Gables & Duke of Marlborough Fire
Original photo © Russell Museum

When the fire siren sounds, other than Monday night, we all worry. Did we really turn off the stove… Our reliance on rainwater tanks and bores makes us feel vulnerable, especially in summer.

This photo shows the third Duke of Marlborough hotel burning fiercely and people carrying buckets of water up from the water’s edge in a vain attempt to dampen the fire, and protect neighbouring buildings.

At high tide mark furniture and goods are dropped higgledy-piggledy. There are heaps of firewood by the right hand buildings (Baker’s house, the bakehouse and Baker’s store.) The Moreton Bay fig tree on the left looks scorched and there is no sign of the original Gables boarding house beside it which caught fire first on an early morning in November 1931.

Since the Gables and the Duke were separated only by a narrow alleyway fire spread easily from the first building to the second. This Duke had been built in the 1870s and so lasted the longest of the four bearing the name.

Beer, wine and spirits were carted to the old billiard saloon in York St so the publican Jack English could reopen a temporary bar and keep his licence until a new hotel could be built. Some beer was saved for the hardworking bucket brigade and some beer, Russell rumour has it, was buried in the shingle for another occasion…..