THE LATE BUSH FIRES
In our Saturday's issue we briefly alluded to the extensive and destructive bush fires that pre- vailed throughout the country, more particularly on the Thursday preceding. Rumours had reached us of conflagrations on every side, but as we did not wish to appear alarmists, we refrained from noticing any but those that were well authenti- cated, knowing how exceedingly prone report is to magnify and distort particulars. Since then, however, we learn with regret that little only of the ill news had reached us, and that what we thought magnified, is unhappily very
far from the fearful extent of the truth.
After the sun had gone down on Thursday, a fearful glare might have been observed in the S.S.E. From the appearance of the sky and the occasional brilliant bursts of light that were per-
ceptible, one might have been almost led to imagine that it had been some one of the nume- rous residences in the vicinity of the Botanic gardens that had taken fire. It was, however, much further distant, being the glare from the burning bush around Dandenong, the whole of that portion of the country being in flames. Preparations had been made for holding races at Dandenong on that day, but the flames drove the sportsmen from the course, over which the fire passed. In the neighbourhood of Western Port it is reported that the only house left standing is the inn at Dandenong.
The destruction in this quarter has been most distressing, since very many hard working and persevering settlers have been brought to the verge of ruin.
The following letter received on Saturday from Western Port, will give some idea of the destruction caused in the neighbourhood : - "Mr. Henry had his dairy, butter, and other property destroyed. Mr Maxwell had everything that belonged to him destroyed, his family was in the bush all the following night, and his youngest child's life was preserved by his carry- ing water in his hat put round with mud; they are now under the hospitable roof of Mr Lecky who escaped with much exertion and perserver- ance. Feehan has everything that belonged to
him destroyed, except a spring cart, and nar - rowly escaped with his life. Mr. Gardner's loss has been but trifling. Mr. Bowman escaped
with little scathe, and can accommodate Fee -
han's family. Mr O'Shea's house is saved, but some of the family got severely burnt. Poor
Mr Bathe was from home. No one was on the place but a woman and a boy. When she saw the place was in danger she opened the stable door to let out Sorcerer, but it proved to do harm instead of good, for a favourite horse of Mr Bathe's rushed into the stable behind the entire horse, and both perished. There is not a single post left standing on the place, except one side of the stockyard. A woman and boy were in the bush all night, and were found yesterday by Mr W. Burk in a very exhausted state. I
saw them last night at Mr Waddell's, and they were well recovered. Mr. Burk lost everything that was on the farm, and had much difficulty in preserving the stables and public house; his face and eyes are much burnt. The schoolhouse with nineteen children and teacher in it was saved at the risk of life. I might go on from one place to another and describe what I have heard, but I write only what I have seen. I might men-
tion that pigs and dogs running loose were burned to death — birds were dropping down off the trees before the fire in all directions - oppos- sums, kangaroos, and all sorts of beasts can be had today ready roasted all over the bush. Fully one half of the timber in this neighbourhood has been burned or blown down, and all the grass has
been burnt. "
On the Plenty also, an almost inconceivable amount of damage has been done. We men-
tioned that some ten or twelve farms had been destroyed, but this is very far from approaching the actual destruction caused, since it is said that more than a hundred families have been thrown by the devouring element houseless upon the world. The property of Mr Wills, and a vast amount of wheat estimated at 20,000 bushels has been burnt; the property of Mr Harlin, and several others of the Upper Plenty, has also suffered very seriously, and so fatal has it been on Mr Wills' estate, that only one of his tenants (Mr Johnston) by good fortune escaped. A shepherd on Dr. Ronald's station saved his family, self, and sheep, by hastily getting on to some ground previously burnt. On the Moonee Ponds the fire has been equally destructive; it has ravaged the properties of Mr Hunter, Mr Green, and Mr Young, late of the Harvest Home whose crops of hay &c. valued at £1,100, have been totally destroyed.
At the Deep Creek also, much damage has been done to the fencing in many places, and the houses and farm yards were saved by a deal of
Messrs. Williamson and Blow of Pentland Hills have have had their station completely destroyed, house, furniture, every stitch of clothing, except what was in actual use; library &c. &c. The loss in large items alone is estimated at £850, and worse again they fear the loss of two flocks of sheep into the bargain, so complete has been the work of destruction that Mr. Blow has been compelled to come into town to purchase some clothes for himself and slops for the men. At Mr. Powlett's Police Station his tent, fences, and crops have all been burnt;
fortunately the house has been saved.
The Portland Herald gives us the following as some of the damage done in that district prior to the 3rd instant, and we almost dread to receive the accounts of the devastation that must have been caused by the burning gale of Thursday last. It says - "Mr Hector McDonald, Smoky River, has got all his hay and oats burnt. His partner, Mr McKenzie, of the Britannia Inn, Portland, has got his cottage, a first-rate cart, with
a complete set of horse harness, burnt to ashes.
Mr Curtin, at the Water Holes, has lost all his wheat, oats, hay, and a great part of his fencing by a bush fire. Mr Montgomery, Mount Emu Creek, has had a flock of sheep completely de- stroyed by bush fire. Mr Keppin, Bochara Grange, has been burnt out of house and hall by an unexpected bush fire. Mr Pearson has had all his hay burnt, not one straw of which has been saved. Mr Neil Black, Glen Ormiston Station, has lost a most excellent flock of sheep by a bush fire. Mr Donald McKinnon, New Country, has got his wool shed burned to the ground; fortunately the wool was saved."
In the Belfast Gazette we also meet with a short paragraph, which makes us shudder to think upon the fatal consequences that must have followed after Thursday. The writer says- "Very great alarm was excited on Wed- nesday last by the immense surface of fire which came rolling down towards the farms around Belfast, and had not the wind provi- dentially shifted, inevitable destruction must have fallen upon every farmer within ten miles of the township."
We come next to the destruction caused in the Geelong District, and on this we will allow the Geelong Advertiser to speak for itself. First, it says, "At its usual hour, the mail started from Geelong to Melbourne, the driver doubtless think ing that he could brave the storm, and reach Mel
bourne at about or beyond the usual hour. He drove on for about four or five miles, but about Cowie's creek he found that neither he nor his horses could continue to face the scorching tor nado, and the raging bush fires, which threatened destruction to the mail. So
he prudently turned his back to the fiery, blinding blast, and returned to Geelong.
The next paragraph, however, is one of more serious tenor, and we give it verbatim.
EXTENSIVE FIRES. - Yesterday morning a most extensive fire broke out on the Moorabool River, by which a number of small farmers have severely suffered on the western side of the river, whence the wind brought the fire down to McLean's paddock, which it destroyed, and thence to Mr Wallace's, whose house, premises, and stack-yards have been burned to the ground. Mr. Robinson's farm, house, out-houses, agri- cultural implements and valuable produce, are utterly destroyed: he is a sufferer to the ex- tent of £1100 at least. Mr Costigan has suf- fered severely, and Mr McCarthy has been sub- jected to great loss. The fire, we are informed first passed over the Barrabool Hills, destroying the stack of the Messrs Leigh, Mrs Thomas, Mrs Wilson, and others, but we are not in pos- session of the details. A gentleman just arrived states the country near the Leigh to be in a complete blaze, and rapidly approaching Captain Ormond's at the Leigh, between whose house and Mr Russell's the fire was raging furiously yesterday. Captain Ormond had turned out all hands to assist in stopping the progress of the flames. At Mount Cole a fire was raging, from the effects of which Mr Goldsmith's barns and
crop had suffered. The Boninyong Forest is in a blaze, and the timber country is suffering severely. A settler of Wardy Yallock we are informed fired a part of his back run to drive the wild cattle down, so that he might yard
them, and hence have arisen extensive con flagrations, which, however, have been confined to the Ranges. The whole of the plains between the Hopkins and the Leigh have escaped: and our informant further adds that the country he has passed through is by no means in the con dition that reports have reputed it to be ; he states that he has seen the water holes much lower at this season of the year than they are at present.
The Geelong Advertiser of Saturday gives the following detailed particulars of the devasta tion of the late fire, but it will be many days before the complete details of its ravages can be collected. In the mean time the following may be relied upon as an accurate statement of the facts which have come to our knowledge.
On the Barrabool Hills, the house, barns, stables &c, seven buildings in all, belonging to
Mr Holmes, with all his stacks and fences, were utterly destroyed. It was at this point that the fire crossed the river. Mr Bennett's stacks and fences are destroyed, as are those of Mr Heard. Mr Fisher's house was saved, the whole of his crops destroyed. Mr Thomas has lost his house, stacks, fences, and implements, including a very valuable thrashing machine. On Mrs Wilson's farm everything is destroyed, but the report of her death, prevalent yesterday, is in correct. She is living in the house of her neigh bour, Mr Leigh, one of the few whose premises escaped destruction. Mr Michael Holian has had everything destroyed except one small hut. Mr Piper had his stone house destroyed, but succeeded in saving one stack. Mrs Furlong's stacks and fences are burnt ; Mrs Furlong was severely burnt, and her injuries may be fatal. Mr Honey's house escaped destruction on Thurs day, but took fire yesterday afternoon, and was totally consumed. At Mr Hopper's, on the Waurn Ponds, the houses, barns, stacks, fences, and implements were all destroyed, and three lives lost. The particulars of the Inquest will be found in another column. At Mr Simmons's
everything is lost, as is also the case at Mr Powell's. Mr Dewing with other losses had a newly erected fence burnt. But we cannot even enumerate the names of all the sufferers. We do not yet know the half of them. We have had no precise information about the vineyards. It is reported that Belperond's is partially destroyed. Petavel's is safe.
On the Corio side of the Marrabool, the confla gration seized Mr Costigan's farm, swept over the heights, and passed through Mr McLean's paddock, without inflicting further injury than destroying the grass, and throwing out a black tongue that licked the little herbage visible. From the range overlooking Costigan's, and the neighbouring farms, the scene was dismal in the extreme - burnt black, the charred embers steamed heavily from the recent ruins - the chimney stack upright, was the only object visible, the solitary remnant of house, huts barns, and farm produce. Mr Wallace's house
is burned to the ground, together with his farming implements, seven hundred bushels of corn and several fences ; his losses are estimated at £800. Mr Jacks has suffered little if any.
Costigan has lost a barn, five ricks of oats, one rick of barley, one rick of hay containing sixty tons, one rick of wheat, farming implements, a winnowing machine, dray and tarpaulin, beds and clothes of every description are utterly gone, and the flames still linger on the banks of the creek, which we crossed at Costigan's over to McCarty's. The desolation we had already witnessed somewhat prepared us for the sight we encountered. Three dwelling-houses had gone down in the fire, which raged here in unparalleled violence ; a few cinders and charred rafters marked the spot where a barn had stood ; the irons of three ploughs lay in the ashes at another place, alongside the ironwork of a winnowing machine, half buried in the ashes of 600 bushels of wheat in chaff, and the same quantity in rick. There were the roasted carcases of four calves
tethered, and pigs fattened, burnt black and burst by the flames ; forty dairy pigs perished, and were lying about in every direction, and more than half that number severely injured ; six large ones lay in a heap along the Barrabool. A hundred and fifty fowls were destroyed. Forty tons of hay, the whole of the fencing, the dairy is utterly gone, and butter to the worth of £70 spoiled, and dairy utensils to the value of £50. Seven hundred pounds worth have been des troyed. With the houses and huts perished the whole of their furniture and apparel - one pair of boots and a shirt being all that was saved. The stockyard was burned, and the cows, frightened off by the flames, have fled. Mrs
Murphy, living on the farm, had a narrow escape ; she was obliged to fly with her two children, and take refuge in the river ; and so close were the flames upon her that the hut was in a blaze before she left it. The poor woman had only been confined a fortnight. Mrs Mullins, living on a neighbouring farm, plunged into the creek with four of her children for safety. Connor's farm, produce, and implements are utterly destroyed. On Robinson's farm four thousand bushels of wheat and one thou sand bushels of oats, together with everything of value. From Costigan's up to Robin son's, this point presented nothing but black desolation. From the high range above, far as the eye could reach, the scene looked as though it had been swept by the wings of the destroying angel.
The following is a brief summary of the other losses on the west side of the Marrabool : - Mr.
Kimber, crops and fence destroyed ; Mr. Paget, barn, pigs, wheat, flour, &c., being a cripple he was carried out on his wife's back ; Mr. Arm strong, burnt out, stock and furniture ; Messrs.
Reby, totally burnt out ; Mr. Lynch, house, crops and everything destroyed ; Mr. Mullins, burnt out ; Mr. A. Manning, hay stack, fence, &c., destroyed ; Mr. Reynolds, house and every
At Indented Head, four of the Stores at the Pilot Station were destroyed, but we are glad to say that owing to the prompt and great exer tions used, the damage has not been near so great in this locality as in other parts where the
At Ingliston, several thousand sheep, and property to the value of some thousands of pounds is reported to have been destroyed.
Two men who were proceeding to Loutit Bay, on Thursday last, lighted a fire near to the station of the Messrs Zealby, which on being perceived by them, they went down to the men and cautioned them about it, when the fellows at once began to scatter the burning embers about in all directions, which communicating with the parched grass and brushwood, soon set the whole place in a blaze ; with the rapidity of lightning the fire ran along, and in its progress burning hurdles, huts, house and everything valuable to the ground. The station of Mrs Tate adjoins Mount Pleasant, and would have inevitably shared the same fate with the latter but the wind providentially happened to change, and the fire took a route by the coast, around which it swept with the fury of a demon devastating all before it. The stations of Mr Neale, Mr Stokes, and Mr Bowden were in the utmost danger ; but when the last accounts were received, the devouring element had not commu nicated with them, and it is to be hoped from the change of weather that such a fearful calamity
may be averted.
From the Grange a report had been received that on Friday the 21st ult., 2000 of Mr Moffatt's sheep have been destroyed by a bush fire. Messrs Grey and Marr, adjoining Ken
nedy Brothers have lost 3000 sheep by bush fires also Mr Ritchie, near Mount Napier, has got all his crop destroyed, - his paddock fence is likewise burned to the ground.
The driver of the Portland mail says, that as he was passing the Bell Post Hill, on Thursday,
he saw one of the largest mobs of horses he ever met with in the colony. The creatures were galloping with the wind in the direction of the Barrabool Hills. They numbered he says up
wards of eight hundred, and he supposes that they had been driven off their runs by the bush
INQUESTS ON THE SUFFERERS
An inquest was held on Saturday evening last, at the Travellers Rest Inn, Collingwood, before W. H. Wilmot, Esq. Coroner, upon the bodies of Bridget M'Lelland, and of John, James, Joseph, Mary Anne, and William M'Lelland, her five children, whose deaths had been occasioned by the disastrous fire that raged round their dwell ing on the 6th instant.
The bullock-dray containing the bodies had been expected to arrive at the above-named Inn by 7 o'clock, p. m., but it was some time later ere the dray arrived, and entered the yard of the Inn, and when the boughs and few rugs which covered the bodies were removed, the spectacle was extremely harrowing ; the bodies had been placed on the dray in the same positions in which they were found, and had their faces to the ground, four of the bodies were quite charred and those of two of the children were far from complete. Its being viewed by the light of a few lanthorns only, gave no trifling effect to the distressing scene, which the jurors viewed
as in duty bound.
The bereaved Richard George M'Lelland, so lately a comfortable settler on the Diamond Creek, had been previously brought to the Inn. He appeared to be in a very dangerous state, being seriously burnt about his arms and legs, as well as suffering from the shock to his mind by the dreadful calamity. The Coroner visited him but deemed it to be improper to trouble him with any questions, and gave an order for his removal to the Melbourne Hospital as soon as possible.
The following evidence was then received - Alexander Miller, shepherd, in the employ ment of Mr. R. G. McLelland, settler, deposed that he had been employed as a shepherd to a flock of 110 sheep for three weeks past ; he had seen a bush fire burning nearly all that
time on the mountains which are about ten miles distant from his master's station ; did not see that the fire had come nearer to them until Thurs day the 6th instant, when, at about noon, in taking the sheep to the creek to drink, he sud denly found that the fire had reached the trees that were on the same side of the creek as the station was, and was rapidly coming on towards him, he therefore quickly drove the sheep to the home station, for safety, and owing to the smoke which increased upon him, had much difficulty in so doing ; when he arrived there he found that the hut and outbuildings and all near to them was on fire, he cooed for his master and family, but received no answer ; he could not reach the hut, nor get the sheep to move again from the hurdles ; so, to save his own life, ran through the smoke and burning trees down to the creek, plunged into it and remained there until the evening, when, as the fire had somewhat passed on, he returned to where he had left the sheep,
and also walked about near to where the hut
had been, to see if any of the family were to be seen, he saw none of them, nor any of the sheep ; so returned again to the creek, but then went to the place where they usually dipped for water, there he found his master, (McLelland) lying up to his neck in the water, witness helped him to get out of the creek and asked him,
where was the mistress and the children?
McLelland replied that they were all dead ; McLelland and the witness laid down close to the water all that night ; during the night McLel land told the witness he had been much burnt through trying to save his eldest boy, (of about 8 years of age) ; that he carried the boy a little way, but the boy had said to him "Father! lay me down!" and he (McLelland) finding the child's head to drop immediately, as if in death, had laid him down, and had no power of carrying him further, his own arms being so dreadfully burnt ;
McLelland also told witness that the bodies would be found near to the hut ; in the morning McLelland wanted to go and look for the bodies, but witness persuaded him not to do so, but to go at once with him to Dr Ronald, who has a station at about two miles distance from there, and get himself attended to ; having seen his master most hospitably received there, witness then went to the Bridge Inn, Plenty River
where he procured a dray for fetching the bodies, and requested that information of the deaths might be sent to Melbourne, which was quickly done ; witness went with the dray to the station, when he arrived near where the hut had been, he met a young man named Parish, and three other persons, who showed him where the bodies lay and assisted him in putting them on the dray ; five of the bodies lay at about twenty yards from the back of the hut; and that of the eldest boy was about fifteen yards from the front of the hut, all of them lay on their faces and there was not a vestige of their clothing to be seen, the grass and everything near them was burnt ; in answer to the foreman of the jury (Mr Foy) ; the hut was at about one hundred
yards from the creek ; he did not leave the creek during that night because the trees between the creek and the hut were burning fiercely, and
he had been told that Mrs McLelland and her children were dead.
George Parish, labourer, River Plenty, deposed, that he knew the station occupied by Mr R. G. McLelland, on the Diamond Creek, having often called at the hut when in search of cattle. There were many trees and a brush fence be
tween the hut and the creek ; the brush fence came up close to one side of the hut ; on the other side of the creek there is a high range of hills and mountains beyond there, to the north
ward and eastward ; the land about there is rather thickly timbered ; witness had seen a bush fire raging on the mountains for a month past ; having heard that Mr McLelland's family and station had been burnt, he went to the station on Friday morning last ; he found the hut, fences, hurdles, and everything burnt down ; most of the trees near there were then burning ; witness discovered the bodies in the places and positions described by the last witness, and as sisted in placing them on the dray ; from the ap
pearance of the trees, witness is of opinion that the fire reached the brush fence before they that were in the hut were aware of it, and that there was no possibility of their escape to the creek, which was the only refuge ; the wind was strong and from the northward on the 6th inst ;
during the witness's walk to the station, on Friday morning, within half-a-mile of there, he saw upward of two hundred head of cattle lying dead in the creek, they having been burnt
or suffocated by this fire.
The coroner then summed up the evidence,
and observed that the cause of the deaths of these six individuals was two painfully apparent to need a long deliberation upon the verdict. He also commented upon the laudable conduct of the shepherd and his unfortunate master.
The jury returned a verdict that these persons were accidentally burnt by the extension of a bush fire ; and they regret that they have no evidence of the origin of the bush fire.
The following Inquests were held before Foster Shaw, Esq, Coroner for Geelong, on the body of three unfortunates who fell victims to the flames on the Barrabool Hills.
Inquest on the body of James Bowman. From the evidence of Mr. Leonard Hopper, farmer, Barrabool Hills, it appeared that deceased - who was in the employ of Mr Russell - had been assisting to extinguish the fire, and having dis appeared, a search was made after him, and his body was found burnt to a cinder in the same track that the men followed to escape the fire. This evidence being confirmed by John Burrows, the jury returned a verdict of "Accidentally burned while endeavouring to escape the confla
Inquest on the body of Mr Stephen Hopper. The brother of deceased, Mr. Leonard Hopper deposed that while burning the stubble with the view of cutting off the fire, the wind shifted un favourably, and brought the flames close to them. Witness then said further effort was useless ; and every man ran from the flames. The deceased took a different direction from the others, and in five minutes afterwards his body was found so burned and disfigured as scarcely to be recogni sable. John Barrows confirmed the above state ment, and a similar verdict was then returned as in the previous case.
Inquest on Phoebe Horlop. Mrs Hopper, the wife of Leonard Hopper, stated that when she saw the fire coming up the Hill, she gave her
children to the care of Sarah Horlop, the mother of the deceased. Some one calling out for water, Sarah Horlop went to fetch it, and while she was gone the fire came raging up. Witness took her own children and Sarah Horlop's with her, and ran with them to a secure place, on reaching it she looked to see whom she had with her, and then missed Phoebe Horlop, the deceased. On this she called William Hay to look for her, who shortly afterwards informed her that she was dead. William Horlop, labourer, father of the deceased, went with Hay in search of his child. He found her body in the paddock, and on taking her up in his arms found that she was quite dead. A verdict similar to the preceding ones was then returned by the Jury.