24.9°C 03:00 pm

Underground dream

Saturday, 12th October, 2019

Beth and Kevin White in the Acacia Tea Room with their famous scones. PICTURE: Emily McInerney Beth and Kevin White in the Acacia Tea Room with their famous scones. PICTURE: Emily McInerney

By Emily McInerney

The best scones in Broken Hill don’t come from the city, but from a mine off the beaten track 

Kevin and Beth White have clocked up 25 years running the Day Dream Mine and have no plans to shut up shop.

In their time at the tourist attraction, Beth and Kevin have conducted almost 14,500 tours each.

Beside the tours, the other talking point of Day Dream Mine is the scones.

“(Visitors) say ‘we’ve seen the scones sign and thought we better do the tour’,” said Beth.

“They enjoy that and they love the scones.”

The tours run throughout the year, seven days a week, 364 days a year “unless it rains.”

The mine illustrates the lives of the miners from the 1880s. Visitors get to see the tunnels and voids created by the miners and travel through the workings.

You see the working conditions when a miner’s life consisted of 12-hour days, six days a week.

Miners worked by candlelight and they mostly hammered, tapped holes, then fired them. Miners did not leave the workings for the firings. 

Pickey boys (lads of 14 or 15) would hand-pick the ore after a firing, and bag it.

Most miners suffered failing eyesight and respiratory diseases.

When you drive out to Day Dream Mine, you see the magnificent smelter and the remnants of the town that once had a population of 500 people.

Kevin and Beth made the decision to move back to the region many years ago.

“We’d come back from the Kimberleys. We had been living in Western Australia for a three-year period,” Kevin said.

“I’d been working with the TAFE, but you never knew how many hours you were going to get.

“I came out here one day to pick up a motorbike with a friend of mine.

“I just mucked around and said I wouldn’t mind doing horse rides out here - 25 years later and we are still here.”

Previously, the Church of Christ ran the Day Dream Mine.

“John Curtis had it running for a seven to eight-year period,” Kevin said.

“It had run its time, it was costing them a lot of money to run it. That’s how we ended up coming in.”

Kevin and Beth had four children and the eldest was 13 when they started running Day Dream, and the youngest was seven.

“All of them were still a school,” Beth said.

“It was hard to juggle it all,” Kevin said.

They have made a lot of changes to the attraction to provide something for everyone.

“We started the surface tours,” Beth said. “There wasn’t any going. A lot of people couldn’t go underground but they wanted to learn the history.

“We started those after a few years.

“We also made improvements, (our) boys have done a lot. Kevin couldn’t always do it with his shoulders.”

Over the years they have had a lot of help with upgrading and developing the site.

“The late Brian Mortimer and Brian Clark helped us put in timber underground for structural purposes,” Kevin said. “It’s been ongoing.”

Their son, Geromy, built a large spider which sits at the entrance way.

The ‘spider’ refers to the miner’s candle holder. Its design is believed to also be unique to the Broken Hill area.

The story goes that a seasoned miner asked a young boy on his first day of work if he had his ‘spider’ to take down the mine.

The boy looked somewhat perplexed and thought he had to take a live spider down the mine.

Geromy helped to set up the miner’s hut as well as all the old steam engines.

Their other son, Jason, helped with underground maintenance.

Over the years, the pair have cut the tours they run, but find having two tours a day, seven days a week is the best way to go.

“We have really good clientele,” Beth said. “We’ve got seven guides and eight staff altogether.”

They see a lot of different people from locals to people from overseas.

“The biggest clientele, outside of school holidays, is ‘grey-pal’,” Kevin said.

“Mobs of caravans come through and they are the ones that come and do it.

“We do get a lot of overseas visitors that come and do it.”

The history of the mine and the township is a talking point.

“People are often surprised by the history of the mine,” Kevin said.

“And how original the mine is,” Beth said. “They can’t believe you can still go through a mine and how it’s still in original condition.”

Kevin said the mine was under guidance of the Mines Department, which ensured it met current safety standards.

As for the future, the couple said they wouldn’t mind slowing down.

“It’s been good fun, a great experience,” Beth said.

“We’ve really enjoyed it, we’ve met a lot of different people from all over the world,” Kevin said.

“It’s been hard work but fun,” Beth said.

The couple said they would like to thank all their past and present staff as well as their family who have helped to make the business as successful as possible over the past 25 years.

© Copyright 2019 Barrier Daily Truth, All Rights Reserved. ABN: 38 684 603 658