Burra has a more recent history that was of almost as much interest to me as its mining past. This is where the film “Breaker Morant,” one of my all-time favorites, was shot. “Breaker Morant” is an amazingly good movie (incredible writing, acting, and cinematography) about a bit of Australian history that is still something of a sore point.
Harry Morant was among the well-known Australian poets who got his start in the Sydney magazine The Bulletin (which is described in more detail in the post on the Archibald Fountain.) A horse breaker, Morant published poetry under the pen name “The Breaker.” Morant was among a fair number of Australian soldiers to volunteer to help the British during the Boer War (1899–1902).
The British would not think particularly highly of Australians (colonials, ugh) until well after World War I, so when the British needed someone to execute to show the Boers how fair they were, they picked Australians. Without arguing issues of relative guilt (are you innocent if you were ordered to kill your prisoners), suffice it to say there are still hard feelings in some quarters about making the Aussies take the fall for British behavior in the war. In fact, last year, with new evidence establishing that there were, in fact, orders to shoot prisoners, Australia petitioned Britain to pardon Morant and his co-combatant, Lieutenant Peter Handcock back in December. According to a January 2011 article in The Age (and other sources), additional new evidence has been sent to Britain. Whatever the outcome, it is interesting that the issue is still being discussed.
Regardless of where one stands on the issue of whether or not Morant and Handcock should be pardoned, the movie is worth seeing. It is remarkably close to being a perfect film. If you do see (or have seen) “Breaker Morant,” you will likely recognize the two scenes below, from Burra. On the left is the Burra town square, where, in the movie, a British band is shown playing in the gazebo. On the right is the Redruth Gaol (jail), the local lock-up, built in 1856, which was used as the barracks and court room in the movie.