Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 3, 1989
The Collingwood Fire, 1904
My sister, Mrs Flo Henderson of Hamilton, has chided me for saying that the big fire at Collingwood occurred in December 1904. At 93 years of age, she is probably the only survivor actually remembering the fire. She writes:
"I was about nine years old at the time, but the actual night of the fire I have always remembered very clearly. We (the kids) had had Guy Fawkes, which included the usual visit to the two hotel bars, where we had to sing and duly collect. That, I presume was 5 November. We carefully hid our ill-gotten earnings for the 9th November, King's Birthday, when there was always a big picnic on the beach; horse racing, lolly scrambles, all sorts. Mother had brought us new dresses, especially hats, which were rescued from the fire but last reported blown to sea by the wind that followed. I remember us kids scratching in the ashes to find our money! I think we got some scarred silver which we treasured for years".
Flo does not say whether the picnic was held or not. Jeff Newport's history fixes the date of the fire as 7 November 1904. Our house, the one shown in the now wellknown Tyree photo, with all the children on the balcony and by the gate, was next to the bakehouse where the fire started. Flo continues
"There was that photo of the "day after" with the two steamers at the wharf, which reminds me of one of Dad's favourite stories about the fire. In all the confusion in the main street, howling gale, rain, flames everywhere, people rushing frantically, etc, Dad was struggling alone in the office. Mother had the maid and others to help her, once we kids had been disposed of. Dad got all his papers, etc, (precious, I suppose) dragged the boxes to the front door – right on the street – then looked to see what help he could get.page 41
There, in billowing smoke, flames on both sides, a man was walking slowly up the street. Dad said he was quite calm, very interested, but to Dad he was a sort of miracle! He called him and he came over and was a marvellous help. They carried all they could to the Courthouse at the end of the street and then the man just disappeared!! Dad said he enquired of everyone but no-one knew a thing or had seen a stranger. The conclusion, of course: the two steamers left with the tide and the good Samaritan left with one of them!"