Smythesdale flood 1863

From Hotels of Ballarat

Heavy rain caused Smythesdale to flood in June and October 1863. Other areas, including Ballarat and Clunes were also flooded.

Details[edit | edit source]

Constant rain over several days, followed by a heavy downpour on Saturday 6 June 1863 caused serious flooding in Smythesdale and Scarsdale. One man drowned, roads were cut and bridges threatened by the worst flooding the towns had seen up till this time. The Geelong Advertiser carried the reports:

Our Smythesdale correspondent writes as follows —The heavy rain which fell during the whole of Friday night, caused considerable damage in this district. At Scarsdale, the dam of the Caledonian claim gave way, and the water rushing with great violence towards the recently erected bridge on the main road from Smythes to Scarsdale, near to the cemetery, carried away a large portion of the road on either side of the bridge. The bridge itself would have been washed away had the current continued live minutes longer than it did. A Chinese dam on the Linton road, near to the Ettrick Shepherd Hotel, also gave way, rendering all traffic for a time dangerous. This is the second time within a few months that this dam has burst; some measures, therefore, should be taken by the proper authorities to ensure the stability of dams placed in situations where (in case of their giving way) the lives of people are endangered. At Smythes the creek has swollen to the size of a lake, inundating a number of huts belonging to the Chinese diggers working there, and destroying in its course a number of dams and embankments. The Smythesdale road to Ballarat has more the appearance of a sea of mud than a Government main line of road. The mail from Hamilton on Saturday, which is due in Smythesdale at four o'clock, did not arrive till half past ten at night, having been detained some hours in consequence of the swollen state of the creek by Parkinson's Hotel, at the Black Hill. The driver stated that he had never seen so great a rise in the creek before; the water in this instance reaching to the body of the coach. Mr Matthew Veal who has the contract for carrying the mails to Staffordshire Reef and Bull Dog, on reaching the creek near the Black Ball, at Monkey Gully, was compelled to take the horse out of the mail cart, and swim the animal with the mail bags across. I regret to report that this day's incidents did not conclude without loss of life. A man named Patrick Burke, in the employ of Mr Johnson, a storekeeper, residing near the Gemini Company's claim, at Scarsdale, was drowned whilst crossing the creek. It happens that the deceased, in company with a man named Hopkins, was returning home in the evening in a dray, and in crossing the creek, which was much swollen, and running at a very rapid rate, were capsized. Hopkins, who could swim, landed safely, but nothing more was seen of deceased until his body was found this morning (Sunday). The horse was also drowned. An inquest is now about to be held.[1]

Heavy rain caused flooding again in October:

The rain which fell on Saturday, the 17th instant, did not attract much notice in Ballarat itself, but on that day in the Smythesdale and surrounding districts the creeks had risen to such a height as to render communication between Carngham, Linton, and Staffordshire Reef all but impossible. At Smythesdale, the recently erected brewery of Messrs Scrase and Ainley had a narrow escape from being carried away by the overflowing of the reservoir, and had it not been for the energetic measure adopted by Mr Scrase in cutting an extra bywash, such would have been the case. As it was, considerable damage was done to the stores adjacent to the brewery. The state of the Ballarat road could be better imagined than described. The horse man despatched by Mr Veal, with the mail to Bull Dog, was nearly carried away by the current in crossing the creek at the Black Ball. The crossing between Moonlight and Bull Dog was equally dangerous. Mr Blunt, of the Victoria Hotel, Linton, whilst crossing the creek in a spring cart, was swept away. Had it not been for the prompt and courageous assistance afforded by Mr Parkinson, of the Black Hill Hotel, he would undoubtedly have lost his life. Mr Parkinson, on witnessing the occurrence, rushed into the creek up to his armpits, and being provided with a strong rope, after much difficulty managed to fix it to the vehicle. By this means, and with the aid of three other men, Mr Blunt was extricated from his perilous position. Some time elapsed, however, before the horse could be safely landed. Mr Giles, the driver of the coach between Smythesdale and Carngham on his return trip, was compelled to take a circuit of six miles, by way of Cardigan Flat and the Banner of War Hotel, on the Ballarat Road, and would not have reached home that night had he not been well acquainted with the track through the bush. The Smythesdale Reservoir held secure, though doubts were expressed as to its stability.[2]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1863 'INUNDATIONS IN BALLARAT AND ITS VICINITY.', Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1929), 9 June, p. 3. , viewed 03 Mar 2017,
  2. 1863 'SOCIAL.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 23 October, p. 1. (SUPPLEMENT TO THE STAR), viewed 30 Nov 2017,

See also[edit | edit source]