The Balcony Disaster at Quirindi.

The Imperial Hotel, Quirindi before the balcony fall.
The Imperial Hotel, Quirindi before the balcony fall. Picture: Supplied.

DURING the presentation of awards after a major sporting carnival at Quirindi, a town in the north-west slopes region of NSW, it was a miracle no one was killed when a pub’s balcony collapsed. The collapsing of the balcony resulted in 18 persons suffering broken legs, 49 seriously inured, whilst a large number sustained minor injuries – only 30 escaped unscathed.

For Time Gents’ history of the Imperial Hotel at Quirindi, visit: Quirindi’s Imperial lost its magnificent balcony – twice!

The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser reported the accident on Saturday, August 17, 1901:

The fall of the balcony from a sketch from a member of the “Mail’s”staff who was there. Picture: Sydney Mail, August 17, 1901.

ONE of those unforeseen accidents which often turn a scene of mirth into one of sadness took place on the 8th instant at Quirindi. It was the last day of the polo gymkhana, and at half-past 8 in the evening about 150 people assembled on the balcony of the Imperial Hotel to witness the presentation of prizes won at the meeting. Mr. McDonald, president of the Polo Club, had just finished presenting all the prizes except the cup, won by the Weetalabah team,when the balcony began to sway.

The flooring seemed to give way all at once, and the rafters  and roofing came down. Vigorous efforts were at once made to extricate the people, but it took several minutes to clear away the timber and iron. Women lying about the roadway were dragged from amongst the debris.

The balcony fell with a report like a cannon. The hotel the balcony of which gave way is situated away from the main street at a place where there is not a great deal of traffic on it. The people were protected from the wind and from the public view by tarpaulins, which were stretched between the balustrading and the verandah roof.

After the balcony collapses. Picture: Sydney Mail, August 17, 1901.

Everyone on the balcony seems to have shared in the disaster. The occurrence took place so suddenly that there was no chance to make for safety. Those who were near the wall of the hotel fell through feet first. Others were shot up against them or on top of them, or came down in groups. The trophies, the table, and the odd chairs and lamps on the balcony came with them, striking men and women impartially in the darkness. Over all then fell the verandah roofing of corrugated iron and light woodwork. Mr. Suckling, of Woodton, exhibited – some of the Sydney visitors say – the qualities of a hero.

With both legs broken above the ankles, he got upon his knees and used his arms to hold up a great section of the roofing so as to prevent  it falling on some helpless ladies and gentlemen who were round about him. Mr. Dodds says Mr. Suck-ling actually cracked jokes to keep up the spirits of the unfortunate company whilst engaged in this occupation, until he was relieved by men who hastened to his assistance. Mrs. Suckling, who had sustained a broken ankle, sat near him all the while, and made no complaint. She seemed more anxious about others than herself. Injured people were carried into the hotel until all the accommodation was taken up.

The worst scene was observed in the billiard-room, where three writhing sufferers were placed on a billiard table and lay there. One of these was Mr. R. A.  Allen, of Quirindi, who had both legs so badly broken that the bones protruded through the flesh. His courage is extolled by many witnesses. The matron and nurses of the Quirindi Hospital were quickly on the spot. In cooperation with a gentleman who knew something about “first aid”, they performed the parts of good Samaritan, and got matters fairly straight for the doctors. Fortunately the local doctors were soon in attendance. The work of attending the injured then commenced, the medical men being assisted by Mr. G.Wigan, son of Dr. Wigan, of Armidale. A few minutes after 11 the special arrived from Tamworth with Drs. Wally, Harris,  and Armstrong. Another special train arrived about half-past 12 from Murrurundi with Dr. Bell. Dr. Scott, of Scone, was amongst the injured. He nobly ignored his own injuries and assisted to alleviate the pains of other sufferers…..

It is estimated that 18 persons have sustained broken legs, 49 are seriously inured, whilst a large number are suffering from minor injuries, only 30 having escaped scatheless. No deaths are yet reported.

The Imperial Hotel today. Although the balcony was replaced, it was removed again in 1952. Picture: Imperial Hotel Quirindi Facebook Page.

For more pictures and history of the Imperial, visit: Quirindi’s Imperial lost its magnificent balcony – twice!


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Categories: NSW hotels

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2 replies

  1. Very interesting. Terrible grammar though.


  1. Quirindi’s Imperial lost its magnificent balcony – twice! – TIME GENTS

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