Gundagai, Latest Particulars

Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer

17 July 1852

(From the Goulburn Herald. July 10.)

Accounts received during the last few days fully confirm all that has been stated respecting this doomed township.

Mr. Spencer is saved, but not a brick remains to mark the site of his hotel - all are swept away.

Mr. Collins' station, lower down the river, has much suffered; although the house was built on a high hill, the flood reached it, and has forced the walls from their perpendicular.

The family, and Mr Frederick Moore, son of J, J. Moore. Esq., of Baw Baw, who was on a visit there, escaped to a neighbouring range, and remained there three nights without shelter.

Mr. Peter Stuckey and Mr. Henry Stuckey are both saved.

Mr Collins has lost a number of horses out of his paddock; but the extent of such losses it is impossible to ascertain at the present moment.

The survivors are in a state of starvation.

There is little flour left, and those who have secured any wheat are subsisting on it by boiling it.

Those we have conversed with, who have been eye witnesses, describe the scone of death and desolation as most heartrending.

The bodies that have been recovered were interred with little ceremony - what ceremony could be expected ? - they were wrapped in calico and put into holes !

The following letter, received by Mr. M’Donald, of the Australian Hotel, of this town, from his brother, will be read with great interest.

The writer, Mr. Donald M'Donald, left Goulburn for the overland route to the Victoria mines, and arrived at Gundagai in sufficient time to witness the distressing scene of its total extinction!

 We believe we can safely state that the women and children alluded to in the letter were drowned, and that they were not the wife and children of Edward Cain, belonging to Goulburn, as has generally been reported.

"Gundagai, July 1. - We arrived here on Monday evening, the 21st June, and got across the river on Tuesday morning, all safe.

I am extremely sorry, to inform you that the inhabitants of this unfortunate township, were visited by an awful catastrophe, during last week.

On the evening of the 23rd June, the river began to rise rapidly, and on the next day it was considered unsafe to cross it with the small punt.

On Friday morning, all communication between the flats and the ranges was out off, and the melancholy scene we had to witness during the rest of the day will be impressed on my memory while breath remains in my body.

There was nothing to be seen but human beings in distress - men, women, and children, clinging to the roofs of houses, or any other thing that came within their reach that was not covered with water.

Towards evening, those frail tenements, on which depended their own safety, began to give way in succession; nothing then could be heard but cries for the assistance which could not be rendered them.

Many of the young and able caught hold of the limbs of trees as they were swept down, and there remained until the blacks got them ashore In their canoes,

It is calculated that 92 lives were lost. Amongst the drowned is poor Perkins, from Goulburn. Only 21 dead bodies have as yet been found; 20 inquests have been hold during the last four days. As yet we have no authentic account of the amount of property lost. Reports have reached us of the loss of life amongst the inhabitants of the neighbourhood of the township.

I will now relate to you how poor Perkins lost his life.

At 11 o'clock a.m. of Thursday, the 24th, he and two other men bound for Mount Alexander diggings put off in a small boat from the south bank of the river, for the purpose of rescuing some of the unfortunate persons on the opposite side: they succeeded in getting across, and took a woman and five children into the boat.

As they were coming back, they came in collision with a tree, and the boat upset: one of the men managed to save his life by swimming ashore but poor Perkins swam to a tree at a distance, and put off his clothes and dried them, and as soon as he got them on again, and seemed to have got over his predicament, the tree gave way, and down they both went, and appeared no more.

His body was found three days afterwards, and was interred in unfortunate Gundagai.

I have just been informed that the inhabitants of Wagga Wagga have experienced a similar catastrophe as those here. We intend to start to-morrow for the Mount, and hope that we may never again view such a scene of distress as we have lately witnessed. . . Farquhar Ross and his friends arrived in the township a few days ago, but have not as yet crossed the river.

Donald M'donald."

The following extracts are from a letter received by Mr. Abraham Lawley, of Goulburn, dated Wandadura, (Murrumbidgee River) 30th June.

"The river rose very rapidly on the night of Friday, the 25th. At about 12 o'clock all the people on Mr Jeffries' head station had to fly to a tree to save themselves.

There were ten in all; five men, two women, and three small children.

They had to remain in the tree until Sunday morning, without anything to eat, and their clothes all wet.

Young Mr. Jeffries was one of those situated as I describe. He was nearly drowned by getting down the tree; the current took him off his feet, and he had to swim for his life; he succeeded in reaching another tree.

The flood took away all the huts, stores, woolshed and press, and a large quantity of fencing. I think it will take from £400 to £500 to replace all he has lost by this awful calamity.

I have been told that more than 100 persons were drowned at Gundagai; one man I know, was taken from a garret window by a black in a canoe.

 I think that the flood was about 13 or 14 feet higher than it was last August.

I expect I shall soon have to eat boiled wheat, for there have been only 3 or 4 bags of flower picked up since the flood; we have none and neither tea or sugar, but we fortunately have plenty of good mutton.

Extract of a private letter :-

"There are some melancholy cases at Gundagai. One poor man named Gormley came up to that neighbourhood, in the Messrs Macarthurs' service, and by his own industry, and the good conduct of his sons, the poor man saved money, and bought land at Gundagai, and farms in the suburbs, and was commencing with his sons, who were just grown up.

The unfortunate man, with his wife, daughter, two sons, and lodgers, were all drowned, and their house taken away, leaving but two of the sons."