Monday, July 7, 2014

Amanuensis Monday - Sharing Memories - Disastrous Floods destroy Nuntherungie Station Homestead

Red earth of Nuntherungie- Homestead in Background
Last week I wrote about the importance of rain in the outback, and some of my childhood memories of the celebration and excitement when rain did finally eventuate in Sharing Memories - Here comes the Rain!.  In this story I mentioned Miss Tapp, the sister of the owner of Nuntherungie Station who was brought up on the station as a young child.  Miss Tapp, who lived in Broken Hill, had quite an influence on my knowledge of the bush as a young child.  

When she was visiting her brother (from Broken Hill) she would take me on walks in the bush, and dry creek beds, pointing out the different types of bushes, plants and animals. She showed me how to dig down into the dry creek bed, to find water, and pointed out some of the native plants that were edible. I can also clearly remember her showing me the different foot prints in the sand that were made by kangaroos, birds and goannas by drawing the shapes of their hoof prints in the sand.   
North West Corner of  NSW - showing location of Nuntherungie
The Homestead of Nuntherungie was built on a hill, looking down on the extensive system of creeks that flowed in between the homestead and the Woolshed.  However, this homestead was not the original building.  The first homestead build on Nuntherungie was erected closer to the creeks in the 1880's.  On one of the outings with Miss Tapp we visited the spot where the first homestead stood.  All that was remaining was a couple of brick chimneys, overgrown by bush. Miss Tapp described her childhood in a beautiful stone homestead. She then told me the homestead had been destroyed in a huge flood that the family had to leave and rebuild their home on higher ground. 

As we scrambled out way through the long grass and trees, Miss Tapp pointed out a small overgrown garden bed where a couple of bulbs were popping out of the ground.  She explained that this was all that remained of her mothers garden and every year in spring these bulbs would pop their heads out to remind her of times gone.
I had almost forgotten this story until recently troving through TROVE and came across this article, which gives a more substantial description of the events on the day that the Nuntherungie homestead was washed away in the huge floods of 1931.  It was one of those light bulb moments!  I remember being told about this! and as the story follows on nicely from my previous article about celebrating the arrival of rain in this district, it is fitting to share this story as it highlights  how the people of these isolated areas were at the mercy of the elements.



About 6000 pounds damage.

The stately old homestead at Nuntherungie Station, 120 miles from Broken Hill on the White Cliffs road, is now a scene of desolation, and so severe is the damage wrought by the recent floods that the building will have to be demolished and a new homestead built.  About 6000 pounds damage was done.

Nuntherungie is one of the oldest homesteads in the district, and was once owned by the Kennedy family.  The homestead was erected 50 years ago.  Mr Nigel Kennedy, who died in Broken some years ago, being a son of the owner.  Then Mr B. A. Williamson of Abbotsford near Ivanhoe had the place, Mr E.P. Tapp, the present owner, taking over after he returned from service with the A.I.F. during the Great War.  Thus Mr Tapp, who took the place in 1920 or 1921 has during his life not only been exposed to the dangers of war, but has experienced some of the bitter reverses of civil life.

Nuntherungie homestead is built on the east side of a creek and was constructed of stone and pise and when it was built it was never thought that the district would experience such as a flood as was the case about a fortnight ago.  In years gone by the flood waters came down the creek proper but during the past few heavy rains the creek has overflowed some distance above the station and flowed down both sides but the rush of water had never previously reached the house.  When on previous occasions water threatened the station large banks were built to keep it back, and up till this flood the move was successful.  On this occasion the raging torrent was too much for the embankments and they were swept away.  The water had been banked so far back that when it was suddenly released it came like the rapids of a surging river.  Right through the homestead, outhouses and woolshed the water rushed carrying everything before it.  At the height of the flood the water in the homestead and some other houses was 4ft 6 inches deep.  Everything was soaked, the most valuable article, a piano, being saved from destruction by the foresight of some of the people there.  The mattresses from a couple of beds were placed on the dining room table and the piano was lifted on to this.  Thus it escaped the water.  While the piano rested majestically on the table, chairs, other tables and furniture floated about the buildings like miniature yachts.

The miracle was that no persons on the station were drowned.  After the flood had subsided silt was found on the floors of the homestead inches deep.  The foundations of the house sank as a result of the rush of water and in some walls of the buildings cracks appeared from one inch to almost a foot wide.  Other walls collapsed, that is interior walls and two of the walls near the front of the house.  There were nine rooms in the building and all that supports the roof now are a few walls and the door and window frames.  It is estimated that between 5000 pounds and 6000 pounds damage was done to the house, contents and outbuildings on the property.

In the outbuildings a two-roomed structure over a cellar has a tilt because of the foundations having subsided.  Several of the buildings have feet of silt in them.

The flood was the largest in the memory of white men in the district.  One man has been on the station for 35 years and he says that he has never seen such a flood before.  The exact rainfall on the station is not known.  About five inches of rain was registered and then the rain gauge was useless.

It is believed that the extra-large flood was caused by heavy falls at Wertago, where seven inches of rain was registered.  This is between Nuntherungie and Gnalta, and all this water came down the Nuntherungie Creek, later finding its way to Bancannia Lake, about 50 miles away.  Following the water came floods from the Kayrunnera area.

Mr Edward Tapp**
There are five in the Tapp family and all were at home.  Fortunately shearing was in progress and the shearers were able to give Mr Tapp valuable help in cleaning up a lot of the debris.  The shearing of Nuntherungie sheep had finished, but Wertago sheep were being attended to and of course since the flood and the damage the shearing has had to be postponed for the time.

The water came through the shearing shed feet deep, but did not cause the building to collapse.  The silt damaged the interior of the building and much repair work will have to be carried out.  Forty bales of wool were saturated, but the shearers as soon as the rain eased off opened these and spread the wool out to dry.  It is still marketable, although it will be slightly discoloured.  The shearers stood by Mr Tapp to a man and although they were told they could not be paid they never faltered in their cleaning up of the debris and stayed at the station as long as they could.  They worked like men on contract and Constable Smith, who was held up by the floods and reached Nuntherungie gave help till he was able to push on to his station at White Cliffs.  At times it was feared that there would be a shortage of food, but this was rationed and the determination of neighbours at Kayrunnera and Wertago saved the position, Light vehicles were taken out over the flooded areas and provisions were carried over the flooded creek.  Constable Smith left Nuntherungie on Easter Monday and the shearers who had put through 6000 sheep went on to White Cliffs, being held up there owing to the roads to Tonga, where they had to start shearing, being boggy.

According to a resident who was through Nuntherungie during the weekend, the roads between here and Gnalta are passable, but for a man to take the rest of the road to Nuntherungie he must be a careful driver and have a light car.  All the creeks between Gnalta and Nuntherungie are silted up, there being piles of debris and silt 7 ft high in some creeks.  The creek known as 10 mile, some distance from Nuntherungie, had a wire netting crossing, but this has been carried away, and a pile of silt has taken its place.  As far as can be ascertained no sheep were drowned, but a muster cannot be made on account of the conditions of the country.  Some may have been carried away in the torrent, and if not caught in trees washed into Bancannia Lake.  To add to the discomfort of the Nuntherungie people, telephone communication was cut off, the lines being washed away.  Communication has now been restored through Wonnaminta, but the direct line to White Cliffs is still out of order.

Travellers say that much fending on all the stations in the flood area was washed away, and the banks of tanks suffered extensively.  Most of the surface water from the floods has gone, but there is still a little about the clay pans.

Station people in the Nuntherungie area say they will long remember the disastrous flood, and there is much sympathy in the district for Mr Tapp and family, for their loss is severe and the disaster coming at a time when the industry is just recovering makes the blow suffered doubly heavy.
1931 'THE FLOOD AT NUNTHERUNGIE.', Barrier Miner(Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), 14 April, p. 3, viewed 7 July, 2014,
 **Obituaries Australia,, viewed on 1 July 2014.

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