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February 1853: Armidale – Geological formation and auriferous character of the country

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Empire, Sydney, Saturday May 21, 1853


Letter from the Rev. W. B. Clarke to the Honorable the Colonial Secretary, on the Geological formation and auriferous character of the country between the heads of the McLeay and Gwydir Rivers.



14th February, 1853.

Sir—I do myself the honor of reporting to you, for the information of His Excellency the Governor-General, some account of the formation and auriferous character of the country which I have been occupied in exploring since I addressed you from Walcha.

1.. The area in question comprises a section from the falls of the Tiah River, to a few miles north of Boorolong, and embraces the sources of the McLeay River as far as the Gyra, and the bends of the Gwydir as far as the lowest gold washings on the Uralla or Rocky River.

In the course of my traverses I have crossed “The Dividing Range” at eight different points within the space occupied by it in that area, exclusive of those before mentioned.

I found it composed of granite, and various trappean products, such as basalt, greenstone, porphyritic greenstone, and some porphyry, these having intimate relations with the granite, into which there appears occasionally to be a direct passage, though some of them have, also, risen through the granite at a later period of eruption, and have produced sensible effects upon the granite itself as well as upon the schistose formations which abut upon the granite towards the south-east and east.

The granite itself, except in one instance, upon the Gyra River, assumes a nodular concretionary structure, decomposing into rounded, smooth, and dome-like masses, or into separate tors reposing upon each other in picturesque forms, as in the southern districts of the colony, although the blocks which adorn the latter are of more gigantic dimensions. The positions of these masses on each other at the junction of the frequently horizontal joint planes, give the appearance of an artificial character to some of them; but, probably the ingenuity of man could not produce such a delicate adjustment of ponderous and unwieldy rocks as the elements of nature have accomplished by disintegrating the surface till these blocks become balanced upon a mere point or very narrow base. This phenomenon is very common in granite regions, and it is mentioned here, in order to point out, that the granite of the northern as well as of the southern parts of New South Wales has been subjected to very great decay and that it was once more continuous in the ??????? ?? horizontal planes than it is at present. This is a point of importance in considering the probable origin of much of the gold that is distributed over the granite country.

The mineral constituents of the granite are of the ordinary kind, but the elements vary in size and arrangements ; so that whilst on parts of the Rocky River, it is fine grained, having white felspar, blueish white quartz, and black tables of mica, about Boorolong and elsewhere it becomes porphyritic, having a rough external covering, in which the larger crystals of felspar stud the surface in relief often in continuous lines of similar direction, which arise from the original disposition of the mineral under the influence of its natural undisturbed polarity. Hornblende also enters very considerably as an element of the granite, and is frequently segregated into lumps and variously formed figures, which preserve so distinct an outline as to look like pebbles, the deception being further maintained by the occasional formation of hollows in the granite from the disintegration of these fine hornblende patches. The granite also passes into a yellowish and pinkish variety of a more porphyritic structure, and is also traversed by broad bands of binary constitution, very like elvans, and by thinner bands and seams of similar kind, in some of which the chief ingredient is quartz, in others felspar; but in which mica is less constant than hornblende, and in which tourmaline is sometimes present. These seams are the edges of planes of binary tables which being harder than the surrounding matter, are exposed in relief on the decay of the mass. There is either much hornblende or tourmaline (schorl) at the junction of the planes and less in the interior of the seams, and the tables break when freed from the mass, by rectangular fractures. At Boorolong the mica becomes green in places, and the rock passes into a porphyritic granite, hard bands of fine material traversing it in a direction from north-east to south-west, which appears to be a prevalent line of joints and bearing of the mass. Very thin crystals of glassy felspar also occasionally stud the granite, either introduced by subsequent interference of a trachytic greenstone or paving a passage from the granite into rocks of that class.

That such a passage exists is probable from the phenomenon presented at Williwa (Harnham Hill), close to Salisbury, along the Dividing Range, and in the Salisbury Plain to the eastward, where trachytic greenstone, porphyry, porphyritic trap, and granite are associated in such a way, as to show that the latter has been modified and transmuted by the former so as to assign to it a trappean character. This has undoubtedly been effected by the intrusion of the trap, the date of which is determined not only by the metamorphic influence upon the granite, but upon the sedimentary rocks in the vicinity, which have undergone an equal transmutation, and which exhibit a similar passage into the trap as the trap itself does into the granite, at the points of interference.

The exception as to the structure of the granite upon the Gyra consists in its presenting horizontal joint-planes in such succession as to give the appearance of bedding. It is in this locality that the granite has been fissured and rent into gullies, just as the schistose rocks of the Apsley are, further south; and a similar passage, by a succession of falls, is thus furnished to the eastern waters to leap from the table land into the channel of the McLeay, the distinguishing features of all the affluents and sources of that river.

The superficial character of the granite country to the westward is smoothness, the falls to the Gwydir basin being crested by a flat and comparatively low tract, where the granite forms the Dividing Ridge. The prominent points along this ridge are all trappean.

2.. Covering the flanks of the granite on the south-east, the schistose beds, previously mentioned in a former report, occupy the principal part of the country from the Tiah to the Gyra. At the falls of the Tiah, the upper portion of these beds is soft and light in colour, but below, they pass into a more compact rock of blueish grey colour, putting on the character of roofing slate. The Tiah River here discharges itself into a deep channel, of more bold and picturesque character, than distinguishes the falls of the Apsley, Stony Creek, &c., the waters being discharged over the edges of strata, the planes of dip of which are inclined inwards towards the descent of the river, at an angle of 50°. This dip is, probably, the result of the outburst of the trappean rocks in advance towards the coast. Thin veins of quartz traverse these schistose beds.

These beds become harder and more siliceous and are distinguished by broad bands of quartz along the Tiara, Wilson’s Creek, and Stony Creek and form the southern part of that schistose quartziferous tract, which commences on Berg-op-Zoom and passes by Walcha to Ohio Creek and Salisbury Plains, and which appears at intervals as far as the Gyra and Tilbuster Creek.

These quartz bands are charged with masses of arsenical pyrites, and white iron pyrites, especially on Wilson’s Creek, where it had been found by a shepherd, who pretended to have reduced what he found into an alleged ore of silver! To ascertain the truth of the statement of the alleged occurrence of silver, I was induced to make a two days’ journey; I found no other metal in those ranges but the mispickel, some iron, and a small quantity of gold. The metal which was considered silver is tin 1.

The report was of similar kind, to that which assigned to the Warrambangale Ranges a locality for silver, and to the Mount Wingen Creeks the habitat of quicksilver; in each case the observer being under a false impression as to the nature of the respective metals.

Towards Salisbury, as the quartz-bearing schists approach the trap of the Dividing Range and the siliceous beds present a brecciated character, and also between this creek and Black Nob, the schistose beds become hardened and irregularly jointed, putting on the appearance of trap, which is so deceptive at Salisbury, that the hardened breccia appears to be cemented by trap where it has been attacked by the latter, many parts of the masses that are disturbed by it exhibiting apparently trappean blocks covered by fragments of quartz and cornean.

On the knolls immediately near the Woolshed, and at the entrance to Salisbury coast, this phenomenon may be easily studied; the trap making its appearance in contact with the altered rocks. Where the rock is free from pebbles, the transmuting influence may be traced in the jasperoid hardened grits and schists, which retain, in their present form (left bank of Loonda Creek) the distinct indications of their original lamination.

As much of the Salisbury and Harnham Hill trap is highly siliceous, the altered rock is also silicified, and it is very probable, that the quartz veins of a contemporaneous period may have been by its agency formed in the sedimentary as well as in the granitic formations into which it has intruded.

The trap having come up in bosses, of very similar feature to the dome-like forms of granite in auriferous tracts of country, the altered sedimentary rocks have been, necessarily, much disturbed, and it would be difficult to trace continuously any general directions of strike or dip. This remark applies to much of the country along the eastern edge of the Dividing Range, especially towards Ohio Hill and about the Blue Mountain.

There are slight traces of the existence of those schistose beds between Salisbury, Gara, Armidale and Tilbuster, where granite again becomes prominent under the schists in the bases of the ranges and in the creeks.

Much of these beds has, however, been destroyed, and their presence is only detected in some localities, by portions of quartz bands, or by fragments of hardened schists that strew the ground, in the trappean plains, on rectilinear low ridges, that mark the now insulated relics. In Maneroo, where geological features are rougher and bolder, and suited to the climate, the fragmentary schists and quartzites form islands amidst the trap, of a more marked and distinctive outline and fabric.

The schists, therefore, as well as the granite, have been subjected to the effects of some destructive agency, independent of mere weathering.

3.. Besides the species of trap which form the culminating ridge of Williwa, basalt also occurs in various localities, and is frequently magnetic.

Ohio Hill, Black Nob, the Apsley Range, and numerous points on the Dividing Range from ??? ?? ?? ?? ??? and beyond to the northward, as Chandler’s Peak and Benlomond, are all composed of basalt much charged with olivine; but the basalt sometimes assumes a very compact texture, and occasionally a prismatic structure, and also passes into a greenstone and amygdaloid. Although the distinction between granite and greenstone is generally well defined, yet it is not surprising that the passage of the different species or varieties from one to another should be well marked in the course of a line of 40 or 50 miles, along which they occur in connection with granite.

In many instances, there is the clearest possible proof, that these basalts, as well as the greenstones have risen through the granite, which they overflow, producing in their disintegration by water the black soil of the plains, which covers up very frequently the basset edges of schistose and quartzose rocks.

That these basaltic and other trappean rocks have also overflowed in wide spread masses is shown by the hills along the Uralla (Rocky River), as near McCrossen’s, and along the right bank below that locality; and between Boorolong and Ollera, where the basalt breaks out, amidst the granite and occupies the hollows and valleys which pre-existed along the fissured portions of that formation. In some of those instances, the structure is tabular, putting on the form of horizontal or nearly horizontal beds from the parallelism and direction of the joint planes.

The forms of the trappean hills vary with the composition of the material.

Flat summits with gable ends, or high narrow ridges with much inclined slopes and sudden peak at the termination, characterise the basalt. The trap of the Dividing Range, at Williwa, which is in such intimate association with granite, assumes the granitic form, presenting a series of bosses which slope away in less and less prominent forms and leave upon the horizon the outline of those similarly undulating ranges which characterise the existence of auriferous granite tracts. Such is the case with the Araluen Range, and with the auriferous granite hills between Omeo and Mount Buffalo, and indeed everywhere, in which I found to the southward gold in the neighbourhood of granite.

It is the nodular structure which produces those rolling outlines, as it is the prismatic which forms the peaks of porphyritic granite and basaltic rocks. None of these must be neglected, in forming an opinion as to the probable auriferous character of a distant range from its superficial appearance.

4.. So far as I have been able to come to a conclusion in this respect, the prismatic outlines belong to the more recent portions of an igneous overflow, and the nodular form is most frequently associated with such granitic tracts as are found to be auriferous.

The experience I obtained in this respect in the southern counties has been confirmed by my observations in the counties of Inglis, Hardinge, and Sandon; and as in the former, so in the latter, hornblendic and quartzose granites which are porphyritic appear to be more associated with gold than the other varieties of that rock.

There can be no doubt, at least, that gold in this part of New England is most abundantly found where granite has been disturbed and overflowed by hornblendic trap. This deduction has been confirmed by the testimony of the most intelligent of the observers amongst the gold washers along the Uralla, with whom I have conversed.

The hills of Yitttaraburrambee (Great Duval), and Toombunyee (Little Duval), exhibit the intimate association of the granitic and trappean rocks, the peculiar outline above alluded to, and a position at the head of drainages (running into the McLeay and forming that river) which I have found to be auriferous. A similar association of granite and trap is also the distinguishing character of the country between the Bundara River and the line joining Boorolong and Ollera, for some distance west of the Dividing Range, and there again we find gold.

In these and many other cases to the northward of the present area, as well as to the westward, there is the same relationship with trap and granite in association with gold, to the general exclusion of auriferous quartz in association with schists, although it is certain from an infinity of circumstance, that the trap is younger than the schistose rocks, for they are transmuted by it.

5.. That quartz veins bearing gold do exist, there is, nevertheless, reason to believe, even as respects the granite itself; but, as about Major’s Creek in the Araluen Field, so along the Rocky River (Uralla) field, those veins are generally small, and. are connected with porphyritic patches, in which there is ferruginous matter, and the quartz appears to have been segregated. More to the westward there are auriferous quartz veins in schistose beds, in the neighbourhood of the present Bingera gold field, as well as in the Macquarie basin; but the quartz beds which are so common in the schistose regions are scarcely ever auriferous; and I am led, by a multiplicity of facts all bearing one way, to conclude, that in New South Wales, if any of the auriferous rocks can be considered anomalous, the anomaly is no in the association of gold and granite, which under certain conditions, is always found to be somewhat auriferous, and generally more so than the schists.

I need do little more to illustrate this fact than mention the Araluen country; that along the Mitta Mitta, and between it and Mount Alexander, including the Ovens Gold Field, Moomba, and other tracts in the Maneroo district, and along the Alps; all of which exhibit the same superficial features and similar relations between granite and gold, whilst wide and lengthened tracts where quartz beds interpolate schists, and even quartz veins (of certain normal directions) reticulating those, are barren. Should it be argued that the gold which is so universally distributed over tracts of granite, circumstanced as I have described, was originally derived from quartz-bearing schists, which have been denuded altogether, with the exception of the fragments, yet remaining, in which case the higher tracts of these fragmentary schists, ought to auriferous if any are to, it must be left to the asserters of that doctrine to show by indubitable proof that such must have been the case. For myself I can only say, that, having sought for such instances of auriferous schists I have never found any immediately over auriferous granite, at high elevations; and I have, over and over again, found granite at nearly all elevations parallel with those of existing unauriferous schists, to be auriferous. In the character of the gold itself, there is also a clear proof, that it has not always had the same origin in time or the same matrix. Whilst gold derived from veins of quartz in schist puts on divers distinct and remarkable forms, gold found over granite bears a kind of universal character; being granular, fine, and of similar purity, such as well could be supposed to have been once entangled amidst the granular elements of granitic rock. There is little difference in those respects between the gold of the Uralla, of the Araluen, or of the Ovens Gold Field. It is immediately recognised by its features.

6.. Before I proceed further in this part of my subject, it will be necessary to mention, that the quartziferous schists are not the highest formations (geologically) in this District.

As in Maneroo, not only over granite but over schists, and, as there, always in association with trap, and occasionally with some form of argillaceous or bog iron (called by some “ironstone”) there occur very hardened beds of sandstone and conglomerate and breccia of quartz, which can only be referred to the upper part of the formation (in which some geologists may include the schists), or to a more recent formation characterised by me as of “doubtful age.” Associated with these beds are others composed of granular crystals of quartz minutely and closely aggregated, and striped, in the mass, by ferruginous lines, which have resulted, as well as the red soil in which they are found, from the iron set free in the decomposition of basalt.

I believe that no geologist would expect gold to have been derived from such a rock as this, though it may be occasionally entangled in it. The origin of the gold, therefore, if derived from the same formations as those of which portions are still in existence, must be sought not in the compact baked siliceous grits and conglomerates, but in the granite itself; and I will now advance a reason why I think in that portion of the granite which was once, or is now, in contact with trap of some kind, that is to say, on the surfaces of the granite or at the outer portions of the formation, in contact with some other formation.

7.. It has been shown already that gold occurs at the Hanging Rock, and in the Peel (Report No. 1, p. 59) in quartz veins, in association with trap, passing through altered rocks and the source of the gold is in such a case (whether the veins traverse schists or shales, or sandstones, or any other rock), not in the rock bearing the veins, but far below; in the neighbourhood of the granite, the existence of which was demonstrated at a lower level in the bottom and ranges of Duncan’s Creek. But in the case of the granite itself, the conditions may be widely different.

It is a well known fact, that metals frequently occur at the junction of granite with other formations, and that in some countries (Brazil and Russia), even stratified rocks become completely charged by gold, under the influence of the igneous agents that have transmuted them.

What reason can there be to doubt, that certain granites which are intimately allied to such ordinary igneous agents may not originally have been charged with gold whilst soft, under the ocean, by intrusive agents which may have also produced, by the assistance of steam, veins of auriferous quartz of various inclinations to the horizon passing through schists not visibly overlying granite, or themselves have elaborated the gold by agency of forces yet imperfectly known, at the upper surfaces of their masses, where they were in contact with overlying masses.

In Kentucky Creek there are various instances of tables of leptynite and other binary forms of granite (as before mentioned) passing through the granite, where it has undergone some radical change; and similar examples may be found in the Rocky River.

A metamorphic action in all probability would be traced (perhaps an interchange and commingling of elements or of the dispositions of these), could we strip the granite of its thick covering of basalt or greenstone or other igneous matter, and it is not improbable that such notion would be found to have extended in such a manner into the surface of the granite, as to allow for a certain thickness of auriferous deposit. I conceive this to have been the case. His Excellency the Governor General, as well as the honourable the Colonial Secretary, will remember the example of granite covered by gold, which I had the pleasure of exhibiting to them in August, 1852, from Major’s Creek, in which the gold was in union with segregated quartz and iron; and this specimen was in conjunction with a porphyrictic vein.

Now, what has occurred in the Araluen gold field and on the Mitta Mitta (in both of which localities I separated gold from granite by the blow of a hammer) has occurred on the Rocky River.

In one of the workings, I pointed out to the gold-washers a decomposing flaky covering from a large drifted mass of granite with particles of gold visibly apparent to the naked eye; and this could not have been washed into it. It was there, because the granite in which it was found contained it before the boulder had been rolled down from above. It belonged to a mass which in all probability had been at the outside of the granite formation.

8.. What is there strange in the belief, that on the outside of masses, that is, at the planes of junction of overlying and underlying masses, thermo-electricity and other allied agents may have elaborated the work of metallic production, as it has done in the case of the quartz veins of the Peel River? (Report No. 2, p. 4.)

That the granite and the overlying trap were, one or both, formed under the ocean, or that the granite descended below the ocean level, and so became heated, since its original formation, and thus assisted in the changes of structure which have been mentioned, is not very improbable; nor is it improbable that the basaltic and other trappean rocks which now pierce and overflow the granite, were (by the descent to the heated regions) then produced from the lower portions of the granitic nucleus.

It may be conceived how, under such a condition, the gold may have been produced under the ocean level, just as when the auriferous mass in reascending became exposed to the denuding power of the waves, and to the effect of pressure, its surface and slopes would be rent and fissured, and the softer part being removed, the heavier gold would be left, as it is now found, scattered over the surface or collected in hollows then first formed, afterwards to be attacked by elemental forces of the upper air, the floods and streams of the modern epoch.

9.. If such an origin for the gold over granite be admitted, we ought to find some corroborating circumstance to correspond.

It is determined that boracic acid rises with steam in the “lagunes” of Tuscany in connection with igneous agency2. It is also found in association with deposits of rock salt, and may be, therefore, in some way present in sea water or others during a platonic eruption. “The transmission of mineral matter from the igneous and heating body into the prior-formed rocks, whether these were or were not consolidated, seems well shown when boracic acid is present among the former.”

If thus, the celebrated geologist from whom these words are quoted, explains the well known fact, that tourmaline occurs on the outer portion of granite. He adds further3: “The boracic acid might, indeed, have solely escaped out of the granitic mass, and meeting with the other essential parts of schorl have produced the latter mineral amid the grains of mechanically-formed rocks thus acted upon.”

Again, he says4, “The presence of a mineral in any abundance which contains boracic acid as an essential ingredient is one of importance, more particularly when we refer to the researches of M. Ebelmen, he having shown that by employing that acid as a solvent, at an elevated temperature, minerals may be produced by the evaporation of this solvent, some of them gems, such as rubies.” And in a note5, he quotes the result of M. Ebelmen’s experiments to have been the “production of rubies, sapphires, chrysoberyl, chrysolite, chromate of iron, and others.”

10.. Now, it is most remarkable, that all over the tracts in which gold occurs amongst granite, such as the Ovens, the Alps, and New England, the gold is accompanied by a marvellous abundance of rubies, sapphires, and other gems, to the almost total exclusion of magnetic iron (vulgarly called emery), though true emery does occur, whilst in other localities of gold, magnetic iron is a principal indication of the metal. In the New England gold districts, as in the southern districts of granite, the indications are rubies and sapphires.

11.. To show the proportion in which they exist I mention here the chief produce which I obtained from two pans of earth collected from amidst the granite boulders in Tilbuster Creek, at a depth of about two feet below the surface.

Gold 1 grain.
Rubies 315 grains.
Sapphires 49 grains.

There was also much emery, which is a black sapphire, and three or four particles of the peculiar iron known to all gold-diggers.

Another sample consisting of four pans of earth from the Rocky River, produced, at two feet below the surface,

Gold 15½ grains
Rubies, &c. 118 grains

with other matters.

In the Tilbuster Creek detritus occurred one oriental emerald, and one asteriated sapphire. The Rocky River is a western water; Tilbuster Creek an eastern water.

So abundant are these gems, that they may be procured anywhere in the surface drift of New England, and in the granitic tracts, in any quantity and of all sizes. Most of them are water-worn in about the same degree as the gold, but I have found some perfect unabraded crystals of the usual octahedron form, which leave no doubt as to their identity.

My opinion is, for reasons stated above, that these gems have been elaborated in the way mentioned, at the outside of the granite, or at its junction with overlying rocks; and as constant concomitants of gold in the granitic region, and regarded by the gold washers as the truest indication of that metal, they must be considered as having a derivation from the same geological surfaces.

I know but of one instance in all Australia of the occurrence of these rubies in any sedimentary rocks that is at Kavon, on the Richmond River, where spinel rubies of minute proportions occur abundantly in a fine sandstone of that carboniferous tract; these were, perhaps, derived from the igneous rocks of which most of the beds in the Richmond district are the re-composed materials.

12.. Probably, the point may be conceded, that the gold as well as the gems in the granite country had its matrix on the outer portions of the granite, and the granite at the junction of other rocks. Some of these having been denuded, as we have seen already, much disintegrated and decayed, the heavy gems and the heavier gold have been left in the granitic sand, and in the scaly soft surfaces of still decomposing drifted blocks of granite, now filling the creeks and river beds, and which once belonged to the upper and outer portion of the granite masses.

13.. Being under this impression, and seeing how completely a wide region in New England, both on the Western and Eastern Falls, is occupied by granite either partly destroyed, or still attaining a considerable elevation, and knowing that much of this granite is still covered up by partial relics of younger formations or by universal gem and gold bearing local drift; seeing also how thoroughly this region has been pierced and overflowed by igneous rocks of various kinds, I cannot but conclude, that there is a vast amount of gold scattered over this portion of New South Wales, and along both falls from the table land; and so far as experience goes, this geological inference is borne out by facts. For, whether in small quantity or in abundance, every creek and river, and the deposits of drifts upon the surface of the country are found to contain gold and gems. And yet, in consequence of its depth, and from want of water, much of this gold can never be obtained.

14.. The difference between an auriferous country of granite and one in which the gold ls found in veins, is as much marked by this universal distribution of gold as by its occurrence in nearly equal sized particles; and a little reflection will show, why this equality in size and distribution is to be anticipated.

Igneous rocks of intrusion rise either in a series of separate local foci of eruption or along lines of fissure. It is probable, that in neither case is the orifice large; but as all such eruptions must be preceded or attended by numerous fissures, either parallel to the axes of the disturbed and dislocated masses, or radiating through them from the centre of eruption, the formation of veins accompanied and followed by all the phenomena witnessed in the production of metallic ores or native metal, is the result. Such veins passing through overlying deposits are locally richer than any occurrence of metal produced, as supposed in the case of granite gold. Inasmuch, too, as the metal so produced is in massive lumps or bands, or crystallised on the large scale, and the veins are continuous through the whole mass of overlying rock, when such a rock and its veins are broken up, the auriferous detritus is proportionably on a scale of magnificence.

Hence, gold derived from considerable quartz veins will be in general, locally, far more abundant than the gold derived from an equal space, where it is diffused in the surface of a mass of granite. The circumstances, too, of the case agree with the expectation that such sources will be permanent.

But, in the case supposed for gold derived from granite, inasmuch as the auriferous portion of the rock is, at the best, but thin; in order for a locality of auriferous granite to rival and excel in the richness of its produce that of a locality of vein-gold, there must be a wider surface at the contact of the adjoining rocks; and if this be denuded, of course that surface may supply as much as, or more than, the very richest gold vein in schist or in any other rock. Still in time it will be found, that a supply from good veins is likely to last longer, because the veins are probably for at least some distance6 downwards, as rich as they are near the surface where they are exposed, whilst the auriferous granite, furnishing only a supply which is commensurate with an inferior depth, must much more easily be cleared of its contents.

15.. It will be seen also, that such veins in their destruction supply to the local reservoirs much massive gold, and that these veins become triturated, and afterwards dispersed nearly only along channels in which continuous streams can carry on the process. But, when granite which is auriferous has been stripped of its covering, and has begun over wide areas to decay, or when the violent debacles which have anciently laid waste not only the schists and their veins of gold, but have swept away the covering of the granite, began to disperse the detritus of the respective regions, the fine granite gold was more evenly and generally distributed than the heavier masses from the schists, or capriciously collected in the hollows of the surface soil, or washed further away from its source by running streams7.

The actual history of the gold fields of the Macquarie basin and that of such fields as those in the granite regions of Victoria and of New South Wales, testify to the soundness of the view here taken.

A priori, therefore, it might have been anticipated, that a gold field in a region of quartz-bearing schists will last longer than one in a granite region; but that in the former a smaller number of workers will only find permanent employ or be able to find room; whilst a large number of adventurers in the granite field may for a time accumulate enormous profits, and yet, at length, discover that the supply is not permanent, or capable of maintaining to advantage a covetous multitude.

16.. Such is the fate, it is to be supposed, of many of those tracts of country, the richness of which has, perhaps, appeared inexhaustible to some; and the comparative facility with which gold is procured from detritus of granite, without the labour attendant on gold digging, amidst boulders and heavy gravel, will, of course, precipitate the consummation. Yet it must not be forgotten, that a far wider space may be expected to be auriferous in a granite region, than in one of schist; though in the former there may not always be so many prizes as in the latter.

When, however, as in the case of the New England districts, there are both vein gold and granite gold, and all the rocks over a vast area to the westward appear to have been more or less affected by gold-producing phenomena, we may safely anticipate that there is much gold yet to be discovered in the alluvia around the detached ranges between the table land and the flat interior, and that hereafter, as the seasons may suit and diligence be called into requisition, not only the Hanging Rock and the Peel, and Bingera, and the Uralla, but divers other localities, will supply, if not to a multitude greedy of great gain, but to men contented with moderate gains, gold through many years to come8.

17.. In order to see what grounds there may be for anticipating this, it will be first of all advisable to consider the superficial phenomena of the table land, in the area now under discussion. The table of elevations which I have purposely calculated to assist this enquiry, will show with sufficient exactness (though only approximations), what are now the culminating points, and what, without admitting further denudation than that limited by those heights, was probably, at the time when the country began to be denuded from that limit of elevation, the general horizon of the table land.

On the eastern side of it, a series of convulsions and a long process of drainage have sufficed to break down any large accumulation of water in the hollows of the present surface, so that all the waters rising between the culminating point of the dividing range and a distance of 90 miles to the southward, and between that range and the 152nd meridian (an area of probably 1750 square miles), after wandering through the plains, and among the ridges that diversify them, are suddenly precipitated into the lower country over successions of falls.

The highest points of this broken down basin, for such it is, are about Ben Lomond to the north, and at a point about thirty miles eastward of the Hanging Rock, to the south; whilst the boundaries are the dividing range, and those separating the waters of the Clarence River from those of the Macleay on the one hand, and those of the latter from the falls to the Hastings on the other.

This basin is broken down to the eastward, and to the westward the dividing range is in places very low, so that with the present disposition of the features there never could be any great depth of water permanently accumulated on the table land.

Yet, there is undoubted proof that water of some depth spread out the detritus and has sojourned in limited spots, now called plains, such as those at Walcha, at Salisbury, at Armidale,, and Falconer, and in their vicinities.

On the dividing range itself, at a spot called “Dangar’s Lagoon,” about 160 feet above the Rocky River at the crossing, and in other localities, wherever the ground is similarly disposed in a crateriform hollow, rain water has accumulated; and at the former place, the water is studded by isolated blacks of granite, perfectly rounded, which rise as so many islands, and on the shores, the granite exhibits marks of erosion as if beaten by waves.

A similar condition can be witnessed in the granite blocks which occur on the side of the creek near Gostwyk; and again on the granite near Gara, and in the Salisbury Plain.

19.. The plains are also strewn with the detritus of the schistose and quartzose beds which are yet traceable in places; and on some of these ridges, where the harder rock has been a kind of reef (as in Salisbury Plains, at and near Windmill Hill), which are not one hundred feet above the general level, there is amidst the other detritus some silicified coniferous wood, which cannot be distinguished from that which is so abundant in the carboniferous basin of the Hunter and in the Illawarra.

Higher up to the southward this fossil wood abounds near Willaba and on Cobrabald Creek, and it is intermediately dispersed. The detritus also exhibits abundance of fragments of just such transmuted rocks as are common in the drift of the Hanging Rook and Peel gold fields; baked grits, jasper, flinty slate, and fragments of local rock, granite, trap, schist, and quartz, which, if drifted, have come a little distance from the north; and with those occur the fragments of the iron ore before alluded to.

There can, therefore be no doubt as to a vast disruption and destruction of the whole of the rocks in this area. But it is impossible to suppose that those were the results of the breaking down of the side of the basin, towards the coast, by the formation of the falls of the Macleay; simply because there are places on the dividing range which would have drained the water before it could have reached some of the points between the falls, and unless the water had attain a level equal to the culminating points of the basin, it could not have destroyed the rocks at those points.

20.. Moreover, in the Rocky River, and on Kentucky Creek, and in other western waters, leading to which the gaps in the dividing range are low, there would be traces of the detritus derived from the eastward, which, so far as my examination of the “tailings” of numerous cradles leads me to conclude, I cannot recognise. The detritus therein is traceable to the various forms of granite along these waters; and to the dominant plateau of trap and iron stone and quartz that over-hang them.

21.. Again, the iron ore before mentioned is found at each levels on the granite, and in the alluvial plains, and when examined appears to be such a modern conglomerate, entangling the pebbles of the surface, that it must be taken to have originated in the decomposition of trap, producing ferruginous matter which was carried down probably by rains, and floods into the hollows which retained the water of the lagoons then existing and concreting the light materials that it met with, so forming a limit which marks the points to which those lagoons extended. Those lagoons, however, could not, even if suddenly drained, have produced the denudation and destruction which the higher grounds have undergone by water.

The Gold, therefore, and gems which are on both sides of the range (both on eastern and western waters), could not have been dispersed by the bursting of a barrier to the eastward, and by the discharge of waters which could not have been retained on the western side. Such a disruption would only have left its traces in a very limited space, and what is called the table land is merely a sloping plateau.

22.. I was called upon to review a similar question in Maneroo. There, as here, exist numerous hollows in which rain water accumulates, in which are eroded blocks of granite, and on the shores of which iron stone and water worn baked grits are in association with trap. Though in Maneroo, there are a multiplicity of lakes formed by hollows in the trap rocks, as well as swamps, just as there are in New England, there was nothing more satisfactory to my mind than there is here, as to the existence of vast reservoirs of deepwater, upon the present narrow and broken table land. The dispersion of the Gold is, therefore, due to some other cause. So far as Maneroo is concerned, the melting of snows, when the country was at a higher elevation (and of these, I think, I see evidence in the polished rocks mentioned in my Southern Report, No; XII.) seems a more probable cause of dispersion, either in connection with, or independent of, a diluvial torrent.

23.. That there was a subsidence of some portions of this continent before the final elevation during and since the tertiary epoch, is, in some degree, proved by the polished condition of certain rocks in Maneroo to which I made allusion in the XIIth report of my southern expedition.

In my opinion, the polished surfaces in question owe their condition to snow.

In the present state of the climate, and at the present level above the sea of these rocks, snow never lies in their neighbourhood more than few days or hours, and could not produce such effects.

But the continent once stood at a generally higher, though not greatly higher elevation, the snows of the Alpine chain of the Murlong must have extended into these very localities, and ice would then have existed as glaciers; the snows would thus have produced here the same results ascribed to them in Europe and America.

On subsiding, the effects of these phenomena would be exhibited in just such a way as we now contemplate; and, therefore, it is in strict accordance with a favourably-received hypothesis, to conclude that there must have been a subsidence of a great part of the Australian highlands previous to the elevation which commenced at the close of the tertiary period, and may in some localities, now be going on.

I suggested recently, in a letter to Sir R. J. Murchison, that the dispersion of the gold might have been in some degree connected with the melting of the snows, as well as with the subsidence of the land. In coming to a safe conclusion as to the breaking up of the auriferous formations, and the consequent first dispersion or accumulation of the gold, the deductions from the consideration of the existence of polished rocks and their probable origin must not be lost sight of. Further, it may be remarked that the ocean current which has scattered the local drift in the present auriferous localities came from the southward, i.e. from the colder quarter.

24.. The fossil wood, which is so abundant on the highlands of both Maneroo and New England, offers also a further argument. When were they fossilised? In the Hunter Basin and Illawarra, they are undoubtedly of the age of the coal beds. I took the opportunity of enquiring as to the history of one fragment, which was given to me by a person, who said that eight years since, he broke it from a silicified branch of a living casuarina, lying in the waters of a hollow a few miles from Salisbury. I have been since informed by one who well knows, that no casuarina ever existed there at the time mentioned, or before it, nor is there even any such tree growing about the plain9.

Now, if these trees, which are not casuarina, or of the kind of pine which still is found on the dividing range (as near Salisbury), did not grow on the table land, whence were they drifted?

25.. They must have come from a carboniferous formation which does not exist at all, or from the over-arching beds of that formation which now exist east, west, and northward of New England, and which, in geological sequence, must have been many hundred feet higher than the highest of the elevated transmuted rocks upon the Peel and its sources. Geology is conversant with such over-arching forms and with such denudation of strata10.

But if we admit this, it could not have been denudation which could scatter gold from a height of 20,000 feet, as some have imagined, the product of beds above the carboniferous formation alluded to; for the gold would all have disappeared with 20,000 feet of matter, and could not ?have rested upon the cordillera at all, when so decapitated; nor could there in such a case have been such reservoirs of water as others have imagined, and of which the present surface, waterworn as it is, affords no sufficient evidence.

26.. The conviction of my mind is, that the dry land of Australia was once far wider than now; that is, extended to the eastward; that it stretched seaward so as to advance nearer to New Zealand, and the intermediate islands, which all evidently rise from the same submarine base; that the continent, then occupying a nobler portion of the Pacific, has oscillated vertically, and, therefore, has been shattered and broken up; that we now inhabit but a portion, and that a ridge only of the ancient Australia; that vast areas to the eastward have sunk, of which we have traces in our present sea-border; and that .consequently there was once, if not more than once, a breadth of surface sufficiently wide, perhaps, to have allowed the formation of reservoirs, or when higher of melting snows, and other agencies by which drift has been produced in other regions; but I do not say, these reservoirs were probable, on a more ridge.

In fact, the surface phenomena require greater elevation above the sea, and a broader base, with wider breadth of land, if we would satisfactorily account for them: for they occur on the summit of a very narrow spine, and not in a low region surrounded by lofty mountains.

The scenery is too tame for the phenomena. At a higher elevation the atmosphere could have operated towards such results as we see; it is now far too dry and languid for such exertion.

27.. The above remarks will serve to meet a conjecture respecting such gold as appears in New England amidst granite. It is said by some that such gold (as it occurs on the Ovens) has been recently drifted.

We may ask, whence would it have drifted up to New England?

It may have drifted from the granite range immediately overhanging the Ovens and its creeks, which are at a very trifling elevation above the sea, compared with the bend of the Peel, of the Rocky River, or of Tilbuster Creek.

It could not have been drifted up hill from the Lower McLeay or the Gwydir. Wherever it comes from, it has not travelled far. If it can from the now denuded schists, and supposed carboniferous beds, where in those rocks, elsewhere, do we find such abundance of gems, or where are the fragments of gold and auriferous quartz-veins, the gold of which is so very different? I see no other conclusion, therefore, than that to which I have come:—it is local gold, and its first dispersion took place by the waters of the ocean, the waves of which have left their traces not only in the destruction of hardened rocks, but in the accumulation of the fragments which they produced upon the land, during one of its ascents from below, and in the palpable erosions of the granite itself even upon the summit of the ranges as well as in those hollows, which even now retain the appearance of shallow lagoons.

28.. As the wear and tear of the elements continue, now the land is again risen, no doubt decay goes on, and year by year the surface of the auriferous granite becomes more exposed; and thus the gold is collected into the drainage channels, and will, doubtless, be collected still, these decaying store-houses of wealth have disappeared, and man has gathered it into his own garner.

29.. The localities in which it is known to occur in the present area are very many, but in some it is more abundant than in others.

On the eastern side of the Dividing Range it has not been worked, but it is procurable in Tilbuster Creek; in Gara water, in Saumarez Creek in the neighbourhood of the Wollomumbi River, in some parts of the Salisbury waters, and in others falling from the range.

Ningiai Creek, near Armidale, also contains it. Of these, I can speak confidently.

I think it not unlikely that a man might obtain at least five shillings per diem from gold alone in some parts of the Tilbuster country; but the abundance of gems would, even at a low marketable value, increase the profit.

I do not know what these may be worth for the use of the lapidary; but at present they are thrown away in vast quantities as valueless, and are regarded by gold diggers as an inconvenience, it being difficult to separate them from the gold.

30.. On the western side of the range there is gold in all the creeks and river channels at the head of the Gwydir. No activity has yet been displayed except on the Uralla, which has been worked (under the head of the “Rocky River Diggings”) from about 3 miles above the junction of the Kentucky branch to a short distance from the junction with the Bundara, in all about 15 miles11.

31.. At this time there are employed in the occupation of gold washing about 210 adult persons, and I consider it my duty to bear testimony to the respectability of their demeanour. I have been many times along the river, and I have never seen one instance of impropriety or want of self-respect amongst them. Many of them are of a superior class, and all I have seen are well-conducted. I have not heard of any instance of “sly grog selling,” and on the river I have seen no drunkenness. It is to be hoped they will be able to maintain the character of their community, after additions from other fields. Mr. Commissioner Massie, to whose zeal, activity, and judgment too much praise cannot be accorded, tells me that he has nothing to complain of in the way they have met his demands; I believe in this field every individual up to this date has paid, and cheerfully, his licence fee.

32.. As to the quantity of gold procured, I believe no available information can be had. Much of it has been bought by traders from other localities; and it has been, therefore, included in the remittances by the Tamworth escort and by private hands. But I presume, in consequence of its distinctive character, that there can be little difficulty in recognising it amidst the coarser samples from the Hanging Rock and Peel.

I will merely observe, that my anticipations have not been disappointed, and the amount of licenses paid for, since the public commencement of the works (now eleven weeks), which I understand are 364, and which cover only 15 miles of one narrow river, not half worked, show, that though this field makes no pretensions to anything extraordinary, it has respectable claims to consideration.

It is difficult to obtain precise information as to individual success or the contrary; and I do not wish to rely upon what persons may please to tell me, either one way or the other.

I would rather rely upon the license fees, my personal experience, and the general opinion which I can form of the country from its physical conditions.

33.. In the preceding details, I have stated fully what are my views, and though I have therein pointed out, that a granite gold field is not always likely to be of very long continuance, in consequence of the facility of obtaining its alluvial gold; and on former occasions have shown that difficulties of other kinds exist, likely to aid the prejudices of gold-diggers in general against such fine metal as such a field alone supplies, I think that as the researches of those employed are extended, other spots than those now worked will be found along this river, and on other streams belonging to the same system of waters. At present only two or three parties have employed any engineering skill, nor have the boulders been removed from the bed of the river in more than one or two claims. I do not doubt, that under these there is much gold.

The Hanging Rock gold field has revived, as I was sure it would, and though some of the persons who have been working on the Rocky River have expressed disappointment at the very capricious way in which the gold is there distributed, and have returned to the Hanging Rock, this has been under an influence easy to be understood, for the general remark made to me by those who keep steadily at work is, that on this river “a man is sure to make something.”

The very nature of the circumstances I have detailed in the former part of this Report, will probably prevent this river becoming a permanent fluid, nor will its limits allow of a large population.

But, extending our views beyond the present moment to times when, it is to be hoped, wages will be moderate and provisions at reasonable prices, it is more than probable, that a great number of persons will be able to find constant employment as gold-workers, not only in the rivers, but even on the table land itself.

34.. I have already expressed my opinion as to the probable future importance of the country between this and the junction of the Namoi and Gwydir, over which I am thoroughly persuaded, gold is to be found in numerous localities.

To test this experimentally, and as it ought to be tested, is not in my power, nor in that of any single individual; it is the work of a multitude.

Yet, though “caution” is necessary in deducing extensive conclusions from the limited data, supplied by what one set of gold-washing implements can supply, and in the excitement of the public mind it may require extreme “caution” when dealing with the commercial value of a country as a gold region, I think sufficient has been advanced by me in this report and in those which precede it, which may be considered satisfactory as to the inference, that the Hanging Rock and Peel River gold fields are the “outskirts” of one of wider extent.

35.. The following table of (approximate) elevations of localities in the areas which are the subject of this and my preceding report, will supply data for the comprehension of the arguments I have advanced respecting the drainage of the country:—


No. Feet above sea level.
24. Camp on Cockburn River, near Nimmingar 1217
25. Bendemeer, on the McDonald (Namoi) 2322
26. Point on the Moonbi Ranges 3065
27. Ditto ditto 3296
28. Ditto ditto 3593
29. Moonbi Pass 2938
30. Carlysle Gully, (Crossing) 2931
31. Granite range above the descent from Bendemeer 3437
32. Dividing range, head of Coogal Creek 3538
33. Head of Berg-op-Zoom Creek 3232
34. Walcha (Station) 3122
35. Fall of the Apsley, near Waterloo 2927
36. Bottom of the Fall 2671
37. Camp on Stony Creek (above the crossing) 3027
38. Tiara (Denne) 3200
39. Tiah (McNab) 3152
40. Top of the high Fall of the Apsley River (below Tiara) 2987
41. Ridge above the right bank of the Apsley, at the Fall 3195
42. Summit of Apsley Range (head of Tiara, Wilson’s-Creek, Stony Creek, and Reedy Creek) 3800
43. Dividing Range (south of Orundunbee) 3510
44. Ditto eight miles further north 3481
45. Junction of Tinker’s Fall and the Cobrabald Creek 3059
46. Junction of Cobrabald Creek and McDonald (Namoi) River 2925
47. Blue Mountains, near Emu Creek12 4426
48. Camp under Black Nob on Ohio Creek 3248
49. Black Nob 3368
50. Ohio Hill 3579
51. Salisbury (Loonda) 2985
52. Williwa (Harnham Hill) Dividing Ranges 3681
53. Dangar’s Lagoon, Dividing Range, north of Salisbury 2971
54. Uralla (Rocky River) McCrossen’s 2865
55. Summit of Trap Hill, above McCrossen’s 3085
56. Summit, to the west of No. 55, two miles 3082
57. Maister’s Swamp 3072
58. Dividing Range between Maister’s Swamp and Salisbury 3140
59. Head of Kentucky Creek 3083
60. Junction of Kentucky Creek and Rocky River 2653
61. Gattamburrumbee (Duval’s Mountain) 4174
62. Chandler’s Peak 4501
63. Dividing Range between Saumarez and the Rocky River 3014
64. Armidale (C. C. O.) 2879
65. Tilbuster (Station) 2847
66. Range between Ningiai Creek and Dumaresq Creek 3084
67. Toombunyee (Little Duval) 3856

By these approximations it will be seen that the mean elevation of the dividing range in three localities south of Carlysle’s Gully is but 3507 feet, as the differences are not, between any two of them, more than 23 feet; and as the distance is several miles, that the range is nearly level. It is equally level between Armidale and the Bundarra, but more than 400 feet lower.

The lowest point is at Dangar’s Lagoon where, also, it is extremely narrow.

The highest point at Williwa (Harnham Hill), above Salisbury Court, is only 174 feet above the mean of the three. None of these points equal the height of some of the hills on the subordinate ranges in the so-called basin; and the lowness of the main range about Dangar’s Lagoon shows, how completely impossible it would be to have retained water within 1000 feet of the summits of the highest peaks, under any conceivable conditions of the surface as it must always in the present period have existed.

Had a lagoon at Armidale, for instance, existed to the extent supposed, with no break to the McLeay, to which Ningiai Creek now drains, it would have overflowed to the westward, with a depth of 34 fathoms; but, as proved by the bog iron ore on the ancient bank, it could not have been much more than a quarter of that depth.

Gold could not, therefore, have thus been lodged by it in places where it is now found.

36.. The culminating point of all the country is about Benlomond, whence the various rivers falling to the coast and the interior are directed in distinct basins by ranges produced by the trappean coulees that radiated from the main focus of eruption. As I am n ow about to return to that quarter, I shall, probably, discover additional reasons for the conclusions to which I have come already. I do not believe the phenomena north of that locality will contradict the inferences which I have drawn from a very careful and detailed examination of the country to the south of it.

I have the honour to be,


Your most obedient servant,


The Honourable the Colonial Secretary.

  1. Probably derived from the vessel in which the ore had been subjected to heat.  ↩
  2. Sir R. I. Murchison (in J. G. S., vol. vi).  ↩
  3. Sir H. de la Beche (Geological Observer, p. 704).  ↩
  4. p. 663.  ↩
  5. p. 664.  ↩
  6. It is held that gold veins are not so rich below a certain level as above. The phenomenon has not been accounted for. But on the hypotheses of the production of quartz veins by steam, this is explicable. As the steam would naturally condense at the upper portions of the fissures, it is there, more likely than below, that one would expect to find crystalline products, such as gold and other minerals, so produced.  ↩
  7. Much of the gold so distributed is so thin and light, in consequence of its originally minute bulk, that it easily floats or may be blown away by the breath. Hence, as much is washed out from the pan or cradle as is retained, and this I found to be the actual case on the Rocky River, on re-washing the rubbish or “tailings” of various “claims.”  ↩
  8. Experience proves that gold diggers who are familiar only with such locality as Ballarat, and rich placers in California, will not condescend to work Gold Fields of less importance. But the time is coming when the minor fields will obtain intention.  ↩
  9. That trees yet standing may be partly converted into silex, is proved by the state of a silicified forest in King’s Island (see Flinder’s Voyage), but the trees are dead. The late Mr. Kennedy told me one of his party found a tree living partly fossillised near the sources of the Victoria River; he did not find it himself. I have seen no such instance, but in almost all cases, the fossil wood that is drifted has been subjected, before it was fossilised, to partial decay; the specimen now in question was worm-eaten also, and therefore, could not have been living when converted into stone. Some years since I described a forest of the kind, the stumps of the trees all fossilised and standing in the midst of conglomerate at Awaaba or Lake Macquarie. The account is in the Proceedings of the Geological Society, and has been copied by Mantell and others.  ↩
  10. See the Memoirs and Sections of the Geological Survey of the United Kingdom.  ↩
  11. Gold exists, however, in small quantities all the way to the head of the Kentucky branch, and above the present works on the Rocky River; and on the summit of the Dividing Range near the latter, always mingled with gems.  ↩
  12. N.B.—The Apsley passes between this and the Apsley Range.  ↩

Written by macalba

November 27, 2020 at 6:37 pm

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January 1934: Uralla – after the explosion, the inquiry by the Coroner

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The Uralla Times, Thursday, January 18, 1934,
Part 1,
Part 2,
Part 3



The District Coroner (Mr. H. W. Vincent), at Uralla yesterday, held an inquiry touching the fire and explosion which destroyed S. Bow & Sons’ store on Jan. 2. Exhaustive evidence given failed to throw any light on the matter, and an open verdict was returned.

Sergeant Willard conducted the examinations on behalf of the police, Mr. Solomon of McLachlan Westgarth & Co., Sydney, appeared for the insurance’ companies interested, Mr. Smith represented the Trustee, and Mr. Biddulph, of Mackenzie and Biddulph, represented S. Bow & Sons.

The following evidence was taken:

Sergeant Willard stated: At about 11.30 p.m. on 2nd inst I was in bed at the Police Station, Uralla, when I heard a terrific explosion. I jumped cut of bed and saw that the store premises of S. Bow & Sons was on fire. I dressed and ran to the scene of the fire.

The whole building was in flames, the side walls of the brick building, had collapsed and the roof was strewn on both sides of the building, the sides of the roof being practically in one piece and the building and contents almost razed to the ground. There were large tiers of bricks blown out in one piece lying outside the building. Everything had been blown outwardly.

The iron skillion attached to the main brick building within which the office was situated was burning fiercely. A number of people had obtained buckets and with water from the iron tanks the fire was confined to the store premises, and the cottage, back store, and bakehouse were saved.

I saw an iron drum lying on the verandah of the store. I was informed that it contained a little kerosene. Some little time after it blew up. The top was blown off and there was a dense volume of black smoke.

Mr Shears asked me to help save the iron safe, as it contained the cash and books. Water was thrown on to that part of the building and the iron wall cut open and the safe removed, and later it was opened by Mr. Shears in my presence and the cash and books removed. They were intact. The handle had burnt off the safe.

Portions of the stock were found scattered outside the fire and it was gathered up and removed to the Court House by the Police. A bathing costume and a shirt (stock from the store were hanging on the telegraph wires in front of the building, showing they had been blown there by the explosion.

At the Court House, a brick building about two chains distant from the store, the front windows were broken and a large quantity of plaster shaken from the ceiling on the verandah.

At the Post Office, a two-storied building, situated about 100 yards on the west side of the store; eight windows were broken, two ventilators blown from the brickwork, the clasp on the door of the telephone exchange room was practically blown off, just hanging by a small piece of wood, which had splintered off the door.

I have made inquiries into the origin of the fire and I am unable to throw, any light into the matter.

By Mr Solomon: I saw Mr Shears at the fire that night. The iron safe was outside the main brick building. It would be about 20ft or 30ft from the seat of the explosion. The iron safe was separated from the brick building by a brick wall. The latter did not collapse till next morning.

By Mr Biddulph: I was one of the first to arrive on the scene of the fire. There were no flames near the iron drum (of kerosene) at that time. I heard the explosion myself. It would not be possible for it to be caused by a visitation from the heavens or a meteor.

William Gordon Rixon stated: I am a Carter employed by Trickett’s Ltd. About 11.30 on the night of 2nd Jan. my brother Frederick and I walked out of the back door of my brother’s home in Maitland street, when I saw the reflection of a fire in the direction of S. Bow & Sons’ store. We ran towards the store and when near the corner of Hill and Maitland streets I saw the reflection of fire issuing from the rear of the store. Almost immediately the roof began to rise and an explosion occurred scattering the building, and the whole of the premises burst into flames. There were no other people in the vicinity when we arrived on the scene, I did not hear a motor vehicle of any kind being driven away. There were no flames visible, only a reflection of fire and smoke from the back of the building. After the explosion there was very little smoke.

By Mr Solomon: It took me about three seconds to get at the store. The fire issued from the rear of the store just prior to the explosion.

Frederick A. Rixon stated that when be and his brother got to the corner, almost immediately an explosion occurred in the store. The roof and walls were blown down and debris thrown into the air. The whole of the building then burst into flames.

Thos. Hassett stated: I commenced work at the power house in Hill street about 4 p.m. on 2nd Jan. I was about the works all the afternoon and evening and about 11.30 p.m. I was in the office at the works doing some writing when I heard a very loud explosion. The building shook and papers and other things that were hanging around the wall fell on to the floor. I got up from the table and looked at the engine. I then noticed a glow through the windows. I ran outside and saw S. Bow and Sons’ store on fire, in the back portion. All the walls were blown out and the roof was scattered on either side of the building. There was general store goods such as hats and clothing scattered about the street in front of the shop. I then blew a distress whistle. All the lights had been fused. A number of people then commenced to gather around the fire. When I first looked at the fire there was no person in view. I have had a good deal of experience in explosives, having been a miner and I am of the opinion that the explosion was caused by gelignite or gelatine.

By Mr. Biddulph: I have been a mine dredge manager for many years. I have had a great deal of experience with explosives. I think if the explosive had been gelignite it would require 25 or 30 lb of explosive. 5 lb would not cause it.

By Mr Solomon: I think 60 lb would be a cubic foot, perhaps a little more, in size. Such a parcel would be noticed by any person about the store.

By Mr Biddulph: I heard only the one explosion. A very definite one.

Keith Newman stated: About 11.5 p.m. on 2nd Jan. I left the car rank in Bridge street and went home. I put the car in the laneway at the side of the house and went into my home, had a look round and went to bed, about 11.15 p.m. About 5 minutes later I heard what appeared to be a benzine tin being kicked or knocked over. I thought it was in my garage. I got out of bed and saw a reflection of a fire on the bowser bowl in front of my garage. I then went out the back door, and heard a crackling noise like a fire burning. I then went to the front of the garage. Before reaching the street I heard an explosion. I then saw paper and other matter flying through the air from S. Bow and Sons’ store. The building was in flames. The roof was off and flames were issuing from the whole of the building. When I first went in to the street, I did not see any person in the vicinity of the fire. I did not hear a motor car being driven away. The reflection on the bowser would be from a fire and not from an ordinary light. There was a red glare and a little black smoke in the air over the front of the store.

David J. Wallace stated: About 11.15 p.m. on 2nd Jan., in company with my parents and brother and sister, I returned to Uralla from Armidale in our car. I put the car in the garage and went into the house. I came out about five minutes later and was walking down the back yard when I saw a reflection of a fire in the direction of S. Bow and Sons’ store. The reflection was very bright. Immediately after I saw the reflection of the fire an explosion occurred at the scene of the fire. I saw timber and other materials scattered in the air. The reflection of the fire was of a yellowish colour. My brother then came out of the house and we got into the car and drove along Hill street, when I saw Bow’s store was on fire. The whole of the building had collapsed and the fire was burning furiously. There were a number of other people at the fire when we arrived.

William Tet Fong stated: I am a member of the firm of S. Bow and Sons. I first went into partnership with Wallace Bow about July 1929, and since that date I have had charge of the drapery department. There has never been any explosives kept on the premises to my knowledge other than a few rifle and gun cartridges. I have no knowledge of explosives and I have not at any time handled explosives of any description or purchased them for any other person. About 8.45 p.m. on 2nd Jan., in company with my brother Harry, I left home, which adjoins the shop, and went to Mr Ward’s residence at the railway station and remained there until 11.30 p.m. We were inside. We heard an explosion. We rushed outside and saw a glow of fire coming from the direction of the store. My brother and I got into the motor cycle and went to the store, where I saw that the whole of the building had collapsed and was burning fiercely from one end to the other. I pushed out the solo motor cycle which was in the shed, and a push bike, and with others pushed a Fiat car out of the shed. The fire had too much hold on the store building to do anything with it. When we were leaving the residence there was a light in the office of the store, which to my knowledge was the manager and Wallace Bow balancing the books.

To Segt. Willard: I recognise the door produced as the back door of the shop. I have never noticed the door mark shown me before.

By Mr. Solomon: I heard all about the Guyra fire in 1931 at S. Bow & Sons when it occurred. I know there had been transactions between the two firms. I know of them generally. There was an exchange of drapery goods. The transaction extended back quite a few years. I remember when the firm was in Werris Creek. I don’t know the exact time. Periodically there was a balance. The last balance prior to the Guyra fire would be known at the office, not to me. I had some stock at the store at the time of the fire. It was supposed to have come from Werris Creek. There was not much of it. When they took over the Guyra business, the Werris Creek business was closed. I would not know the amount of the stock. I don’t remember how many suit cases were at my home when Mr and Mrs See Lun were arrested. I know there were quite a lot of suit cases. I supplied them with a certain number of goods. I supplied them with clothing and so forth as they were destitute. I don’t know of the insurances on the business. As far as I know the firm was insured with the Scottish Union and London Co. I know after the Guyra fire, the Scottish Union cancelled the policy. I don’t know the date. I do not know what was done with the policies after the cancellation of the policy. Mr Bow would be able to apprise you of the insurance. I looked after the drapery only. Through the influence of Wynn, Roberts, Brokers, we secured the present insurance. We had tried to get insurance prior to that just before Xmas. 1931. I could not say with what companies. I do not know the names of any agencies. As far as I know we did not try through local agencies. Wynn, Roberts, secured the insurance for us through Douglass & Co. wholesale grocers.

Wallace Stanford Bow’s statement to the police, which was put in as evidence, detailed his financial dealings. George, William and Sam Tet Fong were in partnership with himself. The business continued financially sound until well into 1932, when they loaned the firm of S. Bow and Sons, Guyra, about £700 for expenses in enabling them to defend a charge of arson in connection with a fire which destroyed their business premises about Easter 1931. This together with the depression caused them to fall behind in the business undertaking and necessitated them contracting a large amount of book debts. At a meeting of creditors in March last it was decided that the firm would be allowed to carry on business. Since assigning its estate the firm had paid its creditors about 10s. in the £, leaving a balance of about £2000. Since Mr Shears had taken charge, together with book debts collected by him, the business had shown in improvement and the firm expected to be clear in about 12 months. When the estate was assigned, the trustee took over all insurances, excepting that on the building.

Witness, continuing, stated: Accounts for December purchases are still owing, making a total of about £3000 due to creditors. I would be at a loss by a fire destroying the business, as put the whole of my share in my mother’s will, which amounted to £1950, in the business, together with my labour during the past five years. There is no written agreement between the Set Fongs and myself. They would not benefit by a fire destroying the building and contents.

Witness said that, with his wife and two children, he went to Kempsey on 23rd Dec, and returned to Uralla on 27th Dec. He remained at Uralla until 31st Dec. On the night previous he made up the books with Mr Shears in order to allow the latter to go on holidays on 1st Jan. On 31st Dec., in company with Mr Fuller. C.P.S., Mr Boston, his wife and family, he went to about 15 miles beyond Deepwater trout fishing and returned home about 8 p.m. 1st Jan. He did not leave Uralla again. He went to the store about 8.30 a.m. on 2nd Jan. and carried on his usual duties until 6 p.m. As they did not complete the balancing of the books on 31st Dec. he returned to the store about 7 p.m. with Mr Shears, and remained there until about 9.10 p.m. when both left the shop. Mr Shears went in the direction of his home and witness returned to his own home.

Continuing, witness said: I did not leave my home until about 11.30 p.m. when I was awakened by an explosion, I got cut of bed and went to the children’s room to see if they were all right. My wife got up. She said “Go across and see if Gay (meaning my brother Herb’s wife, who resides next door) is all right.” I opened the front door and saw that the store was on fire. I ran to the scene of the fire. All the walls were lying on the ground and the fire was burning from end to end of the shop. Mr Shears and the police were there. Mr Shears said to me: “The safe, Wal.” I said “Damn the safe we want to save the house.”

Witness said that as a result of the fire he would be financially embarrassed. Had the fire not occurred he felt confident they would have been clear of their creditors in 12 months.

“About 12 months ago,” said witness, I received a letter from William See Lun, who was partner in the Guyra store, claiming that he owed them £350 for cash loaned. I replied to this letter through Mr. Biddulph, and nothing has been heard of it since. I did not owe these people any money. The business done with them whilst at Guyra was done by change of cheques for business purposes. The Guyra firm, which Mrs See Lun was interested, has not paid me the £700 loaned to them for the purpose of defending the charge of arson.

By Mr. Buddulph: I see the door produced. It is the rear door of the brick building. I have not seen the mark shown me on the door before. I feel sure that it was not there.

By Mr Solomon: I have not got the letter written to me by the solicitor for Mrs See Lun.

Prior to the Guyra fire the two firms used to exchange cheques also draperies. I could not remember when the last clearing up took place. At the time of their fire I did not owe them any money. They did not owe me any. At that time I was about square. The £700 loaned by me was for the trial all through, for the Armidale Trial. That was the actual money paid to them for R. D. Meagher, Sproule & Co. It was arranged jointly by my brother Herbert and Mrs See Lun. There was no suggestion that Herbert was mixed in it at all. Mrs Lun asked for further funds to carry on the appeal. I refused it. She was not the best tempered woman. She was angry and her language was not the choicest. I have not seen her since. They asked me for money all along. When the letter was received from the accountant, I put the matter into the hands of Mr Biddulph. I am a married man. Contents of my home were insured with the Scottish Union at the time of the Guyra fire. They cancelled the policy. They cancelled everything that went through. I cannot remember the date. It would be about 8th May, 1931.

My private property is insured with the Commercial Union. It was taken out the same time as the policy on the brick building. They were all taken out in the month of December, 1931 I did not try to get my furniture insured in the meantime, They remained uninsured until December 1931. I tried to get policies through local agents I think, I wrote to the Country Traders in Sydney. They would not take it on nor would the Commercial Union. Finally I got my insurance through the good offices of Douglass & Co. I have never had fire in my private place. I have never had a claim on the company. The three Tet Fongs lived in the home at the store. They are bachelors. There were two Packard cars, one belonged to me and one to George Tet Fong. I think it was his car that was at the Tattersalls Hotel in Armidale in 1931. Mr Shears received £6/10 per week for wages. The Trustees received 1 per cent on turnover. The average monthly turnover would be between £1100 and £1200. The percentage would roughly amount to about £130 or £140 annually. The partners used to draw pocket money, not wages. I got £1 per week and all goods and clothing which was charged to me. There were no partnership deeds. Under the arrangement with the Tet Fongs, we shared equally in the profits, There was no consideration shown for capital invested in the business, purely personal friends. We had a balance sheet produced up until 30th September, 1933. I have not a copy of it. The amount of the liabilities at the time of the fire would be approximately £3000. It could be no more. I do not know the exact figures. Up to the time of the assignment the amount of the liabilities would be roughly £3600. There would be more stock at the time of the fire than at the assignment. Roughly two or three hundred pounds more. My book debts had decreased. Mr Shears had been pressing some of the debtors. Some of them for large amounts, some of them we had taken Court proceedings for. I have never been threatened by any of the debtors. It was nearly impossible for the gelignite to be in the store at 9 p.m. when I left. I have no theory as to the cause of the fire.

To Mr Biddulph: I am a very heavy loser by reason of the fire. I am not on the best of terms with Mrs See Lun. I am on bad terms with her. The reason I helped her was to help my brother who was interested in the recovery of the insurance money. I remember the stock left with me after the fire at Guyra. The majority of the stock was for the purpose of exhibits at the Supreme Court. It was to show a Judge and Jury that my brother had been asked down. I had nothing to do with the explosion, nothing whatever. If the business was to continue, my creditors would have been paid off within 12 months. At the time of the fire the business was making progress.

By Mr Smith: When Mr Shears and I left the door shown me was locked. Mr Shears is in full charge of the business now.

By Segt. Willard, I left the premises through the door shown me.

Samuel Tet Fong stated that he is member of the firm of S. Bow and Sons, and is in charge of the grocery department. He had no experience with explosives and had never purchased explosives for himself or any other person. There were no explosives stored in the shop other than a small quantity of rifle and gun cartridges. He left Uralla about 9.30 p.m. on 30th December, in company with Herb Bow, George Tet Fong and Jean Cochrane, by car and went to Laurieton. They arrived back at Uralla about 11.45 p.m. on 4th January.

Alfred Henry Shears stated: I am an accountant employed by the trustees R. W. Hall & Co., of the assigned estate of S. Bow & Sons. I commenced duty on 25th March 1933. Walter Stanford Bow assisted me in the office and grocery and drapery buying. William Tet Fong had charge of the drapery department. George Tet. Fong had charge of the grocery department, Sam Tet Fong senior grocery assistant, Harry Tet Fong junior grocer, Keith Nelson, junior grocer. All these persons with the exception of Harry Tet Fong and K. Nelson, were members of the firm of S. Bow & Sons. When I first took charge of the business I checked the stock that had already been taken by F. W. Johnson for the creditors in the assigned estate a week previous. I found the stock amounting to £3800 to be correct. From then on I took periodical check of the stock and forwarded returns from time to time to the Trustee, as well as taking charge of all cash on hand at that time and subsequent receipts, and also attended to the banking. Since taking charge of the store business has been considerably improved and was in quite a solvent state and the sum of £1900 had been paid to the creditors, reducing their liabilities to such an extent that they would have been able to satisfy their creditors in full within 12 months. The stock on hand at the time of the fire would amount to about £4000. The building was owned by Gilbert S. Bow, of Walgett. I was due to go on a fortnight’s leave on 1st Jan. As Wallace Bow was absent from town, and it being necessary for me to have him with me to balance the books and take over the cash, and he not returning until late on Monday evening, I was prevented from leaving until following evening, and owing to the pressure of business on Tuesday we were unable to balance the books until Tuesday evening. About 7.20 p.m. Tuesday, 2nd, I went to the store and in company with W. S. Bow, we balanced the cash and books and left the premises about 9.10 p.m. Before leaving securely locked the premises and left by the back door, I did not see any person in the vicinity or about the premises. There was nothing in the store that would cause an explosion. After leaving the store I walked along Maitland street to Mr Bow’s, residence, where I said goodnight to him and went to my own home. After arriving home I put the wireless on and prepared a bath and packed my port with the intention of catching the midnight train for Sydney. I did not leave home after returning from the shop at 9.10 p.m. until about 11.30 p.m. when I walked on to the front verandah and heard a violent explosion. I then walked on to the footpath and saw a blaze which took to be at the electric light station opposite S. Bow & Sons’ store. I subsequently found the fire to be in the store. When I arrived at the scene the whole building was in flames, the side walls had collapsed and the roof was strewn on either side of the building. I ran around the side of the building near the bulk store. There were number of people on the scene. I said to Herry Tet Fong “Shift the benzine and other inflammable matter from the store room.” This he did and put it at the rear of the house. Later the Sergeant and myself burst open the side wall of the office and put a rope around the safe and pulled it out on to the street. Later, in the presence of Sergeant Willard, I unlocked the safe and found that the content, including money, was as I had left it. On the morning of 4th Jan., in company with Constable Dogan, I made a search of the debris and found the remainder of the till and about £1/10 in small change which is always left in the till over night. When I left the shop on the evening of 2nd Jan. I did not leave any light burning. Whilst in the office I used the electric light. As far as I know I did not leave any match smouldering in the building. Wallace Bow was smoking cigarettes that night. During my reign of office there has not been any gelignite or explosives stored in the building. I left the main building by the back door. I see the door produced. I see the mark shown to me. I have not seen It previously. I don’t think it was on the door previous to the night of the fire.

By Mr Smith: Wallace Bow was the only man who had an interest in the assets. The others had working interests only. There was £4 in the two tills. We have accounted for all the moneys in the till except the sum of 8/. There was definitely no robbery.

By Mr Solomon: Since I took over in March 1933 the business has improved to the extent of at least £1000 up to 1st Jan. 1934. The creditors at the time of the assignment were £4033. The creditors now are £3779 without taking into account any remuneration for the trustee. The liabilities have now decreased by more than £254. I would say by approximately £1000. I did not prepare the list in March. It was prepared by Mr R. W. Hall. According to my books the liabilities have decreased by £1000. So far as I know the figures shown to the insurance coy. are correct. The stock as at 1st Jan. was more by £400 than at the time I took over. The book debts would be about £1400 less. The liabilities are less than when I took over by £300. I would not say the business has lost £700 since I took over. My salary is £6/10 per week. The trustee is getting 1 per cent on turnover. His profit on trading for period of six months was shout £300. The expenses of administration would be about £600 or £630 per annum. According to the balance sheet the creditors were £3642, deferred liabilities now are £3779.

By Mr Smith: The position is now better off than at the time of the assignment.

By Mr Biddulph: I have kept close eye on the conduct of the business. I have found all partners very honest. The creditors were very satisfied with the position of the business. I attended meeting of the committee in Sydney recently. Every member expressed their appreciation of the rate of progress. I gave George Tet Fong permission to go on holidays. I cannot assist the Coroner in any way as to the origin of the fire. Prior to George Tet Fong going for his holiday, Mr Fuller, C.P.S., and I questioned him as to some fishing kit. I did not see him again until I saw him in Sydney on Tuesday or Wednesday last, about a week after the fire. I live about 300 or 400 yards from the scene of the fire. Practically the whole of the stock was destroyed by the explosion.

At this stage the lunch adjournment took place.

Upon resuming, witness Shears was again questioned by Mr Solomon. He stated: I have ascertained what payments have been made to the partners. Sam Tet Fong received £104 from April 1933 to end of year, W. Tet Fong £124, George Tet Fong £129/3/9, W. S. Bow £162/0/9. Those amounts total £520. They received much less than the award rates. The net profit for the period was £311. If the firm had been sold up at the time of the fire, the creditors would have received payment in full.

George Tet Fong stated: On 30th Oct. last a man named William Gluck of Rocky River, asked me If I was going to Armidale. said I am. He said “Will you bring me back a packet of gelignite.” I went to Armidale that day with Herb Bow. Herb bought the packet of gelignite at Richardson’s. We brought the gelignite to Uralla and it was handed to Gluck either that night or the following morning. He paid 10/- for it. That was the only gelignite explosive of any kind I have had any dealings with whilst at the store.

Gilbert Cecil Bow, of Walgett, stated that he owned the store. He had received £3/10 week rent from S. Bow and Sons. The premises are insured in Commercial Union Assurance Co. for £1000, The property was quite clear. It was mortgaged to Bank of N.S.W., but it was cleared some time in December 1933.

By Mr Biddulph: I mortgaged the building to assist my brother in the business. It was for $200. The Bank was paid off by me.

Constable John Dogan, of Tamworth stated: I arrived at Uralla on 3rd January and commenced inquiries in connection with the fire and explosion. I was later joined by Detective Sergeant Comans and we made an examination at the scene of the fire and explosion and a careful search of the debris was made. We found that the roof had been blown on either side of the building across the roadway and in the yard and the timber smashed to splinters. The plate glass windows from the front of the store were smashed to fragments across the street. Portions of the stock were thrown some distance across the roadway. Pieces of timber including portion of the frame of the back door were found on the roof of a shed in the yard. On examination, of the door frame, we found the Yale lock intact, and discovered marks of round shaped or pointed jemmy or similar instrument close to the lock, indicating that the panel had been prized from the door in the vicinity of the lock. In our examination we found the iron safe, which was located in the office in the skillion, intact. It contained the books, insurance papers and £18/16/5½ in cash. We also located the remains of the till of the drapery department and found almost the whole of the silver and copper that it contained. Almost all of the silver and copper in the grocery dept. till was found. From the general appearance of the debris, it would appear that the store was well stocked. With Mr Hall, the trustee of the estate, an examination of the books was made and they were found correct. Mr Parsons, of the Explosives Dept, made a thorough search and examination of the debris. His report is produced. As the result of our inquiries we were fully satisfied that the persons conducting the business were in no way responsible for the explosion or fire. I am of opinion that the explosion occurred in the manner as described by Mr Parsons. We interviewed and took statements from all persons connected with the firm and premises, checked up the statements and have verified them. We made full inquiries from the surrounding district regarding the sale or loss of explosives, but have been unable to obtain any information that would be of value. We also made very careful inquiries in other directions but were unable to gain any information that would assist in ascertaining who was responsible for the destruction of the building and contents by fire and explosion.

Constable Dogan produced photographs of the debris, taken by Mr. Parsons.

Explosive Expert’s Report.

Mr. Parsons’ report was: “‘From statements given to the police and the extent of the damage, I formed the opinion that (1) the explosion was caused by about 25lb of a high explosive, probably gelignite; (2) the explosive had been placed on the floor in the centre line and towards the rear of the building; (3) the explosion was initiated by fire rather than fuse and detonators. An attempt was then made to find the spot above which the explosive had been placed. No definite depression could be found since, firstly, most of the explosive force had been expended on the wooden floor, and, secondly, heavy rain had fallen in the interim. However, one of the small brick piers was found with one corner broken off, probably by the explosion. Records from surrounding towns were examined, but no definite source of supply of explosives locally could be traced. The opinion is held by the police that the explosion was one of malicious intent by some person, and not in any way attributable to present occupants. The fact that no attempt was made to open the safe and the contents of the till were not touched discounts any theory of burglary. After investigation of all known facts, I consider that the opinion given above is substantially correct.” – S. PARSONS, analyst and inspector.

Open Verdict

This concluded the evidence. In returning an open verdict, the Coroner said that, although human hands must have caused the fire and explosion, there was no evidence as to the actual perpetrator.

Mr Biddulph asked, in view of the likelihood of suspicion resting on his clients, S. Bow and Sons, would the Coroner give an assurance in that regard.

The Coroner: In view of the evidence that the firm had everything to lose and nothing to gain, I find there is not the slightest reflection on the firm nor the trustees.

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November 21, 2020 at 8:41 pm

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January 1934: Township Rocked – Disastrous Explosion And Blaze At Uralla

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The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser, Wednesday, January 3, 1934



Tremendous Detonation Crashes 14 inch Walls


(By Our Own Reporter)

Bursting the 14 inch brick walls of Messrs. S. Bow and Sons’ general store, at the corner of Hill and Maitland streets, Uralla, a terrific explosion startled residents abed last night.

The solid structure was demolished with the terrific detonation and a fire consumed within a quarter of an hour all the goods in the store.

For most of the residents of the township, the heavy blast of the explosion was the first indication of anything untoward, and hundreds of people were quickly on the scene to see the inferno quickly consume the interior of the store.

As Uralla has no fire brigade, people simply had to watch the fire burn itself out, but a volunteer bucket brigade did yeoman service in saving a weather-board dwelling occupied by Messrs. W. and S. Tet Fong, and three outbuildings in the store yard.

Residents were astounded to find, when they reached the scene, a few minutes after the explosion, that hardly one brick stood on another.

The four brick walls, 14 inches in thickness, had been burst outward and the roof had been lifted and deposited, torn and twisted, to one side.

This morning the scene gave the impression that the building had been wrecked by a gigantic hammer. Solid piers of bricks had been tossed aside like light timber, the thick walls torn apart, the only portions left standing being the front portico and several sheets of iron from the back storeroom and office.

The wooden portions of the roofing and fixtures which were tossed away from the maw of the flames were to be seen splintered and torn to match wood. Even this afternoon the ruins were still smouldering, and some of the brick and iron work was nearly red-hot.

Debris from the wrecked building was scattered over a large area, glass, splinters, pieces of iron, solid pieces of rafters and woodwork were to be seen more than 200 yards away, in all directions.

Last night, when the fire was at its height, goods of all descriptions—hats, shirts, pyjamas, boots and shoes, kerosene pumps, hardware, and many other articles—were scattered all over the adjacent streets, and were gathered by the police and assistants and housed in the Court House for safety.

Floating in the Breeze

A bathing suit and a bedraggled shirt were to be seen floating in the light breeze over a telephone wire, and a scorched pair of pyjama trousers was found in a yard over 100 yards away.

During the blaze residents were alarmed by the constant explosion of boxes of cartridges and the empty cardboard shells were flung in all directions.

Another shock awaited watchers when an almost empty kerosene drum exploded with a loud crash, hurling itself across the yard.

Some idea of the terrific explosion might he gauged from the fact that residents miles from Uralla were awakened by the noise, and a message was received from Kentucky inquiring as to its cause.

Several Armidale citizens, on their way home from the pictures, aver that they heard the sound, like a muffled peal of thunder, and it is quite likely that the sound carried in the still air.

Windows in premises adjacent to the store suffered extensively. Several windows at the Post Office, 100 yards away, two at the Court House, about the same distance on the opposite side of the street, and others in private houses were shattered, while pictures and crockery were dislodged in houses over a wide area, but especially in the Woodville district. At the telephone exchange the side door was burst open.

Although several persons were about the streets at the time nobody, as far as can be ascertained, saw the actual explosion. but it is stated that a taxi driver, named Newman, who lived almost opposite, saw the blaze which immediately preceded the crash. He said that he was awakened by a sound as if somebody was moving in the yard of his premises, and sitting up in bed saw the reflection of some light on the bowser outside. Thinking one of the bowsers had become ignited, he made to get up, but immediately the tremendous detonation shook the room, and he hurried outside to see Bow and Sons’ store a mass of wreckage, with flames quickly devouring what remained of the interior.

Cause of Explosion a Mystery

It is, indeed, fortunate that nobody was passing, or in close proximity of the store, when it was burst asunder by the explosion, otherwise it is certain that they would have been killed by the flying debris.

Messrs. W. and S. Tet Fong occupied the weatherboard cottage at the rear of the store, and the iron store-room appeared to have shielded their residence against the blast. Both were absent at the time, and one, Mr. W. Tet Fong, appears to have had a narrow escape. He usually sleeps in the front of the store, and that portion was reduced to a heap of brickwork.

Mr. Wallace Bow was at his residence some distance away, and rushed down to find his store in ruins.

The cause of the explosion is a mystery. It is stated that no explosive, other than cartridges, are kept in the store: there was no inflammable liquid in the store proper.

Owing to the thorough nature of the demolition of the building it is highly improbable that gases caused by fire should cause such a crash. It is unlikely that sufficient vacuum could be caused for such a proceeding, and louvred ventilators in the roof provided plenty of air.

At present police are mystified. The suggestion that burglars were responsible is discounted by the fact that the safe was found intact, and, when opened after it had cooled, it was found to contain the money left when business was completed for the day.

The business had been conducted in the form of an assigned estate for some months, and an official receiver, Mr. Alf Shears, was the manager.

The building was the property of Mr. Gilbert Bow and was insured for £1000, while the stock, plant and fittings were insured by the assigned estate for £4000.

First-class Constable Dogan of Tamworth in working with Constable Scott, of Uralla, on the case.

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November 19, 2020 at 6:27 pm

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February 1874: Directions For Dipping With Arsenic To Kill Ticks

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The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser, Saturday, 14 February 1874

(To the Editors of the Armidale Express.)

Gentlemen — As I believe many sheep owners are willing to try dipping sheep with arsenic, the following directions may be some little guide.

Quantity required for every hundred lambs at weaning, 8 lbs. soft soap and 1 lb. arsenic.

The arsenic and soft soap should be mixed one month before required for use, with sufficient warm water to bring it to the consistency of molasses ; one quart of this to 10 gallons of water will be found the right strength for dipping. “The water in the tank should be warm, but not hot.” If it is the least unpleasantly warm in the men’s hands, it is far too warm for the sheep.

I am supposing the sheep to be dipped to be New England lambs at weaning, which is no doubt the best time for dipping (but I believe it would pay well to dip the lambs when the ewes are shorn).

In recommending dipping, I do not say that your sheep will become entirely free from ticks, but so free that the sheep will rest and thrive. (Never try dipping half a flock, leaving the other half undipped.) You require a water-tight wooden tank, 4 feet by 4 feet, and 2 feet 8 inches deep; on one side three battens or two pieces of stouter timber are nailed, and above them the draining board, which has a slight fall towards the tank, and battens nailed two inches apart to allow the dip or liquid to drain back to the tank. Plan of tank and draining board can be seen at the ‘Express’ office.

One 30 gallon iron boiler will warm sufficient water to dip 500 lambs per day, by five men—one to catch and bring the lamb to the tank, two at the tank, and two at the draining board. (They can also brand each pen before dipping.) With two tanks, two iron boilers, and six men, you can dip 700 per day without branding; the extra man keeps the water warm and tanks filled.

Although arsenic is a very fatal poison, there is no danger to the men employed in dipping, except they have cuts or scratches on them ; but be very careful that nothing drinks it. Cows or sheep would soon die, although it might not prove fatal to pigs or dogs.

It is very easy for the man who holds the lamb’s fore legs to keep its head from going under in the tank.

In England, we used to rub the sheep across the draining battens, but I have found that here it is best to squeeze as much out with the hand without rubbing the sheep across the battens.

—I am, yours truly, J. B. BLENCOWE.

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November 11, 2020 at 10:25 am

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James Maddox, Hillgrove, died 1902

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The Armidale Chronicle, Saturday, 27 September, 1902


(From our Correspondent).

Mr. James Maddox, a respected resident of Hillgrove, died on Tuesday night last. The deceased was respected by all who knew him – a man with scarcely an enemy. He has now crossed the great divide, and his demise will be generally deplored. During the many years the deceased lived amongst us, he showed business capabilities of a high order, but the call came, and poor James Maddox had to relinquish all, and go. Sincere sorrow is felt by the townspeople for Mrs. Maddox and family in their sorrowful bereavement. The funeral takes place this afternoon (Thursday).

Headstone of James Maddox, died Hillgrove, 1902

James Maddox (c.1862 - 1902) married Deborah Maria Hancox in Sydney in 1893.
They had 6 children of whom 3 lived past infancy:
	Isabelle (known as Isabella) (1894 - 1894)
	Isabel (known as Isabelle) (1895 - 1976)
	Nellie (1896 - 1896)
	Nellie (1897 - 1897)
	Herbert (1898 - 1986)
	William James (1901 - c.1982)

James Maddox was proprietor of the Maddox Cordial Factory in Hillgrove. Prior to that his Hillgrove business was that of a tobacconist. James also owned shares in at least one mine in Hillgrove.

At some point after James’ death, Deborah and the three surviving children returned to England. Deborah and children appear in the 1911 census in England living in Gloucestershire.

Deborah died in 1962 in her 103rd year. Before moving to Australia she lived in Gloucestershire with her parents and worked as a draper’s assistant. Her father was a blacksmith.

Isabelle died in Tiverton, Devon, in 1976, aged 81.
Herbert died in Yeovil, Somerset, in 1986, aged 88.

Deborah maria hancox maddox 1860 1962

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May 27, 2020 at 6:39 pm

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Samuel Prisk, Hillgrove, died 1910

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The Armidale Chronicle, Saturday, 10 September 1910

Death Of An Old Resident.

On Saturday morning last Mr. Samuel Prisk, who had resided in Hillgrove for over 20 years, died suddenly. Deceased, who had been suffering for a considerable time from miners’ complaint, and who 12 months previously was a patient in Armidale Hospital for some weeks. On the morning of his death, he got up as usual, had breakfast, and was going into his garden, when he stooped down to lace his boot, and expired. It was naturally a great shock to the family.

The late Mr. Prisk was a quiet, unassuming man, respected by all who came in contact with him, and was very popular amongst the miners, having worked at the Baker’s Creek Mine during most of his sojourn here. He was a comparatively young man, being only 48 years of age, and leaves a widow, one daughter, and three sons to mourn their loss. The funeral took place on Sunday afternoon, and was very largely attended – scarcely a miner that did not follow his remains to their last resting place, while the cortege was headed by members of the Protestant Alliance Lodge, of which he was an old. member. The Rev. Mr. Holden officiated at the grave-side in a most impressive manner, while a favourite hymn of deceased’s, “Abide With Me,” was sung by those standing around the grave-side. At the conclusion of the minister’s service, Mr. J. Gardner, Chaplain of the Alliance Society, read their burial service.

The funeral arrangements were in the hands of Mr. Robt. Morrow.

Headstone at Hillgrove Cemetery, Hillgrove, NSW.

Headstone for Samuel Prisk, died Sept 3, 1910, at Hillgrove

Samuel Prisk (c.1862 - 1910), married Mary Jane (details unknown)
	Joseph Henry (1886 - 1935)
	William Thomas (1888 - 1966)
	Mary Catherine (aka Catherine Mary) (1890 - 1948)
	Richard (1898 - 1976)

William Thomas Prisk was a butcher in Hillgrove in 1913. All three sons were butchers in Guyra in 1920 (Prisk Bros., “The People’s Butchers”).

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May 24, 2020 at 5:27 pm

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January 29, 1919: Plague Invades New South Wales.

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The Armidale Chronicle, Wednesday, 29 January, 1919

State Declared Infected.

Precautions for Armidale People.

The Board of Health has finally received that pneumonic influenza has obtained a footing in New South Wales. The State is to be declared infected. The cases upon which this decision is based are those of several soldiers who came from Melbourne. These are ill at Randwick Hospital.

Theatres, picture shows, and places of indoor resort in the metropolitan area are to be closed from today. There are now 47 cases in the Melbourne Hospital. Some are serious. There are more than 60 inmates in the Base Hospital in St. Kilda Road, Melbourne, some in a dangerous condition.

There were five deaths in Melbourne on Sunday. The disease has been in Melbourne since January 9.


Immediately there was danger of the influenza epidemic passing the quarantine barrier and spreading into the country districts, the Armidale City Council decided upon precautionary measures. These include the immediate procuration of a supply of vaccine for inoculation against Spanish influenza, from the Board of Public Health. The Town Hall will be used as a place for public vaccination. All inoculations will be FREE, if desired. As soon as the vaccine arrives, the depot will be opened at the Town Hall, between 3 and 6 p.m. The local doctors are giving their services, and the date of opening of the depot, and days upon which the doctors will be in attendance, will be notified as soon as the vaccine arrives.


The local authorities are desirous that panic should be avoided. They wish us to state that there is no cause for anything in the nature of hysteria or undue terror at present. All that should be done is to be sure that no precautionary measure is neglected. The utmost endeavour will be made in Armidale to check any outbreak in the event of the disease getting beyond the quarantine barrier.



The following article was obtained by the “Chronicle” from an authoritative medical source:—

Infectious diseases are caused by living micro-organisms, or microbes which, when introduced into the body, cause a series of phenomena to develop, the most important of which, due to the growth and multiplication of these organisms in the tissues of the blood of the affected person, is fever. Microbes are found everywhere in nature: in air, earth, water, food, and within and without our bodies. They operate in curious ways and in diverse places, conservatively and destructively, and are both the friend and the foe of man. They are the prime cause of all the infectious and contagious diseases of man and, the lower animals. They require to be magnified by the microscope from 800 to 1500 times before we can understand how they grow and what they are like. A fair average size of a microbe measures 1/20,000th part of an inch, and it has been calculated that four hundred millions of them might be comfortably accommodated side by side on one square inch of surface.

How Diseases Spread. It is by infective material that diseases spread. It may be borne by the air or carried upon clothing or other media. So long as they are in contact with moisture, microbes are held in retention and cannot be liberated into the atmosphere until the dampness is dispelled. Aerial diffusion is, therefore, only possible in the case of dried microbes or spores. Infective material cannot penetrate any interposing barrier, even of paper, and much less through walls and doors. The length of time after infective material has left the body of an infected person during which it is capable of doing mischief, is largely determined by its environment. Abundance of fresh air and sunlight quickly destroy it; absence of these tend to keep it alive—hence microbes are most plentiful in the dust of the darkest corners.

Some infectious diseases are more prevalent at certain seasons of the year. Influenza appears to be uninfluenced by seasons. It spreads with as much facility in Iceland as at the equator, and knows no boundaries. I have seen it stated to be coincident with a disease called Pink Eye in horses, which veterinary surgeons believe to be influenza in horses.

The incubation period of influenza is from one to four days. A person suffering from an infectious disease is infective in influenza for about ten days after all symptoms have disappeared.

The means by which infection may be transported are as follows: 1. By direct contact with the infective person, hence called contagion. 2. By contact with anything that has been in contact with the infective person, or which proceeds from the apartment in which he has been treated. 3. By intercommunication between infected animals and man. Transportation by insects as mosquitoes or flies. 5. In water and food. 6. By the air.

Visitation to the houses of the infective sick, or the wilful exposure of children to others who are suffering from a mild type of the disease; in the erroneous assumption that all children must sooner or later contract the disease, and the sooner it is over and of a mild type the better, is chiefly to blame for the spread of infectious disease. There is no guarantee that exposure to a mild type of the disease will be followed by an equally mild seizure in the exposed child, for it is a common experience that children even of the same family do not contract attacks of equal severity.

The clothing, school slates, books, and toys of the infective person may act as vehicles of infection. While the clothing may be disinfected, it is always safer to consign to the flames such books and toys as are admitted to the sick room.

Infective diseases can be.contracted by partaking of infected water or food. For germs to be air borne, they can only be carried in a dried condition.

Infective material enters the body through an abrasion on the skin, through being inhaled, by absorption through the digestive organs.

Fumigation. To fumigate the room after an illness, close the doors, windows, and fireplaces; and paste paper over all cracks. Put some sulphur in iron pans, allowing two pounds for every 1000 cubic feet of space. Set the pans in larger pans of water, and these on bricks so as not to burn the floor. Pour a little alcohol on the sulphur and light it, leave the room quickly and paste up the door like the others. Keep it closed for 24 hours, then open all doors and windows. The sulphur will fumigate more thoroughly if the walls and ceilings are moistened beforehand. Instead of sulphur, you may use formalin — you can burn candles of such in the room. To disinfect clothing, boiling in water for 20 minutes is one of the best methods of disinfection. It is wiser to destroy the mattress.

The microbes are grown in a culture tube; the tube is inserted in to an incubator and the microbes grow on this culture media. They are then washed off with a little salt solution into another tube and stirred well round. They are then heated so as to kill the microbes. The contents of the tube are then mixed with some other substance and we inject this vaccine, as it is called, and which consists of millions of dead organisms into a person who has not got the disease, in order to immunize him against the disease, or into a patient with the disease to enable him to form sufficient antitoxin to recover. It must be clearly understood that this cannot produce the disease or cause any permanent ill effect. It has been proved that this helps the patient to recover from the disease.

This disease is not the ordinary influenza, but an epidemic form of pneumonia. and a severe one at that, characterised by septic symptoms.

The Micrococcus Catarrhalis is the organism which gives rise to common colds. The Pneumococcus causes pneumonia, and the Streptococcus is the organism which you find in cases of blood poisoning. These organisms, together with the influenza bacillus, are responsible for the present epidemic.

The onset is sudden, a rigor is soon followed by a high fever, reddening and running from the eyes, pains and aches all over the body, and general prostration. The secretion from the nose, throat, and air passages form the sources of infection. There is the frequent complication of pneumonia.

Now if you want to be injected with the vaccine, you will have injected into you of: Mic Catarrhalis 25 millions, Pneumococcus 10 millions, Streptococcus 10 millions, a gram positive Diploc 10 millions; followed by another injection containing of: Mic Catarrhalis 125 millions, Pneumococcus 60 millions, Streptococcus 50 millions, a gram posit Diplococ 50 millions. And then you probably won’t contract the infection, or if you do, you get it in a modified form. After the injection you would feel a little uncomfortable, but not quite so uncomfortable as if you contracted the complaint.

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March 3, 2020 at 4:22 pm

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1879: A Tour From Armidale To The Chandler River.

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The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser, Fri 26 Sep 1879

After partaking of an early breakfast, I left Armidale, steering a N.E. course by Mr. Taylor’s farm, which I understand is likely to be the route for the permanent road to Gyrah and Rock Vale.

Three miles from Armidale is Tilbuster Creek, where the crossing is very uncertain, on account of the moving sand. A good Hotel or Accommodation House would pay well here. There are a great many farms a little to the North of this creek, but not in sight of the main road. Eight or nine miles further, and Thalgarrah Station, the property of Mr. Bigg, is reached, and I noticed that Mr. B. has erected a comfortable brick building since his purchase.

Three miles more, and we arrive at Pint Pot Creek, where a culvert is urgently needed, as this being the thoroughfare to the Stations—Rock Vale, Aberfoil, Kangaroo Hills, Alfreda, Lindhurst, Ward’s Mistake, Paddy’s Land, Oban, &c., and the traffic is considerable. The Coningdale and Chandler road branches off at this point from the Rock Vale road to the Eastward, passing by Mr. Mulligan’s selection, and, further on, Mr. A. McLennaghan’s. The soil about here is very rich, and well adapted for agricultural purposes. The sheep, on Mr. McLennaghan’s selection were in fine condition.

At Mr. Donald Finlayson’s residence, Foreglen, I saw some very good draught mares.

From Foreglen, through a well-grassed and lightly-timbered country, I arrived at Mr. Kenneth Finlayson’s, Coningdale, where I was most hospitably entertained. The Finlaysons were among the first who commenced sheep farming in this district, and now have a fine property, with nice residences, commanding a view of the Wollomumbi River and surrounding country. The wild dogs are troublesome, and play sad havoc, at times, amongst the sheep. At this season of the year, crossing the Wollomumbi River is not a very safe undertaking.

Half a mile further is Pointsfield, the selection of Mr. R. Finlayson, where, owing to the magnificent soil, lucerne, maize, &c., are grown to great perfection. The cultivation paddocks here have been subdivided and laid out under artificial grasses, consequently dairying operations are carried on all through the winter. Considering the wet and cold winter experienced this season, the stock looked remarkably well.

Mr. Roderick McLennan’s homestead at Killcoy is the next stopping place. Here a site for a Presbyterian Church has been granted, and a large sum is already promised for the building. The Rev. Thos. Johnstone at present officiates twice a quarter.

There is also a School halfway between Killcoy and Pointsfield, under the charge of Mr. and Mrs. Painter.

Continuing the road, you travel over a good pastoral land, of ironstone formation, with grass and water in abundance. The wattle tree, with its beautiful blossom and perfume, is a great relief, after perpetual gum. Kangaroos are very plentiful here, and eat more grass than the sheep.

Fairview is the next selection on the Chandler. Here the Chandler River is extremely dangerous to cross, on account of the shifting sand.

Camberdown, Mr. John Coventry’s, is next, but his stock have been removed to his station, Alfreda.

A mail comes this way once a week, on to Oban.

Before concluding, I must say a few words as to Free Selection. It is evident that, in spite of what is said to the contrary, Free Selection has been a decided success, and the Land Act of 1861 has conferred a lasting benefit on the country. Twelve years ago this district was a mere waste; now many respectable and well to-do people are settled here. The feeling between squatters and selectors here is of a very harmonious nature. And, as regards the Land Law. It is unwise, in compelling selectors to improve their land to the extent of £1 per acre, on what are often useless improvements. The selector denies that he obtains his land on easy terms. The squatter can buy at auction practically as much as he pleases for 25s. cash. The selector’s land costs him £2 per acre, viz.: 5s. cash, and the balance of 15s. in three years, with the option of allowing it to remain unpaid at 5 per cent.; and further, he is compelled “nolens volens” [whether unwillingly or willingly] to expend £1 per acre in improvements on his selection within three years, and make it his bona fide residence for that period. The selector has no security of pre-lease, with considerable chance of forfeiture, should he fail in any of the conditions of the Act. For farming purposes only, the terms are easy enough; but, as the bulk of selectors want to run stock as well, the limited area, with other conditions, make it the most expensive way of obtaining land. The squatter, on the other hand, can select the “tit bits” out of his run, chiefly by improvement purchases; the law being that, by improving to the extent of £1 per acre, he can buy it, if he likes; and also, by the absurd auction system, principally used to deprive the selector of his grazing right. But this knotty question has for years puzzled cleverer heads than mine, and is as far off now from being settled as ever. It is the old story of the man and the ass, who tried to please all, and pleased none !


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June 5, 2019 at 4:18 pm

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1918: Yesterday’s Great Celebrations.

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The Armidale Chronicle, Wednesday, 13 November 1918



The procession which preceded the celebration in the Park yesterday afternoon was remarkable in the his- tory of Armidale. It was the largest, as well as the most historic on record. Dense crowds lined the route and occupied every coign of vantage. The cheering was deafening. It is safe to say that every citizen took some part in the celebrations. Punctually to time the procession was started on its way by the Marshal (Capt. T. Webb). It was led by the City Band and patriotic tableaux and devices preponderated in its make-up. The Fire Brigade made a brave show with two lorries. A coffin, with the inscription, “To L with the Kaiser,” attracted a great deal of notice. It had been arranged by Mr. G. Piddington, undertaker. Every interest in the city was represented. The military and cadets, and children from all the schools and boys and girls from the colleges, marched, carrying flags, as did the Friendly Societies in regalia. The Red Cross workers and associated branches of women war-workers were cheered. The Junior Red Cross was similarly honored. The Pipe Band lent color and spirit to its part of the procession. Numerous decorated motor cars brought up the rear.

At the park the crowd was equally dense. The Mayor (Ald. Purkiss) presided.

After the singing of the hymn, “O, God our Help in Ages Past,” the Mayor read the following telegram from Mr. H. W. Lane, Member for Armidale, who had been called away that morning:—Congratulations for Liberty won. Peace assured. With sympathy to all who have suffered through the tragedy of this great war. He explained that that gathering had been arranged at a special meeting of the City Council the previous day. He congratulated the people of Armidale upon the orderly way in which they had conducted their “maffick,” despite their great excitement. He urged them, in spite of their victory, to retain their sympathy for the relatives of those who had made the supreme sacrifice, and to bear in mind also their duty to the men who would be returning. The Mayor read the terms of the armistice, his reading being punctuated with cheers, “If that is not unconditional surrender,” added the Mayor, “I don’t know what is.”

“Thank God,” declared Archdeacon Johnstone, “Prussianism is smashed.” But in the smashing of that Prussianism there had been sacrifices, and it was their duty to look after those men who were returning from the fight. He congratulated the people upon their orderly conduct, and also placed on record the splendid work done by the operators at the local telephone exchange.

Sergt. Campion was loudly cheered. At his request the audience stood in reverent silence in honor of the comrades who fell at Gallipoli. He appealed for support to the Returned Soldiers’ League, and urged both the League and the Rejected Volunteers’ Association to organise, so that they could kick for what was coming to them when the time came.

Cheers were given for the Red Cross when Mrs. Hickson rose to commence her address. She invited all the soldiers to attend a dinner that evening, given by the Red Cross, and also thanked the people of Armidale for the help given the Red Cross during four years of war. “But,” she added, “this work must not yet cease.”

Major Richardson, M.C., as the representative of the military, pleaded for consideration in any faults they might find with individual returned soldiers, and help for them in overcoming them.

Ald. W. Curtis, representing the Chamber of Commerce, was the next speaker, and made a very strong appeal to the people to be mindful of the duties that followed peace.

At this juncture the rain, which had been threatening for some time, arrived, and adjournment was made to the Town Hall. The large crowd were unable, however, to all find accommodation in the hall.

Other speakers were Rev. H. S. Buntine (Presbyterian), Chaplain-Major Orames (Salvation Army), Rev. H. Putland (Baptist), Rev. H. E. Andrews (Methodist), Mr. H. Rafferty (Rejected Volunteers’ Association), Staff-Sergeant-Major Johnson (Recruiting).

Mr. S. J. Kearney and Canon Forster were included in the list of speakers, but were unable to be present.

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November 12, 2018 at 11:11 am

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1918: World’s Greatest War Over.

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The Armidale Chronicle, Wednesday, 13 November 1918


Ever since the premature announcement of peace last Friday, the world has been on the qui vive [on the alert]. It waited expectantly for the message that Germany, the last of the combination that menaced the liberty of the world, had surrendered. It was known that the memorable 72 hours allowed by Marshal Foch for the enemy, to accept or reject the terms of armistice delivered to the German Parliamentaires who visited the lines would expire at 11 o’clock on Monday morning. The difference between Sydney and Greenwich time made 9 o’clock on Monday night the fateful hour in New South Wales. All day on Monday there was an electric atmosphere in Armidale. The talk was of nothing else but peace. News of Germany’s internal troubles grew graver as the cables came to hand. State after State of the German Federation was reported to have joined the revolution. Republics were proclaimed here and there, and generally the indications were that the cast-iron autocracy of the Kaiser was crumbling. With the internal chaos added to the military situation, it was apparent that no course was open to Germany but surrender. It was the news of this that the whole world awaited. That it would come was a certainty; the exact minute was a matter for speculation.

How the News Came to Armidale.

The first intimation of the signing of the armistice was given to Armidale by the “Chronicle” message, which was delivered by arrangement to a representative of this paper a few minutes before 8 o’clock. The Mayor and a number of the principal citizens were present. The reading of the brief cablegram was greeted with uproarious cheering. The telephone was called into requisition, and in no time the news was from one boundary of the city to the other.

A Riot of Joy.

Within a minute or two of the receipt of the message by the “Chronicle,” the City Band appeared in Beardy-street, and the strains of the National Anthem blared forth. Soon pandemonium was set loose. All the streets were thronged with streams of people rushing towards Beardy-street. Men, women, and children helped to swell the crowds. Tottering, grey-bearded pensioners jostled the youthful and middle-aged. Sedate professional and business men threw dignity to the winds. Personal attire was a matter of small consideration. Ladies fled from their boudoirs, showing plainly that the excitement of the moment over-rode the details of the toilet. Hands were clasped in an ecstasy of joy. Castes, sects, politics, and everything that makes for dissension in normal times was swept aside by the irresistible tide of rejoicing. At any other time such deeds would have qualified the population to fill a lunatic asylum. The main street seemed to be filled with a crowd of savages executing a war dance. The half light provided by flares which commenced to burn, showed a weird spectacle. It reminded the onlooker who retained his faculties sufficiently to register any definite sense of observation, of the fantastic stories of novelists who describe savage rites. The strain of over four years of tension had snapped, and the spirits of the people rose with savage exultation by the release of the load that had borne them down. Those who have seen a steel hawser break and fly as its burden is taken off it will understand the behaviour of Armidalians on this historic night. Those who have stood by a powerful, heavily-loaded engine when the belt flew off will be able to imagine a simile while will describe the situation better than words. It was a riot, pure and simple, but a riot of joy, with no destructive impulse. No matter what the differences of opinion and action on any other subject, on this occasion there was unanimity. “Friendship divides grief, but multiplies joy.” Through the dark days of those four years of war we had shared our griefs. Friends have commiserated with other friends when the clergyman has arrived with the ominous tidings that a father, a husband, a brother, a son, or a sweetheart had fallen. Throughout the bad days when the German horde seemed invincible, we had been buoyed with the hope of just this day. The Germans had drunk to “Der Tag.” The day arrived—but not as they expected. Our boys had done their job. They had brought us victory. The fathers, mothers, sisters, and wives, who had given those men had fought the battle at home. Why should they not abandon themselves to rejoicing now that the struggle was over? The banging of tin-cans and the ringing of bells might seem ridiculous, were it not the only means that presented itself for the expression of the feeling within. The din and discord spoke of harmony. It told a story more moving to the spirit and more soothing to the senses than the immortal symphonies of the classic composers. Gratitude, relief, unity, and all the other characteristics that have sustained the Allies as one people during the war were symbolised by it.

Soon after the Brass Band the Pipers struck up their fighting music. The sounds of the two bands were added to each moment by the advent of anything that would make a row. Girls and women appeared with gongs, iron trays, buckets, tubs—anything that would give out a metallic sound. The motor garages were raided for petrol tins by an enterprising gang of boys. They belted the tins until their shape was no evidence of their original purpose. Too tired to hammer them they let them fall to the ground in sheer exhaustion. There was a scrum for their possession reminiscent of the football line-out. Those who could find no other outlet for their ebullition kicked the tins along the roadway. Bells clanged and whistles hooted. Church bells rang, but the noise of these and the whistles was simply an undertone heard at rare intervals as the nearer noises rose and fell. There were shouts and cheers from thousands of throats that wore themselves hoarse as time went on.

Soon the firemen appeared in uniform, marshalled by Captain Webb. The Brigade threw themselves into the celebration with the vim which always characterises them. Torches were brought, but these proved insufficient. Bags were then procured, and laid at intervals along Beardy-street. The firemen brought tins of benzine and fed the flares with a prodigality that would have brought them under the ban of the War Precautions Act at any other time. Who paid for it? That was an aspect of the question that worried nobody, but we have the Captain’s word that this little detail of the celebrations cost the firemen £3 10s. Motor cars coming into the street were rushed. Men and girls filled the seating accommodation, hung on to the running boards, and even sat astride the radiators. Crackers spluttered everywhere, rockets soared, and “bungers” boomed with explosion like artillery. Confetti was thrown in all directions. Wherever a banner or piece of bunting could be procured, the bearer of it headed a procession. Dozens of these contingents paraded the whole city. Sleep there was none, even if anybody had been so disposed. The City Band paraded every street of the city. There was scarcely a lane that was not included in their patrol.

The Mayor’s Address.

At about 10 o’clock a suggestion was made that the Mayor should address a few words to the crowd. The Mayor saw the hopelessness of the task, but the demand was so persistent that he felt compelled to make the attempt. He took up a position on the balcony of Tattersall’s Hotel, from which he looked down upon the biggest audience that it will ever be his lot to address in Armidale. Several times he attempted to speak, but the crowd, unaware of his intention, maintained its uproar. As a last resort he called the Band up on to the balcony. The National Anthem was played, and immediately the noise ceased and everybody came to attention. The Mayor led in cheering for the boys who had brought us victory, and all hope of speaking was lost. “The Marseillaise” and the “Star Spangled Banner” followed by the Band, after which the Mayor snatched the opportunity to address a brief congratulatory speech to the assemblage. The riot of shouting then broke out afresh.

Duration of the Celebrations.

It was considerably past mid-night before there was any abatement in the tumult of joy. People seemed reluctant to leave the streets, and it was only when they almost dropped from sheer exhaustion that they turned their steps homewards, shouting with hoarse voices as they went. Revellers continued to parade the streets until daylight.

At the Telephone Exchange.

The work done at the Armidale Telephone Exchange on Thursday night will stand as a record, both for the amount of business and the expedition with which it was handled. In about an hour after the arrival of the peace cable, no less than 1500 local calls were dealt with. Special arrangements had been made by the Postmaster (Mr. H. E. Williams) and the operators, for the contingency, and within five minutes of the receipt of the message every board was double-staffed, and the heavy business was dealt with without the slightest hitch. Yesterday morning was nearly as busy, 1000 calls being dealt with between 10 and 11 o’clock. Subscribers everywhere appreciate the splendid service given, and we have to thank the operators for their courtesy and promptitude. Thanks to the assistance rendered, we were able to inform, first all the outlying centres, and then the local subscribers, immediately the wire came to hand.

A Good Natured Crowd.

Special police precautions were soon put into effect after the arrival of the news, but although the guardians of law and order were quite vigilant to see that no damage was done by the more ebullient spirits, no extreme measures were required to keep the crowd within bounds. “They’re doing no harm,” was the comment of Superintendent Banks to our reporter, after he had completed a patrol to see that all was in order.

A solitary drunk, who had celebrated not wisely but too well, had to be taken into custody for his own protection. He was brought before the Police Magistrate yesterday morning, but in view of the exceptional circumstances he was rebuked and discharged. This was the only arrest during the whole of the celebrations.

Circus Tricks.

All kinds of antics were indulged in by the crowd to relieve their pent up enthusiasm. But during a night of medley tricks a man who paraded with a concertina and endeavored to do a cake-walk was conspicuous. Needless to say neither the music nor the dance were up to professional standard. But they had their effect in amusing the crowd and satisfying the conscience of the performer that he was “doing his bit.” Another patriot could not be convinced that he was unable to stand on his head, and it took an hour of persevering effort to convince him that his centre of gravity had shifted. Probably he had not allowed for “the load” which he had imbibed.

A group of horsewomen and men who dashed into the crowd on sweating horses showing signs of hard riding attracted considerable interest. It was learned that they had galloped in from Kelly’s Plains as soon as they heard the news. They raced about the street until the police gave them the hint to seek some more open space, on account of the danger to other people by their movements amongst the crowd.

Heard from Afar.

On previous occasions when the celebrations of lesser victories have been limited to bell-ringing and whistle-blowing, the noise has told residents ten miles from Armidale that something untoward was afoot. On Monday night, however, a resident whose property is 15 miles distant, assures us that he could hear the noise quite distinctly.

Meeting Abandoned.

At the time of receipt of the news the committee of the Literary Institute had just assembled for the business of the monthly meeting. It broke up in disorder, and upon reassembling about an hour afterwards the committee was in no mood for business. Instead, the Mayor, who was in the chair, moved a resolution that the committee place on record its thanksgiving for the good news that had come through that night, their appreciation of the good work done by the men who had represented us at the front and helped us on to victory.

Dr. Ritchie seconded the motion, which was carried with enthusiastic cheers. The meeting then adjourned.

Interrupted Examinations.

Mr. T. F. Mills, Hon. Secretary to the Supervisory Committee of the Leaving Certificate and Qualifying Certificate Examinations, received the following telegram from the Director of Education:—In the event of a public holiday being proclaimed for peace, leaving certificate examination must proceed according to time-table. Another urgent wire stated:—On account of holiday, suspend leaving certificate examinations to-morrow (Wednesday) ; put all succeeding duties one day ahead.

The excitement of the night before considerably upset the balance of the students, who were in no frame for answering examination questions. One boy was so disturbed that he found it impossible to proceed with his work, and abandoned the task.

A Happy Coincidence.

Rev. H. S. Buntine had good cause to feel happy on Thursday night. He had received a cable from his son at the front, Lieut. Murray Buntine, to say that he was well. Shortly after he entered the School of Arts the message stating that the armistice had been signed arrived.

The Morning After.

Yesterday morning people were able soberly to contemplate the far-reaching effect of the good news. There was not the boisterousness of the night before, but there was a continuation of the rejoicing in a quiet way. All business places were closed, but not till they had given out almost their entire stock of ribbon. Those fortunate enough to gain possession of this shared it with their friends until soon there was scarcely man, woman, or child who was not displaying favours. Flags waved everywhere. Nobody worked; to suggest the idea even was treasonable. The Band paraded in the morning.

This Is “The Day.”

The following proclamation was issued yesterday morning, under the hand of the Town Clerk (Mr. F. W. Milner), who organised the peace celebrations, under the direction of the Council:—This day (Tuesday) is a public holiday. The Council requests that all branches of the military, patriotic, educational, business, and political life of our city, together with all civil societies and organisations, and the general public, will form in procession, starting from the gasworks, Beardy-street, this glorious day, at 2.30 p.m. Captain Webb will be the marshal in charge. The procession will proceed to the Central Park for a monster patriotic meeting of joy and thanksgiving at 3 p.m. Three minute speeches. This is “the day.”

No more historic document has ever been, or probably ever will be published in Armidale, and no record of the proceedings would be complete without it. Hence our reason for publishing it, even though the celebrations to which it refers are over.

The Religious Aspect.

Throughout the whole of the rejoicings there was a fitting feeling of thankfulness to the Almighty apparent on all sides. All the churches gave their congregations the opportunity of offering thanks to God for the deliverance of the Allies, at special services.

Written by macalba

November 11, 2018 at 11:11 am

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