1956 Flood, extract 3
1956 Flood, extract 3
writer: Mike O'Reilly; editor: Phil Guerin; research: Diana Byrne & Graham Downie
[re-edited extract: Sophie Boord]
An initiative of the Murray-Darling Environmental Foundation and the Murray-Darling Association Inc
Cannot be repurposed or downloaded without the express permission of Adrian Wells, executive Officer of the Murray Darling Environmental Foundation.Copyright
Murray Darling Environmental Foundation
An edited extract from "1956 Flood", a film that explores the impact of the 1956 floods along the Murray and Darling Rivers, using historical film footage and photographs, many sourced from private archives.
The full video is over 25 minutes long, and copies can be obtained from:
Emma Bradbury, Murray Darling Association, Post Office Box 1268, Echuca 3564
Email: [email protected] Phone: 03 54803805
MAN 1 (VOICEOVER): Crossing the river with the ferry was very hazardous because of the debris, tree trunks, branches, boats, shacks, water tanks, petrol drums, anything. I had to stay operating so that motorists were able to get back to Cadell. The water was lapping the causeway by the time the last vehicle crossed. Then I was provided with a launch for future crossings. The Waikerie bank manager made the crossing once a week with his cash strong box and his pistol. On Sundays, up to five denominations of priests and ministers had to make the crossing. Luckily, they agreed to cross together, which assured me of my entry into heaven, if the worst should happen. The river eventually peaked at 31 feet at Cadell, and the ferry was out of commission for three months.
MAN 2 (VOICEOVER): I was nine years old. When the water started rising, all our household furniture and goods were placed on planks supported by 44 gallon drums. The flood waters rose to the roof of our house, but my aunt and uncle's new house collapsed from the force of the waves, which undermined the walls, and the timber and roof washed away in the flood waters.
These days, I'm an accountant, and I must have shown some aptitude in those early days, because when the tourists came, I charged them two shillings to row them down the main street of Mannum in one of my father's boats.
WOMAN 1 (VOICEOVER): My neighbor, who was the baker in Mannum during that time, often told his story. The local fire chief had come into the bakery and had said, there's been a break in the levee. And so he slipped on his knee boots, took two steps down, and found he was well up past his knees in flood waters. They had had yeast and dough all on trays as they were making buns. They just had to empty everything else out and let it float off in the water.
I do recall him saying that the Bottom Hotel had about eight feet of water through it, but the pub was operational. They would row the boat up to the top balcony where they had a hole cut in the railing and tie up their boat.
NARRATOR: The early high bravado of battle on the levees and community one-for-all spirit was coming to an end.
WOMAN 2 (VOICEOVER): After the flood subsided, there was very little government assistance. People that had been on the floodplain at Moorook at the packing shed were battling for some relief to rebuild. That's when everything got political. Who got what. Who got compensated. Who was in the paper. Who wasn't in the paper. All those things started to come out of the woodwork when people had had a chance to sit back and breathe and toss it all over. There was bitterness in every town over who did what and that sort of thing. For a time, I think the 1956 flood built up community spirit.
NARRATOR: Along the battered river's edge, recovery was slow. Houses and businesses were still in ruin, and small communities suffered from the inevitable stress of loss of property, stock, and cash. Incredibly, the death toll was said to be four lives. No one will ever know the full community cost, the early demise from tragic loss, the mental strain on families, but for wide-eyed youngsters sharing the adventure of driving a Fergie tractor, toiling with adults, it was a badge of courage, a rite of passage that helped make a stronger person.