Posted in Stories

Edward Preston – A Life Saved By Fate – Part 3

Ted Preston at Burrinjuck Dam 1949 - 1950
Ted Preston at Burrinjuck Dam 1949 – 1950

In 1949 Ted gave up work at the mechanics shop in Wagga Wagga to start work hundreds of other men on the construction of Burrinjuck Dam as a labourer, and later as a “crusher”.  He operated a Bell Crusher and a Crab Jaw Crusher.  During his time on the construction crew there was an accident that cost the lives of 9 of his workmates and which took place on 19 Oct 1950.  On the day in question Ted had been asked to work with the Bell Crusher at Upper Burrinjuck instead of at his normal location at the spillway with his usual crew.  This single action saved his life, by putting him out of harms way on the day of the worst accident to occur during the construction of the dam.

Burrinjuck Accident - The Newcastle Sun, 19 Oct 1950
Burrinjuck Accident – The Newcastle Sun, 19 Oct 1950

Swept to Death In Disaster at Burrinjuck Dam (The Newcastle Sun – Thursday 19 October 1950, Page 1)

Burrinjuck:  Seven men were today swept by raging floodwaters 400 feet to their death down the sheer face of Burrinjuck Dam into a raging cascade, the last 100 feet over precipitous rock.  Flung into a maelstrom of fast running water the men, black pinpoints in a sea of foam, were swept along at terrific speed to disappear completely from view.

Turbines were turned off in the forlorn hope that the river level might be reduced and some of the men might find a precarious hold on the waterswept rocks.  But all hope has been abandoned  and a net has been placed across the river at Jugiong, 30 miles below the dam, in the hope of recovering the bodies.

The accident happened early this morning and the men were all employees of the Water Conservation Commission.

The above article goes on to explain the accident in detail and our family often marvel at how fate intervened in Ted’s life that day.  Ted stayed at the Burrinjuck construction site for about 2 years.

Ted Preston and Friend
Ted Preston and Friend at The Diggers Ball, Gunnedah, July 1952

In 1951 Ted left Burrinjuck Dam for work at Keepit Dam near Gunnedah.  During his time In Gunnedah Ted learned of dam construction work taking place in New Guinea and that they needed skilled dam labourers and crushers.  As work at Keepit Dam was winding down Ted and some mates  headed off to Melbourne for an interview. When his application for New Guinea was unsuccessful Ted went back to Gunnedah staying in a hotel for about 3 weeks.  He ended up getting farm work for Mr Joe Grosser as a farm labourer staying there for about 2 years, after which he re-joined the crew at Keepit Dam as a Cable Way Operator, staying there until June 1956. 

Keepit Dam Today
Keepit Dam Today

Ted met Lola Gwen Allsopp at a Somerton Dance on a Friday night in late 1954 or early 1955. Ted remembered eating a chicken roll in the car on the way to the dance. He had dropped some chicken and managed to stain his trousers with grease which bothered him, as his trousers didn’t look clean.  He had asked Lola to dance with him, as they waltzed around the dance floor he apologised for the stain on his trousers.  Lola told him not to worry about it, she hadn’t even noticed.  From there the young couple dated, going to movies and to other dances at Carrol and Somerton and occasionally in Tamworth.  They really enjoyed the dance halls with live music the most though. 

Ted asked Lola to marry him in early November 1955.  They had taken a walk along Armidale Road at dusk when Ted suggested they walk up to the Tamworth lookout.  Tamworth lookout has a magnificent view of the city a surrounding areas, and was quite a safe and beautiful place to visit after dark in 1955.  Whilst up there he got down on one knee and asked Lola to marry him – and she said yes!  Once he knew that Lola would marry him Ted drove them both out to Lola’s parents home  – the property Kerribrae at Attunga –  and asked her father for Lola’s hand in marriage in the time honoured way.  The conversation between Ted and Cyrus Allsopp took place on the front veranda of the family home.

Tamworth Lookout at Dusk. Photo by TRRRA
Tamworth Lookout at Dusk. Photo by TRRRA

For his bucks night Ted went down to the Somerton Pub for a few drinks with mates, including Scott Caslick.  At last Ted’s life was taking a turn upwards, and he would have a beautiful woman by his side to help him.  Ted told me as we sat at the dinning room table of his Tamworth home, that at the age of 28 years he had not expected to have love, a chance for a permanent home and children would come into his life.


Swept to Death Article – TROVE Digitised Newspapers –

Photo Keepit Dam – 

Photo Tamworth Lookout – Tamworth Regional Residents and Rate Payers Assoc.


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