Fundraising auction lifts Dungog’s spirits

Nanjing Night Net

Wayne Pritchard’s house went under water in the recent floods‘‘I’ve always just done me own thing,’’ says Wayne Pritchard as he leans against the old saloon doors of Dungog’s Royal Hotel.

‘‘I’ve never asked for anything in me life, but this time, this time I just had to get some help.’’

In the next room, about a hundred locals are bidding for signed photos, kitchen appliances, pamper packs and a patchwork quilt – all among the dozens of things donated to the fundraiser for those starting over. Bob Berry from around the corner even donated a trailer load of firewood. It’s just gone for 110 bucks.

‘‘This one just knocked me down to my knees,’’ Wayne says over his schooner. ‘‘I worry about my wife ‘coz she’s just not showing a lot of emotion,’’ he says of Lynette who’s just ducked up the road to take his 88-year-old mum home after a Mother’s Day pub lunch.

‘‘It’s like we’re still in shock a bit, you know. It’s a bit like a twilight zone.’’

It was 10 to four in the morning when Wayne and Lynette were woken by a neighbour.

‘‘He’d just climbed out of bed and stepped into water up around his ankles so he raced over to wake us up. We went outside and the water was up to the top of our piers. I told Lynette to go and grab some things while I moved the cars, but then it came up so quick.

‘‘At 5.30am, I closed the doors and heard the fridge fall over. Couldn’t do nothing. Couldn’t even get some clothes.’’

The floodwater went right through their Hooke Street home. Their daughter and grandchildren, staying for a couple of days, had already left. The brown line on the curtains shows the flood peaked at about two metres inside. The grandfather clock had stopped at 6.50, about the same time it was swallowed by the brown swirling torrent in the lounge room.

Lynette had lived in Dungog all her life, and so had Wayne’s mum. Wayne, who used to work in the mills and at Tomago smelter, had also spent most of his life there. The house was built in 1938 and a renovation had only recently been completed.

‘‘About 28 years in that house,’’ he said. ‘‘And no one has ever seen the water come up like that.’’

He was good mates with Colin ‘Spider’ Webb who perished when his home was washed away in Dowling Street. And he knew Robin Macdonald too, before she was lost to the flood. They’d worked together in the SES years ago.

Marion Stuart owns The Bower Retreat over the hill. She was one of the organisers of yesterday’s fundraiser.

‘‘We’re getting a bit of spirit back in the town today,’’ she said.

‘‘Nothing is going to be a quick fix, but we’ve been inundated with help from people all over the place. It’s really wonderful. There’s a long way to go though.’’

Three weeks ago, Brian Simpson was rescuing people from the aged care village. Yesterday he was the fundraiser’s auctioneer.

Vince Melouney, who once played with the Bee Gees and The Aztecs, knows Dungog well and wanted to do his bit on the stage.

The Royal’s licensee John Masterman picked up the signed Brad Fittler poster at auction, but it cost him $500. He was living in Dalby during the Queensland floods four years ago. He lost two cars and everything in the shed, but the water only got to the top step of the house.

‘‘I suppose you could say I’ve been where these people are now,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s been three weeks now. People are tired. The adrenalin has run out. They’ve stopped and realised what has happened and it’s only starting to really hit them. But they’ll just keep on going because they know they have to.

‘‘It’s been a good day here and we’ve raised about $7000 and that’ll help people with a few things. Right now we’re all buggered. Vince is still here and he’s out there cleaning up so I better get back out in the bar and help.

‘‘Tell the people in Newcastle that they need to come up here.

‘‘We need people to come back to Dungog because, well, just tell them we’re open for business and we’d love to see them.’’

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.