In just twenty days, on the 7th February, it will be the 50 year anniversary of Black Tuesday. Bushfires that claimed 62 lives, injured over 900, and burnt through over half a million acres of land in Southern Tasmania. Over 3000 homes and buildings, 1500 motor vehicles and 80 bridges were destroyed, and at least 62,000 farm animals killed.
There was 110 fires burning prior to this date, and many of them joined up to become an inferno. The worst of them was the Hobart one, which came within two kilometres of the CBD. It was a catastrophe of mammoth proportions both economically and personally. The total damage amounted to $40M in 1967 Australian dollar values. Seven thousand people were left homeless; including my father, his parents and siblings.
As a child I had heard the family story and as a teenager I wrote a childrens story for an English assignment, using this event as the background.
In 2015 we had an extended family reunion, for which I had been reworking the twenty-six year old story. Dad gave a 10 minute telling of his experiences there, and then a year later was asked to write his memories of that day by the Channel Heritage Centre in Margate, which has a special section devoted to the Black Tuesday fires.
Some details of the story were new to me – or I had forgotten about them. Either way, they were written into the story, which has only added to the drama and poignancy.
Last week, TOLL hand-delivered to me, the first copy of this book. Initially I was going to have an artist illustrate the story, but it became something I took on to save a little money. Drawing, when you haven’t been in the flow of it, doesn’t come easily. However once I started the pictures seemed to flow from the pencil, far easier than I expected. Dealing with the publisher has given me some stress and annoyance. Needless to say there were many lessons learnt.
I am so pleased that the sometimes fraught, often challenging journey to publish this essentially family story, is complete.
In a few weeks, I hope to have copies of the book available for those who wish to purchase it.