Pat Cawthorne

I lived in South Katoomba cialis for sale cheap so I don’t have the same story as Ann and Gwynne. I realised at 1 o’clock in the middle of the day when we went out in the back yard and we could see the fire had come from the tip and over the back. I saw a house burn in Railway Parade I could see the houses in Railway Parade then. It just went whoosh. I could see the fire go behind the Ritz and across down the Mall. There were people in our street who worked in the pen factory in Leura and they were evacuated. They got a bus and brought them home and they were just screaming. They were evacuated to South Katoomba away from the flames.

I had one seven month old boy and he was with me. My husband was out fighting the fires and they were on the roof of the Alexandra Hotel and there was no water pressure so they were giving them beer to try to put out the fires and they watched the Chateau Napier go up.

It happened so quick, it was a nice day and nothing. Then my husband came home for lunch and he said to his work mate ‘Come and have a look at this, we had better get moving because we have to finish reading the (electricity) meters and the fire’s coming’. That was the last I saw of him until the next day. The wind picked up. There was so much damage in such a short time. To see it creeping down the hill, it seemed so wide.

It was really strange, it seemed to gather and gather and burn one house and missed the next then burn another, it was really strange and it just went down the Mall. The Ritz was alright. The Alexandra was alright, but the Chateau Napier went and it was just on the opposite corner. In Waratah Street where I lived you could just look across and you could see it going down the Mall. We had a good view from my back yard to Leura Railway Station that was how I could see the house there burn down.

No shops or anything were burnt in Katoomba. It missed Katoomba and went across the back of Leura. It was really eerie. That glow in the sky. It went down to Everglades Hotel – it’s not that anymore – and you could see smoke and sparks, it was horrible, it was frightening. Not so much for Katoomba people but for Leura people and where it went through Leura, it must have been horrible.

No one had phones in those days so my mother-in-law came around in the dark to tell us that my husband was alright.

(Ann, Pat and Gwynne all spoke of the events and aftermath:)

“The Highland shops and flats all went. The pen factory was in the Mall near where the post office building is. There were homes inside where the car park is now. The Hogan’s place was there. Old Mr Hogan was the butcher. There were two butcher’s shops in Leura then, one on each side. The west side was the side that was all burnt. Not every shop though, the bank went, then it missed one, then the drapery shop, it was funny, it was so strange, the fire just seemed to pick the houses out … ‘I’ll have you and you, you can go, you can stay, and you can go’.”

“After the fire the kids couldn’t go to school. We think people went to work. We just existed. We couldn’t buy anything and whatever mother had stored in the house we used. We didn’t go up to Katoomba for any supplies, to get anything. We just coped with what we had. I think a lot of people wouldn’t have known what was going on, it was a strange atmosphere; everyone was in shock.”

Ann – “We don’t get the fires like we used to. I think there are less fires now because the volunteer fire fighters are out, onto it straight away. I think that the bushfire brigade and the ordinary brigade know more about fires than they did. I think now everyone is prepared. If there was another one, we would know what to do.”

Other fires discussed:

We had that bad fire at Springwood and it burnt all out around Winmalee. It was one Christmas. The kids were all here for Christmas dinner. They got a call from the fire brigade that the fire was up against their fence and they raced back down to Penrith and went down to fight them.

We were taking all the kids down to the zoo and the train couldn’t get through because the fire was up on both sides of the track. We were billeted out for the night and then the next day we crept back at about 2 miles an hour. You could see fire everywhere. Springwood Fire, Winmalee Fire, the fire behind Leura School, and then down the end of Grose Street, there have been a number since 1957. Ann recalled how her son Peter Bennett, tells

Ann that she is paranoid about fire. They have had four major fires in their home: the first was when they were struck by lightning; then they had a split chimney in their slow combustion stove which entered the ceiling causing a fire; bush rats in the cavity between the upstairs and downstairs; the last one was the dishwasher – they don’t know if that is what it was. You don’t realise what plastics you have in your house. Our clothes, the plastics and stuff in the kitchen, all of my hand-made dolls, everything was black, it was everywhere, on everything. Everything was coated in black tar.

About 10 years ago when travelling along the GWH, Ann saw a man along the side of the highway near Blackheath with a pump on his back. She commented to her husband Kevin it is a strange day to do some burning off. Then we realised he was starting fires. When we got home Kevin rang the police and reported it. About nine months later the police turned up at my door asking me about the fire and then it dawned on me they were talking about that incident. I went to the police station and gave a statement. They never caught him.

Pat also spoke of a lady whom she knew in 1957, who lived out near the tip and saw where the fire started. “The Council, the insurance people bought her a house because the house she lived in, which she rented, was burnt in the fire. So to shut her up they bought her a house. She’s dead and gone now.”