IT is an image that defined one of the Hunter’s hardest days.
On Thursday, February 24, 1955, as the grim reality of Hunter Valley floods was setting in, 22-year-old Newcastle Sun photographer Ron Morrison travelled from Newcastle, through Maitland, to Singleton and Muswellbrook on an army duck.
Accompanying a rescue crew through the building carnage, he spent the night on the floor of a cell in Muswellbrook police station, and travelled to Singleton the next morning.
It was then that he leaned out of the side of the vehicle and captured a shirtless constable, Jim Bell, carrying a crying child out of raging waters.
‘‘The water was surging past rapidly and was well over waist deep,’’ he remembered. ‘‘I took a few frames and then I put the camera down to help pull the [child’s] mother out of the water.’’
For the next four days, until Sunday, Mr Morrison documented the flood’s progress to Maitland.
‘‘I remember coming into Singleton [on Friday] and it was just a picture of desolation,’’ he said.
‘‘People were sitting on rooftops with nowhere to go, they were left without any outside assistance whatsoever.’’
With all lines of communication down, and very little film – he used his wife’s 35millimetre Kodak Retinette for much of the trip – Mr Morrison was essentially left stranded, too.
‘‘I called my wife at about 4pm on the Thursday and told her I was in Muswellbrook. That was the last they heard from me until Sunday,’’ he said.
‘‘I’d only just been married so I think she was pleasantly surprised to see me [on the Sunday].’’
But, a press photographer to the end, it was the pictures that mattered most.
‘‘The most devastating thing about it all was that I had these pictures and couldn’t get back to publish them,’’ he said.