MOUNT WERONG to many will be but a name—and in fact it is little
else, even though it appears in the Post Office directory. The
village of that name lies some thirty miles south-easterly from
Oberon, the nearest railway town, and is in the heart of the
mountains on the Main Divide near the eminence from which it derives
i One time, not long ago, Mount Werong promised to be the centre of
great mining activity as the country around is very metalliferous
and contains, according to assays, gold, silver, lead and copper in
reason able quantities. When the mining possibilities were first
made known company promoters, metallurgists, and Pitt Street mining
engineers flocked to the spot in their limousines along the rocky
and muddy dray track from Oberon.
It was not long before the local inhabitants were cajoled into
subjection and a company was floated to exploit the mineral
resources.. Galvanized iron sheds were erected, engines set up, a
dam built, and a pumping plant installed to provide water for a
sluice, and the waters of Ruby Creek diverted by an aqueduct from
one side of the range across the other side into Limeburner's Creek
where mining operations were to be carried on. Soon the place was a
hive of industry and the clank of the metal grader and crusher
mingled with the intermittent detonations of the donkey engine and
Ere long, however, the invaders of this primitive demesne were
rebuffed. The lode did not give the yield which assays had predicted
and the company fell into financial difficulties; those who
controlled it realized that the proposition was doomed to failure
and work ceased. No attempt was made to move the plant or any of the
machinery or even an old motor truck, all of which still stand as
though they had just been abandoned.
Nature Takes Charge
Since the cessation of work no mining on a large scale has been
carried on at Mount Werong—grass has grown in the water race, the
aqueduct has eroded away and collapsed, the dam is choked with reeds
and water hyacinth, ferns have adorned the pumping plant shed,
poking their stiff fronds fearlessly between spokes of wheels and
belts which once whirled and hummed with energy, the crusher and
grader have seen the ravages of rust and their joints and working
parts have seized.
The road which had promised to become a highway to an El Dorado
has reverted to a bush track winding through the forest timber of
grey gums and stringybarks to a few scattered bark huts, the abodes
of a handful of hardened and yet hopeful prospectors who eke out an
existence by toiling for the precious yellow metal with only
There is but one mail a week to Mount Werong and no telegraph
communication. The mailman comes in on Thursday afternoon, leaves a
few letters or old papers, sometimes none at all, passes the cricket
score or other fresh news on, and then departs with the one or two
missives which connect the inhabitants with the outside world. Once
every six weeks a truck comes out from Oberon with supplies, and
apart from a casual visitor or an occasional stockman the miners see
only each other from day to day.
In a windowless bark hut at the end of the bush track dwells Ted
Billett, the uncrowned king of Mount Werong, his mate Ramsay
two faithful cattle dogs, and a Malay game cock—Jack Johnson is its
name. Ted is one of nature's gentlemen but he's getting on in years.
He's been quite a globe-trotter in his day—mining here, farming
there, droving on the roads somewhere else; he even kept a butcher's
shop in Sydney_ once and fought in the South African War, made his
fortune three times and lost it again; no wonder he is respected in
this little settlement.
Tales of the Past
Ted will tell of days gone by in real backwoods style, his colourful
narrative decorated with drover's curses and punctuated by an
occasional spit into the fire with unerring aim.
"Now, boys," he'll say, "you must stay here with me a few days. No,
don't put your tent up, you can sleep in my place; let's have
something to eat, then we'll talk."
And so you'll eat one of Ted Billett's doughboys, and then listen
attentively for hours to his yarns. The evening passes in no
time reminiscences—reminiscences—related in that genial and naive
style which the cynical city dweller admires but cannot cultivate.
Then next day you'll probably come across Wally Bryant, he'd be all
right except that he's a Pommy, and Ernie Sharp, poor Ernie is
crippled with rheumatoid arthritis; and maybe one or two others.
There is no one else. The inhabitants are decreasing fast; one fell
over a cliff some time ago and was killed; then Jimmy Inglis died.
He was an identity and is said to have been responsible for building
the dancing platform and mud hut at Kanangra. His hut, now deserted,
is the mansion of Mount Werong; it is made of slabs cut with madmade-like
precision and roofed with solid shingles three feet long and eight
inches wide. There is aesthetic beauty in this structure such as no
orthodox architect could achieve.
Maybe you'd like to wander through the glorious forest, across the
grassy mounds where the earth was ruthlessly torn up in search of
mineral wealth, to South Head, a rocky promontory overlooking Werong
Creek Gorge—"The Hole" they call it. The vision spreads to the Ruby
Creek Falls, a silver thread slithering down the rocks, to the
Kowmung Valley and the ranges beyond, and then into space. . . .
What solace and quiet this place presents. How one admires Ted
Billett and the local inhabitants. What a destructor of peace and
beauty is civilization.