Fire and Rain

In its first century, Bangalow burned almost as often as it flooded. The rain was God’s doing, the fires were almost all man-made. The Northern Star of January 1931 reckoned that Bangalow had probably set a record in getting all fired up. When, earlier that month, young Harry Fowler fronted the owner of the Bangalow Herald newspaper to claim a reward for putting out a burning pile of rubbish he’d found on the premises, he got a clip round the ear, and the advice to leave alone any fire he might find in the future. The Herald burned down the next week.

It’s a very Australian story. The continent is regularly born again in flame, phoenix-like, and so, too, has Bangalow been.

And out of all that destruction came a redemption. In brick.

In the first decade of the 20th century, the northern side of Byron Street went up, and the three brick Barby buildings were built. Then the Granuaille Hotel erupted, reaching across the street to take the two banks opposite with it. Brick, brick and more brick. The work of rascals, probably looking for insurance payouts, set Bangalow alight so often that building in brick became the order of things. That stabilised the streetscape in its present form.

Undeterred, the villains lit up the remaining wooden structures, and cleared the way for more robust buildings.

In the first decade of the 21st century, Bangalow now burns with the enthusiasm of a strong and stable community that has learned the lesson of the little piggy who built in brick. As for the rain and the floods, they still come from above. There’s nothing metaphorical about them.

Hamilton Du Lieu
2005

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