Monday, August 21, 2023

The Plucky Rescuer – the story of Hindman Street, Katoomba

 The origins of the older street names in the Blue Mountains are, in some cases, not easily determined. This is a great shame for, behind the naming of those streets for which we do have information, there are some very interesting stories in¬deed. Hindman Street in Katoomba is a case in point.

The former Five Ways General Store with Cascade St, left,
Neale St, centre and Hindman St, right (John Merriman) 

In the 1880s and 1890s Katoomba was two quite separate townships: the elite tourist destination high on the hill, centred on the palatial Carrington Hotel; and a working class coal mining settlement in the south that drew miners and their families from  other coalfields in the state and beyond. 

The Katoomba coal mine railway c1887 (pf1014)

Samuel Alexander Hindman was a young miner, born in the historic gold mining settlement of Porcupine near Maldon, Victoria in 1863, he grew up in the Newcastle coalfields and had been injured at the Duckenfield Colliery near Hexham in 1879. Samuel arrived in Katoomba in the mid-1880s where he married Birmingham born Isabella Edwards (1962-1893), daughter of Henry and Isabella Edwards who ran the Centennial Hotel near Katoomba Falls, catering mainly to the miners of South Katoomba. Henry was a pugilist of some note and conducted bouts in a small stadium he had built in the hotel grounds.

The Centennial Hotel in south Katoomba 1895 (pf455)

Samuel and Isabella’s first child Emily was born in 1886 and a second, Henry, followed two years later, both births being registered in Lithgow. Samuel laboured in the Hartley Vale coal mines through 1887, until returning to Katoomba in 1888. By this time mining activities below Katoomba had begun to decrease. The seams were becoming exhausted, returns from sales were reduced and miners had to move on. So in 1889 Samuel packed up the family with all their belongings and embarked for New Zealand, where he obtained work in a colliery in the small North Island town of Huntly. A town that became, in the 20th Century, the site of a the largest coal and gas-fired power station in New Zealand and now burns round 800,000 tonnes of coal annually. It was here that fate dealt the family a terrible blow.

On the 22nd December, 1890, an attempt to start a new drive went wrong and four miners were buried when the tunnel collapsed. Samuel was among those who were first at the scene and lead the desperate battle to rescue the trapped men. ‘The Plucky Rescuer Seriously Injured’, ran the newspaper story in the Auckland Star of December 24, 1890:  

A THRILL of horror ran through the quiet little village of Huntley a few weeks ago, when it was known that a serious accident had happened in the coal mine. For a moment all was excitement, and men, women and children, seized with one wild impulse, rushed towards the mouth of the mine. The mine is only a hundred yards or so from the village, and in a very few minutes all the villagers were crowded round the mouth of the pit. But rumour had exaggerated the tale, and soon the minds of most were quieted in regard to their own nearest and dearest, for those at the mouth of the pit were able to say that the accident had but four victims. That news allayed many a fear, but the intense excitement remained. All the long night and all the next day a crowd hung round the spot. Men stood there with set faces and hands clenched, women wept and pitied the suffering ones.

After several hours two of the miners were found, unable to move but alive. Hindman had his arm around one of them and was trying to pull him out when a second fall of earth crashed down, burying the original victims and seriously injuring their would-be rescuer. The attending doctor declared Hindman's case to be hopeless and he was removed to Hamilton Hospital. There he lingered for four months before his death on the 8th April, 1891. Early rate books show that Hindman Street was named by the Katoomba Municipal Council later that year.

The details of the accident and Hindman's heroism and subsequent death were featured in the Katoomba press. "He was", said the editor of the Katoomba Times, "well known in the district and great sympathy is felt for his family."

Isabella Hindman and her children returned to Katoomba to live near her family and, in 1893, she opened a general store in Cascade St at the top of Hindman Street. She may in fact have lived in the shop, later known as the Five Ways General Store, now a private home that still stands in a residential area at the intersection of Hindman St, Neale St, North and South Cascade St and Edwards St. 

Plan of Katoomba (1918) extract 
 Hindman St highlighted                

Neale St is marked on a 1912 map as the ‘Main Road from Katoomba Mines & Falls’, a path many tired and dirty miners would have trudged at shift end, from the dark, dripping tunnels under Katoomba. It wasn't long, however, before Isabella too was struck down in tragic circumstances and after a painful illness died on the 13th August, 1893.

The Katoomba Times recorded:

On Sunday morning last Mrs. S. Hindman breathed her last and left behind three little children and a large number of relatives to mourn their loss. The poor woman, during the 31 years of her life, experienced a far greater portion of trouble than the average mortal. 

Few, indeed, suffered as she suffered, and few would so bravely bare what she endured. Her husband (the late Mr. S. Hindman) it will be remembered was two years ago killed while endeavoring to save a comrade in a coal mine at New Zealand. Shortly after this sad event, the widow came to Katoomba and opened a small general store. She, however, at this time had a cancer growing in her breast, but so long as she could ply her needle she toiled hard to provide for herself and her young family. 

Some months ago she went under a very serious operation in the hope of getting rid of her affliction, and it was thought and hoped with success. She rallied for a time, but the cancer grew again and the poor woman for the last two months or more suffered intense agony, and succumbed to the disease on Sunday morning. On Monday afternoon her remains were interred in the Katoomba cemetery. 

A large number of people followed the corpse to its last resting place. At the grave the Rev. J. H. Maclean read the solemn burial service of the Church of England and at the conclusion made a few appropriate remarks to those who assembled to pay their last tribute of respect to one who bad won tbc esteem of all with whom she came in contact. Three little children have lost a kind indulgent mother and we hope they will never forget her who did so much for them and who sacrificed so much that they should be cared for. Mr. John Chandler, undertaker, &c., of Katoomba, conducted the funeral.

Hindman Street is now a quiet backwater away from the hustle and bustle of the town, but the tragic lives of two Blue Mountains' early citizens are still commemorated in the name.


Author - John Low, Blue Mountains Library
Originally published in the Blue Mountains Weekender 1993
Revised by John Merriman, Blue Mountains Library 2023  

Images are from the Local Studies Collection unless otherwise noted.


Online newspaper articles

Terrible Mining Accident In New Zealand. (1891, January 17). Katoomba Times (NSW : 1889 - 1894), p. 4. Retrieved August 9, 2023, from 

The Late Mr. Sam. Hindman. (1891, April 18). Katoomba Times (NSW : 1889 - 1894), p. 2. Retrieved August 9, 2023, from 

The Late Mrs. Hindman. (1893, August 18). Katoomba Times (NSW : 1889 - 1894), p. 2. Retrieved August 9, 2023, from 


Huntly power station

Coal Q&A Huntly

Duckenfield colliery   


Street whys : the origins of Blue Mountains City street names, Christopher J. Woods, 1997

Happy Days, Blue Mountains guest houses remembered, Gwen Silvey, 1996.


The Plucky Rescuer – the story of Hindman Street, Katoomba

 The origins of the older street names in the Blue Mountains are, in some cases, not easily determined. This is a great shame for, behind th...