“Black Thursday” [article about the 1851 bushfires, 8 February 1910]

[Editor: This article was published in The Star (Sydney), 8 February 1910.]

“Black Thursday.”

It was 59 years ago last Sunday since Victoria was overtaken by the calamity of those appalling bush fires that gave to the day on which they occurred the designation of “Black Thursday.” Blair’s “Cyclopaedia of Australia” thus describes that memorable day:—

Early in the morning the wind increased to a hurricane, and bush fires swept across whole districts with the speed of lightning; crossing roads and wide streams; destroying men, women, and children, cattle, and sheep, crops, fences, houses, and, in fact, everything that stood in their way.

The devouring flames spread everywhere, careering along the dried herbage on the surface, dancing up the large forest trees, and wantoning in the excess of devastation. When the flames appeared many brave men attempted to impede their progress, and avert the ruin of their homes. They endeavored to meet the devouring element, and beat it back with green boughs; but these attempts were useless, for the fire swept over them, with a giant’s strength, as if in mockery of such puny efforts, leaving them charred and lifeless lumps on the ground where they had stood.

The herds and flocks, the wild beasts and birds of prey, the reptiles, and other animals, endeavored to flee, but were speedily overtaken, and fell a prey to the crackling and roaring flames. There were many persons travelling in the bush who had narrow escapes, as they suddenly became enveloped in the flames, and almost suffocated in the sweltering fumes of the surging blast. Could a more awful situation be pictured?

The traveller started on his journey without anticipating danger; the wind from the north gradually grew in violence; the hot, fierce, blazing blast at last appeared charged with an unusual element; then the smell of smoke was perceived; and, in an incredibly brief space, the whole of the bush was in one universal conflagration.

Amazed and terrified, the solitary bushman found himself face to face with destruction, and that, too, in the most awful form that death could come. Those who were caught in the jaws of this flaming tempest were withered up like a scroll. The only escape was to gallop, if possible, out of the line of fire, or take shelter in water. Many that day had a hard race for their lives.

On the same date, in the year 1879, another day of nearly similar disaster occurred. Of a family of seven persons, named Turnbull, residing near Colac, some were burned to death, and some mortally injured by a bush fire which swept over the country surrounding their dwellings.

The Star (Sydney, NSW), 8 February 1910, p. 7

Editor’s notes:
herbage = plants in general; nonwoody vegetation; herbaceous vegetation (plants with soft stems, including grass); vegetation grazed by animals (pasturage)

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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