up in flames – 1897

I found an interesting bit of BUCK family history reported in The Sydney Morning Herald of Tuesday 18 May 1897. I have transcribed the full news article below:

Extract from a report on a blaze at the home of Robert Hart BUCK. The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 18 May 1897.

Extract from a report on a blaze at the home of Robert Hart BUCK. [The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 18 May 1897]


Shortly after 7 o’clock last night considerable consternation was caused amongst the residents of Orange Grove, Leichhardt, by a fire which was discovered in a weatherboard cottage in the boulevard, owned and occupied by Mr Robert Hart BUCK. It is shown from the official report that a little fellow, aged three years, a son of the owner, went with another brother to procure some music, and knocked over a kerosene lamp, which almost instantly set the house in a blaze.


The Marrickville No 7 Branch of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, in charge of Mr LANGE, received the call first, and arrived on the scene simultaneously with the Balmain Volunteer Fire Company, followed by Leichhardt Metropolitan No 5 (with their steamer), Ashfield, and Newtown. Seeing that there was not the slightest hope in saving BUCK’s house, attention was directed to the weatherboard dwelling adjoining, occupied by Mr Henry DRYDEN, who, with the assistance of a number of neighbours, had removed his furniture into the street. The residence of Mr BUCK, which consisted of five rooms and a kitchen, was totally destroyed, and DRYDEN’s house, which is, owned by Mr Thomas SMITH, was partially destroyed.

This image shows the museum’s horse-drawn steam pump fire engine racing to the scene of a fire in Broken Hill, c 1905. This horse drawn fire engine spent all it’s working life at Broken Hill Central Fire Station in Blende Street, Broken Hill, from about 1897 until September 1921, when it was replaced by two motorised fire engines. Apparently Broken Hill Fire Brigade was called out more frequently to fires than any other single station in the State. When the alarm was raised, bells were set off all over the station, including the stables. This alerted the horses and the doors to their stalls automatically opened to let them out. They lined up under their hanging collars, which the firemen lowered and clasped in place before attaching the reins. Contemporary newspaper accounts advise that the two horses which pulled the steamer were called Prince and Kate. Prince worked with the steamer for about 10 years. It was said that Prince attended about 500 fires.

A steam pump fire engine racing to the scene of a fire, c 1905. This horse-drawn fire engine spent it’s working life at Broken Hill Central Fire Station, from about 1897 until September 1921, when it was replaced by two motorised fire engines. [Photo courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum online photo collection]

BUCK’s house was insured in the Commercial Union Insurance Company, but the amount is not stated. DRYDEN’s house was insured in the Mercantile Mutual for £100. The residence of Mr J. S. BAGGS had a very narrow escape from destruction, the windows being smashed in many places from the excessive heat, and it was only saved by continuous flows of water being thrown upon it.

An advert for the Commercial Union Insurance Company printed in The Catholic Press, Sat 222 December 1900.

It pays to be insured. An advertorial in a Sydney newspaper for the Commercial Union Insurance Company.  [The Catholic Press, Saturday 22 December 1900]

Last night in the Leichhardt Council, Alderman ANDERSON called attention to the fire he had witnessed that evening at which several cottages were burnt, and he regretted to say that difficulty was experienced in procuring a suitable supply of water. The matter was a serious one in a thickly populated area, and he hoped the Mayor would at once cause a letter to be written to the Water and Sewerage Board directing their attention to this matter. Alderman O’TOOLE also asked the Mayor to again emphasise the request of this council on the subject of fire alarms in the locality. There had also been serious difficulty experienced in giving an alarm at the fire, and it was hoped that prompt action would now be taken. The Mayor promised to have prompt representations made to the authorities on the subject.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Below is an explanation on how these BUCKs are related.

  • Robert Hart BUCK (1868-1954), known as ‘Hart’, was the eldest son of Robert BUCK (1822-1895) and his first wife Sarah Ann COLLIER (1844-1876).
  • Robert Hart BUCK married Hannah Maria MONTGOMERY (1867-1953) in 1890.
  • In May 1897, at the time of the fire, they had three children: Phyllis Emily (1892-1964) was 5 years old. The little fellow who knocked over the kerosine lamp was 3 year old George Robert (1893-1943), known as ‘Robert’. Reginald Collier (1896-1957) was just 6 months old, and it is very fortunate that all the family managed to escape the inferno without loss of life or serious injury.
  • Robert Hart was a half brother to my grandfather Ernest Clive BUCK (1895-1974), whose mother was Honor SUTTON (1853-1926), the second wife of Robert BUCK (1822-1895). Honor was 31 years younger than her husband. She was only 15 years older than her step-son Robert Hart, and he was 27 years older than his youngest brother Ernest.
  • I’m not sure what Robert Hart did for a living, he may have been an engineer with the railways. I have found that he worked in munitions manufacturing during WWI.
  • The family relocated to the inner-city suburb of Waterloo for a few years then moved to the neighbouring suburbs of Marrickville and St Peters.
  • They finally settled in Lillian Street, Campsie. A notice of the death of Robert Hart BUCK appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 23 March 1954:
    BUCK Robert Hart. – March 22, 1954 of 34 Lillian Street Campsie, relict of Anna Marie Buck and loved father of Phyllis, Robert (deceased), Reginald, Dorothy, Henry and Hazel, and fond father-in-law of Perc, Grace, Adelaide, Jack, Myra and Norm aged 86 years. At rest.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sources: TROVE; NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages; Powerhouse Museum online collection.


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