An Old Relic of the '52 Gundagai Flood.
27 March 1912 The Gundagai Independent and Pastoral, Agricultural and Mining Advocate, Thus the 'Monaro Mercury':-
An interesting relic of the earlier days of Gundagai, which town was washed away by the heavy floods in the Murrumbidgee during 1852, is in the passion of Mr. E. Perkins, sen., of Cooma.
This is a breastplate of brass, which was presented to an aboriginal called Tommy Davis, who, with a bark canoe, rescued many residents who had climbed trees as the only available places of safety.
Gundagai was formerly, built on the flat by the Murrumbidgee River, and the sudden rush of storm waters quickly inundated the houses, drowning many of their occupants, and causing those who were swept into the current to cling to the trees, where they were detained for hours.
Several dropped from the limbs of these river gums from sheer exhaustion, while others were swept off in, the current and perished.
The only boat used for rescue purposes became overturned and all its occupants were drowned, and it became necessary to rely upon the services of the aboriginals, whose bark canoes were a valuable asset at the time.
There were two other aboriginals engaged in rescue work, viz., 'Jacky' and ‘Yarry,' and these were also successful in saving numerous lives receiving inscribed breastplates as re-wards of merit.
These, of crescent shape, were engraved, and represented the owners in their canoes going to the aid of people who were 'treed.' Tommy's -'distinction,' which he wore proudly on all occasions of public importance, was found in a disused bark hut, which he formerly occupied, and was handed to Mrs. Perkins, mother of its present possessor, who was the only survivor of the flood to be found at Gundagai.
It bears the following inscription: 'Presented to Tommy by the subscribers of a relief fund, as a reward for his assisting the sufferers during the floods at Gundagai on the 25th June, 1852.’
The sketch shows some excellent engraving, and the plate was undoubtedly the work of one of Sydney's former artificers. Tommy was of the migratory order, and was well known at Cooma and Yass; which towns he visited at intervals.
He was particularly, proud of his breastplate, and received - many hospitalities at the hands of those to whom he exhibited it.
In connection with the great Gundagai flood, of 1852, it is said that although the blacks gave warning of its approach, the residents of the town paid no attention thereto, nor to the significant fact that aboriginals moved their camps to the high ground.
As an instance of the heights reached by the waters, it may be mentioned that the carcase of a horse was suspended by the neck 50ft. from the ground, it having been caught in the fork of a limb while being carried down the stream.
It is the intention of Mr. Perkins to exhibit the breast-plate, together with some aboriginal weapons, at the forthcoming Cooma Show, and it would be well if others possessed of interesting curios, followed Mr. Perkins' example.