Events, Accidents and Disasters

Sulky accident on the Great North Road

Road accidents also occurred in the early days. Approximately three kilometres from Bucketty, towards St Albans, is a small roadside memorial. A big pebble is cemented onto the rock face with an inscription next to it:

Sulky accident in 1909

D.Bailey  Died 1909  S.Lethbridge

Ian Webb, former NPWS ranger and Convict Trail member, has made available the following research information on the sulky accident.

Mrs Dinah Bailey (nee Fernance), was the wife of Newman Prosper (Dick) Bailey, the son of Governor Bailey of ‘The Glen’, near St Albans. She was travelling in a sulky driven by one of the sons of William and Elizabeth Jurd, to visit her sister-in-law Clara Jurd (nee Bailey) at Cessnock, who had apparently had a stroke or heart attack. The horse and sulky had previously come down from Cessnock with the news and the horse should have been changed for the return journey, but the driver was in a hurry and wanted to take his horse back home with him.

At a spot called Five Brothers, about 18 miles from Wollombi the horse stumbled and Mrs Bailey, who was nursing her young daughter named Ivy, was thrown from the sulky.  She struck her head on a flat rock area in the roadway and was killed. Young Ivy was apparently not injured.  The date was 9 February 1913 (unconfirmed, could also be 1909).

The child Ivy Dinah, was raised by John Arthur Thompson and his wife.  He was the Auctioneer at Wollombi and Laguna and lived at Dairy Arm. The other children of Mrs Bailey, two girls and four boys were also fostered out to friends and relatives.

Five Brothers was the local name for the area where the fatal accident occurred.  There was a Bloodwood Stump from which five new suckers were growing located close to the road, hence the name Five Brothers. Later one of the suckers was cut down for a telegraph pole, but the name is still used by some of the old timers.

Snow in 1965

As reported in the Central Coast Express, 19 July 1965


“Snow – the district’s first fall – helped to reduce yesterday’s noon temperature to the lowest on record.

And if you wondered why you shivered when you got out of bed yesterday morning, it was because the temperature was around 29.5 degrees F…2.5 degrees below freezing point ( -1.3 C).

The noon day temperature was around 44 degrees (6.6 C), and the Sydney Weather Bureau says that this was the lowest on record. Sunday’s snow attracted hundreds of sightseers to the Mangrove Mountain, Kulnura and Somersby districts. For many of them it was the first time they had seen snow. Children built snowmen and had snow fights. Local residents experienced what it would be like to live in the snow country.”


The weekend’s storm could mean disaster for many Central Coast farmers.

They have been severely hit by the prolonged drought. Now the rain, snow, hail and gale force winds have struck at them from another aspect.

At least two poultry farmers have suffered heavy losses by the snow, which crushed sheds and killed hundreds of hens. Citrus growers have had laden branches of trees broken off by the weight of the snow. The wind blew fruit to the ground for others. In some cases, hail took its toll on crops.

Many primary producers this morning are surveying the damage and estimating their losses. They fear that the damage may be heavier than originally considered.

This is the first time that it has snowed on the central Coast, and none of the farmers know how much it will damage their crops. They did not have much of an opportunity to determine this yesterday because the snow still covered much of the ground on the mountain.

The cyclone of 1984

An event that will never be forgotten by the early settlers of Bucketty is the mini-cyclone that hit the area on 7 February 1984.

The cyclone had a front of approximately 2km and in the evening it approached Bucketty from the north-west at 200km/h.  The storm included fierce lightning as well as big hailstones. All the properties in its path were severely damaged; trees were uprooted and roofs blown off. Trees fell onto cars, caravans and sheds.

To everybody’s surprise no-one was hurt. The most damage occurred at the Nobles’ house, which was completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt.  While fallen electricity lines posed a real threat, the telephone lines were still working.

Before official help arrived, the local community came out in force with chainsaws and other tools and worked throughout the night to assist neighbours.

The 1994 Bush Fires

Fire broke out near Singleton in the upper Hunter Valley, approximately 100kms north of Bucketty during Christmas 1993 and burnt out twenty thousand hectares in the Wollemi National Park.

The fire slowly progressed south. On 3 January 1994 a 20km-wide fire front had created two spot fires in areas exactly north-west of Bucketty at some 10-15km distance from the main residential areas.

The next day the Bucketty Volunteer Fire brigade was the first on the scene at the tiny Wallabadah community in the Yengo national park. Around noon another fire had started approximately 5km away in the Bala Range. The Wallabadah, Yengo and Bala fires linked up later on in the week.

Further to the south Dharug was on fire near Spencer and Wiseman’s Ferry. Towards the east there were the fires on the Central Coast. Bucketty was completely surrounded by fires.

On the night of the 5th support arrived from several Sydney fire brigades. The Wednesday night crew thought that with a non-stop 10 hour back burning they had the Wallabadah fire under control. Strong winds during the next day, however, destroyed that hope

By that time Sydney was on fire. In total more than 70 fires were now raging through NSW, this would grow to over 130 by the weekend. This meant that the Sydney fire brigades were rushed back to their own areas and we were on our own again.

In the early afternoon on the 5th the fire had also crossed the road between Bucketty and St Albans and blasted through one of the oldest properties in the area at Mogo Creek, but the old slab houses were saved by the Dean sisters, both in their seventies! Communities further south such as Kulnura, Mangrove and Peats Ridge were evacuated.

On the 6th the police wanted to evacuate Bucketty, but most people stayed on as they thought they would be able to save their properties.  Several of the Bucketty fire fighters were now no longer available for brigade duties as they had to protect their properties which were directly in the line of this massive fire.

When all seemed lost, the news arrived that Victorian crews were on their way to Bucketty and they arrived in the nick of time.  The Westernport Group’s Mobile Communications Unit from the Mornington Peninsula arrived in the early hours of the 7th at ‘Bucketty Control’ set up by the NPWS at their Bucketty Depot at the ‘Letter A’. This became ‘Letter A Control’ for all CFA (the Victorian Country Fire Authority) activities in the Kulnura-Bucketty-Laguna area.

They were immediately followed by men from Wodonga, who arrived with more than 20 tankers and 10 support vehicles. The Shepparton group became the day crew and the Wodonga group stayed on night duty. Fire fighters who arrived from the Gippsland town of Sale further supported them. During the weekend of the 8th relief troops also arrived from Geelong.

The first action of the Victorians was to attack the fire in the Simpson track and they were able to save most of the properties there. On Friday the 7th the winds were devastating — they were roaring through at 60-80km per hour.

The police came again and tried to convince people to evacuate. Their messages became urgent around 3pm. At 5pm the emergency order was given to all fire fighters to abandon their activities and return to a safe place (The Letter A). For the second time the Bucketty people were left on their own. The fire again crossed the Simpson track and linked up with the Bala fire and a 20km front passed Bucketty at a distance of only a few kilometres. It was all over in 30 minutes. The fire stayed on the other side (Mangrove Dam) of the main road and did not touch any of the permanent houses in Bucketty.

The Victorian night crew started to burn back in order to contain the many tail and side fires that were left after the big ones went through. They thought they had it under control, but the next day (Saturday the 8th) the winds were even worse than the day before, with gusts of up to 120km per hour. Police now started to forcibly remove several of the people who were still staying on.

The worst was feared on this black Saturday (8th January) following the black Friday, but the Victorians were able to keep the fire on the other side of the road. Several spot fires reached Bucketty, but again and again the fire fighters successfully dealt with them.

With far better weather conditions on the next day, the relieved Bucketty residents decided to organise a ‘Thank you Victoria Party’ from the Bucketty community. On Sunday evening 44 Victorians (the day crew only) walked up the Budde’s drive way and some 30 Bucketteers on the veranda above them clapped and cheered them in.

Bush Fires 2001/2002

Just 10Km north-west of us was the bushfire in Yengo National Park, and 20Km further north  the Bulga fire. The Yengo fire (7,000 hectares) had been burning since Christmas and was a direct threat to Bucketty. The population of our community combined with our neighbours, Laguna and Wollombi, is less than 1% of the population of the City of Cessnock; however our fire brigades are in charge of over 60% of the total council area (all National Park).

I went out with the Bucketty Fire Brigade on Boxing Day, but the wind was so strong that the fire jumped over us and we had to make a very fast exit! Under more normal circumstances we are quickly given assistance by other brigades. However, with bushfires raging all over NSW, and because of the remoteness of our area, we had to wait till 5 January before a large-scale attack was made on the Yengo fire.

So on Saturday afternoon we left Bucketty with a crew of seven and joined 22 fire tankers, bulk-water tankers, ambulances, communications vehicles from 10 brigades and well over a 100 crew. As on Boxing Day, I was the co-driver of a 2-person rapid-response vehicle, known as the ‘striker’— watching out for spot fires, burning trees, assisting other tankers, etc.

The back-burn went extremely well – excellent conditions, easterly sea breeze, 18 degrees and even some humidity in the air. There were a few tense moments – for example, at one point the Bucketty tanker was briefly surrounded by ‘friendly fire’ – but in general terms it was a ‘no-problems’ night. The striker was directed to take a more frontline position, and soon we were lighting the fire with drip torches ahead of the tankers. By 3am we had established a 15Km line of defence on the eastern side of the fire. If the fire reaches this area it will not find any fuel and will die out (at least, that’s the theory!). Laguna is now protected, but unfortunately Bucketty, which is situated south of the fire, is still at risk. The area between the fire and Bucketty is inaccessible and the Fire Chiefs are now considering new strategies.

Louise is also very much involved as the call-out officer. She was in charge of organising the crews to be sent out – which involves a great deal of telephoning and checking on availability. They are all volunteers and in a small community like Bucketty (180 people) this is a challenge, especially if you have to run continuous crews and each person has to be a trained fire fighter as well. However, the community spirit here is just fantastic and Louise hasn’t had a single refusal in the last two weeks. As I am typing this message she is organising the crew for tomorrow morning. The battle goes on …

Several of our staff members are also involved. Leanne Bell (IT officer) is a crew leader;  Lynne Sheppard (Newsletters) and my son Ravian (the designer of the BuddeComm house style) are, like myself, fire fighters;  and Isabelle Fogarty (proofreading) and Anne Morrill (HR) are in the catering crew.

The catering folk have established quite a name for themselves. They arrive a few hours before each call-out and the Bucketty sandwiches are reputed to be the best on the Yengo fire front.

Help sometimes arrives from unexpected sources.  While I was at the Fire Station on Saturday morning helping the Friday night crew with unpacking, cleaning, etc, they realised that they had used all the batteries for their helmet lights. Where do you get 50 new batteries? Not within a 50Km radius of Bucketty. No problem – the Cessnock police delivered a box within the hour!

We had some good rain on Monday the 7th; however this was rapidly dried out by hot winds that afternoon and the next day. By Tuesday big smoke was bulging out from Yengo again. Since that day up to 8 helicopters a day have been (and still are) desperately trying to extinguish the hotspots. We now had a fire front of 135 kms just a few kms north of us! However, the official status has change since Wednesday from ‘out of control’ to, being controlled

The immediate threat was gone. Our property is well protected.  Both the house and the office have their own fire-fighting pumps; gutters are clean; and buckets of water are strategically placed to arrest any spot fires that might start in front of the fire.

There is separate report in Dutch .

Fire hit the Budde property – October 2002

The October 2002 Cessnock Cluster bush fire was unique due the huge number of fires involved it spanned six Rural Fire Districts and lasted almost two months from 21 October 2002 until 12 December 2002. 171  individual fires impacted upon the Cessnock, Gosford, Hawkesbury, Maitland, Singleton and Wyong RFDs during the declaration.

The Bala Range fire, the main fire in the Cluster, lasted 77 days. Lightning storms along the Bala Range in Yengo National Park ignited it on 5 October 2002.

The Bala Range fire was declared a state emergency (S.44) on 10 October 2002.  An Incident Management Team was stationed at the Bucketty Fire Station, with opposite of the station in the Bucketty Paddocks, a large scale firemen’s camp (Bucketty Base Camp) for 150 fire fighters.

With a variety of fire fighting troops becoming available under the S44 the Bucketty Fire Brigade was asked to prepare a list of recommendations for hazard reduction burns.  On this list Koolang (neigbouring our property) was also mentioned as one of the proposed sites.

Based on this list one of the visiting fire brigades did a hazard reduction at Koolang on Monday night 21 October. At that stage the Bala fire was still more than 10kms away from Bucketty and did not cause any threat.  On Wednesday morning 23 October this hazard reduction lit up and created a very hot fire that within 15 minutes threatened our house.

As Bucketty was not under any threat at the time all fire fighting vehicles from the visiting fire brigades (stationed opposite us) were on the fire grounds at least one hour away from Bucketty and our own fire brigade was on its way out to the Simpson track. It was sheer luck that they only just had left the Fire Station and was thus able to turn around and successfully fight the fire on Koolang’s and our property, with the assistance of water bombing helicopters.

Mt McQuoid on fire 2009

On Monday 16th November 2009, at 9.00pm we had an enormous lightening strike somewhere behind the house, but a quick inspection showed nothing and the electricity stayed on, so all looked ok. However, at 9.30 I smelled fire and started to look around and saw a big red glow behind our house. Things moved quickly from that moment, I was on my own as Louise was in Wagga. I put on my fire fighting gear and went up the hill. For those familiar with the situation the fire was burning on the other side of the track going up from the fire station to the aviation beacon.

The lightening had hit a tree just on top of the hill and the fire was going downhill following the track; it did not damage any of the aviation equipment (most of them situated on barren rock).  Luckily only some six weeks ago we had done a big burn off on our side of the track, down to the house so the fire stayed nicely at the eastern end.

I phoned 000 and our own fire captain, opened the fire station and the gate to the aviation beacon than back to the house rolling out the hoses behind the house just in case the fire would skip the track.

By 10pm the fire brigade was there and with them on site I felt it safe enough to leave the situation at our house again and went back up the hill and with the rako started to make sure that no embers would start a spotfire on our side. When the tanker arrived we had, within 45 minutes, the fire under control. I was buggered and walked home but the fire brigade will still have a few hours mopping up work to do.

Another fire did hit Mt McQuoid in January 2017. This started from a fire on a neighbouring property. It raced up Mt McQuoid from the end Road 5. Helicopter water bombing just stopped it from damaging properties on the ridge.

The Gospers Mountain Fire 2019 – 2020

The Gospers Mountain Fire started approx. 70 kms west of Bucketty in the Wollemi National Park. The fire was ignited by lighting on October the 26th 2019. For several months the fired hovered between 15 and 5 kms from Bucketty. It was finally declared extinguished on February the 9th 2020 3½ month after it started. It only happened after the region was drenched in close to 400mm of rain. Years of draught were broken by the its wettest period since 1990.

The major effect it had on Bucketty was months of smoke, months of treats, serious anxiety and ongoing pressures on the volunteer firefighters.

It was only December the 20th that a massive backburn was launched. There were close 100 firefighters, some coming as fare as from New Zealand. The backburned along the Great North Road into the direction of St Albans where it some 5kms further reached the live fire line. Bucketty was now protected.

The neighbouring communities of Laguna and Wollombi were in a similar situation and were also spared. Just to the north the fire reached Paynes Crossings and thanks to vigilant residents most homes were saved. To the south of Bucketty the fire created havoc in Kulnura where it also caused damage. In the end the fire reached the Blue Mountains, where severe damage occurred at Mount Wilsons. While over 500.000 hectares – nearly 2/3rd – of the Wollemi NP was burned, the NPWS were able to save the famous stands of the Wollemi Pines.

Wombat Rescue Project

Before white settlers arrived in Australia and even before the Aboriginal people arrived, the wombat existed in this area, and indeed all around Australia.

It has now been discovered that wombats are in desperate need of help if they are to survive the changes that people have brought to their environment. While we are all sickened by the many wildlife road accidents in Bucketty a far greater killer is the mange (a mite burrowing under the skin, causing a slow and agonising death). The carrier for this disease is most probably the fox.

Many people around the country have been worried about the suffering of the wombat, and Bucketty is fortunate to have some of the leading people in this field live in the area.

Debbie Breen and Greg Mulder are dedicated wombat rescuers. They have been looking after the wombats in the Bucketty – Murrays Run area since 1995. During the first few years they caught over 100 wombats, of which 80% have been treated and released back into the wild.  Ray Tipper, Bucketteer Wayne Maloney and Burralongians Marian and Rod Tuson Leanne and Diane Bell and Sue Grant have assisted them in this.

The animals are caught by hand or in special traps; they are tagged and given the necessary treatment three times to ensure recovery.  A couple of rehabilitation areas have also been established for the more severe cases. The sad fact is that the Bucketty – Murrays Run area is one of the most badly affected areas. The NPWS, Cessnock Council, the Dubbo and Taronga Zoos and several local veterinarians support the rescuers.

In 1997 the local community became involved and started to assist Debbie and Greg in various ways, Bucketty Tidy Bush provides organisational and administrative assistance. Since Debbie and Greg have settled into Will’O Wyn plans are underway to establish a wombat hospital to better address the problems. The project has received broad media attention –in 1998 an appeal on Channel 9 brought in more than $10,000.

While several people in the community have become actively involved in the rescue activities, the major problem remaining is a lack of trained volunteer rescuers — dedicated people are needed to go out, catch and treat the sick animals.

Drought problems

In 1998 Bucketty Tidy Bush received assistance from three environmental sciences students from the University of NSW:  Erwin Budde (son of the author), Daniel Whaite and Kurt Sutton.  They embarked on a field study on the ground water situation in the Peat’s Ridge – Bucketty area.  The study was instigated by the local communities of Bucketty and Mangrove Mountain, who were alarmed by the dropping water levels.  While the winter rains of 1998 eliminated many of the immediate problems, the underlying need for proper water management remains. Over the last decade concern about water resources has increased – especially in rural areas – and people in these communities have become more aware of the problems associated with water management.

The report published by the students clearly indicates that most of the problems reported by the local communities were associated with the prolonged period of drought and it was reassuring to know that the scientists from the various government departments were correct in relation to the large amount of water which is stored deep underneath the ground. Also, reports from long-term residents, recalling cycles covering close to 100 years, have proved to be reliable – by early 2000 most springs and creeks had fully recovered.

One consequence of the crisis, however, was the recognition in local communities of a feeling of ownership of water management issues – the people feel that they have an important role to play here.  This is very much in line with a general trend in the community, with people taking greater responsibility for their own environment and individuals becoming involved in healthy debate and questioning of what information is, or is not, available to them. This is not meant as a criticism of the ‘experts’, but is rather evidence of a genuine wish to become involved in the issues.

People in rural communities are affected daily by water resource management decisions – for their drinking water, farm requirements, bush fire fighting, etc. It is therefore good to see the recommendations made in the report, which are aimed at improving communications between the official authorities and the local communities – not just in terms of providing these communities with more information, but looking at including them in the various decision-making processes.  Before this, the local communities may have received large quantities of information, but they did not necessarily feel involved in the actual decision-making processes.

Furthermore, while the authorities appear to be acting from a sound theoretical basis, it is also important that the community should judge any activities conducted within such scientifically acceptable parameters as appropriate.

A particular example of this is commercial water bottling. Once again, lack of communication is the major reason for dissension – not only between the local communities and the authorities, but also between the community and the companies involved.  The report maintains that there is a responsibility on the part of these companies to proactively address community concerns. The study also indicates that current regulations are not adequate – this applies both to the monitoring of water withdrawal and to water quality control.

The report has been presented to the Minister, the local government departments involved and the water authorities and local communities in the area.

The local communities who instigated the project were very impressed by the work of the three young environmental science students who conducted the study and they commended the University of New South Wales for stimulating their students to become involved in real-life issues.

While scientific evidence have not linked this harvesting of water with local water problems, ine general, draught conditions persisted throughout the next decade.

Looking at the draught problems over the years, a good indicator is the waterhole, near the Convict Camp site Dennis’ Dog Kennel.  According to the locals this waterhole had always been full during the 1970s and 1980s. By mid 1990s however it was nearly dry, it filled half-up again later that decade but had significantly dried up again by the time the storm of June 2007 hit, for the first time in decades water spilled over from the waterhole into Deep Creek. By the time  the next major rains arrived  in February 2010 it had nearly dried up again and that rain only replenished the waterhole by approx 20%. It was only again  in June 2011 that torrential rains within 24 hours filled up the dam gain and caused Deep Creek to flow once again. Follow up rains in late August saw it running (trickling) again and seriously flowing in early October and late November that year. Summer, autumn and winter 2012  were unusually wet  and that saw  the creek flowing on and of  again until June. In late January and early February 2013  we received the tail end of the Oswald Cyclone and in early February the creek flowed again. It was until the big storms in Mach 2014 that, be it briefly, the creek was flowing again. Bucketty saw one of it biggest storm in the weekend of 24th March 2014,  a year and a month later a similar storm reached the area, causing the creek to flow again . On the 11th of January 2016, a mini cyclone hit a small area mainly around the convict waterhole on the Great North Rd (in the direction of St Albans) more than 50 large trees were flattened in the area and of course the creek started running again. By June 2019 the dam had totally dried up. It wasn’t till after the massive rains in February 2020 that the dam was filled up again. This didn’t last long and by July is stood completely dry again only to be partly filled by November that year.

  • The other extreme to drought is flood and Murrays Run gets its fair share of these. Another flood occurred in August 1998. For more severe floods, however, one has to go back further in time. The years, 1893 and 1949, are referred to most frequently in the stories told by the old-timers in the area, but these events have been well covered in other publications. Also within that same  league would be the flood from June 2007, February 2013 and April 2015.

Next see: Bucketty in the 21st century