[Editor: This section of articles, regarding the Australasian colonies, was published in The Waterford News (Waterford, Ireland), 26 February 1864.]
MELBOURNE, DEC. 26. — GREAT GALE AND FLOOD. — The flood, which was expected in the United Kingdom on the 14th December did appear, not however in the latitude prophesied, but in the antipodes.
At Melbourne, it commenced to rain on the 13th, with, for the time of year, unusual severity, and on the 14th the Yarra Yarra, on the banks of which river, Melbourne is built, began to rise, and continued rising until the following Thursday. During Monday and Tuesday, one of the severest gales ever experienced blew from the west, and played havoc with the shipping in the bay; this, together with the high tide, caused the Yarra to rise fifty feet above its level, the most formidable visitation experienced since the foundation of the colony; it is not a mere figure to say that Melbourne was entirely surrounded by water.
At Prince’s-bridge, the Yarra is ordinarly about two chains wide. During the height of the flood the water extended from the Suburban Railway on the one side to the Immigrants’ Home on the other, a distance of about a third of a mile. The southern approach to the bridge was completely hid in water, which dashed over the roadway like a cataract. All the low land bounded by the city, Emerald-hill, and Sandridge was hid in one large sea, and the water was up to the eaves of every house and store in that locality.
Traffic had to be suspended for several days on the Hobson’s Bay Railway, and people who had business between the city and Emerald-hill and Sandridge had to be conveyed to and fro by boats, and pretty well along the same route which is usually traversed by cars. Stores and warehouses were under water, and publicans had to establish lines of boats in order to avoid loss of custom. A great quantity of merchandise in the wharf-sheds was swept away by the force of the current. Steamers and sailing vessels, though ready to leave harbour, had to remain at the wharfs, because the flood would not allow the course of the Yarra to be traced.
The works of the Melbourne Gas Company were inundated, and, in consequence, the city was in partial darkness for several nights. Higher up the river, the damage was still more distressing. The approaches to the Botanic-gardens bridge were washed away; the Punt-road for half its length was covered with water; all the cottages lying between this thoroughfare and Cremorne had such a pluvial visitation that the inmates were glad to escape with their lives; and the tanneries, wool-washing places, and other industrial works near Hawthorn and Simpson’s-road, were sadly injured.
Several wooden houses were washed away with the tide, and stone buildings had their foundations undermined, causing some of them to fall. Several lives, particularly of drivers of carts, who had attempted to wade through to the wharfs, were lost, and many poor people had all their properly swept away.
During the flood, the following notification was extensively placarded on the walls by order of the Commissioner of Customs:— “To Poor Persons driven out of their Homes by the present Floods:— Accommodation for a few days will be afforded to such families and persons on their applying at the Immigrants’ Depot, King-street, West Melbourne. Should the demand be in excess of the spare room, tents and bedding, under proper care, will be loaned, and other assistance granted to the necessitous. A certificate from a clergyman or a magistrate of the locality must be produced at the depot.”
Public meetings have been held and subscriptions opened for the assistance of those who have been all but ruined by the flood. Strange to say, during the time that the metropolis experienced so serious a visitation, fine weather prevailed in the interior.
The present is pre-eminently the season of festivities; and of all the strange contrasts between England and Australia, there is none more striking than the manner in which Christmas is kept in the two hemispheres. Christmas here is devoted to pic-nics, excursions, and various similar out-door enjoyments; and, with the sun burning overhead, and the ground almost scorching hot, the less the “customs” of dear old England are preserved the better is it for the health at least of persons on this side of the line. Instead of genial spring weather, we have had some cold, accompanied with very heavy rains.
Looked at from a commercial point of view, the past year has on the whole been a prosperous one. Credit has been well maintained, and the public revenues have shown no signs of decadence. The population of the colony has increased from natural causes and immigration. The gold fields have, however, been less productive than in former years.
THE KEANS. — After a successful engagement at Melbourne, the Keans have been received in Sydney with unbounded applause, their first six nights there yielding them £600. Their term of performance in that place was to close on the 26th January, after which they were to return to Melbourne , proceeding thence to Ballarat. Here a subscription had been raised of more than £600, which sum they were to receive for six nights’ representations, the management to be recompensed by all money taken at the doors. On the 20th of February they were to re-appear at Melbourne, and play there till the 21st of March. Subsequently their intention was to proceed to Hobart Town.
THE POPULATION. — The official returns of the immigration and emigration at all ports at the colony have been published for November. The arrivals numbered 3,702 persons, and the departures 1,902; the balance being in favour of the colony by 1,800. Of the arrivals, 3,694 landed at Melbourne, and 8 at Port Albert. Of the departures, 1,890 sailed from Melbourne, 7 from Geelong, and 5 from Port Albert. The sexes and ages may be thus stated:— Arrived — 2,125 adult males, 1,060 adult females, 254 male and 263 female children. Departed — 1,278 adult males, 338 adult females, 154 male and 132 female children.
THE WAR IN NEW ZEALAND. — The British forces have had a complete success, and there is a prospect that the Maoris will soon tire, signs to that end having been made by their chief, Thompson. On Friday, December 4, the Himalaya returned to Sydney, after conveying the 50th Regiment to Auckland, and with her came the following message from the General Commanding:—
“Nov. 21, 1863.
“We assaulted the enemy’s entrenched position at Rangariri at half-past four p.m. on the 20th, and carried it after a desperate engagement. I regret to say our loss is severe—Lieutenant Murphy (12th) and Midshipman Watkins, R.N., and thirty-five men killed; thirteen officers and eighty men wounded, including Colonel Austin, 14th Regiment; Captain Mayne, Lieutenants Alexander, Downes, and Hotham, R.N.; Captain Mercer, R.A.; Captain Phelps, 14th Regiment; Captain Gresson, Lieutenant Talbot, Lieutenant Chevalier, Adjutant Lewis, 65th Regiment; Captain Brookes, R.E.; Ensign Ducrow, 40th Regiment, — the greater part severely.
The enemy fought with the greatest determination, and held the strongest part of his position during the whole night; being completely surrounded and cut off, they surrendered unconditionally at half-past five this day. 183 in number are now prisoners of war, amongst them several chiefs of note. The enemy’s loss has not yet been ascertained, but it is known to be very great.
A party of 400, under William Thompson, approached the position from the east with a flag of truce after the surrender. An interpreter was sent, who states that William Thompson appeared inclined to surrender, but his people were opposed to it and went back, he says, and sent in his mere by the interpreter, with what objects I am not aware. The King was present at Rangariri, and escaped during the night, by swimming across the swamp, as did several others. The total number of the enemy present at the engagement is not known.”
The Waterford News (Waterford, Ireland), 26 February 1864, [p. 4]
car = an abbreviation of “carriage”
figure = figure of speech (an expression, phrase, or word which has a metaphorical meaning)
pluvial = of or relating to rain or precipitation; characterised by rain or the action of rain; rainy; a climate characterised by heavy rain
R.A. = Royal Artillery, i.e. the Royal Regiment of Artillery (a section of the British Army)
See: “Royal Artillery”, Wikipedia
R.E. = Royal Engineers, i.e. the Corps of Royal Engineers (a section of the British Army)
See: “Royal Engineers”, Wikipedia
R.N. = Royal Navy (of the United Kingdom)
See: “Royal Navy”, Wikipedia
Sandridge = the former name of Port Melbourne (Vic.)
See: “Port Melbourne”, Wikipedia
Yarra Yarra = (archaic) the Yarra (i.e the Yarra River, historically known as the Yarra Yarra River)
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]
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