Wentworth, NSW, lies at the heart of the Murray Darling Basin, at the confluence of Australia’s two greatest rivers, where the Darling joins the Murray. The town is vulnerable during flood times, but Wentworth has endured many since the ‘biggest on record’ in 1870.
For those living in Wentworth today, the 1956 flood lives on in their memory. A clay levee bank surrounding the town and a tractor monument are reminders of the flood that threatened the town.
The 1956 ‘event’ was unique as a sustained deluge occurred down the east coast of Australia, along the Great Dividing Range and beyond. Floodwaters raced towards Wentworth from two rivers – the Darling and its tributaries from the north, the Murray and its ‘feeders’ from the south.
Local knowledge played a big part in determining what could be done. Day and night for several months the townspeople, Ferguson tractors and the Army and Navy worked to avert disaster by building levees around the town. Those levees held back 80 miles of water for months.
The Fergie tractor
The NSW government had provided Harry Ferguson TEA20 tractors to WWII returned soldiers when they gave them their federal land allotments and irrigation systems. The Ferguson tractors were light, manoeuvrable machines, with Harry’s unique 3-point linkage for the interchange of implements, and were indispensable in the huge task in front of everyone.
During Wentworth’s 1959 centenary celebrations the first tractor monument in the world was unveiled – the then Town Clerk was quoted as saying “By God and by Fergie, we beat the flood.”
Fergie Tractor Rallies are held every 5 years to commemorate a mammoth effort by a community committed to fight enormous odds and determined to win.
The Fergie Tractor monument, Australia’s first monument to the Fergie tractor, stands at the corner of Adams and Adelaide streets in Wentworth.