Family history lost

BILL Conroy is usually on the other side of the camera.The Advertiser’s chief photographer has covered countless bushfires over the years.But on Saturday, he became part of the story as the Conroys’ 140-year-old home in Happy Valley Road was destroyed by fire.Bon Accord, one of Bendigo’s most historic buildings, had been home to three generations of Conroys.“There’s nothing left - all the family history is gone,” a downcast Mr Conroy said yesterday.“It was built by William Ray in 1868 . . . only two families have lived here, the Rays and the Lavery-Conroys.“My grandparents lived here and then my mother grew up here and I grew up here.“My kids would have been the fourth generation of the family to be involved with the house.“We couldn’t save anything. All our family photos and keepsakes are gone.“We had been in talks with heritage architects in Melbourne about restoring the Leg 2 house, but all those plans are useless now.“An irreplaceable piece of Bendigo’s history has been destroyed.”Mr Conroy and his wife, Bridget, did their best to save the house, but the blaze was too fierce.“We saw the fire coming from Sparrowhawk Road and we had hoses out,” Mr Conroy said.“The flames kept approaching and then the front hit us. “Victoria Hill was on fire on the east side of us, and then the fire came up from the bottom of the property and from the west as well.“It just come upon us so quickly.“Our hoses did very little - it was like throwing a teaspoon of water over the fire.“We fought it until it was metres from the house, but in the end we had no option but to grab the kids and go.”Mr Conroy and his family returned to the house yesterday to find a pile of rubble.“I just can’t believe it has happened,” he said.“I can’t believe a fire could get this close to Bendigo.“If these fires have been deliberately lit, then the people responsible need life sentences.“Nothing can get back my family history - it’s not just the 140-year history of the house that’s gone, it’s our generations of life that is gone.“It’s shattering.”

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