The Ratters of Lightning Ridge


A novella by

Richard W. Holmes

Palmland Press

104 pages, $18.00 cover price

ISBN: 978-1-59948-208-8

Release date: 2005

Australia is unique in that it is the home of 95% of the world’s known black opal reserves, all buried beneath the dry Outback soil in a small area of New South Wales known as Lightning Ridge. Under existing laws an individual can hold only two mining claims that measure 50 meters by 50 meters, or roughly one acre in size. These restrictions do not exist in other parts of Australia.

Lightning Ridge is an area of the outback where many crooks, cutthroats, and thieves come to hide away from civilization. There are few people in the Lightning Ridge area. Everyone is highly suspicious of his neighbor and of what he is doing. Newcomers are not easily accepted. The paranoia of these people as they go about their daily lives, when it comes to mining and selling black opal, cannot be exaggerated. The people who steal from legitimate opal miners are called “ratters.”

The black opal in the Lightning Ridge area is mined in sedimentary rock dating to the Cretaceous Period, eighty to one hundred and thirty million years ago. The Lightning Ridge opal miners dig to a maximum depth of seventy feet, which has led some to ask the question: What might lie below the Cretaceous zone? In many places in Australia there exist volcanic intrusions of rock known as kimberlite that predate the Cretaceous period by millions of years. These kimberlite intrusions are sometimes the ‘host rock’ for diamonds. Could it be that if the Lightning Ridge miners dig deeper they might run into one of these pockets of kimberlite?

This adventure story centers around two leading characters: Rusty, a 40-year-old opal miner, and Kate, a 60-year-old, tough-as-nails woman who raises sheep and cattle when she is not mining opal. This story, I believe, captures a sense of intrigue and calamity that continues to happen between opal miners, “ratters,” and animals of the Outback area of Lightning Ridge, Australia.
I find Australia an exciting and interesting country. The people there are warm and friendly and ready to help a stranger enjoy their home ‘among the gum trees.’

Richard W. Holmes

From Metal Stone & Glass magazine by Joan Millton
published Spring 2006 Volume 36
in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Richard W. Holmes of North (Caroline) is a frequent visitor to Lighting Ridge and has written a trilogy of short stories in the form of three books. Bryan Cook has done an imaginative job in illustrating the books in pen and ink, and his covers entice you to pick up the books and read them.

The themes of the three booklets are interwoven with the main characters, one being a crusty Outback woman (Kate) and the other a would-be miner (Rusty) and others that give a true-to-life animation to these stories written in and around the Lightning Ridge opal fields.

Richard has been very observant and when he describes the interior of the mines and the lay-out, it is very obvious the stories are written with a first hand knowledge of opal mining.

I found the three books delightful to read and it answered my dilemma of what to suggest to visitors to get hold of when staying in a motel. They are a must for any tourist visiting the gem fields to get the real “flavour of the place. (Hopefully these books can still be found for sale at the Ridge motels/shops).

I heartily recommend reading them in the sequence they were written, and when you have finished reading them you want Richard to put pen to paper again and write as many more credible yarns as he can come up with.

His driving desire is now to have a films made on the basis of the books and with persistence he may well achieve his dream.

SKU: 978-1-59948-208-8 Categories: , Tag: