DIARY OF A PANDEMIC – The Spanish Flu in Moruya

Featured image: Face masks as both function and fashion are part of pandemic responses 100 years apart.

The current coronavirus or COVID-!9 pandemic, with its accompanying social isolation, shortages and fear. isn’t the first pandemic to confront  Australia’s health systems.  The ‘Spanish flu’ pandemic of 1919 emerged at the end of the First World War, killing more than 50 million people worldwide.

Despite a swift quarantine response in October 1918, cases of Spanish flu began to appear in Australia in early 1919. About 40 per cent of the population fell ill and around 15,000 died as the virus spread through Australia.

Australia must now face the fact that the scourge which has taken so heavy a toll from the rest of the world has invaded her own frontiers.

Sydney Morning Herald, 28 January 1919:


Influenza quarantine camp setup at Wallangarra, Queensland, 1919, NLA.


Every community in Australia was affected by the Spanish flu and this was recorded in the newspapers of the time. The Moruya Examiner is no exception. The way it recorded the pandemic of 1919 and its effects on individuals and families, as well as the restrictions and changes to everyday life, bears a striking resemblance to the way COVID-19 is reported today.

1 February 1919
. – (From our Sydney Correspondent.)

Five cases of influenza in Sydney yesterday, which brings the total of proved cases to 25.

157 new cases in Melbourne yesterday, bringing the total to 599 cases. There have been 42 deaths.

The Victorian and Federal Governments are strongly protesting at the action of the New South Wales Government in closing the border to traffic. They claim it a violation of the agreement made in November.

Hundreds of Queenslanders marooned on the Tweed River are prohibited from returning to Queensland and must come to Sydney, thence by steamer to Brisbane, where they will be seven days in quarantine.

22nd February 1919
. – Owing to the dry weather and pneumonic influenza, country shows all over the state have either been abandoned or postponed. Moruya, which has not suffered as much from the drought as many other districts, had made all arrangements to carry out its annual show on the advertised dates, viz., 26th and 27th inst., but a wire from the Government on Tuesday completely blocked them in their determination.

1st March 1919
. – The Influenza Authorities agree that a mouth and throat spray of Sulphate of Zinc is a preventative of influenza. Many Sydney houses are installing inhalation chambers. Pitt, Son & Badgery  Ltd., for the benefit of their staff and also country visitors, have fitted up a room for this special purpose.

8th March 1919
. – The Moruya Show has finally been abandoned for this year, the last straw that sank the annual function being a fear in the mind of some members that pneumonic influenza might break out again with sufficient virulence as to cause the Government to once more veto the holding of outdoor amusements.

12th April 1919
. – Just before going to press we received word that the second child of the afflicted Lane family has also died at Braidwood from pneumonic influenza. This makes three in the family – mother, daughter and son.

FREE INOCULATION. – Mr. Jermyn, Shire Clerk announces in this issue the dates and hours on which the public may get free inoculation or re-inoculation in Moruya and at the other principal centres throughout the Shire.

17th May 1919
. – It is with feelings of unfeigned regret that we have to report the untimely and sudden death of Miss Ruth Chapman, eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Chapman of “Springrove,” Braidwood, at the age of 14 years. Deceased, with a younger sister, was at the Goulburn C. E. Grammar School, where she was suddenly seized by Pneumonic-influenza, to which she succumbed the following morning. The corpse was brought to Braidwood and interred on Thursday.

7 June 1919
. – There were 159 fresh cases and seven deaths of influenza in the 24 hours ended 8 p.m. yesterday. There have been nearly 2000 deaths from influenza in this State so far, of whom 1488 were in the city.

Nowra Public School converted into a temporary hospital for pneumonic influenza epidemic, 1919 [image courtesy Sydney Living Museums, 41328]
28th June 1919
. – As was expected, the ‘flu epidemic has broken loose, and is travelling like wildfire throughout country towns as well as in the big centres of population such as Sydney. We are pleased to say, however, that so far there is no necessity for our people to lose their heads or become funky as Moruya, as far as we know, has not yet had any cases of an alarming nature, the local outbreak being influenza of the common or garden variety. Influenza is a most catching complaint, and it is the duty of those who become victims of it to notify the Health Board and isolate themselves as much as possible. The following places have been quarantined:- Mr. A. M. Garrard’s residence, Ryan’s Club House Hotel, Mr. R. Knight’s residence, Mr. F. Staunton’s residence at Mullenderree: and the Police Station, Bill’s Hotel and Post Office at Bateman’s Bay. Messrs. W. Simon and J. Rogers and Miss Nellie Ivers were removed to the Hospital on Thursday.

DEATHS. – Since our last issue a number of deaths have occurred from Pneumonic-influenza of persons who will be greatly missed, many of whom are well known to residents of this district. Following is a list of a few who have passed away as stated:- Mr. George Veitch, of Mogo, who when in Sydney in connection with the establishment of a saw mill in his district, contracted the disease and passed out at Paddington Emergency Hospital, Sydney, leaving a widow and seven young children

Mr. Matthew Keating, of Mullenderree, a son of the late Mr. John Keating, who was taken to the Moruya Hospital in a very bad state on Friday suffering from influenza, and died on Sunday.

There were seven influenza patients in the Hospital on Wednesday, viz: Willie Simon, M. Honan, Jack Rogers, Lex. Johnston, – Ivelt, Nellie Ivers and Eddie Bartlett, all of whom were doing well.

The influenza scare has got into Nelligen and many families are suffering with it. Dr. Quilter has been summoned up as far as Shallow crossing.

Coming nearer home Moruya has had a fair number of cases. The Heads (Newstead) has had the full strength of the present wave, which we are pleased to say, is so far only in a mild form.

There is no doubt whatever that Bega, Bermagui and Braidwood have had the “dinkum” ‘flu (pneumonic influenza) as each place has had a number of deaths.

12 July 1919
. – At the Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning, owing to influenza restrictions, Divine Worship was conducted under the canopy of Heaven, with a glorious sun shining, and it was found much warmer and more pleasant than within the church building. Willing hands carried out sufficient seats; also the organ. The presenter’s box, which has not been used now for many years, made an excellent pulpit.

INFLUENZA EPIDEMIC. – On Saturday a report came to town that Mrs. M. Honan and family of six young children were down with the ‘flu, and Mrs. Greig and Miss. K. Jermyn were at once driven out by Mr. Dawson. On arrival it was found that the mother was suffering only from a slight cold.

Mrs. M. Rose did splendid service at the Heads, nursing ten of our sons and daughters of the soil through an attack, as well as cooking for them. Mr. and Mrs. Preddey also assisted with the food supply.

At Braidwood on Saturday morning Mr. S. G. Stoyles, of “The Ranch,” passed away, and at the time the burial was taking place his father, Mr. G. C. Stoyles also passed away with the same dreaded disease. The younger man had only been married about four years and leaves one son aged three and a heart-broken wife in a delicate state.

19th July 1919
. – It has been officially announced that the total deaths from influenza throughout the State from 1st January to 10th July is 4266.

flu addAN AFFLICTED FAMILY. – Last week we had the unpleasant duty to record the deaths of the Messrs. Stoyles, father and son, which occurred at Braidwood from influenza. This week we are called upon to add to the painful duty by recording the death of Mrs. Stoyles, wife of the younger Mr. Stoyles, deceased, and only daughter of Mr. T. C. Musgrave, of the “Dispatch” and “Review” newspapers, which sad event took place at the residence of her late husband, “The Ranch,” Braidwood. The fell destroyer, not content with cutting down father, son and wife, did not stay his hand until he carried off the nurse who attended the family, Miss Kate Burke, leaving only one of the household, a son, three years old, to tell the tale in after life.

TILBA HOSPITAL. – The residents of Tilba must certainly feel grateful to Councillor H. J. Bate for his timely offer to them of his highly suitable residence as a hospital. No sooner had the generous offer been made, accepted, and everything in readiness, than the dreaded influenza epidemic swept over the district with such speed that in less than two weeks no less than 19 patients were comfortably housed in the building.

26th July 1919
. – On Friday of last week Mrs. Myles Lynch, of Narooma, died from pneumonic influenza, leaving a widower and two little children. The Deceased was very highly spoken of, her charming personality endearing her to all classes of the community. The remains were interred in the R.C. portion of the cemetery at daybreak on the following morning.

The deaths of Mrs. Dawson-Hansen, volunteer matron, of the influenza Hospital and that of Mrs. Myles Lynch, at Narooma, last week, from influenza, were received in Moruya with profound regret.

DUEA RIVER. – (From our Correspondent).
It is with regret that we have to record the sad death of Thomas, third son of Mr. B. Nevin of Deua River, which occurred at Casino on Saturday. The deceased, who was of an amiable disposition, was about 33 years old and leaves a young wife whom he married only two years ago. The cause of death was pneumatic influenza.

 2nd August 1919
. – (From our Correspondent)
Our little township is slowly getting back to normal after the period of depression caused by the ‘flu. Opinions differ as to whether it was the “dinkum” or merely the ordinary ‘flu. Within three weeks there were five deaths here, viz., Mrs. S. Kimpton, Mrs. Foran, Mrs. C. Fitgerald, Miss M. Dayball and ex Private P. F. Dayball. Another of our townspeople, Mrs. Holland, died in Braidwood, making six in all – the last four mentioned being victims of the influenza. Sorrow has again visited the Dayball family. One son, Private A. Dayball, was killed in France; another, Private A. Dayball, returned invalided after two years active service, and was accidentally killed at Thornleigh; and now poor “Terry” as he was affectionately called, has fallen a victim to the invisible enemy, after returning wounded after three years active service. The death of their daughter makes the fourth loss in this much afflicted family.

INFLUENZA. – We are pleased to report that the influenza epidemic has now almost disappeared from the South Coast, the only fresh case that we have heard of for the past two weeks, is that of a son of Mr. T. Ray, of Clyde River.

The influenza epidemic (Melbourne, Victoria), wood engraving, published by David Syme & Co, Melbourne, 1890 – State Library of Victoria

Compiled by Roy Lupton
Member, MDHS.


3 responses to “DIARY OF A PANDEMIC – The Spanish Flu in Moruya”

  1. Mandy Lupton Avatar
    Mandy Lupton

    A fascinating collection of sources! Roy, are you any relation to the Braidwood Luptons? My grandfather was David Bede Lupton, son of Thomas Lupton and Louisa Dawson.

  2. […] historical society in the NSW South Coast town of Moruya recently revisited the controversy, recording that The Moruya Examiner carried “latest telegrams” from its […]

  3. […] historical society in the NSW South Coast town of Moruya recently revisited the controversy, recording that The Moruya Examiner carried “latest telegrams” from its […]

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