An account of Black Thursday

This manuscript describes the experiences of Henry Mundy, a newly employed shepherd on a station near the Grampians, when the fires of Black Thursday swept through the Port Phillip District in 1851.


Henry Mundy, Reminiscences ca.1910


Accession number: MS 10416


From the State Library of Victoria's Manuscripts collection.


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…water barrel and got a good blow out  It was not long after when I heard the well known crackling and roar of the fiery demon approaching  Mrs Dwyer and all the women folk were rushing about in great excitement fearing as they said of being burnt to death  I said to Mrs Dwyer don’t be afraid ma’am, the fire can’t come here  why? She inquired; because there is nothing for it to burn.  God help us she said  As it neared the station the roar of the flames died gradually down and passed down into longer grass.  On the other side of the station was a swamp of 30 or 40 acres as level as level could make it covered with water 6 or 7 inches deep; where we obtained our drinking water by cutting drains into a deep hole sunk for the purpose.  The swamp was covered all over with almost impenetrable reeds 6 or 7 feet high; as green as they could possibly be  Noone ever dreamt it would burn but the heat of the atmosphere and the approaching fire and the wind behind it dried the reeds to such an extent that the conflagration scoffed the whole swamp down to the water’s edge, and dried up a considerable amount of the water


The fire passed on towards Robinson’s. I was thinking of John, but as Mr Dwyer remarked, there was not so much grass on Robinson’s run being more taken up with ferns and grass tree; besides I did not think that John would be caught napping; he knew his way about under such circumstances; at least to take care of himself


Owing to the mass of burning timber left in the wake of the fire, the smoke was suffocating  everyone was continuously sipping and swallowing water to moisten his parched lips and to keep the throat from drying up


A little after sundown William Nash made his appearance coming slowly up to the station with a wild distressed look on him he came up to us slid off his horse and staggered like a drunken man. Of course we were all at him for news.  He put his fingers to his open mouth, as much as to say ‘give me a drink for God’s sake before I choque’.  One of his sisters…


Read the full account of Henry's life's adventures in A young Australian pioneer by Les. Hughes