I acknowledge the Traditional Owners on whose land I walk, I work and I live. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and future.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Ingham In Summer

Inghamites, in  mid March 2016, swelter in humid heat.  Cyclones threaten as an unseasonably late rain season descends, sending down much needed rain on a parched landscape. All long for winter and cool relief.  In 1927 Jean Douglas Gordon waxed lyrical about Ingham in summer. This poem was published two months after a devastating flood, precipitated by a tropical cyclone which crossed the coast just north of Cairns on February 9, becoming a disastrous rain depression. The Herbert River swelled to such as extent that the river broke its banks sending flood waters coursing down onto the low-lying areas of the Herbert River Valley literally sweeping away everything in its path, A description of the time said the river “poured over the countryside like a drunken demon and bringing death and destruction in its wake.”  There was a tragic loss of life, in excess of 25 in Ingham, 15 in Cardwell and 1 in Townsville. 1 500 horses were calculated to have drowned in the Herbert River Valley, a terrible loss in a farming community that still depended heavily on horses for both field work and transport. Loss of crops, stock and property in the same area was estimated to have been in the vicinity of £300 000. Poet Dan Sheahan articulated the community’s reaction to this disaster in his own inimitable way when he wrote “But pigs will play pianos – and chooks will chew their cud – “Ere Ingham will forget about The ’27 Flood.”

There is sunshine on the paddocks, there is glory on the hills.
There is beauty on the canefields sweeping west;
There are songs among the rain-trees, there is bustle round the mills,
And round the homestead peace, and love and rest.

There is shadow in the timber where the shy bush creatures hide,
There is quiet where the timber meets the shore;
There is golden wealth in plenty where the branches meet the tide,
And music where the lone sea-breakers roar.

There is sighing in the bamboos as the lost sea breezes wail,
And bleating from the sheepyard on the rise;
There is hurry round the crossroads where they’re sorting out the mail,
And sorrow where the lonely curlew cries.

There’s a cloudless sky above me of a deep and misty blue,
There is golden light and music in the air.
And the beauty of the summer blossoms in my heart anew,
As I see her wondrous beauty everywhere.

“Hinchinbrook Shire Council Historical Library, River on a Rampage” (A selection of newspaper clippings and reports on the 1927 Flood October, 1968, 11).
Sheahan, D. “The ’27 Flood” in Songs from the Canefields (Ingham: Josephine R. Sheahan, 1972), 84.  

The Sydney Morning Herald, April 30, 1927, 11.

The Valley in flood becomes a veritable sea.  Outlying settlements and townships become isolated and residents flood bound in their homes.

Ingham in flood, 1927. Geo. C. Teitzel Butchers, Herbert Street (From the Hinchinbrook Shire Library Local History Collection)

Horses seeking shelter in flood, 1927. Hinchinbrook Hotel, Lannercost Street. (Shared by Terry Cooper on Lost Ingham and District)

Halifax in flood, 1927 Walton’s Hotel, Macrossan Street (From the Hinchinbrook Shire Library Local History Collection)

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