When asked if he’s an A-grader, Bushy White will first explain the meaning behind the phrase – apparently it started in the 50s to designate who was local and who was not, to determine who got first pick of jobs.
This pretty much sums up Bushy, a man who loves Broken Hill and its history, and has spent a long time working with and in the mines.
Bushy was born in Broken Hill nearly 74 years ago, and like many at that time, left school at 14.
He nearly joined the army, but ended up working on stations and properties until he was 21.
“I worked with sheep, cattle, horses, I even shore sheep when I was 18, 19,” Bushy said.
“It was a two stand shed and I was in charge of bringing up the sheep and making the bales, but one week the shearer didn’t come and the boss told me to have a go,” he said.
“Merinos were a bugger to try and shear, with the big flaps on their fronts, and I’m only a little fellow and once you put a big sheep in front of me you couldn’t see anything but the top of my head and my arm going around.
“My best tally in one day was about 42, while the other shearers were doing about 120, so I was glad when that week was finished, but it was good fun.”
At 21 Bushy moved back to Broken Hill and got a job in the mines.
He also joined the Ramblers’ Revue, a group of local performers who also travelled interstate, which is where he met his wife, Betty.
“I was a gymnastic person, so I was with another three or four fellas and we did somersaults and all that sort of thing,” Bushy said.
“We went and performed in Mildura, Port Pirie, as well as at the Palais and where the Town Hall Facade is now locally,” he said.
“In Port Pirie I was a cancan girl too, they didn’t have enough to fill up the cancan girls in the front row so they grabbed us boys and we got dressed up and did the cancan with them.”
Bushy stayed with the Ramblers for five or six years, and during that time he also ended up underground at the Zinc Mine.
He started off above ground at the mine, where he said he wanted to work as it was one of the bigger mines.
After 12 months he was moved underground, and three months later he was working with a team in the stopes.
“One of the fellas in a four man gang got out of that gang, and the boss said they needed another man,” Bushy said.
“Keith Davis asked who was on the level and the boss said only Bushy White, and Keith called me a short arsed little bugger, but they needed someone and I was it,” he said.
“So I worked with them for 18 years underground, Keith ‘bent legs’ Davis, Johnny Mitchelberg, Joe Grose and Peter Quinn, and they were great mates.
“It was a skill to learn, because I’m not very big, but we trusted each other, mining was pretty rugged work and you had to trust people.”
Although Bushy eventually worked above ground again, it was below ground that he first became fascinated by the minerals they were searching for.
He said that the glow of the minerals picked up by the lights they carried in the dark was absolutely magnificent.
“When you’ve got millions of tons of ore above your head and you’re walking down a drive and its pitch black, one of the things you might not think of is how beautiful it is,” Bushy said.
“But when you get up into the stoping areas as a miner, as soon as your light comes in you see all these beautiful different shiny minerals, and I would say to my wife how beautiful it is underground,” he said.
“When I worked there we could pick up what we wanted, put it in a tin and bring it up and back with us, which is what I started to do, rather than just use hobby kits for my art.”
For more than 40 years Bushy has maintained the history of Broken Hill through his mineral art, using photographs from the time as his base.
He enlarges these pictures, puts them on a board, marks it out with cord and fills it in with minerals found in Broken Hill and its surrounds.
“Over a period of 46 years I’ve created over 1000 historical works of all of Broken Hill, and everything I’ve used in my art is as is,” Bushy said.
“One of the minerals that’s hard to get now is galena, and galena is what we mine for, it was very common in the mines, and because it was so common you didn’t really pick it up,” he said.
“Now, fortunately or unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take minerals home, so I have to buy it in small quantities.”
It was after he’d been creating his art for some time that Bushy got the idea for his Mineral Art and Living Mining Museum, which he built by himself over the course of about 9 years.
Nowadays he spends his time giving guided tours of the museum, which house some 500 pieces of his art as well as mining paraphernalia.
He said he hopes that it will live on after he and his wife are gone, and hopes his collection stays together to ‘keep the history of Broken Hill under one roof’.
“Broken Hill’s history is very important, and it needs to be preserved,” Bushy said.
“With the minerals I use, that’s another record of Broken Hill, and it doesn’t deteriorate,” he said.
“So I’m hoping someone will be able to tell me what we can do with it all to give it to Broken Hill to live under one roof, it needs to be under one roof.”