Remembering Hector the croc
GOLD COAST residents fretting over a possible sighting of a crocodile in one of their canals might look to Lismore to learn how to make the most of visiting crocs.
They say you shouldn't smile at crocodiles, but Northern Rivers residents began smiling as soon a crocodile turned up in the Wilsons River about 43 years ago - and one mention of Hector the Crocodile is still enough to get a grin from many.
People north of the border were worrying yesterday at reports of a saltwater crocodile in a canal at the luxurious Hope Island.
Lismore's croc, named 'Hector', even though it was a female, was in the Wilsons for about seven years before it vanished during the 1974 floods. By that time Hector had lodged herself firmly in the hearts of the city's citizens.
In fact, Hector's disappearance after the flood sparked more consternation than her arrival, with the then captain of the MV Florrie, now on display at the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, speculating that vandals may have 'murdered' the crocodile.
Hector was believed to have come to Lismore as part of a travelling show in 1967.
The Star reported in 1974 the show's owner, Mr N Lawson, of Melbourne, said he had two crocodiles in the show, Hector and Horrible. Hector escaped from his cage at the showground.
And although he got all the publicity, The Star's 1974 report said there had been several freshwater crocodiles in the Wilsons River since 1967.
Lismore historian Maurie Ryan said Hector captured the city's imagination.
Hector never managed to inspire much fear in people - partly because she was a less aggressive freshwater croc, partly because she was rarely seen even while she was here, and partly because she was such a novelty.
"It was so ludicrous that it would be in the river it really got people's attention and people were quite proud of it," Mr Ryan said.
That pride continues in odd ways. A few years ago the Far North Coast Canoe Club jokingly advised its members to leave notes saying which way they had gone so searchers would know where to look in case they were taken by 'The Son of Hector the Crocodile'.
Lismore even had a restaurant named after the croc - called Hector's Place in Molesworth Street. The restaurant's listing in the 2004 edition of Lonely Planet boasted 'most nights here you can snap up one of his (sic) relatives for dinner'.