Self-drive: By George is located in Moonta, about a two-hour or 160 kilometre drive north-west of Adelaide, in the Copper Coast Triangle region of the Northern Yorke Peninsula. Park your car in the secure off-street parking at the rear of your accommodation and enjoy taking in the sights walking around the historic township of Moonta!
Coach: Yorke Peninsula Coach have services between Adelaide and Moonta.
For a long weekend, the coach leaves Adelaide on Fridays in the late afternoon and there is a return service on a Monday Public Holiday in the early afternoon. Perfect timing and you don’t have to drive! It is approximately a ten-minute walk from the Moonta bus stop to your perfect holiday accommodation at By-George.
Many descendants of the Cornish miners still live in the Copper Coast Triangle today and have great reason to celebrate their unique heritage.
First held in 1973, the Kernewek Lowender Festival was intended to celebrate all things Cornish in the Copper Coast area. Kernewek Lowender means Cornish Happiness and it certainly made the local businesses happy when thousands of interstate and overseas visitors joined local South Australians seeking some excellent Cornish cuisine and culture.
This celebration re-invigorated the Copper Triangle and established the area as a holiday destination and tourist hub. Historical old buildings and mines were restored and became museums. The National Trust is very active in the area and there are many restored places which can be visited.
The Kernewek Lowender Festival or Copper Coast Cornish Festival takes over the towns of Moonta, Kadina and Wallaroo in mid to late May in odd years only. Large crowds come to enjoy the festivities and celebrate all that is Cornish.
The festival itself is a great draw card for tourists and so it continues as a biennial event in May every odd year. What sort of events are there? Click here for a full list of what was in the 2017 Kernewek Lowender.
The descendants of those original Cornish miners take pride in their roots and plan for months in advance for the next event. The dates for the 2019 Kernewek Lowender will be confirmed at their AGM in October 2017.
Could a Cornish Pasty start a fire in a mine? Just like King Alfred who let the bread burn in the oven, a miner in Moonta forgot that he had left his pasty sitting on a shovel heating over a lamp. The high fat content in the pastry caused it to combust and it spread to the surrounding wooden boards.
The world-famous Cornish pasty had very aristocratic beginnings. In fact, pasties were enjoyed by royalty over seven centuries ago in Britain. It has been recently claimed that the Cornish pasty really began life in Devon and probably should be called a Devon pasty!
Working down a mine in a hot and dusty environment was hard and hungry work. The men would be covered in grime with nowhere to wash up before eating. So, a long time ago, a pasty had been invented that had a crimped crusty ridge along its top.
The Cornish miners brought the idea of a pasty with them from Cornwall as it was their sustenance during the long shifts they worked. It was ideal because it would keep warm for a long time and could be re-heated if necessary.
Each pasty would contain at least potatoes and onions with a few extra ingredients based on the individual’s preference, what was in the garden and what they could afford! To identify the pasty for an individual in a family, often their initial was marked in one corner. The crimped top became the handle for the miners’ grubby hands and so they started eating the bottom first. The crimped pasty top was not eaten but discarded, having served its purpose.
The miner would start at the savoury half and finish on the sweet dessert half, enjoying his hearty lunch!
Although the mines have long ceased, the Cornish Pasty has lived on due to its popularity. It still can be bought from local bakeries in Australia’s Little Cornwall. Check out Taste the Yorke Cafe across the road from ByGeorge!
The first thing that you notice on entering one of these buildings is the height of the doors and ceilings – they are low! All miners’ huts in Moonta are the same.
The miners employed traditional building methods utilising local resources – wattle and daub, locally made mud bricks, clay and limestone. A coat of plaster and whitewash would have set the final touches.
Early in the town’s establishment, wooden palings or shingles would have been used for the roof but later, corrugated iron was used. Floors would have been dirt covered by packing cases. Internal walls were paper covered hessian with a coat of whitewash. They made do with what they had.
The new migrants may have brought some furniture from the old country. There would have been a small bed (by today’s standards) and a tall boy (chest of drawers.) A wash pitcher and basin would have taken pride of place on the washstand.
Guests would have been received in the parlour (lounge) where several wooden chairs and a small table would be the extent of the furniture.
The housewife would cook over an open fireplace with a camp oven and large cauldron. Here she would make breakfast, lunch and dinner for the family regardless of the outside temperature.
Clothes would be washed outside in a copper that would be boiled. A wringer may have been used to squeeze as much water out as possible before hanging the clothes out on a rough clothesline.
Cottages may have had small but extensive vegetable gardens in the rear to supplement the family larder. At the front, a garden enclosed by the typical wooden fence made a statement about its owner.
If you would like to see a restored typical Cornish cottage and garden from the 1870s, visit the National Trust Miners Cottage at Verco Street Moonta Mines.
Would you believe that a burrowing wombat was responsible for the discovery of copper in the area now known as The Copper Triangle or The Copper Coast in South Australia? Well it is true!
Walter Hughes had leased some land in the area and a shepherd, Paddy Ryan, found the traces of copper around the entrance to the burrow. The rest is history as they say! Mining took over from agriculture as the primary industry for the area.
This discovery saw many experienced miners emigrate from Cornwall, England. They came by ship with their families, to seek their fortune and luckily escape the Irish potato famine.
Copper was mined from 1861 until the early twentieth century. It was very lucrative for some and the miners worked on a percentage basis of the ore mined. The Moonta Mines were a boon to a very young South Australia and its economy. It followed on from gold discovery in Victoria and attracted miners from interstate.
Copper was especially valuable during World War One and it fetched a high price. With the end of the war in 1918 and the discovery of copper in South America, the mines in Moonta and the surrounding areas became unprofitable. The Moonta Mines closed in the 1920s.
At its height, the population of Moonta swelled to 12,000 and it was the second largest urban township in South Australia.
The township was surveyed in 1863 and many Adelaide families bought the town blocks. Miners tended to build their own homes which have been described by some as sub-standard. Life was tough for these early settlers as a reliable fresh water supply was not available until the 1890s. Many people succumbed to typhoid and other water-borne diseases.
The miners brought with them their unique styles of architecture, food and celebrations.
The cosy historical town of Moonta is now better known as a hub for tourism and the surrounding grain-growing areas. Kadina and Wallaroo make up the other two large towns of the Copper Triangle.
Cathal Coleman, Perth WA – December 2017
All good. Top spot. Thanks!
Pete Errey, Clare S.A. – Sept 2017
Top spot! Love that front room – and beds so good. Thanks so much.
Top spot with lots of room.
Jan and Paul Titus, Christchurch N.Z.
Quirky fun place! Love being on the main street. Would definitely return.
Zan – September 23, 2017
Location, location, location and then some! Beautifully presented and spacious, this was a great base for our stay in Moonta. Stairs were a challenge to start with but soon got used to them. Well done!