“I am afraid I am going. Good-bye.”
Marion Currie, 84 years old, and her young grandson, age unknown, were pinned under a piece of timber in the midst of the worst cyclone Townsville had known.
It was March 9, 1903 and as Cyclone Leonta intensified, Marion had made two attempts to reach her daughter’s home near her Sturt Street home. But the weather was too bad and they returned.
The North Queensland Register reported what happened.
“Mrs King noticed about 12 o’clock that her mother’s house was in ruins and fearing that some injury might have come to Mrs Currie she got the assistance of a friend to battle the storm and he discovered Mrs Currie and the grandson pinned under the building.
“Mrs Currie was quite dead, but the boy was uninjured.
“The lad said his grandmother was not killed instantaneously; she spoke to him and asked him to lift a piece of timber that was crushing her.
“The poor boy replied that he could not move it, and the grandmother then replied, “I am afraid I am going. Good-bye.”
She was one of 12 people in Townsville to lose their lives that day.
Mrs King was the wife of the local ambulance superintendent, Gus King, (pictured right) who was busily saving lives while his mother-in-law unfortunately lay dying. The town had only had an ambulance service since 1900.
While cyclones Althea and Yasi in the years since have surpassed the intensity of Leonta, the impact of the tempest was devastating to the town.
With telephone and telegraph services disrupted, at the time it was difficult to know the extent of the damage, or to call for help.
“ The appearance of the town — and Flinders-street suffered least — was extraordinary, sheets of iron, branches of trees, wooden frameworks, and sign boards floated about like leaves, but in the higher portions of the town the grim work of the gale was perceptible to an extent that would have been grotesque had it not been so terribly tragical (sic).
Marion is buried in Townsville’s historic West End cemetery.
References: Bradley, Ernie 2021 History of the Queensland Ambulance, second edition, viewed online at https://www.ambulance.qld.gov.au/docs/history/Townsville.pdf
The North Queensland Register, Monday 16 March 1903, p37 and 39
The North Queensland Register (Townsville, Qld. : 1892 – 1905)Monday 16 March 1903 – Page 39
Wikipaedia, Cyclone Leonta https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclone_Leonta