Memories come flooding back
By ED SOUTHORN
COME landslide and flood, Murwillumbah cab driver Dave Gray always managed to do what had to be done.
With the 50th anniversary of the 1956 floods next month, 83-year-old Mr Gray yesterday recalled his escape from a frightening landslide while driving a small Bradford panel van over Farrants Hill during the Big Wet of February '56.
And he also told of his astonishing adventure with his grandmother Ellen in the 1954 floods, when they were crouched in the roof cavity of her home as it was swept off its stumps and floated across River Street, South Murwillumbah.
With so much of Murwillumbah inundated during the '56 floods, Mr Gray and his father Jack could not venture beyond Condong along the flooded Pacific Highway when they tried to make a mail delivery run.
Doing their best to help keep the town's communication links open, Mr Gray and his dad detoured over Farrants Hill on their way to the Gold Coast.
On the return trip, as they came back over Farrants Hill and were cut off by a landslide, their only way back to Murwillumbah was by foot.
As they walked along patches of exposed ground to their River Street home, they were given a lift by the Byron Bay Surf Life Saving Club surf boat crew who had had arrived in Murwillumbah to help out folk who needed rescuing.
Mr Gray recalled a more distressing experience in the '54 floods two years earlier.
He was living a few doors down from his parents and they lived close to his grandmother, all in River Street.
After finishing his taxi shift, he arrived home in the late afternoon on Saturday, February 20, 1954, and was confronted by rapidly rising flood waters.
"I swam along the fence line to check on my parents and they were okay. But when I got to grandma's, the floodwaters and I came in through the front door together.
"I put a meat safe on a table and pulled her up through the ceiling into the roof.
"I had an iron bar with me and knocked a hole in the tin roof.
"We watched the Nobbs' house float onto the road and disappear under water, then float up again. We thought Joan Nobbs' parents could not survive that, but they did. Joan was up at the hospital having her first baby.
"We floated across the road ourselves and stayed there until the next morning."
Mr Gray and his wife Jean, 80, are probably the longest surviving residents of River Street. Mr Gray has lived in the street all his life.
n Tell us your memories of the floods 50 years ago. Email to email@example.com or phone (07) 5524 6400.