75 years on, no plaque for Hume Dam deaths

Workers without any safety gear or clothing pose for a photograph at the dam quarry in the 1920s.
Workers without any safety gear or clothing pose for a photograph at the dam quarry in the 1920s.

AS the Hume Dam approaches the 75th anniversary of its completion, there is still no plaque or other recognition to mark the deaths of workers during construction.

The Hume Dam took 17 years to build, and as many as eight men died during the course of its construction.

The Dartmouth Dam has such a plaque commemorating construction deaths there.

The anniversary of the Hume Dam will be marked at an Australia Day function at Jackson Point, Bonegilla, on Wednesday afternoon.

People are asked to bring along any old pictures of the dam work or people enjoying themselves at the lake.

In 1921, one man was blown 50 metres and killed when blasting powder ignited as he tried to scoop it up.

Two mates were horribly injured too and died within half-an-hour of the explosion.

A fourth man had warned against trying to save misfired powder from a large mechanical shovel.

"If you don't leave that alone you will blow these men to eternity," proved prophetic words.

The dead men were George Pearce, 62 years, Jacob Gehrig, 55, labourer, and William Cyril Wakeford, 17 years, greaser.

Wakeford had been working with his father, who had sent the teenager to help the others retrieve the powder.

A coroner decided it was an accident but also a warning to the workers to take more care.

In 1928, John Glen, 60, was killed at the dam quarry when he overbalanced while drilling and fell to rocks below.

It was the custom for the men on such construction projects to halt work completely until a dead man's funeral, even though they lost all wages.

Many of Mr Glen's mates marched in front of the hearse to the cemetery two days after the accident.

In 1935, Jack Kennedy Newman, 37, a carpenter, was working on joists for the roadway over the almost- complete Hume Dam when he fell through some planks and hit concrete below.

His brother and several mates were nearby.

To add to the tragedy, another worker, Jack Meades, was cycling home from Newman's funeral when he struck a car in North Street and was killed.