We ate lunch by the light of the hurricane lamp: local remembers dust storms of 1944

Dust haze just outside Forbes late September.
Dust haze just outside Forbes late September.

As locals cleaned up from yet another dust storm early this week, a local dropped in to the office to share memories of dry times past.

George Doyle brought in a selection of clippings from the Forbes Advocate archives, as well as from a booked titled "The Men of '38 and other pioneer priests".

Mr Doyle's father, George, saw the Lachlan River run dry twice in his lifetime, during the Federation drought and again in the 1920s.

But the year Mr Doyle remembers most is 1944, when the drought combined with the rabbit plague to see the countryside stripped of vegetation.

The dust was so thick, he said, it was dark in the middle of the day.

"I remember having lunch by the hurricane lamp," he said.

The Men of '38, the story of Charles Lovat and the Yass-Goulburn Mission, speaks of earlier dry times: the summer of 1839 and 40.

Those years saw the Murrumbidgee and Murray reduced "to a chain of waterholes" while the rivers trending east had ceased to flow, the book states.

"Water for domestic use was being carted seven miles in old-fashioned bullock sleds around Camden, Liverpool and Picton. It was selling in Sydney at 4d a bucket.

"The land everywhere was as dry and as parched as a desert and looked as if it would never grow grass again."

Again in 1866, an old clipping from the Advocate reveals, the SMH reported "Forbes ... was afflicted by drought so severe that dust storms blew five days out of seven and the Lachlan River was dry for weeks."