The town of Blackball was established by the Blackball Mining Company to provide accommodation for miners and other workers. There was a long history of industrial activity in Blackball, and in 2008 the town celebrated the centenary of the 1908 Blackball strike, which is considered to mark the start of a movement that led to the birth of the Labour Party.
For a small town, Blackball has generated a remarkable number of articles and books, almost all about mining and union activity. These book covers represent only a small selection of these.
In his book The late great Blackball bridge sonnets Jeffrey Paparoa Holman writes evocatively of the West Coast, especially around Blackball. One poem describes West Coast rain:
Rain come down, it all comes down to rain:
the great rain, the dark rain, the Rain Father
pissing his worst in the headwaters, Mother-
of-all-Rains squatting, showering blood, mud
rain ricochets back off the clay, the heavens
polluted, the hills collapse, slip rain, sod rain,
the fat tears of God rain, rain so thick and vast
it can drown the prayers of believers from
you back to Jesus! Fear rain, awe rain, rain no
beggared philosopher washed downstream on a
trunk of rata could ever explain: dog rain, cat and
rat rain, the rain that drowns ambition, swallows
towns and smashes bridges, train-eating, brain-
beating, roof-drumming over & over & over. Rain.
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Source: Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, The late great Blackball bridge sonnets. Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2004, p. 40