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submitted by Coo-ee Calls on 15.09.2005

Memories of the 1955 Gilgandra Flood caught on film.

Written by, Robyn Walton

Coo-ee Calls. Number 81. February, 2005.

Coo-ee Calls is a magazine that has circulated in Gilgandra since the 1990's.

Coo-ee is a call used in the bush to find another person. From Dharuk language guu-wi "come here". To be "within cooee" is to be within hearing range; within easy reach; nearby; close to finishing a project "or aim" or goal.

Coo-ee was made famous, when the first of the great World War I recruiting marches, the Coo-ee March was begun from Gilgandra in 1915. Prospective soldier-volunteers walked from Gilgandra to Sydney, a distance of more than 300 miles, calling for volunteers to join them along the way. For more information see:

This issue "commemorates" the 50th anniversary of the Gilgandra flood.

Memories of the 1955 Gilgandra Flood caught on film.

Stories abound ... eye witness accounts of the devastation and havoc caused by the 1955 flood which reached a height of around 5ft. 7ins in Miller Street, when on the 24th Februay, 1955 the river broke its banks above the Tennis Courts.

Two men lost their lives, many people left homeless. Over three hundred homes were flooded, eleven destroyed and Council condemned another eighteen homes. People spent the night in tree-tops, on rooftops and the lucky ones caught in the swiftly rising waters in the main street, made their way to one of the two story buildings in town.

Local Policeman, Constable Stevens and his horse Silver saved many lives and men came from all over to help, including a band of Waterside Workers from the Sydney Docks. The flood made World News Headlines and we had a message from the Pope.

Coo-ee Calls October, 2003 featured the story, and many photos, and now, courtesy of Gilgandra Historical Society we have a pictorial history of the flood with various ‘new’ photos from their archives.

My thanks to them and most especially to Shirley Marks, (Ph: 6847 2535) who is doing an excellent job of cataloguing for the Society.

The Gilgandra Historical Society hold copies of the Back to Gilgandra Books, 1937, and 1976, which contain numerous other photos.

***5 Kytherian families
and a number of other Greeks living in Gilgandra, were adversely effected by the 1955 flood.

For a comprehensive history of the Kytherian presence in Gilgandra


20 Photographs of the flooding accompany this article. (Because they are photocopies of photographs, the quality of the reproduction does not warrant replication here.)

9 of the photographs have either a direct Kytherian or Hellenic link.

They include,

(Front Page) Miller Street, Gilgandra, in flood, looking south from a vantage point on a roof, opposite the Gilgandra Weeekly offices. Includes a view of the ABC Cafe.

Inside the Victory Cafe, Miller Street, and the flood's aftermath. The Victory cafe was owned by Kytherian Peter Sklavos, also known as Peter Pentes.

Miller Street, Gilgandra, looking North.

The hole in the road on the corner of Morris and Myrtle Street, in which was found the truck of George Con (Tzortzo)Poulos.

Outside the Golden West Hotel. The "famous" fresh fruit "Big Pineapple" sign on the laneway wall, of Con Poulos's Fruit Shop is prominent.

Bulldozer clearing away debris at the rear of the Golden West Hotel.

As the flood waters recede. Photo taken looking South down Miller Street.

Morris Street after the flood. Three Kytherian families lived in Morris Street - the Sklavos's, Pentes, and Psaltis's.

Miller Street as the waters begin to rise.

Other photographs include:

There must be a road under there somewhere!

Over 300 homes were flooded. Here this family watches the waters from their verandah.

The old Bowling Club when it stood in the park.

Snow Collison's Store. Note the 44 gallon drums used to keep bags up out of the water. Many families and business houses used the drums - but to no avaial - the flood waters either rose higher, or, in many cases toppled them, and families lost their possessions anyway.

Inside the State Bank. Note the high water mark above the fireplace.

Flood waters in front of Billy Smith's home in Miller Street. The store was owned by James Collison.

Cleaning up in Eddie Townsends' office.

The home of "Snow" Collison. Flood waters reached a height of around 5ft 6 ins inside. Snow Collison lost his truck.

Inside the Royal Hotel.

Royal Hotel, Miller Street, showing destruction.

Nelson's Sawmill in Eiraben Street, The sawmill sustained huge losses, as most of the timber floated away down the river.

Remnants of the 1955 Flood

Remains of a wire fence

This photograph shows what happened to a wire fence during the flood. Found by Daphne Bonnington on the family's Woodvale Park property at Curban. It consisted of
wire netting
Four strands of wire
one barbed wire.

The mighty force of water was such that it twisted the fence into a tight roll approximately two to three inches in diameter, and this piece was cut from the remaining fence is about one foot long.
It was donated to the Gilgandra Historical Society by Daphne Bonnington.

A Monument to quick thinking

Photograph of a cement block moulded around the base of a post at the front of Johnny Collisons Auto Repair Shop in Bridge Street.

The words,


are still visible, and john assures me they go on to tell how, when the flood waters were rising, Walter Thomas's utility was beginning to float away. Due to some quick thinking, the Ute was tied, or anchored to the post, and not lost in the surging flood waters.

At the time, the late Bill WEston was proprietor of the Garage, and it stands to reason, he probably had a hand in the whole episode.

Of course the years have weathered the monument, as you can see by the photograph, but it stands as another reminder of the many and varied experiences of Gilgandra folk, caught up in the devastating flood of 1955.

Collectors and Collectibles, and the work of the Gilgandra Historical Society.

Of course the ultimate collectors in Gilgandra apart from Brian Bywater with his nine thousand plus collection of War­time Memorabilia displayed in the Hitchen House Museum, is the Gilgandra Historical Society.

Their Rural Museum on Dubbo Road is absolutely full of items from the past. Many men from our own Coo-ee Village spend long and tedious hours there restoring the old machinery and find it an interesting, if time consuming hobby.
At a later date we will take a look at some of their handiwork.

But here, for this month is a small part of their collections of yesteryear, beautifully displayed in the Alan Wise Gallery at the Coo-ee Heritage Centre. Shirley Marks is one of those responsible for the interesting displays and has a fervent interest in preserving and cataloguing each piece Wanting to continue the excellent work already done by founding members she is at present involved in an ongoing project to provide a research room at the Coo-ee Heritage Centre for those wishing to research anything pertaining to Gilgandra or the history of its people.

For the most part the work of the Gilgandra Historical Society goes unnoticed but they’re continuously working away preserving memorabilia from our past for those who will follow, wanting to know what grandma or grandpa used all those years ago

About the Cooee Heritage Centre

The Coo-ee Heritage Centre, Gilgandra's Cultural Heritage Centre, was constructed in 2001 and aims to harmoniously represent the cultures and lifestyles, past and present, of the people of the Gilgandra district in a setting conducive to providing education and entertainment.

The Centre demonstrates local major events of regional, state and national significance. Exhibitions include the Cooee March Collection, the Australian Collection and a plotted history of Gilgandra. The Centre is located on the banks of the Castlereagh River with the Gilgandra Visitor Centre.

The architectural design reflects Reconciliation with the Koori Gallery at one end, the European History Gallery at the other with a neutral exhibition space in the centre. The Centre features rammed earth walls and floors, corrugated iron and water tanks. It brings the two cultures together in a peaceful and artistic manner providing a truly enjoyable experience for all visitors.

The middle exhibition space features travelling exhibitions, local artists displays and themed presentations about Gilgandra district, so no two visits to the Centre should ever be the same.

The Gilgandra Visitor Centre is also located within the building. Another aspect of the complex is the Rural Museum, just 200 metres from the Visitor and Coo-ee Heritage Centre. The Rural Museum offers a peep into yesteryear with its vast collection of agricultural artifacts, historical buildings and fascinating stories. Just look for the huge windmill out the front on the Newell Highway. The Rural Museum is open weekends and school holidays between 10am and 4pm with admission being Adults $4 and children $2.

You may also wish to take a stroll into town along the 'Windmill Walk'. A beautiful avenue of trees and local windmills that meanders along the banks of the Castlereagh River towards the centre of town. There are picnic facilities right along the walk with cafes and service stations on the other side of the road offering a variety of snacks and meals.

The Centre is open to the public 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm. Admission is currently free while the displays are being finalised. Bus and school groups are welcome and are encouraged to make a booking at the Gilgandra Visitor Centre on (02) 68472045 or Email us. Local volunteer tour guides are also available.

Contact Details
Gilgandra Shire Council
Ph: (02) 6847 2709
Fax: (02) 6847 2521

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