Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XV page 7

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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

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It was in one of these spring floods that Mr Archie Campbell of Glencoe lost his life. He and his brother John, needing provisions, tried to work a boat across the La Trobe River, then running in furious torrent over the low ground between Glencoe and Sale . The boat was capsized, and the two brothers saved themselves from sinking by clinging to the top of a tall ti-tree. They could see the lights of the town, for it was dusk when they found themselves in the water. It was agreed that Archie Campbell should set out to swim ashore for help, but no help came. On the following morning John Campbell was seen by some residents, still clinging to the ti-tree. He was quite unconscious, and so stiff with cold that his rescuers had to break off the branch to which he clung before he could be taken into the boat. The fate of his brother was not discovered until the flood went down, when his body was found at the foot of the same tree. This is but one of the many tales of disasters by flood. In later days, when police stations were formed on the upper courses of the rivers, early notice of approaching floods was sent to the residents in the lower districts, giving time for their remove with their stock to higher ground.

As has already been said in the chapter on the Western District, it seemed to me a pity that the system of forming river crossings followed there was not adopted in those parts of Gippsland where suitable material abounded. Every Gippsland flood left bridges wrecked and culverts torn away, requiring a good deal of money to repair damages.

There is no suitable stone, however, immediately about Sale for experiments of this kind, and the piece of road now to be spoken of, between Sale and Longford, called for expedients of another kind. It was planned accordingly that a roadway should be formed across the Longford morass, consisting of heavy red gum sleepers secured to longitudinal beams so as to prevent shifting in time of flood. The Public Works Department undertook the cost and oversight of the work and placed an officer named Gibson as its representative to see that the conditions of the contract were carried out. It was a sine qua non that the timber should be red gum and none other, and yet the contractor, a man named Mac., never put one foot of red gum into the job. The work was passed, the contractor was paid, and then the rumour spread that the work was scamped. The Government proceeded against the contractor, but the case broke down through the failure of its officer to produce his books and other necessary documents. The unfortunate fellow never did produce them, but died in prison, where he was sent for contempt of court. It was an ugly business altogether.

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