of a post office at the North-West Bend Hotel, on the main road from Adelaide to Wentworth in NSW. The district in 1866 was a pastoral run, stocked with sheep and cattle. The nearest townships were Blanchetown, 30 miles south, and Kapunda, 45 miles west by direct road. Communication with Adelaide was by Rounsevell’s weekly coach via Blanchetown but to go to Kapunda required either a horse or a private conveyance. These days, North-West Bend is now named Morgan.

From our viewpoint, the Gazetteer description of Overland Corner is more interesting. This postal hamlet was situated on a bend on the north bank of the River Murray. The district was a pastoral one with sheep, cattle and horses being grazed in large numbers. Excellent grapes and garden produce were grown on the alluvial flats. By 1866, there was a new road which ran from Overland Corner to Blanchetown, 55 miles SW, along which communication was served by H. Brand’s coaches. That road is unlikely to have been in existence except perhaps as an unmade track, at the time of interest to us here.

A Gazetteer note on the Overland Corner road indicates that the old mail route west via North-West Bend was the direct horse and dray route, not only to Blanchetown but to Kapunda or Kooringa, a distance of 110 miles to each of these towns. From other general information about roads from the Clare area, Henry and Sidwell may have proceeded across through Apoinga to join the Burra Creek track to North-West Bend.

They had no doubt explored the road to Kooringa (Burra) and been told that there could be creek water flowing or that there were waterholes all the way down to the River Murray. As hawkers, they could have decided on going to Kooringa and down the Burra Creek track through pastoral and sheep lands where their services could be welcomed all along the way.

Taking this route to Wentworth would have served them well as water supplies were never far away. Drovers were bringing cattle and sheep into South Australia along this track, making it possible for our hawkers to gather information about what they might expect ahead.

Wentworth and Onwards

From Wentworth, several possible tracks along rivers such as the Murray, the Murrumbidgee and the Lachlan would have been worthwhile as cattle, sheep and grain properties were beginning to grow. Furthermore, they would now be meeting families of miners who had tried their luck in the gold rushes in Victoria and were heading north, thinking perhaps of better mining and other prospects. Many, of course, were of Cornish origin.

Henry and Sidwell would learn that the demand for livestock had become appreciable in Victoria. Drovers were bringing cattle down from the north through villages such as Bourke to supply the needs of the growing population in the gold rush districts of Victoria. Travel was made through country where lack of water was often a serious matter for these men and beasts. Food supplies were also a problem for those going north and south along this route.

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Section of the 1866 Map from Bailliere’s NSW Gazetteer and Road Guide 1870

By working their way along the River Murray from Wentworth, they would have been told of three possible routes to the north. The most westerly would be that up through what is now Balranald on the Murrumbidgee. The next one would be the track which went up to a little place called Maude on the Murrumbidgee. There was a punt which operated there taking drays across the river and bring cattle and sheep from the north side towards Victoria. The third way went up to Hay also on the Murrumbidgee although Hay was connected by a track with the Maude village.

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Left Map: A Section from the 1866 Map accompanying Bailliere’s Gazetteer and Road Guide 1870.
Open pastoral holdings only north from the River Lachlan to Bourke.
In 1870, Hillston was a hamlet only; Gilgunnia was perhaps a shanty rest place. Cobar did not exist.

Right Map: Modern Road Map showing routes north from Hillston to Gilgunnia.

It is known that there were many Cornish miners and families who went up north from Victoria to cross the River Murrumbidgee at Maude and then across the River Lachlan at Oxley. By the later 1860s, many of the miners would have run out of luck in Victorian gold rushes and had no doubt had the word passed to them that some people were finding gold in the Bourke District, not far from the River Darling. Others might well have learnt of the good quality land and pastures that were to be found in that district. Bailliere’s 1870 Gazetteer on page 74 had the words which many might have been welcomed by those heading north from Victoria:

“The district in which Bourke is situated is a strictly pastoral one, and is unsurpassed in the colony in the variety and luxuriance of its pasturage, the grassy plains being intersected by immense belts of valuable salt bush. To the north of the township, good specimens of gold have been obtained, but the country has never been properly prospected.”

Little would they have known at that time that the whole route from the River Lachlan to Bourke would eventually have mines all along it. The bits of history collected suggest that Henry and Sidwell were heading to Bourke in 1860/61 but that may be later surmise.

In the early 1860 period, cattle drives from Queensland and northern NSW were taking cattle to Victoria where the demand for food was great as a result of the rapid population growth in the gold discovery areas. The same cattlemen would have moved back to the Bourke area taking with them supplies of goods needed by the families in northern NSW.

Early Gilgunnia

Doubtless, stories passed back and forth between groups passing north and south, about the need for water and food along that same track, a situation that Henry and Sidwell would have taken into their own planning ideas.

They reached a range of hills, covered with Native Cypress Pine and other scrub trees along the hill ridges and plains with many different types of wild flowers in bloom. It seems probably that this could have been in the Spring of about the year 1861. It has been said that Sidwell admired the land that she saw and likened it to the Illogan area from which she had come in Cornwall. This beautiful spot was about half way to Bourke from the River Lachlan, making it a wonderful place to take up land and set up a Wayside Inn, or Shanty as such a place was known in outback Australia. Sidwell would look after the Inn and a shop for a range of supplies while Henry would establish himself as the blacksmith and sawmiller, a service greatly needed on such long travels north and south.

A water supply was crucial to the operation for Henry and Sidwell but also for travellers through along the road. A small dam may have been dug for water retention as there is still some evidence for it in the area though a substantial 30,000 gallon underground tank, cemented in place, was built later, possibly after a rather long drought in some years around 1870.

It has not been possible so far to find the year which saw the beginning of Early Gilgunnia village as it came to be known. The range of hills became known as the Gilgunnia Range as well. At some time in the period 1861 to 1865, Henry took up a publican licence, though the papers for this approval in the Hay District Court have not been found. What is certain is that Henry and Sidwell became known as the founders of Gilgunnia stopping place and the village which grew there. They did well in their wayside inn and store while Henry was soon known widely as a fine blacksmith and wheelwright.

More land was acquired in subsequent years so that they had 640 acres of land which could be used for grazing purposes. Around year 1869, records show that they had grazing stock on their property, comprising 30 horses (probably for exchange arrangements for riders and vehicles), 60 head of cattle and 30 pigs.

Events of significance to our story occurred as a result of the drought conditions in the period about 1867/8. Henry and Sidwell had to move their stock north east onto the Priory Plains Station nearer the River Bogan since their water supply had diminished too far to keep the stock watered. At this point we must take up another link in the chain of this story.

The Tank Sinkers

A new golden thread has to be woven into the fabric of the story. Two young Danish men and a teenage Scottish lad made up a tank sinker team by about 1866. The three men making up the team need to have background added because they had started out separately searching for gold in the gold rushes of Victoria.

The prime mover of the team was Ferdinand Emilius Kempf, born in Copenhagen Denmark in 1839. He had followed his father’s occupation as a bricklayer and had served out his apprenticeship. In 1854, his name had been entered on the Danish Conscription Register. In 1859, he obtained a passport to make journeys at home and abroad. It was not unusual for young artisans to travel and work in other European countries. On 27 July 1859, he left Denmark not for another European country but for Australia. He was pursued under Danish Compulsory Service Laws from 1862 onwards. He was no longer concerned, as he had become Charles Campbell, travelling around Victoria searching for gold.

In those travels, as Charles Campbell, he met another young Dane, Thomas Alfred Hartman, an 18-year old seaman. They became firm friends and working colleagues in the search for gold. They were joined by George Samson Gibb, described as a strong young giant, 16 years of age, from Auchinleck in Scotland. He was no stranger to hard work and was a valuable team member. (Clelland, William1984; acknowledged here as the source of much of the material about Campbell and his team.)

With no rich finds of gold at the diggings in the Whipstick country around Raywood in Victoria and with money in short supply, Charles Campbell decided to return to his work as a bricklayer, followed by the other two young men. There was a further complication for Charles; he had met and fallen in love with Ellen Cox who had been born at sea in 1847 on the way to Australia, and had grown up in Victoria. Marriage did not seem possible with his change of name and their first daughter Ellen Henrietta (called Ettie) was born on 21 June 1866 at Raywood VIC (Birth Ref No. 17203). Ellen stayed with Charles through all the many changes of life style which occurred for them over the next decades.

By about 1865/6, Charles, Thomas and George had made up a contracting team on Tandarra station, about ten miles north of Raywood. The team was working near a main north-south track along which there would have been cattle and sheep being driven south by drovers. Other men who had made some gold finds, probably accompanied by their families and more near-penniless miners, were heading north to NSW and Bourke for other work.

Charles Campbell had no doubt heard that water supplies were very poor to non-existent along that road north. Drovers were often desperate to find enough water for the cattle they were taking south. A bad drought had occurred in the second half of the 1860 decade so that some wells were dry. They were tank sinkers and it seemed likely that there could be much work in New South Wales to the north of Tandarra station.

Now with five of them instead of three, Charles Campbell made a decision to head north where there ought to be a great deal of work for bricklayers and tanks sinkers. We next find the contracting team about 1868, working on Roto Station north of Hillston on the River Lachlan, building dams and tanks, and sinking wells for station owners. The events which enabled their whereabouts to be discovered in these years were the births to Ellen and Charles (two daughters). The first born was Ettie in 1866 in Victoria and then Amelia who was born at Roto in NSW on 1 June 1869 (birth registered at Hay #7914). Years of drought followed in the period 1866/68.

The weather conditions changed in 1869, with somewhat above average rainfall in that year. The team would have had some good contractual work as a result. The Campbell team decided to go north, following up the River Bogan to its junction with the River Darling, NW of Bourke. Along the river, contracts were likely at stations generally able to resist the impact of drought by building water storage dams and tanks, to offset variability in water flows along the streams. By January 1870, the weather changed further as is not unusual in Australia. In the next nine months of 1870, the rainfall doubled that of the previous year.

A Flooded Land

Flooding along the River Darling was extensive with the flooded area 60 miles wide in the country around the various channels. There is a report that the paddle steamer Ariel was 50 miles away from the main river. The Pastoral Times of September 1870 painted the picture by saying that the scene is like that of great inland lakes.

The Campbell team was confronted by impossible conditions for their work and abandoned their attempts to gain contracts in the district around Bourke. They decided to make tracks back to the Priory Station where there was slightly higher ground. Unable to find their way safely through the floodwaters south of Bourke, they engaged two black-trackers “Frank” and “Boney” to guide them down to Louth and across to Wuttagoona in the hilly country and thence to the Kubbur waterhole. They camped for the night at this native well, quite close to the track which was normally taken by drovers working down from the Upper Darling region to the River Lachlan. The natural well had a surface area of about 40 square feet and, at its deepest point, was about five feet deep. The sides were coloured with blue and green material was used by aboriginal people for special colouring paint for tribal markings at corroborees. There were some outcrops of rock whose significance was not recognised by the team in the surrounding area. They liked the colour of the ores and collected some samples.

Next morning they set off south for the Priory Station and met up with Mrs Kruge on the way. As the story goes, the former bal maiden was shown the ore samples. She examined them, recognised that the samples were probably of copper carbonate and exclaimed in her Cornish brogue, “Thart be copper!” They all hastened back to Gilgunnia where Henry smelted some of the ore in a crucible on his forge, poured the molten metal in a sandy groove and it was certainly copper metal.

Further tank sinking was not on the minds of the team as they set out for Bourke to lodge a claim for the Kubbur waterhole area. The detailed story of what occurred in Bourke must be left for another time. By 10 October 1870, the first mining selection of forty acres was applied for by Charles Campbell, Thomas Hartman, George Gibb and the local Bourke Postmaster Joseph Becker J.P. The Selection itself was described as: “40 acres at Wittagoona Water Hole about 45 miles S.S.E. of T. Mathews’ Selection at Louth on the Darling River.”

Campbell and a party started back to the site next day to join men who had been engaged to secure water. It had been decided that a few tons of ore should be sent by riverboat to Adelaide SA to determine the worth of their find before any large investment should be made by the partners. The assessment stated that the copper content of the ore was high and so began the Great Cobar Copper Mine, a story in its own right. (William Clelland)

The Gilgunnia Hotel and a Publican Licence

By the early 1870s, everything was going well for Henry and Sidwell Kruge. The shop was expanding to meet the requirements of the folk living the the developing village. Henry’s blacksmithy had been expanded to provide pit-sawn local timber. He later had even installed a steam engine to drive the saws and other equipment. The decision was made to construct a full size, substantial Gilgunnia Hotel, with many rooms for visiting folk from around the district and passers by, a dining room and, of course, a bar.

Pit-sawn timber was used, with 14 foot ceilings in all rooms. Weatherboard covered the exterior while the interior was lined with six inch clapboard, firmly fitted and overlapped. A wide verandah around the whole building provided protection from the hot summer sun. Large double doors served as an entrance to the bar, beneath which was a cellar. Numerous doors opened onto the verandah, giving access to hallways, bedrooms, kitchen, harness room, taproom, dining room and parlour, both 27 feet long. Six fireplaces with back to back chimneys (a common arrangement found in Cornwall) ensured heating during winter months. An illusion of coolness in summer was obtained by the use of dark stain varnish covering all interior timbers. (Alderdice, Leila 1994)

In the NSW Treasury Returns for the month of September 1873, it is noted at that approval was given for the Gilgunnia Hotel through the Hay District Special Meeting. It is not clear whether this was to do with approval to operate the Hotel as a place providing accommodation or for the carry-over of the existing publican licence as well, though the latter is not likely to have been the case in view of following circumstances.

Henry did apply for an extension of the former publican licence in early 1874 to cover both the store and the new hotel. There are indications in the Hay District papers appearing in the NSW Government Gazette, covering 1 July 1874 to 30 June 1875, that some difficulty arose in the proceedings. The impression is that the former licence could not be extended, under existing regulations, to cover both buildings. The proceedings of 1 July 1874 were listed for reconsideration after some modifications to the structures. We can only surmise that the modification was the construction of a boardwalk, connecting the small original shop with the new hotel itself.

A fine bureaucratic solution, indeed! The Gilgunnia Hotel licence was approved, boardwalk and all, with the approval listed in the Supplementary NSW Government Gazette of 2 September 1875, The Licence was regularly approved each year thereafter.

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Left: A gathering at the Gilgunnia Hotel in early 1880s.
Henry & Sidwell are at the centre of the front row
marked x at their feet)
Right: An angle view of the Gilgunnia Hotel
with its surrounding verandah.

It has been said that the above gathering was in recognition of the arrival of Henry and Sidwell Kruge and the start of the wayside inn back in the early 1860s – a celebration of 20 years since the beginnings of Early Gilgunnia. Looking at this photo, it is probable; Henry himself looks as though his robust figure dates to around this time.

Sad Events in 1881 and 1888

Around 1880, Emma Trevillian from South Australia visited her sister, Sidwell Kruge, at Gilgunnia bringing her daughter Sidwell along with her to stay with her aunt at Gilgunnia for a while. Sidwell Trevillian, the sixth child of John Trevillian and Emma nee Woolcock, was born at Bomburne west of Clare in South Australia on 12 February 1861. In searching for information about this visit, a sad event was discovered.

Sidwell Trevillian, then aged 20, had drowned in the 30,000 gallon tank at Gilgunnia in early December 1881. During the search for information about Henry’s publican licences, a report was found for 22 December 1881 about an inquest at Gilgunnia held before Mr I.C. Read into the finding of Ada Sidwell Travellian (so spelt), aged 20, drowned in a tank. The coroner found that there was no evidence as to the cause of the drowning. The report was received in Sydney on 31 December 1881, noted as Register No. 1253. No other information has been discovered in further searches.

The work at early Gilgunnia returned to its former state with Sidwell being Mine Host at the Hotel and Henry operating as blacksmith and sawmiller nearby as the following photo would show. Henry, thumbs in his waistcoat, poses for the camera with his assistants and clients. In the cover of the leanto is the steam engine which must have been a great acquisition.

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It is fortunate that a photo of Henry and Sidwell is still available. It is one that has been used with great effect in the Cobar Historical Museum.

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In the early 1880s.
Sidwell is wearing a brooch
which was presented to her by
the three grateful
Tank Sinkers
who owed much to her eye for
Copper Ore samples.

The brooch is of gold with
a circle of diamonds embedded
around it.

On 27 February 1888, Henry Kruge suffered a burst blood vessel and died at Gilgunnia. He was buried nearby amongst the trees where there is still the Gilgunnia Cemetery. Much work had been done for the restoration of the area. The reconsecration of the Cemetery was conducted at an Ecumenical Service, held during the Gilgunnia Goldfields Centenary1895-1995 Celebrations, by the Reverend Rob Rutzou, the Uniting Church’s Flying Padre based in Broken Hill. He visits families and townships in his aeroplane in an area covering 300,000 square kilometres of SA, NSW and QLD.

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Left: The grave of Henry Kruge at Gilgunnia Cemetery.
Centre: The headstone on the Grave of Henry Kruge.
Right: Rev. Rob Rutzou, the Flying Padre, conducting the Ecumenical Service of Reconsecration.

Sidwell Kruge carried on as the Licensee of the Gilgunnia Hotel, with the assistance of Hans Monkerud who had come to Australia from Norway, then aged 15 years, with his brother Peter. He farmed at Hillston and came to Gilgunnia where he finally worked at the Hotel with Sidwell and Henry Kruge. A further connection with the Woolcock family came when Hans Jacob Monkerud married Francis Selina Pearce, daughter of Samuel and Mary Ann Pearce, at the Pearce residence at Mount Hope on 17 June 1890 by Rev. Gregory Chappell, Wesleyan Minister. In the photo above of the gathering outside the Gilgunnia Hotel, Hans is sitting on the left of Sidwell Kruge and his wife Francis Selina is on the right of Henry Kruge.

Sidwell remarried to James Dean, a hawker of Cornish Town in Cobar. They continued in business at the Hotel for a number of years until James Dean left for reasons unknown. Sidwell eventually moved to Cobar where Samuel and Mary Ann Pearce were now living. The Hotel was leased to Hans Monkerud and his wife until about 1907 when the property was sold to William Kitson for two hundred and fifty pounds. Sidwell was a greatly respected and loved member of the community in Cobar. She died in 1913 and was buried in the Methodist Section of the Cobar Cemetery where her sister, Mary Ann Pearce, had a headstone made and erected there. So passed the Bal Gal of Cobar as a living memory.

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The extent of the family of Samuel and Mary Ann Pearce cannot be set out here but, thanks to the exchanges of information between the author and Gary Ridgway of Perth WA, much is known of Samuel and Mary Ann and their descendants who are spread over many places in New South Wales and elsewhere in Australia. Samuel was a copper miner in Mt Hope and Cobar and died, aged 77 years, on 1 December, 1899. His death was attributed to asthma and bronchitis, an illness which came to many who worked underground.

Mary Ann appears to have moved to live with a son, John Alfred Pearce, at Bondi NSW where she died on 12 July 1920, aged 88 years. At the time of her death, she had six children living, aged from 62 years down to 48 years, and there were two daughters deceased. And here we have another Cornish Bal Maiden who ended her days in Australia with many descendants around the country.

Of the other sister Emma Trevillian nee Woolcock who was the first to emigrate from Cornwall to South Australia, she and her husband John lived their last few years near Minlaton SA, appropriately for this story, on Yorke Peninsula. John died on 24 November 1881 and Emma lived on until 15 April 1904. The burial record shows her death was in Yorketown SA. Perhaps that event can be remembered as the final for this story of three Bal Maidens who came to Australia where Bal Maidens were not recognised as workers in Australian mining operations. There are many suggestions that wives and daughters of Cornish miners were known to assist in mining work in three or four states of Australia. That is something that might make up another story for another day.


Many people have helped in putting together the story of the Bal Gal of Cobar, Sidwell Kruge nee Woolcock and her sisters, Emma Trevillian and Mary Ann Pearce. The author thanks the following researchers particularly for their great assistance:

Mrs Joy Prisk of Cobar was formerly an active member of the Cobar Historical Society and is now much engaged in the operations of the Cobar Mining Museum which is housed in the offices of the former Great Cobar Mining Company. The secretary of the Cobar Historical Society put the author in touch with her in 1994. Her knowledge of Early Gilgunnia and the Hotel added much to the history of Sidwell and Henry Kruge. Her parents were the owners of the property after it had been taken over from William Kitson. Her contact with so many people in Cobar and nearby places enabled her to direct attention to the background of mines and miners in the vicinity. It was Joy Prisk who introduced me to Colin Jones, Curator of the Cobar Historical Museum in 1994. He took me round the Museum and introduced me to many items of mine engineering equipment that had been collected. He had much to do with the Centenary Celebrations at Gilgunnia at Easter 1995. The photograph shows both of them outside the new gate and archway made to recognise the Cemetery to be seen during the Celebrations and its reconsecration.

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Left: Mrs Joy Prisk     Right: Colin Jones

Lynne Mayers contacted the author through Joy Prisk about Bal Maidens in Australia and from there our efforts to gain data on the three Woolcock women both in Cornwall and in Australia added much to the story of Sidwell Kruge. It is the prime reason why both she and the author were so much involved in presentations at Kernewek Lowender 2005.

Through Joy Prisk, the author came into close association with the efforts of Gary Ridgway who is a descendant of the miner Ephraim Woolcock, the father of the three Bal Maidens. He has very graciously provided the author with his family tree collection going back to Ephraim’s parents, Thomas Woolcock and Sidwell Reynolds who were married at St Agnes Church in Cornwall. Our two collections have melded together well.

Helen Perry, curator of the Clare Regional History Group, provided the author with data on his own great grandparents who lived at Armagh near Clare. His association with the CRHG in the production of various works continues over the years since. It was through the preparation of a document on the Land Owners of Armagh by the late William Pattullo that the story of John Trevillian and his wife Emma nee Woolcock at Armagh emerged. The author is most grateful to Helen Perry for her able assistance in following that trail and to the members of the Clare Regional History Group.


1. Clelland, William 1984: COBAR Founding Fathers, first published 1984, republished by Cobar Genealogy Group Inc. 2000: ISBN 0-9578072-0-1

2. Alderdice, Leila 1994: Gilgunnia, A Special Place, ISBN 0-646-20020-8; Printed by Fred O’Reilly’s Printing Service, Young NSW.