Broken Hill - Silverton

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Brushmen Of The Bush. 

Twenty years before Lawrence Beck brought the Sculptures Symposium to town, Broken Hill was blessed by the collaboration of five local artists,  Pro Hart, Eric Minchin, Jack Absalom, John Pickup and Hugh Schutz.  These five wonderful human beings held  44 exhibitions, always staged for charities, mostly for children and the Royal Flying Dr. Service.  Donations of painting to auction and raffles and commissions along with dealer and civic events bringing the total to over 50, raising  $1 million + , six hundred and forty thousand dollars in 'today's money'.  They disbanded in 1989

Unfortunately there was no photography allowed inside the gallery

Hart's most famous car a 1973 Silver Shadow Rolls Royce

In 1999 he painted it with the history of Australia and drove it to Canberra amongst other places to show his support for the monarchy at a time many were calling for a Republic
 Pro Hart reminds me of our Lancashire hero,  L. S. Lowry, whom I remember as a curmudgeonly old man with a twinkle in his eye who in spite of his classical training had no time for the art establishment and painted just what he pleased.  I think he might have found a kindred spirit in Pro,  who is quoted as saying:

 "If I said what I thought sometimes, I might get sued so I paint to show what is going on, to bring out the truth and make people aware" Pro Hart

Some of Pro's work has shades of Grandma Moses, Lowry and Van Gogh and many more, through it all shines the Outback.  Varied as they are, I don't think I have seen a painting of his I didn't like.   Among my favourites are his masked faces such as 'The Discussion' the Lowryesque "Change of Shifts & The tradesmen's Cage" and scenes like "Country Race Meeting"  I wish I  had bought one while they were still within my budget 

We spent an interesting hour with Jack Absalom in his studio, watching him turn a dollop of maroon paint into a magical moonlit crag but my heart belongs to Pro Hart who sadly died within days of our visit to his gallery.  As I write this in 2019, John Pickup is the only surviving founding father, but the thriving art scene in Broken Hill will always trace it's roots back to the Brushmen of the Bush
The School of The Air
The Broken Hill area is a treasure trove and this is another of their treasures, a definite trip highlight.  Thankfully they have now moved from radios to computers.  The Vice Principle explained that every student is supplied with a computer, scanner, printer, desk  & chair,  paper and 24 hour internet access.  Parents provide a suitable room for study, electricity and printer cartridges

Following the introduction, a pair of vivacious teachers arrived to begin the day with the music assemble.  They were more like a morning show double act than my experience of teachers around the time this school was founded.  Listening to the children joining in the singing was charming
The Way They Were -  It was a special year for S O T A, their 50th anniversary with many special events planned throughout the year  


What the Children see on their screens at home

The Way They Are
While students can now see their teachers, the teachers can't see them.  This is the next logical step but the students who like to start the school day in their pyjamas and parents with bed-head are in no hurry

Since the change over to computers in 2002 the students standardized rankings have gone from below to above average, suggesting not surprisingly I think, that they are visual rather than aural learners

Home visits and in school activities came as a surprise to us and the teachers obviously enjoyed this aspect of their job.   Telling of the children with station smarts where most seven year old boys can handle a four on the floor and drive all over the station.   Bring them into town and they are like wildlife caught in the headlights.  The staff keep a very close eye on them when they are out and about in town


It was a quiet day in the hanger and on the runway but interesting non the less

Tell The Dr. Where It Hurts

An oft told 'tale' at the museum involves a patient being diagnosed with the help of the Body Chart and prescribed a # 9 drug, he, for it undoubtedly would have been a he, reported back that he was out of the #9 but took a #7 and a #2 and was feeling much better

Flying Dr's Medicinal Chest circa 1999

We were very taken with the medicinal chest.   Station owners pay for the chest and the government supplies and replaces the contents which are all numbered

Should we need medical care in the outback we were told we could we could find the nearest station and request they place a call to the Doctor, medicine would be supplied free of charge from the chest.  There is access to regular clinics, a 24 hour on call service and dental treatment, which according to what we read in the newspapers means you are better off in the middle of nowhere than in the middle of Melbourne if you have a toothache.   Fortunately I can't confirm this from personal experience as we had no need of their services


The once prosperous mining center of some 3000 inhabitants is now a virtual ghost town.  By the time we got here it boasted a few historic buildings, several art galleries and museums and a very popular pub.  The 2006 census put the current number of residents at 89,  so it is still pretty much a ghost town but one that has been redeemed by artists, filmmakers, donkeys and a steady supply of tourists covering the 24 km of pretty awful sealed road from Broken Hill


There have been donkeys in Silverton for years, originally there were seven, succumbing over the years to old age.  Eventually only Dollar remained to make his rounds of the town, poking his head into air conditioned buildings to cool off, and begging tourists for food, ice cream being his people food of choice,  Town Council, seeing the light purchased Penny, Jenny and Degs to everyone's satisfaction
Another classic example of Silverton architecture


Not to be outdone the Silverton Hotel had a white horse tethered outside to attract tourists.  When Silverton became the Hollywood of the Outback, the Mad Max lookalike replaced it
 Silverton Gaol Museum

The Gaol's medical room has been converted into a museum display of tools of the trade and comes with an authentic hospital smell
The Horizon Gallery

Founder Albert 'Woody' Woodroffe was one of the first to set up a gallery in Silverton in 1987.  You can't miss the corrugated iron camel making a bid for freedom
A Couple of Outback Fixer Uppers

Or maybe St Carthage Catholic Church is more your style

 What is it with Aussie men and their painted cars?

The Mundi Mundi Plain with a view so vast and unobstructed, they say you can see the curvature of the earth. I must remember this next time I visit Fogo Island, one of the four corners of the flat earth in Newfoundland Canada

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