Historic shearers' quarters saved at Carngham Station

IN her first reunion yesterday with a CFA volunteer who helped save her home from Tuesday’s fire, Carngham’s Kath Ginnane tearfully thanked him for salvaging a piece of Victorian history.

Ms Ginnane and her husband Neil Smith bought the historic Carngham Station shearer’s quarters two years ago and feared they would return from Melbourne to find the secluded property among the nine razed by flames.

“We have had people come here who have lived here for years, tradespeople for example, who say they didn’t know this was here, so I knew a fire truck wouldn’t just come in here,” Ms Ginnane said.

But by a stroke of luck, Beaufort CFA volunteer Michael Unwin knew the property’s previous owners and was among the crews fighting the fire that destroyed the adjacent Carngham Station homestead.

“We were going backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, and the emphasis was all across there (at Carngham Station),” he told Ms Ginnane and Mr Smith yesterday.

“We went past and I saw it and I said ‘what about the shearer’s quarters?’ ”

Mr Unwin said the fire front had passed the home when firefighters arrived, and although it had destroyed two sheds on the property and a neighbouring home, the 19th century structure was largely unscathed.

But it wouldn’t have stayed that way without the firefighters’ intervention.

“It had gone around and this place essentially would have escaped if it hadn’t been for the embers,” Mr Unwin said.

Embers from the fast-moving blaze had infiltrated the home’s historic turret and Mr Unwin said when firefighters arrived, smoke was starting to rise from the building as the flames took hold.

“The fire had burned around it and it has a stone foundation but, yes, it would have gone eventually,” he said.

They were able to extinguish the blaze before it spread to the main part of the house.

“There are just no words. You have brought them back here, you have saved our property and you have saved a piece of Victorian history,” Ms Ginnane told Mr Unwin tearfully. 

“There are no words, I can’t even look at you.

“I knew if it was saved it would only be by someone with local knowledge.”

Ms Ginnane said the home housed Carngham Station shearers in the mid to late 1800s and names remained carved inside the turret with dates from as far back as 1876. 

Sadly, however, while the structure was saved, Ms Ginnane and her husband lost most of their possessions in the blaze.

Two sheds at the rear of the property that housed most of their home’s contents while they undertook renovations to the home were destroyed.

“We have lost a huge amount of personal property. We even brought things up from Melbourne and all that has gone,” Ms Ginnane said.

“But we have the building and that inspires both of us to stay.

“When people say, ‘we will rebuild a house,’ you couldn’t rebuild this.

“When I imagined it was gone, I thought that’s it, because I don’t want some other brick veneer structure.

“It’s inspirational to hear how it was saved.”

kim.stephens@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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