John Kelly is yet to discover the date baseball players had “the rare chance to hit a hole-in-one” during matches at Albert Roy Reserve in Eaglehawk.
It is one of the stories uncovered in a treasure trove of articles that could help the local historian complete a book on the mine shafts that periodically open up in Bendigo.
Yet he needs the public’s help. Many of the newspaper cuttings he has obtained lack dates.
Without dates, searching the Bendigo Library’s microfilm collection is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Official sources are often incomplete or missing, so the collection of Bendigo Advertiser photos and articles could help uncover valuable pieces of the city’s history, Mr Kelly said.
“We can do bit of a history of it, find other pictures and learn more about how the mine operated,” he said.
In one article, a man named Ray Shelton voices concerns for his children’s safety after a Kangaroo Flat mine opens up.
In another, workmen including one Ron Jones are photographed capping a 260 foot shaft in Flora Hill.
In a third, a man with the last name of Stewart wakes one Sunday morning to find a three meter-wide hole in his lawn at Derwent Drive, Long Gully.
Mr Kelly said at least 30 adults and 24 children had fallen to their death down mine shafts over the years.
Many shafts had been used used to dump rubbish, dead animals and even “for sanitary purposes”, Mr Kelly said.
Concerns over the number of Bendigo’s open shafts drove efforts to cap many in the 1920s and 30s.
The Victorian Historical Mane Shaft Chasers’s Raymo Shaw was seeing evidence of more caps disintegrating as big bursts of rain and spats of dry weather made their marks.
“Everything’s drying up and cracking. It’s affecting those cappings a little bit below the surface,” he said.
It could create challenges for his team, which regularly climbed into and explored Victoria’s abandoned shafts.
Often, ageing caps began collapsing as timber rotted, Mr Shaw said.
“They can fall from the top of a shaft down to the bottom and block the lower workings … (or) a piece of concrete can go down on an angle and jam in the shaft,” he said.
In recent times, the quality and size of the caps had improved, Mr Shaw said.
Mr Kelly expected more of Bendigo’s mine shafts to open up as time went on.
As recently as 2015 a plumber discovered the reason Ruth Black’s Ironbark bathroom was sinking was because it was built over an unfilled mine shaft.
“When he told me it wasn't filled I got quite a fright. I think it's terrific as long as it's filled and safe,” she said.
If you know anything that could help date collapses mentioned in this article contact Mr Kelly on 0417 058 731.
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