I was recently researching fire brigades in Queensland for a new album of fire brigade images on Flickr. In searching for information about the Gympie Fire Brigade I came upon an article in the the Gympie Times published on the occasion of the Gympie Fire Station’s 75th anniversary in 2015. This article revealed that the Fire Station in Gympie is widely believed to be haunted by the ghost of a fireman who died in a fall from the lookout at the top of the tower.
The tower at the left served as a lookout platform for fire spotting and you can see that it is surrounded only by a simple railing. Since this picture was taken the lookout has been surrounded by glass windows for safety. The Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser covered the accident on March 9 1943.
GYMPIE ‘SPOTTER’ INJURED
Kevin Bennett, aged about 20, a relieving fire watcher, over-balanced and fell 40 feet from the tower of the Gympie Fire Station on the asphalt kerbing in Bligh-street a few minutes before 7 o’clock on Friday night. He was admitted to the General Hospital suffering a compound fracture of the right thigh, a large laceration on the left leg above the ankle, shock and concussion. His condition was not considered to be serious. Bennett was relieving a fire spotter who was off duty through illness and took up his shift at 4 o’clock, which was his first on top of the tower and was to have remained there until midnight. Mrs. Smith, wife of the Brigade Superintendent (Mr. W. J. Smith) was on top of the tower with Bennett and they were spotting two fires which were burning at the back of the fire station. Indicating one Bennett remarked about it and the next moment Mrs. Smith was startled to see him toppling from the rampart. When he fell to the ground he struck the kerbing around the lawn in front of the building in Bligh-street He was conveyed to the General Hospital for treatment and later was reported to be settling down very comfortably.
Although his injuries were not considered serious at the time of publication, the Chronicle reported again on March 11 that the young man had tragically died.
DEATH OF GYMPIE ‘SPOTTER’
Kevin James Bennetts, who, as reported recently, fell from the tower of the Gympie Fire Station about 7 o’clock on Friday evening, died from his injuries in the General Hospital early on Saturday morning. He was a son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Bennetts, of Kidgell Stree, Mt. Pleasant.
The first Gympie Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed in 1876 but evidently lapsed as a brigade was recorded as being formed in 1901 with a fire station built in 1902. The new Fire Station was opened in 1940 as reported here in the Cairns Post.
GYMPIE’S NEW FIRE STATION.
GYMPIE. August 25.
The policy of the Government was to build well and build truly, said the Minister for Health and Home Affairs (Mr. Hanlon), in opening Gympie’s new fire station yesterday afternoon. He said that to people who thought expensive and up-to-date public buildings were a waste of money, the Government retorted that the most economical way to build was to erect public institutions that would meet the requirements of a city for years. A fire station was an insurance against not only fire but also against loss of life. …
The new station is of brick and concrete, and has accommodation for two large engines, also staff rooms, and a board room on the ground floor. The private quarters of the superintendent (Mr. W. J. Smith) are on the second floor.
We at State Library cannot attest to the haunting of the Gympie Fire Station but the Gympie Times reports that there have been many strange occurrences there and there are quite a few people who will not stay there after dark. What is certain is that Queensland’s Fire Brigades have given great service to the people of Queensland and that a number of firefighters have given their lives in the service, beginning with James Thomas Mooney who died as the result of a fire in 1877. We give thanks to all our firefighters for their life saving and dangerous work.
Simon Miller – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland