Archive for August, 2018

Two weeks on a bridge during 1955 Maitland floodVIDEO


HIGH AND ALMOST DRY: Danny Lewis was trapped on the railway overpass in the 1955 flood for the best part of two weeks. The 1955 flood is burned into the ­memory of Daniel Lewis who, as an ambulance man, spent nearly two weeks on a Maitland bridge looking after trapped flood victims. ALAN HARDIE took him back there this week.
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Daniel Lewis took time out this week to visit Maitland’s High Street road bridge that looms large in his memory at this time of year.

That bridge was his “home” for 14 hectic days during the 1955 floods.

It was also “home” to about 200 other people who were trapped there.

As a 20-year-old volunteer for St John’s Ambulance, it was Mr Lewis’ first major mission.

Now 78, he recalled the devastating impact the flood had on this city and on the lives of so many.

At the time, Mr Lewis had been a St John’s volunteer since he joined as an eager cadet, aged nine.

“I was living in Walls End when the big flood came and we were sent to East Maitland,” he recalled.

“Every available volunteer had been called in.

“We didn’t know it then, but we were all about to experience an event that was momentous – both to us and to everyone affected.

“As a youngster too, I remember how excited I was.

“At East Maitland, we were ­picked up by an Army DUKW, an amphibious vehicle commonly called a “duck” that could go just about anywhere.”

A tide of swirling water engulfed their vehicle as it slowly made its way towards its objective.

“I had never seen so much water coming so fast into a town and flooding everything, everywhere,” Mr Lewis said.

“There were dozens of dead ­animals flashing past on the water, together with cars and chunks of houses.

“We didn’t know it then, but we were in the middle of the worst flood in Maitland’s history.”

Crouched in the bobbing “duck,” Mr Lewis then caught sight of his objective: the High Street bridge.

“I was dropped off there by myself – to find 200 people on that bridge who were seeking shelter from the ­rising water,” he said.

“I thought: ‘Well this is my job. I must look after these people’.”

On the bridge, they were all above the water line, but they watched the water level anxiously.

“A number of cars were stranded there too, together with a double decker bus.

“A lot of people were sleeping on the top deck, so I established my first aid post on the bottom deck.

“Water was still swirling around everywhere and we all kept an eye on the levels.

“At times I watched the torrents tearing down. It seemed as if it would go on forever.”

Mr Lewis said he still had vivid memories of some incidents.

“I will never forget how I was assisted by some people on the bridge to retrieve an elderly men who was very sick,” he said.

“We went in the duck to find the man and bring him back to the High Street bridge where we could give him first aid.”

He also recalled seeing a man who had been trying to stay on the bridge, only to be caught by the current and swept away.

“It was looking pretty bad for him, but he was saved by a surf lifeboat crews,” Mr Lewis said.

The hours, then the days flew past, but Mr Lewis was too busy to notice.

“Luckily, we had no serious injuries – but people were constantly being bitten and stung from numerous insects,” he said.

“There were a lot of mosquitoes around and their bites were a major problem.

“Many people were also being cut, both by objects flashing past on the water and by objects underwater.”

To deal with many people cut off in various places, Mr Lewis had several trips in the Army duck.

“The only time I was scared was being in the duck, travelling from the High Street Bridge when we hit a wire fence,” Mr Lewis said. “The vehicle shuddered and we were shaken by the impact.

“I still don’t know if we broke through the fence or rolled over the top of it, but we got through.”

The Mr Lewis was forced to take a three-day “break” – when he was transported back to Wallsend for a typhoid injection, before going straight back to his “bridge home.”

Throughout our time on the bridge, there was me, a single police officer and the 200 people,” he recalled.

“But we never had any trouble. Everybody was in the same situation and we all tried to help each other as much as we could,” he said.

“One of the worst parts for me was the smell of dead and decaying animals. Even today, I can remember those smells.”

A NSW Ambulance officer for 34 years, Mr Lewis

is again with St John’s Ambulance Service where he started as a volunteer so long ago.

With two children and three grandchildren, he was one of the first paramedics who came to Newcastle in 1974 and he established the ambulance Service in Wee Waugh in 1966, where he also helped in major floods.

“There are still a few of us around who remember those big floods in Maitland,” he said.

“As a youngster, it was a big event in my life.

“I don’t think flooding that destructive could happen here again now because we have taken so many measures to deal with these situations.

“But it was a big event in my life and especially at this time, I will be thinking of all the great people I met who dealt with some really tough times.”

n Elizabeth (Nola) Dickson, of Mount Pleasant Street, aged 55 years. Her house was one of about 20 in the street that were washed away and she grabbed a tree and took shelter in it. Another house, washed off its stumps, dislodged her into the current and her body, clothes torn off by the floodwaters, was found later at Dagworth.

n Francis William Dunn, of Telarah Street, Telarah, aged 33 years. He was swept away by floodwaters in South Maitland while helping remove people’s furniture to safety. This was a common activity during floods and many other people were involved in it.

n Vince Lawrence Hughes, aged 56. He was rescued from the floodwaters by a helicopter near Maitland Railway Station but lost his grip on the grappling rope he was holding and fell onto high-tension electrical wires causing a loud explosion and a flash ofblue flame according to an eye-witness report published the the next day. He was electrocuted.

n Aubrey Thomas Smith, aged 35. He was hanging onto Vince Hughes’ legs and fell about 30 metres when the older man lost his grip on the rope. He probably died on impact with the floodwater or was drowned shortly afterwards.

n Archibald M. Maynard, aged 53, was swept away and drowned after being washed off the roof of a building on which he had taken refuge at Aberglasslyn.

n Joseph Michael Gerard O’Brien, aged 42 years. He was one of several men, ­including Vince Hughes and Aubrey Smith, who had taken refuge in a signal box to the west of the railway station while the floodwaters rushed beneath them. When the signal box collapsed he either jumped or was thrown into the water fully clothed. Unable to swim, he drowned and his body was recovered a week later in Fishery Creek.

n Samuel Upton, aged 73, of Plaistowe Street, Horseshoe Bend. He was drowned in deep water inside his house and his body was discovered in the house by his stepson some days later.

n Eric T. Chard, a signaler with the 1st Air Support Signal Unit, was electrocuted near Maitland Railway Station when the tall high-frequency radio antenna on the army DUKW (duck) he was in came into contact with overhead power lines.

n William McGrath, also a signaler with the 1st Air Support Unit, was electrocuted in the same incident as Eric Chard. The wires were designed to have a clearance of 17 feet (more than five metres) above the level reached by the 1949 flood, but the 1955 event peaked 6 feet 3 inches (nearly two metres) higher at the railway station. Poles tilted by the force of the floodwaters brought the wires closer to the water’s surface than they would otherwise have been.

n Bernard Orrock, aged 24 years and a sergeant with the Sydney Water Police,was electrocuted in the same army duck accident.

n Joseph Bernard Murray, aged 64, a retired mineworker and a resident of High Street, Maitland was one of the many who were staying in cars and trucks parked on the High Street bridge over the railway line. He slipped down a bank into floodwaters three days after the peak of the flood and drowned.

For more on the 1955 flood:

GALLERY:1955 Maitland flood

Barbara Leake recalls her family’s night of terror surrounded by flood waters

1955 FLOOD: Workshops, tours, exhibition mark 60th anniversary | VIDEO

Jon Mitchell tells of floating through Maitland clinging to a house roof

Memories of ’55 flood back with boat display

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Novelty challenge shows fun side of farmingPhotos


Novelty challenge shows fun side of farming | Photos Farmer Challenge winners, the YDDP Legendairy team — Bess Lamont (left), Chloe Warden-Flood, Michael Hawker and Phillip Meade — only entered at the last minute. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE
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Bess Lamont and Michael Hawker, from the YDDP Legendairy team, run to stack their haybales in the Farmer Challenge event at the Field Days. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

The YDDP Legendairy team, Michael Hawker, Bess Lamon, Phillip Meade, and Chloe Warden-Flood try to get their coordination in the Farmer Challenge, and stay ahead of the team from Emmanuel College (on the left). Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Sam Monk, owner of Monk and Sons contractors from Cobden, was the winner of the On The Land best site award at the Field Days. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Colourful cows at the Sungold Field Days. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Purnim beef farmer Byron O’Keefe checks out some of the new cattle crushes at the Field Days. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Luke Davison, from Grass Growers of Terang, with one of the fodder beets that they are trialling as an alternative feed for cattle. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Patrons look at the exhibitions at the Sungold Field Days site. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Aerial shot of the Sungold Field Days site in Allansford. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Aerial shot of the Sungold Field Days site in Allansford. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Evan Walker and Luke Walker, from Tyntynder Stockfeeds of Swan Hill, are continuing their eight year presence at the Field Days. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Nathan Whitten, from Whip Industries motorbike show, flies high over the Field Days site. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Travis Whitten and Nathan Whitten, from Whip Industries motorbike show, fly high over the Field Days site. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Nathan Whitten and Travis Whitten, from Whip Industries motorbike show, fly high over the Field Days site. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Nathan Whitten, from Whip Industries motorbike show, flies high over the Field Days site. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Travis Whitten and Nathan Whitten, from Whip Industries motorbike show, fly high over the Field Days site. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

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Nathan Wynn brings winning blueprint to Gymea


Nathan Wynn says he has taken much more than just a premiership medal back to his old home club.Picture: ROBERT PEET
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He’ll be wearing rival colours but Thirroul premiership winner Nathan Wynn will look to utilise the Butchers’ match-winning blueprint when he leads Gymea into the inaugural Challenge Cup in March.

The Gorillas and reigning Sutherland Shire premiers Engadine will take on all six Illawarra teams in the CRL-sanctioned knockout competition that was launched at Panorama House on Thursday.

The tournament will kick off with two double-headers on consecutive weekends on March 21 and 28 with semi-finals to held in May ahead of the final on June 14.

The matches will played over four 20-minute quarters with a $7000 first prize courtesy of major sponsor The Cash Back App. Unlimited interchange will be in place for the pool games with finals matches to revert to the usual 10-4 system.

Wynn made a late-season return from a broken hand in the latter rounds last year and produced a match-winning cameo from the bench in the Butchers’ nail-biting 18-16 grand final victory over Helensburgh.

Brother Mitch and James Spencer were also part of the Butchers line-up that day but all three have returned to their junior club for 2015 under Dragons great Graeme Wynn, father of Nathan and Mitch.

“I’d always wanted to go back and play for my local club,” Wynn said.

“After being in France and then Thirroul, I wanted to give back to the club a little bit”, he said.

“Finally, after months, me and my brother convinced dad to coach. It’s something we’d never done and he finally said ‘yes’, so it’s going to be a bit of fun and we’re excited for the opportunity as well.”

The premiership triumph ensured he left the Butchers on a high but Wynn said he’s taken much more than just a premiership medal back to his home club.

“We learned so much from Thirroul,” Wynn said.

“They’re such a good family-orientated club and we’ve taken that culture into Gymea.

“We’ve been taking charge at training and getting all the young fellas up with the old fellas and doing things [Thirroul’s] way, which is something Gymea have never had. Everyone’s buying into it. We had 44 guys at training this week and last year they were getting 10, so that’s awesome.”

The draw means that the Gorillas can only meet the Butchers in the competition final. They have to navigate their first-up match with Corrimal and the winner of the powerhouse clash between Engadine and Helensburgh to get there but Wynn said he’d have no problem sharing a few old secrets with his current team.

“It’ll be open slather I think – it’s the toughest comp down here and we’ve got so much work to do to get to that level. We obviously want to be competitive, so it’s a great opportunity to rip into training and try to keep up with them.”

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Illawarra Rugby League to trial new funding concept


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The Illawarra Rugby League will trial an innovative sponsorship model when the inaugural Challenge Cup officially kicks off in March that could prove a new way forward for the game at grassroots level.

The Coal League will partner with online company The Cash Back App to host the pre-season competition. The tournament’s major sponsor has put up $7000 as first prize, with $2000 for the runner-up and $500 for teams that reach the semi-finals. But – in a move that could have longer-term positive implications for the regional game – it’s also using the competition as the launching pad for it’s brand in NSW.

“We’ve picked the Illawarra area to be our [NSW] launch market,” chief executive Tim Tighe said. “To partner with rugby league in Illawarra to launch The Cash Back App Illawarra Challenge Cup is very exciting and has some great synergies for us, and also supports the major winter code in this proud sporting region. We know the people of the Illawarra are passionate about their rugby league and particularly their grassroots competition. It’s something we feel very passionate about ourselves.”

As an added incentive for fans to get out and watch the pre-season action TCBA will be giving away $1000 at each match.

“We’re offering $1000 cash back to a lucky person who turns up to each game to incentivise more people to come and watch the game at the ground,” Tighe said.

“We really want to make sure at the end of the day that we get more bums on seats, more people through the turnstiles and more cash back into the Illawarra Rugby League so they can support their players and their clubs.”

All six Illawarra clubs have thrown their support behind the concept that will provide valuable match preparation just weeks out from the start of the Coal League season. New Gymea coach and Dragons great, Graeme Wynn, said it will also be a good yardstick for the two Shire clubs.

“It’s a great opportunity for the teams from the Cronulla area because you like to see where you are and the standard in the Illawarra has always been very very high,” Wynn said.

“[We] really think it’s a fantastic concept.”

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George Rose savours All Star concept


Indigenous All Stars stalwart George Rose would hate to see the annual clash disappear off the calendar. Picture: GETTY IMAGESRUGBY LEAGUE -ALL STARS
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Five-time Indigenous All Star George Rose says the NRL must continue to find room for the annual All Stars clash in the face of doubts about the concept’s long-term future.

The match will return this Friday after being “rested” last year following the World Cup in the UK. The Auckland Nines, which was held for the first time last year in the absence of the All Stars game, is now a marquee pre-season event amid growing concerns about player burnout.

This, combined with sluggish ticket sales for Friday’s game, has led some to question whether the concept is losing its appeal.

Rose is yet to miss an All Stars match since the inaugural game in 2010 and said the game and its lead-up events have lost none of their lustre in indigenous communities.

“I think it’s something that should definitely stay on the agenda,” Rose said.

“I guess with everything that’s happening now, it always is hard to schedule everything in.

“But I know it’s going to be a great spectacle.

“In my home town, Walgett, there’s only about 2500 people and rugby league is well and truly like a religion, and the game is something everyone’s proud of and gets behind.

“I love being a part of it personally and I’d hate it if it wasn’t on. I really missed it last year.”

This year’s Indigenous All Stars, featuring Greg Inglis, Jonathan Thurston, Justin Hodges and Ben Barba, has been dubbed the best indigenous side ever assembled – on paper, at least. But what players do off the field has just as big an affect as the game itself, Rose said.

“It’s a great week with the things that we do away from the footy up there,” he said.

“It’s a great opportunity to get among those superstar players and then go out and represent all our mob, all across the country.”

The indigenous jumper is likely to be the only senior rep jersey Rose ever wears.

For many of the game’s young stars, it’s their first taste of representative football.

At 31, and with perhaps only a few seasons left in the NRL, Rose is relishing the chance to play alongside the game’s biggest superstars – though he stopped short of calling this year’s side the best indigenous side ever.

“We’ll have to win before they can say it’s the best side that’s been picked but it’s a great side,” he said.

“I get really excited to get the chance to play alongside all those blokes and see them on my side, so I don’t have to try and tackle Greg Inglis or worry about Jonathan Thurston stepping me.

“It’s a real honour to play alongside them and I’m pretty excited to be a part of it again.”

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