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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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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.

Written by macalba

November 19, 2020 at 6:27 pm

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1883: The opening of the railway to Armidale (from Newcastle)

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The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser, Friday 2 Feb 1883

[Some interesting details about the construction of the rail link between Uralla and Armidale – albeit with some gratuitous editorial comment to begin with, and the stilted language of 135 years ago. GS.]

Ever since the train reached Uralla, and the New England public whetted their demonstrating appetite with the festivities upon that occasion, the interest in the official opening at Armidale has been increasing. People commenced to mark events as to take place before or after “the opening.” The Uralla opening was looked upon as a mere trifle—a sort of pistol shot giving notice of the boom of a cannon. Very many of the visitors to Uralla took the opportunity of making facetious remarks to the inhabitants of that town, twitting them concerning imperfections in the arrangements, and stating as an indisputable fact, in no modulated tone of voice, that that day would be the greatest Uralla would ever see. With regard to the faulty arrangements at Uralla, there was every reason why they should have been excused. It was not known officially until the day before the opening whether there would be any official opening whatever, and if so, when it would take place. A better excuse than that for any mistakes that might have been made could not be offered. As to whether the festivities at Uralla were in reality its death-knell, is a debatable question, but we have no belief in the extinction of Uralla. Being little more than a village, the impetus given to business, and the influx of population consequent upon the progress of the work upon the railway, was particularly noticeable and acceptable, and the depression necessarily attendant upon the withdrawal of the nomad population as marked and disagreeable. But because there is a stagnation of business and an absence of population, that is no reason why Uralla should die. The circumstances that brought Uralla into existence and fostered its growth have not been taken away; and if railway communication is going to kill Uralla then it must be a bad thing. Experience does not say and in all probability Uralla will advance with did without it.

We have thought it well at this time, when Armidale is filled to overflowing with people, and prospects seem most brilliant, to call attention to the position of Uralla, because there is a lesson to be learnt by so doing. The same influences that gave a stimulus to Uralla have been for some time at work in inflating Armidale, and as now Uralla wondering if it can exist, so will the croakers in Armidale soon be pointing to this town’s collapse. In a very few months Armidale will cease to be a terminus, and hundreds of a floating population will have moved further Northward. Temporary stagnation will ensue just as certainly as it has done at Uralla. Even the pessimists may hesitate to proclaim that Armidale will die, but they will allude despondingly to its future. Provided people are prepared for the inevitable period of depression during which Armidale will have to suffer a recovery, the croakers will do very little harm; but if, at the signs of failing strength, the inhabitants allow themselves to become alarmed for the result, harm will be done in the killing of public spirit and business enterprise, and the recovery will be retarded. It is well, therefore, that we should be prepared for coming events, and it will do us no harm to remember as we stand now upon a hill of prosperity that there is a somewhat steep descent in front before we commence ascending again a more gradual incline, leading, however, to a greater height.

“Carpe diem,” wrote Horace, and since, as far as we can judge, he got a fair amount of enjoyment out of life, we may, if we want to enjoy ourselves, pay some attention to what he says. There would be very little enjoyment in life if we were to speculate each day upon the possibilities of our breaking our necks the next. And Armidale at the present time seems very much of Horace’s opinion, and is seizing the opportunity of enjoying itself regardless of the morrow, which may be presumed to be capable of looking after itself. Everybody has been to much trouble for some time past in making preparations for enjoyment, and life is not so overstocked with fun that we can afford to mar joy in esse with alloy in posse. The first of February, the formal day of our rejoicing, is past, but our festival continues, not to be broken up until, some time during next week, we speed the parting guests and settle down to every-day life once more. Nearly every private house in the town is filled with guests, some of the city, civilised, others of the bush, bushy. The former smile with concealed amazement at the latter, who in turn grin with undisguised amusement at the former. Each regards the other as a peculiar development of humanity, congratulate themselves—for it is mutual— that they have got to see very little of each other, and, being in a good humour, pass on amused, and perhaps improved, In this meeting of fellow men of different bringing up—the throwing of them more intimately together, as it were, by railway communication […] much to be gained by each. Honesty, dullness, and a degree of coarseness are intimately associated with the man of the soil; quickness of intellect, shrewdness—sometimes near akin to knavery—and refinement, are the attributes of the man of cities, and it is to be regretted that, while the country folk soon learn to ape or adopt the vices of those of the city, the latter absorb but little of the blunt honesty of the bush. But by moralising we shall not turn the tide of so-called progress, and hoping that both bush and city have found pleasant diversion in the demonstration of Armidale’s rejoicing on the opening of the railway yesterday, we turn to the matter-of-fact narration of the proceedings.

It must be borne in mind that our demonstration of yesterday was not a celebration of the junction of the table-land with the plains. The contract of Messrs. Amos Bros., that terminated at Uralla, completed that task of engineering skill, and the people of Uralla, with justice, insisted upon being allowed a demonstration in honour of the event. Upon the arrival of the railway at Armidale we have demonstrated in celebration of railway communication with the capital of New England, the cathedral city of the North. The contract of Messrs. Amos Bros, was completed at a distance of 245 miles 42 chains from Newcastle, being a point a few chains this side of Uralla. From this point to Glen Innes the line is being constructed by Mr. David Proudfoot, and is now completed to Armidale. The railway station at Armidale is situated at 259 miles 77 chains from Newcastle, which gives the distance from Uralla to Armidale by rail as nearly as possible 14½ miles. There are no cuttings or embankments of any magnitude on the portion of Mr. Proudfoot’s contract now completed. The point at which the contract commenced is 3360 feet above the level of the sea, and the Armidale station 3312, Uralla being at a slightly greater elevation than Armidale. The 14 or 15 miles traversed are very level, and, although the gradients in places are as steep as 1 in 50, the greater portion of the line is comparatively level. The highest gradient in the whole of Mr. Proudfoot’s contract occurs just beyond the goods-shed at Armidale, on the way to Glen Innes, where it reaches 1 in 40. To return, however, to the extension opened yesterday, it is technically divided into 24 embankment and 24 cutting contracts. Embankment No. 1, commencing near Uralla, at 245 miles 2 chains, contains 33,000 cubic yards, and runs out at 245 miles 56 chains, in which occurs the bridge over the Great Northern Road. Cutting No. 1 contained 7000 cubic yards, largely composed of granite boulders. In cutting No. 5, which runs out at 247 miles 44 chains, the Great Northern Road is again crossed, and at this point the usual 15 feet gates are provided. A series of small cuttings and long, low embankments—the latter principally made up from side cuttings—are next traversed. In embankment No. 12, which runs out three 20-feet timber openings over Lambing Gully, and again in embankment No. 14, which runs out at 253 miles 59 chains, occurs a similar bridge, over Saumarez Creek. In embankment No. 15, at about 254 miles 40 chains, there is another bridge of three 10-feet timber openings over Perrott’s Creek. Cutting No. 17, near Roseneath, is the largest in the extension to Armidale, containing 28,000 cubic yards, and in this cutting there are to be seen the pretty, variegated coloured chalks which created some local interest at the time they were first discovered. At about 257 miles 50 chains the Gostwyck road is crossed, and a series of small cuttings and embankments leads to the cutting opposite the railway camp of 18,000 yards, from the centre of which there is a fall of 1 in 50, decreasing to 1 in 440 to the railway station at Armidale. In the whole 15 miles there are about 190,000 cubic yards of cutting, and 180,000 cubic yards of embankment. The cutting in which the station is situated is in reality the largest, as 30,000 cubic yards were removed from it, but, of course, it is of especial breadth. At all road crossings there are 15 feet gates, and to paddocks 10 feet gates. The culverts are principally 5-feet timber openings. The line runs into the town at the back of the Gaol Hill, at the Southern end, and crosses the Great Northern Road once more just before arriving at the station, which is situated, somewhat inconveniently, at the Western extremity of the town, about a mile from the Post Office or business centre.

The railway station buildings are some way from being finished, the goods-shed and engine-shed being in a mere skeleton condition. The main building will be finished in two or three months time, and is already so far complete that an idea can be formed of the handsome appearance the structure will soon present. At the commencement of the building operations the contractors were seriously delayed in consequence of the scarcity of bricks, and when that difficulty was overcome a further obstacle was found in the absolute impossibility of obtaining seasoned timber. The wet weather prevailing during the past few months has also delayed the work considerably. The contractors made every effort in their power to render the reception yesterday at the station successful. Each end of the platform was barred up, with a view of keeping off the crowd and preventing the recurrence of such a scene as was presented on the platform at Uralla on the arrival of the Ministerial train. The contractors further erected an arch at the entrance to the railway station ground, which was very prettily decorated with flags and evergreens. Along the route traversed by the procession triumphal arches were conspicuous by their absence, and we do not know that there is any need to lament over the fact. We understand the Committee had not the funds at their disposal to justify their indulging in any extravagancies of decoration, and they wisely, at an early stage, abandoned all ideas of triumphal arches. But at nearly all the comers of intersecting streets in the route of the procession were erected tall posts, from the tops of which were stretched lines carrying innumerable flags. This display, assisted by the efforts of certain of the more enterprising, or enthusiastic, of the private citizens, who displayed bunting, gave the town that festive appearance which it was only right it should assume. It was not thought right that the visitors to our city should be allowed to escape a glimpse of Beardy street, and the procession was accordingly taken down Jessie-street, and brought along our main business street as far as the Post Office corner, where it turned up the hill once more and round by the Town Hall to the temporary platform erected opposite the Church of England Cathedral.

There was some disappointment felt at the non-arrival of the Governor, and we believe that much is lost to the popularity of a Governor and the encouragement of loyal sentiments by the absence of regal representation on such occasions as that of yesterday. More good can be done in a short time to the cause of loyalty by a happy speech to a crowd predisposed to enjoyment, such as Sir Hercules Robinson knew so well how to deliver, than volumes the most careful logic can accomplish in fifty years. However, we presume the absence of his Excellency was unavoidable. Nor can it be said that we were liberally treated in the way of Ministers, but on that head we can well afford to be forgiving. In the first place, we have not the present Government to thank for our railway, and in the second place, the new Ministers have already earned the title of a Ministry of work, and they may well have hesitated before travelling over 300 miles for a holiday. A fair sprinkling of members of Parliament came up, and very many gentlemen of position from all parts of the country. The town was full last Saturday, but all through the present week visitors have been pouring in. Great difficulty was naturally found in procuring accommodation, and very high prices were demanded and gladly paid merely for a blanket and room to lie down. Up till Wednesday night, however, room was found somewhere for everybody. Hundreds of telegrams were received on Tuesday and Wednesday by private people in the town from friends asking them to procure accommodation for them in the hotels, and in every case a reply had to be sent saying that all hotel accommodation had been secured by Saturday night.

The rain that fell on Wednesday was most unwelcome. There has been abundance of rain of late, and around the railway station there is so much of that yellow clay that puddles into a cloggy bog, that it was feared that the station would have been almost unapproachable yesterday. Fortunately the rain cleared off before midnight, and Thursday morning breaking fine and bright, many anxious fears were dispelled. The town yesterday …ance from an early hour. Hundreds of people congregated in the streets, and old friends and acquaintances were continually dropping across each other, and exchanging mutual congratulations upon the kindness of the clerk of the weather. About noon the crowd commenced to move towards the railway station, and by one o’clock between 3000 and 4000 people were present. The platform at the station was kept exclusively for the use of the Committee, and although some people were very indignant at not being allowed to come on to the platform, it was necessary to be very strict and no exceptions could be made. Over 20 constables under Superintendent Orridge maintained excellent order. The bulk of the people were assembled upon the bank opposite the platform, and for some distance along the line on each ride of the station. Some telegrams received from along the line made those waiting aware that the train would not be far behind time, and at five minutes to two the engine smoke was visible on the top of the cutting. As is usually the case the carriage in which the Ministers were travelling was not brought to a standstill at the place where the Mayor and Aldermen were waiting. It was not very far distant, however, and after a few hasty rushes in the wrong direction, a juncture of the two parties was effected, and general handshaking was the order of the day. The Mayor addressed a few words of Welcome to the Ministers, Mr. Copeland and Mr. Farnell, and requested Mr. Copeland as Minister for Works to formally declared the line open.

Mr. Copeland said he had much pleasure in acceding to the Mayor’s request, and he hoped the line would bring all the benefits the inhabitants expected. He congratulated the district upon the completion of communication with a seaport so near as Newcastle. He declared the line formally open. The ensign was hoisted at the flagstaff, and the band struck up “God Save the Queen.” Three cheers were then given, and some shots were fired from a small piece of ordnance upon the opposite side of the fine. The Ministers and members of Parliament who came up were then taken through to the carriages waiting, and thanks to the exertions of Mr. Matters, the marshal, the procession was soon got into order. Five mounted constables headed the procession, followed by the Lambton Band playing a spirited march. Next came the Mayor’s carriage containing the Ministers, Messrs. Copeland and Farnell, and following that a long string of carriages amongst which were prominent three four-in-hand teams, all drawn by beautiful horses, which behaved with the decorum appurtenant to well-trained thoroughbreds. Following the buggies were the Friendly Societies succeeded by a few horsemen, and a good few on foot. The procession was fully half a mile long and was very successfully conducted. The route taken we have already mentioned, and the platform opposite the Cathedral was reached shortly after 2.30. About 50 ladies had assembled on the platform, and the Societies excellent guard around the structure. Mr. Copeland and Mr. Farnell with other distinguished visitors were conducted on to the platform by the Mayor, who then called upon the Council Clerk to read the address from the Council as follows:—

To the Honorable Henry Copeland, Esq., M.L.A., the Minister for Works.

We, the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Armidale, desire to express our welcome to you and your colleagues in office on the occasion of this official visit formally to open the Railway Extension from Uralla to Armidale. We feel confident that the opening of the railway to this important point will materially increase the prosperity of the whole of the Northern part of the colony. And we have no doubt that you will agree with us in saying that there is no surer road to the success of every interest than that of Railway Extension. We thank you and the other members of the Legislature for your kindness in, no doubt at some personal sacrifice, thus coming to rejoice with us on the arrival of quite a new era in the history of Armidale. We beg to subscribe ourselves your obedient servants, John Moore, Mayor, A. W. Simpson, Edmund Lonsdale, James Tysoe, John Harper, John Bliss, G. Holmes, William Drew, John Trim, Aldermen.

Mr. Copeland, in reply, said it afforded him the greatest satisfaction to convey to them his appreciation of the honour of his position, and he could scarcely find words to express his thanks for himself, his colleague, and the friends who accompanied him to this city of Armidale, one of the most beautiful in Australia, for the reception accorded them. This was a red letter day for Armidale, and no doubt it would mark an epoch in the history of New England. He congratulated the district and those present that they were now connected with the second best port in the colony by a journey of some 13 or 14 hours. He felt particularly the honour of occupying his present position, because some years ago he had taken an active part in bringing the railway to Armidale, instead of its going some miles to the West. (Hear, hear.) He was glad that it had been one of his first duties as Minister for Works to open the railway to Armidale. He trusted the opening of the railway would bring the amount of prosperity to the city that its best friends could possible imagine, and be hoped that before long they would be connected also with the city of Sydney. (Applause, and three cheers for Armidale.)

Mr. Joseph Scholes, Jun., then read the following address, which was most beautifully engrossed and illuminated, from the Oddfellows:—

The Hon. Henry Copeland, Minister for Works. Sir—We, the Oddfellows of this District, unite in according you a hearty welcome on your present visit for the purpose of opening an important Extension of Railway to this the City of the North.

We desire to express our loyalty to her Majesty the Queen, and confidence in the Government which you have the honour to represent.

The which we are now met, is to us a cause of great rejoicing as it will be the means of connecting this district with other important parts of the colony, and providing an outlet for the many products for which this district is justly celebrated, and places within easy reach, of the inhabitants of the plains a cool summer retreat in this salubrious climate.

We take this occasion to express our congratulations upon the prosperity of the colony, which we hope may continue, and afford means for extending railways in all directions, and thus develop the vast natural resources of the country and open it up for the settlement of a large population.

We are, hon. Sir, your obedient servants—signed on behalf of the Oddfellows of this district,—Joseph Scholes, Jun., Provincial Grand Master.

Mr. Copeland briefly responded. He said he had not the good fortune to be an Oddfellow himself, but many of his best friends were. He hoped the railway would bring prosperity to the Oddfellows and all other fellows.

The Mayor then called for three cheers for the Queen, which were heartily given and succeeded by other rounds of cheering for Mr. Copeland, Mr. Farnell, the other members of Parliament present, and the Mayor and Aldermen.

The Ministers were then escorted to the St. Kilda Hotel by the Mayor and the Police Magistrate, returning in about half an hour to the banquet room.

The banquet was held in the new Town Hall, the walls of which have now been built to their full height. The Committee made an arrangement with the contractor for this building some time back to lay down a pine floor and erect a temporary roof, to be covered with tarpaulins. At the time this contract was entered into it was thought that the opening would take place about the end of December, when the walls would not have been built to any great height. It was after wards found that the line could not be opened as soon as anticipated, but the contractor had then made all arrangements for roofing in, and the fault to be found in the result, if any, was that the roof was too low. By opening the tarpaulins at places in the sides, however, plenty of ventilation was afforded, and there was very little to complain of. The Hall is, for a country town, a very large one, measuring 75 feet by 45, and was very tastefully decorated. The posts which supported the roof were covered with coloured calico, and from the roof hung flags and evergreens in profusion. Chinese lanterns and lamps were hanging from above and fixed to the supports in all directions, but these were not required, it is needless to say, at the banquet. Upon the stage, which is situated at the North end, was the Lambton Band, and immediately below, raised about a foot from the floor, was the cross table, extending across the whole breadth of the Hall, in the centre of which, in the chair, sat the Mayor with the Hon. Henry Copeland, Hon. J. Richardson, Archdeacon Ross, Mr. Buchanan, Mr. John Williams, and Mr. Proctor, M.L.A., on his right, and the Hon. […] Farnell, Rev. Dean Mr.H. C. Dangar, Mr. Fosberry, and Mr. A. A. Dangar on his left. Running down the length of the Hall were ten other tables.

The banquet was served cold in the excellent style for which the City Catering Company have acquired a reputation, and there was abundance of food and wine all of the best description. About 300 gentlemen sat down to the banquet, and as the Hall was arranged to seat 375, there was plenty of room. After doing full justice to the viands, the Chairman proposed the Queen, which was received in the usual loyal manner, the band playing the National Anthem. The toast of the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Royal Family was also welcomed with the usual enthusiasm, the band playing “God bless the Prince of Wales.”

Mr. Jas. Mackenzie then proposed the health of the Governor in a short speech, and this, too, was received with enthusiasm, and hearty cheers were given at the conclusion of the few bars given by band of “The fine old English gentleman.”

The Chairman then proposed the present Ministry. It was his impression that the Ministry would legislate with a view to benefiting the colony generally. He knew Mr. Farnell very well, as one of the Ministers, and he had confidence in Mr. Copeland. He had much pleasure in proposing the toast of the Ministry.

The toast haying been duly honoured, Mr. Copeland, who was received with prolonged cheering, said that although he was a junior representative of the Government to Mr. Farnell, who had been Premier and Minister for Lands in different Ministries for periods of 2 and 3 years, and therefore it might seem a sort of presumption for him to reply to this toast in stead of Mr. Farnell, yet in virtue of the office he how held as Minister for Works, it was his duty to respond on that occasion to that toast (applause), and he thanked them for the hearty manner in which it had been received. He would ask them to refer back for five or six years, and remember the occasion when he first appeared as a budding politician standing for the Northern Gold Fields, and this constituency of New England was the first he had the honour to represent. (Applause.) He would like to refer to his career during the last four or five years. Presumably they read the papers —not only the local papers, but the Sydney papers—and he would ask them had he during his political career, done any thing to disgrace them? (Cries of “No, no.”) He owed his political existence to New England, and he was—politically speaking—the child of New England (applause), until the last few weeks. It was he thought, to his credit, and it was some satisfaction to a man to say that no man in New England could say he had done other than his duty to the constituency and the country. (Applause.) He might have done some things which did not appear pleasing to the idiosyncrasies of all, but, on all occasions, he had considered the interests of the country and of New South Wales, But the object of the present meeting was the celebration of the opening of the railway to Armidale. which he had made for reference, in the train. But he would remind them that about seven years ago some money was voted with no more definite object than to make a railway to New England. About that time the Government, of which Mr. Farnell was a member, came into power, and Mr. Sutherland, the then Minister for Works, advised that the train should come to Armidale. The opposing interest of Inverell then came in, which they had to fight with, and he was not going to deny that Inverell was a most prolific district. But he joined Mr. Terry and fought for the Armidale people, not because he thought Inverell was not a fruitful district—for he knew the wealth of the Inverell district—but still it was not such a settled district as Armidale, and probably would never have been so much settled as it was had it not been for Armidale, and it was to a certain extent dependent upon Armidale. It was Mr. Farnell’s Government that successfully carried the railway to Armidale. But there was another battle that had to be fought. The Government of that day only secured the railway going along the surveyed route which went some miles to the West of Armidale. There was then another battle to be fought, and he, years ago, when up in this district advised the people not to rest content with the line passing some miles to the West of them, and pointed out the numerous disadvantages that would be entailed by such a course. Action was consequently taken, and Mr. Terry and he did their best and got the resolution amended, so as to bring the line to Armidale instead of going to the West of the city. (Applause.) In advocating the line he pointed out the amount of money that had been spent here, and showed that if the railway were not brought here much would be done to destroy Armidale. Where the railway was, there would be business and population, and increase in the value of land. (Applause.) In the days when he supported this railway he could not, of course, have foreseen the day when he should come here as the representative of an able, and, he believed, a strong Government, in an official capacity, and declare the line open for passenger and goods traffic, as he had done that day, but he was proud that such should have been the result. He was glad that he had retained their confidence, and appeared before them that day as Minister for Works. (Applause.) He did not think that any of those present that day fully realised the benefit that railway communication was about to confer upon them. As an illustration of the benefits—to bring it home to them— he was reminded by the Mayor that everything, the glass, Hie crockery, the eatables, and drinkables, which they saw before them, was all brought from Sydney, and that they were actually eating to-day what was cooked yesterday in Sydney. (Applause.) This district was now connected with Newcastle, and there was no longer any necessity for them to send all their produce to Sydney, since they could ship from Newcastle direct to England, and thus save much expense in carriage. And now the Sydney market would lie open to their fruit, their flour, and wheat, and this might fairly be considered as a red letter day for Armidale, and as the brightest day New England had yet seen. (Applause.) Ho could tell them that the Government of to-day would not be behindhand in carrying out the public works of the country, and would extend light railways into the interior as soon as possible. He was in favour of making light railways to such places as Willcannia and Cobar even once a week, and take to the people stores and bring back their produce, even if the line should be worked for a time at a loss. He might state that the railway returns for the year were about £350,000 in excess of the returns for the previous year. Every line in 1882 produced a larger revenue than in 1881. Even where extensions had been made to unsettled country—to mere gum trees—they were paying. (Applause.) He thanked them for the hearty reception given to the toast. (Cries of “What about the tramways?”) The tramways had nothing to do with Armidale, so far as he knew. (Laughter.) He intended to work for the interests of the whole country, and thought he would have the support of the people generally throughout the country. (Applause.)

There were cries for Mr. Farnell, who rose reluctantly after some clamour and said he thought Mr. Copeland had done ample justice to the toast. He rejoiced at the assemblage in the Hall of the largest number of people he had met at a meeting out of Sydney. He had always advocated the railway to Armidale before he represented this constituency, and had done so for the good of the colony. Sir Henry Parkes and some of his Government were the greatest manipulators of men ever born. The country had lately been appealed to and returned the present Ministry to office, saying that they would have a new Land Law, and as Minister for Lands he would do his best for the interests of the country. The speaker proceeded to denounce the former Government saying that their four years in office had been four years of Corruption, at which there was considerable uproar, and the speaker proceeded to propose the toast of the Pastoral, Agricultural, Mining, Mercantile, and Manufacturing interests of New England, which he did in a few appropriate words.

Mr. H. G. Dangar, in replying on behalf of the pastoral interests, said that he saw so many gentlemen around him intimately connected with the pastoral interests that he wondered why he should have been called upon to respond to that portion of the toast, but be supposed that in consequence of his father having been the discoverer of the district and his family having been identified with it so many years, the Committee had called upon him. (Applause.) If such were the case, he thanked the Committee for their courtesy, and for their remembrance of these facts. He was a squatter only in theory, but he would, at any rate, illustrate one of the virtues of dummyism by not saying more than was necessary on this occasion. (Laughter and applause.) But he thought he ought to allude to the discovery of New England, and in doing so would couple it with a name that had perhaps faded from their memories, but which should be chronicled on this occasion—that of “Gostwyck”—a man who was one of those who worked for the good of others, but he could not help thinking how much they were indebted to that man. Had it not been for him indeed he (Mr. Dangar) would not have the privilege of speaking to them that day. No man should regret that the flocks should recede before the wants of the people, and he, for one, did at not all regret it. (Applause.) He wished to express his intense satisfaction at the arrival of the iron horse. (Applause.) His thanks were due to them for the manner in which the toast had been received. The present subjected to a great amount of vituperation. For all that the pastoral interest had been the back bone and spinal marrow of the country—(applause)—and it would be a sorry day when they killed the goose that laid the golden eggs. (Renewed applause.) The present Government had undertaken such a task as they never dreamt of in adjusting the land law, and he did not envy them a task presenting difficulties enough to wreck half a dozen Governments; still he hoped they would make an honest effort, and he wished them God speed. He would like to go on, but the tune was limited, and perhaps he had better stop and not drift into what he wished to avoid—a political speech. (Applause.) He thanked them, especially for the manner in which they had received the toast of the pastoral interests and those joined with it. (Loud applause.)

Mr. George Faint responded for the Agricultural interests. He said he had been trying to make agriculture a success, and so far had succeeded (applause), as he had competed in many plaices and come out at the top of the poll. (Renewed applause.) He did not think the present Land Law was a liberal one for the poor man. (Applause.)

Mr. Cleghorn, in responding for the Mining interests, said that all would admit that Australia stood foremost in the world for mineral wealth, and New England prominent in New South Wales. Even up to the present time they had exported such minerals from N. S. Wales as would pay for the carriage, and now that they had railway communication they would be able to develop the large mineral resources of New South Wales.

At this stage of the proceedings much noise was caused by the removal of the seats and tables that had been vacated, and much that the rest of the speakers said was inaudible.

The Hon. John Richardson returned thanks on behalf of the Mercantile interests. He alluded to the benefits of settlement in New England. He was glad to see so many present, but would have liked to see his old friend Sir John Robertson amongst the number (applause), although he was not a member of the present Ministry.

Mr. Henry Roman proposed the toast of the Parliament of New South Wales, saying that although there might be weak spots in the Ministry, the Government was as a whole worthy of support. He had great pleasure in proposing the toast.

Mr. Goold, M.L.A., claimed their indulgence in responding to the toast, basing his claims as a junior member of the Legislature, He was glad to hear the terms of praise in which the proposer had alluded to the Government, as he was convinced the Government intended to do their duty. He was also glad to hear from Mr. Farnell that the Government intended to do everything which, in the opinion of the Government, would be for the benefit of the colony, and make it progress as it should do. He rejoiced as a Northern member at the completion of the railway here, and was glad that the Northern districts were so well represented in the Ministry. He hoped soon to see the railway completed from Newcastle to Sydney. (Applause.)

[Rest of scanned newsprint mostly unreadable].

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August 7, 2018 at 6:17 pm

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The Dynamite Tragedy at Uralla.

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The Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser, Friday 11 Sep 1896

The Dynamite Tragedy at Uralla.

On Tuesday forenoon Coroner Roman held an inquest as to the cause of death of Raymond Duncombe, the victim of the sickening dynamite explosion. The jury having viewed the body, the following evidence was taken.

Constable Clark stated: On Sunday afternoon, 6th inst., between 2 and half past 2, from information, I went to John McGinty’s house, Armidale-street, and there saw Raymond Duncombe lying on a bed suffering from wounds, which I believe to have been caused by some explosive; then examined the lad, and found a large T-shaped wound in the abdomen; the stomach and portions of the intestines were protruding; the left hand was blown off at the wrist, and the forefinger of the right hand shattered below the knuckle; he was bleeding very much ; he had some slight abrasions on the face; Dr. Williams arrived, and took deceased in charge as medical attendant; then Dr. Pring came and assisted Dr. Williams ; I produce a complete dynamite detonator, which was found where I was told the accident occurred; this morning I identified the body of Raymond Duncombe, the subject of this inquest; I now produce a piece of jagged metal like copper, handed me by one of the doctors, which was taken from deceased’s body.

Clarence Faint stated: I am eight years old; live with my mother and father; know a place called Lynch’s, near my father’s place; our yard is divided by one fence from it; I remember last Sunday afternoon; left my home about not a minute after dinner, and went into a closet in Lynch’s yard; my brother Garnet was with me; when I got there I found a tin with some brass things in it—like a blacking-tin—up in the brick wall; some of the bricks were out, and the tin was in one of the holes; the things I found in the tin were similar to the caps produced, only not bent; eight were in the tin; then I gave one to our baby, who was with us ; then left the closet and went into the bushes near the Church of England schoolhouse; Garnet, my brother, went with me; saw Ray Duncome there, and he said, “Give them to me,” and I said,” ” I won’t unless you give me something for them; he said, “I won’t give you anything for them,” and he took them from me; my brother had a pocketknife, and Ray took it from him, and he held six cartridges in his hand and a seventh in his finger and thumb ; this last one he was picking with a pocketknife, and it went off like a gun; then I could not see, but felt pains on my face, like stones hitting me in the face; for a time I was blind; then I went home; have seen the dead body of Ray Duncombe down at Mr. Duncombe’s.

William Faint also gave similar evidence.

Dr. M. P. Williams stated: Am a duly qualified medical practitioner at Uralla; I was called on Sunday afternoon last, about half past two, to the residence of Mr. J. McGinty, Armidale-street, Uralla; I saw Ray Duncombe lying on a bed; his left hand was off at the wrist, and his right forefinger was shattered to the second joint; he had a large T-shaped lacerated wound (external) in the abdomen; through this wound portion of the stomach and intestines protruded; shortly after Dr. Pring arrived; we replaced the stomach and intestines after cleaning them; we then sewed up the wound; had a consultation and decided that the boy was too much collapsed owing to injuries to further operate on the hands; we decided to operate on the hands at 10 a.m. next day, providing the condition of the lad could bear it; in the meantime Dr. Wigan was sent for by me to assist in the operation; on the following morning Drs. Wigan, Pring, and myself removed the forearm bone up to about 3in. above the wrist, and the remainder of the forefinger of the right hand; the three of us visited the patient again about two in the afternoon, and Dr. Pring and myself showed Dr. Wigan the wound in the abdomen and then re-dressed it; on going up again at 7 p.m. Dr. Pring informed me that the child had died; have seen the body of Ray Duncombe as he now lies; the piece of jagged copper metal now produced was found in the wound of the abdomen, and handed by me to Constable Clark ; when we returned the stomach and intestines to the abdomen, there was a quantity of blood internally ; I attributed death to collapse, shock, and loss of blood occasioned by injuries which he had received.

James Stuart Duncombe stated: Am a butcher residing in Uralla; have seen the dead body the subject of this inquest, and identify it as that of my son Raymond ; his age was 10½ years; his death occurred at about 6 o’clock yesterday evening; I was present when he died; he left no property.

Senior-constable Harris stated: This morning I forwarded a telegram to the Hillgrove police, requesting them to see a man named Robert Burns, who had formerly occupied the house referred to as Lynch’s house, and to ascertain from him whether he or his father-in-law (whose name is Fry) had ever left any dynamite detonators in or about a closet belonging to the premises; to this I received a wire in reply, and which reads—”Re your wire Robert Burns states that about 8 months ago his father-in-law put some dynamite caps in a tin box on the brickwork of the closet referred to; may have been forgotten.”

This being the evidence, the jury returned this verdict:—”We find that Ray mond Duncombe met his death from injuries received by dynamite caps accidentally exploded by himself. We also wish to say if there is no restriction placed upon them by law, we desire to protest against their being left about in a careless manner,”


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April 30, 2018 at 2:17 pm

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Fell in front of locomotive

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The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Friday 24 August 1906


SYDNEY, Thursday. James McHugh, an hotelkeeper at Uralla, was killed at the Armidale railway station to-day. He missed the mail train, and went to sleep by the fire in one of the station rooms. At 2 o’clock this morning an official woke him up in order that he might go on with a special train. McHugh ran on to the platform and fell on to the rails. He was knocked down by the engine and killed.

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September 13, 2011 at 8:09 am

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Alleged Rich Gold Reef in the Uralla District

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Tuesday 23 July 1889, Clarence and Richmond Examiner and New England Advertiser (Grafton)

GREAT excitement was occasioned in Uralla on Friday last in consequence of a report that an auriferous quartz reef, the stone from which was studded with gold, had been discovered in the Mihi Creek falls country, at a place known as Postman’s Point, about 30 miles from Uralla in an easterly direction. The alleged discovery turned out to be correct, the fortunate discoverers being two residents of Uralla, Messrs. G. McCrossin and Robson, who have been prospecting in the locality for some weeks past. The reef crops out from the surface for some distance, and small pieces of the stone, which is of a slaty character similar to that of Baker’s Creek and other Hillgrove reefs, have been tested; and the yield of gold is considered very good. When the news spread quite a rush set in to the locality (a portion of the eastern falls, the waters of which go to the Macleay River), and scores of residents of Uralla and the surrounding district, many of whom have pegged out near the prospectors’ claim, visited the spot as soon as the find was made known. The place where the reef is situated is on the borders of Cunderang and Enmore runs, in exceedingly rocky and broken country, the exact counterpart of that at Kookrabookra and Hillgrove ; and many of those who have visited the place are sanguine that, as the locality becomes thoroughly prospected, it will no doubt develop into a rich quartz-reefing centre. It certainly has a likely look at present, and it is to be hoped that the new find will turn out another Bonanza. The nearest route to Postman’s Point is by way of Uralla, Gostwyck, and Enmore, the track being good to the latter place ; from this to the new rush (about 12 miles) the road is rough and broken. The locality is a regular wilderness, and those going there must take rations and tents. It is situated in the Uralla mining district, and in consequence of the discovery the Mining Registrar (Mr. Garland) has during the past few days been literally besieged by applicants for miners’ rights and leases. A good many people are already camped at the place, the country being dotted in all directions with tents. Here it may be said that the locality has for years past been regarded as auriferous, alluvial gold having been worked at Boro Creek and other places in the falls country. It is stated that the reef discovered by Messrs. McCrossin and Robson has been traced for a considerable distance down the falls, and the prospectors and others believe they have a good thing in hand. The find was made by pure accident, whilst the prospectors were resting after a search among the rocky spurs.

The following applications for leases have been posted up at the Court House :- A. A. Dangar, 10 acres, county Sandon, parish Meregalah, on left bank of Postman’s Creek; J. D. McLennan and party, 15 acres; Rainey Mackay and party, 15 acres ; J. T. McCrossin and party, 15 acres; C. McL. Marsh and party, 15 acres ; J. Burraston and party, 15 acres ; John Rogerson and party, 10 acres ; G. H. Robson and party, 15 acres ; George McCrossin and party, 20 acres; T. Doyle and party, 15 acres.; J. Miller and party, 15 acres; Wm. Thorley and party, 15 acres; K. Finlayson and party, 15 acres (these applications adjoin). From this it can be seen that intending claim holders have taken time by the forelock, and are determined to be in the. swim. It has been somewhat difficult to get at the facts through the conflicting reports in circulation, but the above may be accepted as the main truths associated with the discovery. Whether it will merge into a New Eldorado, time alone will show ; but both Adelaide and Melbourne speculators who are now in quest of palatable things in the quartz-reefing line, and whose appetites have been tickled by the developments at Kookrabookra and Baker’s Creek, are said to be very anxious to take part in the boom at Postman’s Point; indeed, it is reported that a good round sum has already been offered for a block intersecting the supposed golden stone. It is intended by the prospectors to thoroughly test their ground at once.

-Walcha Times.

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April 18, 2011 at 8:39 pm

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Uralla. A New England Wool Town

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Saturday 8 December 1928, The Brisbane Courier

By Our Special Representative.

Uralla, situated at an altitude of 3337ft. above sea level, derives its wealth mostly from wool, although the granite and volcanic soils are favourable for the growing of English fruits. Uralla is about 400 miles from Brisbane on the direct route between the Queensland capital and Sydney.

THE first business premises of this New England wool town were established In the early ‘fifties, and since then the township has grown to considerable dimensions. The present population is about 400, and the community is municipally governed. Very keen interest is manifested in Brisbane and its markets, the main line from Sydney to Brisbane carrying much produce, other than wool, to the Northern market. One illustration of the gaze northwards is a big sign at the entrance to the town setting out that the “Brisbane Courier” may be purchased at the local newsagent’s.


Uralla and its contiguous district were discovered by Oxley in 1818, when he was journeying across the southern portion of the New England Tableland towards the coast. The great explorer wrote of the country as beautiful park lands, and to-day the same apt description holds good, for the open forest has been preserved to a great extent in its natural timbered state, wholesale timber destruction not being adopted. The early explorations and discoveries led to an influx of colonists, and notable developments took place in the early ‘thirties. Squatters came forward during these years from the Hunter, including H. C. Collins, who took up the Walcha run, Edward Gostwyck Cory, who took up Gostwyck. Terrible Vale was taken up later. It is rather difficult to follow the actual trend of settlement, or how each squatter worked out his destiny in the shuffle and reshuffle of boundaries. William Dangar took up a run in the same area, and the executors of his descendants’ estate still administer the affairs of Gostwyck. Probably Cory altered his boundaries or sold to Dangar. At all events both family names are now part and parcel of the Uralla district, landmarks and localities bearing their names. Other settlers followed-men of all ranks and professions trying their luck. There came a time of pastoral depression, both land and stock becoming almost valueless. Permanent improvements took the place of haphazardness when the 1847 leasehold system of tenure was enacted, and real settlement commenced. The sour nature of some of the country has been overcome, and the improvement in the breeding of sheep has helped considerably to minimise the severity of the winters. The advance of white settlement gradually caused the depredation by natives and the raiding by bushrangers to cease, and steady development took place up to the present. The call for closer settlement has been so insistent that the big holdings have become shrunken in comparison to their former proportions, but the move has been good, and the small men have made great strides.


The Uralla district also has played its part in the production of gold. The Rocky River field was discovered about the ’50’s, and 538 licenses for mining were issued in 1853. When the search was at fever heat about 5000 persons were on the field. In the first 16 years 118,824oz. of gold were won, of the value of £467,293. These figures were taken from the official escort returns, and do not include parcels taken away by individuals. Up to the present the gold won from the Rocky River field amounts to nearly three quarters of a million sterling. Another field, known as the Melrose, was opened in 1889, samples of ore returning lloz. to the ton. It is claimed that payable gold exists in this area, but requires modern methods to properly work it.


In a country with a climate such as is enjoyed at Uralla the possibilities of agriculture in many branches are evident, and the granite and volcanic soils favour the cultivation of English fruits. It would not be correct to say that the district is free from pests, but they are under organised control, and are a minor trouble compared with some other fruit areas. In addition to fairly extensive fruit production by private enterprise, there is a group of ex-soldier settlers at Kentucky, some 10 miles from Uralla. Passing through their settlement one notes that success has been attained. The homes are comfortable, the orchards well kept, and an air of content is general. Brisbane is a market for much of the Kentucky fruit, which is always in great demand on account of its clean and healthy state.

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March 26, 2011 at 8:00 pm

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Prospector’s claim

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Monday 28 January 1935, The Sydney Morning Herald

URALLA, Sunday.

Mr. Jack Thompson, a prospector, who formerly worked on the Melrose field (a “rush” that took place nearly 50 years ago) asserts that he has again found the reef, and that it averages 15dwt of gold to the ton. The reef is in the gorge country, 900ft down. He has applied to the Mines Department for assistance in installing a treatment plant.

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March 25, 2011 at 8:04 pm

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A Wright Wedding

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Wednesday 26 October 1960, The Australian Women’s Weekly

SIR BERNARD CROFT, Bt., and Lady Croft will entertain at their home, “Salisbury Court,” Uralla, after the wedding of their daughter Margaret to David Wright, of “Wallamumbie,” Armidale, at St. John’s Church, Uralla, on December 3. They’re hoping for good weather so that the reception can be held in the garden. Margaret will be attended by her sister-in-law, Mrs. Owen Croft, Frances White of “Bald Blair”, Guyra, Mary Thompson, of Neutral Bay, and youthful maids, her sister, Camilla Croft, and six year-old Anne Weaver, of “Prospect,” Spring Ridge.

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March 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm

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Governor visits Walcha and Uralla

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Tuesday 3 May 1938, The Sydney Morning Herald


First Visit to Walcha.


WALCHA, Monday

The Governor, Lord Wakehurst, accompanied by the Minister tor Education, Mr. Drummond, and Captain Harding, aide-de-camp, visited Walcha this morning. The day was beautifully fine and warm.

The Vice-regal party was met on the outskirts of the town by a troop of Light Horse under Lieutenant E. Lisle, and escorted into Walcha, where morning tea was served.

A welcome was extended by the Mayor Alderman T. C. Bath, and the shire president. Councillor R. C. Noakes. Both speakers expressed the pleasure that the people felt at the visit of Lord Wakehurst, who is the first Governor to visit Walcha.

Lord Wakehurst, who was received with cheers, expressed the delight it gave him to visit this part of the State. He thanked the mayor and shire president, for their kind words of welcome and professions of loyalty to the King. He apologised for the absence of Lady Wakehurst, who, he said, had had 10 strenuous days in connection with 150th Anniversary celebrations. He pictured the difficulties of the pioneers in crossing the mountains and the wonderful achievements since accomplished. He spoke of the advantages of freedom and the unity of the people of the British Empire now woven into a fabric which he believed to be indestructible. (Cheers).

Mr. Drummond, who moved a vote of thanks, said that Walcha was noted for its loyalty, but the present gathering gave further proof of its intense loyalty to the Governor.

The party visited the hospital and inspected returned soldiers under Sergeant Harrison, nurses, Junior Red Cross, school children under Mr. Foley, and Scouts under Mr. Cecil Macdonald. The Scouts gave a display of first-aid and ambulance work. A picnic arranged by the Shire Council took place at Apsley Falls. The Governor granted the school children a holiday and sports were held in the park.


URALLA, Monday.

Lord Wakehurst made his first, official visit to Uralla to-day. He was given a reception at Hampden Park beside the Memorial Gates by a large number of citizens, including 530 children representing the various schools. The Governor was welcomed by the Mayor, Alderman Ferris, and the shire president, Councillor Shanahan.

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December 15, 2010 at 8:03 pm

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