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Author Topic: Radella Club Fire c. 1964 Ian Gardner.  (Read 2768 times)
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« on: August 09, 2008, 06:12:50 PM »


At the time of the fire which destroyed the Radella Club I was Superintendent of Radella Estate and a member of the Club Committee. The Radella Superintendent’s bungalow was on a hill overlooking the grounds and club. On the hill opposite, behind the club, was the Nanu Oya/Talawakelle road with a couple of boutiques on it.

It was well into the night when my telephone rang and a voice, having checked that I was the Superintendent, said, “Mahathaya, the club is on fire!”. It was someone from the boutiques. I went to a window to have a look at the club and could see that the ridge and some feet on either side of the roof above the main hall were red hot so I telephoned the Secretary, the Superintendent of Wangie Oya, told him the news, asked him to go down to the club as soon as he could and said that I would telephone the President and then come down myself. I telephoned the President, the Superintendent of Edinburgh, told him what was happening, that the Treasurer and I were going down and asked him to pass the word on to other committee members and others as he thought fit.

When I reached the club I found the Caretaker/Barman (Hendrik?) standing at the entrance to the clubhouse. The liquor store was immediately inside the front doors on the right and apparently was not yet alight. Wanting to salvage the liquor I told him to open the doors but he did not want to do so as it would let oxygen into the fire. There was no time to be debating the point so I ordered him, “Open the doors, or I will kick them open!” He opened them and there was an almighty roar as the flames were fed with oxygen and air – the fire that had been relatively subdued along the further walls and windows and under the roof ignited into one single mass engulfing the hall before it settled again on the sides and above.

I could hear bottles of liquor exploding in the store but there was little fire there so I went in and passed out as many boxes and bottles as I could to Hendrik.

By then then bar area was engulfed in flames, as was the stage and the hundreds of chairs stored beneath it, I noticed molten glass pouring off windows as I went over to the library on the other side of the hall and to the left. The library was not yet on fire so I handed out to waiting hands, the furniture and what else I could until a part of the then alight ceiling fell in and I knew it was time to get out. This I did via one of the library windows just before that room burst into flames.

Outside, on looking for the items I had rescued from the library I found that all of it had been spirited away by eager hands to the lines nearby. By this time the Treasurer and others had arrived with fire extinguishers etc. and there was also a bucket line at work from the river close by but all this was futile. We could still hear exploding bottles of liquor.

Returning the next morning we were devastated: there were only the charred walls of the main building standing. Fortunately, there had never been any danger to the squash court, the covered way to the dressing rooms, the dressing rooms themselves and the old stables.

Later that morning Chandra Hemachandra, a club member and chief of Hemachandra & Sons, transport agent for a large number of estates in the Dimbulla and Dickoya districts, and building contractors, arrived on the scene having heard of the catastrophe. Like the rest of us he was dejected and said that we must rebuild immediately and that he would put his men to work straight away. He stuck to his word! Later, I gifted to the club what framed photographs I had of D.A.C.C rugby teams.

We were later to find that the fire was caused by an electrical fault in the roof and that the club’s insurance had lapsed a week or so before the fire and had not been renewed at the time of the fire. We also decided, at the next committee meeting that all companies having estates in the Dimbulla district would be requested to donate Rs.1 per acre towards the rebuilding of the club. My recollection is that most, if not all, the companies obliged.

RE: Radella Club Fire c. 1964 Mickey Cooke 18/01/07 06:57


My recollections of the Radella Club, is the new Clubhouse. The grandiose Christmas parties for the children, with Santa being Tony Farweather riding in on a white horse. To say we lived in a different time period, is true. Now living in Canada, trying to recreate the pictures and memories to my daughter and nephews - get quite entertaining, as the only proof is a back and white photograph or two!
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