Loss of Over Seventy Lives

The Sydney Morning Herald

8 July 1852

News reached Goulburn on Wednesday night of the nearly total destruction by flood of the town of Gundagai, with the loss of between seventy and eighty lives - only three houses are said to have been left standing.

Owing to the flooded state of the country, no mails have arrived from near the scene of this awful calamity; we are therefore not in a position to communicate particulars. We regret to learn that amongst the sufferers is Mr. Lindley, the publican, who has lost his wife and children: his premises have also been swept away.

Morley's mill is entirely destroyed, as well as almost every building in the township.

We have heard that Messrs. Spencer, Davison, and Turnbull escaped before the water reached their dwellings.

Only two bodies have as yet been found, those of a schoolmaster and his wife: they were clasped in each otherís arms!

We forbear giving currency to the numerous rumours that have reached us, as many of them no doubt will prove unfounded.

At Yass a vast amount of property has been destroyed.

The mill and tannery of Mr. Watson have been much damaged, and a quantity of leather from the latter has been swept away.

The greatest loss sustained by Mr. Watson was the destruction of his office connected with the mill; we hear that all the ledgers and other account books were carried away by the stream.

The flood reached Dr. Edey's house on the Murrumbidgee, 20 miles from Yass, about nine in the morning, the family were obliged to take shelter in the bush. By eleven o'clock that night, the flood was experienced at Gundagai, a distance by the course of the river of 150 miles.

On Wednesday week the mail from Braidwood left that township on horseback. Our old Sydney mail friend, Robert Elliott, conveyed it.

In endeavoring to cross the creek, which bounds the township on one side, the bold rider was five times carried under water by the force of the stream.

He eventually effected a crossing, and at noon reached the Shoalhaven, at Mr. Ryrie's farm. The stream was running mountains high, and three unsuccessful attempts were made to cross it.

Friday and Saturday were passed in constructing a raft, and on Sunday it was launched, and a man hired to take over the mail bags on it.

The bags were fastened on his back, but so soon as he got a little way from the bank the raft upset and he swam back to the same side of the river as that from which he started.

He then attempted to swim the river with the bags still on his back, but was soon carried a quarter of a mile down the stream, but fortunately sticking in the branches of a tea-tree in the centre he was rescued by a hank of whipcork fasted to a rope being thrown to him, and by which he was drawn back to terra firma.

Next morning Robert Elliott swam a horse across the river with the bags, and after delivering them over to his brother, who met him at Boro, he returned, and by the same daring feat conveyed another mail. Since that a third mail has reached town, leaving only yesterday's due.

We cannot close our hastily-drawn narrative of the difficulties and dangers that Robert Elliott and his man encountered in their endeavor to convey the mails from Braidwood to Goulburn, without expressing our admiration at their intrepidity, and an earnest hope that their conduct will receive some public mark of approbation.

We have heard that considerable damage to property has occured about the Shoalhaven and Braidwood, but we are happy to say that no lives have been lost.