50 years since the tornado

On the night of Friday 22 November 1968 Killarney was devastated by a terrible storm – so powerful it was later classed as a tornado.

That evening, the school was having its annual Speech Night. Many of the town’s residents were gathered in the Capitol Theatre to see their sons, daughters and grandchildren receive their academic and sporting accolades.

The storm hit around 8pm and when people stumbled out of the theatre in its wake they were met by a scene of total devastation. There was rubble everywhere and no electricity to light the way. It was fortunate that so many people had been in the theatre that night. Locals had held the doors closed at the height of the storm, keeping the people inside safe.

Most of the buildings in the town’s main street had been destroyed – those that were still standing had received significant damage. All the churches, the Show Pavilion and most of the buildings along Acacia Street were completely flattened. In the light of day, the town looked like a war zone.

In the aftermath, the community came together to rebuild their town. The Army, electricians, telephone workers and many volunteers came and started the mammoth clean-up. The Bowls Club became an outlet for food parcels and clothes, all of which had been donated.

The Co-op repaired its damage and became a very important source of materials to repair Killarney. The abattoir also kept going and kept the town afloat. Many people whose businesses or houses had been completely destroyed left the town to find a future elsewhere, but many other families rebuilt their homes and were part of Killarney’s regrowth.

All the churches and the halls such as the Show Pavilion, the RSL and the Masonic Lodge were rebuilt. The school was repaired and the children were able to go back to class the following Monday. Eventually Killarney became a town again.


Now, 50 years on, the Killarney and District Historical Society is commemorating the past and celebrating the future.

On Thursday 22 November they will hold a church service at the Uniting Church at 5.30pm and on the Saturday night, 24 November will hold a dinner at the Killarney Recreation Club. There will be guest speakers and the Society is inviting past and present residents to come and be part of celebrating Killarney’s future.

Tickets are $30 and are available at the Killarney and District Historical Centre.

The Society is also unveiling a plaque in Canning Park that weekend and have thanked the Yangan Sandstone Quarry, Ross and Graham Hamilton, Paul Stumkat, the Killarney Co-op, Wickham Farms, the Southern Downs Regional Council and the Killarney Lions Club for their help in making this possible.

Enquiries to Jeanette Braithwaite on 4664 4289.

In the meantime, have a look over the gallery of photos from the aftermath of the tornado linked with this story…

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