MOST of us would like to leave some sort of legacy.
One man with a better claim to posterity than many in Hunter Valley coal history was colliery carpenter Arthur Russell 'Mick' Jurd.
Sadly today, his achievements may be largely forgotten. To those with long memories, however, his name is forever associated with three unusual building projects in Lake Macquarie.
You might say he made his mark on the world around him by being a model worker, but in a different sense to what you might expect.
His best-known legacy was the Miners' Memorial Music Shell opened in 1972 on leased land at Freemans Waterhole, on a then back road from Sydney to the Hunter.
Long before the opening of the F3 Freeway (now M1) to Sydney, the busy lake site boasted a popular Oak milk bar for hungry travellers. The Hunter Valley Dairy Co-operative had selected a 40-acre bushland site there in the 1960s, providing barbecues and picnic grounds.
Next to the music shell, again on leased land, a Miners' Museum was erected. It opened in May 1977. The entrance to the museum represented a mine portal into the hazardous underground world of coal mining.
Arthur 'Mick' Jurd was instrumental in helping build the mining memorial music shell in the shadow of the Watagan Mountains after five fatalities occurred at Wyee State Mine in October 1966. It was the worst mining disaster for 40 years in NSW. Some sort of tribute was called for, and a committee was formed.
Six years later, the music shell opened to commemorate all those who died while working for the mining industry in Australia.
The memorial mining museum was also credited to Mick Jurd and featured elaborate working models and dioramas that he also had built. The items depicted some of the first coal mining operations in Australia around Newcastle and Lake Macquarie.
According to Lake Mac Libraries, labour for the schemes was all voluntary. Funding came from mining lodges, the Joint Coal Board, mining companies, private donations and government grants.
The museum idea was said to be unique, billed as the only museum in the southern hemisphere to have animated working exhibits dealing exclusively in early underground coal mining.
There were eight major models on show, ranging from the first mine in Newcastle from 1801 below the East End's Fort Scratchley, to Threlkeld's Coal Point mine on Lake Macquarie in 1841. (A rare model of the pioneer penal pit below Fort Scratchley appeared on this page several weeks ago).
But the Freemans Waterhole museum apparently lasted only 14 years, until 1991.
Meanwhile, every Sunday afternoon, Jurd played the organ in the nearby music shell to entertain crowds. The shell was also frequently used for concerts, even marriages.
But times and traffic patterns changed, and, as crowds to Oak Park declined, the music shell and museum fell into disrepair. The buildings were reportedly demolished around 2010.
But where did the working models of coal mining go?
Unlikely as it seems now, one landmark item survived. The towering poppet head on site was reassembled in 2009 at Argenton, where it remains today behind the Mines Rescue Station.
But that's not the end of the story. You can never keep a good man, even a very disappointed one, down.
At the original Freemans Waterhole site, the mining museum was octagonal, designed to resemble entering a mine, giving the impression of being underground.
Strangely enough, I once found a similar big circular building at Teralba back in 2011 within a miners' retirement village. And, lo and behold, the curved corridor in the building's outer skin led to 11 working models hidden nearby. It was no surprise then to discover these exhibits in this small, private, non-profit museum (opened in late 1988) had also been created by Jurd.
Some exhibits outlining Hunter coal mining history may have been salvaged from Freemans Waterhole and recycled, but others, such as a display of the wartime Catalina flying boat base at Rathmines, seemed new.
Jurd had been the driving force behind both the memorial and museum, and here he was again as the founder of this small village where he was preserving some of the Hunter's coal mining past.
According to history buff Wendy Stuart, who taped some of Jurd's memories in July 1988, the colliery carpenter had a "strong reluctance" to speak about Freemans Waterhole and the mining museum there at any length. She presumed "some painful memories" were involved.
Jurd told Stuart that when he retired in 1970 he had decided to build a retirement village. The government land was obtained for $1 year for 50 years at Teralba and seven cottages were built. At the time of his interview, Jurd said the mining village's expansion plans had halted temporarily, ironically until authorities decided whether to permit long-wall mine underneath.
Mick Jurd was a gentle soul, and a true friend admired by many for his skills and perseverance. For all of his community-friendly projects he never sought payment for himself. He was easily spotted everywhere, dressed in his familiar khaki carpenter's overalls and saying with a smile that he had "been spoiling wood" all his life.
He started his trade as a cabinet maker in Newtown, Sydney, but was out of work during the 1930s Great Depression, before getting a job as a joiner.
Jurd came into the mining industry about 1949 at the Old Bulli pit in the NSW southern coal mining district where he worked as a carpenter. One task was to build bath houses and army huts at Austinmer Colleries. He then moved to the Northern District, starting at Killingworth in 1951. About five years later, he was cavilled out and went back to work at power stations.
When he came back into the coal mining industry, it was at John Darling Colliery at Belmont, where he repaired timber wagons for 18 months before big steel hoppers came in. He then transferred to Lambton B, also known as old Durham, where he stayed until retirement.
Mick Jurd passed away in April 2002, aged 92, and was survived by his wife Grace and family.
In June 2002, two Hunter MPs then paid tribute in the NSW Parliament to a "great man" of skill and compassion and a grand figure in the life of the labour movement.
Former Charlestown MLA Richard Face ended his public eulogy by saying: "A lot of people in this world would have liked to make even a quarter of the contribution that this man made to society generally".
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