Sunday History Photo / Vic

Submitted: Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 06:41
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The 1897 Horsham storm followed a week of moist, oppressive heat, that day the storm was preceded by a hot north wind and dust, then a huge fall in the barometer and an 'ominous appearance in the heavens'. The wind increased in velocity and force, heavy rain fell simultaneously and the atmosphere was charged with dust. For Horsham, the storm hit at 5:20pm with 5 minutes of activity, then about 10 minutes lull, then a second blow. Murky darkness struggled with a fierce unnatural light.
The Horsham Times said there was scarcely a shop or house that had not been damaged; a wrecked coal shed at the gas works; demolished grandstands at the showgrounds & racecourse; the Union mill in Wilson St wrecked apart from the machinery room & smoke stack; Gillies' Wimmera mill suffered £500 loss; all the White Hart Hotel's balcony & railings and part of the roof were torn away; Delaney's coach works in Firebrace St wrecked; the butter factory was blown a few feet out of plumb, a stained glass window and altar crucifix at the Catholic Church were smashed and an oil painting torn to tatters; the Town Hall also had broken windows; a timber beam hurled through the roof of the Mechanics Institute and onto the stage; £150 damage to the botanical gardens, and £200 to headstones & monuments in the cemetery.

John Murray a railway clerk & telegraph operator was concussed and badly bruised when he fell while chasing 2 railway trucks blown along the tracks by the wind; Dr Ritchie, his groom, horse & buggy were thrown into the gutter, righted by another gust, and blown back into the gutter again; a student at Longerenong College was blown into a barb-wire fence partially stunning him; James Glenister was hit on the side of his head by bricks falling from a chimney; A lady & girl driving across the Common were blown out of their buggy and over a high fence; Mrs Fincham of the National Bank had a huge window (frame & glass) precipitated upon her.
St John's Lutheran Church in Darlot St was rebuilt after being destroyed in the November 1897 Stoem (it had only been built 9 years previous & wasn't fully paid for). The half-hour storm brought damaging hail, 200km per hour winds and 17mm of rain, causing extensive damage across Horsham.

Friday November 19th 1897 will live in the memory of every Nhill resident till the longest day of his life by reason of an event unprecedented and almost unparalleled in the district, and even the Colony."
Before the Storm, for several days intense heat had prevailed averaging over 100 degrees in the shade. Friday opened quietly, though early in the morning the wind began to rise, and, increasing in violence as the day advanced, raged at hurricane force during the afternoon, and the air was filled with dust. All wished for the trying weather to culminate in a thunderstorm. These hopes were realised when about 4 o'clock, banks of cloud rose slowly above the horizon in the northwest. The firmament had a lurid portentous appearance which deepened as the general canopy of heaven became obscured. The whole sky assumed this red and hazy hue, imparting a terribly weird and ominous appearance. Shortly before 5 o'clock these strange elemental phenomena increased to become positively awe-inspiring and a premonition of coming disaster struck the hearts of the inhabitants. Just on 5 from out of the lurid heavens a rapidly revolving and fast approaching white circular column was observed, it burst upon the town with all it's roar and fury with overwhelming force - huge buildings were lifted bodily and thrown shattered to the ground, some avere that fire balls played over the store and burst like incandescent bomb shells, the rain came down in torrents and vivid lightning played with dreadful menace. After a most fearful 15 or 20 minutes the violence decreased, but the town presented a truly dilapidated and desolate appearance, and great were the lamentations when the full extent of the damage was ascertained. The main street had evidently suffered most, the east side of Victoria St was so terribly battered and partially demolished as to almost unrecognisable, not a verandah was left standing, many shop fronts were bashed in, and doors and windows were literally "nonest".

Kozminsky's Commercial Hotel, standing right on the corner evidently was hard hit, but, being the splendid edifice it is, it withstood the force of the cyclone gallantly, though the brick work ridging was blown in, and a large portion of the roof through which the rain poured.
M. Harris' general store received terrible damage and the front portion demolished while stock was badly damaged. Mr T. Smith's fruit shop (Formed a portion of Harris' building) suffered. The Commercial Bank was very severely hit, the upper portion being rendered unsafe (the windows gave in at the first blast and the windswept with hurricane fury demolishing the furniture and lifting the doors from their hinges. Masses of plaster and bricks fell in, and altogether the interior was in a most deplorable condition).

The Farmer's Arms Hotel (on the corner) and its outbuildings were pretty well destroyed, struck with awful force, portions of the roof and sides were lifted and dashed against the other side of the street with destructive force. The adjoining billiard room lay in ruins, and Bree's boot shop and Terry's chemist shop were both terribly knocked about.
In Nelson Street - Ryan & Bond's large auction rooms had not a single spar left standing, all being totally wrecked, the whole row including 2 empty shops, office, Wheare's coach-building factory & O'Dougherty's bakery were destroyed.

Amazingly, a providential preservation of life marked the whole event, but there were many narrow escapes and serious accidents. Mrs Graham with her child in her arms opened her door to the full blast and both were whirled right out of the place, carried over the sand hill, and when she regained her senses she was still grasping her infant 150 yards from the house (the child was so greatly affected it did not recover consciousness for a long time). J. Nealy the blacksmith was working at his forge when the whole place was blown about his head and the stripper he was repairing was blown over the top of him, pinning him to the ground with a broken leg and dislocated ankle.

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Reply By: Bushranger1 - Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 07:43

Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 07:43
Thanks for that story Doug.
We bought a property out between Nhill & Kaniva a while ago & in a few weeks I am going out to build a shed there. Better make sure it's hurricane proof!

It's a shame that the Farmers arms hotel has been shut up for a while & is up for sale. The town of Nhill is not doing so well since the flour mill shut down & the wheat crops suffered for a while with a long drought & of course cheap imports of food.

Going to have dinner with a few old timers in Nhill too so I might ask them about this event. It would be good if anyone has some old photos that they have had handed down to them.

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Follow Up By: Member - There Yet - Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 12:28

Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 12:28
Hi Bushranger,

my brother was the publican at the Farmers Arms in the late eighties/early nineties. Nice old pub. Two families lived on the upper floor, we often visited and enjoyed a few good evenings on the balcony.

One night while all tuck up and asleep in bed a huge storm came through Nhill once again. My brother got up to investigate the large bang out on the balcony. Lucky he didn't step out as the balcony was gone.

Sad to hear that Nhill is doing it hard and the old pub has shut down.

Cheers Kerry
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Follow Up By: Bushranger1 - Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 17:51

Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 17:51
G'day Kerry,
Great community in Nhill & surrounds though, despite hard times like many other country towns.

It certainly can blow a gale out there in the Wimmera/Mallee when one of those fronts come through. Had a few broken tent poles over the years when the weather has turned bad out there.

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Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 08:44

Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 08:44
Thanks Doug.

Another great contribution!!

AnswerID: 514013

Follow Up By: toffytrailertrash - Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 09:37

Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 09:37
Climate change will do just that.......!

FollowupID: 792874

Reply By: Member - Leigh (Vic) - Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 10:55

Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 10:55
Thanks Doug, these historical reflections you assemble are just great. Cheers
AnswerID: 514018

Reply By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 17:11

Sunday, Jun 30, 2013 at 17:11
Hi Doug,

Another clear case of global warming.

The variety of interesting subjects you come up with Doug never cease to amaze and entertain me.

Well done once again.

Cheers, Bruce.

At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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