CYCLONE TRACY. Christmas 1974.


While many are remembering the devastation of the Boxing Day tsunami, 2004, and the 250,000 lives lost, many Australians are going back 40 years to Christmas Eve, 1974, and the Christmas Day and Boxing Day news of the impact of Cyclone Tracy on Darwin.

While Googling Cyclone Tracy and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, present in Darwin with Bishop John O'Loughlin and the communties at the Cathedral, St Paul's Nightcliff and St John's College, some entries came up:

Bishop Ted Collins remembered this period of his life vividly, particularly Christmas Eve 1974 when Cyclone Tracy destroyed Darwin, killing 71 people and devastating the city. When the Cyclone hit he was attending Midnight Mass at St Mary's Cathedral in Darwin.

"We'd been told the cyclone would hit at 6 am on Christmas morning but it struck at 11.30 pm and was the most terrifying experience of my life," he said later. "I will never forget the roar of the wind, the lights going out and windows smashing and glass everywhere. It was a devastating time...many lives were lost and people's homes totally destroyed. I didn't get any sleep that night and I said a few decades of the rosary!"

Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974.

As Cyclone Tracy hit, Bishop Ted had the presence of mind to turn on his tape recorder. But amid the mayhem that followed, he completely forgot about it and it was only after the Cyclone passed he realised he had a live recording of one of biggest events in Australian history.

The tape is now in the NT Museum and Art Gallery in Darwin, a prominent part of the exhibit on Cyclone Tracy.

darwin cyclone abc


And.. St Paul's Nightcliff

Nightcliff was the next Parish to be established in Darwin after St. Mary's Star of the Sea Cathedral.  It commenced as a Mass Centre in 1964, with the Infants School opening in 1967 under the care of The Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.  In 1974 Cyclone Tracy destroyed much of the school and Church, but led to the Church being refurbished and given the Royal Australian Architects Award in February 1976.  The school reopened in 1976. The Church remains an intimate sacred space, attended by about 300 parishioners each weekend, and 12-20 on weekdays.

St Johns College was founded as a boys school by the Bishop of Darwin, John O'Loughlin msc. The site chosen for the college was adjacent to the Darwin Botanical gardens. Between 1961 and 1966 the college grew in size and activity. Major new buildings included the MSC Residence, the Chapel and a new Science block. It was during this time that the rector of the college, Father Cyril Connolly welcomed the arrival of St Johns first boarders.

It was in 1972 that Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College for girls was opened on the Mindil beach side of the site. Cyclone Tracy devastated the college in December, 1974 and rebuilding the college became the priority of its new Rector, Father Tyson Doneley. He decided to create St Johns as a co-education split campus, Middle school and Senior school.


And...The teenaged Maurice Rioli went to Perth in the wake of Cyclone Tracy In 1974, to become one of the greats of the game in the 1970s and 80s. (Tiwi Land Council).

darwin cyclone tank  ruth sutcliffe

Memorial Tank, photo Ruth Sutcliffe.