Mother's final act saved Goomeri fire survivor from death
GLADYS Edwards died in the most horrific fashion nearly 79 years ago today, but her desperate final actions meant her infant daughter Marie didn't meet the same fate.
As the old Goomeri Hotel burned to the ground in just minutes on Christmas Eve morning, 1939, 24-year-old Gladys was one of eight people to go down with it.
The mother of three had youngest daughter Marie - just seven months old at the time - in her arms as she frantically tried to escape the inferno on the hotel's upper floor, but soon faced a grim ultimatum when she couldn't get out.
Onlookers and escapees standing on the street soon heard screams of "for god's sake someone save my baby", and one of them caught the infant as Gladys disappeared back inside the hotel - never to be seen again.
Marie has gone on to enjoy a rich and fulfilling life alongside husband Malcolm in Gympie and Tin Can Bay, and will turn 80 five months after the fire's 80th anniversary, but she still honours her mother's legacy by thinking of her heroism and bravery.
"I often wondered why my mother didn't get out, and they said she probably couldn't," Marie said.
"She went back to get her friend, that's what I was told. Her friend was Eileen Eisentrager, and she perished in it too.
"I never used to talk about it and I haven't really talked about it, a lot of people don't know.
"I was only seven months old when it happened so I don't have a lot to tell about that night, but I take comfort in what she did."
Marie said she and sisters Phyllis and Frances were raised mostly by her grandmother Mary Ann after the fire, while father and Gladys' husband Frank served in the Australian Light Horse.
She said she "never had a lot to do with" her father and said she felt as if he had struggled to cope with the horrific loss of his wife.
They reconnected later in life, with Frank spending time at the Cooinda Nursing Home in Gympie, and Malcolm even serving as his carer.
"He never told us anything about it, he didn't like talking about it I don't think," Malcolm said.
"They never told you anything in those days."
Page 3 of The Courier Mail on January 12, 1940, recounted Gladys' tragic death from the perspective of escapee Eva Muriel Buchanan.
"Mrs Edwards' screaming from her room awakened me," Miss Buchanan told The Courier Mail.
"There was a little smoke in my room. I saw smoke and flames coming from Mrs Edwards' room. She was leaning over the veranda railing with her baby in her arms, saying to the men below, 'For God's sake save my baby'.
"She threw the baby. I grasped her arm, and told her to come with me, but she wrenched her arm away, and said she could not jump.
"It was getting hotter each moment, and there was much fire and smoke. She went to the other end of the veranda towards the fire escape."
Miss Buchanan told the Coronial Inquest into the fire that Gladys remarked to her that "it was silly" to nail the blinds down between the upper verandah and the hotel's fire escape.
Malcolm and Marie said they had received multiple claims from families of men who said they had been the one to catch Marie after her mother had saved her from the fire.