Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Economy

Reviewed! Flames of Fear

FLAMES OF FEAR.”
by Roger McNeice. OAM.
Wellington Bridge Press.
Suggested retail: $75.
Available at all Tasmanian book shops.

Many Tasmanians still have vivid memories of the the 7th February 1967 bushfires. Others may have heard of them, but are short on detail. It is now a long time ago – 50 years. There is no doubt that the disaster had significant impact on Tasmania and its community. A new book, “Flames of Fear” has been released with the sub-heading, “A photographic and documentary history of the fear and devastation caused by bushfires in Tasmania since 1820.” It is therefore not just a book on the ‘67 fires, but the history of bushfires in Tasmania.

Its author, Tasmanian identity, Roger McNeice OAM is well known for his knowledge on coins, medals and tokens. He has a number of books to his credit, his previous being, “Fight the Fiery Fiend” – Colonial Fire Fighting 1803-1883. He is well qualified to author “Flames of Fear” being involved with fire fighting since 1968.

As cited by Chief Officer, Tasmania Fire Service, Chris Arnol, in the Foreword, “This book chronicles the history of bushfires in Tasmania. The author has invested seven years in researching and compiling his historical account of events.”

There are fifteen chapters in the book, more than half of which as one would expect, deal with Black Tuesday 1967. As Chris Arnol adds, “It is brimming with stories, quotations, and wonderful anecdotes, which allow the reader to immerse themselves in the events described.”

The ‘67 fires were an incredible experience, albeit a terrible one. Sixty four Tasmanians lost their lives. Roger includes the important chronological timespan regarding the fire on that day. (P.54-55). From 12:45pm it spread rapidly and within the hour it had travelled from Lenah Valley into Strickland Avenue, South Hobart. It would spread to Fern Tree, Longley, The Channel, Kingston, Taroona, Margate, Snug, Oyster Cove, Kettering, Woodbridge, Middleton and the Huon, besides many other areas. I can remember it even reached Chigwell, Pitcairn Street Glenorchy and the Hobart Domain.

It is a grand record of that terrible event, now so long ago. As often the case, great stories of heroism and selflessness comes to the fore and Roger deals with many of these “ordinary” people who rose to the need. One he describes as the “Hero of Middleton,”, Ernie Bond and his full story is related from page 105 onwards.

The book deals with the immediate aftermath of the fires, while revealing the human and financial costs. Roger writes: “The fires hit with a vengeance and many schools were engulfed by smoke and flames.

“Soon after the fires went through various areas, vivid stories of survival and fear soon surfaced as headmasters reported to the Education Department. Forty teachers lost their homes and possessions although no lives were lost”

On can only imagine the terror experienced by the children and staff. He relates: “When the fire hit Collinsvale the whole school area was completely surrounded by smoke and flames” and continues to relate the story of a 15 year old Leonard Russell of Geeveston, who saved the lives of four children. (p.183)

Fire-fighting since then has improved dramatically. Back in ‘67 there were no computers, four wheel drives and no aerial water assistance. Roger’s chapter, “Fire Management” deals with much of this. Fires, however, are clearly a constant threat to Tasmania as recently witnessed by Dunalley and the east coast fires of 2014 and just this week, near to my home, the hills of Lindisfarne and Geilston Bay.

The author has done a mighty work. He has the style to bring the whole episode into the present allowing the reader to experience the anxiousness, the horror and the urgency of it all. It contains stupendous photographs, both black and white, colour, old and new. It is a big book, hard cover, 370 glossy pages, with the ever important, bibliography and index. A resource for the personal, private and public library as well as a coffee-table book. Thoroughly recommended.

*Reg Watson is a Tasmanian historian and author with 48 years of published experience. His articles (now in excess of a thousand) has been published locally, nationally and internationally. He has 17 books to his credit and is often interviewed on radio/television. He regularly is invited as a guest speaker at various functions, service clubs, associations and historical groups. ww.regwatson.com

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]
7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Birdz

    March 4, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    #5 We did had some great fish and chips, although the menu was a bit limited.

    Don’t think I’ve ever had bad fish and chips though, although I’m not a great fan of flake.

  2. William Boeder

    February 27, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    Currently as I write the 2 thirds of the State has many purpose lit fires stretching from the top of the North-West of this State across to the North Eastern upper portion then down the Eastern side of our State.
    The volume of wood-smoke that is filling our atmospheres could be compared to the 1967 bushfires.
    As difficult for the majority of Tasmanians to attempt to understand, is that this volume of our State could at best be said can only be dubiously controlled by the number of firefighting individuals present in this this State, the State government are the overall authority to allow this insensible volume of conflagrations to be set to fire by way of their lacking intelligence and the indifference shown toward the people that dwell in Tasmania’s rural environments.
    The sooner these persons are ejected from their office the better for the people of Tasmania.

  3. PHilip Lowe

    February 23, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    Birdz,no 4.Is the dog still cadging top quality fried fish in
    Dunally.Best fish and chip shop in the world mate.

  4. Birdz

    February 21, 2017 at 10:40 pm

    Drove through Dunalley recently and had fish and chips. I could not work out how it is such a fire risk, as the nearest forests were far away.

    And yet burn it did. Too much long grass?

  5. Geraldine Allan

    February 21, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    Adding another aspect to the story, which may or may not be in the book.

    The fires indirectly affected some northern Tasmanian families. We lived in Launceston.

    Several tradesmen, including my husband a plumber, were called upon to immediately volunteer their services wherever needed.

    My recollection is that without delay, emergency accommodation was set up in the Snug recreation grounds. Maybe this is detailed in the book. I believe caravans, tents, whatever had a roof — were set up to give shelter to those without a home. A toilet block was needed on the site. Sewerage and water lines were installed and connected to a temporary toilet block that I am assuming was built from scratch, as I don’t think pre-fab buildings were around 50 years ago.

    I have no details of how this facility operated or for how long thereafter; I imagine as it does in a caravan park, housing showers and toilets. Others may have more detailed recollections.

    What I remember most is that we had a 7 week-old baby and my husband camped down south for a couple of weeks. Then a few weeks later, as emergency and new homes were being built, intermittently he was assigned to spend several intervals ‘down south’. Apparently the trades’ temporary accommodation became unendurable; they were then moved to “a pub” where “at least we have a comfortable bed”.

  6. Paul Tapp

    February 21, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Do hope the book sells well and with such a good review by RW, it probably will. In Tassie, we are always looking for signs of smoke at the height of summer. In February, 1967, when it was reported that the entire State was on fire, I was at the Jungle Training Centre in Canungra Qld, preparing for embarkation to Vietnam. Our platoon commander was readying to give all we Tassie lads, emergency leave to be home to help out, but we convinced him that Tassie was much bigger than an apple, was not being evacuated by a US submarine and our homes were safe.

  7. Ole-Man-A-Ross

    February 21, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    February 1967 was a horrendous for those caught up in this disaster. Mine is a simple comment in that many of the people caught in the fire storm were living in the bush, ecalyptus trees, one of the most volitile trees on the planet and yet many choose to live amongst them…… you surround yourself by them, you bear the consequences. Laxed and poor planning laws allow this. It is pretty stupid when you think about it, trying to protect ofen volitile wooden homes in the middle of the bush, think about it. Yes, it all looks very pretty, but the practicality, the human and finantial loss not to mention the poor bastards that are ofen called on to defend these stupid people, its just not worth it.

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