Blackball is a small town on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, approximately 29 km from Greymouth.
Blackball was named after the Black Ball Shipping Line, which leased land in the area to mine for coal. It was formerly known as Joliffetown and Moonlight Gully.
Blackball is a centre of New Zealand radicalism and workers‘ militancy. It was the birthplace of the New Zealand Labour Party, which followed the 1908 miners ‚cribtime‘ strike, at ten weeks the longest in New Zealand history.
In the 1913 Great Strike, Blackball miners were the last to return to work, in 1914. During the strike they had picketed miners in nearby Brunner and had burnt down the secretary of the ‚arbitration‘ (scab) union’s home.
In 1925 the headquarters of the Communist Party of New Zealand moved to Blackball from Wellington.
The pit was closed in 1964.
The Blackball Museum of Working Class History opened in the town on 1 May 2010, in order to „celebrate the role working people have played in creating the infrastructure and wealth of a nation, [and] the part working people have played in creating society“.
The ‚Formerly the Blackball Hilton‘ was founded in 1910 as the Dominion Hotel, renaming itself after the mine manager, after whom the town’s main street is also named. It was forced to change its name after objections from the international hotel chain of the same name.
The current population is 330.
An annual cycle race, the Blackball Working Men’s Cycling Classic, was held in the town in January for three years: 2010–12. Cyclists raced between Blackball and the nearby settlement of Atarau (Moonlight).
Blackball Workingmens Club is one of the few old community organisations left in the town. Both the Oddfellows Lodge and the Buffaloes Lodge closed long ago. In its heyday Blackball had a Lodge of the Oddfellows Order. The Oddfellows Lodge played a major role in community life offering financial aid and self-improvement in the age before TV and State Social Security. The Oddfellows Hall was a major center of community activity and social life.
The Blackball lodge of the United Ancient Order of Druids was formed originally in 1906 and like most other organisations of its day have ceased to exist in Blackball. While most businesses and organisations have shut down in the town of Blackball, the hotel once named „The Blackball Hilton“ still lives on. Though now known as „Formerly the Blackball Hilton“ due to a lawsuit by the Hilton hotel chain, the historic hotel remains in business as a place to sleep and symbol of the towns historic background.
On 7 June 1941 the Blackball Lodge No 80 of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes was opened In the Oddfellows Lodge Hall by the Provincial Grand Primo of the West Coast Bro. T.J.Preston KoM. The founders of the lodge were Bro. T.Durkin C.P. and Bro. T Nicolson C.P. both of whom would cycle 35 Miles every fortnight just to attend lodge meetings of Blackball Lodge and thus fulfill their duties as Founders. The first officers of the Blackball Lodge No 80 were Bro. Durkin C.P.(Worthy Primo) Bro. Nicholson C.P. (Alderman of Benevolence) Bro. R. Cooke (City Chamberlain) Bro. J Moore (City Marshall) Bro. Reid (City Tyler) Bro. R Duggan (City Registrar) Bro. R Mountford (City Constable) Bro. A Ross (City Waiter) Bro. Johnston (City Minstrel) Bro. J Barry (City Treasurer) and Bro. M O’Flaherty (City Secretary)
A little history about the bridge. The bridge across the Grey river from Ngahere to Blackball was completed in 1904, with the railway line reaching Blackball in November 1909
The bridge suffered severe damage during heavy flooding in the Grey River. During May 1926 sections of the bridge was destroyed and again in December that year piers 17 and 19 were washed away, resulting in 320 feet length of bridge being completely wrecked.
As the bridge was the sole means of access to the busy mining centres of Blackball and Roa, work to restore the bridge was commenced and completed during January 1927 and trains commenced running again, four weeks after the washout.
During another storm in May 1950 the bridge again was damaged when two spans fell into the flooded Grey River. It was repaired but again destroyed during severe flooding in February 1966, when another two spans were washed away.
It was decided that repairs would not be economic and the rail link was closed, but repairs kept the bridge in operation as a road only bridge until 1968, and then for pedestrians only for several more years, until further flood damage made it impractical to repair. It was finally dismantled in 2002.
Source: Facebook Graeme Williams