Couple recalls fateful day when world smashed around them

Lorraine and Don Marsh were disappointed with the turn out but have vowed to try again next year.
Lorraine and Don Marsh were disappointed with the turn out but have vowed to try again next year. Mike Richards GLAPARK

FOR Gladstone locals Lorraine and Don Marsh, Christmas Day holds memories, not only of present giving and joy, but of the pain that Cyclone Tracy brought.

Christmas Day this year was the 40th anniversary and the pair reminisced about the fateful day that took more than 70 lives.

Mrs Marsh remembers as though it were yesterday and said she suffers greatly from the memories.

"Every time the wind picks up I get this gut-wrenching sick feeling," she said.

"Even where we're living now, down on Turkey Beach Rd, anytime there's a storm, I get flashbacks."

Christmas Day of 1974, Don, Lorraine and their young daughter Cindy were enjoying the festivities, but at 10pm they realised they were in deep trouble.

"I was already feeling sick, because I was eight months pregnant with my second child," Mrs Marsh said.

"When the electrical power lines started clashing together I knew we'd be in for a rough night."

The trio was only saved by Don's quick thinking to huddle in the laundry and push furniture up against the doors to stop sheets of iron flying in.

"At one stage we had the gyprock ceiling fall down on top of us and a piece of the neighbour's wood spear straight through at Don and I," Mrs Marsh said.

"There is nothing worse in the world than the feeling of having your house, that you worked so hard on, smashed down around you."

But it wasn't until 3am that the family were able to escape and take a look at the turmoil around them.

"I had to get Don and my neighbours to carry me out of the rubble," she said.

"We took a look down the street and ours was the worst by far because we were on the corner of the street and everything sort of accumulated at ours," Mr Marsh said.

"Our boat had completely been destroyed and there wasn't one panel on the car that wasn't beaten in, but we still managed to make do with it and drive it."

It took six semi-trailer loads of their home and belongings to clear the site in preparation to rebuild.

"We basically lost the house, bar the laundry and kitchen," Mrs Marsh said. "It's rather lucky that Don was a senior supervisor in a building company, the one that built the Darwin Hospital, and could work around building it back."

On New Year's Day, Lorraine and Cindy flew out to safety.

Five years later the Marshes, and two more children, set up a new life in Gladstone.

Cyclone Tracy was a tropical cyclone that devastated the city of Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, 1974.

Total fatalities: 71

Highest winds: 240 kmh

Lowest pressure: 950 mb

Category: Category 3 Hurricane (SSHS), Category 4 Severe Tropical Cyclone (BOM)

Topics:  anniversary

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