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Blackball
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Country New Zealand
Region West Coast
District Grey District
Ward Eastern
Area
 • Total 1.94 km2 (0.75 sq mi)
Population
 (2018)
 • Total 276
 • Density 142.3/km2 (368.5/sq mi)
Local iwi Ngāi Tahu
Blackball Hilton
The hotel known as "Formerly the Blackball Hilton"

Blackball is a small town on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, approximately 29 km from Greymouth. Elevation is approximately 100 metres. The town was named after the Black Ball Shipping Line, which leased land in the area to mine for coal.

Blackball was a centre of New Zealand radicalism and workers' militancy. It is credited as 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 closed in 1964.

History

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)

Literature

Blackball has a unique literary inheritance: for a small town, it has managed to attract more than its share of literary representations. Bill Pearson's "Coal Flat" (1963) is a major New Zealand novel in the dated social realist tradition. Pearson had taught in the town as a probationary teacher in 1942, and had formed a friendship with the publican's family. His book caused a bit of a storm amongst the locals, as they tried to "spot the character" - who had Pearson based these people on? He died in 2002.

Coal Flat cover
Cover of Bill Pearson's 1963 novel, Coal Flat.

Eric Beardsley's "Blackball '08" is an historical novel published in 1984. Beardsley used the historic 1908 Crib Time strike

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman's "The Late Great Blackball Bridge Sonnets" published in 2004 contains poems based around the railway bridge that linked the community with the outside world. The poems also mention people and features of the town, which Holman recalls from his childhood in Blackball during the 1950s and 1960s.

Paul Maunder, who lives in the town, is a playwright who has written and staged a number of plays about the town and working-class history.

Bibliography

  • Reed, A.W. (2002) The Reed dictionary of New Zealand place names. Auckland: Reed Books. ISBN 0-790-00761-4.

Demographics

Blackball is defined by Statistics New Zealand as a rural settlement and covers 1.94 km2 (0.75 sq mi). It is part of the wider Barrytown statistical area, which covers 731.32 km2 (282.36 sq mi).

The population of Blackball was 276 in the 2018 census, a decrease of 2 from 2013, and a decrease of 39 from 2006. There were 150 males and 126 females. 258 people (93.5%) identified as European/Pākehā, 30 (10.9%) as Māori, 3 (1.1%) as Pacific peoples, and 6 (2.2%) as Asian. 33 (12.%) were under 15 years old, 42 (15.2%) were 15–29, 156 (56.5%) were 30–64, and 51 (18.5%) were over 65.

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