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History > Oral History > Joyce Wrigley remembers the Gilgandra flood of 1955.

8136: History > Oral History

submitted by Joyce Wrigley on 15.09.2005

Joyce Wrigley remembers the Gilgandra flood of 1955.

This is my account of a night (24th February) during the Gilgandra flood of 1955.
It was written on the 23rd of February, 2005.
I am 86 years old.


Can't believe it is now 50 years since we had that awful flood - not easily forgotten.

It was my husband Leo and my 15th wedding anniversary. It had been raining for over a week with hardly a break, and now there was a couple of fine days to try and catch up on our jobs. The police had heard of a big river rise, so they asked my husband in his new truck to go to the race course and shift all the dwellers up to the showground for safety.

In the morning, leo was a bit concerned, too, about our horses; 25 of them, nearly all race horses belonging to many different owners. He told our son Noel (12 years) and our apprentice boy Sammy to take the horses up to the police paddock near where the school is now, and to tie them up for safety. It naturally took them many trips, and the last trip, they had to swim so they decided to leave me the old pony just in case.

There was a lot of still water in the oval and at the back of our house, but I still didn't think for a moment, that water could get up here. So, while Leo was away, I was going to cook him up a surprise party - had cakes in the oven and other fancy dishes on the stove. I went out to get some wood just in time to see the big stack of hay going. Couldn't believe it and got into a real panic trying to put everything up at once.

All of a sudden Leo came in and said how he had trouble getting home and we must get on the pony and go. The water was stil not running; just banking up - and we didn't get far when we saw the two Wrigley girls (Iris and Margaret) clinging to a telegraph pole in the oval. They had thought they were coming down to tell us about the predicted rise and were suddenly in it. Leo thought he could get there on the pony so he put me on a big Leyland truck belonging to Blair Adams which was bogged. He said we would all go back to the house, but all too late, I saw the big wall of water knock them over and then didn't know what happened. The girls swam in the current, and caught up in some big pepper trees luckily, where they stayed all night.

I looked around to see what to do next and discovered the water was over the table top. I stood on the seat, then up on the sides and next up on the hood (made of canvas). It had one bar across the middle, which i had to sit on all night, from 3pm to 7 am.

I really thought, this is it! All night the water roared by, and is was like being in the middle of the sea.

Great packs of timber from Nelson's mill and clothing and furniture and all sorts of things went sailing by, even a complete house from the corner of Court and Morris Streets, where the pre-school is today.

As night came things were still getting rougher, and I could see the army trucks (which had come from Warren), trying to get into the water to rescue us. They used to just spin around and out again. The current (estimated at 24 miles and hour) was too fast for them.

Looking across Miller Street, I could see the water was above the guttering and I saw a man on his roof reach down and catch a chair. He put it further up on his roof and sat on it. Half his luck I thought.

When night closed in, it was so eerie and frightening and so dark and noisy. Somebody on the bank had a big light and every now and then it would be flashed around. Sounds funny but it was a very welcome sight. I knew someone was checking on me.

Leo was a good swimmer, luckily, and he got out about where Bob McKewan lives now. About ¾ mile, and I think Calude Donovan pulled him out eventually.

Next morning, about 7 am, Bill Stevens (our police constable) came along on his creamy horse and said to jump on behind him. The water had gone down by half, but was still running very swiftly. Bill said his horse was very tired, so as we reached the deep water, Bill got off and swam alongside. He had been rescuing people during the night.

As we slowly came to the corner of Morris and Wrigley Streets where the two currents were meeting, it seemed very strong and wild and the poor horse just gave up. He reared over backwards and luckily I still managed to cling to the saddle and we came up and washed against a big corner post. I clung to the post and the horse washed up against Hickmott's house, with Bill trying to hold the horses nose above water.

The Walker boys (Bob and Charlie) came in to me with a big rope tied to a kurragong for a bit of support and we gradually worked our way out. We got into the still water eventually and it was still a long way before I got my feet down. I didn't let on, but I was exhausted. I will never forget it.

The Salvo's were a marvellous help, as usual, and supplied clothes and other needs to people. We couldn't get back to the house for a couple of days. What a mess! The beds had been washed over, and the cupboards too, and there was mud over everything.

An awful mess for the town - 300 toilets lost, but fortunately (or, unfortunately)only two lives. One man got up his windmill and it was washed over, drowning him. Another man got up in the grandstand at the racecourse, but had to go back for his dog. Just then the 'big rise' came, and he was drowned.

On the funny side, the Council dug a large hole at the end of Eiraben Street to bury damaged goods and other rubbish. There was bottles of drink and tins of food without lables, so the kids went down with their billy carts and loaded them up.

Then they had a parties with just a tin opener and a spoon. No names were visible, so many tins were opened before the right ones. The dogs sat around too and they had feasts of camp pie and bully beef. The kids picked on preserved fruit and cream and all soughts of soft drinks. Eventually of course the bulldozer came and filled it in.

The race course had great gullies torn through it, and it took nearly 2 years to get it in racing order again.

Our horses got out of the paddock where the kids had put them and we were finding horses from here to Collie. At least they had enjoyed the flood.

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