IN a lonely graveyard on the edge of Minmi township stands a tombstone revealing a sad, now forgotten tale of a sudden double death.
Hidden behind trees, this private 19th century cemetery is the final resting place of many of Minmi's mining pioneers and their families.
It's also the burial site of a father and son who tragically died together in a bizarre accident in the nearby bush on August 4, 1915.
Here, after a thunderclap, Frederick Cooper, aged 35, and his son Freddie, just seven years and 10 months, abruptly died.
So, what do their deaths, storms over Newcastle's Christ Church Cathedral and a park ranger from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, US, have in common?
If you answered lightning strikes, you'd be right.
According to the statistics, as many as 90 per cent of people are lucky enough to survive a lightning strike, especially if there's a hospital close.
Well, park ranger Roy Cleveland Sullivan (1912-1983) must have had more lives than a cat, or was carrying an extra large lucky charm.
Between 1942 and 1977, being the outdoorsy sort, Sullivan was always in harm's way, yet lived to tell the tale despite being hit by lightning seven different times. Seven!
Being struck by lightning once, however, was fatal for the unfortunate father and son called Cooper in 1915. Their gravesite at Minmi ('the place of the giant lily') is surrounded by bush in the easily overlooked Back Creek area, 18 kilometres west of Newcastle.
Here, the single family grave of the Coopers (pictured) is at the front, in the 'newer' section of the historic cemetery, with a towering bunya pine acting almost like a marker.
The weathered sandstone tombstone epitaph touchingly states young Freddie and his father "quietly went home to heaven to dwell" and mentions lightning, but only the barest details. Wife and mother Sarah is buried in the same plot. She outlived them only by 10 years, dying in 1925 probably from grief, aged 41.
Brief press reports of the time state father and son had left Minmi to go on a shooting expedition, probably for swamp wildfowl, and were returning home when "caught in a violent thunderstorm both were killed by lightning".
Their bodies were recovered from bush that night, leaving no chance by then that they could have been resuscitated.
Minmi folklore though has a bizarre, now probably little remembered, twist to the tragedy. Older locals believed there was no mystery why young Freddie and his father had likely died together at the exact time and place. It was the family rifle they were carrying.
They'd died because, as the thunder crackled overhead, one of them was handing the rifle to the other and the metal in it acted like a lightning rod, attracting millions of volts of electricity downwards, instantly killing the pair.
Or, so the story goes.
Anyone watching lightning storms, especially off the Hunter coast, knows what a dazzling sound and light show mother nature can provide. Awe-inspiring, noisy, but seemingly harmless.
But we tend to forget storms can be deadly as forked lighting hurls to earth without mercy at one-third the speed of light.
Lightning plays a bigger role in our lives than most of us realise.
Many years ago, just before the replica of Captain Cook's ship Endeavour was going to sail down the coast from Port Macquarie to Newcastle Harbour, about 7000 lightning strikes were recorded at sea from a passing storm.
Before the current 'big dry', south-east Queensland officially recorded more than 830,000 ground lightning strikes in two years alone (2013 and 2014).
Satellite data has also recorded Australia's most hazardous zones for lightning as being in our Top End. Here, the Kimberly Region and the Northern Territory are the top 'hot spots'.
Then there's the Hunter's Burning Mountain, at Wingen, near Scone, which has been smoking under remote countryside there for up to 6000 years.
Lightning striking the earth and igniting a shallow coal seam is a popular theory on how the smouldering fire began.
At Lake Macquarie, a lightning strike was credited with a bushfire setting coal alight underground in a crevice off the Pacific Highway near Wyee several years ago.
However, potentially dangerous electrical discharges into the atmosphere, as in lightning bolts, have been around since Adam was a boy, so we can't be complacent.
Lightning is even mentioned in the Bible. Remember St Paul's conversion?
According to statistics, about 10 people die from lightning strikes, and 100 more are injured in Australia annually.
In a freak Hunter Valley accident in November 2014, a teenager was killed by a lightning bolt at One Mile Beach, Port Stephens. The 15-year-old was reported standing about 20 metres from shore when a storm rolled in taking beachgoers by surprise.
In a far earlier incident, an electrical bolt from a lone dark cloud struck and immobilised a lad on Newcastle Beach one day without warning. Luckily, Royal Newcastle Hospital was then right above the beach and the incident was seen by staff members who rescued him.
Newcastle city landmark the Obelisk, high above coastal King Edward Park, has also suffered damage more than a few times in severe thunderstorms.
And what about what happened at remote Warrangulla in NSW, about 770 kilometres from Newcastle near the Queensland border? It's an opal fossickers paradise, but the town was renamed after World War I as Lightning Ridge.
Today's name is said to commemorate an incident in the 1870s when passers-by found the body of a farmer, his dog and 200 sheep who had all been struck by lightning.
Sounds like an Outback myth, but who knows?
The latest 'unknown' victim of capricious lightning is Newcastle's Christ Church Cathedral on The Hill. It's been struck seriously twice in 14 months.
Lightning strikes in January 2018, and then a second lightning storm in March this year, destroyed the lighting system for the entire cathedral.
The damaged, deteriorating system is gradually being restored, but more funds are urgently needed to repair and upgrade special lighting for musical events and important community performances.
It's an expensive exercise. Sufficient funds are there for stage 1 repair work, which has begun. There's hope of obtaining a heritage grant for some work, but, back in February, more than $500,000 was needed to complete the project.
Cathedral authorities are appealing to the public living in Newcastle electorate to lobby the NSW Government through My Service NSW website for available community funds. Voting closes on August 15.